The journey to your first customer is the hardest.

This is when no one believes in you (your product or services) and you are yet to be a household name.

Yet, you need fast results to prove that your ideas will work…….you have a low budget or you lack the patience to wait.

It could be as frustrating as this…..

 

frustration internet marketer

So, how do you turn around a situation like this in your favour?

First, let me share with you, how i was able to produce the kind of result you are aiming for right now as an online marketing consultant for VoguePay; an online payment company that just launched before I joined them.

Did we succeed?

 This is how the story began….

voguepay logo

In 2012, online payment was the new shinning word and many small businesses and eCommerce sites want to get in on it. The major viable option was InterSwitch, yet it was the most costly and frustrating.

That’s where VoguePay came in; it offered a completely free integration with transaction charges that most SMEs can afford. It was a breath of fresh air.

So, we could have thought it will be super easy to reach 100,000 users?

At least, it made a whole lot sense that our target customers, who are mostly small businesses (approximately 20 million in size) will notice that our payment solution will be saving them N150,000 in the process.

You thought they will run head over heels to our solution…?

No! That was not the case.

Being a better solution was not enough; VoguePay had to invest in a team that was fully responsible for its user growth .

And I am pleased that we ended up with 250% customer growth within 3 months.

Let me put this into perspective:

  • In 3 months, the company grew its registered users from 3,500 to over 8,000 customers’ accounts. That is a 250% customer growth!
  • The company saved its users (merchants) over N1 billion in integration cost (if, they had used InterSwitch)
  • The company became one of the most successful online payment platform in Nigeria, processing millions of naira in transaction volume
  • Much later, the company eventually got an angel investor and now has operations in UK.

Let’s look at the major lessons I learnt from the experience……

My goal is to share with you some of the growth hacks we used while also highlighting lessons every start-up founder must take serious about the marketing side of start-up customer growth strategy.

LESSON 1: IDENTIFY WHO AND WHAT IS AT THE HEART OF USER GROWTH IN YOUR COMPANY 

Who is in charge of customer growth? 

Your people, process and technology are important recipe to the growth of your start-up.

Part of your strategy is having the right combination of skills in your workforce. The engineers, developers and marketing team should work together with the CEO as the head of customer growth and product adoption.

At VoguePay, I reported directly to the CEO who shared his views with me on each project and milestones. This commitment from the leadership was fundamental to most of the successful execution of user growth and customer acquisition.

What do your measure?

A good measurement of growth starts with having key performance indicators, KPIs.

The first step to defining a good KPI for your own measurement is to understand the actions you expect your website visitors to perform…..the information you want them to see….and finally the impression/experience you want them to have on your website/app.

This required you to think deeply so that you can identify what is worth measuring that matters to your business success.

For instance, looking at Voguepay (an online payment service), what is worth measuring includes:

  • New account registrations.
  • Registered users who completed their merchant account registration form by downloading, filling and submitting the Merchant registration form (this requires high commitment from the user )
  • How many merchants have integrated the VoguePay Code on their website
  • Rate at which merchants withdraw money from their e-wallet to their bank account.
  • On the blog, we measure the comments, social sharing and how many conversions of new account signups are generated.

Break Your KPIs to Primary and Secondary

All KPIs are not the same.

After you have identified your KPI, you want to prioritize them based on how important they are to you.

For example, based on the above example, one of the most important KPI to VoguePay was the rate at which merchants withdraw money from their e-wallet to their bank accounts.  This is the point that VoguePay actually made money.

The take-away is that you need to learn how to track your revenue-driven activities so that you can better prepare your current website/app to support this activities and make improvements where necessary.

Measure Your Goals with Data

Google analytics is the first step to analyze and measure the actual performance of your website. Google Analytics is Free and you can take some tutorial here

Google Analytics

 

Unfortunately, many start-ups are carried away by vanity metrics like page views and Alexa rankings. Though this might be important for “bragging rights”, the real result is to set up meaningful expectations of growth and measure it.

LESSON 2: HAVE A CONVERSION CENTERED WEBSITE DESIGN

A conversion centered website ensures your website converts visitors to leads and customers

At the early stage, the VoguePay website had too many distractions as it was cramped with too much information and numerous Call-To-Actions which is confusing. For instance, where would you click on this site?

