Need more quality traffic?
Stuck with gaining the initial 100 users? Got the idea, yet not sure whether you can win the customers in an over saturated market? Wonder how those brand new apps get coverage on Wired, Mashable and Techcrunch?
Two words for all – growth hacking.
Growth hacking is the not-so-secret sauce unicorn companies like Airbnb, Lyft, Dropbox and others used to skyrocket their revenue, expand their user base and beat the heck out of competition.
While growth hacking isn’t something new. Hotmail’s been doing it back in the 90s. The ideas and tips listed in this post are up-to-date, efficient and applicable both to apps, SaaS companies and any subscription-based business out there. In fact, with slight modifications those can be the game changers for small businesses and e-commerce companies too.
Ready to hack your way to the top? Let’s start with getting the initial users on board.
100 Growth Hacks To Power Up Your Biz From Day OneClick To Tweet
Pre-Launch User Acquisition
So you have the idea, you have the beta version up and running smooth. The Launch day approaches fast. Yet there’s one nasty question, which keeps you up at night: “What if nobody comes?”
To avoid witnessing zero active users in your analytics on the Big Day, deploy the following growth hacks in advance!
1. Build an Epic Pre-Launch Page
Here’s the deal – you have to think about growth hacking before launching your product. Build the hype first and funnel the traffic straight into your early-adopters list. For this, you need an irresistibly attractive pre-launch landing page.
Keep it simple; reduce the information to a bare minimum as Harry’s did, and list the perks of gaining early access to your product.
Gleam has an excellent tutorial to help you with that!
2. Create a Viral Signup Form
I don’t need some early bird adopters….said no one ever. You already have a pre-launch landing page with a waiting list signup form. Now, let’s quadruple those signups with a viral signup form.
Here’s how it works:
- Your early adopters sign up with an email opt-in.
- Next, they receive a custom referral URL to share with their friends on social media and/or via email.
- The URL is trackable and your evangelist will receive an auto-responder each time someone signed up via their invite link.
- Once they have scored X number of people, they receive the sweet perk e.g. being officially added to your launch list/special discount/premium user account etc.
You can either DIY the form yourself, or don’t bother with inventing a wheel and try Viral Sign-Ups plugin for WordPress (free up to 10.000 subscribers) or Kick-Off Labs Viral Signup Form Plugin which starts at $29 per month.
3. Ask for Community Advice
Outreach to the right type of audience first. In your case – a cohort of early adopters that hangout in relevant communities.
Here are a few good places to get started:
- Share your product at Product Hunt.
- Ask for advice/feedback in relevant sub-Reddits. Don’t appear too self-promotional or the community will crash you. /r/startups; /r/entrepreneur, /r/smallbusiness, /r/sideproject are great to build up the conversation.
- Betalist – the name says for itself.
- AngelList – nope, it’s not just a place to connect with potential investors, but to showcase your project as well. However if the first one happens as well, you won’t get too upset, will you?
- Erli Bird – a paid focus-group platform, which offers feedback and testing from a global community of 50.000+ designers, testers and web developers.
- Startup Deals platform does the referral marketing for you. You can submit the product and list your rewards, they will bring you the audience.
4. Get on Hacker News
Hacker News is a wildly popular community of ‘startupers’, entrepreneurs and all sorts of geeks, who keep a close eye on the scene. Getting on the front page can bring you massive success. You can get more insights on how it’s done from Pieter Levels, founder of Nomad List, here.
While you can submit a link yourself by registering an account, it’s better if you get picked up by somebody else. Consider adding a Hacker News Button to your content.
5. Build Social Proof
Do you know what makes your product appear “awesome”? Yep, when a bunch of others say so.
Start building social proof and social following early on. Quick hack – use the “pay with a social share” approach a.k.a. unlocking additional perks for users in exchange for a tweet, share or follow. You can either use it as part of your referral program or to give users access to premium content on your blog.
6. Use Testimonials
This could be played two ways:
- Outreach to a well-known industry expert and offer them to check out your product and provide a testimonial in exchange for a free account/other perk.
- Use the testimonials you’ll get from the communities e.g. Product Hunt.
7. Create a Press kit
You want to get early online media coverage, don’t you? In that case, make it super easy for publishers to get all the information about your company and product. Create a press page, add your press kit + promo photos and media contacts for additional queries.
Another smart move – host your press kit on Medium for extra exposure. Here’s a great story from Robleh Jama on how he did it for Next Keyboard.
