Hackisition

The smart man learns from his mistakes. The wise man learns from other people’s mistakes. It took me exactly three years to watch every single episode that aired on GrowthHacker.TV and it is how I’ve been introduced in depth to the discipline. I dropped out of college at 19, so the quote, “Start with imitation and move to innovation” resonates with me quite well. If you are looking to become a growth hacker, I suggest you do the same. By trying to understand how others are doing it, you can really perceive all the little things that explain why a specific company has succeeded in the past and why another did not. This key element might increase your chances to reach product/market fit.

If I had to summarize every smart thing learned through all of these incredible interviews, I could probably expand the list to 1,000 golden nuggets. But time is a constraint for everyone, so it seems smarter to only unveil my 100 favorite ones. And just to bring a little more context to all of this, I took a few hours to add a comment below each tip. Keep reading and feel free to share. 😉

“These days, one of the best ways to grow is to learn how everyone else is doing it.”

— Elliot Shmukler, VP, Product and Growth at Wealthfront.

ACQUISITION & AWARENESS.

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“#1. Don’t diversify yourself in too many channels; it’s like a death sentence. You should be focusing on the single and most efficient one.”

— Brian Balfour, VP of Growth at Hubspot.

You probably underestimate how much you can still do in only one acquisition channel. Don’t spread yourself and try to do seven at once. Be focussed. If you are looking at most startups, 80% of their growth comes from only one channel after they got to product/market fit. Zynga’s was Facebook, Groupon’s was email, and Tripadvisor’s was search. Figure out what that one is for you and please, focus on it in order to optimize the machine. As a very good friend of mine told me, there is only one best horse for a course. For instance, if you are the right kind of business, Pinterest can be a powerful growth channel; but if you are not, you should completely forget about it.

“#2. SEO has to be supplemental to the business.”

— Jason Calacanis, CEO at Inside.

Focus on a single acquisition channel, but do not get mislead with SEO. Being dependent on a single traffic source can really hurt your business and drive you to dangerous places. Especially if, for one reason, Google or Facebook decide to make a few changes to the way their algorithms work… This could become an overnight failure.

Julien Le Coupanec“ That is why, after being screwed with a partnership with Google, Jason built Inside.com on the three pillars on which Google has no power or influence: email, social, and mobile. ”

“#3. The best users usually do not come from paid channels but are the friends of the people who are already part of the community.”

— Ryan Hoover, Founder of ProductHunt.

Proximity is the word. Traffic coming from referrals is usually of higher quality: it converts better, people are retained longer and they spend more than an average user. But think about it for one second: virality (or word of mouth) is nothing more than an acquisition strategy. If you do not have an exciting product, you will not get it. Virality, as well as referral programs, are something a lot of startups are brainstorming about when they probably should not. If it is not the time or if you cannot cause it, focus on other parts of the funnel.

“#4. The biggest mistake about inbound marketing is assuming that it is going to be easy and to underestimate the load of work it will require.”

— Mike Volpe, CMO at HubSpot.

Remember the Pareto Principle? While I do not really believe in it, you should base your inbound marketing strategies on this law: 20% writing, 80% distribution. If you divide your time that way, you might get impactful results that will pay off on the long run. Do it well, but be willing to invest for a long time before you start to see impactful returns. One important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as free traffic; you either pay with sweat and time or with money.

Julien Le Coupanec“ I usually advise early-stage startups to go for guest posting first (or guest podcasting). The reason is that it is easier to get sustainable results from someone who spent years building an audience than from starting at zero yourself. If you are looking for short-term results (especially to get traffic that will serve to iterate on the product), I advise you keep that point in mind. ”

ACTIVATION & ONBOARDING.

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“#5. Don’t give up too fast on things. Sometimes it takes time to transform a regular user into a customer.”

— Mike McDerment, CEO at FreshBooks.

As I once heard from Kevin Hale, the first interaction between a product and a user is like a first date. The thing is that if, like me, you failed your first few romantic evenings, but then got better and better over time (through repetition), you probably have an idea of just how far resilience can lead you (especially if you are a fast-learner). I like to say that you should focus 80% of your time on this first experience, because everyone has to go through that. Remember, you are seeking to understand what the “A-ha” moment is (which can sometimes vary across certain segments, so look at your data) and lead your users to experience it as soon as possible.

“#6. What a lot of people miss is that the entire onboarding and activation experience is to get somebody from the point where they might hear about the product for the first time (marketing is your best friend) to the point on which they are trained and actually have the product to become a habit.”

— Josh Elman, Partner at Greylock.

The onboarding experience does not end when someone pays or registers. Don’t fall into the trap of letting your users find the additional value in your product by themselves. Help them step-by-step to understand all the potential that you are serving them on a platter. This will have an impact on retention and thus, on the customer lifetime value. Airbnb, for example, does not ask users to list your apartment as soon as they sign up. Instead, they lead and wait for the users to experience the journey by first renting one place. Only then are they encouraged through emails and push notifications to come back later and learn more about the side revenue they could generate by hosting their own residence.

“#7. The quality of users tends to decrease slightly when you require less fields or less pieces of information from them.”

— Matthew Berman, Distribution Hacker at 500 Startups.

There are two things to optimize when you are onboarding your users: showing the value and reducing the friction. But sometimes, implementing some additional friction can be a powerful strategy to activate prospects into customers. Let me highlight this point with an example: one of the startups at TheFamily, Flatchr, intentionally blocks the access of their product once you sign up. The idea is to then come back at you with an email explaining that your account is now ready and to entice you to let them give you a quick demo of the machine. That is how they activate people and it works well.

“#8. Many people are selling the same things, so you should not only focus on the “how” but also on the “why” (your core values and your beliefs).”

— Johanna Lord, VP of Marketing at Porch.

This makes me remember my second month at TheFamily. The swag team was helping one of our startups (Agricool, check it out) to build their first homepage. They spent two days explaining the features (the how), but even at the end, they felt something was missing (and it was the why). They redesigned the whole thing and added little touches of the mission that these entrepreneurs were following. To be honest, these changes are what can convert someone and make him or her stay longer, while also providing a deeper degree of humanity at the same time.

“#9. At Fiverr, we have one simple rule: if setting up an account, listing a service, and being up and running to start selling take more than five minutes then there is something wrong.”

— Micha Kaufman, CEO at Fiverr.

You may think that people have time, but in reality, that isn’t true. In a world where the big players (like Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, and Candy Crush) are getting the majority of people’s attention, you just have a few minutes (let’s say seconds) to make a difference and explain why they should stay focused on you a little longer. Believe me, you cannot imagine how many applications are uninstalled after being used just once. First impressions matter, and you have to assess how long it will take for each user to go from point A to point B (A-ha moment).

“#10. Box used a lot of use cases to explain the advantages and how you could use what they were building.”

— Jen Grant, VP of Marketing at Box.

Yes I know, your product is simple. Everyone gets the value proposition in less than ten seconds. But are they understanding how they can implement it for their personal case? If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to always assume that people do not really understand how they can use your solution to meet their needs. You have to connect the dots and lead them to the value with clarity. Most people can perceive what Zapier is all about: connecting APIs. But how can this help them in their day-to-day operations? You probably guessed it, the Zapbook is all about case studies and it helps increase activation and retention. Everyone is not a hacker with an overactive imagination.

“#11. Gamify Signup.”

— Ben Lang, ‎Cofounder at Mapme.

Signing up is painful. Use social network APIs as often as possible to make it quicker (and don’t forget about the Google API that let you retrieve the address book). Most entrepreneurs assume that once the registration process is built, they can move on to something else once and for all; but they are wrong. It is a feature that requires constant changes, as 100% of your users will go through it. If you can remove a tiny bit of the pain by gamifying the experience, it could be a smart way to make use of the human psychology to increase the registration rate. Of course, this all depends on the product and the type of industry you are in, but I agree with those who believe that at the end of the day, gamification has an impact on almost everyone. Just make sure to implement it in a clever way.

“#12. Personalizing the site experience based on factors such as geography can have a major impact on conversion.”

— Dan McGaw, CEO at Effin Amazing.

Do not treat all of your users in the same ways, and really make them identify with your solution. Taking the time to personalize the first experience (and the following ones) is just one more weapon you have to increase the activation rate. One of the core principles of marketing is about segmenting, and the reason is obvious: people have different needs and all react in different ways to one particular thing. Take a look at some reasons why people might go to nightclubs: to party, to satisfy sexual desires (or at least they hope to ;)), or to increase their feelings of self-importance by being in VIP seats. If you ask random people to rank these three options, you will get different results. Everyone is different, so you better know what makes one segment convert more than another to use that at your advantage. We do not address every target with the same speech.

