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Push Strategies for Getting More Visitors

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A push strategy usually involves interrupting the content that is being consumed.

You aren’t the tweet they want to read, but instead, you’re the tweet ad that they read on their stream. You aren’t the YouTube video they want to watch, but you are the pre-roll ad that they watch to get to the content they were after in the first place.

Pull is analogous to Hansel and Gretel. The sweets lure the children into the house on their own accord. Push is analogous to the Three Little Pigs. The wolf just huffs and puffs and breaks into their homes. You can pull them into your world, or you can push yourself into their world. That’s the main difference between pull and push tactics for getting visitors.

Understanding Lifetime Value of a Customers

The lifetime value of a customer (LTV) is basically the amount of money that you are going to make from a customer throughout their life. If you built an e-commerce app and you profit an average of $100 per customer, per year, and they typically buy for 5 consecutive years before they get bored with your inventory and stop shopping with you, then your LTV is $500.

This is important because another primary difference between pull and push tactics is that push tactics usually cost money. Going back to our example above, if a customer is worth $500 on average then it would be foolish to spend $501 to move someone through your funnel. You would ultimately lose $1 each time you retained a user. Keep this simple idea in mind with all of the tactics covered in this section.

1. Purchase Ads

It may not seem like growth hacking at first glance, but ads are definitely a place to hack the distribution of your product. Sure, if you just purchase ads without a strategy, void of creativity, doing nothing to gain an edge, and ignore the process of multivariate testing, then you will be like everyone else (and it probably wouldn’t be considered growth hacking). But that’s not what we’re going to do. Here are some things you must keep in mind as you approach this push tactic:

Understand Your Ad Platform Options

There are many different ways to purchase ads. Most people assume that there is just Facebook, Google, and Twitter, but there are so many more. You can also purchase ads on LinkedIn, which would make a lot of sense if you’re selling to corporate customers. There are niche ad networks such as Carbon (carbonads.net) or The Deck (decknetwork.net), both of which will allow you to target specific verticals. There is BuySellAds (buysellads.com) which allows you to purchase website banner ads, tweets, newsletter sponsorships, RSS includes, and even spots on mobile apps. There is a relatively new ad network that just focuses solely on email sponsorships called LaunchBit (launchbit.com). There is even a solution called Trada (trada.com) that will crowdsource the purchasing of your paid advertising and only take a cut if they exceed your goals. If you want to focus exclusively on mobile users then you can advertise using Tapjoy (tapjoy.com).

Here is a screenshot of Carbon, a niche ad platform.

Carbon Ad Network

Here is a screenshot of BuySellAds, one of the generic ad platforms.

This doesn’t even include the platforms that focus on retargeting. Retargeting gives you the ability to track users to your site and show your ads only to those people as they browse around the internet. Now, even your ads can be pre-qualified. If this sounds magical it’s because it is magical. In this space alone you have a number of platforms like AdRoll, Perfect Audience, and Retargeter.

Here is a screenshot of AdRoll, which was named the #1 advertising company by Inc. Magazine.

Adroll

There has been an explosion of ad networks over the last few years. Some would argue we have too many ways to purchase ads. This can be a good thing if you are willing to investigate the options to find the ones that meet your needs.

Learn the Technical Details of Your Chosen Platform

Once you’ve found an ad platform that meets your specific needs then it will be imperative that you learn the technical details of their offering. The difference between making money or losing money could easily be the difference between knowing the technicalities or not. The most complicated and advanced platform is probably Google AdWords, and it could easily take months to truly master their product, but most of the other options can be learned in a weekend with a high degree of proficiency.

Buying Ads is a Business Model Competition

It’s always hard to know how much you should spend for a single click, or for a set of impressions, but the answer is actually a factor of your business model. If you are targeting the same audience as another company, but your business model is more efficient and your LTV is higher, then you can afford to pay more for the traffic without going upside down. The best thing you can do to win customers using ads is to have a great business model. It’s almost an unfair advantage because no amount of tips or tricks can overcome this one stronghold. If you can pay twice as much to acquire a customer then you have a very defensible strategy.

Consider the Various Personas of Your Customer

Your customers can probably be reached using various platforms. For instance, they are more than likely on Facebook and LinkedIn. You must then decide which persona they are utilizing when they want a product like yours. When someone is on Facebook they are thinking about friends and family. They are looking at photos of other people’s experiences. When people are on LinkedIn they are thinking about climbing the corporate ladder and how networking with others can help them reach their goals. If your product is for project management in agile environments then I wouldn’t choose Facebook, even though technically you could reach your demographic there. Yes, they would see your ad, but their mindset would be incorrect because you are introducing yourself to them in the wrong place. Always think about the persona your customers exhibit while using your particular product before choosing an ad platform.

Circumvent the Ad Networks When Possible

This tactic may not scale easily, but it is still well worth mentioning. You could go to BuySellAds (or other places) and buy banner ads on a particular blog that your audience reads. However, if you cut out the middleman (BuySellAds) and go directly to the owner of the blog then you can get cheaper rates for two reasons. First, BuySellAds is making a cut of every transaction, so if you go direct that is money that you can recoup without the blog owner losing anything. Second, you are able to negotiate. Very rarely is the lowest price and the advertised price the same thing. You can ask for a lower rate and often close a deal relatively simply.

If You Are Paying Per click Then Qualify Every Click

There are two ways to buy ads. First you can purchase them on a CPM basis, which means you pay for set number of impressions and it doesn’t matter how many clicks they get. Second, you can pay per click and this means that it doesn’t matter how many times your ad appears, you only pay when your ad is clicked. If you are paying per click then you don’t want people to click your ad unless they are seriously interested, because it costs you money every time they do. Luckily, there are things you can do to qualify clicks using the ad itself. Consider putting the price of your product in the copy so that people don’t click unless they are interested in spending money. Also, don’t use emotion to pull them in unless that same emotion will cause them to buy from you. Don’t put a picture of cute cat on your ad, just to get cat lovers to click on it, if your product doesn’t have something to do with cats.

Test Variations of Your Ad

One of the most fundamental lessons of ads is that you have no idea what your audience will respond to. You have to test multiple versions of the copy, multiple versions of the imagery, and then multiple combinations of the copy and imagery together. The numbers will tell you the truth about which ads you should be running, but your intuition or gut is probably not accurate.

2. Promo Swap

One of the easiest, and free, ways to drive traffic to your site is through cross promotions with other companies. If you find a company who is already serving your target demographic, and you wouldn’t be considered a threat to them, then there are plenty of ways that you could coordinate to promote each other. Here are some ideas to help you brainstorm possibilities:

  • Swap Tweets: Each company sends out a tweet to their followers about the other company.
  • Swap Facebook Posts: Each company writes a post on their Facebook page about the other company.
  • Dedicated Email Swap: Each company send out an entire email about the other company.
  • Sponsored Email Swap: Each company puts a “sponsored by” link in their existing newsletter, linking to the other company.
  • Ad Space Swap: Each company allows the other company to place a banner ad on their website or blog.
  • Pre-roll Video Swap: Each company gives away video ad space to the other company.
  • Giveaway Swap: Each company promotes a giveaway from the other company on their blog.

