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5 Phases of the Startup Lifecycle: Morgan Brown on What it Takes to Grow a Startup

The best growth leaders know how to adjust their focus depending on what their startup needs at any given phase in its trajectory. I had the chance to interview Morgan Brown, one of growth’s OG’s. He has served as the Head of Growth at Qualaroo,, and a number of other high growth startups. I […]

The best growth leaders know how to adjust their focus depending on what their startup needs at any given phase in its trajectory.

I had the chance to interview Morgan Brown, one of growth’s OG’s. He has served as the Head of Growth at Qualaroo,, and a number of other high growth startups.

I found out that Morgan isn’t only a total badass when it comes to strategizing and executing growth plans, he’s also incredibly articulate when explaining the processes and frameworks that underlie his approach.  

In the interview, I dug into the question of what growth looks like at different stages in a start up’s life cycle. So put your growth marketing pants on and let me walk you through Morgan’s take on the key stages, and related inflection points, in a startup’s growth trajectory.


Frameworks are Great, but They Aren’t Life

Morgan was the first to admit that a caveat was needed when talking about the “rules” for growth. Frameworks are great for teaching concepts but in the end life so often evades our best efforts to put method to madness. So, as neat and tidy as this framework looks, anyone who’s thrown their hat in the startup ring knows there are infinite variations on how the parts of this outline can be mixed, matched, layered and timed.

Though you can never be sure how the details of your startup’s life story will reveal themselves, you should recognize bits and pieces of this framework all along the way.

The Stages

1)       Problem/Solution Fit

2)       Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

3)       Product/Market Fit

          a Language/Market Fit

          b– Funnel Optimization 

          c– Channel/Product Fit

4)      Scale

5)      Maturity


Stage 1:  Find Problem/Solution Fit

You have an idea for a product that you just can’t get out of your head. Maybe it was even born from one of your own needs. You’re off to a good start.

At this point, ask yourself two questions: “What problem am I compelled to solve?” and “Does my proposed solution solve it effectively?” If you have a clear answer to the first question and a confident “Yes” for the second, then you’ve got problem/solution fit and a hypothesis, and it’s time to start pressure testing your idea.


  • Study the Lean Startup framework and apply it to your discovery process.
  • Conduct problem/solution fit interviews like crazy.
    • Have a hypothesis about who the target user may be for your product.
    • Find people that fit that profile and talk to them. For inspiration, check out Episode 20, How to Get Your First 10 Customers, on Hiten Shah’s and Steli Efti’s The Startup Chat podcast.
    • Ask them tons of questions to understand how they view the problem and what they are currently doing to solve it.
    • Drill down into their specific pain points around the problem.
  • If possible, run demand tests
    • Use landing pages or even a crowdfunding campaign to test demand.
    • If people are biting, you may be onto something – it’s time to invest in building a more robust product.
  • Use your discoveries from interviews and demand tests to start cooking up your initial blueprint for your MVP.
  • Iterate on your proposed problem and solution as new information flows in.


Stage 2:  Build Your MVP

The purpose of this next step is to test your product hypothesis with the smallest possible investment of time and capital, hence, minimum viable product. In this way you are proving demand and learning about customer behavior, while minimizing risk.  Once you put your MVP out into the wild, focus on getting users flowing into your product – this is where the seeds of initial startup growth are sown.

For initial users, there isn’t a hard and fast number, but you need enough users moving through so you can see whether people are sticking around and using your product or abandoning it.” -Morgan Brown Tweet This  


  • Refer the Lean Startup Framework for best practices on building an MVP.
  • Keep in mind that an MVP for one company may take one day to build and for another it may take 6 months. There are many different types of MVPs and you must use your judgement to decide what an MVP looks like that will adequately test your idea. Take a look at 15 Ways to Test Your Minimum Viable Product for some guidance.
  • Conduct a minimal amount of channel discovery to get some initial users using your product so you can measure retention.
    • Only do as much channel discovery as you need to get your initial users. You will be investing in more robust channel discovery later when you’re preparing to scale.

Stage 3: Work For Product-Market Fit

Your MVP gained traction, you’re learning and iterating, you’ve got paying customers, they buy again and keep using your product on a regular basis, maybe they’re even telling their friends about it. These are the telltale signs of product/market fit, that ever so elusive entrepreneurial carrot.

Retention rate is your best measure of product/market fit, the higher your retention rate the more it’s a must have product.” -Morgan Brown ← Tweet this 

Take his words to heart – always measure retention rate and use it as your north star to navigate this whole startup game.

One caveat: the usual rules of searching for product market fit through limited customer acquisition and testing don’t apply if you have a network effects business or marketplace such as LinkedIn or Airbnb.

For two-sided market products like these, you need to achieve some semblance of scale, with liquidity on both sides, to actually test whether your product works and people keep using it.

Products in which the value can be experienced regardless of network effects, such as HubSpot or Evernote, show indications of product-market fit before scale. For this reason, for a two sided business model, you need to get to some critical mass and refine the product along the way to get to a must-have product.


  • Test for product-market fit
    • Survey users to understand how they feel about your product
    • Measure Net Promoter Score (NPS) – if it’s a 9 or a 10 you’re in good shape
    • Use Sean Ellis’ test for product-market fit – if 40% or more of your users say they would be very disappointed if your product was taken away that is a good indicator of product-market fit.
    • Measure retention rates and look for a stabilizing retention rate over time. What’s a good retention rate? Depends on model and vertical.

Morgan drilled down a bit deeper into some of the stops along the road to product/market fit, including:

  • Language-market fit
  • Funnel optimization
  • Channel-product fit

Test for Language/Market Fit – When it comes to language/market fit, the key is to figure out how to talk to your users about what your product does so that they “get” it. This is where you test your messaging to make sure it resonates with your target customers.


  • Define your product’s positioning in the market and to your target users
  • A/B test different messaging around:
    • The value proposition of your product
    • The tagline
    • Product descriptions
    • Features and benefits
    • Calls to Action


Perform Funnel Optimization

Before you turn up the dial on acquisition, make sure your user flows are solid and you bring people into your product in the most intuitive way possible.” -Morgan Brown Tweet This

Funnel optimization is where you experiment with different elements of the user experience to reduce and remove points of confusion. This may involve testing landing pages, calls-to-action, the user onboarding process, and any other key actions users take as they learn how to use your product. It’s done with the intention of optimizing for activation, conversion and retention.

As I wrote about previously in Build a Growth Machine Like Andy Johns, the heart and soul of any successful funnel optimization effort is to uncover the “Aha Moment” for users and get them to it as quickly as possible. At Qualaroo, Brown’s team found that retention rate increased significantly when users received 50 or more responses to a survey. With that Aha Moment in mind, the team optimized the product to maximize survey responses during the trial period.

Look for signals of things that make certain users more successful than others and do more of that.” – Morgan BrownTweet This


  • Segment your audience – make sure you are targeting the people who get value from your product.
  • Figure out what’s unique about the users that stick around and those that churn
  • Find the critical actions they take and milestones they reach that unlock the value of the product.
  • Bake those actions into the experience and push as many users as possible to take those actions or hit those milestones – this will drive up activation, conversion and retention.

Seek Channel-Product Fit

Channel-product fit is all about using a process of channel discovery to find the highest yield and most efficient avenues for reaching your target customers.

Exploring channels is all about experimentation. When you’re testing channels, it’s like echolocation. You’re sending out pings – if I do a test here, do I get a response, if I do a test there, do I get a response.” – Morgan Brown Tweet This

A common mistake that founders make is dabbling in a bunch of channels, rather than being deliberate in their approach to channel discovery.


  • Study Justin Mares’ and Gabriel Weinberg’s Bulls Eye Framework and Brian Balfour’s Channel Prioritization Matrix
  • Stack rank your channels based on 3 factors:
    • How close do they get you to your target customer*?
    • How do they align with your business model?
    • What are your team members’ strengths – ie: instrumented virality, SEO, PR, Facebook ads?
  • Focus on your top one, maybe two, channels at first – don’t dabble, pick your channels and go deep.
  • Start to run some initial growth experiments in these channels – these are your pings – they will tell you if a channel is promising, or not.
*Side note – Most startups think way too broadly about who their target customer is. You MUST be hyper specific here. For user acquisition purposes, your target customers are NOT working mothers or marketers (they may be exactly that for the sake of fundraising, since you need to demonstrate a huge addressable market for your product). Example – In the beginning, New Relic didn’t see their target customers as developers, they zeroed in on Ruby on Rails developers as their early adopters and became a voice within that very niche community. Later they expanded to serve a larger population of developers as they scaled.

Stage 4: Scale

In the scaling phase it’s time to turn your “pings” into playbooks for growth.

By now you have an idea of some channels that work, you feel confident about your conversion flows and retention rates, so it’s finally time to pour it on. Do this by doubling down on the channels that work.” – Morgan BrownTweet This 

A key to effectively executing at this stage is to expand your growth team by hiring specialists with deep expertise in your primary channels.

If SEO is a promising growth channel then bring an SEO expert in house, if you’re hitching yourself to the instrumented virality sled, then bring in a product person who’s got relevant experience, and so on.

At some point, your favorite channels will start to hit saturation points, so it’s critical for sustainable growth, to think of your growth engine like a layer cake.

You want to nail one channel, but once you find that one channel you need to think of your growth like a layer cake. If I’m going to add growth, I need to go out and get another channel and ultimately start stacking various channels on top of one another to grow.” – Morgan Brown Tweet This 

Do This:

  • Double down on the top channels that showed promise during your channel exploration.
  • Hire specialists for each channel and give them the resources necessary to execute. That may mean giving them design or engineering support or a sizable budget for paid acquisition, among other things.
  • Use Brian Balfour’s Building a Growth Machine methodology to scale and track your growth experiments (this is my favorite growth video in the history of growth videos, btw).
  • Once you know what works, build a growth playbook for each channel. This is where you define and document the processes that drive growth in your company.

Stage 5: Maturity

Your growth rate may slow down as a company matures, but at the world’s top tech companies it never stops. It’s baked into the culture and DNA.  

Growth is never done. LinkedIn is almost 20 years old and they continue to push growth experiments. Same goes for Facebook. Facebook has over a billion users and they are buying apps and rolling out tests, it’s not like you check the box and move on.” -Morgan Brown Tweet This

Top companies like Facebook, continue investing in their growth teams, but they also begin to look towards M&A, internationalization, and localization as the next frontier in growth. For example, this year LinkedIn bought as a way to expand the value they bring to their users and broaden their market.


  • Look for opportunities to expand abroad. Build localized teams to adapt the product experience to the intricacies and cultural nuances of each new region.
  • Look for acquisition opportunities that align either directly or tangentially with your product. Maybe an acquisition target gives you access to a new but very similar market of users, or maybe a product helps you expand the value you offer current users.
  • Keep investing in your growth team and hunting for new growth channels through continual experimentation. Look for pockets of possible target users that haven’t adopted your product yet and try to uncover why they haven’t and find ways to access them.

Focus: The Common Thread

Focus: The Common Thread

What is Sales Funnel Optimization?

Sales funnel optimization is where you experiment with different elements of the user experience to reduce and remove points of confusion. This may involve testing landing pages, calls-to-action, the user onboarding process, and any other key actions users take as they learn how to use your product. It’s done with the intention of optimizing for activation, conversion and retention.

Focus is the common theme Morgan touched on over and over throughout my interview with him. Consciously practicing focus at each step in the startup journey is critical. It is also one of the hardest things for any startup team to do consistently. In life, and in startups, there are endless tempting opportunities to chase. But the founders who learn how to critically assess opportunities, create thoughtful strategies and stay focused in their execution, outperform those who move from channel to channel and idea to idea. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown is one of my all-time favorite books and has become the bible I keep coming back to when I feel like I’m losing my edge. Read it.

How to Find Product Market Fit with Mayur Gupta of Spotify

Using Behavioral Science to Acquire, Retain, and Get More Value Out of Your Customers Please feel free to watch the above video and follow along with the story below. Finding Product-Market Fit is no joke… Most founders believe that they’ve reached product-market fit (PMF) when they actually haven’t. They typically aren’t even close. This is […]

Using Behavioral Science to Acquire, Retain, and Get More Value Out of Your Customers

Please feel free to watch the above video and follow along with the story below.

Finding Product-Market Fit is no joke…

Most founders believe that they’ve reached product-market fit (PMF) when they actually haven’t.

They typically aren’t even close.

This is the #1 biggest fallacy facing founders.

In this article (and video) you will go through the mindset of Mayur Gupta, VP of Growth at Spotify, and how he thinks about PMF.

And you will hear from Dmitry Dragilev, founder of, and the struggles and mistakes he made in getting his PR tech software to a solid state of PMF.

Pitfalls of Founders and Product-Market Fit

The two pitfalls and concerns every startup founder should realize are:

  1. The realization that their vision hasn’t reached product-market fit.

Have you truly, and quantitatively, found (and kept) product-market fit?

In order to answer that, Mayur, recommends coming up with your own quantitative measures for PMF:

  1. Top level growth – new users, new customers, something like that to define top line growth.
  2. Retention rate – Are you keeping new users or new customers for as long as you expected, or need to, in order to grow a sustainable business. Most skyrocketing startups should seek to retain customers for life.
  3. Engagement – either product engagement or offline engagement depending on what type of business you have. MAU/DAU ratio is strong indicator of engagement at Spotify.
  4. NPS or “brand love” – How much organic realty are you earning? How many of your existing customers are helping to get new customers? (i.e. Referral)

Side note: I’d also recommend taking a minute to identify the early-stage lifecycle phases of identifying a problem-solution fit prior to product-market fit.

Mayur Gupta, VP of Growth Marketing at Spotify

  1. Decisions you make on the things you don’t do

Have you been able to narrow your audience to specific personas and demographics?

Oftentimes when speaking with a millennial founder, Mayur will hear them attempting to address too broad a market too early in their startups lifecycle.

So, how do you say “No,” to people that could be a customer?

Because if you don’t say no, you will get into this dilemma where you start to orchestrate your product based on everybody’s needs. And broad strokes often lead to detriment for an early-stage startup.

You’re better off focusing on one primary channel, to get to PMF, then unleash other touch-points and channels from there.


Dmitry’s Story of Just Reach Out and Finding Product-Market Fit

Dmitry Dragilev has decided to make PR software to help companies pitch journalists (maybe you’ve heard of

He’s looking for validation that people will actually use, and pay for, his product…

So he starts finding customers and charging them before he’s actually built the software.

He’s not charging much, maybe $10 – $20, and he hasn’t yet figured out his pricing model, but people are buying.

Is this enough validation?

It’s certainly more than 0%, but absolutely not 100%.

So how does this early validation impact growth?

Impact product design?

Impact your pricing model?

After having built a little bit more of the product, Dmitry feels comfortable charging more for it.

And he continues this process of building more tech and charging more money to start to feel out early PMF.


Your First 100 Customers

Week one of starting any business, where you have a business model, you need to draw a line somewhere and say:

If I get 100 customers, and X customers come back within a two-month time frame (replace “two-month” depending on your business model), to repurchase, and Y of those customers will tell other customers, and Z of those customers will leave feedback and help provide us with a baseline for NPS…


If that happens, then I can say I’ve got an early sign of PMF.

It’s not just about getting the first one, or one hundred sales. That’s not PMF.

