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Automation. Referral programs. Team-wide innovation targets. X-factor recruits. Constant website optimisation. Strategic partnerships with complementary, credibility-enhancing businesses. An experimentation mindset. A responsive product/market fit.

These were some of the recommendations yielded by this week’s “Let’s Talk…” feature, which asked a dozen thought leaders, including startup founders, to identify the growth hacks that have helped them scale their businesses. As one commentator noted, however, “no amount of clever growth hacking in the margins can compensate for a poor solution”.

Read on for further insights from this week’s “Let’s Talk…” lineup…

Craig Davis, Co-Founder, Sendle: “Product/market fit is the holy grail for marketing and the ultimate growth hack. For Sendle, getting to – and maintaining – product/market fit has been central to our growth story. No amount of clever growth hacking in the margins can compensate for a poor solution, but solve a problem for your customers really well, and they’ll be willing to do your bidding for you. Product-market fit results directly in word-of-mouth advocacy, which, for Sendle, has been the very best type of advertising. In 2017, word-of-mouth — aided and abetted by some smart channel “hacks” — accounted for 50 per cent of our business growth.

“It’s important to understand that finding the right product/market fit isn’t a one-time challenge. You need to be wide-eyed and innocent and keep a “growth mindset” that stays engaged with multiple feedback loops to ensure your product continues to meet the needs of the market. We have seven major loops running, and part of the reason Sendle is growing 20 per cent month-on-month is because we’re listening, every minute of the day, to the thousands of small businesses across the country that use Sendle to access cheaper, greener, and more convenient parcel delivery.”

Lisa Pagotto, Founder, Crooked Compass: “My number one growth hack has been strategic partnerships. I research brands that have similar values and demographics but exist outside our industry and reach out. Being a young brand, this can be tough, so persistence is key.

“When you find the right person – i.e. some who gets you, your brand, your vision AND how you can complement each other’s brands – magic happens. A new world opens before you and credibility attaches to your brand. As a tour operator to remote regions, we partner with adventure clothing brands and camera brands – items our travellers need to fulfil their experience with us. Our travellers have access to great discounts across certain brands and in return, the partners database, have exclusive offers directly with us. It must be a win-win for both parties and the brands must share the same vision and values for it be successful.”

Lance Hodgson, Marketing Manager, Mentorloop: “For the majority of companies looking to hack their way to growth (i.e. digital companies) your website IS your company because it’s the place where you convert non-customers into customers.

“As long as you have a reliable level of traffic (and enough to experiment), optimising your website is your most efficient growth lever. Then every piece of demand generation you do is inherently more effective too.

“You should be constantly iterating upon with your website to see what resonates with your market: new messaging and positioning, new design elements, new social proof and new content.

“Website optimisation will enable you to scale your business via more downloads, more enquiries, and more prospects, and will also inform other parts of your operations too (product, sales etc.).”

Robbie Sampson, CEO, OrbitRemit: “The first growth hack I’d recommend is to make the registration process as easy as possible. If you’re a business that requires people to sign up to your offering, it needs to be quick and easy. Don’t underestimate how short an attention span consumers may have — if the process is too time intensive or requires a lot of different information that they may not know off the top of their head, you run the risk of them getting bored, and moving on. A few years ago, we reduced a previously long registration form to just three fields (country, email and password), and instantly we saw an improvement in sign-ups. This directly led to an 11% increase in user generation and a 4% increase in transacting customers each month. This was a big win for us considering the high lifetime value of customers – and it costed us essentially nothing!

“I’d also recommend continuously refreshing offers and services to customers particularly around referral programmes and loyalty plans. Consumers are more open to listening to advice from friends or family so having them recommend your product is a big step forward in converting them into a customer. In 2017, OrbitRemit increased its referral reward for existing customers that made three referrals from $100 to $150. The impact was immediate with a whopping 136% increase in the number of referred new transacting customers joining each month since.”

Tanya Titman, Accountant & Founder, Acceler8: “In a service-based industry there are two levers you can pull to activate growth: hire more staff or use technology to automate manual tasks and improve the efficiency of existing staff. The aim here is to get existing staff to be innovative so they achieve more with the same hours. I’m passionate about showing SMEs how they can use technology to improve their business, as I’ve done in both my companies.

“To amplify the adoption of new technologies and efficient practices, I set an innovation target for my team to encourage them to contribute in sourcing these. I actually value innovation as a KPI within my team more than productivity, as productivity and hitting targets can often hold employees back from seeing the bigger picture and focusing on the business as whole, rather than just their own deliverables. This creates more collaboration and accountability within the team that also aids with staff morale.”

Jessica May, CEO, Enabled Employment & Portfolio CEO, Heads Over Heels: “Social media has been our biggest growth hack. We find that it’s a great way to reach the groups we represent and keep our community alive by not only posting jobs but also interesting articles to keep the engagement levels active. Their advertising platform is also very cost efficient for our target market and we have a very wide reach compared to other platforms.”

Allan Waddall, Founder & CEO, Kablamo: “Our growth hack is built entirely around people. In order to scale a business quickly, we believe you have to create a foundation that is fully human.

“Specific individuals really count, especially in a highly competitive industry like ours. In other words, you are not hiring to just fill roles, you are hiring to build brand, build culture and fire up incredible growth.

“You want X-factor people who are nearly impossible to duplicate and who will attract other X-factor people.  While it’s not easy to even find these people, it’s virtually impossible to keep them unless you deliver on these three things: career, money and lifestyle.”