VoguePay - Wayback

We could have done better with a focused call to action button based on the identified KPI with the highest priority identified in Lesson 1

Do you notice that many businesses make the mistake of overcrowding their websites with stuff that their visitors really don’t care about?

There is a better way to do awesome webdesign that sells your product

 LESSON 3: DEVELOP A GOOD PR STRATEGY THAT TELLS YOUR STORY BETTER…..CHEAPER

Nobody can tell your story better than you. Even when you can hire a PR firm, you still need to get involved in the story angle.

Number one part of your PR strategy is a company blog

A blog will greatly assist you to strategically build a community around your product, your customers and partners.

Take a look at this stats:

  • 61% of consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post that they read.
  • 60% of consumers feel positive about a company after reading its blog.
  • 70% of consumers learn about a company through its blog versus ads.

On realizing this, we designed the first blog and I created multiple blog posts that were focused on educating our customers and prospects. We were explaining the features of the service; announcing updates and news.

I remember one of the remarkable posts announcing “How VoguePay helped small business save over N1Billion naira in potential integration cost” and another one on the milestone celebrations of 8,000 merchants.

 8000 customers

Some of the blog posts also revolved around people. I recollect Sean, a Freelance PHP Website Developer in Crewe, Cheshire who developed an ExpressionEngine module and later a  woocommerce wordpress plugin for VoguePay. I reached out to him and did a blog post around that.

Sean Barton

The surprise was that we found out that the new blog was one of the top 2 traffic sources to the signup page.

In addition, the blog increased the brand perception of the company.

Number two part is to leverage on both traditional and new media sites for promotions and branding.

We needed to reach many of our identified prospects (SMEs) who are readers of technology blogs and news.

So we did feature story on pre-selected newspapers.

We used local newspapers with online presence like ThisDay and Vanguard Newspaper whose feature story was one of the most interesting. It was a full two-page story which is good for credibility. Other newspapers carried it, resulting to widespread blog mentions.

VoguePay - Vanguard

The key point is to identify relevant channels.

For example, I got Loy of Techloy, one of the leading African-focused Tech blogs to do a product demo on his website and press from Tekedia

Number three part is to keep in touch with your online reputation

We also tracked every mention of our brand online and responded to the conversation where necessary.

There is lot of Online PR tools you can use for this. Some free and some paid.

You can start with Google alerts, it is free tool to monitor your brand and competitors’ news as they break; allowing you to respond swiftly.

Google Alerts

A couple of news we caught in the bud came from NairaLand where we came in swiftly to share our views and channel our strong community to add their voice to stand in defense with positive views about our products,.

Take a look as some of these NairaLand.com screenshots here and here

LESSON 4: IDENTIFY YOUR PROSPECTS’ JOURNEY TO BECOMING A CUSTOMER

It is obvious that not all visitors will use your product on first visit, so how do you nurture or cultivate them to use your products later?

We had couple of ideas which we tested out.

Some were successful while others failed. But they all provided a good learning experience.

In fact, our idea to publish a blog was to educate prospects and customers with our value offerings, answer questions and show them ‘tricks’ about how the developer features/tools work.

We also attempted to create a lead magnet; a report on Online Payment in exchange for the users’ email. Our goal was to earn the permission of the person who downloaded the report so we can keep getting in touch with them with product details, offers and educative posts.

LESSON 5: IDENTIFY A COMMUNITY THAT MATTERS TO YOUR BUSINESS

“If you build it, they will come” was an old mantra.

In today’s world, it is your job to identify where your customers are and network with them, online or offline.

I have found networking and one-on-one meetings to be most effective to establish relationships with vocal industry leaders who are going to be early adopters of your product.

On a personal level, it can mean a lot to you. For me I had met and still meeting industry leaders through focused event like  Mobile Monday.

LESSON 6: SHOW THAT YOUR BUSINESS CARE

  • How do you show that your business cares?
  • What is your plan to keep your customers happy?

It is important to note the value of good customer care. The cost of retaining your existing customers is less than what is required to get new customers.