8.Hack The Press
Have a press kit, will get press coverage. Here’s how you can get the big name publishers to write about you:
- Scout Google News for authors, who have already covered similar companies/apps or are writing about your industry frequently.
- To keep you sane, convert search results into spreadsheets using Google News Downloader.
- Next, hire a VA or upload the data sheet to Mechanical Turk to save you time on finding each reporter’s contact information.
- Now, you have the list. Polish up your press kit, craft a short, yet attractive pitch letter and press release. Start hitting send button.
- Set up your brand name alerts on Google and social media to monitor the results.
9. Sponsor an Influencer’s Newsletter
Newsletters are bloggers’ gold asserts. Find and connect with an influencer in your niche and ask what it will cost to get mentioned in their newsletter. Such promotions usually nail great results as:
- You get access to your target audience, who already trusts the expert’s recommendations.
- You leverage your authority by getting a mention from a “big name”.
- Conversion rates are rather high with an average ROI of $40 for every $1 spent.
10. Run a Creative Contest
Basecamp successfully deployed this strategy to triple their user base with Tell a Friend contest. They asked existing users to share a referral code via email or social media after they signed up. All the referred users immediately got a $10 discount on the product. All the users also entered the draw to win an iPad or MacBook Air, along with a $5.000 cash prize.
Contests never get old. Think how you can adapt the idea for your product.
11. Target a Micro-Market
Facebook’s early adopters were Harvard students. Yelp’s fan base started with tech-savvy Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. As modern advertising tools allow razor-sharp targeting, focus on attracting a narrow group of users first, before going big.
Further reading: Conquer Your Micro-Universe: Choosing Your Harvard
12. Update your Email Signature
Don’t neglect that piece of advertising real estate. Add a logo, link to your homepage and social media to attract clicks from people you already know.
Here’s a lovely example from Thrive Hive:
13. Pin a Strategic Tweet
Twitter is a great tool, when it comes to outreach and building relationships with the influencers. Create a strategic pinned tweet with a crisp image of your product and a 140-characters long elevator pitch.
Check out this chapter from “User Acquisition for Hackers” book by Austen Allred for more epic Twitter strategies.
Growing Your Customer Base
The launch day didn’t feel lonely at all. You’ve earned a bunch of early-adopters. Now, let’s focus on expanding your customer base.
14. Set up Your Analytics
By now, you should have a steady flow of traffic heading to your website. It’s time to keep a closer eye on how those casual browsers behave and optimizing your conversion rates.
- Step 1: Set up conversion tracking for top traffic channels.
- Step 2: Set up events tracking with Google Analytics.
- Step 3: Consider getting a heat map tool to optimize your UX.
Further reading: The Beginner’s Guide to Startup Analytics by Kiss Metrics.
15. Grow your Email List Further On.
While you could piggyback on someone else’s list early on, now it’s time to focus on growing your personal email list. Here are the best strategies to you can implement today:
- The Content Upgrade by Brian Dean
- Viral List Building Case Study: How One Blog Gained 3,200 Subscribers in 7 Days by Michael Karp
- [Case Study PART 1] From 0 to 4,000 … How We Grew Our Email List – Our Stats, Tools, Opt-in Forms by Code in WP
16. Get on Quora
Use Quora to connect and convert prospective leads into clients. People come to Quora for solutions. Step up and pitch your product to solve the problem for them.
Check out The Incredibly Simple Guide to Using Quora for Marketing by Buffer for step-by-step tips.
17. Improve Your Blogging Strategy
Have you noticed how some blog posts take off immediately and others seem to gauge zero interest among your readers? There’s a recipe from Growth Hacker TV to cure that:
- Get Import.io or any other web scraper tool to extract core information from your blog (titles, meta descriptions and other meta-data).
- Export and save the data as an Excel doc or Google Spreadsheet.
- Upload your list of exported URLs to Shared Count to get the exact social share numbers for each post.
- Export Shared Count data. Now, combine the blog’s meta data with social status using the VLOOKUP function.
- Toy with the data to understand why certain posts perform better and how you can improve your blogging.
18. Publish Case Studies
Educate your audience and teach them how they can use your product to achieve goal X via case studies and user success stories from other peeps. Case studies leverage your credibility, serve as great linkable assets and serve as an evergreen source of quality traffic.
Pipe down the fluff and highlight actionable insights your readers can grab and apply today.
19. Create an Invite-Based Reward System
We’ve mentioned referral marketing already and creative contests to drive early adopters to your service. Yet, it doesn’t mean that all the fun should end right after you hit 100 customers.
