26 Tools for Growth Hackers who do not code.

For me Growth Hacking is all about finding the “unfair advantage” in customer acquisition- that one killer thing which lets you get customers, faster and disrupt the market.

Customer Growth is a 4 step process

1. Attracting Traffic- or Getting more people see your product/ website
2. Acquiring Customers- or converting visitors to users by getting them to the “Aha moment”
3. Retaining Customers- i.e. making sure users get the”Core Product Value” as early and as often as possible.
4. Reaping your customer’s network for Viral reach.

Here are 26 Tools Growth Hackers who do not code could use the become a “Growth Ninja

Tools for Attract Audience / Traffic
Colibri.io – Discover where your customers are and engage.
List Builder– Collect email address from site visitors.
Nerdy Data– Search Engine for Source Code.
Email Extractor– Email address Extraction software.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors
Mailchimp– Email Marketing

Tools for User Activation/ Acquisition
Bounce Exchange– Acquire abandoning customers
Google Analytics– Traffic insight
KISSmetrics– Deep customer insight and analytics.
Mixpanel– Action Based Analytics for Web and Mobile.
CrazyEgg– Visitor engagementAnalytics
Unbounce– Landing Page builder and A/B testing
Optimizely– A/B Testing
Visual Website Optimizer– A/B testing

Tools for User Curation/Retention
Nimble– Very light CRM for startups.
Rapportive– Contact/ People research inside your inbox.
Zapier– Cross platform automation.
IFTTT– Cross channel connections and actions.
Qualaroo– Website visitor surveys.
Polldaddy– Create surveys and polls
Vero– Lead curation through behavioral emails.

Tools for Virality
Twilighter– Easy content sharing.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors
IFTTT– Cross channel promotion
Share This– Social sharing widget.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors

Launching Growth Hacking Coaching Program

Happy to announce that I’m launching Growth Hacking Coaching program in partnership with my friends at DigitalVidya.

Growth Hacking Coaching is a 12 weeks intensive, by invite and selection only program. Participants Learn to Grow Hack their own Products/ Projects coached by an experienced Growth Hacker. Digital Marketing Skill Ramp-up Trainings and Business Mentorship is provided as seen fit by the Growth Hacking Coach and needed by the participants.

The Program is conducted over 4 stages:

Stage 1: Growth Hacking Basics and Program Baselining
Stage 2: Pre-skilling in Digital Marketing Techniques
Stage 3: Growth Hacking Coaching
Stage 4: Demo Day and Certification

Here’s the key take aways/ learnings for participants:

Growth Hacking Orientation: – Learn the difference between Growth Hacking and Digital Marketing.

Setting Growth Goals – Learn to analyze your Growth Opportunity and set your growth goals.
Growth Hacking Framework – Learn to apply Growth Hacking to the A2R2- Attract, Acquire, Retain and Reap Framework.
Attraction Hacks – Learn techniques to get Qualified Leads and Visitors instead of unqualified traffic.
Acquisition Hacks – Learn techniques to get your users to ‘Aha Moment’- that moment when they know what your product is about.
Retention Hacks – Learn how to quickly Deliver Core Product Value to your users and get repeat usage.
Reap Hacks – Learn how to leverage your users network to grow and build a Viral Growth Engine.
Lean Iterations – Learn how to set up the process to run quick experiments and iterate product and customer development.

You may checkout the details of the program and sign-up for the orientation here. Appreciate feedback on the content and program structure.

The Growth Hacking Academy

I was part of the founding team of 3 startups between 1999 – 2012. I also helped 4 other startups with marketing  in that period. Between 2012- and today I have been advising startups and product teams of enterprises in US and India. I have worked with 12 great teams in this period and Customer Acquisition and Growth seems to be one of the top 2 challenges for these teams- perhaps for all startups.

For the last 12 months I have been mulling over the question “ Is growth an accident or method ? I tend believe that Growth is a method and am trying to put together a 6 month program based on the A2R2 (Attract, Activate, Retain, Reap) Growth Hacking process to help Entrepreneurs and teams acquire customers and grow. Here’s the outline of the program:

Who is the Growth Hacking program for?

This 6 months program is designed for Product Teams and requires minimum 2  members to own the following processes:

1. Product Development

2. Customer Development

Month 1: Growth Hacking Basics

 Session 1: What the heck is Growth Hacking

– What, How, Who of Growth?

– Growth Hacking Hall of Fame.

