Category Archives: Growth

b2b-growth-hacks

The Best B2B Growth Hacks – 21 Tactics to Test

As you are all probably tired of hearing by now, growth hacking is not simply a series of tricks or tactics, but a mindset to do what it takes to grow a company. It is data-driven and dovetails quite a bit with online marketing.

Each of the 21 B2B growth hacks listed here is an article in itself, but I’m going to keep it brief. Many B2C growth hacks can be creatively tweaked to be valuable as B2B growth hacks. For example, the first growth hack (content) specifies certain types of content that will work best for B2B. Remember – whether B2C or B2B, you are B2P: business-2-people.

Notable mention: Buzzfeed’s unique B2B2C growth hack

My favourite recent out-of-the-box B2B growth hack is from Buzzfeed in 2013. They decided that in order to accelerate building Buzzfeed in other languages, they would get students using the app Duolingo to translate articles on their website into their native tongues. This would mean mass translation at a fraction of the cost, meaning the websites would be populated fast, and by native speakers. Read more in the Wall Street Journal.

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As to the success of the growth hack, time will tell. But the important part is to realize the creative thinking behind it. Even if Spanish Buzzfeed does not take off as fast as the English version, they have cost effectively converted their thousands of articles into other languages.

When you read each of these hacks, think about how they could be adjusted to match your business goals. Can you invent your own?

1. Creating content and making it shareable and embeddable – ebooks, slideshares, webinars and informative articles.

The forms of content that generate most B2B leads are ebooks, slideshares and webinars. What do these forms of content have in common? They are educational. They offer clear value to the prospect. The content should have some relationship to what your business offers, either directly or indirectly. Do not be overly self-promotional – put teaching something valuable first. If you are a language learning app, create content showing people the best memorization techniques. If you are a plumbing company, show people how to maintain their pipes during extreme cold weather.

A tactic I like to use is to create an article first, and then convert it to the other forms listed above with refinements from comments and feedback. The reverse is also doable, but with an article you can benefit by having another indexable page on your website and an SEO opportunity.

Shareability is also extremely important. Social validation affects search engine rankings, particularly in Google. So make it easy! Install floating social share buttons, or at least have them at the top of your content on your website/blog. Suggest that people share or embed your content elsewhere – the “power of suggestion” is real! Shareability also relates to the attractiveness of the content. Make sure that at least the header image is beautiful, and relates to the topic in the content. If it’s an infographic, make sure the design is appealing. A compelling title also increases the shareability of your content.

2. LinkedIn presence and activity + sponsored updates

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Source: LinkedIn

LinkedIn is THE B2B social network, hands down. With the relatively recent “sponsored updates” option, it’s worth testing to see if you can discover leads in what is hopefully your already-thriving LinkedIn network. If it is not a lively network, start getting involved – choose your groups strategically and set aside time every day to comment or contribute in some way. Consistency will easily make you one of the top influencers in a given group. For a complete guide to sponsored updates, click on Jeff Haden’s at Inc.

*Note: sponsored updates are not the same as LinkedIn ads.

3. Conferences, exhibitions

It’s essential, particularly for hardware companies, to exhibit at fairs and conferences – even meetups. There is still a significant portion of business people (and especially if you are dealing with senior managers) who do business in person. There is also the connection people can make with experiencing your product in “real life”. It’s an opportunity to add a passionate face to the people behind the product and to show expertise in the industry. These are powerful and lead to increased trust. It’s particularly fruitful if a single account for your product is worth thousands of dollars.

A live demo for less tangible products like SaaS or games is also a valuable opportunity to do market research. What are the bottlenecks that prospects hit when on your websites? Where do they begin to lose interest? Is it overly complex? Sure, you can get some of this data with heat-mapping and eye-tracking tools but there’s nothing like the detail of doing it with a real person. Also, if the event or exhibition is super-targeted to your niche it will provide many high-quality leads in one fell swoop.

4. Integrate

Consumers’ information is fragmented across a lot of platforms and programs, and offering to consolidate it or link to it within your product is powerful. However, ask for permission. You don’t want to experience the backlash against Google for adding all YouTube comments to the G+ feed. What you choose to integrate depends on what your data tells you is most useful for your users to do. It could be email, it could be social media, it could be their Dropbox account.

Before going ahead with an integration, do some customer discovery and find out what your users actually want. You can also research the FAQs of close competitors (which are usually public) to find out if there is one common integration they are lacking (or if there is one core integration that must be done). Some competitors will have a “requested features” page in public, which is also useful.

Evernote is a prime example of extensive integrations.

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5. Free trial/freemium + best support

The free trial has gotta be sans credit card commitment, and your absolute best support should be on hand for all trial users. Why? Implant memories of excellent service and your lead is more likely to sign up at the end. Think of it as being on your best behaviour on the first few dates. The free trial should be long enough for the user to realize the added value, but short enough so that they don’t quite avail of the full service they would like to get.

With freemium, offer the absolute minimum for the user to have a delightful experience and keep the aware of the benefits of the “premium” version(s). PicMonkey is an example of this tactic. You can SEE what your options on a full package would be like, but you cannot use them. Optimizely also let’s you have a taste by letting you demo a URL. However, the freemium model is full of pitfalls so seriously consider how you are going to get value out of permanently unpaying users before offering it.

6. Make your product so easy to use it requires no training

Pretty much everything Google (bar advanced Google Analytics) can be learned intuitively. Because of the influence of Google, they often don’t even need to explain how their apps work beyond a FAQ document. On Udemy, you can find Google courses by people who decided to learn and pass on the information themselves. There are YouTube videos explaining how to use Google tools by non-Google affiliated individuals.

If you can’t make your product that simple, test the best way to show users how to figure it out in as short amount of time as possible. It may not be what you assume. Or, offer in-house training as part of the deal. However, if you are offering your SaaS product internationally this could prove problematic. Perhaps you can live-train teams and individuals over video calls? In any case, people getting fatigued or frustrated with learning how to use your product is a major source of friction. Test solutions on live participants to find out what works and what doesn’t.

7. Customization, personalization

I cannot emphasize enough how important personalization is in B2B relationships. No matter what stage of the sales cycle, personalize where you can. Use your real name, use their real name. Mention their business in emails, identify with the pains they have in their line of work. Through tools such as Intercom and MailChimp or networks such as LinkedIn, you can discover this data. Humans respond to being noticed. Cold automation doesn’t inspire the same response. Segment your email database accordingly so that the messages sent resonate emotionally with the recipient. Otherwise, you’re just wasting an opportunity.

8. Find ways to suggest to them what to do next

Hotmail suggested that people invite a friend. It revolutionised their business. Hubspot makes it required that at the end of each blog post there is a call-to-action. If you have been successful in gaining access to a potential user in some way, try to find ways to set up “suggestions” for them to follow. It could be “sign up for our newsletter” or “request a free 15min video call” or “try us for free for two weeks”. Don’t leave them hanging! Choose the best CTA for the situation. If you have identified someone as a middle-manager, a link to an article on change management will be much more valuable than a link to an article on how to make a great Powerpoint presentation (the logic being they probably already know).

9. Move the “invite your friends” invitation to later in the learning curve

Few people are going to invite their friends to a new service unless there is a great reward that they can only avail of in that moment. People care about their reputations. They will not recommend something to their friends, family, colleagues or peers until they are satisfied it is worthy of recommendation. If the service turns out to be shoddy or unimpressive, they will suffer the embarrassment of having encouraged people to use it in the first place. This is especially true in B2B. Save the invitation for after a certain number of visits, for example. This can even be done in physical stores with the use of sensors.

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10. Discounts, rewards, incentives for them to spread the word

Following on from the last point, there are times to offer incentives. You can place these incentives at points in the funnel where there is a high drop-off rate. PayPal famously incentivized people with pure hard cash. Test “X% discount” versus “X extra free”. There are reports that say one works better than the other. Remember, you have a unique product so don’t leave this to comparing or copying the closest competitor.

Just like in a crowdfunding campaign, the rewards you choose must be possible for your company to support. What you offer should never cost more than what you can afford. Keep a close watch on these incentives to make sure they do not put you in the red. In general, B2B rarely goes viral unless enough employees adopt it that the management have to consider using it formally across the organization.

11. Retargeting

When you are retargeting B2B prospects, always think in terms of “what’s in it for me?” You have to imagine receiving the email, or viewing the campaign on social media (whatever retargeting method you choose) and hypothesize why it would make a person do what you want them to do (sign up? go to a webinar?).

Retargeting is an opportunity to whittle down your list of contacts to the ones most suited to using your product, if you haven’t done so already. Examine how you approached them previously (or how they approached you) and try to understand what went awry.

12. Releasing free tools

A free tool offers instant value to a prospect. The tool should be a useful addition to your persona’s toolkit (and complement your service), just as your content is a useful educational tool for doing their job better. For example, Moz has the Open Site Explorer, which allows people to compare up to 5 websites for SEO. It’s a chance to show your understanding of your persona’s needs and your expertise in building a product.

13. Use automation software

Managing multiple B2B leads can become complicated – if there are many, and you keep messing up what stage in the cycle they are in, you’re wasting opportunities. It might be a good sign to invest in a lead-management tool like Marketo, Salesforce or something similar.

14. Incentivize enterprise adoption – discounts, best support, more storage

Before, I wrote about personal incentives. Here, I specifically mean enterprise-wide incentives. Make offers such as “get your whole team/department on board, and get the first two months free.” Dropbox incentivized universities to spread the use of it’s service by promising X amount of free GB of space when X students/staff were on board. This was identified through an .EDU email address sign-up. The same can apply to regular businesses. When a quantity of sign-ups come from the same business domain you can offer a reward or timed special offer. Or, even better, get in contact with the decision-maker of the team and convince them to adopt your service formally into the enterprise.

15. [Cold] emails and weekly newsletters

Email is still king in marketing! AB test the value proposition of your email taglines on a sample of your databank of contacts. Intercom has a really easy-to-use WYSIWYG setup for this within their CRM tool. Newsletters are also valuable. You’ve been lucky enough to get this person’s email address, now you have to convince them to do something for you.

Make an email un-cold by explaining who you are, why and how you are emailing this person. This will dramatically raise the CTR.

