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In our previous post, we introduced you to the concept of growth hacking and the impact it can have on your business. Now, you’re looking to build your own strategy for expansion. But where should you start? Finding a starting point may seem challenging if you lack entrepreneurial experience or funding. But we’ll help you overcome this hurdle with some recommended concepts.

In this week’s post, we cover the main strategies you need to iterate growth hacking and expand your business quickly.


Gamification in Growth Strategies

Gamification has bigger implications than its’ use in video games and apps. It’s also a foundation for engaging users, without the hassle of spam or annoying sales calls. Gamified platforms are designed to motivate users to continue their participation, whether that means moving forward in the buyer’s journey or even joining a competition. Brands around the world have already begun implementing gamification in their services in various ways.


LinkedIn & gamifying the resume

Though LinkedIn is a platform dedicated to creating professional networks, it takes a surprisingly gamified approach to engaging its users. Take for example, how it encourages users to complete their profiles.

LinkedIn Profile Strength

Each user is shown a meter with an accompanying profile strength rating: 1) Just beginning, 2) Intermediate, 3) Advanced, 4) Expert, and 5) All-Star. The rating will be dependent on the amount of data in your profile. Hence, missing profile information results in a lower profile rating. The system is simple, and yet it encourages LinkedIn’s audience to have complete, comprehensive profiles. According to the company, roughly 51% of profiles are complete.

On top of profile strength, LinkedIn offers badges, which are graphical representations of your LinkedIn profile on another website. All you need is a snippet of code to put in your website. But again, LinkedIn implements use of gamification through badges to turn the process of networking and self-promotion into a fun activity.


How Dropbox gamified onboarding

From the moment a user signs up on Dropbox, they’re incentivized to invite others on the platform. All users are given free storage with a limit of 2GB. But by inviting others, users are given the chance to increase that limit.

Users can invite their friends via email or social media. For every friend added, Dropbox will give you 1GB of added space. And even better, once your friend signs up, they too can receive a bonus of 500 MB.

Dropbox Storage Offer

Of course, users always have the option to upgrade if they don’t feel like referring to anyone. But the referral program is a simple, affordable, and highly effective way to onboard and grow your audience— a perfect example of growth hacking at work.


Buzzfeed and the value of interactive content

Gone are the days of promoting your brand on the radio and hoping your message was received by the right audience. If you want loyal customers, you need to produce engaging content. Gamification is as much about interactivity as it is about rewards. The more agency and control you give your customers, the more likely they are to convert.

Buzzfeed Quiz

Need proof? Look no further than Buzzfeed’s use of quizzes. On average the company creates 7.8 quizzes a day, with questions like “Are You Going To Be Tik Tok Famous?” and “Upgrade Your Cell Phone And We’ll Tell You What To Be For Halloween”. On average, 96% of users that start a quiz finish them. Despite how you feel about the topics for some of these sponsored quizzes, there’s no denying that these are engaging examples of content.


The badges of Codecademy and Khan Academy

Just as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts earn badges for exploring interests and skills, users can now earn badges for completing online courses in code, science, art, history, and more. Khan Academy and Codecademy are two examples of education platforms that use badge systems.

The badge system has become a staple in gamified platforms for several reasons. But the main reason is that they reward hard work and encourage users to engage further. Users can be rewarded for mastering different skills or watching hours of video on a single topic. Another factor is that, they also offer users a way to promote the platform in a non-intrusive, on-brand way. For example, rather than asking a user to repost content on their social media page, an interaction may simply consist of posting questions on a community board.


The impact of brand image and professionalism

Don’t expect growth hacking to provide a quick fix to your marketing challenges. As with any company, presentation still matters. No matter how small the team or how limited the budget, your company should strive towards professionalism in its brand image.

Any creative material that brandishes your company logo or colors must be polished, error-free, and aesthetically pleasing. Depending on the type of business, your website could be the primary visual representation of your brand. It is a storefront with which your customer interacts. So it’s vital that your website is intuitive and works properly, but it also looks beautiful.

You only have 50 milliseconds to capture your audience’s attention, so make sure your website is simple to navigate while still evoking your brand’s personality.