“#13. Many E-commerces are surprised by how great the right offline spot can be to sell their products.”

— Matt Ellsworth, Distro Partner at 500 Startups.

You are selling 100% of your physical product online and that’s great. But to go even further, you could try to wear the salesman costume for a week and see how people react in front of you. You may close on some of them; but, more importantly, you’ll also get valuable real-time feedback, which is priceless. Do not ask yourself 100 questions before getting out of the building. And remember, demonstration is key (take a look at how projects on Kickstarter are doing it).


ADVERTISING.

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“#14. Understand that in many situations, spending money smartly can make you earn money.”

— Anna Sawyer, Head of Content Marketing at Trada.

There is a misconception about growth hackers. Too many people define the discipline as being able to get users without spending a penny. It is true that at the beginning, you have to play with what you have and be creative enough to get a continuous flow of users (it is about product iteration). But refusing to use all the tools around you or adopting the zero-expense strategy for your startup is often irrelevant. Facebook and YouTube Ads or even Adwords offer plenty of opportunities if you are clever in your choices. There are also smart moves that you can do in real-time bidding, using algorithms for retargeting purposes. It is up to you to seize them or at least test them. Remember what the mission of a growth hacker is: accelerating growth.

“#15. Advertising is fundamentally a business model competition. It is you, competing with the other companies, to figure out who can afford to pay the most for the attention of this specific user.”

— Gagan Biyani, CEO at Sprig.

By definition, a startup is looking for a profitable business model. Early-stage products are not optimized to compete on the same keyword/presets that a large corporation already uses for its campaigns. It is a battle doomed to failure, and you have to think in a lateral way. One of the best examples I have seen is about one coach who was selling a book about fitness, aimed at those trying to lose weight quickly. What he did was target every long-tail keyword that women between the ages 25 and 50 may type in while searching for a wedding dress. This seemed to be the perfect moment to get their attention, and this kind of traffic proved to convert well once on the landing page.

Julien Le CoupanecTake a look at what Eat24 did with their porn advertising campaigns. It’s all about lateral thinking (and polarization). ”

“#16. The moment you know what you really can afford to pay to acquire one profitable user is when the game starts.”

— Andrei Marinescu, Partner at 500 Startups.

A great thing about paid advertising platforms is that when you have a great lifetime value behind the curtain, they are difficult to saturate. There are four scalable acquisition channels: social, search, word-of-mouth, and sales. While advertising can be used as a test tool, profitability starts when you become able to switch as a growth tool. Zynga is one of these companies that greatly combined viral and paid marketing together to spread faster than anyone else.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Mixpanel is my favorite tool to assess your ‘average lifetime value per user’ and your ‘average lifetime value per paying user.’ You can query your database in so many ways to understand what segment is the most profitable. Here is a cheatsheet I have made about Mixpanel that might help you. ”

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“#17. With Facebook, CTR is everything. The higher your CTR, the lower you will pay per click.”

— Matthew Berman, Distribution Hacker at 500 Startups.

In my previous post (which has been removed because of a formal notice), I explained how I was able to growth hack a French dating website through psychological tricks and automation. In order to accelerate the growth curve, I chose to use Facebook Ads. The results were astonishing (and I was targeting an expensive audience: single men living in France who liked this dating website): a CTR of 8.58% leading to a CPC of €0.02. Facebook does not cheat you; if you have an awesome CTR, this will lower the CPC to a few pennies.

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Julien Le Coupanec“ If you have a business model based on CPM, it’s going to be really difficult to have a positive ROI by acquiring new people with CPC. ”

“#18. When you spend money on PPC, you have to be getting one of two things: either a sale or knowledge.”

— Matt Hessler, Director at Trada.

If you are not learning at least one thing from your failed advertising campaigns, you should rework your acquisition strategy. Optimizing requires an intensive examination of your data, and testing it continuously. It takes approximately 3 to 20 days before getting enough data for a campaign.

Julien Le Coupanec“ If you are running an advertising campaign, don’t run the same single ad again and again. If you advertise a static landing page, it gets old quickly. Once someone has seen it, there is little incentive for them to click on it in the future. Facebook has to work harder to get each additional click, so your cost per click climbs. ”

ANALYTICS.

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“#19. If you are not tracking your data and not trying to figure out what makes people sign up, use your product, come back, and leave…it is going to be hard to grow.”

— Neil Patel, Co-Founder at KISSmetrics.

Do not make the mistake of avoiding tracking systems early in your development process. You have to know what the good metrics are for your startup. Set up a routine every morning to analyze what is happening inside your product: where is your traffic coming from, how do people engage with the features, what segments come back and why? Define a tracking plan that outlines what events/actions you are going to track (and why), what their properties are, and where they will be triggered. A common mistake is to track everything. Start with three events (the ones that indicate the moment when people are becoming interested in your product).

Julien Le Coupanec“ My three favorite tools are Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and Hotjar (for funnels, heatmaps, and screen recordings). ”

“#20. You need to be creative and passionate about data analysis. Data will tell you what is going wrong, and your creative mindset will tell you how to fix that.”

— Aaron Ginn, Growth Product Manager at Everlane.

That’s where your imagination comes into play. The war is 90% information, but that remaining 10% makes the difference and it’s all about execution. If you perceive a hole somewhere, you will have to close it. Grab a sheet of paper, look at what others are doing, make use of Clarity.fm to get advice from experts, and ask a question on Quora…Ship fast but fix fast.

“#21. You have to understand the difference between a cohort (comparison of similar groups along a timeline) and a segment (cross-sectional comparison of all people divided by some attribute: age, gender, etc.).”

— Alistair Croll, Founder at Solve For Interesting.

Use cohort analysis to segment and analyze what is happening in your product. Look at your data and your retention. It doesn’t need to be really big, but if you can see the retention, that’s a pretty good predictor of success in the long run. You might not have a lot of users, but if you can use metrics to show that the few users you do have are incredibly engaged, that tells you that you have a winning product. Retention metrics are important to validate the product. Money lets you increase your acquisition numbers, but the retention numbers are deeply integrated into the product.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Spend time looking at your cohorts. That is one of the routines that you must set up in your daily operations. Once again, Mixpanel is the best tool. ”

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“#22. Conversion funnels are a very underrated task among startups. That kind of data analysis is impactful and can make you understand so much about your business and your users.”

— Kyle Wild, CEO at Keen IO.

Early-stage startups do not have a lot of funnels to track. One, maybe two, or three max. Make sure you are building them with Mixpanel or Hotjar and that you devote some time to see why people are dropping off. Why? Because time is money, and when you have to prioritize things, you better know where you should be focusing your efforts. Look at the friction, reduce it, and bookmark your funnels. One cool thing you can do with Hotjar is to look at the screen recordings for everyone who dropped off at specific parts. That’s a game-changer. 😉

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“#23. You must know your average revenue per user, your lifetime value, and how long it takes someone to reach the maximum lifetime value.”

— Geddes Muson, Director, Forward Deployed Engineers at MemSQL.

As you are working on your paid growth campaigns, you will know how much you can afford because you will know how much money you will get back. Once again, if you are using Mixpanel, you can retrieve this information quickly within the revenue section. It is important to understand that every segment does not perform the same. If you can find out who is going to pay the most (or has the higher referral rate), you will be able to leverage and benefit from some expensive targeting/keywords. At the end of the day, it’s all about observation and math.

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“#24. Set your goals on a weekly basis. That gives you 52 chances a year to test, learn, and optimize. Reassess every Sunday; that is what growth meetings are for.”

— Dan Martell, Founder at Clarity.

I always advise early-stage startups to find out what the main KPI and the second and third most important actionable metrics are for their business. Then, I ask the CEO to make sure that the whole team is receiving their evolution every Sunday by email. The logic is to let people assess if their cumulative work had an impact each week. Knowing if you are moving forward or backward can make an important difference regarding the following day-to-day operations of everyone involved.

Julien Le Coupanec“ It could also be interesting to communicate the most important things you may have learned from your cohorts and to take a screenshot of the main activation funnel (with a few sentences explaining any evolution there is). Just be sure to keep the email short and do not over-communicate. ”

“#25. You’re going to have some conceptions of how your site is used. The thing is that the model you are using in your head is not going to match exactly the reality. When you put something out, it can be used in an unexpected way.”