3. Affiliates

Another way to push people toward your site is by hiring affiliates. This is an arrangement where you pay someone every time they reach a certain goal for you, like getting a visitor to your site, or activating a member. An affiliate might use many of the tactics in this book, but you are paying them to do it instead of worrying about it yourself. Here are a few things to know if you are going to use this tactic:

Think Carefully About the Incentives

If you give an affiliate $100 for every new signup, but there is no clause that says the new signup has to stick around for a certain number of months, then you could find yourself in a situation with misaligned incentives. The affiliate would be rewarded for getting you low quality customers that cancel quickly because it doesn’t affect their profit either way. Create a system where the affiliate only benefits if you benefit.

Don’t Roll Your Own Affiliate Solution

There are a number of products that will allow you to easily get up and running on the technical side of creating an affiliate system, and on the acquisition side of finding affiliates to promote your product. There are products like Commission Junction that will connect you with affiliates, and products like Omnistar that actually track affiliate payouts.

Vet Every New Affiliate Early On

When someone becomes an affiliate for you then they are representing your business to some extent. The tactics they use, the language they employ, and their general style, is a reflection on you. They may not be an employee, but they will be the front of your brand for the people they reach. Choose your affiliates very carefully.

4. Direct Sales

I’m going to be honest, this is a hard one to categorize as a growth hacking tactic, but it is a way to get traffic at the top of the funnel so I would be remiss to completely ignore it. Direct sales teams do not work for every kind of product, but in some cases it is a worthwhile tactic. AppStack, a startup that creates mobile websites in conjunction with mobile ads for local businesses, was able to grow revenues to over 50k a month in a relatively short amount of time, and their primary strategy was direct telephone sales. I use them as an example because it’s hard to imagine a startup using this method, but some of them do, and it actually can work.

Key Takeaways

  • A push tactic usually involves interrupting the content that is being consumed.
  • Push tactics usually cost money.
  • Since money is involved with push tactics you must understand the lifetime value of your customers (LTV), so that you don’t spend more money on a customer then you’ll make from them.
  • We covered 4 push tactics: purchase ads, promo swap, affiliates, and direct sales.

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Pull Strategies for Getting More Visitors

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So, you want to get new visitors to your site?

There are three fundamental ways to get traffic. No more. No less. You can pull people in, push people in, or you can use the product to get people in. These are the 3 p’s of getting traffic. What’s the difference in these methods? I’m glad you asked.

Pull
The first way to get visitors to your site is to pull them in. This is where you give them a reason to come to you. You entice them, incentivize them, and draw them to you. This book is an example of the pull methodology. You were drawn to us. We didn’t have to go find you online, but rather, you found us.

Push
As the name implies, this is a bit more aggressive than pulling. Instead of enticing people, you just go get them and push them onto your site. Someone may be wanting to watch a YouTube video, but not until they see your ad. They may want to do a Google search, but not until they see your paid result. You go out and find where they are online and you push them towards your product.

Product
The third way that traffic can end up on your site is through the product itself. If you’ve ever invited your friends to a new social network, then you understand how a product can be used to get new traffic. Everyone that uses the product gets more people to use the product.

Pull and push tactics are examples of growth hacking which hinge on the redefinition of distribution. If you know how people flow online then you can accurately entice them or strong arm them onto your site, but if you don’t understand where people congregate and what causes them to travel to other places (digitally), then you can’t effectively push or pull them on onto your site. The third P (product) doesn’t rely on a redefinition of distribution (like pull and push), but it relies on the redefinition of what a product is. Like we said in the first chapter, now products can play a role in their own customer acquisition, which is a very radical concept in the history of the world.

It is important to realize that all three P’s work really well in the right context, when executed by the right person. As you were reading about the differences you probably assumed that one method was better than the other, but they all have their place in the growth hacker’s arsenal. Many products actually employ a combination of push, pull, and product methodologies. This isn’t the time to get on a soapbox for a certain camp. Growth hackers are about growth, not just a certain kind of narrowly defined growth for a priori reasons.

The Fundamentals of a Pull Strategy

A great pull strategy is based on two fundamentals:

  1. The cost of these tactics are usually measured in time or personnel, but you are not directly paying to get visitors.
  2. These tactics revolve around providing something of value that entices people to visit your site. If you stop providing value then you’ll stop pulling them in.

Blogging

One of the tried and true ways of getting traffic to your product is through blogging or guest blogging. Blog posts are suited perfectly to send you traffic for a number of reasons.

  • Blog posts are keyword rich, and are easily indexed by Google, which aides an overall SEO strategy.
  • Blog posts have a compounding effect. The more you write, the more total chances you’ll have of pulling people towards your product over time.
  • Blogs are usually based around specific niches, so if you are guest blogging then you can tap into large swaths of your market with a single post.
  • Blogs are usually disseminated through RSS readers, so there is an inbuilt mechanism to deliver your thoughts to others.
  • Blog posts are great at educating people, and people that are informed about your product are more likely to move through your funnel.
  • Blog posts can position you as a thought leader, and people would rather use a product that has been created by an expert rather than a nobody.
  • Blog owners are always looking for new guests post, which makes this low hanging fruit in many cases.

Blogging is a no brainer. The only decision you have to make is whether to start your own blog or guest blog for others. The main reason to guest blog is that you don’t have to create the audience. You only have to create the post. Trust me, it’s easier to create a post than to gather the people together that are willing to read it. However, the main benefit to starting your own blog is your ability to have full control. If you build your own audience you have more flexibility over the content. You might choose to get more aggressive in the future with sending traffic to your product from the blog, but if someone else owns all your content then you don’t have this possibility. Neither answer is wrong as long as you choose for strategic reasons. Remember, you can always do both. Maybe you start by guest blogging but then transition to your own blog.

Whichever route you choose you must not make your blog posts an extended pitch for your product. You’re gently pulling people in, not begging them to visit your site. If you get too overt about your intentions it will turn people away. With a little creativity you can easily get click throughs without making your post feel like an ad. Always start a new post with a bio that links to your product (no one will begrudge you this), and try to link to your product once within the post, but only when it’s relevant to what you’re saying.

Also, the blog posts that get read and shared are the ones that tap into something emotional, trendy, educational, enjoyable, or surprising (amongst others). Take note of the kinds of posts that get your attention, and then reverse engineer them to inform your own writing.

Podcasting

Podcasting is another great pull tactic because audio has inherent inbound qualities. When you hear someone speak then you are given a window into their mind that is different, and sometimes even better, than reading their thoughts. Like blogs, podcasts have inbuilt distribution mechanisms (podcast listening apps), but there are differences between blogging and podcasting when viewed through the lens of getting traffic:

  • Podcasts are not easily indexed by search engines.
  • It’s easy to click a link in a blog post, but it’s hard to visit a site that is mentioned in a podcast.
  • Podcasts are fewer in number, and tend to have smaller audiences.

