MARKETING

11 Growth Hacks Used by Famous Startups Which Will Instantly Scale Your Business

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Abhik Shome

Jun 16, 2017

If you throw a growth hacker off an airplane he will build a parachute before he hits the ground. Don’t believe me? Just try it*!

In other words, growth hacking truly captures the spirit of marketing of an entrepreneur with the mindset involving finding and implementing innovative to downright unconventional marketing strategies into the operations and engineering of a product for the purpose of achieving lightning fast growth.

Growth Hacking is the reason why startups who have no marketing budget are able to go head to head with big corporate machinery and beat them at their own game. Truly revolutionary, right?

And though the term has been coined comparatively recently (by Sean Ellis circa 2010), the idea and the implementation behind growth hacking has been around for quite a long time, used in multiple ways by famous startups during their early days of bootstrapped existence.

Celebrating this very spirit and zeal, we want to share with you some really mind blowing strategies on how to grow your own startup business provided with real world examples of famous Startups who used them in their early days of growth.

Enjoy and implement!

1. Product Integration

Why build a user base from scratch when you can leverage the product in front of a beloved platform with tens of millions of highly engaged and active users?

This growth hack is called the platform integration hack and has been made famous by Airbnb‘s use of Craigslist‘s platform to grow their user base substantially.

Though Airbnb was a much more sophisticated and verifiable platform than Craigslist, it lacked the Craigslist user base. So in order to build its own user base,

Airbnb implemented a platform integration hack by listing all the listings in their platform simultaneously on Craigslist.

Any user searching for vacation rentals ran into a barrage of professional listings with Airbnb’s name inviting clients to click on it.

Side by side, Airbnb also used an email campaign to inform people who posted on Craigslist about how much more easy and convenient it was to post on Airbnb too.

Implement this if your product is a marketplace platform is lacking user base and needs an established and mature user base to work. Facebook and Craigslist are great platforms to implement this growth hack.

2. Build Virality into your product.

Once a product has virality built into its functionality, the user base can skyrocket fairly quickly.

Take the case of WhatsApp. Once you started to use the product, you felt encouraged to invite your friends and family on to the platform so they can interact with you via free calls, messages, etc.

As they came on board and started using it, they felt the same encouragement to invite people in their own network so they can use the product to its full potential.

Thus virality was built into the very functionality of WhatsApp thus led to its massive popularity. Most platform based products have virality built into them.

Some other examples of platforms with viral factors are FacebookCraigslist, and LinkedIn

To implement this, you need to provide a certain value (with WhatsApp it was free calls on the internet) which is exclusive to your platform and can be availed when other users get on the platform with you.

3. Have a fairly simple homepage.

Having a very simple homepage helps to make a decision-making process much simpler as it removes confusion or over thinking amongst the minds of potentials users/customers.

Some companies which have had great success implementing this are QuoraTwitter, and Dropbox

Implement this by including one headline highlighting the value proposition of your startup along with a simple and clear CTA.

This makes the users understand what you and your startup are all about in a very quick, simple, no-frills way.

Clear and concise information allows them to take action fast.

4. Implement gamification into the product

Implementing gamification (point scoring, giving ranks, creating competition with other users, having rules of play) is a much-overlooked marketing technique which can instantly hack growth of a product.

Human beings by nature are competitive and by creating the atmosphere of game playing with rewards for better performance can lead to instantly high graphs of engagement in the product.

The company which has mastered this the best is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn users are prompted to fill their profile, unlocking various levels of achievement, based on how much information they upload on their profiles.

The levels of achievement are marked with names such as All Star, expert, advanced, etc., which act as great social proofs in a user’s professional network.

Another employment of gamification is the endorsement feature where LinkedIn users can be endorsed by each other for particular skillsets.

Each skill shows the number of times it has been endorsed by other users with their profile pic showing next to the skillset.

Profiles with endorsements are 13x more viewed according to LinkedIn.

5. The Branding hack

It basically means getting your brand and its USP featured within the operations of the product as a free advertisement.

This hack was best used by Hotmail in 1996 when it had around 20,000 subscribers.

It opted to market its service directly to the friends, family, and colleagues of its users by adopting a fairly simple strategy – Put a clickable tagline at the end of every mail sent from its platform saying, “Get your free email from Hotmail”.

When the recipient of the email clicked on this tagline, he or she got directed to the signup page of Hotmail.

This growth hack alone skyrocketed the company user base to 1 million users within 6 months of its implementation. 

Implement it by featuring heavy to light branding within a freemium business model.

Your branding is featured when the user uses the free plan of your product.

6. Create a viral waiting list.

Another very interesting growth hacking method filled with the vitality quotient is a viral waiting list.

Typically when you launch a product, you will create a landing page to describe it to a wider audience.

The hack here is to make use of this landing page one step further and take advantage of it even before the product launch.

The idea is to turn your landing page into a viral waiting list.

To do so you can use a tool like Vyper or Maitre.

What it does is it places your subscribers into a queue, which enables you to create a rewards-based program.

So suppose a user gets enticed by your offering and signs up for your launch updates, he/she will be displayed the position they are on in the waiting list.

Here, you can create a rewards program and announce whoever is on the top 10 of the waiting list, will get a special reward (the reward can be a webinar, an exclusive ebook, exclusive add-on, whatever corresponds and resonates best with your product).