Luke Targett, CMO, Deputy: “In a word? Integration. Growth does not just happen, at least not in our experience. The pivotal moment for Deputy was building out some key goals — we had to define the customers our platform is built for. We then prioritised finding other businesses we could integrate with to truly help this target customer and improve customer experiences.

“We can pinpoint the moment we started tapping into the tech ecosystem as the point where we saw our business really start to grow. The first integration was Xero. We recognised it would be a valuable partner due to both businesses having a similar customer base and mission, ensuring the integration was mutually beneficial. Not only did it improve our customer experience, we saw the cost of gaining new users fall dramatically. We had found our method to scale. My advice is to tap into the power of integrating with other tech businesses. Many will already have your target customers as loyal users so improving their experience will bring you growth in droves.”

Noga Edelstein, Co-founder, UrbanYou & Portfolio CEO, Heads Over Heels: “Including customer reviews within our booking flow was very powerful growth hack. It generated trust in UrbanYou and increased conversion by 25%.”

Scott Cooper, Global VP Marketing, GO1: “When it comes to growth hacking, there is no single “growth hack” that will magically grow your audience or leads, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing. The most important thing is to understand where your customers are and target these channels. It’s about testing and measuring too so we put energy behind methods that have a proven track record in helping us reach our business goals. We have achieved substantial growth through combining and leveraging partnerships, curated content and digital marketing.”

“The best piece of advice I can give is to not put all your eggs in one basket. Just recently, Facebook made significant changes to its user’s news feeds which limits the number of posts users will see from organisations. Some businesses have grown to rely on Facebook as a sales tool only to have it now be worth nothing. There are already reports of businesses losing leads. It’s a lesson for everyone to have control of your business tools because if you don’t you may lose control of a channel completely.”

Fiona Anson, CEO, JobGetter & Portfolio CEO, Heads Over Heels: “Partnerships. It’s been the key to our success and growth. Teaming up with other businesses that you can create win-win relationships with and give you exposure to your target list of clients is, by far, the best – and cheapest – marketing we’ve ever done!”

Huon Hoogesteger, founder, Smart Commercial Solar: “Sometimes your best sales outcomes come from the customer you talked out of a sale for all the right reasons.  That customer will remember your integrity and expertise in not selling them something that wouldn’t have worked for them and they will pass that learning on to those for whom the product is a fit.”

Dan Ross, Managing Director, Optimizely ANZ: “Growth hacks require well thought out, long-term expansion strategies. Optimizely has found that by treating every decision as an experiment, a business can iterate at a rapid pace that enables them to learn new ways in which to unlock value in the methods they already have in place. Businesses that are more intuitive are the ones that will reap the benefits.

“For example, an online pharmacy knew that their customers were happy with the price and range on offer and that they only had limited competition. But once customers found the products on the website, they weren’t purchasing them. The company looked at how people were interacting with elements on the page and found that they were zooming in on product packaging to look at the ingredients but then deciding not to buy them. The company noticed that the labelling was particularly hard to read on the product images. Using Optimizley, the company ran A/B tests where some customers saw a plain text list of the ingredients along with the product description. This delivered a $7M benefit in just one month. Often, a small change can make a massive difference. Aggressively experimenting and iterating can increase revenue, customer growth, and market share in an incredibly short space of time.”

Simon Banks, Managing Director (Asia Pacific), Hyperwallet: “Seller engagement (be they sellers, artists, freelancers, drivers) — and thus the “seller experience” — is quickly becoming the next frontier for digital properties that are looking to hack their growth, scale quickly and retain seller loyalty in the face of rising competition. These days we take it as a given that UX design fits at the centre of every great two-sided digital platform. A beautiful and frictionless experience is what attracts consumers and ultimately keeps them engaged and active. What is often overlooked, is that the users involved in these experiences aren’t exclusively consumers. Not surprisingly, the payment – and the processes around setting up payment – is the best place to start when it comes to creating an exceptional seller experience.

“While it’s critical for payments to be secure and reliable, sellers now expect an onboarding and payout process that’s as simple as their experience as a consumer – mobile, intuitive and as frictionless as Amazon’s one-click checkout. Sellers, freelancers, drivers, and workers in the new economy want to be able to collect their earnings using the payout method that’s most convenient to them, whether that’s directly to a bank account, onto a prepaid card, or into a digital wallet… whatever is widely preferred in their country.  Catering to the multifaceted payout needs of their seller base is a great sell side hack to differentiate and accelerate a platform’s growth.”

Patrick Llewellyn, CEO, 99designs: “A really successfully growth lever we found at 99designs was investing in UX and competitor analysis to really figure out what we were doing well, and what our competitors were doing well, from a more validated customer perspective. We then took that knowledge to build a completely new user flow that improved our conversion rate on paid spend 4x. So, whilst growth hacks are normally defined as quick tests, we took time, followed the user journey, made big changes and really reaped the benefits.”

About “Let’s Talk…”

“Let’s Talk…” is an exciting weekly initiative that provides entrepreneurs and industry experts with a forum to share rapid-fire views on a range of issues that matter to start-ups and SMEs. Every Wednesday, we pose a themed question to a line-up of knowledgeable industry figures, with a view to picking their brains for valuable insights to share with you, our readers.

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James Harkness

James Harkness

James Harnkess previous editor at Dynamic Business

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