It is highly unlikely that a podcast will be a viable channel for traffic, unless you think very creatively about it. Here are some twists that you could try:

  • Whatever you do, go niche. You probably don’t have the production experience or the budget to compete with general interests podcasts. Instead, select a very narrow niche, and dominate it.
  • Don’t start a podcast with a goal of doing an episode every week. Rather, set a goal of 10 episodes total and make it more like an educational course on a certain topic that your market would love to learn. With beautiful album art and a great audio intro, people will find you in the podcast directories and get curious. Never promise more episodes, and tell them upfront in the first episode what your intention is.
  • Go on a few podcasts as a guest, and then use those episodes as a part of a drip email campaign in order to inform your email list about your product further, via audio, to increase conversions. Note: the same thing can be done with blog posts also.

Of course, it is possible to go the traditional route by creating a podcast that publishes new episodes every week, but there is something you must know. Podcasts require a lot of time to do well, and low quality offerings will not gain enough traffic to matter. Therefore, get creative and think like a growth hacker, not like a podcaster. Use their medium, but not their methods.

Ebooks, Guides, and Whitepapers

Part of creating an effective pull strategy is to use the unique makeup of your team to inform which tactics you try. Some people love the idea of doing little things on a very regular basis (like blogging, or maybe podcasting). Others would rather invest large chunks of energy at spread out intervals, and produce things that are a bit more monumental. This is a valid tactic, and large written documents have a number of advantages in terms of getting traffic:

  • Ebooks, guides, and whitepapers have a certain draw to them. It’s somewhat easy to ignore a new blog post, but when there is a new hefty document on a niche subject you care about, it’s hard to ignore.
  • Ebooks, guides, and whitepapers have a high perceived value, and you can ask for an email address in exchange for downloading them. It feels like a fair trade, and it helps you build an email list that you will eventually work through your funnel.
  • Ebook, guides, and whitepapers spread through social media very effectively when they are executed well.
    As an author (even a self-published one) you are a thought leader of sorts, and people will want to use the product you’ve created.
  • Ebook, guides, and whitepapers can be written to specifically educate people about your product. Informed visitors are more likely to become members and users.

MailChimp has a number of guides which they publish for all the reasons listed above.

Infographics

Infographics can entice people to your product because they simultaneously display expertise and aesthetic taste. Visualizations are powerful tools, and they are spread using social media extremely easily. Adam Breckler, of Visual.ly, provides the following advice when creating an infographic:

Select a Good Topic

Pick something that is clever, exciting, noteworthy, or that stands out for some other reason. Just don’t be boring or irrelevant.

Find the Right Data

People sometimes assume that they have to create the data themselves, but often a simple Google search will uncover data sets that have already been compiled.

Analyze the Data

Look at the data that you have with journalistic integrity. Don’t bend the data to suit your needs.

Build the Narrative

Brainstorm what story the data should tell. You need to transform the numbers into a coherent narrative, and not just present them as a collection of facts.

Come Up With a Design Concept

Now it’s time to consider ways to tell your narrative visually.

Polish and Refine the Design

Put on the finishing touches and make sure everything is as high quality as it needs to be to gain the public’s attention.

Distribute the Infographic

You can distribute it using your own audience (email list, social media, etc.), or you can use services like Visual.ly which is a marketplace for browsing inforgraphics.

Everlane produced a couple of controversial infographics that created a firestorm online. Their infographics showed the typical markups that department stores charge for t-shirts. Since Everlane sells similar quality shirts at lower prices it’s easy to see how this infographic brought them the right kind of visitors.

Everlane Infographic Example

Webinars

The offline world has seminars, but the online world has webinars. These are very successful channels at bringing in new visitors for a few reasons:

  • Webinars are usually live, so people are forced to put them in their schedule, and view it as an event. A YouTube video can be watched anytime, but people must “attend” a webinar. When something is in their calendar they tend to take it seriously, and they take the information shared during the webinar seriously.
  • Webinars usually have limited seats, and this faux scarcity makes people feel like the content is exclusive and important. If you are important in someone’s mind then they are likely to move through your funnel more efficiently.
  • Webinars allow for interaction, and if someone gets to interact with you then they will have a connection to you and your product that will carry over into activity on your product.
  • Webinars educate people, and the more you give away in terms of educational value the more visitors will reciprocate in different ways.
  • A webinar can end with a special promotion of some kind for your product and this can drive traffic to your product.
  • A webinar can be done in conjunction with another company so that you can benefit from their audience learning about your product for maybe the first time.

Unbounce hosts something called “unwebinars.” Above is one they did with Joanna Wiebe in order to benefit from her expertise and her audience.

Unbounce Webinar Example

Speaking at Conferences

Conferences may feel like a very non-growth-hacker way to get traffic, but that’s just because you’re not thinking of it creatively enough. A conference presentation may pull in a few more visitors to your product, but not many, and the amount of preparation required is very high. However, a conference presentation creates a number of by-products which can be used to pull in visitors more effectively.

Slide Deck

If you’re presenting at a conference then you probably have a slide deck. This deck can be uploaded to slideshare.com and now you have a left over piece of collateral that can easily be shared, and it will bring people into you product for the foreseeable future. Sildeshare.com is a social network in it’s own right, and you would do well to invest in it.

Video/Audio

Many conferences will record your presentation, and this will allow you to put it on your company blog, upload it to YouTube, place it in email signatures, or use it during a drip email campaign.

Besides the by-products of a presentation, here are some other things to keep in mind:

Instant Retweets

I once spoke at a conference, and I ended my presentation by telling the audience that if they retweeted my last tweet that I would give them a discount to my product. I created a social media tornado in a matter of seconds.

Persuasion

Why did Steve Jobs do presentations? Because they’re are powerful. If you have the gift of gab, and can command an audience, then sometimes a few moments on stage can create a number of traffic sources for your product. Remember, growth hackers are right-brained and left-brained. Sometimes the ROI is fuzzy, but that doesn’t mean it is non-existent.

Rand Fishkin, the former CEO of Moz, has over 60 slideshares, and they have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, creating countless new visitors for his product at Moz.com.

Moz Conferences Example

SEO

In a sense, all the tactics we’ve covered so far are incredible from an SEO point of view. As you create content of various kinds (blogs, podcasts, ebooks, whitepapers, guides, infographics, webinars, slide decks, video/audio presentations) then the search engines are going to realize that you are an authority on your topic of choice, and you’ll rank high for certain keywords. However, there are really two kinds of SEO strategies. I call them content and code.

Content
By virtue of creating content, even if you don’t know how SEO works, you will be optimizing for it. Just keep producing and you’ll be using SEO to your advantage even if you don’t know what an algorithm is.

Coder
There are also things you can do at the code level which enable a solid SEO strategy. Are your links seo optimized with keywords? Are H1 tags properly labeled. Do you use Schema.org tags for specific kinds of content? Do you have an up-to-date site map?

If you can use both content and code to your advantage then this is obviously the best case scenario. However, even if you can’t do both, you should do at least one or the other. Search engines are still the primary way we navigate the internet, and to ignore this simple truth is very unwise. SEO is important, and for many businesses it’s the primary way they gain traffic at the top of their funnel.