The rules for climbing the waiting ladder will be to share the page on Facebook, tweet about the product, etc.

This will create virality and popularize your product message, thus increase its hype and curiosity before the launch.

The end result will be higher customer/user acquisition even before launch.

The app will turn them into your brand ambassadors.

British growth hacker Vin Clancy used this growth hacking method prior to launching his book, Secret Sauce, thus creating the most successful Kickstarter program for the niche of growth hacking.

This growth hack was also used by Mailbox.

After downloading the Mailbox app, you would be told exactly which number in the queue are you.

7. The Referral hack also known as the ’Dropbox hack’.

This is a highly effective hack and though Dropbox did not invent this method they surely are one of the most famous examples of this hack, as they successfully increased their sign ups by 60% by using this simple hack.

Anyone who signed up for Dropbox got an option to increase their storage space by inviting their friends to try the product.

The minute the referred friend signed up for Dropbox, the original user received more storage.

But what were the incentives for the referred friend to sign up?

Dropbox offered extra cloud storage to the referred friend too if they signed up using the link given by the original user.

As mentioned, this increased the sign ups dramatically and generated viral demand for the links among friend circles.

This hack is perfect for SaaS companies which work on some sort of credit per month basis and can be implemented by using a tool called Viral Loops which has referral templates inspired by Dropbox.

8. The Data fuelled growth hack

Ask any growth hacker and they will say data analytics is by far one of the best resources they can have at their disposal.

This is because seeing the correct data can tell you a lot about what is working in a business, what is not and what needs to be done. 

Twitter used data to solve an onboarding problem it faced early on in its life.

Twitter found out that a new sign up will likely become a core user if it follows 30 or more people.

Following this, Twitter started to focus on suggesting new users an option to import contacts in order to hit this number.

One can use this data to optimize your marketing strategy by doubling down on what is working and eliminating failed unproductive channels.

9. Seed the initial content.

A lot of famous companies and products used this technique to generate Initial user interest and eventual traction.

Create as much content as possible internally and put it out there on your website.

This method is especially useful for platform based websites which rely on user generated content.

The founders of Reddit used this tactic to fill their UGC based site with the initial content which acted as an incentive for other users to start creating their own content on the site.

10. Create exclusivity around your product.

People seek exclusiveness and rewards.

Hence, one way to make your product sought-after by many people is by restricting its access and not giving it to them too easily.

If you can make prospective users perform a certain task or work in order to “earn” your product, then they start seeing your product as a reward and thus position it as such.

Another way is to restrict access and create an ambiance of “inner circle” built around your product so that one can get access to it only through an invitation. 

Gmail used this approach by letting only invited individuals to sign up and use its product.

This ‘entry by invitation only’ approach created a huge curiosity and demand for the product as it was not accessible to all. 

Another famous startup which skyrocketed through this growth hack was Pinterest.

Exclusivity fuelled desire and led to explosive growth for the social media platform. 

11. The ‘Tinder’ growth hack

This is a very interesting hack which involves first targeting the right network (most preferred users who will drive other users) and then installing an incentive tactic as a method to get these preferred users involved with the product.

After this is done successfully, the presence of the preferred users will drive more highly engaged users into the product who will now see the product at a higher value.

Tinder used this interesting tactic to grow its initial base of most preferred users.

They organized exclusive frat parties at colleges and allowed entrance to only those students who downloaded the application.

Once these hip and influential frat users were onboard and started using the app, it attracted other users towards the platform to interact with them for hopes of finding a match and so on it spread across the United States.

Tinder targeted sorority girls as its early adopters. They would go to sorority chapters, give a presentation and have all the girls in the meeting install the app.

After that, they would go to the corresponding brother’s fraternity and make them open the app to see a platform filled with cute girls, which got them interested in using the app.

The way to implement this growth hack in by targeting your most preferred users (users whose onboarding will increase the value of the app and bring more users which in a dating application’s case are female users) at places where they are likely to be and incentivize them in some way to come onboard.

This event will trigger the network effect to take shape and bring in more users who will now see the platform having a higher value and thus engage more with it.

And with this point, we finish our list. As you can see, growth hacks by design invoke creative, unorthodox tactics as means to achieve growth. 

 A lot of them are not conventional, but I guess that’s what makes it all the MORE FUN!

Tell us what you think of these growth hacks and SHARE these famous stories behind them with your friends.

Have a famous growth hack story which you would like to share and get featured for? Share it in the comments section.

*No harm is intended to be done to Growth Hackers. We fully love and support this species.

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Abhik helps online entrepreneurs and businesses shorten their path to results while making them stand out from the crowd with his system of actionable growth marketing. Abhik is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Starting Idea, a growth marketing and self-development magazine exclusively focused towards giving fast-paced actionable strategies and tools for the modern day entrepreneur.
He is also the Founder of Product Know, an online library of best free tools and resources covering every need of a modern-day entrepreneur, collected from across the Internet. As CEO of Brand Bridge Solutions, a leading web design and growth marketing agency, Abhik is regularly quoted in mainstream media outlets.
He is a regular contributor to Inc.com, YourStory, and other major business publications. Tweet to him @shomeabhik and @thestartingidea and join his FB group of Actionable Marketing Blueprints for Entrepreneurs.
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