13 Growth Hacking Techniques You Can Apply Right Now

Growth hacking is the idea that an entrepreneur can take a clever non-traditional approach to increase the growth rate and adoption of his or her product by ‘hacking’ something together specifically for growth purposes.

Most startups find themselves facing the same problem: they build a product that no one ends up using.

Here’s how it usually goes: you assemble a team, and in six months, you have a product you are confident to release. When that day finally comes, you launch. Then, nothing happens. If you’re lucky, you get an article on Techcrunch, a top spot in Product Hunt, and several thousand users, but most of them stop using it after a few days.

I bet you were hoping for a huge, viral growth curve. Instead, you’re faced with the harsh reality: you only have handful of users registered, and they are churning incredibly fast.

At Piktochart, we went through the same problem. Come learn from our experience.


Before You Start Growing: Define Your User Personas

Defining your user personas is something every business should do as early as possible. Customer development, understanding your target audience, and being able to segment them correctly and talk to them differently is the secret sauce to startup success. This is the driving force behind major strategic, product, and growth decisions.

Take a look at Groove. They had a great product, and their customers were happy, but their landing page barely worked — the conversion rate was 2.3%.

They knew something needed to change, so they decided to test a new landing page and re-think their design strategy. They started by talking to their super users on the phone and via Skype, and they asked them about what they loved and hated about Groove.

This led into a copy-first approach to their landing page which centered around users’ needs and objections. After testing it, their conversion rate doubled to 4.7 percent.

Another great example is KISSmetrics. After years of talking to customers and learning from them, they discovered that their target audience is segmented into two user personas: SaaS startup founders and eCommerce managers.

Their understanding of user personas can be appreciated in their live demo Upon your first visit to their page, it prompts you to select two main configuration: SaaS or eCommerce.

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A great way of doing customer development is to use Qualaroo, the company co-founded by Sean Ellis. It offers a simple way of embedding customer surveys and contact forms to uncover customer insights you might not be aware of.

Some things to look for: why people hesitate to sign up, what information is missing on your site, or what your visitors’ objections are to making a purchase.

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#1: Send Paid Traffic to Targeted Landing Pages

Pay-per-click ads are one of the most effective acquisition tools in terms of ROI and speed. The problem is you have to know how to use them.

One of the most common mistakes is sending paid traffic to your homepage. This is a big mistake. Visitors need to move swiftly through your funnel, or they will get out. By having a landing page that addresses or matches the copy in your ad, visitors will feel compelled to buy or know more.

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#2: Offer Double-sided Referrals

After launching, Dropbox faced a huge issue: their initial pay-per-click test had a whopping $233–388 cost per acquisition for every new customer, but their customer LTV (lifetime value) was $99.

That’s when they implemented their referral program: invite a friend and both of you get extra free space. The result: 100,000 registered users grew to four million registered users in just 15 months. That’s a 3900% growth increase!

Airbnb also recreated this technique successfully: whenever a friend uses your $25 coupon, you’ll get $25 off when they travel or $75 when they host someone in their apartment.

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#3: Hack the Supply Side

When building a marketplace, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is getting the right equilibrium between the supply side and the demand side until you hit mass adoption.

Take a look at Lyft. Having too many users on the demand side will negatively affect wait-time and pricing for passengers. Having too many users on the supply side will upset drivers because they’ll be working without customers. If they aren’t making money, they’ll start leaving the platform.

The most elegant solution for this problem is to fake the supply side. What Lyft did in the beginning was pay drivers an hourly rate to just sit in their cars and wait for passengers.

The result: passengers were thrilled to find out that every time they opened the app, there was a free driver around.

#4: Send an Abandoned Cart Email

Sometimes, customers are willing and ready to make a purchase, but something gets in the way. If they forgot their credit card upstairs, or the baby is crying, you just lost a customer that was 99 percent sold.

Get them back using email.

Cart abandonment emails are extremely effective as a sales recovery technique. According to Salescycle, half of these emails are opened and one-third lead back to a purchase.

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#5: Post on Product Hunt

What started as a side project for Ryan Hoover became one of the top startups of 2014. Product Hunt surfaces new and interesting products every day. Getting featured on the daily list of products will have a major effect on your initial user base. If done correctly, we’re talking about several thousand users.

But that’s not it. If your product is fascinating and you are lucky enough, the press and major influencers will pick it up and share it with their respective audiences, amplifying the effect.

People have written about this extensively here, here, and here.

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#6: Build your unique value proposition into your on-boarding process

Every product has a unique core product value to users. Discovering what this is and helping your users reach to that point will skyrocket your engagement levels and lower your churn rate.

For instance, Twitter realized that their real value is experienced once users follow at least 30 accounts. That’s their “a-ha moment.”

In response to that observation, they completely re-designed their onboarding process to encourage new users to follow as many active accounts as possible.

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Facebook applied the same tactic. They discovered that users get the most value when they have at least 14 friends. That’s their own unique “a-ha moment.”