It’s not about getting simple feedback from people on the streets. That’s not PMF.

It’s not a single dimension that proves strong PMF. You need strong indicators from all of those 4 pillars in order to best define your fit.

Remember, a startup is not a marathon, in the sense that you cannot actually see where you are going. You can’t see the end of the race.

You have to be running at 100 miles an hour, but you have to be able to pause and pivot.

That’s the challenge as a founder, because you get so attached to your idea, that it gets very tough to realize that “this isn’t the right path.” Not only have you invested your mind, heart, and soul into your idea, but you’ve likely also invested significant resources.

The ones scrutinizing their ideas are the ones more likely to succeed.

There is no predefined straight line. You have to keep zigzagging until you prove PMF at scale.


Dmitry’s Big Pivot

After getting initial traction and selling his PR software at a higher and higher price point, through the release of new features and ever increasing PMF, Dmitry Dragilev was hitting a major snag:

PR has a lot of moving parts…

You have the journalists that are going to publish.

You have the pitch that needs to go out from the startup.

And just having software didn’t do enough justice to provide the value needed to the customer.

So Dmitry started a services side to his business. He started helping customers with the pitch, writing the email, tracking it, and teaching his customers/clients what to do when people don’t respond.

But… There is a problem:

Dmitry doesn’t want to be a services business.

This doesn’t align with the long-term plan for the business… Or does it?

Over the course of four years, and many pivots, Dmitry realized that services improve his product retention, and he’s now built that into his business model.


Reaching Product-Market Fit

Reaching PMF does not mean you are guaranteed to stay in PMF. The world around us is changing so quickly that once you reach PMF, you have to work even harder to stay there.

Think about the mobile experience movement of the last 18 months. Less than 12 months ago, many people jumped on creating the best mobile experience. It was the next best thing, important to PMF and growth of many businesses.

Today, the mobile experience is expected. It’s normal; it’s status quo.


Retention and Customer Delight

How do we define the “aha” moment for a customer?

Is retention simply about email campaigns, reminders, nudges?

Or is there something more that can be done inside the product to retain customers?

You can buy a date, but you can’t buy love…

Retention is the hardest part of the growth funnel to solve for. Even knowing what the aha moment is, is very tough to define for most startups.

Retention happens at the intersection of:

  • A great product experience
  • Great messaging
  • Personalized and relevant storytelling
  • Great content

You must reach out to that user when they are off platform, at the right moments, giving them enough reason to come back to the platform.

When they aren’t thinking about you, you need to nudge them back into the platform, to help build mental – intrinsic – triggers within that user, so that they will remind themselves to keep coming back to the product.

You have to help them build a habit, as frequent Growth Marketing Conference speaker Nir Eyal would say.

Nir Eyal Hooked Methodology

Credit: Nir Eyal

And they will only build those triggers if they continue to get value from the product. This is the “Must have experience” that the product has to deliver every time the user uses it.

What kind of message? What kind of content? This is why you have to test. Here’s a whole article on why science and the art of testing and failing is so important.

Remember, your CRM and the act of sending emails, sending messages… This isn’t retention on its own.

There is a lot that needs to go underneath this, foundationally, to ensure you are doing it right.

You need to understand the needs of the individual user and segments of users. Your messaging is based on the need.

Retention is a Symptom of Acquisition

Retention, especially, is a mix of art and science. It is a symptom of who you acquire. You can’t blindly acquire bad users.

The worst thing that can happen is that you acquire users that should not be part of your platform, you bleed money acquiring them, and you bleed money trying to retain them.

Everything begins from understanding your audience. And that is a larger battle than most people give credit to.


Dmitry Destroys his Retention

For Dmitry, it was clear the aha moment was when his customer would get published, or featured, in the press.

A couple years back, he was able to get a big promotional offer out to a large audience, using a tool called AppSumo.

This was great; it brought in a flood of new customers… But they were not the right customers.

All of these customers were looking for a great deal. They didn’t really experience the core features or find the aha moment in his product. And ultimately, they left.

What’s the lesson?

Not all customers are equal. It matters the channel you’re using. In this case, Dmitry made some revenue, but the promotion left him more distracted than enriched, veering him off-course from the goal of acquiring quality, lifelong, loyal customers.


Career Example from Mayur

A while back, Mayur was working with a Fortune 100 company on selling an incontinence product to the 55+ crowd.

After launching the product, they realized the growth they needed wasn’t there.

They kept improving the product.

They tried multiple marketing campaigns and nothing was working.

That is when they decided to invest into behavioral science.

Through research, they found out that it wasn’t about a lack of awareness, lack of trust, lack of trial. It was completely associated with the stigma of using the product itself.

The consumer doesn’t want to be seen buying the product. It’s embarrassing.

Those needs won’t come out of a survey response. They won’t come from measuring app usage.

Investing in behavioral science should inform your product and growth roadmap and development.

You must apply the causal understanding of the user to the product, messaging, content.


Knowing The Right Customers: CAM not TAM

Do you know how your users are actually using your product, especially in context of everything else they are doing in their day to day?

What tabs do they have open in their browser?

What products do they use in conjunction with your product?

Over time, you are likely to forget “who is this for?” and why you’re even building what you’re building.

When thinking about TAM – total addressable market, and a required data point for every startup founder to present to an investor – it’s a very misleading metric, because it only addresses how many people have the right to be your customer.

But how many users you have the right to win right now, has many factors to it. How do we transform a TAM into a CAM – current addressable market.

Who do you have the right to win? This helps us uncover the why behind the user.

Why are they using our product? Why are they going away?

Oftentimes, hunger is getting in the way of understanding your customer better. Stop that!


Investing Short-Term VS Long-Term and the Ability to Say No

The most successful founders are the ones that can say “no” the best.

When should you invest in building the brand vs invest in pure growth – pure performance – to acquire more users, and retain them.

This is a problem in every organization.

In the technology age, marketing is now being held accountable for outcomes, not output.

How does a startup get the first 500 or first 1,000 customers? And then, when running low on money, how are you supposed to scale that?

Often times the way to get the first 500 doesn’t leave you with long-term growth opportunities.

You must acknowledge what you are spending your money on: growth or brand, and invest in both.

Simultaneously, the two impact each other. Investing in growth will help strengthen the brand, and investing in brand will strengthen growth, even if they are done in different ways.


Why It Isn’t Easy

Finding product-market fit, scaling a company, investing in getting more customers, and getting them to stick around… It’s not easy.

You will naturally see all of the startup successes online, in your newsfeed, on TV, or on a billboard.

Whereas all of the failures get swept under the rug.

Are you really “data-driven” or are you just saying it?

9/10 startups aren’t looking at the behavioral science behind their users.

Understanding your first 100 customers will help you get your next 1,000.

Laser-focus your efforts based on understanding your customer, segmenting for their individual needs and problems, and cognizantly investing across targeted performance and brand. Good luck!

For more on Dmitry Dragilev check out his YouTube channel, his LinkedIn, and if you’re interested in upping your PR game, check out Just Reach Out.

For more on Mayur Gupta, check out his LinkedIn and his blog: The Growth Machine.

80+ Growth Marketing Lessons from the Top Industry Leaders

Over the last 8 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of marketers, startup founders, growth and sales hackers, and corporate digital executives. And from big conferences and hands-on workshops, to webinars and intimate cocktail mixers, I’ve noticed they’re all starting to talk about the same thing – growth marketing. Which is why this year, I promised myself something. […]

Over the last 8 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of marketers, startup founders, growth and sales hackers, and corporate digital executives.

And from big conferences and hands-on workshops, to webinars and intimate cocktail mixers, I’ve noticed they’re all starting to talk about the same thing – growth marketing.

Which is why this year, I promised myself something. I made a resolution. I reached out once again to all the industry movers and shakers I could and asked for their growth marketing secrets – the tactics that just worked.

Because whether you’re a startup building a foundation to attract (more) funding, or an enterprise creating a platform for innovation, you really need to learn how to grow. From Silicon Valley dorms to New York City boardrooms, digital marketing teams are becoming growth marketing teams.

And it’s no surprise.

Growth marketing isn’t just a start-up thing. Growth marketing is a marketing thing.


And like with most business sea changes, you’re either onboard or you’re overboard. It’s just a matter of time.

Hiten Shah, who spoke at the previous growth marketing events, said it best:

“If you are doing marketing and you are not aligned with the growth in your company, then you are probably not doing your job”

That said, even though we’re still in the (relatively) early stages of the growth marketing revolution, we can still make sense of it.

First, sales plays a large role in growth. Marketing, like any business unit, shouldn’t exist in a silo. If you don’t connect your marketing and sales teams, you’re not going to move the needle as far – or as fast – as you could be. Sales, product, data science, and technical tools will be a critical part of your growth strategy.

Second, most of the information out there on growth marketing is surprisingly easy to organize. The top strategies, tactics, and tips fit nicely into 3 categories: brand, process, and customer.

And today, I’m going to talk about those categories and the growth marketing secrets in them.

Let’s get started.

I. Brand

Whether it’s your personal brand, your company’s reputation, or your product’s image, it all starts with how people see you – including whether or not they can trust you.

Simply put, most startups focus too much on building a great product and too little on building a great brand. They might have the best product out there – they might even invent a new product category altogether – but they’ll never cash in if they can’t get people to take their cash out.

Unsurprisingly, many of the growth marketing lessons I learned revolved around branding. Some of the best ones are:

#1 Brand is Product     

Laura Busche

“Branding is something that starts when your first product launches. Your brand and product don’t compete. Your brand is your product.”


Laura Busche, Brand Content Strategist, Autodesk

#2 Focus on Creating a Great Brand

“Even from the beginning of starting your company. A brand that people know, like, trust and respect, natural growth will come. It’s what of the best growth hacks we use with Foundr, and yields the greatest return.”

Nathan Chan, CEO, Foundr 

#3 Establish your Expertise

ben parr quote

“In the modern era of marketing, the expert is king.

An Emory University study showed that we pay more attention to experts, especially during critical decisions involving money. Use Medium, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other content tools to write about your industry and build up a following and a reputation of expertise in your field.”

Ben Parr, AuthorCaptivology

#4 Protect Your Brand’s Reputation 

“You can have the best campaign idea, fabulous content, and great timing, but it won’t matter if you’re not protecting your clients’ data. It’s time to take cyber security seriously and realize that data breaches negatively impact your brand’s reputation; they are the opposite of “growth.” Secure passwords and two factor authentication are no longer enough; you need a brand reputation management tool or service.”

Natascha Thomson, CEO, MarketingXLerator   

#5 Amplify Your Brand Awareness with Social Advertising     

“Are you systematically tracking all the good things people say about you and your brand? You can amplify those words to your target audiences on Facebook, Google, and other networks for only a dollar a day.

Nothing has more credibility than what others say about you. So shift your content marketing towards generating rave reviews instead of creating “advertising” content. Let your community of fans and customers do the work for you.”

Dennis Yu, CTO, Blitz Metrics

#6 The Foundation for Growth is Excellence

“Quality service, quality product, and fair prices. That combination will always attract people. But more than that, it will inspire them to pass your name along to their friends, too.

On Facebook, in person – everywhere. People love to tell their friends about great deals from quality businesses. And in today’s world of instant reviews and “search-about-you-first” consumer behavior, it’s critical that your entire footprint says quality. No one marketing tactic will build your business. no one product will solve your revenue issues. In the long run – and business is always a long game – quality wins.”

Duane Forrester VP, Organic Search Operations, Bruce Clay, Inc.

#7 Build Relationships that Build Your Business

“Identify an area where developing new skills will make a significant impact on your business. Then identify a small group of accomplished people with these skills and build relationships with them.

For instance, I finally became a book author and now believe I need to master promotional strategies to get it sold and read, so I’m working on connecting with non-fiction authors and book marketers who know the turf. When they’re carefully chosen and cultivated, new relationships are rewarding beyond measure.”

Barry Feldman, Feldman Creative

#8 Invest in Your Social Capital, Not Your Social Media 

Brian Solis

We often misinterpret the true value of social media.

It is not about “likes,” comments, or money. It is all about relationships and people. It is not about business-to-consumer; it is not about business-to-business. It is people-to-people and how you make them feel.

Brian Solis, Principal Analyst, Altimeter Group  

#9 Promote Others

“Promoting others is one of the fastest paths for growth for a startup. By promoting others, you’re giving them a reason to promote you – making the growth rate exponential. One way is to show how others have used your product to their benefit, which teaches people how to use your product and markets it at the same time.”

Shira Abel, CEO, Hunter & Bard

#10 Find Your Story    

“Find your story. Studies show that 63% of people remember stories and only 5% of people remember facts. When you want to educate or inspire your customer, give them a story – a pointed story that evokes an emotion (joy, fear, inspiration, etc.) that supports your call to action.”

Olivia June, Co-Founder, VINA

#11 Leverage Your Passions

“You cannot avoid the social interaction of networking – especially in the Bay Area. Whether it’s going out to dinner with friends, running into an old acquaintance from college, seeing a co-worker outside of the office, or being introduced to a new connection, this city is an open arena for social networking, which makes it great.

My advice is to not only attend networking events, but find some fun, exciting and interesting things to do – join clubs, groups, teams, or whatever it may be – and get involved with others who share similar interests. In essence, leverage your passions. In doing so, you directly leverage your networking.”

Braydan Young,  Account Executive, Gild

#12 Don’t Sell to Reporters; Share Relevant Information Instead

“Good PR isn’t about selling a reporter to write about you. It’s about relationships and being a part of the conversation. Load all the keywords about your industry and company into Google Alerts, then respond directly to the reporters when it’s relevant to them. Share your knowledge with them – when the time is right.”

Julia Wells, Founder and Managing Director, CoveredCo

#13 Get Featured Everywhere You Can

“You’re an expert on your product, so tell everyone about it. Ask to be featured in publications and at conferences. You’ll be surprised at how many people say yes. The key is to get in front of as many interested eyes as possible, and optimize the buyer funnel to a conversion. Special attention should be paid to audience, non-scalable activities and big picture analysis.”

Clayton Wood, Founder & CEO, Identity Labs

#14 Leverage the Passion of Existing Users

“The source of organic growth is always the passion of existing users. Passion can be measured – it may be they actively promote you, it may mean they act as a case study, it may mean they get a tattoo of your logo on their arm. If you can rapidly learn which metrics tell you why your customers become passionate about you, you’ll have a great shot at rapid growth.”

Jeremiah Gardner, Author of The Lean Brand, Principal, Moves The Needle

#15 Grow your reach

“Content marketers typically find it’s difficult to get traction in the early going with their blogs. The key to growing your audience is to deliver your content via the publications they already read.

Make guest blogging a priority. Carefully select the blogs that reach your target audience. Connect with editors. Pitch them with killer ideas and well-written emails that demonstrate you understand their content marketing mission and have the writing chops to provide them a remarkable post.

Then, deliver a truly amazing article bound to appeal to their readers, increase interest in your blog, and open the door to returning to guest post again.”

Barry Feldman, Feldman Creative

II. Process

Even a strong brand – along with a great product – isn’t enough. We’ve seen more than a few big brands and promising startups vanish because they couldn’t scale, manage their growth, or innovate when the time came.

And as most growth veterans would tell you – tactics and strategies are great, but they don’t lead to sustainable growth alone. They provide quick bursts of traffic – that’s what they’re for.