– Growth Hacking Funnel: Introduction to  A2R2 Growth Framework ( Attract, Activate,   Retain Reap)

 Session 2: You cannot fill a bucket that has a hole

– How to Identify the holes and develop plan to plug the holes before thinking growth.

– Identify the holes in your product and develop plan to plug the holes before thinking growth.

 Session 3: Cut the Umbilical Cord

– How to look at your product from your customer’s perspective.

– Customer Segmentation

– Product Virality

 Session 4: Think Unreasonable, Plan Practical.

– Everyone wants to ‘Disrupt’, few do

– Think where you could be in 18/24 months, Plan for next 3

– Set your Goals for the Program

Month 2:  Laws of Attraction- From Leads to Qualified Leads

Session 5: Laws of Attraction- Introduction

– Channels to attract: Real World, Digital ; Paid, Earned

– Things You should have done yesterday.

–  We often forget the real world.

Session 6: Expert SEO

Session 7: Expert SEM

Session 8: One-on-One

– Follow up on Month 1- Holes in your Bucket?

– Create plans to Attract Customers

Month 3:  Activate Customers- Get them to the Aha moment

Session 9: Aha Moment

– What is Aha Moment?

– Tools to get customers to Aha Moment

– How to discover Your products Aha Moment

Session 10: Basics of Web/ Mobile design and UX

– For Apps- Think Mobile First

Session 11: Channels FAQs, Videos, Community, Emails

Session 12: One-on-One

– Follow up on Month 2- Attracting Customers

– Create Plan to get to Aha Moment

Month 4:  Retain Customers- Get them hooked on.

Session 13: Core Product Value

– What is Core Product Value?

– Identifying your Core Value

– Delivering Core Product Value as early as often

Session 14: Behavior Segmentation and Automating Lead Curation

– A/B Testing

Session 15: The Science and Art of Email Marketing

Session 16: One-on-One

– Follow up on month 3- Get to the Aha Moment

– Create Plan to Retain

Month 5:  Reap their Network

Session 17: From users to Brand Ambassadors

– Why people love some products

– Identifying your Brand Ambassadors

Session 18: Advanced Social Media Engagement Techniques


Session 19: Customer Loyalty and Brand Ambassador Program

Session 20: One-on-One

– Follow up on month 4- Retaining Customers

– Create Plan to Reap their Network

Month 6:  Getting Lean- Learn and Iterate

Session 21: List and Analyze Product Learnings

– Group Session

Session 22: List and Analyze Customer Learnings

– Group Session

Session 23: Iterating Lean

Session 24: One-on-One

– Plan the next 6 Months.

– Feedback

Would love to get feedback on the program and the content. Do you think this program is needed and will work?

Hiring for Startups- Cash vs. Equity Compensation

I help startups with growth- and my job revolves around product, customer acquisition, creating and automating marketing process. The job is challenging, exciting and stimulating.

Over the last couple of years I have started seeing a pattern in the startup madness.  Startup founders have similar challenges and question and the opportunities and answers also have a pattern.  In the last 15 years of my startup life I have been asked same question multiple times by different entrepreneurs. These days, at times it feels like Deja-vu.

However, every once in a while founders pitch a question that puts me on back foot. Last week, in a routine growth strategy meeting, one of my advisee founders hurled one such question. This startup is addressing the urban commute problem in India.  They have raised the seed round and are preparing for Series- A. It is a 2 founder startup with a 20 people operations and they are now looking to hire a Head of Operations- a person who will be No. 3 in the organization matrix.  The question was- How much equity and cash compensation should be offered to the head of  operation they are planning to hire.

Hiring for startups is different as startups pay less than the market and compensate with non-listed (non-liquid) equity with a lock in period. I have hired for my startups in the past. However, to be honest, I have not figured out the formula to compensation structure, most of the times the compensation structure was based on ‘hunch’.

In this article I have tried to put a template for the cash vs equity decision. The numbers you arrive at with this formula are guidelines and subject the stage of the startup.

Let’s  assume you are trying to hire a person who is drawing  $ 40,000 per annum however, she is due for increments and her market value is $ 50,000 per Annum. You want to lock in  the new employee for 3 years and can pay $30,000 per Annum in year 1 with a 15% increment every year.

Step 1: Calculate the potential loss of  earnings:

(Here I’m assuming star performers get a 25% hike Year on Year in India.)