In both the emails and the newsletter, there should be CTAs drawing the lead to where you want them to be. Put it at the end of the email/newsletter – offer the valuable content first. The emails/newsletters should also be timed. VERY generally speaking, Tues – Thurs between 08:00 and 14:00 is good. This way, people checking their inboxes over breakfast, in traffic or at lunch will see your message near the top. Bear in mind timezones when you are segmenting your contact list of course – there’s not much point in sending an email that will arrive at 17:00 on a Friday.

16. “powered by”

Like many others, I have a pet peeve with the phrase “powered by” but I think the meaning is still fine. Qualaroo advocates it. WordPress uses it. The point is to get businesses who are using your product or service to mention somewhere in their header or footer that they use you. My company, Twoodo, might like to have “collaborating through Twoodo” stamped on the landing page, since we are a team collaboration tool. It’s a stamp of trust that promotes brand awareness.

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17. Help them

This is an overarching point which combines previous the points on content, emails, newsletters, free tools and so on. But I want you to think of other ways beyond these where you can help your users. For example, Optimizely holds and annual conference called OptiCon. Here, Optimizely enthusiasts get to nerd-out about their favourite tool and people considering using it get to meet users and learn more about it. They will also learn about A/B testing and data analytics.

I’m not saying you have to organize a conference, but you can easily hold a meetup. For example, 3DHubs in Amsterdam hold meetups for 3D printing fanatics to get together, and for people interested to come learn about it. Think about what you can offer your community and how it could also attract or convert new users.

18. Become a critical part of enough of the employees workflow

Bottom-up technology adoption is becoming commonplace, especially with BYOD (Bring your own device) policies in enterprises nowadays. This is where B2C can convert to B2B. If enough individuals use your service or product, it is in the enterprise’s best interests to apply it fully and exert some control over it. This is how Yammer started out. Skype is also arguably in this category as well. How can you make this happen?

When a person signs up with their work email rather than personal email, it indicates the intention of using it for work. If multiple sign-ups come from the same company email, you can design emails that suggest getting the whole team or company on board. Or, you can use an instant messaging tool to chat with one of these worker. Ask directly if they think the manager would be interested to talk with you about testing it on a full team or department.

19. Wifi ads/ads in alternative places

A neat method of advertising is how uGift leveraged wifi hotspots in Ukraine. Business people spend a lot of time in wifi hotspots – hotel lobbies, airports, trains, conferences. Plenty of B2B opportunities. How it works is that before a person can access the wifi, they see an ad for uGift. They set up a relationship with the wifi provider in order to do this.

I’m not usually one for promoting paid ads, but this was one I had never heard of before, so I wanted to share it! Here’s a leaf from traditional marketing: walk in the shoes of your ideal users, and try to think of novel ways to advertise in the places they go and things they consume (but not just for brand awareness – the ad has to compel an action to be taken).

20. Partners, resellers, VARs

You’re busy with the thousand-and-one things it takes to run a business. Why not find resellers, who have the contacts and know the landscape, to help you out?

Some helpful resources to get started:

The best advice I have is to talk to fellow business owners that have tried resellers and get connected through them.

21. Testimonials in video format

Customer testimonials are influential, for both B2C and B2B. The trustworthiness of a testimonial depends on a number of factors: a) how realistic the testimonial sounds, b) a real photo – and here’s where Salesforce took it a step further c) a video testimonial.

This testimonial from Philip’s CIO Jeroen Tas is embedded on a Salesforce blog post:

A video is the most compelling form of testimonial. The participating customer is endorsing your service/product in detail, with their own voice and face attached. A customer wouldn’t sign up for this unless they really believed in the product, right? Video is also an easy-to-consume format. If you have the budget, test the effectiveness of a video testimonial. You can’t know without trying!

 

Analyzing-data–the-noobs-guide-to-conversion-funnels

The beginner’s guide to creating conversion funnels and analyzing data

Confused with analyzing data? Conversion funnels are here to help.

You’ve probably been reading tons of articles telling you to start setting up metrics for your website, measure your website KPIs and take data-driven decisions. If you’ve already begun setting up metrics and tracking events on your website you probably know that it’s not easy. At Twoodo we spent quite a bit of time getting it right! In this article we’ll try to explain what you should be measuring, how to measure it and what types of tools you can use to measure them. This is in no way a definitive guide but more a journey of what we did.

First let me try to convince you a bit. At Twoodo we’re huge evangelists and practitioners of lean methodology principles: Build > Measure > Learn > Build > Measure > Learn. So inevitably someone in the company had to be in charge of the “Measure” part. It might not be sexy but we’ll call him our data analyst. As we’ve seen, using jargon such as “events-based tracking” can send a newbie to analyzing data running for the hills. But it is worth spending time understanding how to set up and use your user data properly. Identifying where there are drops in your conversion funnel is crucial to the success of early-stage startups, and makes a significant difference to established companies. Like the example here. We can clearly see something is going wrong..now we can start hypothesizing about why it’s happening and how we can fix it.

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Source: Mixpanel blog

The first step before starting to track everything and anything is to determine what metrics are important for your organization.

It’s not rocket science, as Mixpanel (the tool we use) assures you. Almost anybody can become a competent data analyst. What you are dealing with are 2 groups of data:

Demographics: raw data about the user (name, location, age etc.)
Events: the things they do on your website (click a link, sign up, leave a comment etc.).

So simply put you have users and events. In this article we’re interested in events but we go into detail on how to leverage soft data in this article.

“Events” includes the entire history of a user on your website. What pages he visited, where he clicked, how many invites he has sent, has he posted a comment etc. Google Analytics can help to some extent with events but in my opinion it’s quite limited. It is a great tool to understand where your visitors are coming from and can also be used to measure the very top of your conversion funnel. How many visitors arrived on my landing page and then signed up, posted something, stuck around or any other crucial action that you consider a “conversion”. Unfortunately GA is not great for going deeper into your conversion funnel and isn’t great for event based tracking (or I just haven’t learned to use it well enough) – a.k.a.: knowing what each user actually did on your website.

Without event-based tracking there is a lot of ambiguity that leads to guesswork. Guesswork as to what is actually happening inside your product. Are people using the right features, are they following the right steps to see the added value of your website, do they come back, do they come back regularly, do they invite people over, where do they drop off, what should I be improving etc..?

All in all I would recommend using GA for your user acquisition (and a solid UTM tracker framework) efforts but to use an event based tool such as Mixpanel or KissMetrics to track user behaviour and ultimately improve your product.

So what am I supposed to be tracking??

There are reasons that people bang their heads off of walls when it comes to using funnels. The first reason is: what am I supposed to be tracking?? We’ve found that using these questions can help solve this issue:

Step 1. What’s the main goal of your website? What is your business objective?

Let’s look at 3 different examples (just to make my life a bit harder :)

  • For an e-commerce shoe store the business objective is to sell shoes.
  • For a community website like Airbnb it’s getting people to book what they call “spaces”.
  • For a team collaboration tool like ours it’s to get people to login daily and communicate.

Step 2. What is needed for these objectives to be met? What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that prove your business objective is being met. There shouldn’t be hundreds. You should probably limit this to one or two. Let’s try to keep it simple in the examples:

  • For the e-commerce shoe shop it would be number of shoes sold.
  • For Airbnb there are 2 major KPIs. Number of spaces put up for rent by hosts and number of places booked by guests.
  • For Twoodo it’s number of teams created and number of daily active users.

Step 3. What conversion funnel leads to these steps:

This is where it gets a bit trickier. Depending on your website there can be many different event paths that can lead from Event 1 “Visited your landing page” to the Final Event (“clicked purchase”, “clicked book” or “created a team”) that we mentioned as a KPI. The trick here is to find paths (and remember we’re looking at events here like: clicked a button, visited a certain page) that ALL your visitors will have in common from landing page to conversion. Sometimes this means leaving out things like searches, certain pages or certain paths from your funnel because it’s possible for users to get from Event 1 to Final KPI Event without doing certain actions.

Here’s what I mean using the Airbnb example of someone renting an apartment:

  • Path 1: Visited landing page > searched for a city > refined search by price > clicked on a place to rent > chose dates > clicked “book” > clicked on “make payment”
  • Path 2: Visited landing page > chose dates > clicked on a place to rent > clicked on a “similar place to rent” > clicked “book” > clicked on “make payment”

In this example only the events marked in green are common between the 2 paths. The other events should therefore not be tracked here. Now I know this isn’t the perfect example but it’s to help you get going.

So let’s go back to our 3 examples. These are the funnels that could be created for the examples we mentioned earlier:

  • Shoe shop conversion funnel : Visited a page > Clicked on a product page > Added to cart > Clicked on “checkout > Clicked on “make payment”
  • Airbnb host conversion funnel : Visited a page > Clicked on “list my space” > clicked “continue” > clicked “validate”
  • Airbnb guest conversion funnel: Visited a page > clicked on a place to rent > clicked book > clicked on “make payment”
  • Twoodo conversion funnel 1: Visited landing page > signed up > created a team
  • Twoodo conversion funnel 2:  Visited landing page > signed up > logged in every day over the past week

These are only real basic examples. There are many other events you should also probably be tracking. We go into much further details on what metrics you could/should be tracking in this introductory guide to SaaS startup metrics.

Now that we know WHAT to track getting the right data can also lead to mistakes. What do I mean? Let me walk you through a scenario. Once a user is logged in it is easy to track him. However, tracking those on your website who have not logged in is a little trickier. Cookies are one way of doing it, but that won’t work if the same user comes to the website from different locations. Also, a registered user may be on your website but just not logged in. How is this user counted?

This is why we pay the our CTO so much to manage our information flows ;)

How do we count the information that we want?

You don’t want to check the same event multiple times. You want to know how many people did an event. It’s not just the quantity of the event (eg. people posted 498 times today) … but you need to know who did how many posts (eg. JohnX posted 8 times today, and JanetX posted 53 times today).