— Dan McKinley, Principal Engineer at Etsy.

A great example of this is how people began using Burbn (now known as Instagram) in some unexpected ways. Photo filters quickly became the key feature of the application and were driving the retention rate to the top. In a world where it is necessary to primarily focus on doing one thing exceptionally well and cutting the clutter, there was a real need to pivot, redesign the machine, and reduce the friction. Look at how your user segments are using what you are building, and make your decisions accordingly (while remaining as objective as possible).

Julien Le Coupanec“ Understand when your users misuse your product features. It may be because what you are doing is not something that is easy to understand on the first try (you have to educate them) or does not provide enough value, so they leave. ”

“#26. Your metrics and KPIs must be actionable. Find the metrics that drive your bottom line. Find out what converts a marketing sign up as a paid customer.”

— Chris Neumann, Founder at CROmetrics.

When you are looking at your data, be careful about correlation and causation. The perfect plan is to focus on the metrics that can improve the overall goal of your company. Data play a huge part in the success of your growth hacking strategies, but you have to identify whether or not you are doing better than yesterday based on the actions you take. Don’t get caught up playing the endless and fruitless game of tracking vanity metrics.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Page views are not always a vanity metric. For media companies, for instance, page views are part of the business model and thus, they represent something that needs improve on a daily basis. ”

“#27. Focus on one metric. Focus on the one retention metric that reflects the health of your user base, and then work on optimizing the heck out of it.”

— Dick Talens, Co-Founder at Fitocracy.

Focus on the most downstream metric, usually what makes you money, and be sure it grows week after week, month after month (for Airbnb and Uber, it is about reservations/rides. For Facebook, it is about daily active users). By advising our startups to do so, we’ve seen a great pattern emerge: the best entrepreneurs were establishing a whole upstream strategy towards that specific metric and tended to think out of the box, acting intuitively and pushing this datum to grow at all costs. That is how you win a war.


AUTOMATION.

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“#28. The first thing is to design a machine that will generate the sales opportunities. The second is to manage these opportunities and transform them into wins.”

— Justin Roff-Marsh, Founder at Ballistix.

Just a quick warning about this. Clever people do things manually to understand what works from what does not. You cannot guess how many entrepreneurs I see every week who devote time and money to automating an obscure thing with an unclear impact. Assess the results (the quicker, the better) and make a decision based on collected facts. It is tempting to believe that a great money machine exists somewhere, but if there is, in most cases, you can verify that by hand in less than a week.

A growth process is about identifying the minimum proof you need, how you can get it with no engineer, and how to drive the right traffic to your experiment. Then, you measure/analyze/optimize the conversion to end with a decision.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Do not forget that there are plenty of marketplaces to outsource all the tasks that require human intelligence to be performed. ”

“#29. In the early days, don’t be afraid to use brutal force. You are looking for traction.”

— Brian Balfour, VP of Growth at Hubspot.

When you stumble upon an efficient experiment, there is only one thing to do: double down. Do not underestimate the overall importance that your first users will have on your business. It is an entirely different game to grow from zero to 100,000 users than it is to go from one million to two million.Your initial traffic will let you analyze your product to find where the value is (while reducing the friction at the same time), and this traction phase requires you to be aggressive from day one.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Use brutal labor force with oDesk and Amazon Mechanical Turk. ”

CUSTOMER SUPPORT, CARE, & TALKING WITH USERS.

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“#30. Everyone at Buffer spends an entire day per week for customer support (emails, responding to tweets, etc.). We spend a lot of attention on that, as a lot of complaints help us to retain more people.”

— Michelle Sun, CEO at First Code Academy.

A major difference between corporations and startups can be explained by the ability to quickly put the user at the center of the product’s experience. Customer support is key; you must be super dynamic. When you are selling something expensive (or not), answer any email in less than 30 minutes (24/7). This is an imperative condition when seeking to minimize lost customers, improve retention, and upsell some of them. Amaze your customers with customer support. This pays back over time.

Julien Le Coupanec“ People who are going to make an expensive purchase take their time and come back to the website several times before buying (check your return rate). ”

“#31. Don’t take advice from people who do not ask a lot of questions. Good advice comes only when a person puts forth the effort to understand what your business is and the problems it may have.”

— Jason Cohen, Founder at WPEngine.

When someone asks a smart question about your business, he or she is showing an interest in what you are doing. Just make sure to use credibility tests with open-ended questions to ensure you maintain a high level of trust and integrity regarding your recipient’s feedback. Let’s say, for instance, that you are building a product for startups. A great credibility test would be: “Hey buddy, have you seen that new feature on Slack?” If you feel that this person does not know what Slack is, you should not give too much credit to what he says next. This is definitely not your target.

“#32. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate.”

— Linda Tong, Chief Product Officer at Tapjoy.

Remember that, at the end of the day, communication is a growth hack. The ability to accurately communicate at the right time, with the right message, and to the right person is a way to increase revenue, retention, and referral. Identify your VIP users, why and what type of people are unsubscribing from your emails, the level of intimacy/proximity you have to establish, what type of messages makes them react, and answer your emails. In a nutshell, engage with your potential users as soon as possible and do not be afraid to over-communicate. But make sure to use plain-text messages, especially if you are aiming for responses in return.

“#33. Only founders can pivot, that’s why they have to do customer development by themselves. That’s a key idea to understand.”

— Steve Blank, Lecturer at New York University.

Should an early-stage startup delegate its customer support? Absolutely not. Founders must be behind it, right from the beginning. It’s the best way to stay close with your customers and maintain a clear view of your product. Customer development does not always lead to faster growth, but it leads nonetheless to faster experimentation. Nothing is more important than talking to your customers and knowing them intimately. You never really know who they are until they pay you money, and until they tell you that it was worth it. When you get those two things, you know what your customers look like.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Customer service is the eyes and ears of the company. Later, when there is a team of people to focus 100% of their attention on it, founders must meet with them weekly to discuss any issues. A good question for a founder to ask the team would be, ‘What would you fix if you were in my shoes?’. ”

EMAILING.

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“#34. Trigger or event-based emails are powerful. Use them to make people come back and complete an action that they did not achieve, such as filling out the registration/payment form if they left.”

— Matthew Berman, Distribution Hacker at 500 Startups.

Use emailing to move someone from one step to another. You have to understand the whole funnel of triggers that make someone active. Drip campaigns are very efficient, but make your email personal. Split test your titles to get a high opening rate, and think about the context before sending out your campaigns.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Ask people to whitelist you by moving the email to their personal folder. Allow and bring them to reply to the email (it improves your sender score). ”

“#35. If you are building a list for invites, make sure you communicate with them often. Don’t just send an email explaining, “Now the product is ready, you can test it” when they haven’t heard from you since the moment they signed up. It must be orchestrated.”

— Lincoln Murphy, Founder Sixteen Venture.

Don’t be afraid to send many emails. Of course, they need to have a relevant purpose, but you can find a lot of valid excuses to send them. Email marketing is a weapon to use to bring back users. Email is not old-school! Don’t make the mistake of sending an email only for the registration. Send an email per week that matches the user profile to keep the retention rate high. More than 90% of consumers check their email daily.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Always put a psychological trigger in your email subject line. Make sure the preview text is relevant, and think mobile first. ”

“#36. A good pattern of days for drip campaigns is one day, three days, one week, two weeks, one month.”

— Jamie Quint, Co-Founder at Interstate Analytics.

Split test the frequency of your drip campaigns, assess the efficiency with data, and come up with a good pattern to optimize. One impactful thing I’ve done was to save the list of all the users who dropped at one specific part of the funnel. Then, by sending them a humoristic email, I was able to make them come back and complete the action.

Julien Le Coupanec“ On the contrary, never ever send invoices by email (people often put down their corporate card and have forgotten about them). Emails must be a retention weapon, not a churn one. ”

“#37. Devote some time to look at who is signing up to your newsletter/application.”

— Ryan Hoover, Founder of Product Hunt.

And it goes the same for Twitter. When someone is giving you his or her email address, that person is indicating a level of interest that you should not overlook. Use Rapportive to know who is behind them. What if the last guy has a powerful network on Linkedin (or elsewhere) that you could take advantage of? Sometimes, it can be very interesting to devote a lot of energy to get only one share. All shares are not equal, and referral is a tool to accelerate the growth curve.