As soon as they discovered that metric, the growth team’s entire approach shifted: from that point forward, their job was to get as many new users to 14 friends in less than 10 days.

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#7: Share your users’ activity on Twitter/Facebook

Whenever a user interacts with your application in a way that can make them feel proud or accomplished, you should prompt them to share their achievement on Twitter and Facebook.

Instagram did this in the beginning by allowing users to post to Facebook via their API (which led to larger adoption rates), but perhaps the best example is Quora: every time you answer a question, you can choose to post it on a social network with a single click.

As a daily Quora user, I love taking advantage of this feature. What’s even more impressive is that those tweets get twice the engagement (favorites and retweets) than anything else I post during the day.

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#8: Make a Minimal Landing Pages

There is an endless debate about the comparison between long-form and minimal landing pages. As a growth hacker myself, I’m all in for minimal landing pages.

First off, they’re great for single-action events like capturing email addresses. This piece of information gives you endless possibilities like email drip campaigns and new product announcements.

What’s even more important is that they are extremely useful for rapid iteration. Building a minimal landing page like the one below takes significantly less time than a long-form page, so your A/B testing and iteration rate will increase.

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#9: Offer Integration with Other Services

Integrating your app with other external services can be a powerful growth driver. It allows you, as a small startup, to leverage on someone else’s already established user base.

One of the most recognized examples is BranchOut. Although the story doesn’t end well, BranchOut managed to sign up 33 million users and raise $49M using Facebook as a virality platform for their social professional networking service.

One word of caution: putting your eggs in a single basket might be dangerous. As soon as your startup takes off, you should start looking for alternative sources of growth. When Facebook changed its virality algorithm, BranchOut growth stopped, leading the app to crash and burn.

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#10: Use Facebook Lookalike Audiences To Acquire New Customers

Beginning in March 2013, Facebook started offering one of their most powerful yet underutilized targeting options: Lookalike Audiences.

In short, it allows you target ads to users who are similar to your actual customers in places outside of Facebook. Advertisers can ask Facebook to find the top 1% or 5% of users in a specific country who are similar to your existing customers.

This is a great way to reach new potential users that couldn’t be found in any other way.

Some of the powerful targeting options are:

  • upload your subscriber list and target ads to people similar to them.
  • target ads similar to your existing customer by uploading your customer list or finding users similar to the ones who converted.
  • find users similar to any visitor to your site, or specific pages.
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#11: Build A Community Around Your Product

If you could create a site that your users and potential customers would want to visit every day, would you do it? The best way of doing this is to create an online community where your users can discuss, engage, and showcase their work around your product and your industry.

Take a look at Unbounce. Their web app allows you to create and easily A/B test landing pages without writing a single line of code. The product is clearly targeted to founders, marketers, and anyone related to growth. That’s why they created the Unbounce Community, an online forum where marketing-related people can connect, learn, and engage with each other.

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#12: Restrict Signups To Business Email Addresses

Restricting the amount of people who can signup to your product seems counterintuitive, but let me explain why it makes sense from a growth standpoint.

Slack, the team communication startup, originally only allowed you to register with your professional email address (yourname@piktochart.com instead of yourname@gmail.com).

This served two major purposes: first, it made it ridiculously easy for you to invite your co-workers (by just using their same domain email address) which drove growth. Second, it allowed their sales team to automatically filter incoming leads and only deal with real businesses.

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#13: Make it ”Free for Bloggers”

Founders love it when someone writes a story or blog post about their startup, but almost no one makes it easy for bloggers to write about their product. It’s a broken cycle.

Hittail bucks that trend. On their pricing page, they make it super clear that their tool is free for bloggers to review. Once they enter their email, Hittail qualifies the blogger and sends them straight to a well-crafted Press page with all the necessary information, graphics, and metrics to write a high-quality story.

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Before You Leave, Something To Remember

In this post, we’ve given you 13 different growth hacking tactics you can apply right now. You can copy them exactly, or you can use them as inspiration to come up with your own unique hacks.

However, there’s one thing you need to remember: growth is a mindset. You need to think every growth experiment like a science experiment:

  1. Make a hypothesis. This is when you actually come up with the idea.
  2. Build it. Once the idea is right, you need to implement it. You can code it yourself, get your team to do it our outsource it to a good freelancer.
  3. Drive traffic. If you are thinking about growth, you probably have some traffic now. If not, the best way of testing new hacks is pay-per-clic ads because they are immediate.
  4. Test it. Use Google Analytics, KISSmetrics or Mixpanel to decide if it works or not.
  5. Kill it or maximize conversions. If it doesn’t work, start over with a new idea. If it works, then keep optimizing conversions for maximum results.

For more tips on startup life, along with some advice on how visual storytelling can improve your skills as a designer, marketer, and educator, check out our blog at http://piktochart.com/blog.


Originally written by Gon Sánchez & published at piktochart.com on April 8, 2015.

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