Loss of Pay year 1:  $20,000
Add
Loss of Pay year 2:  1.25 * 50,000 – 1.15 *  30,000 = $ 28,000
Add
Loss of Pay year 3:  1.25 * 62,500 – 1.15 *  34,500 = $43,625
Total Loss of Earnings: $91,625

Step 2: Calculate the cost of raising  capital  (equivalent to total loss of earnings) .

What percentage equity did you part with for $91,625 in the previous fund raising round. Say you are valued at $4 million in the previous ( angel) round, then $91,625 is equivalent to  3.05%

Step 3: Compensate for the risk the employee is taking.

I do not have a foolproof formula for calculating the risk. However, you could try the probability of  raising next round method. Try to answer the question – what is the likelihood  of  you raising the next round before you burn the cash reserves. If you think it is 60% ( you are in advanced discussions with 3-4 VCs) then the risk is 40%
Step 4: Compensate for complementary skill the new employee brings to the team.

This is another judgement. Try to answer the question-  what is the likelihood  of  you raising the next round without the new employee. If the answer is 30% then the compensation for complementary skill is 70%.

Step 5: Calculate the Equity.

In this case- 3.05% + 20% (3.05%) + 70% (3.05%) = 5.79%

The above formula is just a guideline. The key to startup hiring is “Great Teams makes Great  Products and Great companies.” Things are different for the first employee and employee no 5.  For your first employee you may end up sharing 2x to 3x this number.

i would love to hear from other entrepreneurs their take on Cash Vs. Equity.

Hacking Growth through Customer Experience

It is difficult, if not impossible, to fill a bucket that has holes. One could argue the bucket will fill if the input rate is greater than output rate  however at what cost?

Lean startups should try and address the problem of losing customers before they accelerate customer acquisition because a happy customer tells about service/ brand to 4 friends while an unhappy customer shares with 10 prospects.  The typical hole in the bucket symptom for startups include low repeat usage, plateaued Monthly Active Users (MAU), negative sentiment on social etc.

Customer Experience study helps identify the holes in the bucket and convert first time product users to brand ambassadors. There are 2 key elements to Customer Experience Study:

  1. Analyzing the recorded customer behavior.
  2. Analyzing the reported customer response.

Recorded Customer Behavior is the behavior reported by analytics and includes site/ product usage, revenue growth, social  buzz sentiment, customer channel preference. Essentially, all intelligence gathered by analytics or otherwise on how customers are using the product.

For instance, a startup in urban transportation ( dispatch service, taxi companies, cab aggregators) should start  looking at the following Customer Experience Matrices:

  1. Ratio of New Users to Total users:
  2. Source of New Customer: Ads/ Marketing Campaigns/ Channels/ Referral
  3. Average use Frequency of top 20% users
  4. Revenue per MAU:
  5. Ratio of Trips Services and Trips Booked:
  6. Ratio of Complaints and MAU:
  7. Ratio of Positive Feedback and MAU:
  8. Ratio of Complaints and Positive Feedback:

Reported Customer Response is the response to Customer Experience surveys and questionnaires. These surveys should be conducted at the time/ point of use of product. Here are the 4 most important Customer Experience measurements summed up in 4 Questions ( for the questions I am continuing with the example of urban transportation startup- The Smiles Cab):

1. Overall Satisfaction
Question: How satisfied are you with “The  Smiles Cab” ( Measured on a scale of 1-5)

2. Intention of Repeat Purchase/ Use
Question: Do you intend to book another trip with “The  Smiles Cab” in the next 15 days? ( Yes/ No)

4. Product Attribute Satisfaction
Question: How would you rate the  ride quality? ( Measured on a scale of 1-5)
or
Question: How would you rate the cab? ( Measured on a scale of 1-5)
or
Question: How would you rate the driver? ( Measured on a scale of 1-5)

I suggest you ask only one question and that question can change over time.

4. Loyalty
Question: Would you recommend “The  Smiles Cab” to your family and friends? ( Yes/ No)

In my experience, customers are reluctant to provide feedback if you ask too many questions. If you had the opportunity to ask only one question I would recommend you ask: Are you satisfied with “The  Smiles Cab” enough to recommend us to your family and friends?

Happy plugging the the holes in the bucket! and always remember a happy customer tells about service/ brand to 4 friends while an unhappy customer shares with 10 prospects.

Measuring Social Media ROI

Love it, hate it, you can’t ignore it. Social Media is here to stay. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, G+ are the primary channels for traffic and growth for most  online businesses today.

