Innovation is all around us and it will continue to evolve from generation to generation. But, today we live in a very different world - one where traditional advertising is becoming less and less effective by the minute. And, now the growth of any company relies on ingenious ways of marketing; not just cookie cutter solutions that can quickly turn around a profit.
Some of the most widely known startups have taken their marketing strategy to a whole another level which has not only shifted conventional marketing avenues but it has also shaped consumer behavior as whole. This is largely due to the way modern CEO’s think about rapid scalability. Instead of throwing thousands of dollars into PPC and social media, they have chosen to ‘growth-hack’ their way to success to gain traction and win complete market share.
Growth Strategy: Word of Mouth
Originally based out of San Francisco, Uber initially focused on the tech community. They would organize events and offer free rides to those attending. Meanwhile, attendees would tell their friends about their experience which resulted in rapid growth that could be rolled out elsewhere.
While Uber's largest VC - Bill Gurley admits word of mouth was a big driver of growth, he’s also explained that it mostly has to do with having a great product.
Now, it hasn’t fully replaced Yellow taxis, it has significantly changed private transportation. Their smartphone app is fully integrated with Google Maps so you can see how far away the nearest cars are, set a meeting point and request a ride instantly.
Growth Strategy: Data-mining
Known for being the poster child of growth hacks, Airbnb was one of the fastest growing start-up’s known for surpassing industry legacy Hilton Hotels in nights booked.
So, how did they do it?
Well, this story is a bit controversial but, basically they hijacked their target audience from Craigslist. With a few web-hooks and automated emails, they were able to target renters who posted their properties in the vacation rental section on Craigslist with an email inviting them to utilize the Airbnb platform for free.
After about a year of developing the program and an unauthorized Craigslist integration, the company had acquired 10 million guests, 550,000 properties and $776.4 million dollars from investors by the Spring of 2014.
Growth Strategy: Partnerships
From a small tiny apartment to a full crew working out of an office, Door Dash has grown to operate in over 600 cities. When the company first rolled out the app, it had a heavy focus on food but, then shifted it’s mission to enable every merchant to deliver.
DoorDash initially experimented with a sales team and was unsure if it would work for their business model but, after much success they’ve made it a requirement for the growth of the company. Doordash’s B2B relationships with restaurants and other merchants has not only built the foundation for their businesses growth but, it’s also providing job opportunities for those who are underemployed.
Growth Strategy: Adapting to buyers needs
Netflix disrupted the entertainment industry by offering an internet-based subscription service that pretty much put Blockbuster and Hollywood Video out of business. Instead of browsing for “what’s on”, users are able to pick and choose what, where and when they want to see it. They gained their popularity by developing programs for a handful of audiences.
They initially attracted customers by posting in forums and internet bulletin boards frequently trafficked by movie goers. Today, Netflix doesn’t just release titles for on US consumers it earned it’s popularity through offering movie titles in non-US markets. As the number of subscribers has grown outside of the US, so has it library of video content.
Growth Strategy: E-Mail Marketing
Out of all the businesses we’ve listed for growth hacking strategies, no business can compare to Dropbox. With their customer acquisition costs at an all-time high, the company strategically opted to use social media and e-mail marketing to fuel their growth.
They encouraged users to spread the word by offering them more cloud storage in exchange for getting their friends to sign up. This kind of strategy lead to a viral word-of-mouth funnel that accelerated their growth for years to come.
Growth Strategy: Viral Video
The Dollar Shave Club is a perfect example of how using viral videos can be used to hack growth. With a subscription model that involves sending out razors and male grooming products, the company went from $0 to $600 million in just 3 years.
The video included a strategic message by the founder “Our blades are f**king great”. With 19 million views, the company got the the word out followed by additional product videos including one for scented butt wipes.
Growth Strategy: Gaming interface
We all know about speed dating but, Tinder took a whole new approach. Singles can determine if the person is hot and swipe right and if not, they can swipe left. Profiles are defined by their own interest and location. If two people like each other, it’s a match and the option to message instantly becomes available.
The integration with Facebook eliminates the need to fill out long registration forms usually found on other dating sites and pulls pictures from your profile which makes it easy to upload. Not only did they turn dating into a game but, they identified pain points most singles go through on other dating sites.
Growth Strategy: Free Tool + Practice what you Preach
In 2006, Hubspot offered a free website grader tool which was used to grade more than 4 million websites. Anyone could enter in a URL and gain insights about which aspects of a website was performing well and which areas needed improvement; showing a need for their services.
Of course in order to use the website grader, users needed to fill out a form with their contact information. This provided the Hubspot with a ton of inexpensive leads and eliminated the need to pay sales staff to walk users through a process because it was automated.
But, Hubspot didn’t end with just offering a free tool. They knew leads were cheaper to acquire with inbound marketing so, they began focusing on content marketing and have dominated the space with tools like blogging, webinars, landing pages, social media management, list segmentation, email marketing you name it.
Growth Strategy: Lifestyle Emphasis
GoPro turned into a huge ecommerce success story and didn’t even have a huge advertising budget. Instead, they enabled their customers to share the videos and content they captured and use #gopro so their marketing team could find new videos that were uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.
With some of the most crazy sports maneuvers and scary footage, GoPro was able to reach millions of people with unheard of content for very little resources.
Growth Strategy: Multiple Hacks + Brilliant Ad Copy
Groupon really understood users and took their platform to a whole new level. They grew the platform using a variety of growth hacks. They allowed their users to share their Groupon on social media after their purchase, users are allowed to buy Groupons for multiple people, they send their customers daily emails, and offered $10 Groupon bucks to customers who got their friends to sign up.
The list goes on but what really got the company going was their ad copy. Groupon has about 400 writers on their team but they’re not the kind that write corporate documents in MLA format. They’re a group of rebels, poets, hippies and like-minded creatives who can write really well.
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Every business listed here has challenged traditional marketing in one form or another. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have recognize half the names on the list. They’re popular and understand what it means to think outside-of-the-box. Some used data-mining while others just had a great product-market fit.
But, one thing these companies didn’t do was jump the gun and try to make a profit as quickly as possible. They’re all very well funded, took enough time to meet their goals and didn’t look for the cheapest solution that provided the quickest results. There was no cookie cutter marketing plan and no investment into one channel more than another.
These companies took the time to understand their audience and their needs. They had a clear understanding of how they were going to attract, convert, and retain customers and made improvements along the way.