What you want is retention. Retention is king. And that’s why you should focus on building sustainable processes to attract, convert, and retain customers.

Some ideas for doing that are: 

#16 Market to Influencers 

brant cooper quote

“Group your potential customers around the problem you’re solving and determine the depth of problem. Next, figure out who influences the members of that group within the problem’s context and where they “hang out” together.

Whether you’re doing customer development or trying to scale, leverage the relevant influencers and focus your marketing on where they are.”  

Brant Cooper, NYT Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker; Founder, Moves the Needle   

#17 Think Global, Act Local

When you consider opening your service or product to international markets, think locally. Marketing is different from one culture to another. Google is far from being the top search engine in Russia, and Facebook isn’t even available in China. Your search, social, and content marketing strategies need to be unique for every new market you enter. Thinking locally is the first step to becoming a global brand.

Anji Ismail, CEO & Co-Founder, 

#18 Measure Engagement and Influence

When you go after bigger accounts, you can’t measure your marketing’s impact with just leads and opportunities. The larger the deal, the less you should think about measuring “marketing sourced pipeline” and the more you need to look at metrics like account engagement, revenue influence, and improved sales effectiveness.”

Jon Miller, CEO and Co-Founder, Engagio 

#19 Try. Fail. Learn.

“Don’t be afraid to fail. The only true failure for a lean startup is not trying new things. Nobody gets it right the first time – even if they say they did. Try. Fail. Learn. Repeat. But do it fast! That’s the lean approach.”

Martyn Crew, Founder and CEO, Bootstrap Marketing   

#20 Use Link Retargeting to Increase Social Media ROI

“One problem of social media is that once a post is shared, it is difficult to send more posting on the same subject as it would be spammy.

Link retargeting allows you to show your banner ads to anyone engaging with the posting. Link retargeting (you can google the term to find the top providers) is a short link service like that tags the browser of anyone that clicks on the short link. The banner ads network recognizes the tag and displays banner ads that were previously uploaded in the link retargeting service.”

Serge Salager, CEO, Retargetlinks  

#21 Don’t Write Big Sales Playbooks.

“You absolutely need aggressive sales development – do multiple touches by email and phone for both inbound and outbound leads. But don’t write up big sales playbooks, because no one reads them. Sales development solutions are affordable for small teams and you’ll get more touches per representative (and thus more conversions) per week with them.

And best of all, you won’t waste your time writing something nobody will read!”

Nilay Patel, Co-Founder & CEO, Selligy   

#22 Embrace Social Selling 

jill rowley quote

“Use social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to find and be found.  

The modern buyer is digitally driven, socially connected, mobile, and empowered.  Social media is an additional channel for building relationships that drive revenue.  

Furthermore, you can use social media to shine the spotlight on your best salespeople – your customer advocates. Your employees need to look as good online as they do offline, so have them optimize their social profiles to attract customers.  If you suck offline; you’ll suck more online. #Don’tSuck.”

Jill Rowley, Keynote Speaker, Social Selling Evangelist, Startup Advisor, Investor   

#23 Drill Smarter

“Selling a startup’s product is like prospecting for oil. And it is tempting, when you see oil seep into the first well you dig, to just keep drilling. But that’s dangerous. To scale, you need to tap a gusher. That first taste of oil – like a great customer call, for example – can keep you from moving on to where you should really be drilling.”

Ryan Nichols, CEO, Tylr Mobile (ex-Appirio)  

#24 Create Your Moment of Truth and Make It Count

“Create a reason for why a customer just has to hear you out, something so compelling, that stokes their curiosity so much, they can’t help themselves but meet with you. Then you have a single moment of truth to convince your prospective buyer you can really improve the way they do something.

The key to this moment of truth is to have a well-honed and repeatable way of showcasing the value of your product or solution – including product demos, ROI stories, passionate quotes, and statistics. The more you deliver this personalized story consistently, the better you will get at it –  and the more business you will close.

Focus on making these moments of truth count.”

Jim Benton, Co-Founder & Chief Business Officer, ClearSlide, Inc.  

#25 Find Compatible Sales Talent

Engineers do a great job of creating startups with strong initial traction. But too often they don’t understand that a “one-sized-fits-all” approach to sales just doesn’t work. They make the mistake of hiring “seasoned and experienced sales veterans” from traditional and established tech companies, which is usually too much too soon and results in bad outcomes and lost time.

Founders should consult with sales veterans that understand the startup landscape and can recommend near, middle, and long-term sales plans and strategies for a fixed fee or company stock tied to specific deliverables and milestones. Just because a sales strategy worked at Oracle or Salesforce doesn’t mean it will work at your startup.

Dwight Foster, Vice President of Channel Sales and Business Development, Insightly

#26 Go Niche

“Startups need to master niche media. There are thousands of journalists and bloggers covering every aspect of technology, but only a handful matter to your audience and to your business.

Use hashtags on social media to identify the keywords your audience users to share their hopes and frustrations. Then look for publications and journalists who use these industry-specific words in their stories.

These are the niche media outlets you have to target, because they’re the ones your customers and prospects go to for relevant, actionable information.”

Chikodi Chima, Growth Expert and Founder, Moonshot   

#26 Align Your Paid Search and Social Advertising Campaigns

Organize your strategy into 4 components to help analyze and optimize everything. Paid search and social media advertising can be extremely competitive. And don’t forget to monitor competitive keywords, ads, and landing pages.”

Jamie Smith, CEO, Strategy Analyzer  | VP of Growth, iSpionage 

#27 Develop a Video Marketing Strategy

Leverage video marketing to promote your startup company or product.

YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world and videos can even rank on Google’s first page. If you’re not sure what to make your video about, try a video business card, client testimonial, or “how-to” instructions on the best uses of your product or service. Then promote your video on all of your social media accounts – from Facebook to Instagram – to share your video with the word.”

James Hickey, President, JMH Marketing Group  

#28 Focus and Clarity 


When thinking about business opportunities, cultivate an objective, impartial mindset that takes everything – from business factors to personal ones – into consideration.

We’ll call this mindset “clarity.” From there, you can figure out what the right opportunity for you is and push toward it, adjusting and optimizing as necessary to realize it. We’ll call that push “focus.” First clarity, then focus. Because without clarity, you’ll likely to go a long way in the wrong direction.” 

Aaron Kahlow, Founder and CEO, Mindful Living Institute   

#28 Sales is the Art of the Next Steps

The best way to keep your sales moving forward is to always have a clear action for your prospect to take next. When there’s no clear next step, the sale stalls or falls apart. But when they know exactly what to do next, you’ll get to a decision quickly and count the win or move on to find the next opportunity.”

Liston Witherill, Chief Builder, Good Funnel 

#29 Engagement is More Important than Growth

nir eyal quote 

“Growth without engagement is a leaky bucket.

You have to retain users to grow sustainably. To do that, make sure you’ve built a product that keeps people coming back. An engaged user is less likely to churn and more likely to share your products with others, so make sure you build a sticky product first.”

Nir Eyal, author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”


#30 Before Growth Focus on Fundamentals

Like conversion rate optimization before it, growth hacking case studies can sometimes blind practitioners to the fundamentals of growth by focusing too much attention on tricks and shortcuts.

Airbnb’s famous Craigslist hack would never have worked if Airbnb was not fundamentally a novel service that offered a real advantage over traditional lodging. Undifferentiated Product + Growth Hack = slow growth. Innovative Product + Growth Hack = viral growth. Don’t skip step one.

Forrest Dombrow, President, Solve Sales  

#31 Growth Doesn’t Come Quickly

“People often read the headlines on large publications and assume that growth happens quickly. That’s far from the truth. Growth is consistent actions that add up over time. It’s all about playing the long game and being patient.

Take content marketing for example: that’s typically a 12-18 month journey to start seeing results. Most people can’t stomach that long of a wait. Those that can end up reaping the rewards.”

Eric Siu, CEO, Single Grain

#32 Leverage Other People’s Newsletters

Every industry has a few luminaries and many more popular bloggers and other influencers, all of whom have regular newsletters that reach many thousands of readers. Leveraging their newsletter’s reach gets the word out about your product to a very engaged audience. Offering an something special for the newsletter is incentive to both the sender and reader and can drive some serious growth.

Dean Levitt, Chief Of Culture, Mad Mimi, LLC

#33 Apply Keyword Research Fundamentals

Apply keyword research fundamentals (SEO and paid search) to your content marketing calendar, but don’t forget to consider your sitemap, hierarchy, and navigation elements (what your site looks like), and make sure you have the right words represented on your pages where people are likely to click, with a mix of high volume + high affinity to your qualified audience.

Chris Boggs, Founder, Web Traffic Advisors 

#34 It’s Never One Hack that Makes You Grow

dan mcgaw quote

“Everyone is looking for that one-time fix, you know, the lose 10lbs in one day diet.

In growth we get caught up in catchy blog titles about how some shocking tactic increased metrics in hoards. What we forget to ask yourself is how many other hacks combined with that hack actually grew the business? Yeah, we all have a hack to help us get traffic, revenue or emails, but it takes all those hacks combined and in sequence to create growth.”

Dan McGaw, CMO, Effin Amazing

#35 Focus on a Notification Strategy

“I think a lot of people are sometimes a bit lost when it comes to email/push strategy, since each new email or push notification can be treated like a blank canvas.

However, the principle I’ve found most helpful for focusing email/push efforts is making sure every emails and notifications is an extension of your product’s core user value and directly ties into the product’s mission. If your emails are closely tied to the product’s core value, then you can be confident that users of your product will find them engaging.”

John Egan, Growth, Pinterest

#36 Double Down on Your Best Traction Channels

“Experiment with everything under the sun, but reserve the full force of your resources for traction channels that have been proven to work and scale.

Leverage what’s already working by producing similar content, finding similar audiences, or expanding the size of your sales team once you’ve found initial success. Nothing can grow a business faster than doubling down on proven processes.”

Ali Tajseksander, Founder, Wishpond

#37 Leverage Psychology in all of Your Marketing

justin mares quote

“Incorporate psychological triggers like scarcity (time-based discounts), social proof (via tools like Fomo) and gamification elements (number of followers, your place in a “waiting” beta line, etc.) to encourage users to take action!”

Justin Mares, Co-Author, Traction

#38 Build a Mathematical Model for Your Business

“Find out all the factors that can leverage growth. Begin with the end in mind. If you can find out all the factors that can generate growth for your business, which ones would be?

Then play with those in an excel sheet, so that you link them all with the end goal: revenue or profit. If you increase them with 10%, which one of them would generate the highest growth?

After that, brainstorm on strategic ideas, prioritize the actions based on the potential, resources and time to impact and make it happen!

It starts with a solid business model, continues with a great team and ends with an outstanding execution.”

Valentin Radu, CEO, OmniConvert

#39 Open the Funnel

Don’t underestimate Bing. It doesn’t take much time to get started with Bing Webmaster Tools and they actually have some decent features like their “Crawl Control” tool and “Search Keywords” report. Take a an hour out of your day to get familiar and you’ll be surprised by how little it takes to get your Bing rankings up.

Brendan Baker, Sr. SEO Manager, Eventbrite

#40 Stop Doing All the Things!!

zack onisko quote

“You’re most likely doing too much, investing in too many tactics and not doing any of them well. There’s only so many hours in the day. Focus on your biggest, best ideas!”

People tend to cross off the easier to finish ideas off their to-do list instead of tackling the most important, impactful things. If there was ever any ‘silver bullet’ with growth it is prioritization.

Make a list of all your ideas for growth, score each idea on time to build/execute, number of people needed to execute and estimated impact to the business. Summing and stack ranking these scores will give you a rough direction of where you should be focusing your energy.”

Zack Onisko, VP Growth, Hired

#41 Pick ONE Specific Goal for the Year, and Base all Your Judgments on That.

“For example, in 2015 I decided I wanted a bigger email list, and the entire year was based around growing it. By Dec. 31st of that year we hit the goal. However if you spread out a million different goals, you’ll rarely hit them all!”

Neville Medhora,

#42 Growth is a Mindset.

“Set time aside to vision your future and grow into it.”

Alice Heiman, Business Consultant, Alice Heiman LLC.

#43 Virality is Not Just About Incentives and Referral Programs

“Two levers that you can pull to get your users to share your product are ego and emotion. Users like to share things that appeal to their self-image – so allowing them to create images, lists, recommendations in your product will make it more likely for them to share. Additionally, emotions drive engagement, clicks and virality.

High arousing emotions like surprise or anger are more likely to drive clicks and positive emotions drive more shares than negative ones.”

Mada Seghete, Founder, Branch

#44 Follow the 60/30/10 Rule

dennis yu quote

“Spend 60% of your time developing people, 30% on building process, and only 10% on buying or building software.

Your growth marketing challenges are solved mainly by people and process, no matter how shiny that software is. There is more funding for carbonated sugar water than there is for promoting a healthy lifestyle, so don’t fall for the market bias towards tools.

Any extra dollar you have, invest it in building a great team. Automation is powerful and important, but still nascent. Growth hacking is through clever things your people do at scale, not through licensing someone else’s software. Do the hard things first.”

Dennis Yu, Co-Founder, BlitzMetrics

#45 There’s a Case for Evergreen Content

“At Intercom we’re big believers in “evergreen content.” What is evergreen content? A bit like a Swiss watch, evergreen content is content that addresses timeless themes. Here’s a good example we published last year: Martin, one of our support engineers, did an internal presentation on how to file a good bug.

We said, “If we turn that into a blog post, it’s not specific to Intercom. It’s not specific to a tool. It simply explains what you – if you’re an engineer, support engineer, a support agent or anyone in the company that comes across a bug in your product – should include in that bug report so that it’s useful to people that want to fix it.”

That post generated plenty of traffic when it was published. It still generated traffic six months later, and it continues to do so 18 months later because it’s timeless.

Matt Hodges, Sr. Director Marketing, Intercom

#46 Belt AND Suspenders: You Need More Than One Way To Track Your Marketing

“If you are buying advertising or using PR, email, social media, or inbound marketing to grow your business, you can’t rely on Google Analytics to get your attribution metrics right.

For example, Facebook’s mobile app wipes out GA’s basic tracking, and some small sites may not be properly categorized by Google Analytics.

To solve this, use GA UTM Codes on all urls you use for advertising or promoting your business. It’s as simple as using Google’s URL Builder. Keep track of your URLs in a Google Doc so you can easily replicate across campaigns and remember what you did when interpreting your results!”

Melinda Byerley, Founder, TimeShareCMO

#47 Best advice on pricing: Price honestly

“When I started my agency, I made the classic ego mistake of trying to price as highly as possible, with little previous reputation for good client work. This meant I got a whole heap of unanswered emails once the price was asked (as an aside: Never, ever, tell the client by email your price for anything over £999, get them on a call).

Then I started to honestly work out what my time was worth, what it would cost me in assets or staff time, and started to ask for that. Clients were happy and I was off to the races. I’ve said before how I believe that, if you’re a freelancer, pricing low is a good starting point- you get confident asking for money (which isn’t natural), get clients quicker (and thus referrals to more clients), and everything, from talking to your parents to investors to potential employees flows smoother once there’s some cash coming in.

If you feel you’ve changed too little, that’s fine too. Charge new customers the higher price, while the old customers get to keep the early bird discount. It’s very easy to raise prices over time- It’s very hard when you’re looking at a big fat zero on day one to get that first sale if you’re charging too much.”

