This article is made of quotes and highlights from the book Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley's Best Kept Secret by Raymond Fong and Chad Riddersen.
Growth Hacker (noun): a highly resourceful and creative marketer singularly focused on high-leverage growth.
There is no shame in swiping a growth hack that has worked for someone else and applying it to your business, Apple built one of the most valuable businesses in the world doing it.
Growth Hacking Your Mind
Comfort is a death sentence to progress, and progress is what you seek.
As a savvy and self-aware business owner, accept that you will never have X extra money or free time. Your competitive advantage will come from your ability to intelligently reallocate your scarce resources to achieve breakthrough growth.
Your first step to fracture the fear of investing more resources on growth is to track your finances on a monthly or quarterly basis
What differentiates the fastest-growing companies from their peers is that they’re not afraid to invest a massive amount of resources on growth.
If you desire growth and have a profitable business, operate at a break-even point and reinvest the profit, or a portion of the profit, back into growth.
If you are running a break-even or unprofitable business, spend some time going through your expenditures looking for redundancies or unnecessary expenses.
The false hope that “if I provide an excellent product and service to the market, everything else will take care of itself.” We call this limiting core belief the “Field of Dreams fallacy”.
The present-day reality is, “if you build it, they won’t just come.”
Establishing an Automated Sales Process (ASP™)
Think of an ASP™ as a digital replica of the perfect salesperson.
The perfect salesperson will naturally attract prospects, set a polished first impression, keep prospects engaged as well as educate them, follow up with them at just the right time and handle any objections with expert salesmanship, skillfully close the sale while simultaneously looking for upsell opportunities, and get referrals while retaining them as customers for life.
The Six ASP™ Components:
Attraction is the means of getting attention for your products and services.
While the tactics may vary, the goal remains the same: get attention.
The Attraction component works to eliminate marketing resource waste by quickly parsing through unqualified, cold-market prospects and pulling out prospects that are qualified for your product or service with targeted advertising.
2. First Impression
Once you’ve attracted your qualified prospects, you want to ensure that you make a good first impression by giving your prospects a consistent, personalized, and professional experience.
In an online world, your first impression is established when someone visits your website or stumbles upon your presence on social media.
The aim of the First Impression component is to turn your qualified prospects acquired via the Attraction component into brand-acquainted and intrigued prospects
3. Engage & Educate
The Engage & Educate component transforms brand-acquainted and intrigued prospects into an engaged and educated prospect that is much more likely to trust you, like you, and ultimately do business with you.
The Follow-Up component effortlessly converts engaged and educated prospects into trusting prospects that are ready to buy, whether that’s today or at a later time.
5. Sales Technology
When your prospect is ready to buy, it’s your role to move them through a frictionless sales experience that shepherds them smoothly to the point of purchase.
6. Referrals & Retention
The final step is to ask for referrals and retain that customer for life.
The problem is, you are drinking from the fire hose of isolated tactics without having any framework, mental model, or context to prioritize, organize, and assess the applicability to your situation.
Attract thousands of interested people and laser-target your hottest prospects so you aren’t wasting money and time on tire-kickers and looky-loos.
Immediate attribution and feedback loop of online advertising empowers you to know which half of your advertising is wasted so you may eliminate the waste.
When you identify an online ad that is producing buyers, you can quickly scale it up as the ad inventory is available on demand.
Online, you need to optimize for precision, identifying the exact audience you want to market to. This process starts with identifying your “avatar.”
Here are some questions to ask yourself when developing the perfect avatar.
- What gender is your ideal buyer?
- How old is he or she?
- What’s his or her profession?
- What’s his or her annual income?
- Where does he or she live?
- Is he or she married?
- Does he or she have kids?
- What are his or her hobbies?
- What are his or her interests?
A free tool you can use to define your avatar is Facebook’s Audience Insights. You can input look-a-like audiences such as people who liked a competitor’s page, liked the page of a specific interest group, or demonstrated interests relevant to your offer. Facebook Audience Insights will then show you that specific audience’s shopping behavior, educational background, relationship status, and a number of intimate details that will help you develop a high-quality avatar.
Regarding when, focus first on when your avatar is in a buying mood or most likely to take a buying action.
