I hang out with startup founders a lot.
Usually, we talk about their frustrations of getting traction (customer and sales); around growing traffic and sales numbers; attracting HIGH-VALUE ENTERPRISE CLIENTS, and growth hacking experiments.
Recently, one of such conversations was on Google Hangout with a startup founders who was lamenting to me about his frustrations (a software company in its first year)
He knew that no matter how good your idea is, you must ensure you penetrate your target market to earn their money; so he was desperately looking for the best way to optimize their marketing for immediate growth. He contacted me because he knew they have a great product and they REALLY want to put together a proven growth hacking strategy without breaking the bank.
Actually, his startup was at a stage where you have to move from idea to productive marketing model in order to attract enough funding and customers to stay in business.
As we all know that a lot of VCs, accelerators and angel investors are in the space and if you want some investment or just want to grow your market leadership, this is the best time to impress with:
- Proven numbers
- Sales figure
- Scalable business model
This is a difficult phase of the startup life. And your inability to produce impressive results at this phase is one reason your startup could shut down. And who is not concerned about their startups shutting down ?
The truth is:
Smart startups are overcoming this difficult phase of startup growth. One of them is VoguePay; a startup that bootstrapped its way to over 10,000 merchants within 10 months and had transaction volume hitting 100s of millions of Naira. This growth resulted to a round of investment at a good valuation. Right now the startup is ‘profitable’ within 3 years.
This result is also typical with other high flier startups. For example PushCV recently became the most visited Job website in Africa within 3 months of aggressive growth marketing. For them, this resulted to brand exposure, strong customer base, product validation and revenue generation. Right now, I believe the founders, (In their twenties) are smiling around town and on call to however wishes to be “schooled” in the highly effective startup growth hacking system. And you can add other big hitters like Hotels.NG, IrokoTV, Jumia, Konga and Paga.
These startups between them are worth several billions of Naira in revenue and customer value. And they are ALL less than 5 years in operations….the critical growth stage years you should capitalize on to grow your startup in order to capitalize on market opportunities.
If other startups can do it; so can you. And you should aim for it BIG TIME.
Why startups fail and shut down…
There are several reasons your startup growth may stall and eventually shut down. One of the many reasons is your startup growth marketing plan.
When it comes to startup growth marketing, most entrepreneurs make the same critical mistakes. They know they need to do something, so they try everything
This is what I call marketing tactical hell.
It looks like this…
Let me give some examples,
Example Mistake #1: Aimlessly growing Facebook fans.
Take for example, the assumption around social media marketing. How often have you been asked series of question bothering about your Facebook presence?
“Are you on Facebook….how many fans do you have….how often do you post”
I recently got a call from an online startup who was asking for help to grow their Facebook page to 50,000 fans. While this is ambitious, it hardly counts as money in the bank…which is what you need. After all, what is the point when there is no ROI from such social media presence?
Does this imply Facebook Strategy will NEVER work? NO – but there is more to this.
Example Mistake #2: Hit or Miss Expensive marketing tactics
Nowadays, there are so many expensive marketing “fads” in town.
One of them is renting Email List and sending unsolicited emails to promote your offers. The danger of this kind of marketing is that it negatively affects your brand. There are other assumptions like vaguely investing in design. Eventually, the numbers don’t add up and efforts are wasted.
So you see,
Many startups do a lot of random marketing tactics looking for what will stick. They believe there is no clear path to getting their startup to scale. In fact, I was guilty of this myself.
I used to think that the growth results of high flier startups, (like the ones I mentioned above), is as a result of series of uncoordinated marketing fads and big budget spending. I held several unhealthy assumptions about startup growth marketing.
I discovered that it is possible to increase sales and customers in a measurable way by adapting a series of well-documented scalable growth hacking experiments based on customer insight combined with product, marketing, sales, and technology and analytics expertise.
- As a self-funded startup in 2012, VoguePay enjoyed rapid user adoption by providing free online payment integration. It also developed several developer tools for its community of users. Less than 1 year post launch, it was hitting 10,000 users. This is a major product and marketing growth hack. [You can read more about their success story here]
- Another example of growth hacking is the recent growth of PushCV; an online job portal. They launched Elite Employee Quest programme, hacked PR; built a rabid word-of-mouth campaign to skyrocket their growth as a leader in the job space in less than a year.
- IrokoTV is another example of how growth hacking works. It shows how a simple idea can grow despite competitions to a thriving business in 3 years. It growth hacked its way from a YouTube platform to massive distribution channels including in-flight, linear TV and mobile channels
However, it is NOT enough to know the above concept. You need to figure out HOW to increase traffic and revenue using this key knowledge. Here are three steps you should follow
STEP 1: Generate Growth Ideas
The most difficult part of this process is generating growth ideas. You see, there is a very helpful resource to jumpstart you with over 200 growth marketing ideas. It is written by Robert Coorey. You should invest time to adapt his strategies to your startup.
STEP 2: Evaluate your growth ideas.
At this stage, you will evaluate each idea you generated at the first stage using three criteria (knowledge of your product, audience and resource to implement).
You want to screen them using the expected level of impact on your business to prioritize implementation.
You can use this as a guide
STEP 3: Test and evaluate your growth ideas
- Based on the priority that you have determined, you can pick one of the ideas in step 2 and do a micro-test see how it goes.
- Critically evaluate the performance of this idea on your business until you establish it has a growth potential
- Rinse and repeat the process with other ideas
I’d like to challenge you to generate at least 10 growth ideas for your business.
Will you do it?