Check out this massive list of the most successful referral programs examples for inspiration and insights.
20. Go Local Before Going Big in Terms of SEO
SEO needs time to takeoff and if you choose to target a local micro-market first (remember you need to find one), beating the competition on a global scale will get easier.
Start with setting up a Google My Business page and outreaching to local media and publishers for coverage. For more tips, check out our big fat guide to local SEO.
21. Team up With the Local College
Can you offer your services to college students or staff? A lot of universities would be glad to test drive a product for a discounted rate and/or mention your service at a dedicated page like this one from Cambridge University.
22. Discounts for Social Shares
If you are still struggling to build your social following, consider offering small discounts for your services in exchange for social shares e.g. $3 off for a Facebook post. You can go even further and create a discount grid with the biggest rewards say for your newsletter subscription.
Exchange social shares for discounts to grow your user-base #growthhackingClick To Tweet
23. Use Triberr to Connect with Influences
When direct outreach doesn’t nail great results, you can always tap into freemium options. For this we have Tribber – a community for bloggers and influencers, to share and curate content.
Here you have two options:
- The Free One – register as a blogger and get approved for relevant niche groups. Share and curate other’s content and throw in your posts occasionally too.
- The Paid One – sign up as an agency to choose the influencers you’d like to work with. The campaign is free to set up and run. You’ll have to discuss the influencer’s fee separately in each case.
24. Good Old Facebook Ads
The recent Facebook algorithm updates leveled organic reach for brand pages to bare survivable minimum. Thus, come the ads. The good thing about Facebook ads is that you can set extremely précises targeting (unlike Google Adwords) and get around 30,000 ad views for as low as $300.
Check out this great guide from Onboardly for tips on creating a successful Facebook ad campaign.
25. Get Included Into a Round-up or Top Listing
Pretty much in any industry, you’ll find top-best listings and roundups posted regularly by publishers.
Use this query “Round-up + target keyword” to find who’s publishing those and email with a request to participate.
26. Get Reviewed
Reviews inspire trust and build your credibility at the market. Find a publisher, who features products in your niche and/or did a review for your competitor and ask what it takes to get reviewed as well.
Here are some solid tips from Michelle Nickolaisen on how to pitch media for reviews.
Guerilla Referral Marketing Hacks
Paying a marketing dollar for each user you obtain isn’t a viable business model. You need to build in shareability into your operations model. So enter referral marketing.
27. Make Your Referral Program Easy to Understand Even for a 5-year Old
The problem with most referral programs is that the terms seem too twisted and the perks not so obvious. People, who’d like to recommend your product, will do so even without a reward bait. However, the rest of users need a little kick to get moving.
Make the reward system sound crystal clear. Do X and you will get Y. If your referral program has a few stages and respective benefits e.g. 10 users = 10% discount; 20 users = 20%, it’s worth creating a visual progress bar for participants to boost competitiveness and help them keep an eye on the big prize. Clearly outline how referrals are counted and if any special terms apply.
Take a look at Airbnb referral program to get the idea of how things should work.
28. The Samuel L. Jackson Marketing Hack
This brilliant hack comes from Noah Kagan of OkDork.
The truth is most people read emails via an email client, yet feel lazy to compose a full-length email when forwarding cool stuff to friends. So here’s the hack – do the hard job for them.
- Add a “Mailto:” link in your emails, so that your readers can make a new email template in just one click and send it to others.
- Write the email texts for them.
That’s it! Instructions on how to create a custom mailto link are in Noah’s post.
29. Offer a Free Plan for Bloggers
So, you’ve gotten some media buzz during the launch and at your early days. But the online media news are fast-fleeing. You see your stats going down and slowly dying off. Let’s revive those numbers!
Getting attention of top tier journalists was hard and the PR costs can go sky high. Influential bloggers in your niche are easier to target.
How? Offer a free product plan in exchange for an honest review. HitTail has been using the strategy for a while and look on the top-10 results for “hitail review”:
30. Offer Customer Support via Twitter to Those, Who Are Not Your Users (Yet!)
Twitter is a great channel for customer support. A lot of companies use it to exchange quick tips with users. But what happens if your Twitter rep will start offering support to peeps, who are not your customers?
Bam! They are likely to become your customers, or at least check out your service. Use Twitter to search for questions related to your product e.g. “best project management tools” or “how do I create a custom invoice for clients” and reach out with quick help tip.