One of the clearest indicators of buying action is the keywords the avatar uses when performing an online search.
Once we exhausted the ad inventory with education interest, we expanded to folks who are aware of their problem but may not be in a position to actively solve that problem. For example, we served display ads to homeowners on Facebook touting the benefits of having your roof inspected before the rainy season.
Focus on purchase intent, then education-based interest, and then awareness-based interest when reaching out to your avatar.
Regarding where, focus on where your avatar spends time.
A clever way to determine specifically where your avatar spends time is to use a tool called SimilarWeb. Enter your competitor’s URLs into the tool, and scroll down to see exactly where their website traffic is coming from. This is a great way to discover places to “steal” clients away from your competition.
Regarding how, don’t overcomplicate it. At the most fundamental level, your decision is between text, image, audio, and video.
As a growth hacker, we recommend that you start with something simple, affordable, and quick to implement, such as text, in order to get an understanding of what works.
We developed four primary categories to keep Attraction tactics organized: direct, search platforms, branding platforms, and other.
- Direct: Direct attraction is when someone already knows about you and types your website address directly into her browser. Direct traffic is reflection of overall brand awareness: the more brand awareness, the more direct traffic.
- Search Platforms: Attraction from search platforms is when somebody finds you from a search engine. Searches come in three varieties: searches for your brand, searches for a service you provide, and searches for information.
- Branding Platforms: Attraction from branding platforms is when somebody finds you on social media or other platforms where your company can be reviewed or talked about. We advise being proactive on the branding platform that your avatar spends the most time on, as well as the one that is most likely to lead to a buying action. For all other platforms, we recommend being reactive, responding appropriately but not ignoring them.
- Other: Attraction from “other” sources is primarily traffic from news sites and partner sites
What differentiates a growth hacker from the rest is the ability to conceive creative, tech-enabled growth strategies when resources are scarce.
Without spending a dollar more on marketing, how can you acquire the most customers in the least time?
The domino theory of growth hacking states that small wins beget progressively larger wins. Your job as a growth hacker is to identify the lead domino, the first tactic to implement, and line up the subsequent dominoes in ascending level of achievability on a path that leads you to your ultimate goal.
- While the initial out-of-pocket expense may be low, advertising inventory scalable, and ad serving automatable for online attraction, there is a certain time when an adept growth hacker should pursue offline opportunities.
- The growth hack used by Silicon Valley tech companies to parse through the multitude of digital demographic data is to create an avatar, a digital representation of your ideal buyer.
- When marketing to your avatar, focus first on when the avatar is in a buying mood or likely to take a buying action, where your avatar spends time, and how best to reach the avatar (text, image, audio, or video).
- The four primary categories to keep Attraction tactics organized are direct, search platforms, branding platforms, and other
- A framework for identifying high-ROI Attraction opportunities is called advertising arbitrage: seek advertising opportunities where advertising inventory supply outpaces advertiser demand.
- A strategy for creating cost-efficient advertising opportunities is to marry content creation with commerce.
- As you start to amplify your Attraction, the filtration process of personalizing and qualifying prospects enables you to reduce wasted marketing dollars.
- The domino theory of growth hacking states that small wins beget progressively larger wins. Identify the lead domino, the first tactic to implement, and line up the subsequent dominoes in ascending level of achievability on a path that leads you to your ultimate goal.
- Collaboration opportunities exist where your customer base overlaps with a complementary company and is fertile territory for affiliate, joint venture, comarketing, and other similar types of partnership arrangements.
2. First Impression
Set a powerful first impression, giving your prospects a consistent, personalized, and professional experience.
The Evolution of the First Impression
The first impression, by definition, is established when someone first comes in contact with your brand or business.
In the present tech-enabled economy, the one constant is change.
Your task is to assess your potential return on investment realized when the technology is implemented and adopt when the benefits outweigh the cost.
As a general rule, a fast-follow technology adoption strategy mitigates the risk of losing money while maximizing the duration of enjoying a return on investment. That being said, at first glance it may appear that the late adopter will reap the largest return because the difference between price to adopt and return on investment will be maximized.
