10 Must-Try Startup Growth Hacks for 2015

Rebecca Churt by

It’s almost strange to think back to a time when “growth hacking” wasn’t a ubiquitous part of the startup lexicon. The term has firmly taken root and spread like a weed. In the process, it’s been heavily appropriated, applied to anything and everything — from truly groundbreaking new marketing techniques to old, time-tested best practices and simple trial and error.

It can be difficult now to look beyond all the hype and buzz, but really what lies at the heart of growth hacking is an emphasis on developing fully integrated, systematic approaches to customer acquisition and retention that inform and are informed by smart decision making. “Ultimately, growth hacking isn’t really a groundbreaking new marketing or product development theory,” says Growth Hacker TV co-founder Bronson Taylor. “It’s just a mixture of common sense, creativity, and top-to-bottom integration.”

Below are 10 examples of tactics that fit that bill, provided by some of the best growth hackers in the biz.

10) Remove Friction

Blake Bartlett, Principal at OpenView Venture Partners

Turning your homepage into a stripped-down sign-up form is a bold move. It’s also a brilliant one.

OpenView’s Blake Bartlett explains how reducing “time to value” is one growth strategy that all startups need to embrace. The faster you can get a user into your product, the faster they can start to see value. Optimizely, for example, built their lead generation machine on this principle by focusing their homepage on just one call to action: enter your website. Three clicks later, you are using their product and being marketed to. See more examples of how to remove friction here.

9) Use Social Proof to Increase Conversions

Rebecca Churt, Growth Strategist at OpenView Venture Partners

Using quotes and testimonials as “social proof” is a form of copywriting that will help you activate visitors.

Do you ever notice how many landing pages or home pages have quotes from customers? They’re popular for a reason — they work! It’s a great idea to incorporate testimonials within your product trial as well, because, let’s face it, we all need validation and confirmation to help us make big decisions. If it feels like everyone else is using a product, you’ll feel better using it, too.

8) Add Personality to Your Content

Lara Hendrickson, Director of Marketing at People Pattern

‘Smartest guy in the room’ certainly has its place, but it’s okay to mingle that with your own voice and personality.

“For so long in my career, I worried about publishing only the hardest-hitting blog posts, the smartest-sounding white papers, the most thought-provoking emails,” Hendrickson says. “And it was debilitating, and not always scalable in an inbound heavy model.”

Trying to hit it out of the park every time with your content can make your life as a marketer extremely difficult and stressful. That’s not to say you shouldn’t invest the time and resources into creating in-depth, top-notch content, but you should also supplement it with shorter, lighter posts and pieces that allow you to make positive touches on a more consistent and sustainable basis. “Interestingly enough,” says Hendrickson, “I found time and again that when I inserted my personality into my content, or even just wrote a lighthearted blog post, people responded favorably. Behind every business is a consumer, and most consumers won’t run from a voice they can relate with.”

7) Repurpose and Recycle Your Content

Doug Kern, Head of Marketing at nFusion

My favorite lead-gen hack is something I call “the Great Recycling Play”

“Start with a meaty piece of top-of-funnel content, like a webinar,” Kern explains, “Then recycle the content in large and small chunks to fuel your inbound marketing. Place the webinar replay video and slide deck on a landing page. Upload the slides to Slideshare. Convert the webinar audio into an mp3 and have it transcribed, then repurpose various parts into a white paper, a blog post, LinkedIn post, contributed article, etc.”

“As with any hack like this,” Kern reminds, “You’ll want to take advantage of marketing automation platforms to test performance and trigger immediate, personalized responses to optimize your lead generation program. Happy recycling!”

6) Get a Longer Shelf-Life from Blog Posts

Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

If you’re an active blogger with a strong editorial calendar, you can write blog posts, white papers, and eBooks all at the same time.