Julien Le Coupanec“ There was a reason why Product Hunt was only letting people connect with Twitter: when someone signs up, you can retrieve his handle. By starting a conversation with him on the social network, you can build trust and increase proximity from day one. Take a look at Ryan Hoover’s account and see how many tweets he has sent. ”

ENTREPRENEURSHIP.

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“#38. If you do not have enemies, you do not have obsessive fans.”

— Bronson Taylor, Founder of GrowthHacker.TV.

In life, if you do not polarize people, this usually means that you have done nothing of any worthy interest. Don’t be afraid to go for the fight, and accept the hits you take. From a product perspective, you should not try to please everyone (and especially if you aren’t a product that aims to be mainstream). Focus on making a few early-adopters happy first.

“#39. Where most startups fail is focus.”

— Ben Yoskovitz, VP Product at VarageSale.

Large companies execute a series of knowns, while most startups are actually searching through a series of unknowns. A startup is nothing more than a faith-based enterprise. It is a company in a permanent state of bankruptcy that holds together solely by the determination of its founders. If you want to succeed, you have to stay focused, start small (single niche), and do one thing exceptionally well (quality). Even if you have a thousand business ideas every day, stay focused on one at a time. I love stories of entrepreneurs who make opportunity revenues to survive (Airbnb’s Obama O), but I have seen situations when it was not required. And in this case, you should forget about that. People with the greatest focus are those who win. It takes a lot of investment and time to be viewed as and truly become a leader in an industry.

Julien Le Coupanec“ The path to glory is a continuous flux of failures and mistakes. One of the most important qualities of great entrepreneurs is that they all learn and grow from these errors. ”

“#40. The most powerful thing I’ve learned over my entrepreneurial career was how to seek out and get great advice from people who have been there before. That’s a great strategy to make better decisions.”

— Dan Martell, Founder of Clarity.

Dan Martell’s advice is very straightforward and clear. The hardest thing for every good entrepreneur is to ask really good questions about the business/industry he or she is in. War is about winning, and getting the right information at the right time is a critical asset. Execution is key, and quickly learning what you should or should not do might keep you alive for a long time.

Julien Le Coupanec“ When I try to improve my game in a specific field, I always shoot for the expert. I take a few days to browse his or her whole Twitter timeline and read every blog article this person has posted, from the first to the very last one. ”

“#41. To create a company that’s building for the long term, you have to dedicate five, ten, maybe even 20 years, who knows? A business is a collection of people working toward something. That’s your culture.”

— Ryan Graves, SVP Global Operations at Uber.

If you want to build a strong business, no matter what people say, you have to invest a lot of time into it. I have seen people overestimate what can be done in a year and underestimate what can be done in ten years.. A business is a collection of individuals working toward something. Great company culture is when everyone deeply understands the problem they are trying to solve, and everyone works to fulfill that objective in the most qualitative manner (Facebook, for example, wants to everyone on the planet to have an account). That’s when people really care.

“#42. If you are not a football fan and you are going to build a product about football, most of the time, you will be in big trouble.”

— Des Traynor, COO at Intercom.

As for every entrepreneur, it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride. One important thing to override this fight is to build something you really believe in, a product you enjoy working on. I love making money, but too often, when an entrepreneur does not show the slightest sign of a mission (or passion), he fails. In any case, when you know that you are going to lose the battle no matter what you do, it’s time to pivot.

“#43. Winning does not necessarily mean having the best product.”

— Nir Eyal, Consultant.

I watched Shark Tank when I was younger and I remember one of Daymond John’s quotes from the show: “Life is about distribution.” The distribution strategy is the most important thing to pay attention to if you want to be a successful company. You need to create the most valuable product you can, but it is not always the best product that wins. The manner in which you reach your customers is what should fascinate you. In blind tests, Pepsi usually beats Coke as the prefered product. But Coke still dominates in market share. Similarly, according to Nir, more people say they prefer the results of Bing to Google in blind search query tests. Yet Google is the dominating product. Why is this? Because Google and Coke have become strong brands that are attached to human habits. Success is a combination of many elements that need to be taken into account.


GAMIFICATION.

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“#44. Be careful with gamification. It is powerful but often tends to be overused, aiming for the wrong goals.”

— Dick Talens, Co-Founder at Fitocracy.

Gamification is the process of using concepts from games, loyalty programs, and economic behaviors to create engagement with your users and solve problems. It keeps users’ attention much longer and encourages them to give the best version of themselves to do what you want them to do. It is a powerful strategy to entice people to start/achieve a series of actions. But to benefit from it, be sure to use this strategy in an intelligent manner.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Badging is efficient in improving user activity at the top of the funnel and getting them to experience the A-ha moment sooner. ”

GROWTH / PRODUCT.

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“#45. During Y combinator, there are only two things that really matter: writing code (building the product) and talking to your users.”

— Brad Flora, Co-Founder of Perfect Audience.

Growth can be explained using four words: problem (why should anyone use it), inception (incept the idea that your product solves this particular problem; it’s all about distribution and word-of-mouth), adoption (the moment when someone is committed to try your product; it’s their first experience with the promise), and habit (every time people have this particular problem, they think about and come back to your product to solve it).

“#46. Do not make the mistake of having a broad audience at the beginning. You have to start small and be very specific to develop your early user base.”

— Franco Varriano, Growth at StartupPlays.

If you do not have a lot of money, taking a broad approach to get customers is silly. You need to take a vertical approach based on a well-defined target to acquire customers. Do not start by trying to get the whole world to know about your product. Linkedin was a niche product at its beginning. It only focused on professionals with a certain position and a certain income living in the Silicon Valley.

“#47. It is always very hard to educate your users about something that is completely new, versus a product where there is an existing demand in the market.”

— Ilya Lichtenstein, Co-Founder at MixRank.

This is when you better be sure to have a clear idea of who your early-adopters are (or you will die). Demonstrations and building a strong community will be two critical assets. These types of products are hard to be replicated and are a really unfair advantage for your company. Utility apps like Runtracker can easily be replicated, but for their community of people, it is much harder.

Julien Le Coupanec“ A great way to find a great community manager is to hire your best customer. ”

“#48. We live in an attention economy.”

— Alistair Croll, Founder at Solve For Interesting.

Stand out from the crowd and polarize. Be aggressive. If you do not have people loving you (and some of them hating you at the same time), you usually do not exist. Plain and simple. Every day, you must want to move the needle. The big players are taking 90% of the attention. You will have to fight and hustle very hard if you want a single chance to capitalize on the remaining 10%. Rome was not built in a day, and it surely wasn’t in a joyous and relaxed atmosphere, either. You must be undoubtedly fierce in order to succeed.

People on the Internet have ADD (attention deficit disorder), and if you keep that in mind in every stage of the funnel, in every bit of copywriting, your conversion rate will likely go up.

Julien Le CoupanecLook at what Ryan Holiday and American Apparel did. If you do not polarize, it will be harder to grow. ”

“#49. There is a big difference between traction and growth. You must know what phase you are in. There is a time for traction and there is a time for growth.”

— Brian Balfour, VP of Growth at Hubspot.

In the earliest days of a startup, you are never looking for growth; you are looking for traction. And in traction, what you are optimizing is establishing a steady stream of users into your product so that you can figure out the variables in the growth equation, which are things like activation, retention, referral, customer lifetime value, etc. There are a lot of different ways to get traction: press, blog posts, guest blog posts, alternative channels like Reddit. But for growth, there are only a few scalable channels: search, display, Facebook, viral word-of-mouth, and sales. At some point, you have to figure out how to play in one of these five channels, but you don’t necessarily need to figure that out at the beginning. There are cheaper, lesser techniques that you can use to get traction, like things that do not scale.

“#50. Growth is about looking at the whole funnel holistically.”

— Brian Balfour, Brian Balfour, VP of Growth at Hubspot.

Your long-term sustainable advantage does not come only from your acquisition piece of the funnel. Any efficient technique will die or become completely inefficient over time. You must monetize your customers better than your competitors, retain them longer, or activate them at a much higher rate. It’s much stronger than trying to find new holes in the acquisition space. I believe that this is the biggest difference between growth hackers and marketers and why they have to know how to code: they must have an impact on the product iteration as much as possible. At least, they have to learn and understand JavaScript.

“#51. Don’t fall in love with your product, fall in love with your users. Money is the byproduct of being awesome.”

— Stuart Macdonald, Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer at FreshBooks.