However, there is a tangible opportunity cost that grows larger as time passes after the intersection between cost and return. Continuing with the website example, the early adopters that spent millions of dollars weren’t local businesses; they were multinational brands like Coca-Cola. If Coca-Cola had waited ten years before they adopted, they would have lost
In the technology hotbed of Silicon Valley, the accrued liability caused by delaying innovation has its own term: “technical debt.”
While Silicon Valley gives the perception that first is best, one of the many secrets is that established companies wait to see how the first movers play out and then adopt when there is a clear return on investment.
First Impression Takeaways
- Despite technology leveling the playing field, it also changes rapidly, and you can quickly appear dated or become obsolete in a fraction of the time it takes a physical storefront or office to become obsolete.
- A fast-follow technology adoption strategy mitigates the risk of losing money while maximizing the duration of enjoying a return on investment.
- Look outside your industry for best practices to follow so you can still benefit from first-mover advantage in your niche.
- It’s better to stand on the proverbial shoulders of giants than reinvent the proverbial wheel; the copycat tactic will save you thousands.
- The benefits of having a polished first impression may not be 100 percent attributable to sales growth, but that is not to say it doesn’t play a key role.
3. Engage & Educate
Engage and patiently educate your prospects so they have all the information they need to comfortably buy from you.
Stripped of our fancy tools, there are only three fundamental ways to persuade. The three “rhetorical appeals,” as Aristotle called them, are as follows:
- Appeals to ethos are persuasive tactics that build your credibility—for example, a marquee client or an impressive press mention.
- Appeals to pathos are persuasive tactics that appeal to your audience’s emotion—for example, a stunning photo or a captivating client testimonial.
- Appeals to logos are persuasive tactics that are supported by logic—for example, facts and figures, and features and benefits.
Nine Modern Modalities of Engage & Educate:
- Trust Building
- Unique Selling Proposition
- Social Proof
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Trust Building (Ethos / Pathos)
Some elements that affect your ability to gain the trust of your avatar in the first three seconds include:
- the layout and design of your website
- the style of writing you use
- the images you choose to portray.
A few user tests or an examination of the bounce rate and overall time spent on your site will give you a general sense for whether you are passing the three-second test.
2. Branding (Ethos)
The question is less about whether your brand is “good” or “bad”; that is too ambiguous and subjective. The question is whether your brand is consistent or inconsistent.
- Logo: vertical + horizontal + color + black on white + white on black + iconized
- Colors: a three- or five-color spectrum
- Typography: headline fonts as well as a reading-style font
- Voice: a set of rules for writing produced by the brand
As long as you establish the basics, and you use them consistently, you will be fine.
People subconsciously trust and ascribe credibility (ethos) to that which is predictable.
3. Unique Selling Proposition (Pathos / Logos)
“Unique value proposition” (UVP), is a succinct summation of how your company is different from your competitors.
4. Headline (Logos)
A headline should immediately draw attention and be the very first words that people read when visiting your website.
It needs to immediately signal to your visitor that she landed in the right spot.
Instant-Clarity Headline Formulas
[What You Do] + [What Makes You Unique] + [Geographic Reach]
Residential & Commercial Roofing Since 1929 Serving Los Angeles and Surrounding Area
[End Result the Customer Wants] + [Specific Period of Time] + [Address the Objections]
Hot Fresh Pizza Delivered to Your Door in Thirty Minutes or It’s Free
Tagline vs. Slogan vs. Headline
- Tagline “Think Different”
- Slogan “Change is in the air”
- Headline “Our Most Advanced Technology in a Magical and Revolutionary Device at an Unbelievable Price”
As a general rule a tagline represents the company, a slogan represents a product or service, and a headline sells the product or service to a specific audience.
5. Feature-Benefits (Pathos / Logos)
[What Something Is] + [What Something Does]
(Apple’s iPod): 1GB of MP3s that puts 1,000s of Songs in Your Pocket
Feature-benefits often come in sets of three or more and are typically formatted as digestible snippets.
A simple trick to determine whether you’ve crafted a compelling feature-benefit is the “So what?” test. After every feature ask the question, “So what?” If the question is unanswered, you are missing the benefit.
6. Copywriting (Pathos)
It’s less about appealing to your avatar on an intellectual level with technical jargon and more about appealing to your avatar on an emotional level (pathos).
Write as if you were talking to a close friend.