Social Media

One of the ways to gain traffic at the top of your funnel is through social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.). There are actually so many spammy ways to do this that first I feel the need to tell you what not to do.

  • Don’t follow and unfollow people on a social network just to get their attention if you don’t intend to actually have some kind of relationship with them.
  • Don’t buy followers of any kind. They aren’t your market. They can’t amplify your message. They are a waste of money.
  • Don’t bother people. Ask yourself what kind of pings you would like to receive if you were in their shoes.

Here are some tips to help you bring in traffic to the top of your funnel using social media:

  • Engage with people who might actually use your product. Know your demographic.
  • Provide value at every chance. Answer questions. Give advice. Help them in some way. Don’t just take, but also be a giver.
  • Become a hub of interesting content, whether you produce it or not. If you gain a reputation as a great curator of content then people will pay attention to your posts and tweets simply because of your track record (even though you actually didn’t produce anything yourself).
  • Social media is a marathon, not a sprint. Social media usually will not give you massive traffic instantly. In fact, you should actually underestimate what follower counts and like counts represent. Even if someone with 100k followers retweets you it probably won’t give you much new traffic unless your demographics are perfectly aligned (but even then I’d be skeptical).
  • Social media is as much about customer support as anything else. Surprisingly, this can be a tool for new traffic. As people watch your stellar customer support happening in public then they will be more apt to try your product themselves.
  • Use social media to amplify all the content you created in tactics 1-8. Social media works great in conjunction with other tactics.
  • Like everything, creativity can open up new possibilities. Skittles once made their entire homepage a Twitter feed of a search for the word Skittles. They received countless mentions of Skittles on Twitter that day, and the internet collectively paid attention to their ingenious ploy.

Contests

Contests are an awesome way to drive new traffic to your product. A lot of people are actually unaware of how well contests work. Ever heard of AppSumo? Want to know how they grew an email list to over 700k emails? They started with contests. Ever heard of AirBNB? Want to know what they started doing this week to drive new traffic to their product? They started promoting a contest. Contests are good for small companies and big companies alike, so here are a few of things to remember as you create a contest:

  • Give away prizes that are meaningful to your audience. Every contest shouldn’t include a free iPad. Give them something that represents you. As an example, if you are AirBNB then give away free housing (which they are). This is important because if you are capturing their email address as a part of the giveaway then you don’t want a junk list that doesn’t represent your demographic. Just giving away iPads will give you an unqualified list, and you will have difficulty moving them through your funnel.
  • Giveaway experiences, not just goods and services. What do you think someone will remember more, an iPad or a trip to some awesome destination to see their favorite band? They might cost about the same, but the impact could be drastically different.
  • As an example, if you work for Uber, then giveaway a ride with some celebrity in an Uber cab. Now that’s an experience.
    Have prizes for at least first, second, and third place. People want to feel like they have a chance of winning, and if you only have a grand prize then they might not play along.
  • Give them more entries to win the contest based on how much they give you in exchange. For an email address they get one entry. If they share a friend’s email address with you they get two more entries. For a retweet they might get three more entries. You get the point. Help them increase their chances of winning the more they grow your list and promote your product.
  • Run the contest long enough to gain some traction. Consider running it for a month. Anything less and you might not get enough entries to make the ROI work.
  • Make a big deal when you announce the winner and use this occasion as another event that generates noise online, and potentially traffic.

AppSumo ran a ton of contests over the years. They found something that worked so why should they stop? Also, notice how experiential their prize is.

AppSumo Context Example

App Marketplace

One of the channels for gaining new visitors which has arisen in the past few years is marketplaces. The Apple App Store is a marketplace. The Google Play Store is a marketplace. There are actually two kinds of app marketplaces, and they are different.

B2C App Marketplaces

If your company made an app for a consumer then you’ll probably be in a B2C app store like the Apple App Store. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are trying to get new users through this method:

  • Reviews matter immensely. Do whatever is necessary to not get bad reviews in the first place, and try to get people to change their reviews after they’ve left a bad one.
  • Screenshots are a window into your app so make them perfect. If you don’t visually entice people you can’t pull them in.
  • Think about your app’s name carefully. Will it be easy to search for and easy to find.
  • You cannot rely on the marketplaces alone for new traffic. There are simply too many apps now and you are a needle in a haystack. You must use the other tactics in this book also.

B2B App Marketplaces

If your product can be used for businesses then you might consider this relatively new kind of marketplace. Companies like Salesforce or Mailchimp now have their own marketplace for apps that integrate with their product. Here are some helpful tips concerning B2B app marketplaces.

  • These marketplaces are less crowded so they are easier to stand out in.
  • B2B marketplaces are apt to promote your product on their blog, in an email blast, or other ways, if you just ask them.
  • Sometimes B2B marketplaces will even pay you to build an integration with their product. Shopify recently had a fund that they used for this very purpose.
  • As with consumer marketplaces, reviews and screenshots matter, so don’t skimp on these.
  • You can include a “coming soon” in your description on these marketplaces which will list upcoming products that you will also integrate with. This is a great way to be found more easily on the B2B search engine since you will have a number of products listed in your description as keywords (this was one of the tactics that Wishery used, and they were eventually purchased).

The AppExchange is Salesforce’s B2B app marketplace.

Salesforce AppExchange

Deal Sites

In the aftermath of Groupon’s rise (and slow demise) there have been a number of deal sites created in their wake. For many niches there is a deal site which has a substantial email list and is willing to promote your product. The arrangement with these companies is usually pretty straight forward. You provide a discount to their audience, and in exchange they provide you with distribution. This is a quick way to get traffic, and given how easy it is to set up this kind of relationship it’s worth trying. Another unexpected side benefit of these deal sites is the number of people who will purchase your product at full price even though they came from the deal site. The internet is a strange place and this will happen more than you would guess.

Mighty Deals is a niche deal site that serves designers. It would be worth it to see if you can find a deal site for your niche.

Mighty Deals

Leverage Other Peoples Audience (LOPA)

Although this is built into many of the tactics already covered I still wanted to talk about LOPA explicitly. Basically, building an audience is incredibly hard. So if you can find any way to leverage someone else’s audience then you will be taking advantage of a traffic shortcut. Guest blogging is a form of LOPA. Guest podcasting is a form of LOPA. Even marketplaces are a form of LOPA. Here are some other ways that you can take advantage of LOPA:

  • Create a giveaway for a specific blog that has your demographic as their audience.
  • Reach out to group leaders on Meetup.com that run communities that could use your product, and ask them if they’d tell their group about you.
  • Offer free accounts to thought leaders in your industry and if they have a great experience they will share it with their audience.
  • There are literally too many possibilities of LOPA to even begin listing them all. If you are creative enough you will always have new opportunities for LOPA.