Your physical place of business must also evoke that same sense of professionalism and align with the image of your brand. Not only for your customers but for your team as well. In the Fellowes Workplace Wellness Trend Report, 93% of workers in the tech industry stated that they would stay longer at a company that offered healthier workplace benefits, such as wellness rooms, healthy lunch options, and ergonomic seating.

Workspaces mean more than just having a place to meet. The place itself must inspire creativity and accountability, encourage team-building and easier collaboration, and ultimately help you develop constructive business habits. Explore some of the best office space options available for your business today.


Instilling a sense of urgency

Buy today. Limited-time offer. While supplies last. Wherever you go, you’re bound to find an urgent, time-sensitive call to action.

To learn about the effect of urgency on sales, let’s look at the story of Marcus Taylor and his music business. Taylor packaged $1,250 worth of products for musicians in a single bundle worth $69. Though the checkout price was higher than what people would have normally spent, Taylor discovered that adding a time limit to the checkout page helped increase conversions from 3.5% to 10%. The fear of missing out (FOMO) became too intense for many customers.

There were other factors that Taylor found to influence urgency. The offer had to be clearly conveyed, free of distractions so that the customer would know what to expect. The offer itself also had to be trustworthy and believable. And finally, the offer had to be valuable and relevant to the customer.

Big companies like Amazon use similar techniques in the marketplace today. For example, customers are eligible for faster shipping on some products, but as long as they order within a time limit. Others, such as Groupon show you product availability and stock levels to instill urgency. Once again, customers will act more impulsively from the fear of missing out.

Experiment with your own offer by adding a time limit. You will find that customers will spring at the opportunity, and are less likely to abandon their cart.


Leverage your network

Networking remains a timeless tactic for spreading awareness. But harnessing your network can also yield great insights early in the startup phase. Seasoned entrepreneurs, as well as friends and family, can be great sources of advice, helping steer your business away from the pitfalls of entrepreneurship.

Find the right places to network. Networking can happen anywhere— at a birthday party, at a wedding, or on a business trip. But networking events and trade shows are still the best way to find new contacts. Sign up for local conferences, presentations, or festivals. Websites like Meetup and Eventbrite can help you discover local events (as well as social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn).

Ask for feedback as much as you can. Great businesses thrive on honest reviews and recommendations from those we trust— be it friends, family, employees, or loyal customers. Don’t just file their complaints away. Really listen to what they have to say. That input can and should be used to create a higher-quality product or service.

Join a peer advisory group. Peer advisory groups are effective tools for developing leaders. They usually comprise of eight to 15 senior business owners from different industries and backgrounds. Members are encouraged to share goals for professional development and to hold each other accountable to their objectives. To learn more about peer advisory groups, check out Vistage or the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.


Employ a freemium model

How many times have you been offered a free trial or tier, with the full version locked away behind a subscription or purchase? As restricting as they may feel, freemium models, are popular for a reason. As services are limited to the bare necessities, it encourages customers to invest in the more premium or expensive tiers.

So why use a freemium model at all? The main purpose is to decrease customer acquisition costs (CAC). This metric measures the overall initial cost of attracting new customers. By removing or mitigating the costs of this stage, companies can allocate resources towards engaging and retaining loyal customers.

If you plan on using a freemium model for your service or product, make sure you implement some form of limitation. These may include:

  1. Feature limitations: Offline access, additional storage, exclusive access, or discounts limited to premium tiers.
  2. Usage quotas: Limits to active accounts, storage, or a similar resource.
  3. Limited support: Restricted access to customer service.

A critical next step in offering a freemium model is encouraging users to actually upgrade. Without this, they may be content with limited versions forever. Create an onboarding strategy that answers how you will engage the customer. Perhaps it may involve sending regular newsletters with CTAs to upgrade, or it may tie in the “sense of urgency” by limiting freemium to a certain date.

Balance is everything in creating a freemium model that encourages rapid sign-ups, but also eventual upgrades.


Create Contests and Giveaways

Everybody loves a little competition or free prize. Excitement is easy to build, and customers are eager to join in the fun. But to create a successful contest or giveaway, it’s important to set defined goals. Will you aim to bring as many customers to your store? Or perhaps your goal is to get as many sign-ups for service as possible. By setting clear goals, you can ensure that progress is measurable and leads to the desired ROI.