A simple way to get inside the mind of your avatar and understand the language they use is from review sites. Amazon is an excellent resource for products, and Yelp is great for services. If you don’t have any reviews, look to your direct and indirect competitors and pay particular attention to the words that convey emotion.
When writing customer-centric copy, avoid “we,” “my,” “us,” and “our”; instead, use “you” and “your.”
Imagine talking to a single prospective customer about your business; that is the conversational tone and direct feeling you want to convey when engaging and educating people about your company.
7. Social Proof (Ethos)
Social proof, referred to as “informational social influence” among psychologists, states that we mimic the actions of others when we are unsure what to do.
We are psychologically hardwired to conform to the actions of our “tribe” as a shortcut survival mechanism.
Here are some examples of social proof:
- Endorsements (experts, celebrities)
- Client mentions (logos, testimonials)
- Partner mentions (logos, quotes)
- Press mentions (logos, quotes)
- Social media following / connections / likes / shares
- Number of people served
8. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) (Pathos / Logos)
It may appear counterintuitive to prompt questions that may not even be on the mind of your prospective customers, but the questions can be framed in a way that positions the product or service in a favorable light.
For example, as opposed to saying, “Does your window-cleaning service kill birds?” you can frame the question as “How does Mr. Clean Window Company help birds steer clear from my sparkling clean windows?”
9. Call-to-Action (Pathos)
The term “call-to-action” is a hyphenated way of saying, “Tell people what to do next.”
It’s important for you to identify the primary, secondary, tertiary, and so on calls-to-action prioritized based on what fits best with your operation and industry.
Here are some examples of different calls-to-action:
- Book an appointment online
- Call our 1-800 number
- Click here to buy
- Request a proposal
- Submit a contact form
- Instant-message us
The quantity of calls-to-action often depends on the size of your operations and nature of your business.
The primary call-to-action should be visible “above the fold” (the section of the webpage before you start scrolling down).
- Button Copy Lead with a familiar verb (e.g., Get, Grab, Download, Start, Apply).
- Be specific (avoid only using a generic phrase like “Click Here”).
- Be clear about what happens next (you can add copy below the button to add clarity; e.g., “Step 1 of 3”).
- Don’t be afraid of long button text; adding pronouns (e.g., “my”), articles (e.g., “the”), and prepositions (e.g., “for”) can make you sound more human and friendly.
- Add a benefit. If there is clear benefit that occurs when an action is taken, make that known (e.g., “Protect My Computer”).
- Button Design Contrast the color so it’s different than the other colors on the page (don’t worry, there is no “magic” color; just make it different).
- Make it “feel” clickable (add mouse hover effects so users are subconsciously swayed to want to click).
In conclusion, as long as you make it clear “what to do next,” you will be fine.
Prioritize your effectiveness improvement based on traffic. Start with your high-traffic homepage, and work your way outward to pages that get incrementally less traffic
Engage & Educate Takeaways
- Aristotle’s Rhetoric outlines the ancient modes of persuasion: ethos (credibility), pathos (emotion), logos (logic).
- In order to maximize the persuasive effect of your communication, you must make all three rhetorical appeals.
- Passing the three-second test is a reflection of your ability to subconsciously convey that you are someone that can be trusted to provide what the visitor is looking for.
- The value of having a brand is that people will know it’s you before you tell them it’s you. Your unique selling proposition (USP) is a succinct summation of how your company is different from your competitors.
- A tagline represents the company, a slogan represents a product or service, and a headline sells the product or service to a specific audience.
- Test your feature-benefit with the, “So what?” test.
- Copywriting is the art and skill of writing in a manner that persuades and seduces your reader toward an action, viewpoint, opinion, or sale. When copywriting, use customer-centric words and phrases to describe your product or service, and avoid words like “we,” “my,” “us,” and “our”; instead, use words like “you” and “your.”
- Social proof: When people are unsure what to do, they mimic the actions of others. Multiple-source effect: When multiple different sources are cited, each individual source is perceived as having more influence.
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs) are your digital opportunity to handle objections. Putting the primary call-to-action in a button will add the visual queue that indicates “what to do next.”
- The most important number to track when assessing the Engage & Educate component is conversion rate.