31. Start a Professional Group on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a great place to establish B2B connections. Yet, you can also use the platform to grow your customer base. How?
- Start a LinkedIn group on the topic relevant to your core product features e.g. Project management for creatives. Don’t be too narrow with the group theme, yet choose the exact professional interests of your target audience to get better referrals.
- Invite all the existing customers and your customers’ contacts with similar interests. Next, invite all your personal connections, who might be interested in the subject. As a moderator you can even invite people without being connected with them.
- Fill the group with interesting and relevant content from different sources including your blog.
- Send out a “welcome” message to the newly arrived prospects. Keep it short and sweet:
Thanks for joining this awesome group. We are talking about all-things-project management sans professional slang, so don’t be shy to share your questions and comments. I personally respond to all of them.
Btw, we share a connection with Donna, who’s already been using our product X that solves problem Y for her business. Do you want to check it out too?”
As you are the group admin and share a connection, this turns from “cold emailing” to “warming up”.
Turn 'cold emailing' to 'warming up' with this LinkedIn #growthhackClick To Tweet
32. Make Mobile Referrals Easy
You spot a lot of users accessing your website from mobile. Is it as easy to refer a friend from a phone as from desktop? If no, then add this tip on your to-do list for yesterday.
33. Upgrade your “Thank you” page
Growth hackers act smart when it comes to using all the online real estate available. Think of your “Thanks for subscribing” page. Probably it just reminds users to confirm their subscription and don’t delete the email. The standard thing.
Now, consider this – this person has just understood how awesome your content is and chose to opt in for your newsletter. Use their state of delightness to ask them for “something” e.g. to refer a friend, share your product; sign up for your webinar. Make one prominent CTA on a thank you page to strike it while it’s “hot”.
34. Chase the Non-Referrers
For those folks, who are prone to your numerous “Refer a friend” CTAs, there’s this clever trick:
- Configure your GA to track the “referring” and “non-referring” users.
- Afterwards, configure your email marketing app e.g. Mailchimp to send out messages to users, who have referred no one within a certain time period.
- Craft a simple, yet efficient email e.g.
Thanks for using our product! Here’s a special promo code you can send out to your friends. Let us know if you’d like to receive more of them!
35. Chase Up The Trial Users
The similar approach can be applied to trial users. After three days (the average time trial users actively use a product), set an IFTTT rule to send out the emails with a special promo code to convert them to paying customers.
36. Add a “Powered by” Tag
So, you offer a freemium model. Most probably you have users, who have outgrown your free plan, but can’t yet afford a premium one. Through them a win-win offer – a link back to your website “e.g. made by X” in exchange for an upgrade.
MailChimp been using this tactics for years, and it seems like a lot of companies leave the “Chimp badge” even after they switch to a paid plan.
37. Invite Brand Ambassadors
Remember about “free blogger plan”? You can develop this strategy further and choose a long-term brand ambassador among the influencer, who brought the best results in the first run. Lyft, HootSuite, Intrepid Travel are just a few companies, who have drastically grown their user base with brand ambassadorship programs in early days.
Check out this post by Nathan Parcells for more details.
38. Create Embeddable Widgets
SlideShare became a household name and landed $119 million exit with their embeddable PowerPoint viewer. Is there any part of your product, which could become valuable when embedded at someone else’s website? If yes, stick your logo on the embedded widget and set referral tracking.
39. Add a Symmetric Bonus
Symmetric rewards reduce the social cost of sending a referral message to someone.
Here’s the deal – when a user receives a discount for your product, he can’t really estimate neither the real value of the product nor of the discount. It’s more about the fact that they got an invite from someone they know. The bonus is often marginal.
Yet, the sender wouldn’t mind a reward for their efforts. By making the reward symmetric, they feel if they are giving a gift.
Airbnb master the symmetric bonus system to perfection with their referral program as both new users and referrers get an equally awesome cash bonus.
Grow Your Revenue
Your brand is out there, the traffic flow is steady. Now the last, but definitely not least point on your agenda is to start growing your revenue strategically. Here’s how:
40.Offer a Three-Range Price Plan
Have you ever heard of the decoy effect in consumer psychology? While you can read the scientific explanation in Wikipedia, I’ll explain it with a quick example.
The Economist magazine used to offer three subscription plans:
- Web Subscription – $59
- Print Subscription – $125
- Web and Print Subscription – $125
Now, which one seems like the best deal? The last one, right? This is the decoy effect in action. In fact, quite a lot of people are prone to it.