Vincent Dignan, Founder, Magnific

#48 Make Referrals Easy to Remember & Fun to Share 

“You can do this by personalizing with the referrer’s name. Use referral personalization in:

  • the referral code
  • in the destination link / URL
  • on landing page”

Susan Su, Venture Partner, 500 Startups

#49 Forget Content for Content’s Sake

“Answer questions & solve problems and be guaranteed there will always be a hungry audience looking for what you are creating.”

Aaron Agius, Founder, Louder Online

#50 Be Super Stingy With Your Time and Focus

“In the early stages of a growth strategy, it can be enticing to test multiple ideas and spread your attention across multiple initiatives. However, to max out any channel, it will require your full attention, energy and time.

Be strict with yourself and stay laser-focused on the channels that are growing both your user-base and revenue. The channels that are already performing well are your best opportunities for fast growth, early on so give them all your time.”

Dean Levitt, Founder, Teacup Analytics

#51 Build to Wow

“If your product does not cause users to say wow, growth will lag. The magic needs to be in your product, not just in the growth hack.

To find your wow, map out the current context in your space. What’s the norm? Then remove features, add features, combine features or just do the opposite. Contextual novelty is the beginning of innovation and customer-centered innovation leads to growth.”

Forrest Dombrow, Founder, Solve Sales

#52 Use Your Resources

“You can learn a tremendous amount from other startups, but true growth will only come when you begin taking advantage of the resources that you actually possess (not others).

How many employees do you have? How much capital do you have? What marketing expertise do you bring to the table. What is unique about your customers? What is awesome about your product? What secret do you know? Learn from others, then chart your own path!”

Bronson Taylor, CEO, Growth Geeks

#53 Focus on Delivering the Absolute Best Content for Content Marketing

“When I started ConversionXL, 99% of marketers were writing superificial 500-word articles. I chose to go above and beyond and started producing 2000-3000 word long-form articles that were full of examples, every claim backed up with a link, research-based. And I got 100k monthly readers for the blog before 1 year of blogging.

Now – writing that quality content is the barrier of entry. We’ve elevated our game and are now conducting original UX research, and publishing that on the blog – establishing our blog firmer as the leader.

Always aim to be the absolute best. Elevate your game.”

Peep Laja, Founder, ConversionXL

#54 Cultivate your Community of Advocates

“Everyone is so focused on getting featured on that product discovery site, news network, and finding that silver bullet hack for that quick shot of instant growth. They fail to do the hard work of cultivating a loyal community of fans, customers, and users to be powerful authentic advocates.

Building community advocacy around your brand, product, audience, or cause is the tip of the organic acquisition growth spear and the only true, timeless growth hack. Sharpen this spear by creating an amazing advocacy experience that is easy, engaging, fun, and rewarding.”

Joe Sanchis, Founder, Queue

#55 Try Traditional Marketing Channels

adelyn zhou quote

“Try channels like direct mail, TV and outdoor– they’re still around because they work.”

Adelyn Zhou, Founder, Alight Labs

#56 Keep Track of Your “First Major Win-State” 

Yu-kai Chou Bio Headshot

“In designing your campaigns, you must keep track of your “First Major Win-State” – the first point where users say, “This is awesome!”

Once you identify that point, count how many minutes it takes for a user to reach it, because every second before that is a drop-out. And don’t forget to ask your users to tell their friends about you and rate their experience – right after your “First Major Win-State” victory.”  

Yu-Kai Chou, Pioneer and International Keynote Speaker on Gamification  

#57 Grow the Right Audience

Growth is about more than just acquiring users. It’s about acquiring the right users – the ones who will engage and convert and generate revenue for years to come. If you want to find more of the right kind of users, try talking to your best customers right now.

Ask them where they heard about your product, what they expected from it when they started, and what they’re getting out of it. Then use that information to find better channels and the right messaging to attract more people like them.”

Laura Klein, Principal, Users Know & Author of UX for Lean Startups  

#58 Act on Your Analytics

“In the pursuit of growth, one of the most important analytical capabilities you must have in your startup is the power to segment users by the actions they have or have not performed in the product. The ability to act on user behavior data can have an absolutely transformational impact on your growth trajectory.”

Jack Mardack, Head of Growth, Chartcube

#59 You Can’t Optimize Your (Email) Messaging Without Empathy and Focus.

“Even the strongest value propositions won’t work if you aren’t considerate and thoughtful about who your intended audience is.

Sales and marketing efforts always need to focus on a specific audience. Likewise, make sure your messaging is also tightly focused–don’t try to do too many things at once, especially with regards to email. Keeping each email focused on a single benefit/concept makes it more persuasive, and will convert better.”  

Heather R Morgan, Copywriter & CEO, SalesFolk

III. Customer

And finally, we come to the customer. The person you’re selling to. The one who’s going to use your product – and love it or hate it. The one who ultimately determines whether your business makes it or doesn’t. 

It’s not hard to see that we should take the customer into consideration. But sometimes we could use a little help on how to get it right.

Here are a few tips:

#60 Focus on Solving Your Customer’s Problems


“Stop thinking about your business.

The absolute focus must be on problems that your potential customers already  have, and how you might help them solve them. The are not looking for your features or “solution” – they are trying to avoid or minimize a specific pain.”

Tim Ash, CEO, SiteTuners, bestselling author of “Landing Page Optimization, Chair of Conversion Conference”

#61 Know Your Customer – Intimately

“Before you think about funnel optimization, A/B testing or distribution, take the time to know your customer – intimately. Find them, talk to them, be where they are. By truly understanding their feelings, behaviors and attitudes, you can build better products and tell a story that will resonate with them.”

Hana Abaza, VP Marketing, Uberflip

#62 Find Early Adopters and Turn Them Into Brand Evangelists

When building out your initial user base, find people who are interested in your product or service and connect with them. How do you do that?

Find people who commented on related articles, tweeted or retweeted about the topic, shared a post on Facebook or Instagram, etc. Then follow up with them on their platform of choice and engage them. These people have demonstrated interest in your product/service and can become your first adopters, evangelists, or VIPs (if they are press or influencers).”  

Adelyn Zhou, Founder and CEO, Alight Labs 

#63 Become a Tribe Leader

Derric Haynie Play Your Business Like a Poker Player Interview

Turning your audience, or email list, into a tribe – a community united around a central topic – will build your brand better than any marketing strategy you could set forth.

Let people join together to talk about a problem or solution, and you will learn their biggest challenges, their objections, how they speak about the solution, and, most importantly, how to better serve them. ROI, NPS, referral rates, LTV will all go up, while CAC drops. There’s nothing more powerful to your business than leading your community.”

Derric Haynie, CEO, SplashOPM 

#64 Know Your Buyer

The company that understands their buyers best will earn their business and their loyalty. Growing your business in 2016 isn’t about being the loudest brand on every channel possible, but about using sales and marketing to demonstrate that you know your buyer better than the competition (and that you’ve got the product and experience to match).

Katie Martell, Co-Founder and CMO, Cintell

#65 Ask Your Users How They Learned About You

At Bunny Inc., we directly ask every user how they learned about us and we leave the answer field open-ended (no bullet points). This helps us discover new channels for customer acquisition and to understand which acquisition channels are performing the best.”

Jun Loayza, Chief Growth Officer, Bunny Inc.

#66 Find Real Data About Your Audience and Speak to Them Like You Know Them.

“Don’t be afraid to be different – it’s the only way they’ll remember you.”

Liston Witherill, Copywriter and Funnel Maker, Good Funnel

#67 Create Content that Provides Value

“The best sales and marketing content always centers around adding value to prospective customers.”

Heather R. Morgan, Copywriter & CEO, SalesFolk

#68 Customer Data and User Attributes are the Key to Personalization

“Personalization in your customer’s success experience is the secret sauce of retention.”

Tammy Camp, Partner, 500 Startups


#69 Viral Growth

When thinking of viral growth, don’t fall for the trap of thinking that this simply means getting lots of shares on social media. This is simply one of 12 types of viral marketing that you can build deep into the bones of your product to help recruit your loyal users to recruit even more loyal users for you.

Things like making your product embeddable, inviting friends or colleagues to collaborate on a project using your product, or anything else that adds value to the user for inviting others can skyrocket your growth.

Travis Steffen, Head of Growth, AutoLotto, Inc

#70 Lower Friction to Increase Growth  


“It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on marketing; the secret weapon people don’t think about is how long it takes to sign up for a service.

The less take it takes, the higher the growth.”   

 Michelle Zatlyn, Co-Founder and CEO, Cloudflare

#71 Address Users’ Objections

“Ask users who say they would not buy your product what their objections are during moderated user testing. Dispel, or at least address, those objections explicitly in your home page or landing page copy. Watch conversions increase dramatically.”

George Revutsky, Founder, ROIworks Digital / Chief Merketing Officer, Soothe 

#72 Learn What Your Customers Love and Hate

Building a demand for your product can take time. To speed this up, start right now to build thought leadership content (blog posts, white papers, etc.) and network with experts in your industry to learn what customers love and hate in your business niche. Most importantly, make sure everyone knows who you are.”

Michelle Regner, CEO and Co-Founder,  

#73 Keep it Simple

At the core, marketing is not that complicated. We are the bridge between the audience and the brand. What makes it complicated is that we get in our own way and we want to talk about ourselves.

Marketing gets really simple when you understand what you can bring that your audience really wants. If you live through that lens, 50% of your problems go away right then and there.

Todd Wilms, VP Corporate Marketing, VERISIGN

#74 Build Organic Growth First

There will always be dozens of email marketing and other software vendors trying to get your business as you grow. Before you go and burn $12k or $24k signing up for a 1-year contract with them, be sure that you know how to grow your SaaS company by 5-7% week-over-week organically. Until you reach that point, it could be detrimental to your company to spend this budget.”

Adam Metz, VP, TerrAvion

#75 Measure the Product Fit First, Then Focus on Growth

Ask your users a question: “How would you feel, if you could no longer use product or service?” If you get to 40% percent of “very disappointed” responses, you have a marketable product. After this is done, you have to understand why it is a must-have product for your customers to be able to create a machine to deliver that value

Sean Ellis, Founder and CEO,  / Product and Growth Advisor, KISSmetrics 

#76 Growth Is All About Word of Mouth  


“At the end of the day, growth is all about word of mouth.

People tell their friends about your product after they have a great experience using it. Before you invest in testing your viral funnels, digging into your SEO strategy and spending precious dollars on marketing campaigns, make sure that you have a product that delights your user.” 

Zack Onisko, VP, Hired, Inc.

#77 Never Stop Learning from Your Users

“Find the intersection between quantitative and qualitative data and take action by testing your hypothesis constantly!”

Laura Moreno, Lead Product Manager, Chegg.

#78 Focus on Value First

“In the stress of the day to day it’s easy to forget the real reason anyone is willing to pay attention to you in the first place – value. Whether or not you can solve a real problem for a real customer is tantamount to achieving any real, tangible growth. Focus on the value you create first, then worry about optimizing the rest.”

Jeremiah Gardner, Author of The Lean Brand, Principal, Moves The Needle

#79 Build Relationships

“Be different by focusing on acquiring great relationships first, not paying customers.”

With every startup, it’s relationships that drive companies to be successful. I’d take 10 great relationships over 5 paying customers any day of the week. Great relationships may not pay for your product or service right away, but they’ll tell others about it.

Great relationships won’t leave you when your product breaks. They’ll be there for product feedback, when you need that intro, or when you need help making a big company announcement.

If you need a starting point, find some great influencers, and don’t ask them to buy your product, ask them to be your friend.”

Ryan O’Hara, VP Growth, LeadIQ

#80 Step Into Your Prospect’s Shoes and Look Out from Their Eyes

“It’s only then you can craft your message to resonate and turn them into buyers.”

Mike Kamo, Partner, Neil

#81 Never Stop Listening

“Always talk to one audience at a time and never stop listening.”

Alexandra Mack, Head of Marketing, Crunchbase

IV. Wrapping Up

Though all these strategies and tactics will do great things for your growth – and don’t forget who told you about them! – it won’t be enough. Nothing will, sadly.

Unless you want your company to reach a certain point and then stop. Just stand still. Stagnate. Lose out to a hungry young competitor.

No, you have to keep growing. Keep moving. Growth marketing – like regular marketing, or sales, or accounting – is never really over. It’s a way of life.

But then again, that’s a good thing. It gives you something to keep working on. It gives you a job, too. One that can’t be automated.

However, it does require you to stay current on what’s happening in the industry, because growth hacks that work now may not work tomorrow, and new opportunities pop up all the time.

Be sure to follow marketing blogs, attend conferences, and catch cocktail mixers and webinars when you can. In fact, there’s a Growth Marketing Conference 2019 coming up soon you might like to look into.

But whatever you do, whatever resources you use, you have to keep learning. And don’t worry – you won’t be alone. I’ll be there right with you.

And all your competitors will be too.

Interested to speak at the Growth Marketing Conference next year?  Read this and if you think you’d be a good fit, email vasil @

8 Hacks To Accelerate Your Growth in 2019

There are only two ways to go in business: up or down. You might think there’s a third option in doing neither, but that will eventually lead downward as your competition takes advantage of your complacency. Up or down. That’s it. A brand that isn’t actively pursuing growth is a slowly dying business. According to […]

There are only two ways to go in business: up or down.

You might think there’s a third option in doing neither, but that will eventually lead downward as your competition takes advantage of your complacency.

Up or down. That’s it. A brand that isn’t actively pursuing growth is a slowly dying business. According to TD Bank’s annual survey, 46% of American SMBs planned to grow in 2017, and 9% planned to add staff. Those figures rose to 53% and 22%, respectively, in 2018.

Grow or shrink. Flourish or perish. Succeed or fail.

And while the old adage that ‘slow and steady wins the race’ is generally true, the trend amongst start-ups and small businesses is to kick growth into overdrive.

We’re in the growth marketing age, and if you’re not playing the game, you’re going to quickly be left behind.

What is Growth Marketing?

At its simplest, growth marketing is a focus on the entire sales funnel, whereas traditional marketing limits itself primarily to just the top of it (the acquisition stage). It recognizes that retaining existing customers while acquiring new ones not only accelerates true growth, but also saves you money.

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Gain five new users while losing three existing ones, and you’ve only grown by two. Gain those same five while losing none? You’ve grown by five. That might sound like an oversimplification, but if retention doesn’t factor into your marketing, you’re cutting your acquisition efforts off at the knees.

Growth marketers aren’t afraid to experiment and get creative. They use concrete data and frequent A/B or split testing to optimize everything at every level and touch point. They track, monitor, and improve. They provide for and exceed consumer expectations to build rabid fans and advocates, not ‘just’ customers.

They are 100% about customer acquisition, customer retention, and increasing profit. Sounds good, right?

And best of all, growth marketing is perfect for companies of any size, but it’s especially well-suited to new businesses with limited budgets and resources.

For meaningful growth, startups must completely change the rules of traditional channels or innovate outside of those growth channels. They are too desperate and disadvantaged to adapt to the old rules of marketing. They have to dig deep creatively, and relentlessly test new ideas. If they don’t figure out quickly, they will go out of business.” ~Sean Ellis, Founder and CEO,

Be More Pirate

To achieve this, growth marketers focus on five key metrics to measure their success:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Activation
  3. Retention
  4. Revenue
  5. Referral

These guiding pillars of growth have been dubbed the ‘pirate metrics’ because they create the acronym AARRR.