Continue a dialogue with your prospects and politely follow up so that no business slips through the cracks.
Advertising Rule of 7
The question we are often asked is, “How many times should I follow-up?”
The Advertising Rule of 7 states that it takes approximately seven touch points for someone to be able to recall your brand.
In general, the larger the dollar value of your product or service, the longer the sales cycle, particularly for business-to-consumer sales.
For example, you’ve observed it takes an average of four weeks for someone to purchase your service, build your Follow-Up around a four-week period of time
For companies that are interested in maximizing lead flow and are comfortable handling a certain degree of low-quality leads, a low-friction request for information is an appropriate approach.
In general, the more contact information you ask from the prospect, the more “friction” there is and the less likely the prospect will be to comply with your request.
The hybrid approach is generally something companies evolve into after first implementing a simpler solution.
Among the many ways to deliver consumer education, email is the most cost-effective.
If you sell something that does not have a research phase, you can incentivize individuals with a discount.
Prior to designing the follow-up sequence, it’s important to have a clear articulation of the brand voice. The voice is a set of rules for the writing produced by your brand and is a function of having an intimate understanding of your target audience.
The 4 E’s of Copywriting Engaging:
- Is the content compelling and of interest to the reader?
- Educational: Is the content teaching the reader something relevant to your product or service?
- Entertaining: Would the reader enjoy reading your content?
- Emotional: Would your content stir up emotions inside your reader?
Follow-Up Framework Opt-In: Offer a desirable bribe (also called a “hook” or “lead magnet”) in exchange for an email address (at a minimum).
Hook Delivery: Deliver what was promised for the prospect opting in. Digital delivery can range from digital reports to emails to audio or video content. The benefit of digital delivery is that you can provide immediate gratification to your prospect and it’s free to send.
Sellucation: Sellucation is selling through education. Each Follow-Up installment is an opportunity to address common questions, handle objections, and amplify the problem while presenting your solution. It’s education with the implicit intent of driving sales.
Social Proof: Reiterating the social proof you presented in the Engage & Educate phase with testimonials, reviews, awards, partner logos, and case studies will enhance your credibility and build trust.
Promotions: Offering free consultations, discounts, and other incentives can motivate your prospect to take action. Communicating an expiration associated with the promotion can create a sense of urgency that further persuades prospects to move forward.
The way you stay in front of all your website visitors is with an advertising method called “retargeting” (also called “remarketing”).
The way retargeting works is by identifying and remembering users, through their web browsers, who have visited your website and serving ads to those users as they browse other places on the web
Categorically, we make two main differentiations in retargeting ad units: brand-based and direct-response ad units. Brand-based ad units convey your overall brand or company, and direct-response ad units focus on a specific product or service
One way of cutting down your retargeting ad bill is through “pixel burning.” For websites that have a payment portal online, such as e-commerce sites, you can isolate those who have completed payments and remove those individuals from the retargeting population since they have already completed the desired action.
- The Advertising Rule of 7 states that it takes approximately seven touch points for someone to be able to recall your brand.
- Map your Follow-Up to your average sales cycle length.
- The more information you request from your lead, the more “friction” there is, which leads to the prospect being less likely to provide the requested information.
- Apply the 4 E’s of Copywriting framework to craft messages that captivate and motivate: Engaging, Educational, Entertaining, and Emotional.
- Retargeting allows you to target your ads specifically to people that have previously visited your website.
- Brand-based ad units convey your overall brand or company, and direct-response ad units focus on a specific product or service.
5. Sales Technology
Use an arsenal of tools that makes it easy for you to close sales while identifying opportunities to upsell your clients when they are in the mood to buy.
To understand the difference between the two, upsells “up” the price by suggesting a more premium product or service, and cross-sells encourage you to reach across the aisle and add a complementary product to your order.
The suite of sales tools you select will depend on your industry and business model, but the process starts with inspecting your current real-world process and asking yourself, “How can I digitize this?”
A regular marketer will hit the wall and wait for sales technology to catch up at some point in the future. A growth hacker will embrace the opportunity to create a technological competitive sales advantage and roll up her sleeves and build the tool herself.
