Before they were famous: Early Pre-Traction Startup Taglines

These now famous startups had to start somewhere…

Here are the fictional taglines of these startups before they were famous to illustrate how they *actually* got their early traction.

Growth is a Team Sport

A startup has one primary goal above all others.

That goal is to grow.

If the startup doesn’t grow, it isn’t able to command the resources and momentum necessary to effect the change that it seeks to in-act upon customers and build a meaningful company for the long-term.

If it doesn’t grow fast enough, in-spite of success it might have, it is at risk of ceasing to exist entirely.

Whose responsibility is Growth anyways?


Growth is not the sole responsibility of the executive team. Growth is not the job of the Product team. Growth is not the job of the the Marketing Team. Growth is not the job of the Operations Team. Growth is not the job of the Sales Team. Growth is not the job of the Customer Support Team. Growth is not the job of a specialized Growth team.

Growth is the job and responsibility of EVERYONE in the Company


After closely following the growth of 10 of the world’s fastest growing startups, Morgan Brown came to a similar conclusion:

In the best growth organizations, sales and marketing aren’t firewalled from product, and engineering doesn’t consider marketing efforts spam. All of these teams work together to unlock growth and tap into these massive opportunities. — via @morganb
  Continue reading

How Dropbox, Uber, Hotel Tonight and WealthFront leverage referrals to create an army of growth agents

With the increasing popularity of referral programs, it’s becoming increasingly clear, some companies just do it better than others.

Remove the Sketch Effect

One of my good friends kept sending me different invites to the extent I started considering marking his emails as spam. You want to make it easy for people to invite their friends without losing them.

How do you do it?

Reward both sides
Companies like Dropbox pioneered the model of the double-loop referral. By rewarding both sides of the referral they create an incentive for you to refer without making your friends feel you’re trying to take advantage of them. You’re getting something and they’re getting something, preferably the same or more.

Reward the referrer in a non-monetary way
Lyft referral program offers a free ride, while Uber’s referral offers $$ credit. The value is similar but psychologically people might feel less like you’re making a buck off of them if you’re getting a gift and not money (similar to wedding registries). Similarly, Dropbox is giving extra space, and companies like Fabletics are giving reward points that can be applied towards an outfit.

Make it easy to refer and redeem

Some companies use a long unique link or make the referral code box hard to find. Uber, Lyft, Hotel Tonight and others use a simple code (sometimes it’s simply your last name) which makes it super easy to remember and to refer even without accessing the app.
photo (14)

Wealthfront gives you a structured form letter to speed and ease the process.

Trigger referral request at the right moments

Remind your users about the referral programs at the moments where they’re most likely to pull the trigger on an invite. DropBox, for example, prompts you to invite friends when they see you’re about to run out of space. Other commerce sites, like Gilt, asks you to refer after you placed an order or when you’ve received your order and are asked for feedback. Prompt requests for referrals at your customers most greedy/needy moments.

Tap into the social network and make it personal

Make the referral programs more personal, it’s hard to come up with a random email when staring at an empty referral form. Use customers social graphs and trigger referral suggestions at the right moments. LinkedIn does a good job at encouraging you to endorse people from your network, this can similarly be applied for referral programs.

Introduce competition and make it a joint effort

One of the most brilliant referral program hacks was the Dropbox Space Race. When someone from your school joined Dropbox, s/he contributed towards everyone’s credit, by making the whole process transparent and displaying the numbers of each school, Dropbox introduced a friendly, yet fierce competition similar to college sports rivalries. When a student made a referral, s/he felt s/he was contributing to the greater good of the school – and took it very personally!

Referral programs are not a silver bullet for customer acquisition but if done right, they can turn your happiest customers into a referral army.

5 of the top B2B Growth Hacks of all time

#1 Free Tools


Overall hubspot generates a staggering 1 million visitors and over 60,000 leads through their website each month through a combination of free tools and content marketing.

Read more about how creating free tools can be a good driver of leads and growth.

#2 “Powered by”


Qualaroo, formerly KissInsights, displays it’s logo with a link back to it’s website on every free plan or paid plan that isn’t a premium account. This simple attribution allows them to dramatically increase the awareness of their product among their target group of customers (marketers) who are always looking for other tools to use to gather feedback.

Read more powered by best practices here.

#3 “Try before you buy”

Examples: How did Yammer gain initial traction

While certainly not the first to employ a freemium model to drive early adoption, Yammer’s use of a Try before you buy business model was particularly effective in driving growth, because it was company email-based it required zero sign-off or configuration from IT administrators to get started with.

A good example of a company adopting growth strategies from B2C companies to drive growth.

#4 The Cold Email Outreach

Examples: Best practices for cold emailing

Using services like Fliptop or Fullcontact can help to dramatically increase the amount of relevant data you can retrieve about a contact in order to better segment and target your emails. Sending out the emails is a matter of choice, you can do it through Salesforce, Toutapp, or a regular ole’ Gmail Mailmerge.

Read more here

#5 Focus on Developers


Companies like Stripe and Twilio have built their entire businesses around providing a better platform for developers to build b2b apps and integrations off of. By providing their service as an API for developers to use, they allow for many different new products and use cases to pop up that wouldn’t otherwise be built, which in-turn they receive increased revenue from when they succeed. A true win-win model for growth.

Read more here.

Top 10 growth hacks of all time


#1 Paypal’s friend referral bounty

By paying $10 cash to each new customer and $10 to the customer who referred them, Paypal was able to hack early growth to tens of millions of users before no longer offering the bonus.
Read more here

#2 Hotmail Tagline

In Hotmail whenever a user would email another user, the email would have a message saying something similar to “This email sent with Hotmail, Join Hotmail now” and “Get your free email at Hotmail.”
Read more here

#3 Airbnb’s craigslist integration

By reverse engineering the craigslist posting process and automating it to the point where it became dead simple to cross-post your airbnb listing to craigslist, AirBnb was able to hack early growth to 10’s of millions of users.
Read more here

#4 Mailbox wait list

By creating an incredibly compelling launch video combined with a very cool interface that showed users how many other users were in front of them on the app’s waiting list, mailbox created a large amount of social chatter and blog attention. Within six weeks, Mailbox had a million users signed up and eagerly waiting for the service.
Read more here

#5 Dropbox Incentivized Referral Program

Roughly based off of Paypal’s invite system, dropbox allows users to invite their friends for more space. This worked to help dropbox grow from 100,000 users to 4,000,000 in under two years.
Read more here

#6 Twitter’s suggested followers on-boarding

Once Twitter found that users who followed more than 30 people were most likely to become active. They optimized the user experience to encourage this behavior.
Read more here

#7 Instagram cross-posting

By deciding to play nice with other services like twitter and facebook, instagram was able to leverage the distribution of some very large existing platforms to help accelerate the growth of its service in the early days.
Read more here

#8 Pinterest auto-follow

Upon signing up for Pinterest you are automatically following a select group of high quality users. This in turn helps alleviate the cold-start problem, where you have to go looking around the site to find boards and people to follow. Instead they present a sampling of high quality content immediately filling your feed.
Read more here

#9 Youtube’s liberal interpretation of dmca

YouTube tried many tactics to gain differentiation over it’s competitors. In the end, YouTube’s growth hack was the only metric that mattered, conversion of viral buzz into users.
Read more here

#10 content/seo strategy

Mint focused on building out a unique personal finance blog, very content-rich, that spoke to a young professional crowd that we felt was being neglected. Eventually the blog became #1 in personal finance, and drove traffic to the app. The infographics and popular articles became regular hits on Digg, Reddit, etc.
Read more here