Growth Hacker 9 minutes
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By Tom Shelly October 24, 2019read more
The world of growth hacking is always changing and evolving. To stay on top of your game, you need to learn from the best. Here are the top 10 growth hackers that you need to follow in 2020. (Everyone was so good that it was impossible to rank them, so we made the list alphabetical).
Hana Abaza, the VP of Marketing of the enterprise e-commerce platform Shopify Plus, hacks growth on a large scale. Major retailers, such as Steve Madden Shoes, Gymshark, and MVMT, have joined the ranks of Shopify Plus’ customers.
Upmarket B2B SaaS sales requires a significantly more labor intensive process than a low-cost product. To facilitate growth in these conditions, Abaza built a revenue playbook to align the marketing and sales teams. Far beyond a normal SLA (service level agreement), this playbook drove process changes in the entire organization. The growth strategy worked, raising the Shopify Plus MRR to $12.4 million.
“Marketing doesn’t start when you launch your product. Ideally you’re starting before that.”
In addition to her Twitter, be sure to check out Hana Abaza’s terrific podcast interviews and speeches on growth marketing.
Sid Bharath, growth marketing consultant boasts an impressive track record in helping SaaS companies grow, including ShareDesk, Demio, LemonStand, and ReCharge. Bharath also served as the VP of Growth at Thinkific, helping increase revenues at the online course platform from zero to a millions in ARR.
Bharath uses a five-step framework for growth hacking: creating a customer persona, sketching out the entire customer journey, prioritizing the customer’s “trigger points”, and scaling the most successful channel.
One channel that Bharath has used to great success is to leverage partnerships. While at Thinkific, Bharath partnered with thought-leaders in the online entrepreneur space, including Lewis Howes and John Lee Dumas. Using influencer webinars, Thinkific grew their revenue by 2000%.
“Start by mapping out what each stage is for your business and what questions customers are asking in each stage. Then identify what needs to be done to take customers from one stage to the next and start optimizing conversion rates based on that.”
Two growth hacks that made a huge impact on Proof’s success? Building virality into their product and leveraging paid traffic. Adding “Verified by Proof” to their customers’ pop-ups not only established credibility for their customers, but also acted as free advertising for their product.
On the paid traffic front, Proof relies on three main metrics: cost per acquisition (CPA), trial conversion rate, and lifetime value (LTV). By building a profitable paid acquisition funnel, Proof was not only able to gain customers—they were also able to out-brand their competition.
“We solve our own problems and then package them into products.”
As the founder of Close, the popular inside sales CRM, Steli Efti might be a surprising choice for this list. After all, the Y Combinator alum recently made the bold statement that growth hacking doesn’t work anymore. But Efti’s main point is that the ultimate growth hack is to create long-term, lasting relationships with your customers.
The Close team leaned heavily on content marketing to establish these relationships and bring their ARR to $9.7 million in just 6 years. Efti’s approach was to create compelling, audience-focused content at a high volume to build their brand. He uses the brilliant tactic of recording his ideas on a webcam for his marketing team to re-purpose the content into short videos, blog posts, and podcasts.
“If you try to trick your customers, you’ll never earn and deserve their long-term business.”
This list wouldn’t be complete without the godfather of growth hacking, Sean Ellis, particularly since he invented the term. Ellis led hyper-growth teams at multi-billion dollar unicorn startups such as LogMeIn, Dropbox and Eventbrite before founding Growth Hackers, the world’s largest community of growth professionals.
Ellis’ main advice to startups? Find product/market fit, optimize your onboarding and sales, and then test acquisition channels. Ellis doesn’t believe in a single magic-bullet hack. Rather, growth hacking is a discipline of rapid experimentation to discover the unique approach that will work for your business. Growth requires buy-in from the entire team: sales, marketing, engineering, product, and support.
“Growth hacking is not anti-marketing, it is the evolution of marketing, it is pro-growth.”
