Simple Growth Hacks for Entrepreneurs: 3-12 Months
Congratulations on a successful launch, my friend. It was a long time coming and it went off without a hitch. But... now what? Once the launch is over, the growth hacking doesn’t stop. Yesterday, we covered how to get your startup on the map during the launch phase. Today, we’re going to look at how to keep your startup on the map. Why settle for 15 minutes of fame, right? There’s a lot of work left to be done now that the launch has come and gone. Don’t worry, we have some simple growth hacks based on years of practical experience (from us and some of our friends, too). These are the tips and tricks you’ll need to maintain your momentum post-launch.
1. Focus on the conversion. Once you’re beyond the launch, your focus should shift from brand awareness to conversions. The best content marketers today are giving away their expertise for free (kind of). While they’re writing pages and pages of high quality, informative content, they’re also setting up strategic conversion funnels. Content is designed to build your reputation and get visitors to your site, but don’t forget about what comes next. Take the time to build a conversion funnel for your content. Setup a blog subscription CTA, setup a landing page for your new eBook, ask for an email in exchange for a webinar ticket - whatever. Just be sure you’re leaving the door open for future conversations (read Peep Laja’s ConversionXL for help).
2. Speak your potential customer’s language. Most people know who their audience is. They know where they’re from, how much money they make, how old they are, what they do for fun, etc. What most marketers neglect to explore is how their audience defines what they’re looking for. To you, it’s “free content marketing advice”. To your customers, it could be “inbound marketing resources”. Knowing exactly how your audience communicates the need that you fill is huge. It tells you how to speak to them (and the many others just like them). Learn to speak their language (it’s all about the details) and you’ll be rewarded (read Copy Hackers for help).
3. Repeatable, scalable content. Early stage startups want to be unique. They want to chase after 34 new and exciting ideas every day. You’ve heard it time and time again: entrepreneurs have trouble focusing and try to do too much. The same is true for content marketing. Dr. Pete from Moz suggests focusing on repeatable, scalable content. The key is finding a content formula that is repeatable without being repetitive. Take Moz’s Whiteboard Friday or Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen for example. They’re following a consistent formula every week, but it never feels overdone or boring. That’s the type of content that scales quickly, which is exactly what entrepreneurs need.
4. “Steal” ideas - often. Original ideas are overrated. There... I said it. If something works for someone else, steal it. Now, don’t go breaking any laws, but do let yourself be inspired by other people’s content. Don’t ignore the competition or the people who came before you. Watch what they’re doing, figure out what’s working best for them and iterate on it. Just add your own flair to it. Why suffer through months of trial and error when the results are all around you? Pay attention to what everyone else is doing. It won’t always be right for your brand and it may not work for everyone, but at least you’re making an educated guess instead of taking a shot in the dark.
5. Content without promotion is wasted energy. Creating content isn’t enough. It may have been enough years ago, but not anymore. The average person sifts through a ton of content each and every day - we’re experiencing content overload. You can’t sit around and simply hope that your content is read and shared by the right people. Instead, hit the “streets” and start promoting your content yourself. Submit it to social bookmarking sites, submit it to forums, share it with friends and colleagues, seed it to social media, let influencers know if they’ve been mentioned, etc. If you spend 2 hours writing a piece, spend 8 hours promoting it (yes, really).
1. Automate, automate, automate. Social media is time consuming. It’s always “on”. The lights don’t turn off at 5 p.m. and come back on at 9 a.m. If you let it, social media management can consume a huge part of your daily schedule. Instead, look for ways to automate the types of things you’d like to do. Use Buffer to schedule content at the right time, take advantage of IFTTT formulas, and use TribeBoost to get more quality followers. Just be sure you don’t go too far in this direction. You still need to be engaging; you can’t automate human interaction.
2. “Steal” existing communities. I’m not trying to turn you into a criminal, I swear. But here’s another valuable lesson in stealing. Building a community from the ground up is hard. It’s slow, frustrating and there’s very little ROI until you reach a certain point. Instead, insert yourself into existing communities. Attend a weekly Twitter chat in your industry, follow a community-run hashtag, or join a Facebook group. With a few key relationships built, you can lay the foundation for your own community.
