So, you’ve tweaked your landing pages until your conversion rates can’t get any better, split tested every facet of your ad campaigns and collaborated with influencers in your niche to maximize your exposure.
These tactics are wonderful and can generate explosive growth, but after a while, you’ll reach a plateau.
Once your startup is a fully-fledged, profitable business, growth challenges become different. While a startup is focussed on big wins to make the cash register ring, established businesses need to think in terms of more stable, incremental forms of growth. It’s no longer about growth hacking; growth mapping has to take center stage.
This continuum of business growth can be explained using sports as an analogy.
Mixed martial arts have one of the most significant learning curves out of all sports.
In the first six months of training, you can learn the fundamentals of striking, wrestling and jiu-jitsu.
However, the longer you practice, the smaller the improvements you’ll make. Once you’re proficient at the basics, the real journey to mastery begins.
Sure, adding a spinning wheel kick to your arsenal of attacks is beneficial in the short-run, but elite level UFC fighters didn’t reach mastery by continually learning new techniques – they did it by refining their fundamentals, year after year.
Jiu-jitsu expert Demian Maia understands all facets of the game, but he didn’t start achieving spectacular results until he centered his strategy around his strongest skills: wrestling his opponents to the mat and securing a rear-naked choke. Fans often comment that his opponents know exactly what he’s going to do, yet are unable to stop it.
To achieve mastery in any discipline (especially business), tactics that provide short-term explosive growth are great – but the long game requires slower, sustainable progress.
This is the difference between growth hacking and growth mapping.
Whatever stage your business is at, consider using these growth tactics to take you to the next level.
1. Growth Tactics
Here are some non-technical growth tactics to try. These don’t require a/b tests or changing any forms to increase conversions. Instead, they’re simple tactics to test to see if they drive meaningful acquisition.
The generic, one-size-fits-all approach to marketing is no longer applicable.
Nowadays, businesses can leverage user data to deliver more personalized, emotionally resonant messages to their users in order to maximize engagement and profits.
Email marketers have a good understanding of this. Depending on the actions people have taken in response to email campaigns, different email sequences can be fired off.
If a person opened an email promoting a webinar and attended, they might receive a sales-oriented email, whereas if they miss the webinar, their next message might be a gentle reminder of when the next webinar is available.
To take this a step further, I recommend using your analytics data to provide special deals to warm prospects. If a person has viewed a product page numerous times but hasn’t converted – there is a proven interest but something isn’t quite right.
In my experience, offering limited discounts to these users can push them over the edge and get them to convert. In this scenario, leveraging scarcity marketing in a highly personalized way can drive explosive growth.
Instead of pumping money into ad campaigns to acquire new customers, have you ever considered getting your existing customers to do your marketing for you?
In recent years, Dropbox and Airbnb have achieved extreme growth partially due to referral marketing. However, PayPal created the blueprint many years prior.
Initially offering $20 to new users and $20 for them to refer their friends (this was later scaled down to $10 and then $5), PayPal acquired over 100,000 users in the first month of being operational.
The bold referral program was masterminded by PayPal co-founder, Elon Musk. A consummate scientist, Musk described the viral nature of the program as “bacteria growth in a Petri dish.”
While you may not be able to spend tens of millions of dollars like PayPal did to acquire new customers, a good double-sided referral program (both the referrer and friend benefit) can stimulate tremendous growth.
If you’re not ready to create a formal referral program, consider sending your repeat customers a referral discount code via email. Since they have a positive impression of your brand (proven by repeat purchases), they’ll be happy to refer their friends to you – especially if they’re incentivized to do so.
A few years back, people used guest posting for all the wrong reasons. In order to game search engines and acquire inbound links, marketers would submit sub-par content to external sites with no concern for providing value to the audience.
Fortunately, Google caught on to this unsavory practice and it’s being phased out.
However, Google is still perfectly happy for people to publish guest posts that, “inform users, educate another site’s audience or bring awareness to your cause or company.”
In other words, guest posting is no longer a link building game; it’s all about delivering value and long-term brand building.
As a free growth tactic, I find guest posting to be exceptionally effective. I aim to write multiple guest posts every week.
