Entrepreneurship, Marketing

Startup Growth Tactics- Get Users and Grow Your Startup


Growth marketing and growth tactics are critical for a startup beyond its MVP stage. Once you have tested your product with early customers and iterated it to arrive at a product/service that provides value to your market, it’s time to grow.

Startup growth tactics are vital. It’s innocent to believe that if you launch a product, people will automatically find and use it. Growth marketers would disagree. It takes special care to continuously bring new users to a product to facilitate growth.

Who should be using growth tactics to grow their business? Any company selling online and relying on a set customer journey to convert audience to paying users would benefit from growth marketing. Both B2B and B2C companies focusing on growth have an advantage over competitors.

Gustaf Alstromer, a growth expert at Airbnb, shares growth tactics and gems in this video, referenced to research for this piece.

What Exactly is a Growth Strategy for Startups?

A growth strategy underscores a strategic plan for a company to boost sales, revenue and market visibility. Growth strategies include both organic and paid ways of attracting customers.

The Ansoff matrix includes the growth strategies companies use to expand into existing and new markets- market penetration, market development, product development and diversification.

Related: What a Startup’s Go-to-Market Strategy Looks Like

Is Growth Too Early for Some Startups?

Focusing on growth at the wrong time can be detrimental to startups. The primary focus must be building a product your market wants and finding a solid product-market fit. Applying growth tactics as a company without a product-market fit can yield growth early on, but it dies out in the long run.

First, Product Market Fit

To find product-market fit:

  1. Identify the one critical metric that represents the value customers get from your product
  2. Measure the repeat usage of that metric by active users

For instance, at Airbnb, the value to customers is to book a stay. The frequency of booking can be annual on average. For Facebook, active user count represents a value metric, and the ideal frequency can be daily logins. For a company like Lyft, booking a ride is the value for the customer at an ideal repeat frequency of daily/hourly. 

So, it’s critical to determine the one metric you can measure as the core value of your product and the ideal frequency at which that should happen.

Then, it’s advisable to measure retention to test if a product-market fit already exists.

On the X-axis plot the time, and on the Y-axis, the key metric as the percentage of users. If the graph slides down, there is a poor product-market fit as the percentage of users engaging in the key behavior is dwindling with time. It’s key to note that most good products flatten out over time, meaning they retain customers consistently.

For small startups, this method could be replaced by asking customers questions to find product-market fit. For instance, “how would you feel if you could no longer use the product?”

Small startups can run a simple survey with existing users and gather feedback to analyze product-market fit.

Related: Step-by-Step Roadmap to Developing an MVP

An Example of Successful and Massive Growth – Facebook

Facebook’s growth encapsulates the essence of growth marketing. A growth tactic called internationalization (using translations) helped Facebook grow to 500 million users.

As Facebook launched in multiple languages, it entered new markets worldwide. Therefore, as Facebook was hitting the peak of reaching people who spoke English, it was made accessible in other languages to expand.

Another phase of massive growth at Facebook occurred around 2010 when smartphones were on the rise, and the Facebook team built a mobile app.

Next, around 2013, Facebook was bumping against the ceiling of the Internet, meaning almost everyone who used the web was a Facebook user. Then, Facebook started getting more people online with internet.org. They worked with carriers to bring more people online and eventually get them on Facebook.

The lesson from Facebook’s growth story is that intentional growth can help a company grow beyond its wildest imagination years after the natural adoption of a product slows down.

Growth Teams in Startups Today

Three types of professionals drive growth in companies today-

  1. Product growth marketers/growth engineers– Product managers, engineers, data scientists and marketers comprise this team and work on growth using technology. These professionals actively change the product to drive growth and work with users who’ve already arrived at the product but haven’t found value in it yet. For instance, conversion rate optimization falls here.
  1. Performance marketers– Google and Facebook marketing, search engine marketing and content marketing are some focus areas for performance marketers. More forward startups now combine product engineering and performance marketing teams or at least have them work side-by-side.
  1. Brand marketers– Brand marketing is all about building awareness around the product and creating an emotional connection with the audience with the look and feel of the brand across touchpoints. Startups should refrain from investing in brand marketing in the early days or before they hit the limit on product growth and performance marketing. 

Related: Creating a Marketing Funnel That Converts

Which Growth Channels Should Startups Utilize?

Startups ready for growth can find out which growth channels would work best for them using the framework below. The idea is to highlight the key user behavior around your product and determine how frequently users engage in it.

  1. How often do users use Google to find a solution to the problem you’re solving? How likely are potential users to find your product through a Google search, and how frequently do they perform a Google search for the same? A lot of products get discovered through Google. If your product is one of those, you can target SEO/SMM optimization for growth. For instance, real estate properties aren’t bought frequently. 