The events are related from one step to another by being linked with the same user ID – that’s how you get your % of users who are doing one step or another. Separate the quantity of users from the number of actions occurring. Don’t worry! Doing this does not require coding experience but the person setting it up has to be tech savvy (or at least not afraid to give it a go!). In Mixpanel, simply choose from the drop-down menus the information you want in the timeframe you need it:

This is a logical sequence: 1) people who viewed the homepage to 2) people who viewed the sign-up page to 3) the people who became users. However, these are very general steps and you should narrow down your funnel to be specific to your product (eg. “people who signed up” to “people who clicked on the ebook” to “people who bought the ebook”). Each set of events is unique to your business.

In order for this data to be actionable, it needs to be drilled down further. Why did only 10% view the sign-up page? Are the wrong people being driven to the homepage? Is there a weak CTA? And after that, why do only 1% commit? Are we asking too much from them? Is the sign-up form causing friction? Start at the beginning of the funnel and work your way over. Focus on the highest drop-off rates. Start to generate hypotheses as to why they would drop off at that particular point and find information to support it. And use Inspectlet to figure out WHY these drops are occurring. Inspeclet rocks.

The big scary setup

Most metrics tools make getting started as easy as possible (after all, their data told them that onboarding was too difficult!). The best ones have great support available whether by email, IM or calling. Most tools are as difficult as adding 2 lines of code to your website – almost half the battle is won! If you are using WordPress for example, install a plugin called “Header and Footer” and paste those 2 lines of code into the footer – done!

Now you need to make sure to track the important events. Let’s use Twoodo as an example again. When you arrive on Twoodo you have to carry out a certain number of “onboarding steps” It’s important for us to know how many users are carrying out the entire onboarding. How many are stopping at step 1, step 2 etc. The funnel looks like this:

analyzing-data

As you can see steps 3 and 4 are posing a problem to users. I’ve identified where there’s a drop in my funnel and I can start thinking about how to fix it.

It’s just like algebra 101: you have a variable x and you define what the value y is.

If you think funnels are not that important… think again

A small leak in your funnel can compound over time to lose you a huge amount of revenue (if you reach the revenue positive stage at all!).

Take a look at the calculation below from Don’t Leak Leads – these are the average numbers for 1,000 visitors.

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Using data funnels, you can figure out why only 50 out of 1000 people are dropping off. This way you can reduce your CAC significantly. Perhaps you are targeting the wrong people to visit your website – check the demographics. Perhaps your call to action is unclear or below the fold – move it (and do an AB test) and change it (and again, AB test).

Metrics only tell the data analyst half of the story. They tell you WHAT is happening on your website. Next part is to understand WHY these things are happening. A lot can be said about that, usability testing, talking to your customers, exit surveys can all help understand the WHY and create hypothesis as to how to fix it. But that’s for another article…

customer-segmentation

Customer segmentation and personalization: combining 2 powerful techniques

 

Segment for growth

Customer segmentation means categorizing your visitors/users in a way that achieves a business goal. Even your early adopters. There are tons of benefits to correctly segmenting: avoiding useless channels, identifying the most profitable channels, improving your customer service, discovering unexplored niches and more. It all boils down to using your resources wisely to achieve maximum profitability. The facet I will discuss here are the benefits of personalization.

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Before we get into this deeply, I’d like to bring up a fascinating story of how Target (USA) ironically over-targeted their customers. The famous anecdote is about how Target figured out a teenage girl was pregnant before her parents did. How? They were able to spot patterns in what women were buying in each of their trimesters – lotion, mineral supplements, blankets – in order to supertarget them with coupons for items they expected them to buy at stages in the pregnancy. And pregnant women are a lucrative market!

Via her customer ID number, they tracked what she bought and sent her coupons in the mail for what they anticipated would be her next baby purchase in the trimester. The father found the coupons and was enraged at Target – were they trying to incentivize teenage pregnancy? Of course, when he found out the truth of the matter, he apologized. But the story became infamous – and Target learned that becoming so specific was creeping their customers out. So now, whilst they still send coupons based on this data, they also add in randomized ads for other things in order to make people less mindful of how their every purchase is being tracked somewhere. See more on the story here.

One size doesn’t fit all

Despite this story, most of the time being able to segment leads for better personalization works. Personalization has been proven to time and again be effective in converting people. And personalization is more than just addressing the email with the first name of the recipient. It involves the right timing, a compelling CTA (not all your segments will respond to the same CTA), and using specific language. Check these stats from Adobe/Econsultancy:

customer-segmentation

Unsurprisingly, there is slow change in big business: “Of course, technology trends mirror business demands. If business stakeholders had really understood the value of personalization in digital then all those brilliant folks writing software would have supported the need. Despite the many obvious examples among the leaders in the digital space, most enterprises have been disappointingly slow in learning the real lessons. They tend to think that those business models just don’t apply to them. That’s not without foundation – you can’t just assume that because an online retailer with millions of products makes great use of market-basket like analytics that it’s what you need too. It’s the deeper lesson – that driving personalized experience’s differentiates – that often goes under-appreciated.

However, whilst these dinosaurs still walk around, you can take advantage of it! :D As long as your attitude is not trying to please them all, you’ll have something of value to offer a niche.

Personalization works for customer segmentation

The shift to the ‘personalized web’ is therefore sadly not being driven by goodwill but because business are reacting to the market. But segmenting merely by location and life-stage are not always going to be enough to appeal to our dynamic and shifting personalities. This is why algorithms that can track and predict our tastes and habits in the future will become so lucrative.

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In the meantime, we must segment our visitors and customers into meaningful groups with sensible KPIs that can realistically help us reach our goals.

SoAdaptive lists the reasons why personalization works:

  • convergence: social logins that show how many of your friends are already using the service/product encourage you to be part of the tribe.
  • relevance and immediacy of information: it resonates with the new user that you are already ‘intuitively’ serving their desires.
  • trust: personalization through displaying common friends on board, sending targeted information and including steps such as a ‘welcome’ and ‘thanks’ page increase trust in the brand .
  • similarity: we are comfortable with what we know, and therefore less likely to unsubscribe.
  • reciprocation: a deep psychological trait in humans – do something for your users and it is likely they will do something for you in return.
  • emotion: the right stimulus will provoke an emotional response, and lead to increased engagement.
  • social proof: we are strongly influenced by our friends, peers and family – we are more likely to use or buy a product if those around us insist on also using it.

Of course, these points of personalization come after you have figured out your segments. Here is a list of typical segmentation, taken from Megan Neely and Jeffrey Vocell on Quora:

  1. Previous engagement with your website
  2. Time/Day/Data
  3. Recency & Frequency of Visits
  4. Referring Source (campaign vs. earned media)
  5. Mobile Browser Type
  6. Keyword
  7. External Data – think CRM or click-through data stored in email or marketing automation platforms
  8. Behavior
  9. Mobile device properties (i.e. touchscreen or non-touchscreen)
  10. Mobile device type (iPhone / Android / Blackberry, etc)
  11. Table type & browser
  12. Geo-location (State / Region, City, Zip Code, Media Market)
  13. Language

These segments are important, but give a generalized rather than personalized view of the users. From these data points, you can

a) test CTAs/landing page design
b) identify drop-off points
c) optimize for mobile devices
d) decide if you need to build specific apps for devices
e) find out what language base is largest amongst your users
f) see which growth tactics have driven numbers and which have not
g) most effective times to show in-app messages, offers, coupons etc.

This is certainly useful. But take a look at how Localytics takes it a step further. This video from Localytics gives an excellent breakdown of how users can be segmented in a way that makes sense for each unique mobile app. They segment their customers into unique categories: “couponers”, “second screeners”, “news junkies” and “social butterflies.” These groupings make sense to the business goals of the company which is why they are so powerful.

 

Where regular segmentation and personalization converge

We are not zombies. You cannot tell everything about what stimulates me to become more engaged with your product if you don’t know what gets me up in the morning. As Simon Sinek’s now famous TED speech proclaims “it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it.” This phrase drives us at Twoodo every day to try to learn more about why our users really want us. People become loyal to a company not because of just the product but what that company stands for. These are called ‘psychographic characteristics. Where segmentation and personalization will become most powerful for your product or service is where you can merge these successfully.

customer-segmentation

Image source

Some psychographic characteristics (Community Tool Box):

  • Political views, including both party affiliation and the radical-liberal-centrist -conservative-rightist spectrum.
  • Values and moral system.
  • Social attitudes
  • Actual religious beliefs (not just ‘born into it’)
  • Environmental awareness and attitudes
  • Health consciousness
  • Attitudes toward authority, from blind acceptance to outright hostility

How can you figure this out?

Find out where your users are on the internet – forums, Google Plus communities, Twitter lists, Facebook groups, Meetups. What is their industry/role? In what way does their local culture affect them? For example, we have in-app messages in our product to check in and see how people are doing. For our American customers, it worked splendidly. They loved being reached out to. However, in The Netherlands, people found it impinged on their privacy and annoyed them. Why? The USA is strongly influenced by customer service and the business taking care of them. And the Dutch are an autonomous people who reach out when they need to, when they want to.

This is also a great opportunity to find out the language your users speak. It is essential to learn this language so that your service can be developed to present itself in the most enticing way possible to your niche. The Obama 2012 campaign applied this form of personalization in an innovative way. They used not only people’s names in emails, but created a dashboard for them to log in to the campaign, view what was going on, participate in discussion, offer ideas and so on. This was because their user base was used to participating using social collaboration and respected transparency and direct involvement.

The big ‘BUT’:

As you are making all of these wonderful discoveries about your users, keep in mind what your company goals are. Over-segmenting can be counter-productive. If these personalized segments are ultimately unprofitable or unviable, then you will have to let them go (or find another way to monetize them). Through your researching and learning process of customer segmentation and personalization, focus on what works for your company. Then you can direct your marketing and sales to a focussed area and kick ass!

 

actionable-seo-steps

Actionable SEO steps that aren’t as scary as you think

This article shows you:

  • that you can apply SEO without too much SEO know-how
  • a set of actionable SEO steps that you can apply to your content

If you’re building a content strategy for your startup, you’ll have heard and read over and over how important and strategic SEO is. You could read the MOZ beginner’s SEO guide followed by the more advanced Quicksprout SEO guide. But if you don’t have the time and if all you want are some actionable SEO steps, then you’ve come to the right place.

