This article will discuss the successful “hacking” stories of 5 leaders in their fields. This is a story about how they went from low traction to expanding. Some of them ended up taking days, some months, and some years. But in the end, what matters is how they make their way to the top.
No one said you have to copy it to reach a certain success. Instead, consider them an inspiration. These examples should inspire you to think differently and to dare to experiment. As you know, in Growth hacking, there is no perfect recipe, just a never-ending cycle of testing and learning. This is what all growth hackers strive for.
Each of the examples below made use of classic growth hacking principles.
And in our opinion, these are top of the best growth hacks the world has seen:
Continue and read on to find out how they pulled that off!
This company that is now worth more than $10 billion started like any other small startup whose marketing budget was peanuts. However, they got there without spending any money on advertising, and created the most successful referral program ever.
Do you know how? By improving the product for users, whenever they share it. In other words, Dropbox offered an additional 250MB of storage to any user who invited a friend – if said friend created an account. This incentive led to a 60% increase in subscribers almost overnight. Each new user costs Dropbox only 500MB of disk space.
Instead of paying for expensive online ads, Dropbox used simple incentives system:
First, they integrated the referral program into the setup process. By connecting it to Google and Facebook, people can invite their contacts with just a few clicks.
Then they bet on the retention element for that hack. The more space a user has, the more they feel obligated and the less likely they are to go elsewhere.
Key tip: Dropbox is still one of the most popular cases of referral marketing. The main value of the program was to reward both sides (the customer as well as the person they would recommend Dropbox to).
Airbnb started as a team of men in San Francisco, allowing strangers to crash at their place when hotels were sold out. This is the approach how they came up with this idea.
Initially, they used a traditional promotion strategy that combined word-of-mouth coverage with public relations to gain exposure. They have been able to reach their target audience by attending tech events where housing is likely to be in short supply, and a group of early adopters of new ideas.
While they’re still in the early stages, they’ve discovered another simple solution to dramatically increase the number of bookings: optimizing the photos listing on their site. To improve the quality of the picture, they first began to travel to photograph the apartments of the hosts themselves. Later, they were able to hire a crowd of photographers from all over the world to do the job on demand.
And now, the great hack that led to Airbnb’s growth: The Craigslist API reverse engineering hack. In other words, this solution allowed Airbnb users to post their cross lists on Craigslist, giving them access to the already huge user base.
Key tip: Some growth hacks, like taking better photos, are so simple that it’s hard to believe just how powerful they are. Other elements can be quite complex (eg, reverse engineering an API). There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Creativity and innovation are key to growth hacking.
One of the largest free email providers on the web, Hotmail, found advertising was too expensive. Instead, they came up with one of the first growth hacks long before the term was coined in 2010, their almost free subscription or sign-up rates skyrocketed.
At the time, an investor suggested putting the text _PS I love you. Get your free Hotmail email_ at the bottom of every email sent from their platform. It might sound cliched, but it was a very common first practice now. As an example, the sentences of _Sent from my android or Sent from my Blackberry_.
Hotmail basically converted every user into free advertisement for their services, and soon started getting 3,000 new signups daily. They have achieved 1 million users in 6 months, and after five weeks, they have reached 2 million users.
Key tip: This is one of the best examples of converting your customers into (unpaid) salespeople. The personal nature of the message, along with the fact that it came from a friend and not the company itself, made clicking on the link almost irresistible.
PayPal now is a giant online payment; it has started its massive growth journey with the referral system. By doing so, they achieved 10% daily growth and gained a user base of more than 100 million people.
Instead of handing out free storage, PayPal used an amazing hack… they actually got paid to sign up. Every time a friend you refer creates an account, you and your friend will receive $10. Since they understood that the lifetime value of their clients was greater than $20, so it made perfect sense to invest in their referral system.
In addition, PayPal has also partnered with eBay, paving the way for success:
At first, the deal allowed them to place their payment badge alongside other payment options. This greatly enhanced their perceived credibility and position them as competitors with big players such as Visa and Mastercard.
Also, in order to buy on eBay from a seller who only accepted PayPal (as it is becoming increasingly popular), one had to create his own account.
Key tip: Growth hacking isn’t just about creativity and innovation. Good old school economics plays a big role too… Combining all three always does the trick.
Instagram is a great example of what growth hackers like to call Product-Market Fit (or PMF). It’s not exactly a hack, but it’s vital to success. They came up with their offers at the right time, in the right place, and in the right circumstances. The desires and needs of the market were perfectly aligned, it’s a dream scenario!
They gave customers something they were subconsciously looking for: social interaction and a place to share their photos instead of witty tweets.
For the first time since the advent of smartphones, everyone had a good digital camera in their pocket, and the tools to become a professional photographer. With the advent of Web 2.0. Came the growing desire to share their lives and experiences.
The great thing about Instagram is that it was a product that was enhanced with social interaction. The fun of that was people who are being able to see and interact with your photos. Later, new integrations allowed users to push photos to Facebook and Twitter, increasing their reach.
Influencer marketing has also become a reliable tool for Instagram founders. By sending their app to journalists and tech enthusiasts they know, they have amassed positive reviews in various news outlets like TechCrunch – helping their app go viral.
Key tip: The basis for growth is the right product for the market. If you don’t have it, no promotions or growth hacks will increase your business. Knowing the wants and expectations of your customers is key to creating a product that people are eager to share. By doing in-depth market research, you will be able to get those insights.
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