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As I study the most successful web and mobile products I notice a common theme. There are hundreds of communication channels at my disposal. How do i know which ones to use to leverage my app?
It turns out, there are only a few channels that are considered “reliable” to actually scale user growth. To clarify, when I say “channels that scale user growth”, I’m referring to means of communication that allow for rapid sharing and worth of mouth to take over. The top startups reach millions of users and revenue because they figured out how to exploit at least one or two of the growth channels to perfection.

I. Scaleable Growth Channels

Here’s a list of scalable growth channels:

  • Paid Acquisition
  • Virality
  • SEO
  • Sales
  • Unlikely Partnerships

The growth channels I list above are legitimate options for scaling user growth because:
1) Each channel naturally generates more users on its own. When you make money from customers, you’re able to use that revenue to buy more customers…which gives you more money. New cohorts of users invite more similar users…which then gives you more users, and ultimately more money.
2) Each channel has a high ceiling on saturation. People will never stop loving free products. Paid acquisition will always be around because of this very reason. People will never stop loving FREE STUFF. We can reach billions of people through one advertising network (i.e.: Google, Facebook). SEO similarly has the make-it-or-break-it model because everyone uses Google as a search engine.
At a high level, here are some of the things I would want to track:

  • How are you paying for traffic? (CPM/CPA/CPC)
  • What do the intermediate metrics look like? (impressions/CTR/etc)
  • How does your signup funnel perform?
  • How much are you spending for the users you end up registering?

II. Challenges with Growth Hacking (High Risk-High Reward)

Paid Acquisition – buy users directly through advertisements in massive ad networks such as Google or Facebook

  • I highly recommend using Facebook for remarketing specific ads to people who have already searched/consumed similar content in search engines.

Virality – word of mouth (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)

  • How do we get users to invite more users?
  • Build this into the signup process – give users the ability to “invite friends” for special discounts, coupons, extended memberships, etc.
  • For Example: “Invite one of your friends and get a free month when they sign up! Enter their email address here”

Search Engine Optimization – if we create a ton of unique content (Q&A, blog posts, long-form reviews, etc) we may end up with millions of unique pages that attract hundreds of thousands of new users searching for content via search engines (Google, Yahoo, Yelp, Review Sites, etc.)

  • Long-term acquisition strategy – our page structure must be dense and keyword-rich. It can take weeks to months to get indexed by Google. It can take even longer for the site to build PageRank in the search engine’s eyes.
  • How do we get found in search engines for major transactional search queries?

Unlikely Partnerships – these odd partnerships (with companies like Google/Yahoo) are highly unlikely, but they can help make or break a new app. If we have any connections at major brands we will use them to our advantage.

III. Growth Hacking isn’t always an immediate option

  • Get your friends+family to use the product
  • Email/post among your local community, whether that’s college or an alumni mailing list or whatever
  • Guest writing on niche blogs – you often see this with mommy blogs, etc.
  • Cold e-mailing potential users and influencers
  • Engaging with potential users over Twitter, Reddit, forums, and other communities
  • Contests and giveaways, partnering with a blogger/YouTuber or something
  • Getting covered in niche press outlets, like the tech press

This is a brief touch on the topic of growth hacking startups. Learn more about how to growth hack your startup…
One of the world’s most insightful resources on the topic of growth hacking is Andrew Chen. The insights included in this post are just a minor fraction of what you’ll learn from him on this topic.