As the founder of ProductHunt, Ryan Hoover has helped an incredible number of startups get traction in the marketplace. The Y Combinator-backed tech curation platform allows users to upvote their favorite tools and apps, providing huge exposure to startups with quality products.
Hoover launched ProductHunt using email marketing, beginning a viral effect that grew the subscriber base to over 43,000 subscribers. This demonstrates one of the powerful growth tools available: building a community. Hoover also found particular success by leveraging influencer marketing.
The strategy worked. After only 3 years, Angel List acquired Product Hunt for $20 million. Hoover continues to run Product Hunt, as well as helping transform the culture of remote work.
“When you look back in 6 months from today and don’t feel embarrassed by your naiveté, there’s a problem.”
As the CEO of GrowthHit, Jim Huffman is the go-to growth expert for startups looking to scale. After growing two startups to over $10 million in revenue, it’s obvious why that’s the case. His data-driven approach has yielded dramatic boosts in conversion rates and MRR for clients in a variety of industries.
Huffman’s team has a meticulous approach, looking at every piece of the sales funnel for optimization opportunities. By leveraging conversion rate optimization, GrowthHit was able to increase revenues 200% at Sharply.
In addition to his consultancy, Huffman mentors startup founders on growth strategy at Techstars, General Assembly, and Sephora Accelerator.
“The first tactic I like to start with is asking yourself the question, ‘How can I have the biggest impact on my customer in a positive way?’”
If you want to improve your trial-to-paid conversions, you need to talk to Aaron Krall. Krall is an expert on optimizing the user onboarding process. His email sequence for Thrive Email was so successful that it increased conversions by 287%.
Krall’s main takeaways for creating a killer onboarding sequence? Help your users reach their moment of first value as quickly as possible, have a clear call to action for each email, and focus on benefits instead of features.
“When have customers that talk and share your product with everyone they know, it’s a good sign you’re doing something right.”
As the VP of Growth of the innovative financial app Acorns, Hila Qu has built a full-funnel growth team, with sub-teams focusing on User Acquisition, Customer Marketing, and Product Growth. The accomplished growth hacker also served as a Product Manager at Growth Hackers.
Experimentation is key–Qu’s team tests new creatives daily on their acquisition funnels and have run over 100 experiments related to product development. Since Acorn is a mobile app, the team has to run these experiments on a fairly rigid schedule.
Due to the successful experimentation, focus on customer experience, and a frictionless referral program, the Acorn team has brought in over 5 million users to the app.
“The challenge that I think every company faces is how to find a balance between the need to ship new features and continuous iteration.”
Hiten Shah is one of the world’s foremost experts on growth hacking. As the co-founder of numerous multi-million dollar companies, including Kissmetrics and CrazyEgg, Shah won many hard-fought battles to build his knowledge base. Shah also serves as an adviser for LinkedIn, Buffer, AppSumo, Slideshare, and Clarity.fm.
While at Kissmetrics, Shah and co-founder Neil Patel, found incredible success by sharing their content on Twitter. In addition to SEO traffic, each blog post now had an avalanche of readers from targeted hashtags and boosts from popular accounts. At CrazyEgg, they launched on the social media site Digg and found traction from their engaged fanbase.
The key takeaway? Put your product (and your content) in front of the people who would benefit most from them.
“Build a product that’s greater than just the sum of its features because, at the end of the day, it’s just as important to understand the reason why you’re building your product as it is to actually build it.”
Hiten Shah’s blog and his book Product Habits provide insight that only a successful startup veteran can provide. And of course, his podcast with Steli Efti, The Startup Chat. (It’s so good we had to mention it twice!)
The experts on this list have demonstrated that growth hacking isn’t a short-term, fly-by-night tactic. It’s a mindset that requires you to focus on what matters and be willing to adapt to changes in the marketplace. Growth hacking is a holistic approach that should engage your entire company, not just your marketing team.
Of course, there are many more growth experts that we could have included in this list. Comment below with your picks. We would love to hear them!
Want to learn how data enrichment can help with your company’s growth? Check out Lusha today!