Can I skip the SEO?

It would be great if creating awesome content was enough to attract quality visitors to your website. Useful and interesting advice, stellar imagery and quality links to vital resources – surely that’s enough? The thing is, loads of people have good advice to offer, or are great hustlers with their mediocre how-to guides. And a lot of people just plain write badly, despite having great insights to offer.

Competing with well established blogs and influential thought leaders is no easy task. They have built a loyal following, have on-hand readers to help promote their content and are able to churn more content per day that you do. That’s where SEO comes in.  Search engines still have “free slots” – sweet spots where you can still get attention even though you’re only starting to build your blog. I want to share with you some very basic tips that we have used successfully even though we’re on an extremely competitive playing field. Most SEO experts would probably advise that these are not enough. Maybe it’s luck but they’ve worked for us. If you want more in-depth techniques check out Chapter 6 of the Quicksprout guide.

Your goals with this guide on actionable SEO steps:

  • 1: Create a high-ranking article title in Google (steps 1 – 6)
  • 2: Create an attractive article title to get clicks (step 7)

Step 1: Google Keyword Search – Finding the Golden Nugget

The name of the game is to rank highly for a word/phrase that people often search for but that few people are competing on. Think of it like a recipe – don’t compete with recipes for traditional spaghetti bolognese. Compete with a recipe for bolognese with some weird ingredient that people are searching for. Spaghetti bolognese with chicken? Nice!

actionable-seo-steps

Get a Google Adwords account – it won’t cost you a dime. Then, make a list of words and phrases relevant to the text you intend on publishing. Add all of these to the keyword search box (separated by commas) and hit enter. Switch from “ad group ideas” to “keyword ideas”.

actionable-seo-steps

What you are looking for are words with a high search volume per month. Your goal will be to grab those thousands of people. IMPORTANT: Forget the competition level at this point – this is irrelevant in Google Adwords as it is tailored for Adwords campaigns more than for organic search keyword competition.

actionable-seo-steps

After you have made a list of keywords with high search volume (we choose to go with about 1,000 + but it’s up to you), go to the Moz keyword difficulty tool. F6S often has offers for Moz but typically it’s gonna cost you $100 per month.

actionable-seo-steps

Collect the phrases with the lowest percentage of difficulty possible. This can be challenging if the topic you are writing about is not very unique.

actionable-seo-steps

Next, it’s back to Google. Try each phrase/keyword you have collected in the search engine using quote marks to search for that exact phrase. Choose the phrase with the least search results.

actionable-seo-steps

It is usually a long task, but the return on using the right keyword is thousands of organic visitors per month.  Check out our full keyword research guide here if you want more!

Step 2: Check the Popularity of the Keyword

Whether your tactic is to jump on current news or create long-term useful content, it is always important to see how the expressions you choose are trending. Use Google Trends to see if the interest is generally high, and if it is trending down. If it is going down, the chances are that it won’t be a good long-term tactic to use this keyword. A high/stable or low/climbing keyword will be more reliable as a future traffic-diverting choice.

actionable-seo-steps

Another way of investigating popularity is to check if the keyword or expression is trending on Twitter. Hashtagify provides this service. You’ll be able to use this work later when tagging and posting your content around the web. Choose two/max. three tags per posting, and vary them the second time you share it so a larger audience is exposed to the post.

actionable-seo-steps

 

…or try Hashtags.org 

 

actionable-seo-steps

If you want a thorough guide to how to use hashtags, check out this article on researching and applying tags and hashtags.

Step 3: Where to Include the Keyword

  • Use your keyword/EXACT phrase in the article title, in the first paragraph two or three times, and wherever else in the article you can use it without it sounding out-of-place. It takes some inventive phrasing and editing as the text still has to flow.

  • Next, use this keyword/EXACT phrase in all of the image titles and descriptions, and in the alt-title (don’t forget to use hyphens between words, and NO spaces).

  • Also place it exactly as it is in the meta descriptions and meta tags.

Here’s the basic checklist we use for every blog article for you to follow!

What is also fantastic when you are completing a blog post is to have the Yoast SEO plugin installed. If the article is not SEO-optimized, the light will appear red or yellow. A green light indicates good SEO. Under the blog post, fill in all the fields according to the instructions and you should do just fine.

actionable-seo-steps

Step 4: Read the page as the bots would

Check your page in www.seo-browser.com to see how it reads to the crawlers. Are you seeing you key expression in there? At the top? Multiple times? Ok good.

Step 5: Push Google indexing

Submit the URL to Google Webmaster tools

actionable-seo-steps

Step 6: Externally Improve your SEO

Social media shares improve the relevance of your text to the given search terms. Google’s plans are to base it’s results on democratization: what people rate as the “most relevant” through liking, referring and recommending will be top of the list. So nag your friends, get it out on your network, convince people to add to this part of the SEO to-do list.

Getting backlinks naturally (i.e. people voluntarily link back to your content or website) will help you rank higher. The more backlinks, the higher you will appear in Google search. Backlinks can be created by you on the places your competitors are, through blog commenting, forum discussions and guest blogging. However, this should be approached with caution. Any interpretation of black-hat techniques will lead to search engine penalties.

Step 7: The Article Title

Despite all the work you just did, there is a final step you have to wrestle with that is often the hardest step of all – the title of the article. When you have your golden nugget SEO keyword/phrase, you’re gonna have to bend it into a catchy title with some of the following tricks:

  • use negative words
  • use (big) numbers
  • how to
  • use one of these: surprising, history, science, huge, big, critical, hacks, smart (see the full explanation here on the Buffer blog)
  • simple/fast guides
  • use big brand names
twoodo-conference-networking-tips

How to pre-prepare networking at conferences to get ahead with lead generation

This article shows you:

  • networking basics with thought leaders and potential investors before a big event
  • how that leads to better quality networking at conferences

Our experience with networking at conferences 

It was awesome attending the Dublin Web Summit 2014 – we not only attended, but pitched in the ALPHA competition. Where else would we get such an opportunity to make ourselves known? We could stand in front of all the names that we pay homage to in tech, the people who inspire us, the people who make us get up in morning and say “if they can do it, why can’t we?

networking-at-conferences

In an earlier Web Summit blog post, Noel Ruane laid out some simple, practical advice on meeting investors: don’t waste time with an unknown “investor”, actively try to meet the people most relevant to your business, and don’t go around pitching in people’s face. This is relationship building, not cold calling.

Fantastic advice! But if you are just one of hundreds of hungry startup CEOs with no previous connections to the big names, how do you bridge this gaping network hole? Ideally, you want a steady number of meaningful meetings per conference day set up in advance. So how do you network before a conference?

The key is preparing well in advance (sorry it’s not something sexier than that).

1. Decide if you are going big or going narrow

What do you need right now - advice? €100,000? €1,000,000? Should you spend your time with mentors, angels or VCs? Jot down a clear list of what your startup needs most, and what kind of person would best serve that need. Also calculate how many meetings you can realistically squeeze in per day.

You don’t want to waste your time, and nor do you want to waste the time of someone who cannot help you.

2. Start with the conference attendee list if you have one

First, extract the names you already know you want to meet, and put them aside. The Web Summit had a HUGE list, and it was organized algorithmically to put the people generating most interest at the top. We took the first 75 names with the intention of distilling it down to about 20 – i.e. ten meetings per day. Check the names on your list out on Angel.co, Gust or LinkedIn based on your criteria. If they don’t have a personal AngelList page or their LinkedIn profile is not visible to you, check out their company profile and see if it’s a business and a model you would like some insights on.

Eliminate anyone that has nothing to do with your needs.

3. Go back to the list of people you already know you want to meet.

Check out their AngelList profile and check if they have expressed interest in your industry, and if they are willing to conduct business in a part of the world that suits you. Some quite strictly only deal in the USA, for example.

Even if you love and respect them, only make time for them if they are relevant or you really have time to spare for recreational face-to-face networking.

4. Rinse and repeat step 2

Do this until you have a list of relevant people long enough to fill the time you are spending there.

5. Linking up in advance online

This is the harder part, especially for the most famous names. However, with perseverance, you can get lucky.

  • Step 1: decide what you want to ask, and keep it to the point (we went with asking for a quick meeting at the Summit, followed by inviting them to watch us pitch, and to come by the stand if they had the opportunity)
  • Step 2: ask to get introduced on LinkedIn/directly request a connection on LinkedIn and send an in-mail. Using LinkedIn came recommended from colleagues of ours as sending an email to people who receive hundreds of emails a day makes it hard to stand out.

networking-at-conferences

  • Step 3: send a follow-up message after a day (1 – 2 lines) – we expressed our hope that they have a great time, hope to bump into them, and mentioned our pitch time and location if they would like to check us out

networking-at-conferences

  • Step 4: gather Twitter handles, and send them a tweet with your desire to meet up

networking-at-conferences

  • Step 5: reminder tweet a day or two later (some of you might complain about this one. Let’s just call it “perseverance” – or go hard, or go home!). And use your personal account, NOT the business account!
  • Step 6: ask the conference organizers to set up your “most wanted” connections for you if you have been unsuccessful thus far

networking-at-conferences

  • Step 7: hunt for email addresses on their personal blogs or their own companies – you’d be surprised how many you can find!

There are some useful tips on how to find people to contact if you don’t already have a personal wishlist.

6. Once you have your meetings arranged, make your list of questions

Start with the most essential questions and work down by priority. This will help you get the most valuable information before the person gets whisked away by another eager beaver.

Get active on social media in advance of the conference, and use related hashtags on Twitter so that you stand out and get noticed. Participate in online forums and chats with people interested in the event or attending the event (eg. the Facebook page or Twitter):

networking-at-conferences

The important thing is to GET NOTICED!!!

Also check out this thorough guide to networking at conferences for startups from ClarityFM.

guide-to-saas-startup-metrics

If you are going to read one intro guide to SaaS startup metrics, this is it

This article shows you:

  • the 5 approaches to metrics by Lars Logfren, Dave McClure, David Skok, Aaron Beashel and Tomasz Tunguz
  • a fast and comprehensible guide to SaaS startup metrics for people with little time to waste

Since launching our private beta six months ago we’ve learned again and again to talk to our customers and to set up metrics to start measuring. Metrics, KPIs, metrics, KPIs! They enable you to analyze your user’s behavior, track progress, show traction, find bottlenecks and know what part of the sales funnel needs the most improvement.