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You may also see AAARRR from the addition of awareness as the first step. Either way, the sentiment remains the same: acquire, retain, earn more.

Ask yourself the questions. Hypothesize and test ways to improve each stage. If you identify issues, fix them. Grow, grow, grow.

Looking to accelerate your growth in 2019? Try these 8 growth hacks.

1. Be ACTIVE on Social Media

This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are still people and businesses out there not taking advantage of social media beyond just having a Facebook page or Instagram profile. That’s not enough.

An active presence on the platforms that matter to your audience is a surefire way to jumpstart growth, and there is perhaps no faster or more affordable way to spread awareness of your brand and products.

To grow you need people, and social media has them by the billions. Facebook? 2.23 billion. Instagram? One billion. YouTube? 1.9 billion.

No matter who your ideal buyers are, they’re on social, guaranteed. Every demographic is represented, from Gen Z to Baby Boomers and beyond.

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The worldwide number of social users is expected to grow from about 2.62 billion in 2018 to 3.02 billion by 2021.

So get active. Follow the major personalities and brands in your industry. Engage with them and their followers. Share your best content. Comment on relevant posts from others. Thank people for a follow back.

An often-overlooked hack is to answer relevant questions on Quora. It’s a thriving community of roughly 300 million monthly users looking for information from experts and peers like you. Build your brand, enhance your reputation, and generate traffic to your blog or website with a link in your answers.

You can’t just ‘be’ on social media. You’ve got to be active. Use appropriate hashtags to be found more easily. Connect, engage, and grow.

2. The Eyes Have It

As a species, we’re hardwired for visuals. Our brains process visual information up to 60,000x faster than text. Charts, graphs, illustrations, photos, pre-recorded videos, gifs, live streaming, and infographics resonate with us more than words alone.

Your marketing – content or otherwise – should lean heavily on high-quality visual components. The general consensus is that we remember 10% of what we hear and 20% of what we read, but 80% of what we see.

Social media posts with visual elements get more engagement, likes, shares, and comments. In one study, Facebook posts with photos garnered 87% of all interactions, and tweets with an image generate 150% more retweets than those without one.

Live videos on Facebook have a 4.3% engagement rate (but only 2.2% for recorded ones).

Instagram – the photo and video sharing app – is the fastest-growing social media platform.

Subject lines that include the word ‘video’ increase open rates by 19% and click-through rates by 200-300%. Video in the main message is also a proven winner.

For a bit of variety, try using gifs or cinemagraphs in both email and social media.

There’s a science-backed reason we say a picture is worth a thousand words: because it is.

3. Focus on the CX

This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: focus on customer experience (CX).

CX is poised to become the main differentiator by 2020 if it’s not already. It’ll be more important than the price and the product. Are you ready?

Consumers want personalization, ease, and speed. They want options. Actively work to improve their experience at every stage and touchpoint. Improve response times. Diversify your channels. Ask for feedback, and use what feedback you receive.

4. One Word: Contests

Everyone loves something for free. Use that to gain exposure, generate leads, and create positive sentiment via contests.

Setting up a contest on social media is a breeze with services like WooBox, Shortstack, and Heyo.

People are more than happy to provide you with their name and email address, as well as share your contest announcement with their network, if it means they may win something. A $50 gift card might generate thousands in new sales from the leads you collect.

Contest, sweepstakes, or giveaway – it doesn’t matter what you call it. The results are the same: more names, bigger list.

5. Exit Intent Popup

Ever start moving your cursor towards the back or close button, only to have a pop-up stop you? You’ve just witnessed exit intent in action.

Create an exit intent popup with a valuable, high-quality lead magnet for your website. It’s a last-ditch attempt to collect contact details before a prospect disappears forever, and they’re very effective. Wisepop customers, for example, report an average 300% increase in their email list efforts.

Offer a downloadable resource (ebook, pdf, template, case study, white paper, report, or how-to guide), coupon, or special discount in exchange for their name and email address.

As with contests, most consumers are willing – even excited – to trade those details if it means they get something useful back.

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Get the details. Build and harness your email list. Growth starts there.

6. Remember the Six Weapons of Influence

Human beings are complex creatures, but we’re also remarkably similar in a lot of ways.

The more you know about how people think, feel, and make decisions, the better you’ll be able to gently nudge them towards a decision you want them to make.

Enter Robert Cialdini and his weapons of influence:

  1. Social proof
  2. Scarcity
  3. Liking
  4. Reciprocity
  5. Authority
  6. Consistency

Want to convert more (i.e. grow)? Use a mix of those six principles of persuasion in your marketing. Use them in sales. Use them in email.

Just use them.

7. Promote MORE Than You Create

It’s 10x easier to get more eyes on something you’ve already created than it is to create something new.

Stick to an 80/20 promotion-to-creation ratio, and you’ll be amazed at the traffic and leads you generate.

8. Get Trendy

Monitor and participate in relevant trending topics and hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other platforms you use, to be seen and heard.

Look to a service like Hastagify to find the hashtags that have people talking on Twitter and Instagram. Jump into those conversations that are relevant to you, your brand, and your products.

If you’re not growing, you’re dying. There will always be someone else innovating, entering the marketplace, and expanding – or, in other words, growing – so you can’t be complacent about your position in your niche.


These growth hacks should be stage one of your growth marketing strategy heading into the new year. Then try some other ones. And then try different hacks after that.

Make growth a priority, and you’ll grow. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

What’s your best growth hack? Leave your comments below:

7 Growth Hacks You Probably Haven’t Tried Yet

The terms “growth hacking” and “marketing” are often used interchangeably – and for good reason. They share the same end goal (to grow a business), and there is plenty of crossover between the tactics that both growth hackers and marketers use. That said, while they’re similar, they’re not the same. A growth hacker’s sole aim […]

The terms “growth hacking” and “marketing” are often used interchangeably – and for good reason. They share the same end goal (to grow a business), and there is plenty of crossover between the tactics that both growth hackers and marketers use.

That said, while they’re similar, they’re not the same.

A growth hacker’s sole aim is to drive more business, and fast. It’s generally very data-driven and experimental, with tactics quickly getting pushed aside if they fail to get results. In many ways, growth hacking is as much a mindset as it is a set of skills.

Marketing is a more holistic practice that’s designed to boost the overall visibility of a brand or product. Driving business is an important part of that, but there’s less pressure on getting results that go up and to the right, right away.

Ready to incorporate more growth-oriented tactics into your marketing strategy? Here are 7 growth hacks that you probably haven’t tried yet (but probably should).


1. Get Feedback from Reddit

Reddit has to be one of the best – and most underused – resources for marketers on the web.  This may be because when you sign up to the site, you’re presented with content from just a handful of its most popular subreddits. Only once you stray away from these default communities will you begin to realize how much the site has to offer.

Looking for content inspiration? Check out Data is Beautiful, Internet is Beautiful, Visualization, YouShouldKnow, AskReddit, and CrazyIdeas.

Want to become a better person, in your professional and personal life? Subscribe to Deciding to Be Better, Get Disciplined, and Zen Habits.

Want help growing your business? Before investing in an idea, get honest, impartial feedback from Startups and Startup Ideas, then get involved in communities like Grow My Business, Content Marketing, Ask Marketing, Small Business, and Entrepreneur.


2. Offer Free SaaS

Most entrepreneurs think of SaaS as a revenue-generating tool and little else. While SaaS products can be really profitable, they can also be pretty awesome marketing tools, and fantastic leverage to help you grow your core business.

Let’s say you run an agency. You might design a tool that you add to your website and offer for free, and promote in order to drive links, web traffic, and general brand awareness.

If you already run a SaaS company, you might offer a self-contained element of your product for free. The Moz toolbar is a good example of this. You don’t need to pay for the full suite of Moz products in order to enjoy the toolbar’s benefits, but by downloading it and using it, you’re getting regular exposure to the brand, and are consequently more likely to invest in the full product in the future.


3. Create Automated Webinars

Webinars are, by default, usually live, and held by a host who can guide participants through the subject matter and answer questions in real-time.

But they don’t have to be.

You can record webinars ahead of time, upload them to a tool like EasyWebinar, and configure the settings so that your webinars stream automatically at set times. You can then log in yourself to interact with participants, answer questions, and sell, without the added stress of actually having to present.


4. Boost Visibility on Instagram with Smart Use of Hashtags

There are only three ways Instagram posts are found via the app’s search function: hashtags, geotags, and usernames. The rest of your post’s description doesn’t matter (not when it comes to getting your posts discovered, at least). Users can even elect to follow specific hashtags, so it makes sense to use them wisely.

Thankfully, unlike on other social networks, enriching Instagram posts with a handful of hashtags (or more) is not only normal, it’s expected.

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Of course, you shouldn’t be littering your posts with any old hashtags. For maximum visibility and growth, you should choose hashtags that first and foremost are relevant, and that are also popular but not too popular.

So how you can you discover hashtags?

Click on a hashtag – and the app will show you related hashtags.

Click the search button, then ‘tags,’ and search for a topic of interest – a list of related tags will be displayed. You’ll also be able to see how many public posts feature each tag, so you can gauge how popular each one is.

Look at which hashtags your competitors are using – and pick out those that are relevant to you, too.


5. Partner with a Similar (But Not Competing) Company

A commonly-held belief in business is that other companies – even when they’re not directly competing with you – are your enemies.

This is a seriously-shortsighted approach that I have no doubt holds lots of companies back.

Get in the right mindset, and other companies (even, in many cases, your direct competitors) can prove invaluable to the growth of your business.

Much of the marketing industry is testament to that.

Most of us are more than happy to share knowledge, experience, and ideas with those we would consider competitors. I’ve seen agencies putting potential clients in touch with a “competitor” because they themselves are overworked and understaffed, or they simply think the “competitor” is a better fit for the client’s needs.

Of course, I’m not talking about befriending competitors here, but forming actual partnerships with companies that complement you, but don’t compete.

Let’s say you run a SaaS company. You might talk to companies that offer software used by the same audience you target, and that could benefit from using both your products.

Your challenge, then, is to sell them the benefits of partnering up (mainly, increasing customer numbers by getting in front of each others’ audiences).

Once you’ve successfully formed a partnership, your next task is to get noticed by each others’ customers, and convert them into customers of your own.

There are plenty of ways to do this. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Promote each other in email blasts and on social media.
  • Update email signatures to mention your partner’s product.
  • Discuss the product in conversation with customers.
  • Give incentives to try out your partner’s products with things like exclusive discounts and extended free trials.

Bartering is also another good option here when you’re bootstrapping. Identify the right moments and partners who you could trade services with.

6. Recycle Your Content

While it’s important to regularly create fresh content, you shouldn’t forget about your old content, either. Evergreen content that’s performed well previously has pretty good odds of getting results a second (or third, or fourth) time around.

This means you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and resources by pinpointing your best-performing pieces of content and promoting them again.

You can one-up this tactic by actually taking your most successful content and repurposing it into another format. For example, you might:

  • Turn a webinar into a video tutorial that you upload to YouTube and embed on your site.
  • Extract slides from presentations and upload them to Slideshare
  • … then turn them into an infographic.
  • Combine blog posts that cover similar topics into a single detailed guide or “playbook.”

7. Sign Up to a Press Request Service

Press request services match journalists and other publishers with relevant brands and sources (that’s you).You’ll have to get organized to ensure you only receive relevant requests, but once you’ve automated sorting through the noise, these services are invaluable for driving links and brand awareness for very little or no cost.

Here are a few you might want to try:

HARO – it’s the biggest and best-known of these services, and it’s free. Signing up is a no-brainer.

Response Source – if you’re UK-based and have the budget to spare (pricing is bespoke), Response Source can open the door to tons of opportunities.

SourceBottle – similar to Response Source in that it’s a paid service designed to match PR pros with journalists and bloggers looking for sources, the main difference being its wider, more global reach.

PressQuest – another free service, similar to HARO but with a far smaller user base (and UK only).

Hashtags – for example, #journorequest and #PRrequest. Check Twitter for others, or if you know of similar hashtags being used, please share them with us in the comments.

A lot of growth hacks are well-known and widely used (typically for good reason – because they work) – but do you use any lesser-known hacks that we could add to this list? Again, it’d be great if you could share them in the comments below.

A Customer-Driven Growth Framework

Your people. Your product. How you promote it. These are all key parts of any growth framework, but there’s another element to growth that’s often sold short: the customer. Even today, many companies are so laser-focused on customer acquisition that they neglect to take care of their existing customers. They’re losing out. Big time. Happy […]

Your people. Your product. How you promote it.

These are all key parts of any growth framework, but there’s another element to growth that’s often sold short: the customer.

Even today, many companies are so laser-focused on customer acquisition that they neglect to take care of their existing customers.

They’re losing out. Big time.

Happy customers that feel valued bring you new customers. They’re also a priceless source of information that can help you further optimize your growth framework.

Here’s how to create a growth framework that’s driven by your business’s greatest asset – your customers.


The 5 C’s of the C Factor

There are many ways to put the customer at the forefront of a growth framework. I do it using the 5 C’s of the C factor:

  • Customer experience
  • Communication
  • Content
  • Community
  • Customer advocacy

Let’s run through what they mean, and how you can put them into practice as part of your own growth framework.

1. Optimize the Customer Experience

Optimizing your customer experience isn’t something that’s “nice to do,” if you happen to have the time and resources to do it. Optimizing your customer experience is essential. In fact, a study by Walker indicated that by 2020, customer experience will have “overtaken both price and product as the key brand differentiator.”

This is why consumers will pay more for better customer service, and why improving your customer experience should be an ongoing objective that plays a central role in growing your brand.

So how can you do this?

Start by implementing an onboarding process that serves to optimize the first 60 seconds of each customer’s experience with your product. Ensure customers get a “win” within that time frame.

To do this, look at what customers see after they convert. Is it clear what they need to do next? Is it easy for them to do it? Make absolutely sure that new customers know what they should be doing next and that they realize the value of your product as quickly as possible.

From there you can look at expanding your onboarding process. Ensure customers who make it past the 60-second mark have the information and support they need to maximize the value they get from your product. Make sure they know they can contact you for help. Better yet, offer concierge onboarding (where you work one-on-one with customers to get them started).

2. Communicate

In other words – talk to your customers. This should go beyond onboarding and extend to relationship building. Make it your mission to not just communicate with your customers, but to actually connect with as many of them as you can.

Check in with new customers the moment they sign up. Ask them what problems they face day-to-day, and what they want to get out of using your product. Provide them with the tools and info they need to overcome their pain points and get the best from your product, and – once again – make damn sure they know that you’re available should they need anything else.

But don’t stop there.

Implement a schedule for checking in periodically with existing customers.

This shows that you genuinely care about helping your customers succeed. Better yet, it prompts inactive customers to return, and customers who might be struggling to pipe up and ask questions (a heck of a lot of people won’t speak up unless directly asked – they will simply stop using your product).

There are no set rules about how often you should check in, but it makes sense to contact new customers relatively frequently, and reduce the regularity of communications once they’ve settled in (I tend to find that every 90 days is about right).