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How to Activate Users

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Now you have visitors to your product, but that’s the problem. They are just visitors. You’ve found a way to get them to come to your product, but if this is all you do then they will bounce at an incredibly high rate. Your goal is to activate them. Activation is the act of getting them to take an action in your product that you are guiding them toward. Activation is not just the act of them clicking around randomly and not bouncing. Activation is when they do something that you’ve decided beforehand that they should do, something which furthers your goals. Here are some possible activation goals:

  • Email address
  • Create an account
  • Read something
  • Comment on something
  • Share something
  • Buy something
  • Fill out something
  • Watch something
  • Interact with someone
  • Friend request someone

Some of these activation goals may seem silly, while others seem relevant, but your particular goals will depend entirely upon your product. If your product is a blog that makes money from advertising then you may want to focus on numbers 1, 3, 4, or 5. If you have an email address then you can message them in the future about new articles. If they read what is already on your site they will see the quality of your journalism and want to read more. If they comment on an article then they will be more apt to come back, especially if others respond to them. If they share your article on Twitter then it will get you more readers. All of these goals lead to eyeballs that will make you more money with advertisers. A different product will have completely different goals.

It is also important to recognize that the fewer goals you have, the more likely you are to achieve them. If you have 5 activation goals then it’s difficult to use the tactics in this chapter to achieve any of them effectively. At a minimum, for a given section of your product you should have one primary activation goal.

Landing Pages

When someone visits your website the use of a landing page can greatly increase your chances of activating them. A landing page is different than your homepage. It might have some of the same elements, but not all. A landing page is a page you create within your product that you can direct people toward for certain campaigns. For instance, if you are always tweeting about certain kinds of things from the company Twitter account then you might make your Twitter bio URL send them to a landing page that highlights those same topics. Here are some of the distinct characteristics of a landing page and why you would use one:

Limited Navigation
If someone comes to a landing page from a specific campaign then this means that you can hide many of the navigational elements, since this will just distract people from completing the goal you have decided on. They’ve already shown interest by being on a landing page in the first place, so you can focus their attention.

Single Call To Action
A landing page only needs one call to action for the same reason that you don’t need many navigational elements. If you give them options then you will lose them, and no one can end up on a landing page unless they came through a specific campaign, which means they are ripe for activation.

Congruous Language
Since you know the source of a person that ends up on a particular landing page then you can tailor the experience for them. You should use language which will appeal to them, even if it doesn’t appeal to your visitors at large. The language, and even imagery, of your landing page should be congruous with their expectations based on the source they came from.

There is a specific kind of landing page which is becoming very popular, and it has some distinct characteristics, and that is the launch page, or coming soon page. A launch page is a landing page that you put up before your product is even public, and the goal is to collect email addresses of visitors so that you can inform them about your product when you do go live. Here are some things to understand about this kind of landing page:

Use it to Get Traffic, Not Just Activations

Before you actually launch is one of the best times to get traffic. You can tell people that they will be let into your product first if they share your launch page with others, or you can only let them sign up on your beta list if they tweet about you first. Get creative.

The Headline and Subhead is Everything

Since you haven’t launched yet you probably won’t have much detail to add to the launch page. This means that the headline and subhead become very important. If those few words don’t get someone’s attention then they will bounce.

Emotional Imagery is a Must

Besides the headline and subhead, you also need a very emotional image. A fullscreen background image is the common practice. Make them feel emotion, despite your lack of content.

Don’t Let the List Grow Cold

As you build a list of people that are interested in the launch of your product you must not let the list get cold. If you don’t email them for months, then suddenly tell them about your launch, your click through rate will be very low. Stay in touch with them through the process of building your product to keep them warm, or don’t even take email addresses until you are within a month (or less) of launch.

If you are trying to create landing pages quickly then you can use a service like unbounce.com, and if you are creating a launch page then you can use a service like Launchrock.

Copywriting

If you want people to take a certain action, and not bounce, then the words you use are more important than you realize. We spend so much time obsessing over visuals that copywriting sometimes takes a back seat. As important as visuals are, if you want someone to know something, or understand something, or do something, then you probably have to use words. Here are some insights around copywriting:

The Headline Should Mention Your Unique Value Proposition

Why is your product unique? What do you do that competitors don’t do, or can’t do. If you don’t tell people that you’re unique then visitors will assume you’re not.

The Subhead Should Further Explain Your Unique Value Proposition

The subhead is smaller text below your headline that further illustrates your unique value. It might give reasons why the headline is true. Use this to take away doubts or clarify the headline.

Long Copywriting is Good for Expensive Items

If you are selling something that costs $500 then you need lengthier copywriting. This will give you a chance to inform, answer objections, and just generally convince them to become activated members.

Short Copywriting is Good for Less Expensive Items

If you are selling something for $20 then long copywriting will bring up more objections than it answers. It will confuse people more than it helps people. For low cost products, short, precise, copy is better.

Different Audiences Will Respond to Different Kinds of Words

Don’t just imitate someone else’s copywriting style. Your words need to fit your audience. You should use jargon if you’re talking to doctors, but not if you’re talking to laymen. You can use slang if you’re targeting kids, but not if your audience is filled with grandmothers.

Use Customer Development to Inform Copywriting

By researching your audience online (message boards, surveys, etc.) you will start to see which words they already use. If you use their own words in your copywriting then you’ll be able to activate them much easier.

Social Proof is Copywriting

It would be wise to use testimonials within your product because humans behave with a herd mentality. If everyone else is doing something then so will I. Social proof is a form of copywriting that will help you activate visitors.

Don’t Forget the Microcopy

Microcopy is the short tooltips, hover boxes, or other text that helps a visitor navigate the interface. Little clues, at the right place, can help people navigate your UI. Confused visitors don’t usually do what you want.

Calls to Actions

We’ve already mentioned it a few times, but calls to action deserve their own section. The best way to get someone to do what you want is by giving them a clear call to action. Leave nothing to their imagination. Tell them where to click and make the button obvious. Tell them who to call and make the phone number prominent. Activate visitors by telling people, in the most explicit way you can, what you want them to do. Below are some examples of great call to actions.

Calls to Action Examples

Onboarding

When people arrive on your site it’s like they’ve been dumped in the middle of New York City without a map and no sense of direction. Your job is to give them orientation, and lead them to the places where you want them to go. One of the best ways to guide visitors is through onboarding. Onboarding can take the form of visual directions placed on top the screen, or a series of pages that lead visitors from one place to another. Think of onboarding like a digital tour guide for your product. An explanatory video could even be a part of your onboarding strategy.

Twitter has one of the most talked about onboarding experiences because they carefully guide people from creating an account to using an account, and it’s all through the onboarding. They know that an account that doesn’t follow anyone is kind of useless, so they make following others a part of the signup process.

Another great example of onboarding is InVision. They give you large, obvious, pop ups throughout their product that guide you and tell you what you need to know.

Twitter Activation Example

People are not patient, and they don’t care about your product enough to find out how to use it. If you want to activate visitors, making them take certain actions, then you must carefully craft your onboarding experience.

Gamification

There is something about gameplay that is hardwired into the human brain. We love progressing, getting awards, ranking on leaderboards, finishing tasks, leveling up, and having fun while we do it. Gamification is when you use game mechanics within your product, and this can be used to activate members. Gamification can cause someone to complete actions they normally wouldn’t complete. Here are some examples:

Progress

It is common within products to tell people that their profile is only a certain percentage complete. This prompts us to get to 100% because we hate not finishing something. Just by adding a progress bar with a percentage then we have gamified our product.