However, users perform Google searches when considering buying a property. So, it makes sense for a real estate company to optimize its website using SEO and SMM best practices. 

  1. Do existing users of your product already share the product using word-of-mouth? If so, a startup can use virality and referral marketing to grow by accelerating an existing behavior (talking about the product) and incentivizing users to do it more often.
  1. Do more users improve the product’s experience? For instance, a social media platform’s value is not in having a select group of users accessing it but in a growing community. The growth tactic to use here could be virality, as more users signing up leads to new users and so on. 
  1. Can you enlist all the people who would benefit from your product? For instance, if a product is for lawyers, a startup can make a list of all lawyers in a chosen geographic area and undertake direct sales activities to onboard new users. 
  1. Do your users have a high LTV (Lifetime Value), meaning they spend a lot throughout their association with your product? If so, a startup can grow using paid acquisition on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Google, for example. 

Related: A Comprehensive List of UX Design Principles for Startup Website and Blog

Growth Tactics for Startups

It’s worth noting that each of these growth tactics has books written about them. So, consider this as an overview of growth tactics available to startups and then dive in with specific resources.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Any product is a funnel with steps between someone discovering it and completing one circle of usage. For an e-commerce site, the funnel could begin at a social media advertisement and end with signing up on the site or start with signing up on the site and end with a successful purchase. Conversion Rate Optimization considers the entire or a part of the product funnel.

There are many ways to work on conversion rate optimization. Here are a few notable CRO tactics-

  1. Internationalization – Internationalization is essentially adding translation services to make the product more accessible to a diverse non-English speaking audience.
  1. Authentication – Almost all products have a way of identifying and authenticating users into them. The ease with which users can authenticate themselves impacts the conversion rate. Signing up for a new product, even if at no cost, is a fragile moment in the users’ journey when they’re highly likely to drop off. Companies, therefore, spend enormously on optimizing their authentication and login processes.
  1. Onboarding – Bringing a user on your platform to quickly realize the value of the product is the aim of an onboarding process. Optimizing this process improves conversion rates.
  1. Purchase conversion – This is the stage when the user decides whether to make a transaction on your website or product, not necessarily with their money.

When we drill down, CRO tactics include the correct language and placement of calls-to-action, including keywords into title tags and meta-descriptions for searchability, optimizing page speed, optimizing content above the fold and more.

Referrals and Virality

Referrals are a systematic form of word-of-mouth marketing. Startups can use financial incentives to accelerate user behavior of talking about their product. Every referral program is a funnel. First, a user becomes aware of a referral program, then opts for it, then sends invites to their friends, who then convert into new users and spend money or transact on the app, leading to an incentive for the existing user.

Paid Growth

Only revenue-generating startups should focus on paid growth. If you have incoming revenue, it’s essential to analyze the average CAC (customer acquisition cost) and juxtapose it with the LTV and payback time of users acquired through paid growth. CAC should be significantly lower than LTV, which means it’s worth investing in paid growth. Only four channels are big enough to support startups in paid growth- Facebook, Instagram, Google and YouTube.

Related: 5 Ways In Which SEO Can Boost Your Startup’s Sales

Search Engine Optimization

SEO will be relevant as long as we Google stuff and make decisions based on the information we find there. There’s a difference between what you see and what Google sees on the same website. Google can’t view images and read Javascript easily, so part of SEO is marking up code for search engines to see it in clear language to improve search visibility.

On-page and off-page optimization are the two high-level characterizations of SEO.

1. On-page optimization- 

  1. Every SEO optimization starts with keyword research. Keyword analysis includes finding out the phrases and words people use to search for anything related to your product. The next step is tracking the volume of searches for each phrase and how hard it is to rank for them. Then, SEO professionals can create a strategy to rank for selected keywords.
  1. The next step in on-page optimization is determining which page you want to rank for specific keywords. This brings intentionality and strategy to SEO instead of throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.
  1. After a stage of growth, if a startup wants to achieve more growth, it inevitably includes experimenting with SEO, as the best practices only take you so far.

2. Off-page optimization-

Off-page optimization relates to the websites linking to you. Are the websites linking to you authoritative on the web? This defines Google’s perception of your site. Off-page optimization is the science of ensuring that you get backlinks from reputed websites.

Growth marketing is the art and science of making good decisions about every little aspect of a product and business. A/B testing and experimentation lie at the core of growth marketing. Decision-making about the various parts of a startup is relatively simple when it’s in a nascent stage. However, decision-making can get complicated as a startup grows.

So, instilling a culture of experimentation can go a long way in helping a startup grow and thrive.
If you’re looking for in-depth mentoring around scaling and growing your startup, learn more about KiwiTech’s startup ecosystem.

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