Easier said than done.

You can easily get lost in what you should be tracking or how to track it. I know we did. So we sat down and decided to take care of it once and for all, and we came up with this guide to SaaS startup metrics.

We had read and stored tons and tons of articles on metrics. We finally decided to lay them down and summarize what we had learned in order to decide on what metrics were right for us early on in the game. We found that there were five approaches to SaaS metrics that really stood out. They would all be useful depending on what we trying to get out of it:

  • metrics to improve you product on,
  • metrics to impress VCs,
  • metrics for board meetings,
  • metrics for the fun of metrics etc.

We know that startup CEOs generally have very little time on their hands. Jumping into the metrics game can be quite daunting. That’s why we’d like to share with you our findings and hopefully help you save some precious time. It’ll then be up to you as to which approach you want to integrate and how much time you want to spend on it. This is in no way an exhaustive list. I’m more than open to being corrected or to receiving additional information to this guide to SaaS startup metrics.

A Guide to SaaS startup metrics

1. The practical: Lars Lofgren

guide-to-saas-startup-metrics

Lars Logfren has a very practical approach to metrics. It was an eye-opener for us. Basically put,  the metrics you measure should depend on the advancement of your startup. For example, ”If you’ve only had paying customers for 2 months, it doesn’t make much sense to track lifetime value. But later on lifetime value is essential”. The great thing about these metrics is that they incorporate what stage your startup is in. That’s golden when you’re not certain about what you should be measuring. Here I’ve tried to summarize the 5 stages but you can see the full article here.

Stage 1 – Before product/market fit

This is when you still haven’t pinpointed who your ideal customer is. Carrying out customer interviews should help you validate who that ideal customer is. These customer development interviews are basically meetings or preferably Skype chats (less time-consuming) with potential users. They enable you to find out who the user is, what his main pain point are and whether your solution is solving that pain. The great thing is you can have an analytical approach to these meetings in order to come up with metrics.

Product-Market Fit Conversion rate =

Total # of potential users you interviewed who, liked your solution and decided to start using it / Total # of customer development interviews you carried out

>> “YES/NO this is our ideal target customer”

 

Stage 2 – When you think you have product/market fit

Sean Ellis came up with a survey question that allows to quantify and measure product market fit. It’s so simple and ready to implement that we used this technique over and over. The question should be asked to any users who have used your tool/website more than twice. Here is the question and multiple choice:

If we took away our product from you right now and forever. How would you feel? 
  1. Very disappointed
  2. Slightly disappointed
  3. Not disappointed
  4. Not using the product (N/A)

 

Product/market fit rate =

Total # of users who replied “Very disappointed” / Total # of users interviewed

 “You should have more than 40% here. If not you don’t have product/market fit yet.”

 

Don’t despair. It took us some time to get to that 40% rate. Read Sean Ellis’ article to see what you could do if you don’t get those 40%.

By the way, the survey is all ready to use and implement here. All you’ll have to do is put in your company name. 

Stage 3 – When you’re certain you have product/market fit

Now that you’ve reached this stage, you’re starting to scale and experience serious growth. There are two main metrics you’ll want to look at.

Monthly Recurring Revenue which is the total revenue earned from the sum of all monthly subscriptions

Monthly recurring revenue (MRR) =

Total revenue earned from the sum of all monthly subscriptions

“Your target should be to keep this growing, always.”

 Churn: This is the monthly number of paying customer who drop off. This number has a negative impact on your MRR. This number should stay under 2%. If it doesn’t, drop all else and concentrate on getting it under that level.

Your monthly customer churn rate (Churn) =

Number of subscribers cancelling their paid subscription this month / Total # of paying customers

“This number should stay under 2%. If it doesn’t, drop all else and concentrate on getting it under that level.” 

Stage 4 – Growth has slowed down

At this point, growth from your main acquisition channels has slowed down. You start exploring new, riskier acquisition channels.

Customer Lifetime Value (LTV): How much money does a customer bring you before he leaves your product?

Customer Lifetime Value = 

MRR / # of paying users x how long on average a customer keeps paying for your product before he drops off

Customer Acquisition Cost: The total cost it takes to acquire a paying customer from a particular acquisition source.

Customer Acquisition Cost =

Sum of all expenses made on a particular acquisition channel / # of new paying customers added through that channel

“A common rule is to keep CAC under a third of LTV and that a customer should become profitable within 12 months.”

Here are some more awesome insights from Lars.

Ultimate Guide to SaaS Pricing from KISSmetrics on SlideShare

 

2. The well-rounded: AARRR Pirate metrics

guide-to-saas-startup-metrics

Pirate metrics is a funnel based approach to metrics developed by Dave McClure. It’s pretty awesome and almost totally straightforward. I wouldn’t recommend it before you’re at least at the stage 2 we mentioned above. It goes like this: AARRR = First concentrate on Acquiring users, then Activating them, Retaining them, getting them to Refer you to other people and finally getting them to pay (Revenue). Here’s a pic of what is called The Sales Funnel stolen from Ash Maurya’s blog post on the subject.

Product-sales-conversion-pirate-metrics-funnel

 

Acquisition channels = How many unique visitors are you getting each month from each channels they are coming from. Here’s a very basic example.

Organic search = 2000 unique visitors per month

  • Keyword 1 = 1000 uv/m
  • Keyword 2 = 500 uv/m
  • etc..

Paid search = 1000 unique visitors per month

  • Adwords = 400 uv/m
  • Display campaign = 300 uv/m
  • Retargeting campaign = 200 uv/m
  • Linkedin ads = 100 uv/m

Referral = 1000 unique visitors per month

  • Twitter = 400 uv/m
  • Techcrunch = 300 uv/m
  • Guest blogged article = 300 uv/m
  • etc..

Direct = 1000 unique visitors per month

Acquisition conversion rate:  Out of all the unique visitors who visited your website from each channel, how many performed a basic action to start using your tool? (such as, and/or…created an account, clicked on a link, commented on a post, downloaded your app, stayed more than 2 minutes etc..) 

Acquisition conversion rate =

Total # of users who signed up to your website from a channel / Total # unique visitors to your website

Measure these for a certain period of time, month, week etc. 

Activation rate: Out of all the unique visitors who visited your website, how many had an awesome first time experience? (this can be determined by tracking certain events. For example: and/or …created an account + gave you their email address + clicked on a certain feature + stayed more than 5 minutes + added an avatar picture +  added their first and last name +  finished the walk-through). 

Activation rate =

Total # of users who signed up to your website and had a great first time experience on your website / Total # unique visitors to your website

(For a certain period of time, month, week etc.)

Retention rate = Out of all the unique visitors who visited your website for a specific Month (M) how many keep coming back and using your tool actively in later months M+1 M+2 M+3?

Retention rates are measured in cohorts. It’s a scary term at first but it’s actually super simple. Christoph Janz is the king of cohorts. A cohort is just a group of people within a specific period of time. Everyone who signed up in April = The April cohort. 

May retention rate % for the April cohort =

Total # of users who signed up to the website in April + were activated + are still coming back to the website in May and actively using it / Total # unique visitors to your website in April 

June retention rate % for the April cohort =

Total # of users who signed up to the website in April + were activated + are still coming back to the website in May and actively using it / Total # unique visitors to your website in April

 Referral rate = Let’s put this very basically, for every 10 new visitors who sign up to your website, how many people do they invite to your website? Then how many of those invited over actually create an account? 

Referral rate =

# of people who signed up after being invited over /  Total # of people who signed up during that period (of course, excluding the invited ones) 

This number is super important. Let’s say you have a referral rate of 50%. That means that for every 10 visitors who sign up, you’re actually gaining 15 new users. A referral rate over 100% means you have achieved viral growth. You can also calculate this the way Dave McClure does:

 

guide-to-saas-startup-metrics

Revenue = How many users are paying for your product monthly (MRR), how long will they keep paying (CLTV), and how much did it cost you to acquire them (CAC) as paying users. Hey wait! Isn’t that similar to the Lars Logfren style? Yup it is. You’ll see more and more cross over from now on.

Monthly recurring revenue (MRR) =

Total revenue earned from the sum of all monthly subscriptions

“Your target should be to keep this growing, always.”

 

Customer Lifetime Value = 

MRR / # of paying customers x how long on average a customer keeps paying for your product before he drops off

 

Customer Acquisition Cost =

Sum of all expenses made to acquire new customers / # of new paying customers 

If you like this, here are some other (more in-depth) resources for pirate metrics:

Startup Metrics for Pirates (Startonomics Beijing, June 2009) from Geeks On A Plane
  • http://practicetrumpstheory.com/2010/07/3-rules-to-actionable-metrics/

 

3. The VC / Skocket scientist: David Skok (sorry for the bad pun)

guide-to-saas-startup-metrics

Meet David Skok, a SaaS metrics guru. His blog posts have some of the most exhaustive and detailed explanations on what metrics to look out for, and most importantly how to set them up. VCs and entrepreneurs alike follow his lead. Almost all the metrics explained above were deciphered using his formulas.

David Skok puts great emphasis on two extremely important metrics:

LTV : What is the monetary lifetime value of a customer

CAC : How much does it cost to acquire a typical customer

In one of his blog post comments he details some of the most important metrics to present when meeting with VCs.

MRR Churn Rate =

Churned MRR / MRR from previous month

 

CAC =

Total of all sales and marketing channels to acquire users / Number of new customers added

 

LTV =

Average MRR per account / Average Customer lifetime duration

 

LTV:CAC ratio =

LTV / CAC

 

Months to recover CAC =

CAC / Average MRR per account

 

MRR Graph = MRR evolution over time

 

Net New MRR Graph (showing the three component parts as well: New MRR, Churned MRR, Expansion MRR) =

Evolution of: (Churned MRR – Expansion MRR) / MRR from previous month

To go into more detail, I’ll invite you to read these three blog articles. Even though we don’t yet use all of the metrics provided, they’ve given us a whole new perspective on the SaaS startup game.