Progress Gamification Example

Awards

We are all still in little league baseball. Trophies matter, even if they are meaningless. If you can award something within your product then you will create a gamified incentive for people to take certain actions. Just think about Foursquare. It’s one big baseball game for adults with mayorships and badges instead of cheap trophies.

Award Gamification Example

Leaderboards

Just by showing someone their rank you can prompt them to compete. If you let someone know that they are in 3rd place for most comments on your message board there is a good chance they’ll take actions to get in 2nd place. Leaderboards can activate people to take certain actions.

Leaderboards Examples

There are countless ways to gamify your product, but you have to think about your product as a game (even if it is a B2B app).

Pricing Strategies

Getting someone to make a purchase is really just a unique kind of activation. You are getting a visitor to take a certain action, that action just happens to be making a purchase. There are a number of best practices around activating people to make a purchase. They may not all apply to your situation, but some of them probably will.

Perfect Price Discrimination

Pricing is an important aspect of activating people to make a purchase. There is something called perfect price discrimination which is the act of creating a pricing structure that charges based on the consumer’s purchasing power. Ecquire does this well by making their lowest tier only support basic integrations. This is everything except Salesforce. They know if you are using Salesforce then you can afford to pay for an expensive plan.

Price Discrimination Example

Multiple Tiers

Another popular strategy to activate purchases is to have three pricing tiers. Just the fact that there is a more expensive option makes you feel like you’re not wasting money, and you are getting a good deal. Having a pricing tier below you can make you feel like you’re not a cheap person. Options give people confidence to buy.

Suggestive Tier Naming

If you name your pricing tiers something vague like gold, silver, and bronze, then you don’t really help people discover which tier is good for them. By naming the tiers things like “Starter,” “Professional,” or “Team,” you are giving people the confidence that they are in the correct tier.

Free Trials

People are afraid to make an irreversible mistake with their money. If you give them a money back guarantee, or a free trial of some kind, then you are taking the risk away from them and placing it on yourself.

Discount Codes

One of the most powerful forces, in terms of getting someone to make a purchase, is a discount code. But there is a trick that makes discount codes even more effective. If you include a time limit on the discount then you force people to make a decision. Udemy is a great example of this kind of activation tactic. They send out emails on a regular basis which include discount codes that are only valid for a limited time.

Discount Example

Bundling

Another way to get people to make a purchase is through bundling your product with other products. If you can overwhelm people with value then they are more willing to make a buying decision. Hacker Bundle is a good example of a service that uses this activation tactic.

Bundling Example

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The Growth Hacking Process to Supercharge Your Revenue

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Every world-class growth hacker relies on a series of steps in their growth process.

We’ve broken down the six core steps below.

Define Actionable Goals

Everything begins by focusing on a narrow, actionable goal. This is important because a growth hacker can easily have a focus that is so broad it becomes meaningless. Yes, the overall goal is growth, but you don’t attain that kind of end-result without breaking it into smaller, achievable, tasks.

Let’s say you have a product and you want your DAU (daily active users) to increase, but that’s too broad of a goal. Then you decide to focus just on the retention of existing users since this will increase the DAU, but retention is still too broad. Then you decide to focus on helping current users create content because your numbers show that when someone becomes a content creator (and not just a consumer) within your product then their activity on the site is far greater. Content creation leads to retention which leads to increased DAU. Therefore, you decide to make the goal to increase content creation by 2x.

Too Broad: Increase daily active users
Appropriate: Increase content creation by 2x

Many people have a hard time knowing when they’ve narrowed their goal enough. Here is a rule of thumb that I use. Think about your goals as nested hierarchies, and until you reach the “nest” where things can actually be marked off as individual tasks which can be completed once and for all, then you’re not narrow enough. In this case our hierarchy might look something like this:

Growth Process Example

Will there ever conceivably be a day when you can mark off “grow my startup” from a to-do list? No. The goal is too broad. Is there ever going to be a time when you can say that you’ve finished “increasing DAU.” No. Too broad. However, you can mark off that you’ve “educated members about content creation through an email.” When you find yourself at the part of the hierarchy that can be checked off as done, then you’ve narrowed your goal appropriately.

Implement Analytics to Track Your Goals

Now that you’ve decided to increase content creation by 2x, the next question is, are you in a position to know if you actually attain this goal? Are the appropriate analytics in place? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you currently track content creation metrics at all?
  • Do you track content creation by cohorts or just in aggregate?
  • Do you track metrics around the content itself (file size, length, views, shares, etc.)
  • Do you track the devices that are used to create and consume the content?
  • Do you track the referring URL’s which are most responsible for content creation?

Without analytics, goals are empty. If you can’t definitively say when a goal has been reached then you have not completed the requisite requirements before moving ahead. Furthermore, analytics will give you valuable data which can change your goals. Your analytics and your goals create a reflexive equilibrium, where they actual inform, refine, and shape each other.

Growth Process Analytics

As an example of a reflexive equilibrium, consider this. If your goal began as “increase content creation by 2x,” but then you realize that there is something more important than just content creation in general as it relates to retention, then you might restate your goal. If content over three minutes is the only kind of content which improves the retention of the creator and the consumer then your goal might need to be refined.

One of the great things about implementing specific analytics to track goal progress is the effect this has over time on your overall analytics. Once you’ve spent a few years on a startup, attacking one goal after the other, you’ll realize that the amount of historical data you have to work with has become very powerful. Eventually, when you create a new goal you might already have the relevant metrics being tracked, and now you have past data to look at which predates even the goal creation.

All growth hackers begin with a dull axe, but the edge gets sharper as a function of time. Just don’t give up.

Leverage Your Existing Strengths

Every startup has inherent strengths or assets that can be used as leverage. When there is something at your disposal which requires little energy, but can produce big results, then you’ve found a lever.

Continuing our example from above, you may be trying to decide if you should send out the educational email first, or if you should add a “what’s new” category first. If you have 200,000 emails on file, and you have a system of email distribution that is rock solid, and you can probably create the email in question within a day, then this looks like a promising lever.

If the “what’s new” category will require at least a few days of planning, a few days of design mockup revisions, a few days of programming, and your engineers are already completely stressed out about their to-do list, then this doesn’t look like a promising route. Especially, if you’re looking for low hanging fruit.

The law of leverage essentially makes the decision for you at this point. Send out the email. Your startup’s unique leverage comes from the size of your email list and your email distribution system, not the amount of engineering horsepower that you can throw at problems. A different startup might choose a different option, but only if their leverage takes a different form.

Plans, goals, and tasks, that are stack-ranked in a vacuum, without concern for leverage, are usually misordered. Plan your attack based on strengths. I would recommend reading chapters 3-6 of this book and then give each tactic that is mentioned a score based on your company’s specific leverage.