Startups and businesses get attracted by the large and fancy numbers that are floating around (  e.g. 1.26 billion users500 Million Tweets per day)

and start projecting their hockey stick growth based on these numbers. To add to the the pain most online marketers over commit and under deliver.

According to BusinessInsider “Many brands are moving away from metrics that purport to measure ROI on social media.

They’ve realized that social media isn’t a transactional engine or sales machine, so they’re dropping half-baked indicators that gauge secondary effects, such as financial return.”

Large brands and advertisers look at monetization over long term and tangible and intangible goals. They measure ROI of social media strategies in terms of audience-building, brand awareness, and customer relations.

I work with startups and startups are a different beast. They need to run quick experiments, decide what works for them and ROI is a simple arithmetic:

ROI = (All Returns- All Costs)/ All Costs.

I feel responsible for every $ that startups trust me with to hack growth  and hate BS-ing when it comes to program performance. I want to evaluate programs in real time and make quick decisions. I use the following spreadsheet to measure the ROI of the programs built around the simple arithmetic definition of ROI.

Download BhaskarThakur-Social-Media-ROI   (Right click and save)

Give it a spin and let me know if  it works. Big Brands you may also want to try this simple tool.

10 Questions that help identify startup opportunities

2013 has been a year of questions for me. Questions about business models, about pivots, about change of plan. The year started with a big question persist, pivot or perish WorldWithourMe? and then there were at least 4 major question every month.

It’s befitting that the last post of the year be about questions. So here’s my pick of 10 questions that have helped me evaluate startup ideas.

Questions to identifying Problem/ opportunity

  • What experiences( good or bad), have you had with the [current solution/ product]?
  • What is the frequency of purchase [current solution/ product]?
  • other products/ solutions did you consider?
  • Has [current solution/ product] worked well for you? How/how not?
  • Top 3 changes you would make to the [current solution/ product]?

Questions to probe/ validate

  • Can you give an example?
  • Tell me more.
  • What would you change?
  • Can you be more specific?
  • How did that impact?

Happy Starting Up 2014!

 

 

My 5 Favorite Gmail Plugins and Tricks for Growth Hacks.

‘Agility’ is one word that is core to the idea of Growth Hacking. While classic Marketers rely on long term data and user behavior for decisions, Growth Hackers often work with smaller sample size and act in ‘real time’ to convert visitors to customers.

In my experience, email is one of the most powerful tools for converting visitors to customers. For example we improve conversions for an edutech startup by almost 100% within weeks, through an email campaign.

However, for email ninjas- life is inboxed. They live, eat, breathe emails. I use Plugins, Tools and simple tricks to help me manage my inbox. Here’s 5 favorite Gmail Plugins and tricks for Growth Hacking.

Gmail Tabs and Inbox Zero:
The New tabs help to focus on what matters and reduces my inbox size by ~30% -50% . I let Google’s technology take care of the spams, social updates and promotions and focus on emails that really matter.

GMail- Tabs

Further, I Live by Inbox Zero, which means I either Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer or Act on the emails in my Inbox. Thanks! Merlin Mann.

Google Alerts and Labels
I use a combination of Google Alerts and email filtering + labels extensively. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on one’s interest. If you are following 50-100 keywords on Google be sure Alerts will swamp your inbox. I have configures email filtering rules and labels to keep the clutter off my inbox.

Rappotive
Rappotive shows you everything about your contacts right inside your inbox- what people look like, where they’re based, and what they do. It also helps grow one’s network on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook without leaving the inbox. Rappotive is more like a mini CRM married to LinkedIn.

Rappotive

Yesware
If you rely on emails for growth you want to know who opens your email and clicks on your link and Yesware does exactly that. It also let’s users track prospects and has some ready to use email templates.

Yesware

Boomerang Calendar
Boomerang Calendar helps schedule meetings from within the emails. It highlights the date and time in email ( both absolute and relative i.e 5PM 10/18 or 5PM Tomorrow) to make scheduling meetings a breeze.

Go on Startup Ninjas install your arsenals and win the Growth Hacking war.

5 Elements of an Effective Pricing Page

Landing page and Pricing page are perhaps the two most important pages of a website and these two pages also have maximum dropouts. The opportunity cost of dropout from the Pricing page is higher as these are users that have shown interest in your product, spent time traversing your website and have ALMOST paid you.