Please, avoid the mistakes I have made. Of course, you have to be passionate about and obsessed by what you are building, but every choice must be in the user’s interest. I always debate with developers (and I am one of them) about the incoherence of being too dogmatic. Yeah, you want your product to be in Node, you want it to be built with Angular, but does it really matter when you could launch a first version with WordPress? At the beginning, you are trying to assess the interest, nothing else. And the same goes for paying too much attention to design early on. Later, I agree, you will have to invest in something more robust, with a highly user-friendly design; but at the beginning, it is all about product/market fit and fulfilling the demand. Users don’t care what is behind the curtain, and in the meantime, markets that don’t exist don’t care how smart you are (Marc Andreesen).

Julien Le Coupanec“ You can’t sustainably grow something that sucks. You can attempt to, but it’s generally called spam. ”

“#52. One important thing that people underestimate is that when you’re growing fast, you come across important scaling issues. That must be a focus point on a daily basis.”

— Zack Onisko, Head of Growth & Marketing at Creative Market.

Growing is great, but scaling is better. If you do not anticipate this specific point early on, you might end up in a frustrating situation. It is very common to see startups putting on the brakes for growth because they just can’t handle it. Scale causes rare events to become regular. Scaling is a tricky problem. You have to make sure to build the proper foundation and to measure/optimize your app on a daily basis. Pinterest was first built with Python/Django before moving to Java/J2EE due to scalability reasons.

“#53. All growing startups have two things in common: product value and good distribution. If you don’t do that exceptionally well, you will lose.”

— Conrad Wadowski, Co-Founder at Teachable.

Your first obsession must be to create product value, while your second should be about going to market and distributing that value as quickly as possible. To reiterate the Daymond John quote, life is about understanding distribution at the deepest level. If you can’t distribute, there is no future for you.

I think Troy Henikoff put it best, explaining, “I am maniacally focused on customer acquisition. I think there is nothing more important than customer acquisition, and it needs to be built in the DNA of the founders. Let me be specific: you and I start a company and we make smartphone cases. They are awesome, they are perfect, they are cool, and we hire someone to sell them. That person does not sell any, so we fire him. But if you and I are partners and you go out and try to sell them, but you can’t, what do we do? We change the product. It’s fundamentally different when the founders have customer acquisition built into their DNA. It’s fundamentally different how you go to market, how you learn from the market, and I think it drastically changes your chances of success.“.

“#54. It is becoming easier and easier to build a good product, so what is left is to be flawless on growth.”

— Jason Calacanis, Entrepreneur and Angel Investor.

With a few exceptions, most companies don’t fail because of technology. Most companies fail because they haven’t built the product in a way that people care about, or they could not find enough people for whom their solution was a good fit. You have to make growth a discipline of your organization. You have to constantly repeat, iterate on your growth process, and find innovative experiences to run. Strategy is a living discipline; it has to be refreshed or it will die. Sustainable growth is when new customers come from the actions of past customers. That is something hard to do and replicate. In the meantime, any customer product needs to be used repeatedly before getting a sustainable value.

Julien Le CoupanecThe right moment is two times more effective (CTR) than the right channel. Moment > Channel > Copy. Keep in mind that the right moment, combined with the right channel, converts far more than any copy you can write. ”

“#55. The short answer is that you can’t really “hack” growth. You can’t hack the long-term patterns of growth (when someone is so actively using a product that they keep sharing it with their friends without even realizing it).”

— Josh Elman, Partner at Greylock.

If you get growth without engagement, it can be quite misleading. We all have a lot of funny stories to share when Facebook opened its graph in 2010 on this point. Startups are all about the long run and creating a monopoly. If you want to learn more about that, I suggest that you take a look at my last essay.

“#56. There are three things that you need to think about when you are a consumer company: growth, monetization, and engagement. And if you try to focus on these three elements at the same time, you are probably going to fail.”

— Chris Herndon, Co-Founder of Apartment List.

There are three buckets you have to fill to build a successful venture: engagement, growth (high virality, network effects), and monetization. I would recommend focusing on them in that order (but there is no common answer to a problem). The only rules are to start small, be consistent, and ship and distribute. A big part of formulating a winning plan is knowing what resources you have and playing the game accordingly. Companies grow mainly by one, two, or three factors, but rarely more. Be an expert and a hustler at these.

“#57. Startups who succeed are those who manage to get outside the building and test their hypothesis. They understand the core idea that there is no fact inside the building.”

— Steve Blank, Lecturer at New York University.

You believe that you are solving a problem (problems change over time) or fulfilling a need (needs persist among the human race). Now you have to get out to check if someone else is also having this problem/need and to measure how much you solve/fulfill it. That’s why you should mute your business plan. You don’t know what people want until you start doing it. Just do what it takes to turn this theoretical idea into practice. That’s a no-brainer and there is no debate in 2015 about this.


GROWTH TEAM.

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“#58. Growth hacking is a team sport, rather than the job of one or two individuals in a company.”

— Sean Johnson, Partner at Digital Intent.

It is the mindset of an entire cross-functional team and is the only way to build the virality in the product itself. It is important to have people who are open-minded enough to try different things and to talk to as many growth hackers as possible. The founder also needs to understand different growth channels to really know what the value metrics are and what the one or two other metrics are that they should focus on at a single time. Make everyone learn the importance of being data-driven and making business decisions upon KPIs.

“#59. Do not delegate growth to your marketing department. This stuff is so important that it should rely on the entire company.”

— Kyle Wild, CEO at Keen IO.

Companies with a growth team include at least an engineer and a product manager (and sometimes one analyst) because of their abilities to make product decisions. Being able to iterable and make quick changes is crucial to understanding the impact of each action. It’s important to keep it small; you need to move fast. Open source the data to your employees. This way, everyone will be able to do their own analysis and come up with new ideas to suggest (add them to the backlog). Everyone needs material to sift through in order to get the best ideas. It is your job as a CEO to provide that.

“#60. You have to understand this secret moment (A-ha moment) when people keep coming back to your website. You have to figure out how to make your product stickier, and why your power users are that committed.”

— Josh Elman, Partner at Greylock.

Growth is always a long game and not a short game. You have to understand these long-term patterns of growth. It’s a combination of product, team, and potential market. Your team must have a vision and the ability to articulate it properly in a way that is infectious. Get people excited, employees excited, and partners excited.

“#61. If you’re not trying to make people understand and work on the same KPIs, let me tell you that you are wasting your time.”

— Zack Onisko, Head of Growth & Marketing at Creative Market.

As you grow, you need an increasingly strong advocate for the data-driven approach. That’s your growth team. On a tactical basis, if you don’t plan or understand what makes you grow, you will probably not be able to accelerate it. Have someone responsible for that on the team (your head of growth), a truth seeker you can refer to. I have learnt that every battalion needs a general.

“#62. People expect beautiful products, but now more than ever, people expect simple products. You can compromise on making things enjoyable to see, but never compromise on clarity.”

— Shaun Clowes, Director, Product Growth and Analytics at Atlassian.

In every decision, there is always a compromise to make. But the only thing you should never compromise on is growth (unless there is a situation like is described in #52). If you complexify the user experience (by adding, for instance, a new feature), you better be sure that it is important because it is equivalent to adding friction voluntarily. And friction will increase your drop-off rate at this part of the funnel. Thus, you will have to work harder to educate your user, and sometimes will need to design a new onboarding. Facebook is a complex product and that is exactly what they do on a daily basis. Take a look at how things have changed in the last 5 years (and will in the next 10 years).


GROWTH PROCESS.

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“#63. Every company has its own path for growth.”

— Arjun Dev Arora, Co-Founder at Immediately.

Every team is different and every equation is unique. The most important thing you must understand is that growth is a combination of successful (and failed) experiments. There is no silver bullet. A growth hack is just an experiment that went incredibly well. The aim is to find out what works in order to double down and accelerate growth (or traction, depending on the phase you are in). At the beginning, you have to do a lot of things manually and assess what is happening inside your product (by looking at your analytical dashboards while talking to your users at the same time). You have to reach product/market fit and find out how to play in a scalable acquisition channel. Brainstorm, prioritize, test, analyze, optimize, or kill.That is the only common scheme to everyone.

Julien Le Coupanec“ It’s better to have weekly goals. Move step-by-step. Growth hacking is a process, and data are at the end and beginning of that process because data are always what lead to a hypothesis that you will then test with an experiment to find if it grows/improves something. The more rigorous you are at running experiments continuously, the faster you are likely to grow. ”

“#64. If you want to grow fast, you need to be able to understand and prioritize the things that really matter.”

— Archie Abrams, Senior Director of Growth at Udemy.