  1. www.forentrepreneurs.com/saas-metrics/
  2. www.forentrepreneurs.com/saas-metrics-2/
  3. Definitions: www.forentrepreneurs.com/saas-metrics-2-definitions/
  4. Christoph Janz: http://christophjanz.blogspot.de/2013/04/a-kpi-dashboard-for-early-stage-saas.html

 

4. The creative binge-eater: Aaron Beashel

guide-to-saas-startup-metrics

While most articles would advise you to concentrate only on the most important metrics, Aaron Beashel does exactly the opposite. He gives us everything. I’ve highlighted here some of the most interesting and creative ones. I find it particularly interesting the way he uses Time.

  • Average Revenue Per Customer – Average revenue an individual customer generates over the given time period

  • Time to Purchase – Average time it takes people to go from sign-up to purchase

  • Time to activation – Total time it takes to go from sign-up to activation

  • Logins to activation – How many times a user logs in between sign-up and activation when coming from the selected customer acquisition channel

  • Logins to Purchase – Total number of times a user logs in to the application before Purchase.

  • Time to paying – Average time it takes people to go from sign-up to paying customer from the selected customer acquisition channel

If you’re feeling creative, you’re gonna love his style. 

5. The board member: Tomasz Tunguz

guide-to-saas-startup-metrics

Tomas Tunguz is one of my favorite people to read on the internet. He’s all about data and no BS. This approach to metrics is used to answer high level questions (by investors, board members, VCs) on how your business is doing. It’s extremely straight forward.

The metrics are cut into three groups:

Distribution:

 guide-to-saas-startup-metrics

Engagement:

guide-to-saas-startup-metrics

 

Revenue:

guide-to-saas-startup-metrics

To calculate these you should also understand the concept of “Trailing six month average” (TSM). TSM is just the average growth rate over the last 6 months. So for example if your rates are consecutively 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% your TSM is (5%+10%+15%+20%+25%+30%)/6 = 17,5%

There’s no real point in me copy-pasting more of his findings here. Like I said he’s very easy to read. So I suggest just go to his post which are always pleasantly clear and concise.

If you’ve made it this far congrats. I’ll leave you with a few tools that we use and recommend when setting up your metrics tracking.

I hope this guide to SaaS startup metrics will be useful for you!

Also check out this epic slide deck by Andreas Klinger

guest-blogging-tips

10 crucial guest blogging tips: our story from nobody to The Next Web

This article shows you:

  • why guest blogging is an excellent strategy
  • a step-by-step guide on how to get started

Why should I care about guest blogging?

If you’re trying to build an online business, guest blogging should be a no-brainer. Guest blogging tips are everywhere for a reason. In the early stages, if the decision should be whether to write content for your own blog or write content for someone else’s blog, (i.e. guest blogging) go with guest blogging. When the time comes to make a serious effort on your own blog, you’ll have improved your writing skills and built up good connections with other blog communities. Basically, it’s a base for better publicity via connections you will have made, communities you will have become known in and impact positively on your SEO ranking.

There’s a great slideshare by Doug Kessler that explains why 2014 will be the year of the content marketing deluge. Everyone’s doing content marketing so it’s becoming extremely difficult to get people’s attention and gather an audience. Readers are also putting their guard up and relying more and more on a specific number of online publications. This is why we’ve put together our best guest blogging tips that we learned through hours and hours of experience.

Don’t give up!

Guest blogging, whereby you write content for someone else’s blog or online publication, is an extremely effective way of acquiring quality and continuous visitors for your website. Basically put, if no-one is reading your blog, write for one with a larger audience. In exchange, you are allowed to include a bio with backlinks to your desired webpage (typically the company website and Twitter).

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 This has a dual effect of increasing your authority on certain subjects and attracting targeted readers to your website.  At Twoodo, we set up a guest blogging strategy about four months ago. We went from nowhere to writing for publications like The Next Web, Under30CEO and Lifehack. We’d love to share some lessons from our ongoing journey.

But first…a kick-ass example that inspired us

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BufferApp famously grew their website from 0 to 100 000 users in nine months using guest blogging. The team at Buffer (and notably Leo Widrich) have openly described on many occasions how they achieved such rapid results. Guest blogging well-written, informative, interesting and useful advice about Twitter (it was still pretty new back when he started) helped grow the company from an early-stage startup into a fast-growing enterprise with a large audience. They became thought leaders and experts in their niche, and this has built them and their blog a strong audience over the last two years. The content marketing strategy is a powerful example to follow.

Following in Leo’s footsteps, we’d like to share with you the methods, tricks and mistakes we encountered on our way to guest blogging for publications like The Next Web, Lifehack and many other publications.

Step by step guest blogging tips – how did we do it?

1. Find someone on your team who likes writing.

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It’s difficult to get guest-blogging right if no-one on your team likes to write. So if you don’t have one, hire someone who loooooves writing. This is critical because decent writing takes time, not to mention the time spent on creating nice images, graphs, illustrations etc. to add meat to the article. Outsourcing is an option, but we personally did not find it to be a good idea. After three tests,  the quality just wasn’t there. We wanted someone from within our team, experiencing the company growth to document the steps we took, and come up with interesting and relevant content to our audience.

Bear in mind, the first articles took quite a long time to write compared to four months later. We grew from one OK-ish article a week in the early stages to the two or three high quality weekly articles we achieve now. This can still be improved! We’ve also set up better co-writing and editing processes that increase the quality and speed of article writing.

2. Identify your audience

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Before starting to write we sat down and asked ourselves “why are we doing this?”. The answer was pretty clear: we wanted to grow the top of our sales funnel. Increase the number of people landing on our home page. So before asking ourselves what we would write about we first asked ourselves “who are we writing FOR”. We took out our customer personas, put them on a table and started listing all the places where our personas like to hang out on the internet, what they liked to read, who their gods were, what did their gods read etc. These would be the places we’d try to write for.

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But this list was still too short and generic. So we used Technorati’s blog directory for a more extensive list of possible blogs. We clearly had our eyes set on reaching the top of that list right from the start.

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Technorati results proved a bit overwhelming so we limited ourselves to the first 100 blogs listed in our category, “tech”. We listed them in a spreadsheet (here is a link), and then visited and read each of them and rated them for relevancy from 1 – 4 (did this blog have content related to our topics, was it an active blog, and did it accept guest posts).

Then, we tried out Prismatic and within the categories relevant to us, we read the posts we liked best, noting which blogs they came from. This was a good way to find lesser known blogs that had a respectable audience. Two other good resources for this are Blogmetrics and Alltop. We also read the blogs of our favorite companies for inspiration. They inevitably talk about and linked to blogs they like to read. Here are some examples:

And then of course, Google searches. For example doing a quick search for “best startup blog” brought us to this gem of an article which directed us to a number of great bloggers: http://platformsandnetworks.blogspot.nl/2012/12/managing-startups-best-posts-of-2012.html

Quora also proved to be very useful.

What you are looking for are people or publications who stand head-and-shoulders above the rest in terms of authority. Who are considered experts on this topic? Who generates a lot of buzz when they publish an article on the topic? Search for blogs with lots of active commentary and social shares. Look at the top authors and commentators. These are not only your peers but can also be your audience. These may be your future evangelists. When you have built a relationship with them, you can ask their help for pushing an article to their networks. Groove HQ have an awesome article explaining how they built up their network of influencers and got them involved in what they were writing. I strongly suggest you read it.

3. Identify your expertise

Write about what you know. If this is your first time writing, I’d suggest you write about the pain your website or app is solving. We brainstormed areas of knowledge in relation to our product, and thought about what we could share with the world. It is possible to compile guidelines and advice on something you’ve never practically applied, but authority will stem from hands-on examples and experiences that the team have had. Pro tip: DO NOT write only about what your app does, write about what your audience would be interested in.

One problem we found was finding the time for our product developers and coders to sit down and explain their work, ideas and tips. They have TONS of great stuff locked inside their heads – but no time to go through it. We set up a spreadsheet where they could vote on  and suggest articles to write (view it here).

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The writer would send to-dos to the rest of the team asking for “brain farts”, tips and tricks on these topics, or links to their favorite resources. What we thought would be short sentences turned into long paragraphs full of rich content. It was then the writer’s job to make it readable. Another good idea is to find complementary topics between teammates and co-write on them. Mutual learning about each other’s jobs and new insights into how to tackle a problem are the positive side-effects of co-writing.

4. Separate the list of blogs into “accepts/does not accept guest posts”

It’s very important to study which blogs accept guest posts, and which ones allow you to have a bio with links. These were where we would choose to write. It’s not always 100% clear whether a blog or publication accepts guest writers.

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However, not all websites will have such clear steps, such as the example below. If so, go to their contact page and simply ask them. Better still, pitch an article to them in the same message for greater opportunities.

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Download/copy our guest blog preparation template from this link: https://docs.google.com/a/twoodo.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ArweYPmTIiyjdDZ3UHE3dTc1T0xrMDMtUGZhekdSRXc#gid=0

Stumbling block: Sometimes, blogs don’t mention whether they accept posts or not. Try to get ahold of the blog owner’s email or twitter and send a query. Blog articles always have an author which you can look up, and if it’s a one-man blog there will usually be an “about” section giving you that info. A simple search of “[name] email” brought forth a surprising number of them. Also try LinkedIn in-mailing or “[name]@[theircompany].com”

Recap so far: we have someone who loves to write, a list of things we can write about, a list of places we can publish it – all industry relevant to our company.

5. List the blogs in a preferred order

We made a list of where we wanted to be published the most (even if it was outrageously beyond our level) and started contacting them in 48-hour cycles until we were accepted onto a blog. The steps of this cycle are listed in the next points.

6. Guest blog post email template

We designed the initial contact email and email headline that would be sent to the blog owners to grab their attention, and hopefully get accepted. A lot of time was put into this step, and even with this template created a lot of personalization was required for each blog owner we contacted. This skeleton frame ensured we didn’t leave out anything important (and is not to be confused with an automated email scenario). At the top of the email we noted that we were giving 48 hours for the post to be considered or accepted due to time constraints. This was a personal decision based on our rookie experience of waiting two weeks for a rejection email per blog owner, meaning that we went weeks without being published at the start. If you are working through a list of twelve people, and are sticking to emailing them on weekdays, this means it could take up to a month to get one piece published. Here is the link to the email template if you want to use it.