3. Create Content

Say the word “content” (in a digital context) and many people visualize things like web copy or content created with the goal of attaining links.

These are both valid forms of content that tend to form part of any effective digital marketing campaign. But there’s another type of content that brands often overlook in favor of the former – customer-centric content. That’s content that’s designed primarily for the purpose of helping your customers.

Creating content of this nature entails revisiting your customers’ pain points and using your findings to inform the subjects you cover.

The content itself might come in the shape of blog posts, illustrated guides, or video (or, in many cases, a mix of all three). Regardless of the type of content, the key point is that it serves to help make your customers’ lives easier – whether that’s directly via your product, or in another element of their professional lives.

To maximize the value this content delivers, you can (and should) leverage keyword research to optimize it for better performance in the SERPs, link to it in drip campaigns, and distribute it to customers as part of your onboarding process.

4. Create a Community

Communities help you engage your customers and offer a platform for them to engage with each other. An active community can even take some of the weight off your shoulders when it comes to troubleshooting problems, since your best customers may well take on some of the hard work.

Saying that, it pays to incentivize engagement. Decide how you’ll measure a customer’s value in the community (usually a mix of frequency of activity and a voting or scoring system), and what you’ll offer as a reward (disco5unts or free upgrades are logical choices).

Make sure you’re taking steps to encourage new customers to join and engage with the community. Incorporate this into your onboarding process and push the benefits of using it to interact with other customers.

Another point to consider is the platform you use. Obvious choices include Facebook, Influitive, Salesforce, and Slack – but don’t just choose the one you’re most familiar with. Talk to your customers to help you identify the best platform for them.

5. Create Customer Advocates

Customer advocates are reportedly 83% more likely to share information and 50% more likely to influence a purchasing decision than regular customers.

They also spend twice as much as other customers, and can be worth 10x the value of their initial purchase.

This means that creating and nurturing customer advocates should form part of any growth framework.

So how do you turn a regular customer into an advocate?

You make a point of offering unbeatable customer service at all times. You think and act as brands like Zappos and Amazon do. You go above and beyond what customers expect, to offer an experience that ensures they not only never want to go anywhere else, but they want to tell everyone else about it.

That said, only a small minority of customers are likely to ever become true advocates (regardless of how you treat them), and to leverage them as part of your growth framework, you’ll have to find them.

NPS surveys can help you do this. They’re super-simple, one-question surveys that ask customers to state how likely they would be to recommend you, on a scale of 1 to 10. Anyone who chooses 9 or 10 is either a current advocate, or a potential one

Once you know who these people are, reach out to them, work to strengthen your relationship, and when the time feels right, ask them to write reviews or testimonials.

For better or faster results, you should be thanking them for being such awesome customers. Show your gratitude with special privileges like account upgrades or reduced pricing, or by gifting them branded swag.

Key Takeaways

Ready to pull this all together? Here’s a quick recap of the 5 C’s of the C factor.

Customer experience – optimize your customers’ initial experience with your product. Help them experience a “win” that serves to emphasize the value of your product, within the first 60 seconds of signing up.

Communication – talk to your customers. Ask about their pain points and for feedback on your product. Aim to build real relationships with them.

Content – create content that addresses those pain points, and helps customers get the most out of your product.

Community – create a community that allows you to engage with your customers and them with each other, and that serves as a first port of call for user queries.

Customer advocacy – use NPS surveys to identify your very best customers, then engage them, reward them, and encourage them to promote your brand.

Can you think of any other ways to incorporate the customer into a growth framework? It’d be great to hear your ideas – comments are below.

7 Ways to Improve Your Onboarding Experience to Achieve Substantial Growth

So, you’re trying to grow a business. You’re in a stronger position than you might think. It’s never been easier for companies to acquire new customers, but at the same time, it’s never been easier for your competition to take them away. This means one thing. The primary focus of any business with growth on […]

So, you’re trying to grow a business. You’re in a stronger position than you might think. It’s never been easier for companies to acquire new customers, but at the same time, it’s never been easier for your competition to take them away.

This means one thing.

The primary focus of any business with growth on its mind shouldn’t be customer acquisition – it should be customer retention.

It’s long been said that it costs 5x (or more) to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one, but in a world where a customer could be lost with a Google search and a few clicks, you need to be doing more than ever to ensure that once a customer comes on board, they stay there.

This is where onboarding comes into play.

As you already know, onboarding is the process of turning new sign-ups or users into devoted customers. It’s about teaching new customers the value of your product, giving them that “aha” moment, and getting them to that point as quickly as possible.

Get your onboarding experience right, and you’ll have found the key to substantial growth.

Here are 7 ways you can improve your onboarding experience to do just that.

1. Appoint All Users an Account Manager

So you want to maximize the impact of your onboarding experience? Then you should be assigning every single customer their own account manager.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s just you and an assistant, or if you have a team of 200 – you need to ensure your customers are communicating with the same person every time they have an interaction with your company.

This works for a number of reasons.

Customers who interact with the same team member every time they have a question or problem will be more likely to:

  • Ask for help
  • Get better results from the product
  • Develop an emotional affiliation with the brand
  • Sing your praises and refer other customers, and, most importantly (in this context)…
  • Remain a customer for longer

2. Involve Account Managers in the Onboarding Process

Assigning customers a dedicated account manager involves much more than handing them the name, email address and direct line of the person they need to contact if they have any questions or queries, and you can probably guess why.

In most cases, customers won’t reach out and contact their account manager if they encounter a problem or want help getting to grips with your product. They just won’t do anything.

Your account managers have to be taking the initiative when it comes to onboarding new customers.

You can (and should) help them do this by supplying them with a list of tasks they need to complete every time they’re assigned a new client. This will probably include things like:

  • An introductory phone call (this is always better than an email).
  • Providing the customer with a short questionnaire designed to help the account manager better understand them, their target audience, and their need for the product.
  • A follow-up call upon receipt of the questionnaire to clarify its contents and ask for further detail if needed.
  • A further follow-up call 2-4 weeks later to see how the customer is getting on.
  • Occasional check-ins by email or phone call after this (ideally check with the customer on how they would prefer to be contacted, and how often).

3. Help New Customers Get a Quick Win

The sooner a customer realizes what your product can do for them, the greater the odds that they will stick around for the long haul.

Bear in mind what we’re talking about here: quick wins. You don’t need to transform your customer’s business. You just need to get them to do something that helps them realize its value.

Take Evernote. The first win a user has with the app will be leaving a note. That’s all it takes to understand the app’s value and greatly boost the odds of new users coming back.

Health app My Fitness Pal asks new users to input data about their weight, lifestyle and goals, and immediately offers up instructions and a timeline for achieving those targets.

Image Credit

These are simple wins, to the point that they might sound insignificant – but imagine what would happen if users downloaded these apps and didn’t immediately use them.

Ensuring new customers experience a positive interaction with your product – i.e. a quick win – is essential to any and every onboarding process.

4. When They’ve Had That Quick Win, Ask for Referrals

As essential as customer retention is to growth, you still need to be acquiring new customers on the sidelines.

One of the most effective methods of customer acquisition is referrals.

Happy customers tell other people. Those other people come on board, get value from your product, and the cycle continues.

Or so you hope.

The fact is, even happy customers rarely refer others because they simply don’t think about it.

According to Texas Tech, although 83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer a product or service, only 29% actually do.

The lesson here is, if you want customers to refer new customers, you have to ask them to. That said, timing is key.

Asking for a referral the second a customer comes on board will get you nowhere. Wait until they’ve had that quick win.

Once a customer understands your product’s value, they’re far more likely to respond positively to a referral request.

5. Create Email Sequences

Between 40% and 60% of new software users open an app once, and never return.

Ensuring account managers are following a process along the lines of the one described earlier will help here.

So will email sequences.

Often, software users don’t return, not because you did something wrong or because there was an issue with your product, but because they simply forgot you were a thing.

So remind them.

Automated email sequences are really handy for reminding inactive users that your product exists, and that based on their previous interaction with it, is something that may be useful to them.

They can also help onboard on-the-fence users by showing them how to use different elements of the product (ideally just one element per email), and remind them that their account manager is there for them when needed.

For even better results, segment your email sequences into groups according to users who have signed up and never returned, and those who are interacting with the product, but aren’t yet fully onboarded.

6. Encourage Existing Customers to Share Their Success Stories

It’s probably not news to you that content like reviews, testimonials and case studies has a big impact on conversions, but here’s a stat from a recent BrightLocal study, just in case:

In short, consumers trust the opinions and experiences of other consumers. Ask your existing customers to share their success stories, and use them as part of both the pre- and post-sales process (i.e. feature them on your site as a conversion tool for potential new customers, and in onboarding emails as tool to help tempt inactive users to return).

7. Engage Churned Customers

This is one of the most common mistakes I see companies make, and one of the most frustrating mistakes to me personally.

Don’t let customers leave silently – get in touch with them and try to find out what made them go.

Sure, some of those customers won’t want to hear from you, and that’s fine. But this won’t be the case for all customers.

I’ve been one of those customers.

They will have left for a very specific reason, and chances are, they’re going to be happy to tell you why – if you just take the time to ask them. They might even be frustrated that your product let them down in some way, they left, and you didn’t bother to follow up and find out why.

Make sure you’re following up with every churned customer, asking their reasons for leaving, and adjusting your onboarding processes in response.

Do you have any other tips for boosting growth by improving onboarding experiences? Comments are just below – if you’ve got the time, it’d be great to hear your ideas:

Why Your Growth Team Needs Inbound and Outbound

Broadly speaking, marketing tactics can be placed into two distinct groups: inbound marketing tactics and outbound marketing tactics. Inbound tactics help potential customers discover you on their terms. This includes most forms of content marketing, SEO, social media, and email marketing (but only when the customer has specifically opted-in). Benefits of Outbound Marketing Outbound tactics […]

Broadly speaking, marketing tactics can be placed into two distinct groups: inbound marketing tactics and outbound marketing tactics.

Inbound tactics help potential customers discover you on their terms. This includes most forms of content marketing, SEO, social media, and email marketing (but only when the customer has specifically opted-in).

Benefits of Outbound Marketing

Outbound tactics are based around activities that involve the business reaching out to the customer. This can include cold calling, direct mail campaigns, and most types of advertising.     

They’re also often described as interruption-based and permission-based marketing – you can probably guess which one is which.

Outbound has fallen out of favor with many marketers in recent years, but this doesn’t mean making the first move with customers doesn’t have its advantages.

  • Outbound marketing can get you in front of huge numbers of people very quickly.

There’s a waiting period between beginning an inbound marketing strategy and seeing any results. From there, those results should (in an ideal world) keep improving over time.  

That’s a good thing, but if you need to get in front of as many people as possible as fast as possible – say, when you’re initially launching a new product or brand – you need outbound marketing.

  • It gets fast results (in terms of how quickly leads become sales).

Outbound marketing is designed to secure sales fast. It’s not about spending weeks (or even months) nurturing leads who aren’t sure what they want or when they want it. Get outbound marketing right, and you’re targeting people who are ready to buy.

With the right email, marketing materials, or a phone call from someone who knows and loves the product and can sell it, those leads could potentially become sales that very same day.

  • It’s easily scalable

Few, if any, inbound tactics get results immediately. This can make scaling pretty tricky. How do you know where is best to invest if you don’t yet know what’s working and what isn’t? Is it even worth scaling tactics that won’t generate returns for 6 months, 12 months, or more?

If you need to generate revenue asap, you need to scale up on the areas that are driving results now.

These are almost always outbound tactics.

Thankfully, they’re easy to scale. It’s not hard to send more emails, hand out more flyers, increase your presence at industry events, or make more phone calls. If any of those tactics are getting results, extend your reach and you can realistically expect the results you get to improve with it.

  • Direct forms of outbound marketing allow you to talk to customers, build relationships with them, and understand how you can market to them more effectively.

There’s no better way to build relationships than by talking on the phone, or better yet, face-to-face – activities that form the backbone of many outbound marketing tactics.

Relationships can be built using inbound tactics too, but there’s often a big difference in their type and quality.

When we talk about building relationships using inbound marketing, we’re generally thinking about how we can get customers to connect with us via the marketing materials we use – whether that’s social media, video, website content – or something else.

This can make customers feel affiliated with the brand and increase their loyalty to it, but it’s not going to result in the types of relationships that are created when we’re actually out there, talking to people directly.

Benefits of Inbound Marketing

According to HubSpot’s 2017 State of Inbound Report, 71% of companies primarily conduct inbound marketing.


That’s a significant chunk of businesses, so why are they doing it? When outbound marketing gets you fast, scalable results, why are so many companies choosing to decrease their use of outbound marketing tactics in favor of inbound activities?

  • Inbound gets more sustainable, long-term results than outbound marketing.

A well-written, long-form, evergreen blog post has the potential to drive traffic almost permanently (or at least for as long as the post remains on your site). The same can be said for other forms of content as well as things like influencer campaigns, and the overall impact of the work you do to build your brand.

In other words, the effects of inbound marketing don’t disappear overnight. Those results can be seen (and usually are seen) long after your investment stops.

Conversely, outbound tactics typically cause a spike in sales which quickly reverses when you stop spending.

  • It can effectively target customers at all stages of the sales funnel

Inbound marketing works across the whole buying process. Blog posts and other resources like ebooks and videos can be produced to target customers who know they have a problem but don’t know the solution, all the way through to customers who are considering your product but need a little more information before deciding to make their purchase.  

Email sequences (email marketing can be both inbound and outbound) can push potential customers through the sales funnel using contextually-appropriate information, content and offers.

Outbound marketing, on the other hand, rarely works unless prospects are already at the bottom of the sales funnel.

  • It’s preferred by consumers because it doesn’t interrupt their flow and targets them on their terms.

One of the biggest barriers to outbound marketing is consumers’ (and increasingly, businesses’) stance towards it. Outbound marketing is interruptive. Even if a potential customer is looking for this type of product, they might not want to talk about it with you, right now.

While this isn’t as much of an issue as some people would have you believe (more on this just below) it does highlight one of the key benefits to inbound marketing: you’re reaching customers on their terms.

Why Your Growth Team Needs Both…

The way most marketers think about outbound marketing has shifted. It’s frequently viewed as outdated. Many marketers think it just doesn’t work anymore – period. They believe only inbound tactics are worth their time and investment.

In fact, when asked what they think the most overrated marketing tactic is, 32% of marketers said paid advertising.

Image Credit

I think marketers with this mindset are missing out.

Outbound marketing isn’t the problem – it’s how we use it.

Traditionally, outbound marketers would relentlessly push their product onto prospects at all costs. It was largely seen as a numbers game. It didn’t matter whether a prospect was interested – get in front of enough of them, and someone’s going to buy.

This has (by and large), changed.

While we’re still reaching out to customers directly, we’re not focusing on what our product can do, but what it can do to help the customer. We need to overcome objections by understanding customers’ pain points and where our product fits in.

The result is a set of tactics that can drive great results alone, but are even more effective when used alongside an inbound marketing strategy.

Here’s why your growth team should be using both inbound and outbound marketing tactics.

  • It allows you to more effectively target every stage of the sales funnel.

