I recently attended a course for start-ups. Everyone wanted to grow user numbers on their web apps but poor user experience design (UX) was stopping a number of us. To increase your chances of start-up success you need to have a good UX and master growth hacking.
Growth hacking is a philosophy, it is all embracing and is never just about one tactic. To achieve hockey stick growth, a huge amount of work has been put in testing and getting ready. This will have likely involved a number of failures, a lot crunching data and iterating with UX (user experience), language, product and marketing channels and much more.
In this blog I am going to focus on a crucial time for your start up. It's the experience the potential customer gets the first time they use your product. This is the point when you are ready to move beyond signs ups and really grow the number of active users. If people just visit your website or webapp just once your funnel is leaking so converting them into regulars should be your main focus from the start.
The first time a user interacts with your software, will be the time you get the most attention from your customer ever. This is a crucial point where UX and growth hacking intersect. Most people consider this the start of a process called onboarding. Onboarding usually takes between eight and twelve weeks, I am just focussing on the first interaction in this blog. If you want to know more this slide deck to give more details
James Currier reckons you should put half of your development resources into this first experience. He has worked with 10 companies to grow them to 10 million+ users so is worth listening to! It is so important that you hold their hands and orientate them. A quick win or something easy that gets a result for them works well. At the same time making sure they understand the value your product will bring. Josh Elman (previously in charge of growth for twitter and linkedin so also worth listening to!) gives good advice on this. Josh says at all costs avoid giving a 'tour' of the product instead give them actions to start using. At twitter Josh found that once users put a profile picture up they took ownership and became actively engaged.
Getting to this must have experience for the user with minimum friction is a big part of growth hacking. It is the biggest bottleneck for most start up software companies. At this point you are trying to show them the value and benefits you are;
• Selling the product
• Educating people on the benefits of the product
• Encouraging them to return and use the product
The testing what is working or not working is important. I won't go into the granular details of cohort analysis or A/B testing as that would fill another blog. The experts on growth hacking say if you don't have enough traffic to test you should either
• Buy traffic
• Partner with someone
The golden bullet is understand what motivates people to use your product again or prevents them for coming back.
Analytics lets you look at what people are doing but you also want to consider why people are doing things. There are relatively new products such as qualaroo which gives you an insight into the 'why' by simply asking the user (using exit surveys). Also usertesting.com which lets you watch users in action and see for yourself. With both the qualaroo and user testing software you will hopefully get the added bonus of being able to tell why people aren't doing something. This is important as it can shed light on practical things like why people are not signing up or planning to return and use your product again. I spoke with Morgan Brown, Head of growth in Qualaroo last week he said
Your customers hold the keys to unlocking growth. Learn what they want, what they're trying to do, and what they can't accomplish, and use those insights to improve your user onboarding and funnel experience. Guessing is expensive -- the easiest way to find out what they need is to simply ask them.
Individual growth hackers put different emphasis on testing and not all start ups who have experienced massive growth in users are obsessed with data. This is especially true for the early days of a company. I recently spoke to Caelen King at a growth hacker event. While the mantra of many growth hackers is test, test and test again. Caelen King from Whatclinic says testing is expensive and requires data. He talks about a great experiment during which Whatclinic put their prices up until people stopped paying, in order to find their price point. Caelens other insights on growing whatclinic to over 2 million visits a month are:
1. Test the metric which is the cheapest to test first
2. Analysis is expensive while actually doing stuff is really cheap
3. A/B testing has limited value especially if you are a start up with limited data/traffic. Actually he is more blunt than this he says it's a total waste of time.
Caelen definitely has a point. Most start ups don't have enough traffic to test accurately at the very beginning -- they are still grappling around trying to get users at the top of their funnel.
Some people mistakenly think that growth hacking is a gimmick or that one "growth hack" will unlock huge growth for your company. Often this is because there is one story of something that a growth hacker did which captures the imagination. Like the now famous story of linkedin. Linkedin went from 2 million to 200 million users and a large part of this growth happened when they allowed users to create public profiles.
However if you listen to Josh Elman you realise that a number of things fell into place and good UX is one of them.So take James Curriers advice and focus a decent portion of your resources on that first journey your potential customers will make. Good UX is crucial on the path to long term growth.