What make some Pricing Pages more effective than others?  What leads to better conversion? Is it slick design or simplicity? I have been working with ecommerce sites for close to a decade and half and here are the top 5 Pricing Page elements, in my experience, that have maximum impact on conversion.

 1.    Simplicity of information organization:

Your users have navigated through the information on your website and are about to pay, do not over-complicate things. Make the page easy on the eye, so one does not have to read the content. Make the Call to Action prominent and at multiple places on the page.

Skype’s Pricing Page is easy on the eye and one does not have to ‘read’ information.

Skype Pricing Page

2.    Make Plan Comparison easy:

You can make comparison easy by using visual clues to highlight the plan features. Highlight One Plan- Not the cheapest or the highest. Highlight the Most Popular or the Profit Maximizing Plan.

Yesware has made plan comparison really simple. You know what you are getting for 5, 20 and 50 a month.

 Yesware Plan

3.    Help users choose the plan:

You can help your users choose the plan that’s best for them by

  • Using simple plan names.
  • Highlighting the Target segment for each plan.
  • Having limited options- 3-4 plans at maximum.
  • Add Currency Options: People are generally more comfortable paying in their currency. Give currency options, if possible.

Yesware’s  Plans are brain-dead simple- Plus, Team, Enterprise, Do we say more?

Yesware- Simple Plan Names

4. Build Credibility by answering the questions users may have:

  •  Is my Credit Card safe? – Add Security Seal and statements like ” Pay securely without compromising your privacy”
  •  What if I do not like the product? – Add Money Back Policy.
  •  Is this product really for me? – Add Testimonials.
  •  Am I their first/ only customer? – Add Customer Logos

5. Incentivize Upfront Payment- Let your visitors know they can save or get more by paying in advance.

Yesware gives 2 months Free if one pays for 12 months in advance.

To sum it up, Pricing Page is one of the most important pages on your site and these are broad guidelines for Pricing Page design. However, every website is unique and you have to test multiple designs to come up with and effective Pricing Page.

Happy Selling!

Growth Hack- outrageous, unscalable and low tech.

More often than not technology entrepreneurs are advised and conditioned to look at the larger opportunity, scalability and technology to solve a problem. Silicon Valley folklore is full of stories of Google’s simplicity, Facebook’s singular focus, Twitter’s scalability. We tend to believe that all growth hacks are technology solutions that seem scalable when they are conceived.

However, reality is much different, most Growth Hacks sound outrageous and unscalable initially and there is little or no tech. involved.

For example Airbnb was a dying idea in 2009. Here’s the story of their hack, quoted from First Round Capital’s Blog.

At the time, Airbnb was in Y Combinator. One afternoon, the team was poring over their search results for New York City listings with Paul Graham, trying to figure out what wasn’t working, why they weren’t growing. After spending time on the site using the product, Gebbia had a realization. “We noticed a pattern. There’s some similarity between all these 40 listings. The similarity is that the photos sucked. The photos were not great photos. People were using their camera phones or using their images from classified sites. It actually wasn’t a surprise that people weren’t booking rooms because you couldn’t even really see what it is that you were paying for.”

Graham tossed out a completely non-scalable and non-technical solution to the problem: travel to New York, rent a camera, spend some time with customers listing properties, and replace the amateur photography with beautiful high-resolution pictures. The three-man team grabbed the next flight to New York and upgraded all the amateur photos to beautiful images. There wasn’t any data to back this decision originally. They just went and did it. A week later, the results were in: improving the pictures doubled the weekly revenue to $400 per week. This was the first financial improvement that the company had seen in over eight months. They knew they were onto something.

I see 5 Key Takeaways for Hackers from Airbnb’s story:

1. Hacks start with discovering patterns– It is worthwhile to look at Site usage, Entry Exit Pages, Shopping Carts, Landing Pages.

2. Hacking is not about Technology– Technology is growth hack enabler however, not the hack. Hacks are about identifying gaps in perception or value and plugging those gaps.

3. Hacks may seem non-scalable– Initially the growth hacks may seem non-scalable and that’s OK, One can iterate later to bring in scalability.

4. Experiment and Act fast– Outrageous as it may seem there’s no substitute to testing the hacks. Believe in yourself and your idea.

5. Seek help from Advisors/ Mentors– Entrepreneurs end up parenting their startups and at times fail to see things that are obvious. a seasoned Advisor/ Mentor helps bring in objectivity and fresh perspective.

Focus on the Hack that will help you grow to the next stage, do not bother too much about building the enterprise.