The first thing is always about learning, and the second is about executing. In business, one of the things that will define your fate more than anything else is what you are focusing on and what you are going to exclude. There is a concept that says that 20% of your efforts will usually produce 80% of the results.

Julien Le Coupanec“ When you start to focus on growing your company, the best thing you can do is take the weekend to understand the numbers of how the machine is currently growing in order to find strategies to improve the different channels. What makes people sign up? Where do people come from? ”

“#65. The perfect situation is to find an efficient experiment that you can reproduce at scale.”

— Shaun Clowes, Director, Product Growth and Analytics at Atlassian.

What you are looking for is to build sustainable growth, and you do that by designing systems and investing in them over the long term. Sure, you want to get a short-term return on that or you’ll go out of business while you’re still building your long-term growth engines. But you want to have something that will provide value everyday. Don’t invest 100% of your efforts in a hack that will only work for three months (I am quite sure it will not be a good investment of your time).

Figuring out what you must do now and what you must do later is one of the most important things for startups and entrepreneurs. You have to understand your data and take better decisions about what you’re going to spend your time on.

“#66. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing. Not from persistently promoting what’s not working.”

— Derek Sivers, Founder at CD Baby.

At first, acquire enough users to figure out some variables in your growth equation, then focus on retention. And when everything is great, when the holes are plugged, go back to the top of the funnel for real. There are three main pieces to a retention curve and they need to be treated differently: week/day/month one retention (get users to experience core value as quickly as possible, the A-ha moment), mid-term retention (get users to create habits around core value), and long-term retention (get users to experience core value as often as possible).

“#67. When something works, you must have a killer instinct; show no mercy and exploit it at 100%.”

— Zack Onisko, Head of Growth & Marketing at Creative Market.

People are much less sensitive than we think they are. When you are experimenting, you really need to get bold in order to have results. Be fierce. Succeeding as an entrepreneur will become harder and harder over time. Everyone wants to become an entrepreneur. Understand your users to know what experiments you can run with/through them and what you cannot.

Julien Le Coupanec“ You have to assess how your experiment is performing among different segments of users, because if you don’t, you may think that your experiment is not working when, in reality, it is effective on a certain segment. That is what happened with Circle of Moms (formerly Circle of Friends). ”

“#68. There is a lot you can do with little money, you just have to hustle. Perfection is not the key. Progressing and moving forward is.”

— Patrick Vlaskovits, CEO of Superpowered.

Double down on your most effective marketing route before wagering on a new one. Your mission is to find the levers you have to pull to get the biggest impact. Speed matters. Test full weeks. Don’t give up after your first test if a hypothesis fails, and don’t ignore small gains: 5% monthly increase in your conversion rate will result in 80% uplift for the year. That’s how math works. Run tests all the time, make them long enough, and be sure to have enough traffic to make relevant decisions.


HIRING & MANAGING.

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“#69. Be very focused on the type of people you are bringing into your organization. It’s what can make you very successful.”

— Jonathan Downey, CEO of Airware.

The most important process in a business is building the right team. Bringing in the right person can change the business overnight. I see this on a monthly basis. It’s also critical to hire people that will do parts of their job for fun. Hire really smart people and get the hell out of their way. Surround yourself with amazing people in every aspect of your startup: investors, advisors, employees, and customers.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Celebrate small wins. Make people feel like the work they are doing day in and day out is leading to wins. Managing humans is difficult, and that is why your company culture is one of the most important things. ”

“#70. Whatever you’re doing in your business, you have to do it yourself for a few weeks or you can’t actually lead intelligently.”

— Bronson Taylor, Co-Founder at GrowthHacker.TV.

Hire the kind of people who are relaxed about experimentation and failures. Know you growth drivers and hire according to them.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Don’t wait for face-to-face opportunities to make important decisions. Skype is a great tool to use to interact with your team. Don’t slow down the execution. You can get anything done virtually. ”

INVESTMENTS.

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“#71. Venture capitalists want your growth equation.”

— Jamie Quint, Co-Founder at Interstate Analytics.

You probably know the adage: “In God we trust, all others bring data”. In order to be successful, every single company needs to have a simple expression that explains how they grow. You want everyone in the company to understand how you grow. Express it in a way that everyone can understand. The basic growth equation is: A (top of the funnel) x B (magic moment) x C (core product value) = sustainable growth.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Someone once told me to think like a VC while I was looking at strategies for growth and product innovations. There must be situations when you should not to do so, but I found that it was a smart way to explain how rigorous and mathematical you have to be to succeed. ”

LANDING PAGES.

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“#72. The main content on a landing page should answer two simple questions: “What is it?” (solution) and “Why should I care?” (problem).”

— Georgiana Laudi, Director of Marketing at Unbounce.

In most cases, in your landing page, you should try to make your users do only one typical action. This could be, for instance, registration, email submission, watching a video, downloading a document, or selling a product. All of your efforts and your design (meaning only one call to action is relevant) should be directed to trigger this user behavior. Avoid too many links and too much navigation, because these give users many reasons to avoid giving you the one thing you want.

“#73. You have to remove all the jargon in your speech. You need to explain in an easy way what you are doing if you want the user to stick.”

— Jen Grant, VP of Marketing at Box.

You lose somebody when there is no focus on your landing page. Highlight the problem in order to get the attention of your targeted users. If your product can be used in a variety of ways, you should display a lot of case studies on your homepage/landings. These are great elements to convert a visitor into a customer.

Julien Le Coupanec“ I like to use stories to seduce people. Do not overuse them, but put forth an effort on this point. This makes people share and write about you. ”

OUTSOURCING.

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“#74. Writing takes a lot of time; it may be helpful for certain businesses to delegate this task to a few content providers.”

— Sunil Rajaraman, CEO of Scripted.

Keep in mind that the business model of the company must be profitable enough to do something like this at scale. It is an expensive task, and the return on investment must come from the inbound that this will generate (make sure to assess this point beforehand). Otherwise, you will lose money; so do your math.

Julien Le Coupanec“ When there is an area that is not a core part of your business, you should delegate it. This will save you time and countless effort in the management strategy. For Zappos, customer support was and still is key; that’s why they have not delegated it. ‘Core’ refers to your main value proposition, the things that differentiate you from your competitors. ”

“#75. From the beginning, I had two virtual assistants (based in the Philippines) to assist me with all my mundane tasks.”

— John Lee Dumas, CEO of Entrepreneur On Fire.

Using freelancers is a shortcut to experiment and get results faster (understand: reach success sooner). Think about outsourcing and automation when you are executing something. Freelancers.com used freelancers at the beginning to build the platform. Outsourcing unlocks growth.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Thumbtack manages a dedicated team through Upwork in the Philippines to fulfill the supply side. ”

PRODUCT/MARKET FIT.

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“#76. Focus on building a must-have product for a segment of users that reflects a reasonable-sized market around which you can build a business. The world does not need another nice-to-have product.”

— Sean Ellis, CEO at Qualaroo.

You have to first validate that a problem is worth solving. Product/market fit is the single most important factor for sustainable growth and can be explained by three factors: Do they understand what you are doing/offering (value proposition)? Are they using it (do they need it and what is the frequency of use)? and Are they talking about it (referring their friends/co-workers)?

The last point must be considered with utmost interest: your referral rate is a relevant indicator to assess if your product is valuable or not. Word-of-mouth is a clear indicator of PMF. It’s a powerful channel that is mainly embedded in the product itself. It’s cliché, but you have to make the user’s life better. That’s the same with your customer support: if they keep asking questions, reporting bugs, and become angry when you are too slow, this indicates a product/market fit. Behind frustration, there is money.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Talk to prospective customers every day; early feedback drives product/market fit. For Vero, the first 12 months were about getting a product/market fit. They understood when they reached it by the way people started to fill requests on the support center: How can we do that? Can you fix it right now? This stuff is broken, etc. As I said, an active customer support and customers’ questions are a good indicators for assessing a product/market fit. Another story I like is that Slack’s founder gave up his video game project twice to focus on what people wanted (Flickr and then Slack). ”

“#77. Be careful, it is really easy to waste money when you haven’t reached product/market fit. You can acquire as many users as you want with distribution hacking, but if they are not sticking around for very long, you are losing money.”

— Matthew Berman, Distribution Hacker at 500 Startups.

You have to bring your customers to an evangelist state (or at least some). Make them see the value so they become your advocates. If there is no product/market fit, don’t focus on growth yet. You need traction. If you talk to 40 people and they all pay before launch, that’s customer validation. It’s the highest form of traction you can have. Don’t be afraid to talk about price early on when you can.