To be as effective as possible at nurturing and converting customers, you need both inbound and outbound marketing. Restrict yourself to one or the other, and you can safely assume you’re either going to be:

  1. Missing out on sales from potential customers who are ready to buy but need the push of a direct sales strategy, or
  2. Failing to get in front of potential customers as they enter the sales funnel and are looking for information that will directly or indirectly influence their decision to buy

Instead, use inbound tactics to attract customers further up the sales funnel so you can capture their contact details, then leverage direct forms of outbound marketing to maximize how effective you are at nurturing and converting them.

  • It drives sales immediately.

Inbound tactics rarely, if ever, drive sales immediately. Sure, a solid SEO strategy could see you driving bottom-of-the-funnel visitors to your site, and a website designed with the needs of the user in mind could quickly convert them – but how long does it take to get to the point at which that happens?

SEO typically takes 6 months or more to even start getting results (although this varies a lot depending on the state of your website and your industry). Even then, results are not guaranteed.

If you need sales now (and most businesses do), you can’t be relying on what might be. You need to be investing in tactics that generate leads and turn them into sales quickly, alongside tactics that will drive sales organically later down the line.

The only way to do that is by investing in inbound and outbound growth tactics simultaneously.

  • It helps future-proof your bottom line.

Outbound tactics will drive sales and start lining your back pockets immediately

Executed correctly, inbound tactics will continue to generate sales long after you stop investing in them – in other words, they will help to future-proof your bottom line.

SEO is probably the best example.

Rankings in the SERPs change all the time, but if you’re consistently ranking in the top 5 positions, you don’t suddenly drop out the moment you stop optimizing your site and building links. That’s a slow process that happens over many months – even years – depending on the competitiveness of your industry, and how “ahead” you are of the competition when you give up on SEO.

This isn’t the case with outbound.

Almost immediately after you stop investing, sales will drop off.

Again, this isn’t a problem – as long as you’re also investing in long-term tactics that will help future-proof your bottom line.

  • It makes it easier to respond to the immediate needs of the company (i.e. to scale up or scale down).

Let’s say you’re looking to push for more sales of a particular product – maybe because it’s proving way more profitable than your other products. It’s easy to respond to this need by upping your investment in outbound marketing. You can’t do this if your growth team is reliant solely on inbound, simply because those tactics are so slow to get results.

On the other hand, you might find you need to slash marketing costs, but you’re worried about this move’s impact on your bottom line. Temporarily reducing your investment in inbound can allow you to do this. You can cut costs by reducing spending or pausing activities entirely, without seeing your sales impacted for many months (or more).

  • It can help you stand out from the competition.

Since so many companies are rejecting traditional outbound activities, competition for attention in these areas will have understandably dropped. Consequently, it’s easier to stand out and get prospects to listen to you.

By a similar token, if your competitors are using both inbound and outbound tactics, you need to be using them both too if you want to ensure you’re on a level playing field.

Do you prefer to use inbound or outbound growth tactics? Will you be adjusting your strategy in response to what you’ve read here? I’d love to hear your thoughts – if you have the time it’d be great if you could leave a comment.

The Best Mobile App Hacks: 17 Actionable Ways to Skyrocket Growth

  SC Moatti who beautifully captures what it takes to make a mobile product successful in her book Mobilized shared this with me as we recently exchanged thoughts on mobile growth: “Customer expectations on mobile are high.  If a company fails to nail the first experience, there won’t be a second one and growth will suffer.  The […]


SC Moatti who beautifully captures what it takes to make a mobile product successful in her book Mobilized shared this with me as we recently exchanged thoughts on mobile growth:

“Customer expectations on mobile are high.  If a company fails to nail the first experience, there won’t be a second one and growth will suffer.  The Net Promoter Score (NPS) has become a standard metric on mobile because it establishes a clear link between the quality of a customer’s experience with the rate of a company’s growth”.

Mobilized by SC Moatti

Mobilized by SC Moatti

Product experience and growth are intimately related as per SC’s inspiring insight.  In these 17 actionable mobile growth hacks, we’ll seek to understand why and how.  I’ll include actionable resources you can act on today in chronological order so you can start growing mobile in new ways.

Tip #1 : Product-Market fit first and foremost

Sean Ellis is most likely the most eloquent growth marketer when it comes to explaining the underestimated value of product-market fit aka PMF.  This directly applies to your mobile growth.

At this point in this video, Sean drives it home.

Growth Pyramid by Sean Ellis, CEO of GrowthHackers

You must iterate your mobile app product until the first-time use experience you deliver creates an aha moment. It’s that pivotal moment, also known as “activation” in growth marketing, when your clearly defined core customer realizes in the first 4 to 5 seconds of use that there is something amazing in it for them.

To achieve this, you must align two dots: core customer assumption and core benefit.

The core benefit is the one thing you decide to focus on to deliver aha.  The core benefit is ideally so strong that your mobile app experience becomes a “must have”. Your core customer would be very disappointed should she no longer be able to use your app again.

Deliver aha in the first 5 seconds.  Don’t miss this one chance.

Tip #2 : Get to aha without wasting the resources you don’t have

There are several ways to discover product-market fit in the early stage of your mobile app.

You actually don’t need to have a full-fledged app developed. I saw startups achieve product-market fit on fake products. You can, for example, hard code the data that will then be coming from api calls on cloud services or social platforms.

Who cares?

Who cares?

Here is a concrete example on a mobile app I designed and coded a while ago. 

Although it’s a fake experience with fake data, you hear the aha moment(s) in the tone of voice, the emotional excitement of the target must-have user when she understands what’s in it for her.

Do that first.  Fake it fast.  Get to aha.

Tip #3 : Be agile when you explore Product-Market fit

Today, you can use mobile cloud testing platforms to recruit mobile app test users in a way that allows you to validate your core targeting assumptions quickly.

In less than one hour, using you can get a detailed video of your assumed must-have user persona using your app.  Hopefully, you can hear in it that the core benefit delivers the aha you are looking for.

If your mobile app sends your must-have users to experience your core benefit in the physical world, imagine for example you are working on a next generation mobile meal service where people will need to get to a restaurant to fully experience your mobile journey, then you may want to consider a service like to explore PMF.

Both platforms allow you to leverage very precise persona targeting dimensions, including demographic and behavioral ones, so you can hone in on and vet your must-have target customer assumption.

Audience targeting dimensions in

You can have them answer core qualitative questions (see how in next tip) that are going to be of precious value for you to understand if you’d better iterate or pivot your mobile app experience on the same core target persona assumption, or instead, if you are better off keeping the same experience and targeting it towards a different user persona.

Be agile.

Be agile.  Do it fast.  Focus.

Tip #4 : Extract the why from must-have post experiences

Get the customers who are going to perceive your mobile app experience as a must to tell you why they feel that way. Bottle the why. Sell it.

To do that, after you know your core user has experienced your mobile app flow in its entirety, you can simply use an online surveying tool such as SurveyMonkey.

Ask the must-have users, those who perceive your mobile value as a must-have in their life, why they feel that way.  Simply ask them “What is the primary reason why you’d feel very disappointed should you no longer be able to use our mobile app?”.

Bottle the why

As you understand the why, you can clearly focus your messaging on the core benefit that leads to the amazing feeling your mobile experience provides to your first-time users. You get actionable insight to laser focus on the core value of this benefit and capture it in simple and crisp language. Imagine 2 or 3 words like “Love made easy” or “Rides on tap”.

This should be your content anchor, or bait.  Your hero messaging on your homepage if you still have a website.  You can articulate your content strategy from this core value and look to achieve topical depth

That way, you can reel in like-minded mobile app must-have users at the lowest possible cost per acquisition after what you get via word-of-mouth and in-app referral.

Why don’t you ask why?

Tip #5 : Seed your Product-Market fit for organic Mobile Growth

You may start from qualitative data to iterate your mobile app experience flow all the way up to quantitative data.  Think 40% of statistically significant must-have user sample who say they’d be very disappointed for not being able to use your mobile app any longer.

At that statistical point and beyond, you are likely to have achieved a decent PMF signal.  PMF is a journey, not a destination, as we’ll see later, growth teams and products team continuously need to collaborate to define and refine PMF.

When you achieve some sort of PMF, seed it.  That is, assess how likely and how quickly your mobile product is to grow on its own from user referrals.

Seek to understand how the aha moment that you validated in the first-time mobile app use can lead you to assessing your referral root.

Referral root

When you create a great first-time experience, you are going to see repeat usage patterns from your must-have users. As you keep over delivering on their expectations, there is a point where you can use them to refer other users.

Do it at the right time. 

I like to target users who are using the app for the third time over a relatively small amount of time.  That small amount of time depends on the nature of your product cycle.  For an everyday meal service, a week works.  For a hotel booking experience, this can take longer. 

You can use “Give Get” offers via in-app messages or push notifications to do that or even build it into your product as Hotel Tonight does it – see gift icon in their bottom navigation:

$25 Give/Get offer currently used by Hotel Tonight mobile app

That’s your referral root.

It’s tiny in the beginning. But it’s the most promising and most cost effective way to grow. You grow in-app out. You grow organically.  Initially, Uber’s mobile growth engine was largely fueled by word-of-mouth referrals, this is even better.

Tip #6 : Jump-start organic Mobile Growth with inorganic fertilizer

One way to jump-start the organic growth germination process is actually to put some inorganic fertilizer. You can leverage the big data graph of the main social players to reach your must- have mobile app users in a highly targeted fashion. 

You can tap into thousands of possible ad targeting parameters!

To stay nimble and iterate quickly on inorganic Facebook mobile install campaigns, I use their Ads Manager App which has been around for some time:

Real-life example of Ad Manager App use

At that point, scale and being able to achieve statistical significance is straightly related to your budget. What I am looking to achieve here is decent scale, thousands of users, at phenomenal speed.

Jump-start growth

To give you an order of magnitude, when you do it right, you can acquire them in the range of $0.50 – $2 a pop.

Therefore, in each grand of your budget you could deliver an actionable number of potential referrers over a short amount of time. You can do that in less than a week sometimes.

Then you start seeing your referral root grow.  You understand out of a solid user sample of thousands what is your referral percentage and how quickly you get to that number.

You jump-start your referral engine.

Tip #7 : Use Mobile Engagement analytics early to spread the love

There are low-tech ways to start getting a feel for the speed of your referral growth engine. 

For example, you can set up old-fashioned personalized promo codes for each of your early must-have users and share these with them via email.

You can now do much better.  Much faster.

In my opinion, Pyze has a strong mobile engagement and mobile marketing automation solution that will knock your socks off.

Pyze homepage

When you integrate with Pyze, which will take you less than half an hour on both your iOS and Android apps, you can act on engagement and retention cohorts in an incredibly nimble way.

They have really thought out their interface design and made it actionable in very few clicks:

Mobile app home dashboard in Pyze

Auto-segmentation makes you understand at a glance who your high-value users or attrition risk users are in your app. 

You can easily decipher behaviors based on loyalty metrics, usage metrics, and app specific business logic.  Pyze Intelligence Explorer allows real-time explorations across different user segments that are created on autopilot. 

You don’t need to do a thing!

Pyze Intelligence Explorer with its auto segmentation feature

Mobile engagement leads to retention, repeat use, the lifeblood of your mobile app growth.  With an innovative mobile engagement and mobile marketing automation platform such as Pyze, you can send in-app messages and push notifications by targeting dozens of in-app behaviors in a matter of seconds.  It’s simple an easy.

In-app message setup to buy tickets for the Growth Marketing Conference

Engagement metrics such as number of times users are engaging with key app features or total time spent are much more important than vanity mobile app metrics that hold barely any business value – such as downloads or even daily active users or mostly active users.

When you understand mobile engagement, you can determine how, when, and where you have the highest chance of getting your engaged mobile users to refer your experience to others. 

You can run nimble tests very quickly to zero in on your best growth opportunity.

You understand why they love you and how you can spread that coveted mobile fan love.

Screen Popularity on Pyze shows frequency on each screen as well as time spent

You also gain growth discovery speed by dissociating growth from product in a way. 

You don’t need to wait for a new mobile build to launch to test an in-app growth hack.  This can have a significant learning impact in organizations where the product iteration process is not streamlined yet. 

Here it’s solved.  Done.

Tip #8: Mobile Marketing Automation as a rolling snowball

The beauty of such Mobile Marketing Automation (MMA) platforms is that they allow you to modify your mobile app flow without having to push new builds to the app stores.

You can become very strategic as to when, how, how often and to whom you want to reach out within the flow of your mobile experience to spur further mobile app engagement, new aha moments and thereby increase your referral factor. More people will be referred by your existing power users, faster.

Screen flow funnels on Pyze shows all screen flow paths users take in-app

You create rolling snowballs.  You focus on traction.  You grow faster.

Here is an example of the kind of MMA flow you can design to grow your mobile app on autopilot:

Creation of MMA flow in pyze based on mobile user behavior

Can you snowball now?

Tip #9: Use snowballs to make snowmen!

When you get to snowball mobile app growth, your experience is clearly having an impact on your target audience. As you automate some of your growth, you not only gain actionable insight for future growth but you also understand what the next generation of your product experience for a given persona should be.

For example, let’s assume that you got into the product-market fit zone with a mobile meal ordering app.  Let’s also assume that your must-have persona was the busy professional in a main business district of a major city.

You focused on making lunch easy for that persona, you discovered that they are convenience-focused.  Your target recognizes your convenient value proposition and uses your lunch service on a regular basis. 

Have a snowball? Build a snowman.

From this repeat pattern, you have started to explore how you could expand your lifetime value by sending in-app messages for breakfast or dinner offers. 

You see what bites. 

You can now re-engineer your mobile experience by integrating this new revenue growth knowledge into the future iterations of your product. 

You did it fast.  You mitigated the risk of building without biting.

Achieving product-market fit can be so powerful, and if you did it right you kept large market sizes as a core component of your thinking, that you can grow on one persona for years.  But there can come a time when you need to go after new target customers.

That’s when you make new snowmen.  It starts with a snowball first.

Tip #10: Iterate your onboarding if you need oil in your gear

When you nail your mobile app user experience, I am a firm believer you don’t need any onboarding. Your mobile experience, through its simplicity and atomic design, intuitively draws your must-have user into understanding and experiencing its core value in an instant.

It’s a mindless process. A split second.

Nonetheless, most apps don’t achieve that. And many need to oil the first-time use experience with an onboarding flow to explain what the app and its value-add facets are before the user actually gets in-app.


Along the lines of what I started to explain before, this shouldn’t be a static game. You can use Apptimize to iterate quickly on your onboarding flow and make sure the leading arm of your persona snowman is also a relevant and helpful hand to that persona.


Iterate your onboarding. Do it fast. Personalize.

Tip #11: Start App Store Optimization before you hit the stores

For many mobile startups, I have noticed that App Store Optimization (ASO) is an after thought.

It makes sense sometimes for agile reasons to hit the stores sooner rather than later. To grow your mobile app organically once you hit the stores, that’s another story. You cannot really do that without ASO unless your product-market fit leads to such a strong referral factor that you might as well just sit back and watch your mobile shuttle lift off on its own.

Mobile shuttle

You should think strategically about ASO.

First, it’s important to understand that the app store primary category you pick directly influences your odds of growing organically.  ASO is a complex game but when you want to be featured among the top players, the number of downloads you get per day becomes a core ranking parameter.

