Start-Up Battle Made Easy: Round 2. Growth Hacking - the Art of Growing Faster

I was recently invited to attend Startup Battle by Marian Gazdik, director at Tiger Studios. Startup Battle is a regular meetup that takes place in London and its main focus is in startups, entrepreneurs, co-founders and other business people. The last one was at The Bakery, an awesome place in the middle of Tech City where companies are 'incubated' and developed. For more information and to see how you can make use of it, click here: and check them out on Twitter as well: @thebakeryldn. "Growth-Hacking beyond Growth-Hacking" by Sofia Quintero Sofia Quintero works for Geckoboard. Her official title is 'Growth and Marketing Firestarter' (yes, really!), and her aim is building the Growth Team within the company, making sure it gets to the next level using data that she collects with Geckoboard.

  • Geckoboard is at the very centre of a data-driven culture. Geckoboard is a data-communication tool that pulls all the data and key metrics in one easy-to-use dashboard. So, if you start with your key metrics and main goals/aims, Geckoboard can visualise your progress towards those goals in real time. This is important for both big and small businesses.
  • So what does it mean to be a 'firestarter'? First of all, it's about understanding - understanding what shows growth, understanding the market you're working in and its requirements. As part of her job, Sofia talks with various companies and asks them how they define growth and what the key metrics are for them. As a growth-hacker, you need to look at data, see what that means to you and identify how you can use that to build your strategy. Your aim is to grow in the present while building a sustainable future, trying the  balance between the two.
  • The appeal in growth-hacking is in achieving spectacular growth in a considerably short time - which is, fundamentally, what growth-hacking is all about. However, if you only concentrate on that, you will soon forget the human factor of your business, and this can have a negative impact on your business in the long term.
  • Be honest using data - data never lies, it's always there, and it will ground you.
  • Most people profess to work for a data-driven company, but not everyone actually understands what that even means - understanding the need of data, balancing between intuition and experience when it comes to data and using rational to see how you can tie data into your business to drive innovation and  growth - that is they key quality of a data-driven company. The second question is - does your startup have a process in place to make sure that data you report back into the business is being used to drive change?
  • Understand that growth is multi-dimensional - it's not just about numbers, it's about people and leveraging their talents and ideas; it's about implementation, understanding data correlation, and, ultimately, using common sense.
  • Report on trends and don't be afraid to involve other people in the decision-making process. Often, embracing the future and optimising the present involves a big change in culture in your company.
  • A great business tip, regardless of your business area, is keeping a dashboard on the wall so everyone can see what is going on in real-time. People within your company will want to know how the business is going, whether you're growing or not, and whether their job has a contribution and knock-on effect to that. That place, in fact, can easily become the new water cooler.
  • Remember - when it comes to growth hacking, you're not the centre of the universe, but you're part of a structure and the structure needs to go towards growth in the same commitment. Growth-hacking is great, but don't forget to look at the bigger picture.

Book recommendation: "Lean Analytics - Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster" [Amazon]

"How a bootstrapper grew from 0 to 1.5 million downloads on AppStore" by Sunil Patro The second speaker for the night was Sunil Patro, founder at SignEasy. SignEasy has been described as "the simplest and most convenient app for businesses and professionals to legally sign documents from smartphones & tablets.". It's currently available on the AppStore, Google Play Store and BlackBerry AppWorld.

SignEasy has been able to get pure organic growth from 0 to 1.5 million downloads on the AppStore in just 3 years. When they noticed that more than 50% of the downloads  were coming from the AppStore, the team at SignEasy had to re-evaluate how they were making the best use of the AppStore.

After this re-evaluation, they changed the keywords used to promote the app in the AppStore, as well as prompting users to review the app from within the app.

Here are a few lessons from this reevaluation exercise that SignEasy went through:

  • The principles of SEO ranking apply within the AppStore as well, so optimise the metadata (e.g. keywords) in your app description and app title, to drive more searches towards your apps. As a result, you will also see an increase in download rate. Ask yourself, "what keywords will people use to get to my app?". You can always experiment with keywords based on the searches you get - try with a slightly different text when you issue an update of the application and see how that changes the number of downloads you get.
  • Listen to customer behaviour and analyse the demographic of your users: is there a need to localise your app with more translations? Does your app cater to everyone in your user demographic?
  • Social media is at the heart of (most) people, especially smartphone users. Does your app make good use of this? SignEasy noticed that they started getting more reviews and online mentions when they enabled a Twitter sharing option. With this, users can easily share their experience to their followers on Twitter.
  • Speaking of experience, pay attention to the first 10 seconds that users go through when they first open the app - do you have a welcome screen? Or perhaps a welcome video? Make sure the first 10 seconds give a good impression of your app.
  • Are you forcing your users to give more data than they're comfortable with? If a user isn't comfortable giving their email address, they will be put by your app if email registration is mandatory. Make sure you have options, or even a trial to start with.
  • Don't be afraid to go to the extra mile to satisfy your customer's needs and latest obsessions (within reason, of course). Sometimes all your customers need is a reassuring and effective customer support.
  • Have a pricing plan in place, but don't be afraid to change it in the future if it's not working for you. Experiment within reason - you don't want to upset your existing customers. SignEasy went through a lot of pricing plans - free, paid, freemium etc. Sunil says that the pricing plan they have in place now is what they're sticking...for now! However, he doesn't rule out another change in the future.