Julien Le Coupanec“ When there is an area that is not a core part of your business, you should delegate it. This will save you time and countless effort in the management strategy. For Zappos, customer support was and still is key; that’s why they have not delegated it. ‘Core’ refers to your main value proposition, the things that differentiate you from your competitors. ”

“#78. In the early days, there was a lot of hustle to sustainably grow the user base. You can’t ignore that aspect of behaving like a hustler. You have to do things that don’t scale and focus on long-term relationships.”

— Arjun Dev Arora, Co-Founder at Immediately.

Focus on what you are doing and avoid distractions. You should not scale your business until you really know what you are doing.The most important KPIs are connecting people to that must-have experience and stripping away all friction. Because, in a certain way, how you onboard your users and deliver on your promise are deeply connected to PMF.

Fact: The first six months after product/market fit matter the most for a company’s growth. It will not be long before you start to get a lot of copycats and it becomes a race against time. Winners take all, and the aim of a startup is to create a monopoly.


PSYCHOLOGY & LANGAGE.

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“#79. Understand your users’ psychology by looking at your heatmap and by watching their screen recordings.”

— Gregory Ciotti, Marketing at Help Scout.

If you are looking for the best tool to record the screen of your users, take a look at Hotjar. It is by far the most affordable solution on the market. You will be able to create funnels (see #22) but also heatmaps and surveys. For people building a single-page application with Angular, it won’t work. The alternative is to set up Inspectlet. In my opinion, this type of technology is the best way to come up with growth experimental ideas.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Create urgency to entice people to take action. Humans value anything that they believe to be scarce. Scarcity doesn’t have to be authentic. For example, you could define a limit to the number of invites someone can send out every week. It has been found, however, that if one overuses this technique, it can harm their brand. But it can work if used sparingly. ”

“#80. The copy is what turns browsers into buyers. The copy is your salesperson.”

— Joanna Wiebe, Creator of Copy Hackers.

Headlines and subheadlines are among the most important part of your page. Spend time to split test your value proposition. You have to make everything clear about what you are offering. If you are wondering what the difference is between a headline and a subheadline, just keep in mind that the subheadline does the job of saying what your headline should have said about the main thing you do. Do not hesitate to repeat yourself.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Today, long copy tends to make you more money than do short ones. When you are selling something that seems too good to be true (or is very expensive), long copies make a lot of sense (as they answer objections in a better way). From this standpoint, references and social proof are no-brainers. ”

“#81. Support your assumptions or arguments with stories. If you’re asking someone to do something, you have a 50% chance they’ll do it, and a 50% chance they’ll try to tell you that you’re wrong. It’s so much more powerful to come with a story and show the lesson about the failure or the success to convince people to take action. People respond far better to stories.”

— Brad Feld, Managing Director at Foundry Group.

Marketing is fundamentally about people, and people act on emotions. Your job as a marketer is to make any kind of marketing website that will get people excited about your products. Give them the coolest things and then let them dive deeper. And for that, what is better than starting with a story?

Look at reality; most people are bored. If you can find a situation that entertains them (while keeping credibility), go for it and make them relate to it. That is not only the job of Hollywood; it can be yours, too.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Focus on the psychology of the user. Behind every interesting consumer Internet company is a powerful insight about human psychology. Facebook (see me perform), SnapChat (I’m sick of performing), Tickle (tell me about me), Dragons of Atlantis (build and conquest), Etsy (I’m unique). What is it to the user? That’s why language is so important. ”

REFERRAL & VIRALITY.

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“#82. Sometimes, you should not open your affiliate program (CPA) to everyone; but instead, to a few targeted quality companies you can build a partnership with.”

— Ilya Lichtenstein, CEO at MixRank.

Building a referral program too soon is a common mistake startups make. If you do not have any retention, how can you expect people to share? On the contrary, if they are using your product, the best strategy is to find a pattern highlighting why people are sending out your invites (usually, 80% will come from less than 20% of your users). Make the ask prominent and start simple (invite only one person). You can also show in an indirect fashion that everyone is doing it.

Julien Le Coupanec“ The first time WPEngine launched their affiliate program, it didn’t work. But one year later, they had another reason to restart the machine (a customer asked them). This time, they got results. You must keep in mind that an affiliate program usually does not work from day one. It’s a long-run thing. ”

“#83. It is all about the buyer experience.”

— Justin Winter, Co-Founder at Diamond Candles.

Look at how Diamond Candles grew on the back of YouTube and how customers recorded themselves unboxing the candles (some videos have more than 100k views). That is powerful indirect advertising (an interaction made by their own early-adopters). To keep the story short, Facebook was the platform to make the product viral and was integrated from day one. They encouraged customers to take a picture and share the ring experience they just lived with their friends and the community.This was a great way to convert people to take the leap and purchase the product (premarketing).

Remember, a viral loop starts from the product itself. Diamond Candle started with a K-factor superior from day one (they conducted some surveys to measure their K-factor, but that’s anecdotic, as it is really difficult to measure word-of-mouth). A referral program is plan B if you can’t get to plan A, which is create a product that is inherently viral.

“#84. What is interesting is that the schemes that went viral in the past seem to go viral again in the future.”

— James Currier, Managing Partner at NFX Guild.

Learn from things that already went viral and use them for your own purposes. People like quizzes, photos, and scandals. The human behavior remains the same. Of course, viral is sort of free growth (virality is just another acquisition channel), but do not get misleaded. The other half of growth is buying traffic and learning how to do that. The only thing is to make sure that the invite is of the highest quality. A few months ago, I have seen a website gain tremendous traffic by letting people create/simulate a wikipedia page about themselves and share it on social networks. That stuff went viral on Facebook (my timeline got spammed).

“#85. If you can get your K-factor to be greater than one in the first seven days, then you have a lot of probabilities to be viral.”

— Greg Tseng, CEO at if(we).

In viral marketing, the K-factor can be used to describe the growth rate of websites or apps. The formula is roughly as follows: k = i * c (i= number of invites sent by each customer ; c= percent conversion of each invite). This usage is borrowed from the medical field of epidemiology, in which a virus having a K-factor of one is in a “steady” state of neither growth nor decline; while a K-factor greater than one indicates exponential growth; and a K-factor less than one indicates exponential decline.

K-Factor = %activation x %share x %influenced download.

The more your product is about people connecting with other people, the more chances you have to make it go viral. It must be deeply embedded into the ADN of the product itself. Email reminders to make people complete an action is one of the tools to accelerate your K-factor. I remember one of the employees of Box saying, “What we could have done better at Box is make our customers talk a little more about us by giving them reasons to blog or tweet. It’s more believable when customers are telling the story.”

Julien Le Coupanec“ On Airbnb, referred users perform better than average users and they send even more invites. You referral reward must be meaningful enough to be worth the effort, but shouldn’t be so large as to encourage the user to do it multiple times. ”

“#86. Widgets are a great way to go viral when they are smart and have a valid reason to be used.”

— Greg Tseng, CEO at if(we).

If you studied the story about YouTube, you might know that a lot of their growth was on the back of MySpace. By making it so easy to embed a video, it gave them a lot of exposition on the web. Mixpanel also got a lot of visibility with their badge. It is one of their most successful growth experiments.

“#87. The best way to get someone to share your product is not to beg him but to make him becoming a creator. That is simple, it becomes a part of you.”

— Sangeet Choudary, Founder at Platformed.

Shared folders and files drove a ton of new users to Dropbox. If you can remember, you probably discovered it that way. That is why you have to find the growth vector for your business and optimize it obsessively (when doubling down at the same time). Of course, an obvious reason why Dropbox grew so fast is because the product is free. While it is difficult to convert a user to a paid customer with freemium models (just make sure to evaluate the pain you feel will be involved in making the decision to upgrade), this remains one of the best ways to grow an awesome product.

“#88. Engagement trumps virality.”

— Nir Eyal, Consultant.

Many startups focus too much on acquisition, and obtain users just to see them disappear later. What you have to do is focus on user behavior (analyze what is happening inside your product with Mixpanel and Hotjar). For the hundredth time, virality without engagement means nothing. 🙂

“#89. Word-of-mouth is a direct result of user experience.”

— Eric Vishria, General Partner at Benchmark.

Good products should always be able to grow via word-of-mouth. This means that it is a good enough product, that it fulfills a true need and thus, people are willing to talk about it. It is the result of a great product and is what you are shooting for. Most companies grow through word-of-mouth, and it is easier to have your customers grow your product for you.