Execute the Experiment

You’ve already completed step 1, and you defined your goal as increasing content creation by 2x. You’ve already completed step 2, and now you are tracking the necessary data that will tell you if you’re successful in your goal. You’ve already completed step 3, and now you are going to focus on educating your members through an email blast, since this is where you possess leverage. Now it’s time to execute the experiment, which means actually sending an email in this case. Here are some things to keep in mind as you execute the experiment:

1. Write Down Your Hypothesis Before You Execute an Experiment

Before you actually run the experiment you should write down your best guesses at to what will happen. Do you think this email will have a higher or lower click through rate than the emails you already send? Why do you think this? How much do you think the email will increase content creation over the next month? Will it single handedly give you the 2x content creation goal you’re shooting for, or do you think it will get you part of the way there?

It may seem silly to write these kinds of things down when you can just send the email and find out what’s going to happen. If that’s your attitude then you’re missing the point. Hypotheses are accurate reflections of your assumption before you are given the chance to rewrite the past to make yourself look like a genius.

For instance, imagine that you write down the hypothesis that the click through rate will be lower because you already send users one email a week, and you think the second email will annoy them. Then you run the experiment and it has a higher click through rate. If there wasn’t proof of your wrong hypothesis you would be tempted to rewrite history, and you would tell the team members that this is what you expected to happen because you’re such a godsend to the startup world. Hypothesis keep you honest. Now, instead of trying to prove to everyone how smart you are, the discussion is about why your assumptions were wrong. You might come to realize that you underestimate the amount your users want to be in contact with you, and this insight has benefits which stretch far beyond email.

If the idea of forming a hypothesis makes this feel too much like science and less like the traditional culture of startups, that’s probably a good thing.

2.Do Not be Naive About the Resources Needed to Run the Experiment

Anytime you run experiments it is going to disrupt the normal flow of events in your startup. First, the entire team needs to be notified about upcoming experiments so that they can be ready for any mishaps that might occur. Second, know when your startup is already resource constrained, and be mindful of this when planning your experiments. If Tuesdays are when the server is already on the brink of failure, then don’t do something that will send 30% more traffic on that day if you can avoid it. Third, if you need a certain amount of time to finish the components of the experiment before it can be ran, then don’t overlook the time requirements needed. You would do well to remember Hofstadter’s Law:

It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

3.Do Not Get Discouraged by the Initial Results

There is a phenomenon which I have experienced countless times, and that is the ever-present belief that whatever experiment I’m working on right now is the one that will change everything for the better. The experiment that I’m currently devoted to seems to be the obvious answer to my company’s problems. If it’s worthy of my time then it must be the thing that will allow us to reach escape velocity. Oh, the joys of the entrepreneur’s disease.

Like we mentioned in the last chapter, most things fail. It’s ok to be optimistic (hey, it keeps me going too), but then you can’t be devastated every time an experiment produces mediocre results. That’s why a defined goal should be attacked from multiple angles. Most of the attacks simply won’t work.

4. Learn from Success and Failure from Success and Failure

Data is like publicity. There is no such thing as bad publicity and there is no such thing as bad data. Even if an experiment fails you will have undoubtedly gathered a lot of information about your product and your users that can be used in future experiments. Thomas Edison failed more than 1,000 times when trying to create his light bulb. When asked about it, Edison allegedly said, “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to not make a light bulb.” You can learn from successes, and you can learn from failures. You only stop learning when you give up.

Optimize the Experiment

Experiments are meant to be optimized. Experiments are fluid. They are not things you do one time and then move on. You tweak experiments. You re-run experiments. You only give up on experiments when it’s appropriate to do so, not when you’ve grown tired of them.

Have a Control Group

You should always have a control group when you are able to because this will account for environmental changes that are hard to track. If you send out the email to only 80% of your users then you can track how much content creation goes up in that group as opposed to the control group. There might be an unforeseen reason, outside of your company’s control or knowledge, that has actually led to a widespread decrease in content creation on your site. Without a control group you might be led to think that the email actually decreased content creation, which would be far from the truth.

Utilize an A/B Test

A/B tests are championed by growth hackers for a reason. They’re magical! You may think you know what the subject line of an email should be to ensure it’s opened, but an A/B test will tell you the truth. You may think you know what landing page the email should send them to, so that they will start creating content, but an A/B will tell you the truth. There are very few tools that create such large gains overall.

Remember, if you are going to run A/B tests then you must decide this before you start running an experiment. Otherwise, in our example, you would have emailed everyone on your list and then there would be no one left to benefit from what you are learning.

When to Give Up on an Experiment

I usually will not give up on an experiment until my leverage has proven to be weaker than I initially thought, or I can’t logically conceive of the experiment yielding better results without an inordinate amount of resources dedicated to it.

Repeat

Now it’s time to select a new experiment, or an optimized version of a previous experiment, and move through these steps all over again. If you work the system that I’ve enumerated here, then success is more a byproduct of tenacity, and less a child of luck.

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Viral Hacking to Get Hypergrowth

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The ability to use the product itself to get new visitors is one of the most exciting aspects of growth hacking. Pulling visitors into the top of your funnel is good, and so is pushing them in, but there is something magical about using the product itself to drive traffic. When done well, it can have a compounding effect which cannot be replicated with push and pull methods alone.

For instance, if you utilize the pull method of creating an infographic then you can expect to get traffic, but the inbound visitors to that infographic will decrease each day and eventually level out at a relatively low number. Compare that with some of the product tactics listed in this chapter. It’s possible, using the product itself, that each time someone comes to your site they bring their own network of relationships into your funnel as well. This is where the idea of viral loops come into play. If you are able to use a product tactic in such a way that for every visitor that enters your product, they bring along more than one other person into your product, then you’ve created a viral coefficient of over 1 (sometimes referred to as K). You’ve achieved exponential growth. You’ve gone viral.

However, I need to caution you at this point. Most products don’t go viral. If you are trying to growth hack a B2B enterprise product then I highly doubt that you will have a viral coefficient anywhere near 1. Not because you’re doing something wrong, but because it’s just hard to use these tactics in certain markets. Even if you have a consumer facing product virality is still extremely difficult.

So how should you view these tactics? If it really is that hard to get a K factor of 1+ then should you just scrap the product as a strategy for getting visitors? Absolutely not. Any K factor above 0 will positively impact all of your other marketing efforts, even if it never approaches the illustrious 1+. Let me explain.

If you have a K of .5, then this essentially means that for every one new visitor to your product they bring half a person into your funnel. 10 new visitors actually becomes 15. This isn’t virality because it doesn’t keep going up and to the right exponentially, but you’re still bringing new people in that wouldn’t have seen your product. Consider the pull method of creating an infographic in this light. If you bring 500 people into your product this month because of an infographic then this actually becomes 750 people with a K of .5. You’ve amplified a pull tactic by using a product tactic. That’s how to think about product tactics. They amplify anything that comes into your funnel.

A K factor of .5 also means that if you’re using the push tactic of purchasing ads then you can spend less to get a certain number of visitors because every 10 ad clicks becomes 15 visitors. Saving money is obviously a good thing, but this also allows you to pay more per click, and possibly outbid competitors. Remember what we said in the last chapter. Ads are just a business model competition and your product tactics, which amplify your product activity, strengthen the efficiency of your business model.