In some categories, you never gain organic visibility unless you score several tens of thousands of downloads per day.  This generally doesn’t happen on day one.  If your core category requires a large number of daily downloads for a chance to get to the top of the store, you should research adjacent categories with lower competitive volumes so you can make inroads faster in that category.  As you build your app brand, you can then switch to your core category.

Mobile Action

To get started with ASO, I recommend looking into Mobile Action.  They make ASO actionable.

You can check out their ASO academy as well. 

They have very good content and they offer several forms of certification.

The rankings on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store are influenced by a multitude of factors. Even though some factors overlap, some key influencing factors are totally different from one store to the other.

One example, on the Apple App Store, the keywords you put in the title field and in the keywords field via the iTunes Connect Developer Console do have an impact on your ranking for these keywords.  This is not the case on the Google Play Store, the title field is known to have no influence on rankings. 

And there is no keyword field to update in the Google Play Developer Console.  When you use the Google Play Developer Console to update your mobile app marketing content for the Google Play Store, you should instead consider the short description and the full description fields to take care of your keyword metadata. 

Think density of core keywords you optimize for about 2%.

Bear in mind that ASO is an iterative game. 

There are many other factors that directly influence your mobile app store rankings.  Keywords may not be sufficient to rank in the Top 10 based on keywords search, number of searches and number of downloads have a strong impact, too, in my experience.

This may be the object of another post since I have learned and keep learning every day on this fast moving topic.

Accountability though is easier to implement in my experience than on other, still fairly nebulous, channels such as SEO.  Great change is coming in SEO apparently.  I spoke to DistilledODN recently and I am excited about their new scientific approach to SEO. 

For accountable ASO, you can check out TestNest

They have an interesting way to empower you to do self-serve A/B testing for the app stores.  You can relate your ASO actions to actual growth metrics such as app store page conversions.  You get to test several elements such as app icon, screenshots, app video, description, name, price and see what moves the needle and by how much.


Tip #12: Boost Channel-Market fit with Mobile Attribution

There generally is a stage in your mobile app growth, post product-market fit and beyond the early referral engine signal where you have gathered factual evidence of your good net promoter score aka NPS, where you look to focus on the marketing channel that gives you the most growth steam for the lowest amount of operational effort.

I like to call that growth stage the channel-market fit stage. 

This can, for example, happen on Instagram or Snapchat as you look to target younger demographics.  The attributes of your persona should directly translate into the type of channel you want to explore first.

Mobile attribution can help you explore much faster. You connect source to steam.

Source to steam

There are a number of solid mobile attribution platforms out there.

Mobile growth is in full swing and a leading player called AppsFlyer has recently raised a massive round of funding.  We are certainly on our way to lighting up the entirety of the mobile conversion funnel. Multi-touch attribution included. 

AppsFlyer is a strong mobile attribution solution

Here is how you can attribute your mobile ad spend back to their media sources.  You should look at in-app engagement and revenue, not just installs.  Installs can just be soufflé when you haven’t achieved product-market fit – as most mobile apps don’t…

Daily breakdown of app installs by media sources with AppsFlyer

Make sure when you select a mobile attribution partner that it will give you real-time data, specifically revenue that ties back to the ad spend that drove that revenue.  This is important to get to real-time Return On Ad Spend (aka ROAS, the ratio of Revenue over Ad Spend). 

It’s a good starting point. 

Then, over time, you can start looking at longer play ad optimization – think LTV/CAC (Lifetime Value over Customer Acquisition Cost, one of VCs’ favorite value metrics in the Silicon Valley).

This takes longer spans of time since you sometimes need months, even years in some cases, to understand the full value of your customer relationship lifecycle with your product.  You can look at annual LTV to keep it simpler but you won’t get the full value of your experience that way.

Once you identify the media source that produces the highest ROAS, seek to increase spending to iteratively reach the tipping point. 

Driving growth depends on your unit analysis. 

That is, the relationship between your revenue, your gross margin (Revenue minus cost of good sold or cost of service sold if you don’t sell goods) and your contribution margin (gross margin minus Ad Spend). 

Some companies optimize for revenue growth, they are looking to grab market shares to keep the closest alternatives at bay even if they may be at an ad spend point beyond diminishing returns on margin – see point a1 on the following graph. 

Others look to maximize contribution margin without maximizing total revenue.

It comes down to exploration to get to the tipping point or margin sweet spot.  See this directional graph based on personal experience scaling paid media channels for an idea on this:

a1 is the margin sweet spot.  Revenue maxes out as you increase ad spend and CAC skyrockets

Growth needs to collaborate with the leadership team to align on the growth optimization goal.

Mobile attribution is very useful at this point.  It can allow you to identify quickly the channel where you achieve channel-market fit best and understand where your sweet spot is located.

Then, you can expand your marketing spend into other channels.  Your CAC is very likely to keep on going up as you do so since the lowest amount of friction, by definition, happens on your channel-market fit channel.

Since it’s well known that a lot of steam comes from Facebook on mobile, and this is confirmed by hands-on experience, I recommend starting your mobile attribution partner research with Facebook MMPs (Mobile Measurement Partners).

Explore fast.  Identify channel-market fit.  Find your sweet spot.

Tip #13: Connect attribution and engagement

Acquisition and engagement are two different animals.  You can explore and discover via mobile attribution a source of mobile acquisition that is very prolific to expand the top of your mobile app growth funnel.  You notice that your cost per install is much lower than through other channels.

This doesn’t really matter.

What matters is to discover mobile growth sources that drive engagement and repeat use.  That’s the money maker.  That’s the mobile app growth that counts.

Connect your mobile attribution partner to your mobile engagement vendor.

To do that, although you will notice that not all integrations between mobile attribution and mobile engagement platforms have been completed yet, you need to connect your mobile attribution partner to your mobile engagement vendor.

Before purchasing a solution, attribution or engagement, be sure to ask which integrations they are able to complete.

Some mobile analytics platform do cover both attribution and engagement at once.  Nonetheless, at least in my experience, I have noticed that the best-in-class focus on one aspect of the mobile growth funnel and do it extremely well.  Much better than their closest competitors.

Product-market fit anyone?

Keep that in mind.  Connect mobile growth attribution and engagement.  Ask early.

Tip #14:  Think in-person over digital

As we do mobile growth marketing, we tend to get vacuumed into the digital nature of the mobile channel.  We can forget the human.

Mobile connects humans, or at least, humans to relevant service or product information.  So you must think human.

In-person targeting has been a key to success to many mobile matchmaker players.  One of my favorite example of that is the Tinder mobile growth study at

How smart is that?

Greek Life

They tapped into the clearly defined supply-side of their two-sided mobile app marketplace, the female “Greek Letter” student belonging to a sorority, to attract the demand-side in an instant.  They achieved a lot of that via in-person marketing events directly on campus.

Think human.  Meet in-person.  Grow mobile stronger.

Tip #15:  Build an A-Team

Team.  Team.  Team!

Mobile growth is a team game.  You cannot do it alone. 

You need to surface an A-team from your organization that will have leaders in product, engineering, design, growth and customer success at least.  They must work as one.

The A-Team

You need to define a solid team process so that you can leverage each core competency to be baked into your mobile app experience nimbly.  This reminds me of my soccer days in Europe.  Think “tournois de sixte” – a type of soccer tournament where six players play against six others. 

You play fast.  You score many goals.  It’s so much fun!

As SC Moatti puts it: “PMF is very shifty, you reach it, then grow a little, then it escapes you and so on.  Growth teams need to work closely with product teams to constantly define and refine PMF.”

Does that call for cross-functional A-Team work?

Recruit for mobile growth.  Do it well.  It’s foundational teamwork.

Tip #16:  Look beyond apps

What is true in mobile growth today is most likely no longer true tomorrow.  You should look and think outside the mobile app box.

We are seeing interesting signs of promising mobile experiences in new spaces such as mobile chatbot, AI and more.

Soon a mobile growth chatbot similar to Dharmesh Shah’s growth bot?

Will we still be downloading apps in 10 years from now?

Many of the core mobile growth hacks I have shared so far apply to new forms of mobile experiences.  You should start exploring them as they are likely to accelerate in the future.  And when you ride the wave earlier, you grow faster.

Tip #17:  Remember Antoine

When you iterate your way to sustainable mobile growth, you grow into realizing that some of the key principles of innovation and creativity that have been highlighted by brilliant minds centuries ago, work.

Keeping that in mind, I’d like to leave you with one last mobile growth hack in mind from the father of the well-know “Le Petit Prince” book – Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Little Prince


What can you remove from your current mobile app to become laser focused?

To do one thing extremely well and grow much faster as a result?

Keep growing!


8 Crucial Takeaways from Growth Marketing Conference 2016

  Did you make it out to Growth Marketing Conference? If you did… You know exactly how many significant, relevant and exciting ideas were shared. However, if you missed the conference, or maybe you need a little help recalling some of the nuggets of gold that were passed around, not to worry. I’m going to […]

Did you make it out to Growth Marketing Conference?

If you did…

You know exactly how many significant, relevant and exciting ideas were shared.

However, if you missed the conference, or maybe you need a little help recalling some of the nuggets of gold that were passed around, not to worry.

I’m going to share some of my favorite takeaways from the conference in case anyone needs a refresher.

But first, I want to talk about something important. There’s a running theme that binds all of these truths together, and that theme is people.

“People” are your customers, audience members, end users. They are your colleagues, co-workers, fans and followers.

So much energy in marketing is expended attempting to reach, disarm, persuade, and convert “people,” that sometimes we forget to look beyond the surface of our “personas” to see the human hiding underneath. The truth is, after you’ve surpassed the first layer of human consciousness, we are all a lot alike.

Copywriting, content marketing, social media, advertising…

All of these facets of marketing aim to influence consumer decisions.

We create these long, convoluted, deeply-assessed and hyper-considered strategies and funnels, without reflecting on the simplest concepts in human nature.

If I’ve learned anything from my journey with marketing, it’s that we are all people. All human. And while our experiences, hopes, beliefs, and dreams may differ, we are all composed of the same stuff.

Next time you’re stuck in the thick of a marketing conundrum, take a step back and look for areas of over-complication. If what you are trying to do, say, describe, relate, doesn’t take basic human needs and wants into consideration, (and I mean, not just what you think that person needs because it suits your case to be biased), you’ll need to eliminate some of the “clutter,” focus down on the core of your offer, and find a way to appeal to our most basic and collective, psychological demands.

As you’ll soon be aware, it all starts with attention… and it ends with success…

So long as you can remember to derive your marketing strategies from a place of basic human understanding and compassion.



Attention Quote | Growth Marketing Conference 2016

In Ben’s presentation, we were taken on a neuromarketing journey, where we were able to experience some of attention-grabbing tactics first hand (he was kind enough to wake us all up with some perfectly-timed loud noises throughout his talk).

The fact is, we are in a situation where “noise” has pretty much taken over. People are hit with marketing messages constantly throughout every hour of their lives. The marketer’s dilemma is now one of breaking through this saturated space by stealing attention in any way possible.


Attention is a common ground. We all have one, but it’s being divided at an alarming rate.

As a marketer, it is your job to discover the best way to buy attention or it’s game over.



Content Marketing Quote | Growth Marketing Conference 2016

As a startup, one the most difficult challenges you may face is finding product market fit. Truly understanding how to fit in and serve a market with your unique offer can be a daunting task.

During Hana’s panel, she brought to light the idea that content marketing strategies are not being treated with the same kind of purpose-driven framework that is applied to the very companies deploying these strategies.

Successful content marketing strategies are researched, tested, pivoted, and optimized just like your product or company offering. And understanding that perfect area of the market to serve with your content is all part of the process.

If you don’t have that perfect content match that speaks to your people, your efforts will fall flat. You will be bleeding money until you can align your content with your market.

So, instead of pushing forward with blind content creation, find out how to apply lean startup methodology to your content marketing efforts for better results.


Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset Quote | Growth Marketing Conference 2016

Having a growth mindset essentially means that instead of attributing your talents (and faults) as innate characteristics, you believe that talents can be developed through hard work and perseverance.

And while this term has certainly become a buzzword, there is merit to understanding what it really means to possess a growth mindset and be able to identify one in others.

In the end, the truth is that software can only take you so far. It’s the people behind the products (and the people in front of them – aka the customers) who make a brand great.



Humor Quote | Growth Marketing Conference 2016

Being funny is hard.

Taking an idea from your head and turning it into a piece of comedy requires some finesse, especially in marketing. Luckily, Sarah Cooper gave away all of her secrets in a refreshing speed session that took place just as everyone was losing steam.

Now, I always believed that funny people were highly intelligent and able to seamlessly juxtapose the absurd with concepts from everyday life, but apparently, not all hilariousness requires deep thought. There are certain formulas for hilarity, and they aren’t as difficult to understand as I previously believed.

The next time you want to bring some humor to the table, just point out the obvious and be overly honest.

If no one laughs, you can laugh at yourself.


Social Media

Social Media Quote | Growth Marketing Conference 2016

In my opinion (as someone who relentlessly studies, creates and applies social media strategies), social media is the misunderstood and abused child of digital marketing.

No one seems to “get” it, but they know it’s important, so responsibilities are passed around from one person to the next until the company gives up on it completely, or they hire someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

In Derric’s workshop, he puts it bluntly:

“Social media is just like any other networking event, conference, or party that you’ve ever been to. It is a place where people come to meet other people, chat with their friends, read up on the latest news, and share parts of their lives with others. It’s also a place where people go to connect with the brands they love and enjoy.”

When he says that social media marketing is just word of mouth marketing online, he means that you need to treat it as an opportunity to listen, provide relevant and valuable feedback, and only when appropriate, should you start talking about yourself and your business.

“No one came to Twitter today to hear about your crummy business, but you may have something inside you that is valuable to them that they can use in their business. If you give that to them, they may stop and ask more about what you are up to. If they don’t, at least you helped someone. Help enough people and you can be certain that many of them will circle back around to help your business as well.”



Focus Quote | Growth Marketing Conference 2016

When Rand left the stage after his closing keynote, eyes were misty as the profoundness of his story set in.

He told the tale of Moz and the things he’d do different, and keep the same if he were to start another business again.

It was a poignant story that left many in deep thought about how they might be able to apply some of Rand’s advice after the excitement from the conference inevitably faded. One of the most crucial things he said was to stop building, stop hiring, stop growing even, and just focus.

The fact is that startups don’t fail because the founders aren’t doing enough. Most of the time, it’s because they are doing too much.

One of Rand’s most authentic pieces of advice to startup founders out there:



Success Quote | Growth Marketing Conference 2016

When Sean Ellis came out on stage, all of the fangirls went crazy on social media…

But the thing I remember most was this quote about defining what “success” looks like.

If you haven’t set clear goals or expectations, how can you possibly measure success?

This rings true for all marketing campaigns, business objectives, pretty much anything that you take on in life.

Which leads me to my last and favorite takeaway from Growth Marketing Conference:



Success Quote | Growth Marketing Conference 2016

I decided to end with this takeaway because I believe that it is absolutely correct.

There is a running joke that sales and marketing don’t get along because. There is often blame placed on either side if the fence, but the truth is that in an organization, everyone is on the same team.

It is imperative to align all of the departments in your business towards the common goal of customer success.

Forget growth. If your customers are not successful, your business never can be.

Focus on making your customer the winner every time and growth will happen organically.

What do you think? Did I miss any of your favorite takeaways from the conference? Let me know in the comments or tweet at me.