Julien Le Coupanec“ You have to escort the sharing experience. It’s a full funnel by itself; don’t ask for the share, escort to the share. ”

RETENTION & ENGAGEMENT

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“#90. It is easier to build on a strength than it is to improve a weakness.”

— Elliot Shmukler, VP, Product and Growth at Wealthfront.

It is very hard to change people’s behavior, to convince them to do something they are not currently doing or do not want to do. Find users’ behaviors on your site that users are already taking and make them easier and better (that’s going to be less hard than trying to change their behavior). It is easier to get an active user to do a lot more than it is to get an inactive user to do anything. That is why retargeting is so powerful.

Julien Le Coupanec“ To increase engagement, educate your users and make them get the service in their workflow as quickly as possible. Onboarding can drastically increase stickiness. ”

“#91. Try to ask your users to do the easiest things first.”

— Jamie Quint, Co-Founder at Interstate Analytics.

Your job as a growth hacker is to facilitate and remind the users to complete their actions. By helping their users to find pins they love with relevant recommendations, Pinterest significantly increased engagement. Notification (especially emails) were also a retention weapon. Reduce the friction or you might die slowly.

Julien Le Coupanec“ For B2C products, engagement often performs at night, after the workday, and less during the day. ”

“#92. There is one side effect of a habit: when not doing the behavior causes a little bit of pain.”

— Nir Eyal, Consultant.

The best way to create a habit is to understand what internal trigger you are attaching to. But if your product does not require a habit, you do not need a hook. Studies have shown that only products that are used once a week or more have any chance of becoming habit-forming. Without frequency, it will be much harder to make people remember you.

Julien Le Coupanec“ When you get stickiness, it is a strong indicator of success. People bid with their time or their money. ”

REVENUE.

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“#93. When we started charging, we actually got more users. Businesses feel better if you are charging for the product because they know you’re going to be around; they know there is going to be some support.”

— Chris Keller, Founder at FollowUp.

Make sure that the price is meaningful to your customers according to the value it provides (emphasize your product expectations and educate your visitors about the benefits) and test different pricing (your data will always talk for itself). Do you know what is usually the best thing to do to increase your outcome between cutting costs, raising prices, or growing the sales volume? Raising prices, most of the time. IDoneThis priced the product at $3 per user, based on guts; then to $5. People were willing to pay that amount, so they kept it at $5 (data were telling them that it was okay).

It is human nature to undervalue the price of your own service or product. Double the price for new visitors and try to measure what happens (A/B testing for pricing).

Julien Le Coupanec“ You know that you’ve found the perfect price when people complain about it but still pay for it. Someone told me once that whatever the highest number is that you can ask for with a straight face, that’s what you should ask for to start negotiation. ”

“#94. I had an app that customers bought and installed on their server. It was my first large success and brought in multiple thousands per month of revenue. But the thing with non-SaaS application is that there is no recurring revenue.”

— Rob Walling, Founder at Drip.

While many businesses can’t base their business model on subscription pricing, I found this argument smart enough to list it here. It can sometimes be hard to grow without subscription, but if you have this type of service, you have to justify that everyday.

“#95. I’ve seen people who buy things on a company credit card who are willing to pay $600 a month because it doesn’t imply additional paperwork. They would rather do that than pay $100 for an annual discount, because that $100 would require that additional paperwork.”

— Lincoln Murphy, Founder at Sixteen Venture.

When you get your users to pay for the first time (and get the most of your value proposition), it becomes easier to make them pay even more later. That is why you have to make sure that your pages are loading fast because it has a huge impact on your revenues.

Julien Le Coupanec“ We are really used to that pricing model with three columns, so if you’re going to come up with something different, it better be really clear. ”

“#96. If you don’t have a lifetime value big enough, don’t waste your time with paid acquisition channels.”

— Arjun Dev Arora, Co-Founder at Immediately.

Retention is what makes your LTV (lifetime value) go up and it enables you to get leverage in order to try many other things.

Julien Le Coupanec“ It is often not a good idea to publish your pricing during beta, due to the feedback you’ll get during that time. Besides, keep in mind that pricing is a continuously evolving thing. There is a big difference between giving away free stuff to someone who would have given you his money anyway, and erratically changing the behavior of this user to get and sustain his engagement. ”

SALES.

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“#97. In most B2B companies that are growing fast, there is usually a sales force behind it.”

— Steli Efti, Co-founder of Close.

Don’t underestimate direct sales: Groupon had more than 3,000 salespeople. They growth hacked how to get a lot of people by making hundreds of phone calls to small companies every day. That is exactly how they got the deals, because at the essence of business, all you do in sales is look at how to generate leads (like who your customer is and how you can get people like that). That is the core idea, and once you know that, you just need to figure out how to effectively communicate with them and convert them into customers.

Sales must become a machine, but not necessarily on day one. You need to admit that it is going to be a constantly evolving system and you want to start as simply as possible to improve every cog as you grow. Either way, if you do not ask, you will not receive. It does not matter if you get a no, as you will be at the same position as you were three minutes ago. What kills startups is the uncertainty, meaning not getting a yes or no.

“#98. A major missed opportunity in B2B is applying consumer growth hacking tricks to B2B products.”

— Troy Henikoff, Managing Director at Techstars.

Once you close a deal with a customer, it’s what you do to keep earning that trust, staying in touch, continuing to demonstrate value, and reminding them that you are still there that become key. There are a lot of B2C tactics you may want/need to use.

Julien Le Coupanec“ For SurePayroll, we totally trashed the direct marketing and went to direct sales. That is a huge change on how we typically operated the business, what kind of people we were trying to hire, and how we were going to market. But at the end of the day, while direct sales is harder (it requires a lot more people, a lot of heavy lifting), it was very repeatable and predictable. ”

TESTING.

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“#99. If you are running A/B tests, be sure to test forests first (big ideas), then trees (different strategies with landings), branches (headlines), and finally leaves (color of buttons).”

— Michia Rohrssen, CEO at Prodigy.

Create a positive culture around A/B testing. Embrace the “I don’t know and I must find out through data, especially if this test is important” spirit. Make sure you are looking at the right metric. Don’t run A/B tests if you do not have at least a few hundred users (and a lot more if effect sizes are likely to be small). If possible, when you are releasing a new feature, roll out to a small test subset first to assess the effects.

Julien Le Coupanec“ Optimize for one metric, but look at the effects on others (have a holistic approach). Most of the time, you are optimizing against quality over quantity. With hundreds of A/B tests, Duolingo increased one-day retention twofold and ran more than ten A/B tests concurrently. ”

“#100. Build an awesome feature before A/B testing. There is a time for micro optimizations.”

— Ankur Nagpal, CEO at Teachable.

It becomes easier over time to run split tests as you get more volume. The easiest things to optimize (and maybe the most important thing sometimes) are your headlines. But as you dig deeper little by little, you always have to question the ROI of pursuing A/B testing vs the ROI of building your product, writing a popular blog post, trying to interact with the right salespeople, or speak at a conference. There is always an opportunity cost to keep in mind, as every decision comes with a compromise. Anybody can run A/B tests, it is not a difficult thing (especially with optimizely). What is hard, though, is coming up with a great A and a good B.


MY LAST ADVICE.

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“#101. Be transparent. Paying forward can make you go a long way.”

— Julien Le Coupanec, Growth Hacker at TheFamily.

When I stumble upon someone who seems very smart, I always ask the same question to get valuable information: “What would you say to yourself 20 years ago?” Today, if someone would ask me the same thing, I would answer by what is written three lines above. Being transparent brings legitimacy and it always pays off in the long run (that is how I got my two last jobs and met plenty of great people). Sharing is the most powerful thing to increase your value and attract allies (smarter than you) to learn from. I believe in the adage: “you are a combination of the 5 persons you hang out the most with”. The stronger your team is, the stronger you will become. And if you have not noticed it yet, it’s a war out there… #stormtrooper

If you want to be notified about my next essay, you can subscribe to my newsletter below (or simply like hackisition on Facebook). If you liked these 100 golden nuggets, feel free to share the article on social networks (always ask for the share #82). 🙂

Julien Le Coupanec“ If you want more details about one of these aspects, drop me a line on Twitter or on Facebook. Let’s talk about growth. ”

23 y/o College Dropout. Growth Hacker at TheFamily. Video Editor at Growth Hacker TV.

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