Stumbling block: our initial email had the 48-hour withdrawal at the end of the message rather than the beginning. This did not go down well with one editor of a rather huge online magazine…

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7. The follow-up email template

We decided that two days was long enough for our email to be picked up or ignored. To check that we hadn’t been glossed over in the blog owner’s inbox, we designed a “hey did you get our email?” template (see image below). This one was less customised, as it required a friendly query generally inquiring about the initial email proposal. After spending a long time perfecting the first email, we wanted to direct the blog owner’s attention to that one rather than writing another long email. Some people just prefer short emails.

Stumbling block: in hindsight, we should have started using Yesware immediately to get notified when people open your email. 

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8. Social media

Because of the high profile of the people we were contacting, we chose LinkedIn as the means to send follow-up messages to the email.

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Stumbling blocks: In hindsight, we now connect with all these people on Twitter, and tweet the editors of the blogs within 6 hours of sending the follow-up email (after confirmation from Yesware that it was opened) in case we did not stand out from all the other emails. We still use LinkedIn in-mails but maybe not everyone is a fan of using that platform

9. After publishing

We made sure to share the article on all social media, to thank the editor/blog owner publicly (Twitter) and privately (personal email). Every comment made was responded to (thanks to Disqus notifications!). We also set up a Hootsuite search column with the URL of the article for each and every one of the articles. As soon as it was mentioned or shared we send a little thank you tweet. If you are feeling bold, tweet your top influencers with the link and ask them what they think. Submit your article to all the link indexing websites that you found in your preparation stage and push them to all your social networks. Make sure to add 2 – 3 relevant and trending tags (short and long-tail).

Recap so far: email templates made for first and second contact; follow and tweet the influencers on Twitter; order the list of blogs by preference and contact them in turn every 48 hours; thank those who accept us and promote them and the article

10. Measuring your successguest-blogging-tips

It’s a fantastic feeling when someone tells you “Hey that’s an awesome piece, and I’d love to publish it”. But in lean startups, it’s not just about gaining authority. It’s got to be a profitable return on the time spent writing, editing, publishing and promoting it. How do you measure the ROI? This is where metrics come in.

We use Google Analytics, Mixpanel and a tracker that we insert in our author bios, so that we can track how many hits we get from each blog we are published on. You can also use Bitly links. If we are not acquiring enough unique visitors and signups from a website after three posts, we go back to the drawing board. We discuss if it is our writing quality or if the community on this blog was a poor fit for our material and decide the next move.

Lessons from being naïve

  • Your first articles probably suck
  • A lot of people don’t care about what you write at the start
  • The “official writer” can be limited to what he/she knows.
  • Not everyone on the team likes writing about what they know
  • Many blogs have no traffic or engagement – finding good ones takes time
  • Thousands of writers compete to get on the big websites
  • It takes AGES for some blog owners to reply
  • Make sure you contact the right people. You can usually find a list of authors of a publication.
  • August (or holiday time in general) – nobody is in the office
  • Even after being accepted, you may wait up to two weeks before seeing the piece published
  • The editors can change some stuff (e.g. take out links to your website, screw with your SEO efforts)

How to stand out:

  • bold, interesting headlines
  • headlines that offer solutions to real problems
  • be noisy (but not annoying) on social media
  • make sure the piece you submit superbly matches the content to the images and links

After starting small, three months later we had become guest bloggers on multiple websites. We were driving strong and continuous traffic to the website and we felt we had enough authority and know-how built up to get an article on The Next Web. An article on the Next Web typically brings us 3000 unique visitors within days and about 100 new signups to our tool – a great ROI from three days of on-and-off co-writing and editing. We’re now continuing to write for The Next Web and aiming for other large online publications.

Takeaways from the guest blogging experiment

  • Our major lesson was that “content is king” is for those who are established authorities on subjects. In order to maximise our visibility in search results, we also started to apply better SEO tactics, but without ruining the content. 
  • Relationship-building takes time and consistency, and there is absolutely no shortcut to that
  • Accept that there will be many hit-and-misses at the beginning
  • Eventually you need to decide on whether you will write one article for multiple blogs or become a regular contributor to a few blogs. Use metrics to track where the most conversions are coming from!
  • You need to decide what goes on your own blog and what gets placed on other blogs – does the best stay or go?
  • It’s worth the effort
growth-hacking-tools

A huge epic list of growth hacking tools for non-coders

This article shows you:

  • what growth hacking is
  • a list of the most recommended growth hacking tools, with prices and deals attached

Growth hacking is the art of creatively Acquiring users, Activating them, Retaining them on your website, getting them to Refer you to their friends and colleagues whilst paying for your service (Revenue). It’s also an extremely analytical and test based approach that necessitates tools. You should also check out this community of growth hackers powered by the man who coined the term, Sean Ellis.

Ideally you should have growth in mind before you even choose your website name – check out this basic list of what your website needs before moving on to the rest of the list!

Finding the best growth hacking tools takes time, patience, reading, testing and recommendations. Based on all these we’ve attempted to come up with an extensive list of all of the tools we thought were important to analyze, measure, build, test and help grow your business. This post was largely influenced by Joseph Bou Younes’ awesome slide. We’re striving to make a more detailed and clickable version on top of his slide. Bear in mind that growth hacking requires the mobilization of these tools in the correct combination, rather than a step-by-step order. The order is close to the implementation order that would adapt to your sales funnel. For example, I tried using AAARR Pirate metrics as a framework but didn’t succeed.

Disclaimer: choose the right combination of tools for your company, not all of them! Please feel free to recommend more tools and categories in the comments section.

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1. Landing page optimization and A/B testing. 

Landing page optimization and AB testing - SO important as it is at the top of your sales funnel. Increase conversion sign-ups and reduce your bounce rate by optimizing the landing page

Unbounce

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The marketer’s tool for building a landing pages. “Unbounce is designed to give non-developers full control, while not affecting the core site or application when making changes.” (full review here)

Google content experiments

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A great tool to create A/B tests from within Google Analytics (full review here)

  • Free 

Optimizely

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Instantly generate and deploy changes, and track engagement. “Provides a dead simple way to get up and running with AB and MVT testing “ (full review here)

  • 30 day free trial
  • Basic plan: €14 p/m 

Visual Wesbite Optimizer

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A bit more expensive than Optimizely and Unbounce but has more features. It’s users say it’s worth the extra money. Includes heatmaps and behavioural targeting. (full review here)

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2. Metrics (see our complete guide to SaaS metrics here)

Mixpanel

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One of the best tools out there to start tracking your funnel metrics. Offers engagement plans (general users) and people plans (specific individuals). They’re also super friendly and will not hesitate to Skype with you to help you out (full review here)

  • Free up to 25,000 data points/become a partner
  • Basic plan: $150 p/m

KISSmetrics

kissmetrics screenshot from techcrunch

Image credit: TechCrunch

The other “reference” tool for metrics. See the actions of every individual on your site. Also super friendly and ready to help you out (full review here)

  • 14 day free trial
  • Basic plan: $150 p/m (billed annually) 

Heap Analytics 

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Another great analytics tool similar to KissMetrics of Mixpanel.

  • Free up to 25000 monthly visits
  • Pro plan: $149 p/m 

Flurry

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Big data analytics to allow developers to build better apps. “Makes it easier for companies to follow the metrics that matter most to them, whether that’s user retention after three or seven days or the number of users who complete a transaction” (full review here)

  • Free 

Google analytics

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Image credit

Google’s website analytics. The most commonly used tool for web analytics. (full review here)

  • Free 

Trak.io

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Customer analytics for data-driven and lean startups. “It is optimized for easy “pirate metrics,” which refers to their “AARRR” acronym: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, and Referrals.” (review here)

  • Free up to 250 people
  • Basic plan: $19 p/m 

Moz 

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Image credit: Marketingland

Analytics for SEO-heads (full review here)

Localytics

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Marketing and analytics platform for mobile and web apps, including relationship management. “help not just with customer acquisition, but also with monitoring and maintaining customer relationships over the lifetime of an app.” (full review here)

  • Free up to 10,000 monthly visitors
  • Basic plan: $200 

Keen IO 

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An API for custom analytics (review here).

  • Free up to 50,000 events p/m
  • Basic plan: $40 p/m
  • F6S deal, YES!!! $125/$1000 credit 

Adobe analytics 

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all-round business analytics including realtime and mobile (review here)

  • Pricing: unknown – broken website links
  • F6S deal? No 

Kontagent

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Image credit: The Next Web

Advanced mobile analytics. “Give social and mobile developers a dashboard so that they can better engage and monetize users.”  (full review here)

  • Pricing: contact the team 

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3. SaaS needs. For the many SaaS-based companies; identify user needs

Totango 

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Helps you engage with customers throughout their life cycle. “Engaging customer, understanding how they interact with your application, and crafting specific products and marketing strategies for customers” (full review here)

  • 30 day free trial
  • Basic plan: need to contact through a form 

GoodData

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Integrate and visualize multiple data sources. “is used to integrate multiple data sources and create visualizations and dashboards to drive key business decisions.” (review here)

  • 30 day free trial
  • Basic plan: prices not stated 

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4. On-site retention.  Retain your customers by encouraging them to return and use your service

Bounce exchange

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Image Credit: Creative Rooster

Stop people from exiting your website. “Uses a combination of invisible javascript receptors, mouse gestures and acceleration to determine when a visitor is going to bounce off a website,” (full review here)

  • Free demo
  • Prices calculated by monthly pageview volume 

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5. Email optimisation: get your emails read more often and grow your community of followers

Intercom.io

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An awesome all-in-one solution to replace your helpdesk, email marketing app and customer engagement tool. Easy to use and full of cool features and reports.

  • Free up to 250 active users
  • Basic plan: $49/month 

Vero

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Track customers on your website and send emails based on what they do.