If you don’t consider yourself a particularly strong writer, you can hire a quality ghostwriter. You can expect to spend between $150-$300 per post. Make sure you find a quality guest writer that is an expert in their niche. They should have published on reputable blogs before, and are not a “jack of all trades”, meaning they can write on daycare blogs and b2b marketing blogs. Find writers that stick to one niche.
For startups, I recommend saving your best content for guest posts. This sounds counterintuitive, but guest posts will be read more than the posts on your site – so it makes sense to deliver the most value where you’re receiving the most eyeballs.
If you’ve ever played the old school MMORPG game, Everquest, one of the most compelling features of the game’s interface was the experience bar, which would tell you how close you are to moving up to the next level.
LinkedIn use a similar gamification tactic to encourage new users to fill out their profiles.
There is a core psychological component to gamification tactics such as progress bars.
Research indicates that the simple act of completing something, whatever it may be, leads to a release of endorphins. When the act of completion is associated with positive emotions, you’re compelled to keep completing things – which leads to a large user base for both SaaS companies and MMORPG games!
Think about how you can incorporate gamification into your user experience and you’ll reap the rewards.
In the digital era, free merchandise (a.k.a. swag) can seem like a pretty low-tech growth tactic, but this is exactly why it’s so powerful – because not many people are doing it anymore.
By handing out branded t-shirts, mouse pads, pens and other accessories, you can let your free merchandise do your marketing for you.
Counterintuitively, you don’t need a huge upfront investment.
I recommend browsing Alibaba and conversing with manufacturers. You can get your logo branded on a gigantic range of products – just shop around for the right price.
Sometimes, manufacturers will be happy to drop ship your orders, so you don’t have to hold inventory.
Instead of handing out gifts to everyone and anyone, I recommend shipping free branded accessories as rewards to customers who have a high Customer Lifetime Value (LTV).
Someone who has made repeat purchases already holds your brand in high regard, so they’re more likely to show off their free t-shirt or pen to their friends. Since they’re already a profitable customer, you’re not going to lose money on sending them a free gift – whereas you might with non-customers or one-time buyers.
Print on demand t-shirts work excellently in this scenario.
2 – Growth Mapping
Once you’ve exhausted all possible growth tactics, the first step to sustainable growth is to examine what’s working and what isn’t.
If content marketing is a core part of your company’s success, I’d recommend tracking key metrics for your campaigns.
When doing growth scoring for clients, I like to be as in-depth as possible. Before moving onto the subsequent mapping phase, I need to be able to answer the following questions:
- What is the ideal blog post length in terms of generating engagement?
- What is the ideal article title length?
- What’s the average bounce rate and time spent on pages?
- How many social shares are generated per post?
- Do some types of content create more engagement than others (i.e. infographics and video posts)?
- Do articles by certain authors perform better than others? If so, why?
After analyzing our scores, we can tell where we should maximize our investment to get the best returns.
For instance, if infographics consistently perform better than blog posts (in my experience, they often do) – allocating additional resources to producing infographics will be beneficial in the long run.
Also at this stage, we have the opportunity to revisit highly performing blog posts and optimize them.
One of my favorite optimization tactics is to provide downloadable content upgrades at the end of these popular posts.
A content upgrade is simply a lead magnet (a checklist, eBook or other item of value that marketers trade in exchange for contact information) with one key difference: they’re contextually relevant.
If you’re a marketing agency, you might feature a lead magnet on your homepage in the form of an eBook about driving website traffic. However, if you’ve seen that an evergreen article about email marketing continually gets lots of views – you might want to provide a checklist at the end of the post describing the steps to creating a killer autoresponder sequence.
Growth mapping is all about examining the data, and then mapping out a course of action for sustainable long-term growth.
Have you used any other growth hacks that have been effective for your business? Please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your replies.
About the Author: Aaron Agius, CEO of worldwide digital agency Louder Online is, according to Forbes, among the world’s leading digital marketers. Working with clients such as Salesforce, Coca-Cola, IBM, Intel, and scores of stellar brands, Aaron is a Growth Marketer – a fusion between search, content, social, and PR. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or on the Louder Online blog.