“For example, write 12-15 blog posts on a particular topic and keep them on your site for free,” Heinz says. “They drive traffic and visitor engagement. Put them together into a PDF and you have a registration-required best practice guide. Put a year’s worth of content like this together and you’ve got a pretty meaty eBook. Or a paperback book by using LuLu.com to self-publish.”

5) Use Multi-Touch Campaigns

Cece Bazar, Sales Strategist at OpenView Venture Partners

Compelling marketing campaigns don’t follow the “one-and-done” approach.

A lead needs to be touched several times in order for genuine interest to emerge, Bazar says. These multi-touch campaigns, wherein leads are directed through several different channels — each personalized in an attractive manner — engage leads not only through the message, but the process itself. Ex: Send out a mailing that brings your lead to a custom URL, which, in turn, brings them to attractive offers crafted specifically via your understanding of the target persona.

4) Try Event Promotion with PPC

Kate Morris, Director of Client Strategies for Outspoken Media

Get in front of prospects by piggybacking off the biggest events in your space.

Morris advises companies to purchase PPC advertising around the name of a big industry event that they can run both during the build up (1-3 weeks out) and during the event, itself. “It’s a great way to get your brand and products in front of people looking for the event information,” Morris says. “This works great for industry conferences for B2B companies, as well.”

3) Get User Feedback Early and Often

Andy Nelson, Director of Growth Marketing at Moz

It’s easy to get caught up in analytics and algorithms, but we should also remember we’re marketing to real people and take every opportunity to gather their feedback.

How? “Run surveys on your site that help you identify customer experience issues and inform your CRO strategy,” Nelson suggests. “Get feedback on major design/UX changes on sites like UserTesting.com to help maximize your testing efforts. Use a customer experience tool like ClickTale to see how people actually interact with your site.”

2) Replace Your Newsletter

Ellie Mirman, Director of Marketing, Inbound Lead Generation & Nurturing at HubSpot

Replace your monthly newsletter with a focused email on a single, valuable offer.

“While you may think that a newsletter with many links to multiple pieces of content would garner more clicks, traffic, and leads, a dedicated email around an individual call to action is often more effective,” Mirman says. “It allows you to more clearly communicate value across the subject line and email copy and streamline the path to what you ultimately want your recipients to do (click, download, convert, etc.).”

1) If They Cancel, Ask Why

Joanna Lord, VP Marketing at Porch

Users who cancelled have a wealth of knowledge that can help steer your product and engineering efforts.

“While most companies have a survey on their cancellation page, don’t forget that you can also email past customers and request more feedback,” Lord says. “In addition to getting valuable feedback, you’ll be reminding them that you do genuinely care about them. Keep your surveys short and to the point, and thank them for their time. You will add another touch point to their lifecycle and leave a good last impression. You’d be surprised how valuable that is when they reconsider your service or product down the road.”

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Feature image courtesy of Viktor Hanacek via Pic jumbo

  • jmctigue

    Great stuff Rebecca and contributors! I’ll add another one that’s particularly useful for SaaS startups. Make sure you monitor free trial users’ activity during the trial. Are they using the software? Are they stuck somewhere? Reach out to them with personalized emails when they trigger these events, for example, not logging in the next day or 3 days after sign up. Be gentle. You want to be helpful, not pushy.

  • The article is good, because these 10 advices are right. They are good business advices.

    Are they really “hacking”? Something with explosive effect? Something what is difficult for usual businessman to think out?
    Like for example drip email campaign idea from previous comment.

    This is terminological question. Thank you for posting. Happy New Year!

  • Joe Lemay

    I appreciate that these are not cheap “hacks” but more on the side of useful practices. My favorite growth tactics create real value + an enjoyable experience. I always look forward to the next blog entries of Sidekick (Hubspot), GrooveHQ, BufferApp, InvisionApp, …

  • Thanks Rebecca for the article. The number 2, replacing the newsletter with personalised emails works really well. Thanks for highlighting in the post.

  • Brandon Adams

    This was a great read! Thank you! I will definitely be implementing these for our start up called <remesh!