People talk about growth hacking all the time, but many people talk about it in the sense of a consumer app. “Let’s drive a lot of traffic with Growth Hacking!” That’s OK, but what interests me is sales. I want to use Growth Hacking to drive revenue! If you need revenue, you should be thinking about this also. I want to review some practical tips for focusing growth hacking techniques on driving revenue. Growth hacking is sweeping the discipline of marketing as people realize that technology tools and site technology and experience design will dictate the effectiveness of marketing. Furthermore, conventional start-up marketing wisdom has gravitated toward growth hacking for sales today. Growth hacking offers the promise of generating sales with a pitch that sounds appealing to every organization:
The most common frameworks for startups trying to drive more sales, such as the AARRR Startup Metrics for Pirates, are growth hacker centric. In fact, most of the aspects of the framework focus on the engineering-heavy parts of building an effective sales engine.
Growing Lifetime Customer Value
Making investments in growth hacking before investing in paid customer acquisition efforts makes a lot of sense. Every thing you do here is going to increase your customer’s lifetime value. Why would you not do that before you begin acquiring customers? If you can cut churn in half before you start adding customers, you have reshaped the economics of your business. If you can double the conversion rate for traffic you drive to the site, you have doubled the CPA you can pay out, giving you far more leverage in paid acquisition activity. If you can generate an organic distribution mechanism that causes your K factor increase, every paid customer could generate an organic customer. When these kinds of things happen, paid acquisition becomes easier to fund as the economics of the business improve.
The Three Keys To Growth
I divide conventional wisdom for growing start-ups into three basic areas. One, which I will refer to as SEO for simplicity, but is a bit broader, addresses a broad range of underlying mechanics that fuel organic growth. These are the things you like to do before traffic arrives to maximize the value of traffic. The next step is organic mechanisms for attracting traffic. Growth Hacking, Content Marketing and things like that fall into this bucket. They can generate growth and sales, but they are something that provides a multiplier effect. Mint.com demonstrated the effectiveness of techniques such as this by building the leading blog on personal finance. Startups use viral techniques, widgets, and sharing mechanisms , but rarely is the network effect created by these tools so powerful that they fuel growth to propel the business to its desired end state. The final area is paid acquisition efforts. The first two techniques can be an effective tool for kickstarting growth. This is the first strategy people pursue when they begin thinking about growing their start-up. The third strategy of building a scalable growth engine that allows you to make growth capital investments is constrained until the product reaches product/market fit. Once you are ready to launch and you have prepared your underlying SEO mechanics in anticipation of day one of Google visiting your site along with an influx of visitors, the Growth Hacking cycle is an important consideration. Are there things you can do to your platform that will result in value? Ask yourself questions like these:
- What platforms can I integrate with to increase scale?
- How can I build distribution into actions inherent to the product?
- What is the value to the user of reaching out to non-users?
- How does my product help other companies when their users use my product?
It is worth investing time and engineering resources prior to your big bang launch to make sure that the answers to these questions are good. Maximizing traffic value is important to creating the economics you will need to grow the business. Further, even as you attempt to conduct “lean experiments” with your MVP, if you don’t have the product set up for success, you can’t know if the experiment failed because you haven’t set up the test well or if the experiment failed because the product is not designed to win.
Growth Hacking and AARRR for Sales
There are many formal attempts to define growth hacking out there, so I won’t belabor you with mine, but the essence of growth hacking is this: Engineering changes that fuel growth. When you ask yourself questions like these, you are talking about changes to the product and changes to the technology that allow you to more grow your customer base. You are growth hacking, dude! Let’s walk through a few key parts of the AARRR framework to better understand how Growth Hacking affects sales. This framework looks at not just selling the customer initially, but the relationship of the customer and the product over time. Each one of these areas can be analyzed and optimized independent of other areas. One of the simplest ways for a startup to think about conversion rate optimization is to study each area. For each metric, there can be assigned a likelihood that it will occur and a value to that occurrence based on the likelihood that it will be associated with revenue.
Integrations, widgets, and the backend of viral mechanics. This is an area where paid customer acquisition is important, but if you can achieve a strong K factor or incent distribution of your product by providing value in the distribution, organic customer acquisition can generate long term value and fuel the machine.
Chamath Palihapitiya talks about this specific aspect of growth hacking in a class on Udemy.
People talk about this like it is a growth hack, but the first part of activation is strong analytics. Twitter found that there was an engagement inflection point when people had 30+ followers. The Growth Hack part of this equation is what you do in the product to increase the likely that the activation metric is achieved. Getting 30 followers for a person requires tweaks to the product. Maybe you require everyone to follow a few people during on-boarding. Maybe you give someone a golden ticket when they follow 30 people.
You need those golden handcuffs!
This is defining the core of your viral loop. How do you turn customers into advocates. An effective mechanism like DropBox’s can be an incredible growth engine because a referral product that has a benefit to both the referrer and the referee is powerful. Another example of this kind of mechanic is LivingSocial or Groupon. Sharing the deal broadly has a substantial benefit to the sharer.
There are aspects of this that sounds like traditional marketing but growth hackers like to say, “oh yeah, we do this!” Split test price points, for example, is something that people have done for decades but growth hackers make sure to do. And using modern technology, it is easy!
Acquisition Is The Last Thing You Worry About
Retention and activation are the starting point for your optimization journey. If you sign up 100 people and retain none of them then your LCV will be terrible. When you first get started, having churn above 10% per month occurs frequently, but that merely symbolizes that you are not really ready for a wave of customers. At 10% monthly churn, in a few months they would all be gone. And what’s worse is when you lose someone, generally, they are gone forever. It needs to be under 2% before you really start acquiring customers. Once those are optimized, referral and revenue can be optimized. When you start acquisition, if you haven’t made substantial progress growth hacking other aspects of your site, you will be acquiring customers that are more likely to churn, less likely to upsell, and less likely to refer additional customers to you. Why would you do that? As you can see, the most popular growth hacking framework touches sales in every aspect. If you are not growth hacking in the digital space, then you are not maximizing your sales. Furthermore, much of the work you are doing will drive new incremental customers at no marginal cost. Sales without sales people! Every business likes that.
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