  • 14 day free trial
  • Basic plan: $99/month (up to 20000 emails a month) 

Mandrill

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Image Credit: Heroku

From the makers of Mailchimp, the fastest way to deal with transactional emails. (full review here)

  • Free up to 12000 emails per month
  • Basic plan: $0.2 per additional 1000 emails 

Send with us

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Image credit: Coroflot

Simple A/B testing for email campaigns (integrated with MailChimp) “make transactional email better” (review not found)

  • Basic plan: $19 p/m 

User fox

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Image credit: Crunchbase

A/B email testing without the need for developers. “making split testing easy for anyone to explore.” (full review here)

  • Free trial (unknown length)
  • Basic plan: $49 p/m 

Customer.io

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Email sending service based on what customers are [not] doing on your app (full review here)

  • Free up to 100 customers/500 emails a month
  • Basic plan: $75 p/m 

Klaviyo

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Email target groups of customers and measure the impact; integrated with MailChimp (review here)

  • 14 day free trial
  • Basic plan: $299 p/m  

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6. User analytics. See what each customer does, how much they cost, what causes them to drop off

Fox metrics

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Image credit: AdPushUp

Realtime web/mobile app customer analytics with metrics. “It is a real-time platform that not just collects and stores, but also analyzes the data to let you have more sales through a higher conversion rate.” (review here)

  • Free 2 week trial
  • Basic plan: $20 p/m 

Woopra

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Analyse customer behaviour in real-time (review here)

  • Free up to 30,000 actions p/m
  • Basic plan: $79,95 p/m 

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7. Integration. Multiple types of analytics tools customisable into your preferred order

Segment.io

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Image credit: Nathaniel Talbott

An analytics API for developers (review here)

  • Free for 100,000 API calls (1 week data)
  • Basic plan: $29 p/m 

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8. Customer experience. Visualizing what your users/customers do on the webpage (e.g. heatmaps)

TestFlight

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Image credit: Building iPhone Apps

Free testing for mobile developers (review here – it’s a little old, but everyone loves TestFlight anyway, so just use it!)

  • Free

Clicktale:

3 Must Have Tools for Website Optimization - Media is Power

Image credit: Media is Power

Visualize page behaviour (review here)

Crazy Egg:

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Image credit: Datejs

Heatmaps, scrollmaps, overlays and confetti views (review here)

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9. Survey. Collect soft data to build your company and tool on.

Qualaroo:

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Understand and harness visitor intent with cool little surveys that pop up according to a user’s behaviour (review here)

  • 14 day free trial
  • Basic plan: $199

Survey.io:

Customer Development Survey

Part of Qualaroo. Extremely powerful tool to test whether you have product/market fit.

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10. Realtime. What is happening right now on your website

Clicky:

clicky screenshot

Image credit: Yoast

Analyse every visitor in realtime (review here)

  • Free for 1 website/3,000 daily page views
  • Basic plan: $9.99 p/m or $79,99 p/a

GoSquared:

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Realtime analytics with more knowledge than Google Analytics (review here)

  • 14 day free trial
  • Basic plan: $24 p/m

Chartbeat:

Real-time website data for front-line action takers

Realtime data updates with no page refresh needed (review here)

  • 30 day free trial
  • Request pricing (only large corporate team prices available)

The list is never complete, it will be maintained…

Growth hacking tools are always evolving. Times are always changing. If we’ve missed anything out, if anything becomes obsolete over time or if you think one of the sections here is badly named, please tell us as we’ll try to maintain this list as much as possible.

Happy growth hacking!

beta-testers

Smart and free techniques startups can use to find beta testers

This article shows you:

  • an overview of common tools used to find beta testers
  • a list of methods and “how-to” steps to avoid paying to acquire beta testers

Liam Gooding from Trak.io has a fantastic list of resources to find beta testers here.

But how do you find beta testers for free? Paying for as little as possible (i.e. bootstrapping) is significant at the startup stage. Whilst I agree with most of his suggestions, there are some issues with the current “free” beta testing resources.

Why services to find beta testers are not so budget-friendly

Betalist, Startuplist and Erlibird are all extremely useful services – some SaaS startups might even say imperative to success – but:

  • some Erlibird beta testing services cost over $200 a day for the premium times.
  • Betalist and Startuplist are so full of startups that yours will easily be drowned out as there are few alternative websites (and pretty much the same startups are on both)
  • we estimate that from Betalist you can expect to get about 150 beta testers on average. Nice, but is it enough?
  • Killerstartups is great if you have the cash to pay for the quick review ($167) – otherwise they claim to take three to six months to review you, and even then you may not be featured very prominently on the website. Chances are that by then your startup has surpassed needing to find beta testers or, heavens forbid, imploded.

What else can I do?

The next resource that Gooding recommends is Quora. Quora has positive and negative attributes as a beta tester resource as well. Your best chances of getting people to click on your website is if you have a community built up based on showing your past expertise in a certain niche. The problem here is if you have not spent time on Quora, nor have you contributed the article-style responses that gain so much respect in the community. Unless you dedicate enough time per day building up a reputation, you are unlikely to gain many testers from this source. The same applies to Hacker News.

The best resources Gooding gives for the newbie on the scene with no cash to spare are tips 6, 7 and 8. These are:

And now for my 2 cents…

Whilst Gooding’s list is a great start, there are a few other free resources out there that you can tap into.

At the startup stage, you are looking for the right beta testers (aka: your early adopters, your audience, your future evangelists) – especially if you are also focussing on feedback-driven iterations (FYI: you should always be). Here’s an article that shows a cost-free way of finding the “right” people. The same principles can be applied to finding beta testers.

1) Use Google+ communities/Facebook groups/LinkedIn groups

beta-testers

I’ll expand on G+ as an example, but the same principles apply to all the platforms mentioned.

Step 1:

Go through the list of communities using keywords related to your product (for us it was “productivity” and “collaboration”) and join those that have more than 50 members (this was a number we set for ourselves – you may want to opt for a higher/lower number depending on what your company offers)

Step 2:

After an introduce-yourself post in these communities, and some commenting around on what was there,

Step 3:

Post a carefully-worded non-advertisement sounding request for the members to help you by giving feedback. We appealed in a genuine fashion to their interests in productivity tools and our need simply for their opinion. The first attempt went well. The second time we tried it we got booted out of a few groups because we got all “advertise-y” in the tone. Lesson learned!

beta-testers

It’s very important not to sound like a promotion. It helps if you have built a following already, but there are tactics a new person can also use as long as you don’t piss everyone in the community off. Be humble, open and honest – stress that you are asking for help, nothing more – and that they seem like the right folks to help you.

Here are some examples of beta groups on Facebook and Google+

2) Get infographics published

Step 1: content

Make the most out of your knowledge. If you have made slideshare presentations, there should be enough info to create some killer infographics. Here’s a guide on how to map out the content you need for a killer infographic.

Step 2: call to action

Make sure your call to action (BETA TESTERS WANTED!) and links are visibly included at the end of the infographic.

Step 3: design

Also, prettiness helps a lot if you’re gonna beat a similar infographic. If you are no designer, this might be a job for, 99designs, Odesk, Elance or Fiverr. Alternatively, pay $14 a year for Piktochart, and create your own infographics easily.

Step 4: publish

If you don’t want to publish it on your home blog, SocialMediaToday (or a similar site) is a good option. It has a big following plus an internal community that can promote your content (don’t worry – it’s also about biz dev, strategy, marketing etc. as well – not just social media). Sign up for an account, and submit content and infographics. You have to pass their standards (if they haven’t picked up your post in 48 hours consider it rejected). Once you do, however, you know that a) hey, it must be decent and b) you have a base of people who will promote it. I recommend Social Media Today because of past experiences with contacting blog owners or popular online publications. It can take a very long time. On this website at least you know in two days whether your content is acceptable or not, plus there is a community of avid marketers and bloggers ready to spread your great content.

Neil Patel of Quicksprout wrote a fantastic guide to making your infographic go viral, and also a list of directories where you can submit them to increase their visibility (beware – some now charge money for submission).

Twitter, Flickr and Pinterest are your best buddies if you post the infographic on your home blog. They require researching the right hashtags and a cracking one-liner to get clicks and RTs/RPs. Choose trending hashtags for a wide and active audience, but accurate hashtags (max. 2-3) are the best. Always check that there is substantial activity on a hashtag before adding it, because otherwise you are just wasting your time.

3) Hunt for the unhappy ones, and get them on board

What better testers than those unhappy with your competitors? Offer them a chance to influence and build your product. How? Take out your list of competitors and start with Twitter. Try combining “sucks” with the company name, eg. #AT&T:

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Read through the posts and curate a list of people unhappy with your competitors. Reach out to them. The next step is to use search engines to find bloggers, journalists and forums where your competitors are getting bashed. Reach out to these people as well.

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*hint – Yammer is one of our competitors ;)

Careful now! This blogger ALSO has a competing company, which we only found out after we looked him up.

4) Blog comments

Step 1:

Set up a Disqus account, a gravatar account and a standardised bio with links to your company. In the bio, you can specify that you are looking for beta testers. Your avatar should be consistent across the web so readers easily recognise you. Also make sure that your bios on Facebook, Google + and Twitter have calls to beta test your product.

Step 2:

Draw a list of the top 20 blogs that come up on Google blog search/Technorati results for a specific expression that your personas would be looking for, eg. “online collaboration tool”.

Step 3:

Spend an hour a day on blog comments on these blogs you have identified. It’s a great chance to a) read up on relevant industry content and b) get seen. Don’t lie about what you’re there for. Here’s an example from us on The Next Web.

The message structure should be:

1. Say something nice about the article

2. State a story or user case of the problem you are solving. This can be your own story.

3. Problem with existing solutions

4. How your solution solves this pain

5. Kindly ask people to come check you out

You can also use this time to build up a Quora reputation if you think that’s more relevant to your industry, but I personally like to cast a broader net.

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Remember…

There are precious few short-cuts to free stuff, even including how to find beta testers for free. This list is as cost-effective as I could make it, but it will ultimately rely on your knowledge and industry savvy to make the maximum impact. Plus a whole bunch of researching and writing time!

If you need a guide on how to get started with beta testing, apply for a free beta testing plan from Centrecode here, and either use the results as a guide or employ them to execute it.