There are two ways to grow your SaaS.
The first way requires that you follow the tried and true “rules” of building an SaaS, such as going with the freemium pricing strategy and doubling down on your content marketing strategy. Those are both fine strategies to build your business.
But for those of you who live on the edge and aren’t afraid to experiment, there’s a second, more precarious path to success. It’s called growth hacking and it’s a method used by both bootstrapped and 6-figure-funded businesses to build awareness and generate more leads.
Want to know how to do it? Read on.
What the Heck Is a Growth Hack?
Growth hacks are cheap and creative strategies to bring in new customers. It’s a form of marketing that relies on cold hard data and the on-going analysis of user behavior. To successfully growth hack, you must deeply know your target audience beyond their pain point.
What causes your customer to hesitate? What makes them act? Why would they choose option A instead of option B?
Every growth hack is an experiment. A growth hack employs the same steps as the scientific method.
- Step one: Make an observation (Study the behavior of your target audience.)
- Step two: Ask a question (What’s the problem?)
- Step three: Research existing solutions (What are other SaaS doing to solve this problem?)
- Step four: Formulate a hypothesis (Make an educated guess.)
- Step five: Experiment (Develop growth hacks.)
- Step six: Test your hypothesis (Should you accept your hypothesis or ask more questions?)
- Step seven: Draw a conclusion (Base this conclusion on your accepted hypothesis.)
Because growth hacks are experiments, some will work and others will fail. This is why growth hacks should be affordable to develop. Otherwise, it can be difficult to recover financially from an epic failure.
Growth hacks are innovative and just crazy enough to work. These strategies are referred to as “hacks” because they’re clever but fast and effective tricks.
It’s also important to commit to growth hacking as an ongoing business marketing strategy. Growth hacks require near-constant testing and tweaking. If you’re not willing to do that, then you may only see marginal success from this strategy.
However, if you stick with it and develop the growth hacking mindset of analysis and action, you will definitely find success. There’s a reason why so many SaaS are obsessed with growth hacks.
While the goal is to generate extreme amounts of traffic in a quick amount of time, growth hacks aren’t just for attracting new leads. You can also use growth hacking strategies to retain your current customers. Below, we’ll discuss experiments to reduce customer churn, too.
Let’s focus on the most important growth hacks that you should be using right now in your SaaS.
Start Collecting Emails Now
I’m still surprised at the number of SaaS businesses that don’t make email list building a priority. Email list building is absolutely your number one priority for these two reasons:
- Most people who visit your website will never return. This may be harsh, but it’s factual. If you don’t have an email list, you’ll never see them again. But you have an exponentially better chance of converting your website visitor if you can get them to sign up for your email list. (This is where lead magnets come in handy. More on this below.)
- Most people who visit your website will not buy during that first interaction. Or even the second, third, fourth, and so on. Research shows that on average it takes up to 11 interactions with your SaaS business before a prospect converts into a customer. Email to the rescue again! Through email, you can easily and quickly reach that number of interactions. Here are three more reasons to cultivate an email list: Instead of offering a passive experience, emails give you the chance to actively nurture your prospects, educate them about your service, and gain their trust.
If you aren’t currently collecting emails on your homepage and blog, set it up right away. I’ll wait. That’s just how important emails are to growing your business. No self-respecting post on growth hacking would be complete without discussing the benefits of email marketing.
How do you build your email list?
I’m glad you asked.
Start by enlisting your friends and family to join. You’re not bothering them and so what if you are? The worst they could do is say “no.” But what if they accept? They’re potential customers, too. And they also know others who could be potential customers. Don’t overlook what’s in your backyard.
Give away a valuable resource, such as an ebook or consultation, for free. This is known as a lead magnet and it’s great for getting hesitant prospects to join your list. Your lead magnet is the proverbial dangling carrot that incentivizes the prospect to sign up. It also starts off your relationship on the right note: Your lead magnet is proof that you provide value right out of the gate.
Define Your Growth Hacking Objectives
What would you like to accomplish with your growth hacks? Get specific. As with any goal, it’s best to apply the acronym S.M.A.R.T. (which stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Based). If you don’t have S.M.A.R.T. growth hacking goals, how will you know when or if you’ve succeeded?
Do you want to gain more website visitors, increase email subscribers, get more trial users, attract more social media followers, etc.? Great. How many? By when? How will you measure it? How will you make it happen? This is how to turn a vague goal into an action plan for success, i.e. a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
Develop Growth Hacking Experiments
Now that you know your goals, define your target customer’s pain points. Answer this question: What keeps them up at night?
Next, figure out how to introduce your service to that target customer in a friendly way. That’s what the growth hack is.
Keep this in mind: Your service is not the growth hack. The way that you market your service is the growth hack.
Gamify the Top of the Funnel
Gamification works, dear reader. By adding fun and interactive elements to your onboarding process, you can increase two things: Customer retention and word of mouth marketing.
Dropbox used gamification principles to grow their business. Users were given free storage when they promoted Dropbox on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Also, Dropbox gave away even more free storage when users completed simple onboarding tasks such as uploading a file or inviting a friend by email.
You can use gamification as a growth hack, too. Here are a few ideas that you can borrow:
- Offer a quiz to help prospects figure out what service they need
- Give a series of quests that acclimate users to your service
- Ask trivia questions
- Do a scratch-off or spin-the-wheel type discount
Whatever “game” you use, be sure to make it memorable, fun, and engaging. This ensures that prospective customers get pulled in right away.
Create Content Upgrades
You blog, right? Of course, you do. Blogging is one of the best ways to attract new leads and convert them, too. However, you may not be using content upgrades, and it’s time that you do.
Content upgrades are an essential growth hack that’s related to lead magnets. Like lead magnets, content upgrades are usually digital resources (such as checklists, worksheets, swipe files, etc.). But here’s the distinction: You offer a content upgrade within a blog post as a premium, locked resource. The blog reader can then “unlock” the resource by subscribing to your email list.
Content upgrades tend to be more effective at growing email lists than lead magnets because they provide expanded information on a topic that your reader is obviously interested in.
While there are tons of growth hacking examples that you can learn from, the only way to truly growth hack is to experiment with what you have. Use these tips to create your own growth hacking strategy today.
Go forth and hack.
But first, check out these related posts:
- Crisis-Proof Your Subscription Business With These Tips
- 7 Closing Tactics You Need to Try
- How to Create a Social Media Engagement Funnel