Remember the last time you bought a lottery ticket?
From the time it takes to accept the ticket to stashing it at the back of your wallet, you let yourself think, “What if?”. It’s a kind of chemical-free high, an instamatic golden sunset of warm gooey-ness filled with dreams of instant fame and fortune.
This is how I saw growth hacking.
Rewind three years. Growth hacking was the attention-grabbing, eyeball wrestling topic of every self-perpetuating startup porn web site. Every time I read a new “secret reveal” on the latest growth-hacking win, my eyes would glaze over with the same dreamy golden sunsets.
That was my lottery ticket moment. All I needed was a growth-hack of my own to win big time(!).
But of course I never won the lottery. What I did learn from three years of trial and error is that growth-hacking is not a single silver bullet aimed at a single target of getting the customer.
Rather, for startups that want to make it past the first few years and thrive on their own terms, they need to hack every stage of the customer lifecycle.
What is the Customer Lifecycle?
The diagram above pretty much describes the customer lifecycle for almost every business out there:
Stage 1: Find the Customer
Stage 2 & 4: Selling to and billing the customer
Growth Hack: Always Be Selling
This takes Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross’ infamous “Always Be Closing” to the next level: “Always Be Selling”.
Every time your business communicates with a customer it is an opportunity to keep selling and marketing the benefits of your product.
This is even more true if you’re running a subscription-based business model. Every time that subscription renews — and most likely this is every month — your customer can make a choice whether to extend another month or simply just cancel.
Stage 3: Delivering on Your Product or Service
Growth Hack: Post-Sale Surprise
Never underestimate the power of (good) surprises. A positive surprise is the same as a good experience. People always remember experiences over intangible benefits like future discounts (2% off your next purchase in 2016!)
At this stage of the life cycle, your customer has now committed to your offering and ponied up the cash. If you’ve done an amazing job selling they’ll be excited about taking delivery. If they have had poor experiences with a similar product or industry before, they might be feeling a little anxious.
So with our product, like a lot of other cloud-based products, there is always some effort and time commitment required to get up and running. The customer has mucked their way through a free trial and signed up as a paying customer. At this point we know the customer is probably feeling a little anxious; the “easy” part of punching in their credit card is over, they now have to do some thinking work to get up and running.
Stage 5: Support the customer
Growth Hack: Content Recycling
Provide amazing support and your customers will stick around and perhaps even rave about your business. Everyone knows this. Unfortunately your “amazing support” has no marketing advantage. Every other competitor claims to have the same amazing support and every customer has been burnt too many times to believe it on face value. No growth-hacking opportunities here.
So, we looked at this in our business and realized that with 50 or so support tickets being answered every day, we were creating at least five pieces of detailed, unique content. For example, a marketing firm might ask for some help on segmenting their customers by project value and industry type. One of our support team would have produced a detailed response, included some images, and possibly even thrown together a quick screencast.
Click send, the customer is happy, end of story. Except there is more value to be had here.
Stage 6: Build Customer Loyalty
Growth Hack: Champions Fight the Right Battles
I know that for every 60 users of our product, we will have one person who becomes a true and vocal believer. They get right behind what we’re doing, interact on our blog, and help out other customers. These champions drive your community and are your WOMs (word-of-mouthers).
Except we realized our champions were humans too. After a while they’d get bored and move onto the next thing. And really, while they were championing for us, we didn’t really put any effort into directing their energies beyond our community forums.
We had built a legion of champions but left them to find their own battles to fight.
With a little bit of extra effort, we could put in place a simple process to not only point our army to the battles that matter, but also publicly recognize and reward those champions at the same time.
This system of advocate marketing works a lot like airline miles. Invite your customers to register for your “champions” community. Set challenges to help market your product, reward points on completion and allow those points to be redeemed for gifts and product bonuses.
Completing the Circle
It’s good to dream big, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that solving the first part of the equation is the silver bullet for success. You need to hack the heck out of the entire customer lifecycle to get the most out of the effort you put into it.
Proud of your own genius business-hack? Tell us about it in the comments below.