Furthermore, there are plenty of freelance hiring platforms that help you identify and contract a developer with the required expertise
Customer Relationship Management
The modern CRM aggregates data across the multitude of client-acquisition tools and Sales Technology tools and brings the right information to light at the right time in ways that are often fully automated.
CRM switching costs are high as accumulated data may not port over to competing solutions, so choose wisely.
Sales Technology Takeaways
- Upsells vs. cross-sells: Upsells “up” the price by suggesting a more premium product or service, and cross-sells encourage you to reach across the aisle and add a complementary product to your order.
- The suite of sales tools you select will depend on your industry and business model, but the process starts with inspecting your current real-world process and asking yourself, “How can I digitize this?”
- A regular marketer will hit the wall and wait for sales technology to catch up at some point in the future. A growth hacker will embrace the opportunity to create a technological competitive sales advantage and roll up her sleeves and build the tool herself.
- The CRM that will work best for you is a highly personal decision that is dependent on what you use it for. Compatibility and usability will be your two core considerations when selecting a CRM. It needs to connect all your current tools in a way that is user-friendly enough for you and your team to understand.
6. Referrals & Retention
Generate high-value referrals and spread the positive words from your happy clients like wildfire to heat up your cold prospects and send eye-catching signals to your new ones.
For many of the businesses we work with, it’s a better use of resources to sell more goods and services to an existing customer than to go out and acquire a new customer.
Testimonials are a key piece of social proof that feeds the Engage & Educate and Follow-Up components of the ASP™.
[Specific End Result or Benefit the Customer Received] + [Specific Period of Time] + [Accompanied Customer Emotion] + [Customer Name with Relevant Stats]
Example: I was craving a Hawaiian style pizza at one in the morning and was stoked when it arrived just twenty minutes after I called! ~Chad R., Pasadena, CA
- What were you looking for when you found [COMPANY]?
- What compelled you to choose [COMPANY] over others?
- What results did you get from working with [COMPANY]?
- When [COMPANY] [COMPLETED SOLUTION], what did you like most about the experience?
- Who else would you recommend [COMPANY] to?
If you plan on sending holiday greetings or something similar, send them on an “off” holiday. For example, a “Happy Saint Patrick’s Day” card will be more distinctive and more likely to be read than a New Year “Happy Holidays” card. We worked with one of our clients to send a box of See’s chocolates for Valentine’s Day to their top general contractor clients, and they ended up generating more than fifty thousand dollars of contracts from a two-hundred-dollar investment. They also helped several “forgetful” gentlemen look like wonderfully thoughtful husbands when they brought chocolate to their wives on Valentine’s Day.
The two primary categories of active referral systems are financial and in-kind. To illustrate the difference between the two systems, a financial incentive would be to give a referral source twenty dollars cash, whereas an in-kind incentive would be to give a referral source a product or service of yours that is valued at twenty dollars.
Referrals & Retention Takeaways
- The difference between an active referral system and a passive referral system is often the singular difference between a static company and a high-growth company.
- Increasing client retention increases Customer Lifetime Value, which in turn allows a business to justify spending more money on customer acquisition. This opens up new customer acquisition channels that are otherwise unaffordable.
- Testimonial formula: [Specific End Result or Benefit the Customer Received] + [Specific Period of Time] + [Accompanied Customer Emotion] + [Customer Name with Relevant Stats].
- Preempt negative commentary through satisfaction surveys and other internal feedback forms. Don’t ignore negative commentary on review sites and social media; control the conversation.
- How to handle negative commentary: For a negative truth, admit, apologize, and promote the opposite; for a negative lie, state that the comment is inaccurate or invalid, and substantiate your comment.
- Retention improvements are particularly potent for early-stage companies and mature companies that have not recently spent time optimizing the retention process.
- The two primary categories of active referral systems are financial and in-kind.
ASP™ Summary ATTRACT thousands of interested new leads. Create a powerful FIRST IMPRESSION to set the tone for a consistent, personalized, and professional experience with your company. ENGAGE & EDUCATE your prospects so they have all the information they need to feel comfortable buying from you. Implement a seamless FOLLOW-UP process so that no business slips through the cracks and your company is always top-of-mind. Use SALES TECHNOLOGY to more efficiently close sales, upsell, and cross-sell products and services. Generate high-value REFERRALS while RETAINING existing clients.