Network Invitations

We now live in a world where many people have already compiled their social networks in various places. We have a group of friends on Facebook. We follow people on Twitter. We are connected to business relationships on LinkedIn. We have a list of email addresses in Gmail. We have the phone numbers of friends and family in our mobile phones. The first product tactic that we’ll discuss for getting visitors hinges on our ability to use pre-existing, pre-defined, networks of relationships to our advantage.

Phone Contacts

If you are building a mobile app then you are basically a few clicks away from permission to message their entire phone book about your app. We don’t usually think of a phone book as a social network, but it might be our most intimate network of relationships. Umano, a new service that provides the ability to listen to popular online articles, utilizes this tactic. They prompt you to share with friends after using their service a couple of times, or you can do so from the settings menu (below). Notice how they preselect everyone for you, and you have to either manually deselect people or “unselect all.” This is a common practice for many of the network invitation tactics. It is also worth noting that you can call or text with access to a phone number, so this gives you a few options on how to message people once you’ve gained permission. There might also be email addresses associated with a phone number that you can also access.

Email Contacts

Another network which people have already developed, that we can use to our advantage, is their email contacts. This was much more popular a few years ago, but variations of it are still possible. LinkedIn allowed you to import your email addresses, which they would subsequently message, and this jump started their initial traffic.

Social Contracts

Besides phone books and email contacts, the third kind of network that we can leverage is social contacts. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and more, are all networks where we’ve created a social graph. We have existing relationships which can be invited to a new product. It’s difficult to target every social network because people probably won’t give you access to all of them, but one can be enough. Focus also helps you make technical decisions about your own product. If you know that you are going to use Facebook as the primary social network for inviting new users into your product then this might cause you to use Facebook Connect as your product login. This means that it will be fewer clicks on the end user, and less friction, when you ask them to invite their Facebook friends later. Below is the example from the Facebook developer documentation of what a friend invitation screen looks like.

Social Sharing

Social sharing, as defined here, is not about explicitly inviting people into your product via their established connections or friends. This tactic is more about allowing anyone to talk about your product on their social network for whoever may be reading it. For instance, instead of asking someone to invite their Facebook friends to use your product, you instead allow them to easily post something to their Facebook feed about your product. If they have a public profile then this can be seen by anyone, not only their friends. The most prevalent example of this is seen in popular blogs. The Next Web prominently displays the ability to share each and every post with your social connections in various places.

Social Sharing Example

Most social networks have code snippets that you can copy and paste into your product to make this kind of social sharing extremely easy. There are also solutions that combine all the popular social sharing options into a single interface.

Although it may not be obvious at first, another thing to keep in mind when implementing a social sharing strategy is to consider where your traffic naturally comes from. If you get most of your inbound traffic from Twitter, but you only allow people to share your product on Facebook then you are missing an easy opportunity. Make sure that people can share your product in the places that are most likely to bring you back more inbound visitors. This will have a compounding effect.

API Integrations

The next step, beyond social sharing, is to actually integrate your product with an existing social network at the API level. Instead of just asking them to share, you can actually bake sharing into the experience and make it happen in the background without forcing the user to give you permission each time. A great example of this is Spotify. It’s no secret that Spotify heavily used Facebook to grow their product, and they did so through an API integration. Once you login to Spotify using Facebook Connect and give Spotify the needed access, then your activity on their service is automatically published to your Facebook feed, and it’s also published inside of the Spotify app to anyone that you are connected with on Facebook. Below is a screenshot of the Spotify app, notifying me of new users who are also connected to me on Facebook, and another screenshot showing notifications within Facebook itself of my friend’s listening habits. These are done completely in the background, which creates frictionless sharing that can only really happen through an API integration.

Spotify API Integration Example

Spotify API Integration 2

Another example of this tactic is the Nike+ API integration with Path and Facebook. Everytime I go for a run and track it using the Nike+ app on my phone, then the data about my run is pushed to Path and Facebook, so that my friends can see my activity. Friends can even cheer me on from within Path or Facebook which will trigger an applause sound as I run. This is borderline genius. Below you can see my Nike+ app asking me to share on Path, and on the right you can see the results being published to my Path friends. Again, this it totally seamless. Once I set it up initially it does this automatically.

Nike API Integration Example

API integrations, despite their incredible upside, are not 100% stable. As certain products become extremely popular, and gain momentum on existing social network, then it is not entirely uncommon for exposure to be throttled. Facebook, for instance, has the incentive to give you access to their platform. This keeps them in a dominant position if many developers use them. However, Facebook does not have incentive to give you the complete social graph of their billion users. If you start to have too much success with an API integration then you can’t count on the rules staying the same for you.

On a similar note, API integrations are great as a way to growth hack your product, but the more you intertwine your product with a 3rd party service, the more at risk you are. Twitter is a great example of this. Many companies were built on the Twitter API, but then Twitter changed the number of API calls allowed. This left many Twitter clients without a backup plan. Use APIs to grow your product, but be wary that the API doesn’t become your product.

Powered By Links

One of the first examples of product growth hacking actually used the powered by link tactic. When Hotmail first came out they did something that was simple, but which would drastically change their trajectory. They included a link at the bottom of emails that were sent using their service that said “Get your free email at Hotmail.” A viral loop was born.

This tactic is still being used to this day. A modern example is found in services that allow you to embed a popup on your website for various reasons. Widgets of any kind are good candidates for these powered by links.

Powered By Link Example

Incentives

Certain products lend themselves easily to creating incentives for users to bring new people into the product. The classic example of this is Dropbox. They have a number of incentives that they offer users for various actions that they can take. This tactic works especially well if you have something which is of low cost to you, but of high value to users. In Dropbox’s case, they use storage space like a currency because the exchange rate is in their favor. Storage is not that expensive, but getting new users is very valuable to them. The user is in the opposite situation. Storage space is valuable to them, and their contacts don’t seem that valuable. This makes for a perfect storm.

Dropbox Incentives Example

It’s worth cautioning that many startups, in an attempt to imitate Dropbox, have been frustrated with their inability to pull off the incentive tactic. Their product might not have much intrinsically to offer their users as incentives. Also, notice that Dropbox goes beyond just giving away storage for friend invitations, but they also give away storage for actions that will help you understand their product. Educated users churn less.

Organic Viral Growth

As much as technology within the product can spread the product, there is something that can be even more effective, organic word of mouth. Organic word of mouth is when someone shares your product, online or offline, in ways that you didn’t orchestrate. They are compelled to tell people whether you incentivized them or not. Organic communication can’t be measured, and it can’t be controlled, but it can be a force that propels your product forward. You can’t make someone share your product organically with their coworkers or friends and family, but you can do certain things to make it more probable. These types of products all tend to spread organically:

  • Simple
  • Beautiful
  • Pain relieving
  • Products that make people look cool
  • Emotional
  • Fun
  • Unique
  • Surprising

You can’t be all these things, but you must be one of these things, or you probably don’t have a chance of spreading organically.

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