3. It’s not a myth: develop a viral loop. Ah, the famous viral loop! I think “viral” has become a dirty word in inbound marketing, but it’s still extremely relevant. You can’t predict virality with 100% certainty (it’s a major red flag if someone is telling you otherwise), but you can definitely encourage it. Let’s say you’ve just released an eBook. Instead of asking for an email in exchange for the download, ask that they share the landing page link via social media. Frankly, it’s a smaller ask than an email address. And, more importantly, it allows for viral spread. Do the work upfront to get the eBook noticed by a few people who are influential on social media, and the viral loop will take it from there.
1. If it isn’t steady and rapid, it’s not growth. As far as I’m concerned, this is the golden rule of growth hacking. If your growth is inconsistent and slow, you’re missing out on major potential. Don’t get distracted by “get rich quick” schemes that will give you an unsustainable spike in traffic. And don’t invest time and energy into strategies that will benefit you slowly over time. Instead, focus on real growth. Steady and rapid growth is what gets you noticed by the media, by investors, by potential acquirers, by future employees, etc. Keep an eye on your growth metrics and make a change if you’re not seeing this.
2. Constant experimentation is key. Kyle Rush from Optimizely has spoken out about the need for constant experimentation. Once you’ve launched, it’s not time to rest. It’s time to double down on optimization. Check out Kyle’s MozCon 2014 deck for how-to content. You don’t need to have hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors to run experiments, despite popular belief. And, of course, nothing is ever perfect. A small change, like tweaking the headline copy, could make a big difference in terms of conversions. Don’t settle for “good enough”, experiment to find “as close to perfect as I’ve ever come”.
3. If you don’t watch it, it won’t grow. If you’re not focused on your core metrics, you’ll never achieve your goals. You have to be incredibly purposeful about growth. Metrics and goals that aren’t monitored regularly won’t move the way you want them to (up and to the right). Instead, they’ll fluctuate unpredictably and your growth will come to a screeching stop. Check in on your goals and metrics often. If you don’t, you won’t uncover problems until it’s too late and you won’t know what tactics are actually working for you.
1. Don’t stop engaging. If you’ve invested time and energy into making friends with journalists prior to launch, why wouldn’t you put effort into maintaining those relationships? “People have a tendency to think today's news is just tomorrow’s trash, but not now,” explained Brooke Hammerling of Brew Media Relations. “The Internet is forever and people have long memories.” Make sure those memories are positive and lasting. Stay in touch by engaging with them on Twitter, sharing their work, and reaching out occasionally to see if you can help with anything they’re working on. Maybe that means telling them about a friend’s company or a startup you admire. What goes around, comes around. I promise!
2. Celebrate milestones. Once the excitement of the launch has ended, a new phase begins. You’re now working towards key milestones that should be celebrated. Set internal goals based on what’s newsworthy and notable to you. How many signups or downloads do you want to achieve? How much funding are you looking to raise? Once you’ve identified your goals, celebrate them by sharing the news with journalists who’ve covered you in the past. Most of the time, they’ll be interested in a followup piece.
3. Be everywhere. Podcasts, webinars, conferences, awards. The world is your PR oyster. Are you comfortable with public speaking? Appear on podcasts or host / attend a webinar sharing your insights. Is networking more your thing? Book a trip to attend industry conferences that interest you. When it comes to awards, there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. Apply for all the awards, even those that seem out of reach.
4. Know that your customer successes are your successes. Want to know a secret? Getting a customer success story in the media is just as powerful as getting your own story in the media - if not more. And a happy customer is a customer who will tell a village. Gather all of the client data you can, pull it into a brief case study to make it actionable and pitch it to mainstream media outlets. You’ll be surprised how many outlets will pass on covering you, but jump at covering your customers and their successes. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: trust your gut and believe in yourself, your product, and your team. And hey, when your gut and a little trust isn’t enough, I hope these simple growth hacks will see you through.
Photo Credit: TobiasMik · WhatWeDo