You don’t need dedicated resources or a team of engineers to execute growth hacks. Here are 5 you can implement on your own.
I had been emailing back and forth with a reader.
He asked me for advice about getting traffic, and I suggested he start a blog to attract readers.
His immediate reaction was an excuse:
On the one hand, this is a clear example of “but I…” syndrome: a condition that I—and so many of us—suffer from, that sometimes causes our first reaction to a piece of advice to be thinking about all of the reasons why we can’t do something, rather than thinking about the ways we can.
On the other, it’s a fair question.
It’s easy to look at other companies with full-time “growth hackers” and engineering teams focused on implementing marketing efforts, and to think, “I can’t do that right now.”
And the truth is, no, you can’t do exactly what those companies are doing right now.
But there are SO many growth hacks that can grow your business that don’t require a developer or designer to lay a finger on.
In our early days, we were tight on development resources (like a lot of startups), so I tried a lot of non-technical growth experiments to increase our reach without technical help.
Of those efforts, there were five that showed an immediate positive impact on our results.
If you need to grow—but are short on development and design resources—here are five growth hacks you can try right now:
1) An insight-collection welcome email
Whenever I sign up for a new product or service, I get an email welcoming me.
Sadly, most of these welcome emails—especially those with nothing more than a short “subscription confirmed” message—miss a huge opportunity.
If you’re going to have someone’s attention anyway, why not do something valuable with it? For both you and them?
One of the biggest onboarding wins came when we tested a welcome email that accomplished three things:
- A warm, personal welcome from me.
- A heads up to set expectations about what they can expect in the days and weeks ahead
- A simple question: “Why did you sign up for Groove?”
The responses to this email were tremendously valuable to our growth efforts.
We learned exactly the kinds of emotions and pain points people were experiencing when they decided to try Groove, and the triggers that made them click “sign up.”
That’s the kind of language that we’ve put directly into our marketing site and email copy—that speaks directly to prospects in their own words and that connects with them in a way that copy written based on assumptions never will.
How to implement this without an engineer: Simply set it up as the confirmation email in your email software or CRM. If you don’t have any software to email customers set up yet, then simply save the email and send it by hand whenever a new customer signs up.
Building our email list was one of the key initiatives we had when we started getting serious about marketing.
And one of the most successful growth hacks we used to collect emails was a series of book giveaways on our blog.
These were hugely successful for us when it came to collecting new email subscribers. It also created a surge of traffic through Tweets and Facebook shares, and it really helped establish Groove as a resource for entrepreneurs.
Giveaways don’t have to be expensive.
The 13 books cost us around $80 per set on Amazon, and our first giveaway generated almost 1,500 new subscribers at an amazing 9.8% conversion rate from the people who visited the post while the contest was running.
I’ve also seen successful giveaways for prizes that cost the contest promoter nothing but time, including one-on-one consulting and free design services (from a designer).
You can do giveaways to get email signups, get people to share your name on social media, have people sign up to try your product and more.
It might seem obvious, but far too many overlook the power of blogging because they imagine technical hurdles that really don’t exist.
The fact is, to get started with blogging, you don’t need a developer at all. On day one, you can start with no technical aptitude at all.
It’s even easier today than it was when we started, because the free publishing platforms on both LinkedIn and Medium are much better than they were even just a few years ago.
You can start in minutes on either of those—or you can do what so many have done over the years: set up a free WordPress account and start publishing there.
Our blog has become the single biggest driver of growth for our business, and anyone can replicate those results with the right process.
How to go from nothing to a successful blog
- Figure out what your audience’s burning pains are. Talk to them. Do keyword research. Send out surveys.
- Write content that solves those pains. This is the part that comes least naturally for most people (myself included), but you’re more prepared to do this than you think. Just start. Seriously. Research your posts, use compelling images, tell stories.
- Drive traffic and build an audience of people who want to hear from you. This is the most time-consuming part, but it’s really, really straightforward. Get influencers on your side, write guest blog posts and collect email addresses using any number of free tools out there that don’t require a developer to set things up.
- Repeat. Do this over and over and over again, and if your product is good enough, you will get customers. Guaranteed.
How to implement this without an engineer: Sign up for a free WordPress blog. It’s ridiculously easy to set up, has plugins for all email software that require zero technical knowledge to set up, and you can always switch to something more complex when you can justify the cost and developer time. Or you can start publishing on LinkedIn or Medium in just minutes.
What do you do with all of those new email subscribers?
If you’re like most bloggers, nothing. You’ll send them updates when you publish new posts, and nothing more.
But you’re not like most bloggers. You’re going to use your blog to grow your business. And that’s where your autoresponder comes in.
Every major email marketing software has the functionality to set up an autoresponder: a series of automated emails that gets sent to every new subscriber.
We spent a lot of time testing and optimizing our autoresponder, and what we found is that the best-performing ones:
- Tell the customer what to expect from us in their inbox.
- Deliver high-value content that solves problems for the subscriber.
- Finish with a strong call to action to sign up for your product.
Here’s an example of the sequence we used for many years.
After implementing it, for new blog subscribers, our 30-day subscriber retention jumped by more than 25%.
And the final email consistently brought in dozens of new trial users each month.
How to implement this without an engineer: Write the emails in a Google Doc, and set it up in your email marketing tool of choice.
5) Talk to your customers
This one is so simple. And yet I’m shocked by how many founders or growth leaders never, ever talk to a customer or prospect.
I spend hundreds of hours every year simply talking and listening to customers (or companies we hope will become our customers).
It is always, always, among the most highly productive hours I spend every year on growth.
How do I line up interviews with customers?
About once a year, I send every customer an email that looks like this:
And in the ensuing conversations, I learn things that propel our growth forward. For example, I’ve learned:
- Where our onboarding needed improvement to increase retention (and exactly how to improve it)
- The things that were keeping some customers from adding more agents and spending more money (and how to remove those barriers)
- The exact personas of our customer base (and how to best market to each one)
And much, much more.
If you haven’t tried a full-scale customer development effort yet, do it. Trust me. You’ll find the insights you need to grow like never before.
You don’t need hackers to “hack” growth
In the early days of a business, everything is scarce, including everyone’s time. With every team member wearing multiple hats, people get stretched thin.
But not having developers at your disposal doesn’t give you an excuse not to implement tools and strategies to drive growth.
I hope that this post has given you at least a couple of ideas for tactics you can put into practice today.
Note: These growth hacks have been updated with new details and best practices from our experience.