Your relationship with your customers (free or paid users) must be well maintained.

Ensure that all your online channels is used to keep in touch promptly with customer requests and complaints.

Nowadays, customers will rather tweet their complaints rather than fill your Support form.

You can use these tactics to deal with upset-customers

LESSON 7: OUTSMART YOUR COMPETITION OR DIE

Between 2012 and now, the big names in Online payment have been changing, as company develop better strategies and ways to compete in the market space.

Do you notice that PayPal is in the market too?

This also applies to every business, competition can be tough……

Therefore, you need smart strategies to outsmart competition and grow your customer audience.

And you must decide to maximize the tools available at your disposal to out-compete and outsmart competition.

So how do your plan to achieve that?

How Do You Plan To Out-Smart And Out-Compete Your Competition For Customer Growth?

In business, some processes are constant. Those are the one I shared with you above.

You will also agree that as the digital marketing landscape evolves, the opportunity to grow your customers is increasing.

How does it feel to have the smartest information on your side as you build your start-up?

Knowledge is the key ingredient to growth.

When it is missing, you lose clear directions.

Sometimes, I wish I knew what I know now. The blueprints…strategies….and tactics that are laser targeted for customer acquisitions, customer retention and user growth.

I wished I knew all about user testing, conversion optimization strategies………..

despite some of my enviable results, i knew I could have been better

I knew I could have helped VoguePay reach 50k or 100k users.

Maybe.

But the good news for you is that ……

I designed this website to share exclusively with you all the new actionable insights that i now know about Customer growth strategies……it is a rolodex of business changing information.

BUT I will share them MOSTLY with few people.

I want you to be one of them………I want to send them to YOU.

I am not asking for money…….but I need your permission to send it to you.

That is why I am inviting you to JOIN to my email list (And join people who receive exclusive updates on this topics from me)

 

P.S: Most of my actionable posts are NOT going to be on this blog, so when you join my list, I will let you have first access to them.

P.S.S: In addition to timely updates, I will also provide occasional FREE consulting session and review of website (You won’t believe what you will get away from this…..)

    15 replies to "How To Growth Hack a StartUp [Lessons from Helping VoguePay Reach Their First 10,000 Customers]"

    • Leke Ojikutu

      Thanks Wole.
      I’m glad I had you on our team.
      Your skills are outstanding and I would recommend you anytime.
      I hope the company that snatched you from us appreciate what an asset you are?
      Leke.

      • oluwole

        Thank you for your kind words.

        Am sure VoguePay is consolidating on growth and market share.

        I will keep in touch

    • […] am convinced that there is a better way to look this. In fact, I wrote a long and critical piece on growth and how to make it happen. (Caveat: it is a LONG post with useful business insights revealing how I helped a startup grow to […]

    • Dayo

      Thanks a lot for this

    • Michino

      Hello Mr Wole,
      Insightful and educating write up you have here, Thank You.
      I really need to meet with you, or your email contact for business purpose.

      • oluwole

        It is my pleasure Michino. Kindly check your email for a response from wogunlade[at]gmail.com

    • […] Your blog will increase your search engine visibility (SEO) as your content ranks on search engine for terms relevant to your business. Blogging was part of the key strategies I used to help VoguePay grow by 250% in 3 months. […]

    • Olumide kuforiji

      Thanks wole,
      This article is real and very informative.Knowing you through the CEO give me a rest of mind that your skill and ability can make voguepay the most preferred gateway processor around the world. Hope you will replicate same strategy to Empire and G-force Express?

      Olumide

      • oluwole

        Thank you for the complements

    • […] my first contract engagement with a local fintech startup. It was a simple gig and I was able to grow this startup by 250% in 3 months. If you want to start a career like this today, there is no need to go for an MBA. You just need to […]

    • Echeji Chibuike

      Great insight. You have gone through a place of no path and blazed the trail.
      Would love to stay in touch with you as I work on some services.
      Many thanks

    • Shola

      Greatest Post i ever read on Grow Hacking

    • Michael

      This is a practical blueprint for growth hacking. Thank you Wole.

      • oluwole

        Am happy you like it. Thanks for your comment

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