"Top 10 Growth-Hacking Tips" by Liam Reynolds from True Up

The third speaker was Liam Reynolds, founder of True Up. True Up started in January 2013 as a London-based consultancy dedicated to growth-hacking startups and companies. It's actually London's first Growth Hacking consultancy.

Liam shared with us his top 10 tips that he's learnt while working in growth-hacking:

  1. The answer is rarely acquisition, and even less to do with Google. Sometimes it's to do with your payment system, user sign-up etc. 
  2. Never underestimate bounce rate. First impressions count, and the speed with which your visitors leave your site is an indication of whether you're doing things right or not. It usually comes down to 3 key reasons: technology (does your site take a long time to load up? You can find the answer to this and more questions with Google Analytics.), relevancy (what do people look for before getting to your page? Sometimes they stumble across your site by mistake, hence resulting in a bounce visit if they leave), confusion (is it clear what you do on your website, or do you leave your readers wondering?).
  3. Use of soft-follow. Create targeted and timely follows. You can use tools (e.g. SocialOomph) to get a stream of tweets that contain any keywords you like. You can then follow people from that stream, knowing that they're within your same industry or area of interest.
  4. Use available tools. There are lots and lots of tools out there. The art of being a growth-hacker is identifying what tools to use, and how. You can use tools to see what's happening with your site, like Google Analytics, KissMetrics, MixPanel, Flurry, Mobile AppTracking; you can use tools to see why certain behaviours are occurring, like CrazyEgg, Smart Survey,, MoboSurvey, Qualaroo; you can then use tools to optimise your site or application based on your findings, like Optimizely, and Visual Website Optimiser.
  5. Brand, brand, brand. Here's the reality: your user finds your brand less important than you do. People like brands like Facebook, Twitter etc because of their products, but liking their products they're not required to like the brand as well.
  6. What you say and how you say it is almost as important as what you do. Paying attention to what you say means that you're also paying attention to your credibility.
  7. Test everything. How do you take ideas and hypotheses? How do you validate your findings? This can be anything from page layout to pricing of the products you offer.
  8. Look for clues everywhere. Data is very rarely isolated. Identify how it correlates to other datasets and look at the bigger picture to get a deeper understanding of what's going on. You will find that the answer to your data questions are often hidden and not obvious.
  9. It's all about people. Despite the big focus on data that most companies have, remember that at the core of your business you have people - people drive the data and can affect your growth. While people play an integral part in your business development, look at what your business funnel looks like. From your findings, to the spark in the light-bulb, finding the budget to building advocacy.
  10. The growth hacking cycle. Create a business framework, identify growth barriers, find the answers to your questions, prioritise, test the solutions, and repeat.

"13 Growth-Hacking Tips" by Jacek Blaut from Growth Republic 

Our fourth speaker was Jacek Blaut, who runs Growth Republic ltd., a newly founded London-based company. Their aim is advising startups and SMEs in online marketing, helping them to maximise conversion rates to achieve higher revenues.

Jacek shared a few of his favourite hacks for business interested in growth-hacking:

  • Use A/B testing to test what ads attract more visitors to your site.
  • Focus on a few main metrics and develop your strategy around those - anything else is extra. Jacek, for instance, focuses on acquisition, activation and revenue, and his business strategy revolves around those metrics.
  • Connect the right AdWords keywords to various landing pages, to make sure that your visitors' user journey is customised around them.
  • Long-tailing (using niche keywords in your site) is a method that works wonders with SEO. Make sure you have the right keywords in your header and footer besides the usual text in the main body of text.
  • Generate great content (especially if you have a blog integrated in your website, and if you don't have enough resources to create content, you can outsource it.
  • Growth Republic have their own web crawling application that searches for trending topics. So, anytime something new appears, the company knows and they react quickly, adapting their strategy accordingly.
  • Does your website look credible? Make sure you have information around your business (e.g. email address, address) as well as testimonials from clients, customers and other business, and make sure you incorporate their logos as well.
  • Cater to mobile users: make sure your website uses a responsive design for mobile and tablet users - accommodate the needs of your visitors and potential customers.
  • Encourage upselling but don't push it - offer extra features to customers (for a smaller fee than the usual), giving them reasons to 'upgrade' and continue using your services.
Sponsors & Perks
A big thank you to the sponsors of the event:
Huddlebuy, Europe's largest selection of trusted business deals for small businesses (@huddlebuy on Twitter).
Bugscore, the first global online scoring platform where you can score and compare people, products and businesses (@Bugscore on Twitter).
The Startup Battle is back again this Saturday 27th for more - this time the theme is "Get inspired from the BEST in business: Meet them, Network, Connect." Click here to register your attendance and find out more about who's speaking and what's going to be discussed.
 Make sure you follow the team on Twitter as well: @StartupBattleUK


Facebook EdgeRank is Dead - Now What?

Engagement Rate - out of Fanbase or out of Reach?

Engagement Rate - out of Fanbase or out of Reach?