For a contest to be successful, the prize has to be valuable to participants. Otherwise, people will not bother engaging. Gift cards, travel packages, and limited edition products usually top people’s wishlist, and they’re easy enough for companies to procure without breaking the bank. But the more valuable and coveted the prize is, the more likely people are to join. Be sure to allocate a prize that is within the theme of the competition, or relevant to what your users need.

With your marketing goals defined and your prize chosen, you need to notify all your customers about the competition. Email campaigns can help you tailor the message to certain audiences. But you can also analyze the open rate to determine the efficacy of your messaging. Similarly, social media can reach thousands of people and doesn’t cost much to set up a post (although we highly recommend promoting social media posts for added exposure). Make sure your website also reflects current information on competitions, as participants will turn to this for more information.

Once the competition is over, it’s a good practice to share the winner’s identity (as long as they consent). Not only does it give the winner the bragging rights, but it also encourages more people to join in future contests.

Dove held an excellent contest that set the standard for many beauty brands. Their “Real Beauty Should Be Shared” contest encouraged users to share someone’s name and the reason why they’re beautiful. Instead of offering a physical prize, the best answers were featured on Dove’s website and social media. Everything about the contest was on-brand. Instead of focusing on some big prize, Dove put the spotlight on its audience, and in turn, customers flocked to engage with the brand.


The Power of Influencer Marketing

Our last strategy is one of the newest but also most impactful strategies in this modern age. Influencers on social media may not star in Hollywood films, but they’re by no means less influential. These are individuals with thousands to millions of followers on Instagram and you stand to benefit greatly from partnering with them.

Benefits of partnering with influencers:

  1. They convert users. With such devoted fanbases, influencers can have a much stronger sway over an audience than a traditional corporate brand. They need only plug a product or service, offer some discount, and traffic numbers are likely to spike.
  2. They appear more real and authentic. The reason influencers are so powerful is because they are anti-corporate. Usually, they are picky with the brands they choose to partner with, out of fear of seeming like a sell-out.
  3. They’re more affordable than celebrities. Unlike celebrities who require million-dollar deals, influencers may ask for a couple thousand a post, depending on their fanbase. This can help your company save a lot of money in the long run. In a battle between a micro-influencer (someone with followers in the thousands) and a celebrity influencer, you’d be surprised just how much traction the former can get you.
  4. They have massive followings. Influencers have more followers than an average account, usually between one thousand to one million. Anyone could be your next customer.

An important distinction to note: influencers are different from brand ambassadors. The latter are usually hired for long term contracts, similar to a paid spokesperson with insider information. In contrast, influencers are real people with public personas, and the contract usually is limited to a few posts or messages.

According to one study, 19% of marketers will spend $1,000 to $10,000 per year on influencer marketing in 2019, while 18% will spend between $100,000 and $500,000 per year. This shows a dramatic increase in recent years on the reliance on influencers.

Take a look at how Dunkin Donuts took advantage of marketing on National Donut Day. Partnering with their agency Trilia and an entertainment studio, Collab, they created a national Snapchat campaign featuring eight influencers. Influencers encouraged users to visit Dunkin stores to redeem a special offer. They also created Geofilters for the event, encouraging people to take photos. The result: Dunkin’ Donuts “gained ten times more followers” than they usually do in the month. The campaign reached 3 million people— a testament to the power of influencer marketing.

These are just a few examples of some of the most effective growth hacking strategies used by both startups and enterprises today. But already new ideas are starting to surface. Brands are partnering with companies in totally different industries to produce unique content, like Vox creating a Netflix show, or Salesforce sponsoring a Spotify podcast.

Growth hacking isn’t limited to these methods. In fact, growth hacking isn’t a specific strategy. It’s a mindset of scaling rapidly but on a budget. Instasize also shares some interesting Instagram growth hacks in their guide on how to grow followers. What strategies will your company use to grow?

Looking to learn more about growth hacking? Read our previous guide for more in-depth explanations.

Growth isn’t the same as scaling. Learn more about the difference in our post here.

Most of these strategies are customer-facing, but it’s important to manage your team and talent as well. Learn more about our talent management strategies in this post.