Dan Ariely, an MIT professor of psychology and behavioral economics asked his students to choose the Economist subscription plan. The majority (84) chose web+print subscription; 16 opted for the cheapest web-only subscription and none wanted the print-only option.
Afterwards, he had asked the students to choose again from just two options. The results were:
- Web Subscription – $59 (68 students)
- Web and Print Subscription – $125 (32 students)
By adding a third (decoy) option, you push your customers towards choosing a more expensive plan, which offers better value.
You can read more about the decoy effect in this brilliant post by Paul Olyslager.
41. Offer a Big Discount For an Annual Plan
Annual subscribers are the backbone of your business. They bring in a much needed amount of cash flow early on. Now most companies offer 5-10% discounts on annual plans, which isn’t a game changer. If your average customer margin is 70%+, then you should become more creative.
Offer a 30-50% annual discount, but ask the customer is to participate in a case study in return.Click To Tweet
Techhub Coworking in London offered an annual discounted membership of £450, when the competitors nearby charged £100 per month for nearly the same services. Techhub now owns the market and still keeps expanding.
42. Add an On-Page Promo Code with a Countdown
Create a sense of urgency with a big, ticking on-page countdown timer informing that this mind-blowing discount will soon be gone.
Crazy Egg has a great post on the best strategies to create urgency and how to seal the deal faster.
43. Swap a Free Plan for a $1 Plan
Now, this may sound a bit radical as most companies operate with freemium plans these days. But think of this: you have 500 free plan users that did not provide their credit card data and 30 paying users. So what happens when on top of those 30 customers you’ll get 250 more $1 account holders? Sure, $250 isn’t much, but that’s better than zero dollars anyway.
Once you get the user’s credit card details in your system, you have already surpassed the “payment barrier”. Pushing a further sale will only get easier from here.
Think of Apple. Once you get their device, they instantly request your credit card details to register an Apple ID. Now buying a $3 app is just one click away. How many cheap iPhone apps have you purchased, used for a day and ditched afterwards?
Asking $1 from users, who are really interested in your product won’t kill the conversion rates.
44. Test Different Discount Models.
Just because all companies in your niche offer 14 days trial with no credit card required, doesn’t mean you should offer the same terms.
Take 200 subscribers from your email list and send them 4-5 different discount options e.g. one month free – full-price afterwards; 10% lifetime discount and so on. See what sticks best and deploy the strategy further on.
45. Email Inactive Users
Do you know why most users abandon an app? Because, they have no idea how to use it properly. In case you see newly registered users, who haven’t tried your product after 3-4 days, email them a list of tutorials and best practices to help them get started. Alternatively, get a customer rep to message them and offer help.
46. Communicate Through Push Notifications
Push notifications are usually viewed three times faster than emails. If you have a brief message to convert your user e.g. a discount announcement or ending trial – use push notifications to encourage actions.
47. Offer Additional Services
For instance, you are a SaaS company with three payment plans. Yet, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chip in any extra offers e.g. installing your software solution; or offering white label services; charging for API and so on. Run a quick survey to understand what else your clients may be interested in. Multiple revenue streams are the key component of any company’s success.
48. Offer “Unlimited Plans”
Did you know that a lot of users would opt for “unlimited” plan just for the sake of not worrying about limits? And in most cases they won’t even use the amount of credits available, compared to the closest “limited” plan.
49. Optimize Your Most Important Page
Yes, it’s it the price page. Here are a few essential tips to increase your conversion rates and set the right costs per service:
- Choose round numbers as they look nice and are simpler to remember. On top, most people already have bias towards them.
- Don’t overwhelm with details. List the essential features for each price model only and hide the rest under a “read more” tab. There’s nothing worse than drowning a lead in specifics they don’t need to know right now.
- Offer creative names for your payment plans instead of the boring “basic-premium-enterprise” segmentation.
- Prompt which option to choose. Most customers need guidance even when it comes to choosing a payment plan. Highlight the best choice for them.
- Mention the most popular option. The “bandwagon effect” makes people want what other people want. By telling that plan X is more popular than Y or Z, you are likely to push them to choose it.
Additional reading: 10 Principles of Effective Pricing Pages
50. Enable “At risk” Tagging
Retain and re-engage your inactive users and those, who are about to cancel your subscription. You can do that by setting alerts in your analytics (Kiss Metrics, Track.io etc) for certain actions e.g. “didn’t login to the product for 2 weeks”.
Congrats! You’ve just finished a 4.000+ words guide and ready to fuel up your company onto the next level!
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