It’s an undeniable truth in business that if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. Growth isn’t just desirable, it’s necessary for the long-term viability of any company.
And while every business is different and will require its own bespoke solution to growth, it’s never a bad idea to see what others have done and get a sense of the kind of creative, outside-the-box thinking that can propel a small business to massive success.
Here are just a few ways companies have hacked, wrangled, and innovated their way to sustained growth.
Leveraging established platforms
Airbnb famously bootstrapped its growth by allowing its hosts to quickly and easily post their ads to Craigslist, a Gumtree-like listing service in the US. The Airbnb ads were typically much more professional than your average Craigslist accommodation ads and displayed higher-quality lodgings, and in this way, Airbnb was able to poach thousands of Craigslist users.
Dropbox is one of the best examples of this. The cloud-storage company grew its userbase by a massive 3900% between 2008 and 2010, a good portion of which has been attributed to their 2-sided referral program. Basically, customers were rewarded with extra storage not only for referring their friends to Dropbox, but also for accepting a referral.
By the end of 2009, Dropbox had gone from 100,000 users to over four million.
The internet – and social media in particular – has greatly improved the reach and popularity of marketing contests (even if they can sometimes backfire). But competitions aren’t just for customers, as job-board Proven illustrates.
Proven put an innovative twist on the marketing contest by rewarding its employees for promoting the company’s marketing campaigns on the internet, making every single employee a proactive ambassador. This lead to a 43% increase in organic traffic in just one quarter.
There are countless ways to gamify things. Tinder gamified dating, ‘Pokémon Go!’ gamified pedestrian collisions, and many companies have realised they can gamify the simple act of using their products.
LinkedIn is just one example; the user is shown a ‘progress bar’ that fills up the more complete the user’s profile is. It turns out that people become much more invested in something when they feel they’re making progress in it.
All gamification needs a reward, even if it’s only a perceived reward. Starbucks, for instance, rewards loyal customers with free coffees. In LinkedIn’s case, users tie the progress of that little blue bar to how visible and impressive they are to colleagues and potential head-hunters.
What keeps customers coming back? How come some users stick with a product or platform, while others drop off? Facebook asked itself this question way back in _, and they found the answer in their metrics. By comparing the variables of Facebook loyalists with that of the drop-outs, they found their magic “North Star metric”: if a person has seven or more Facebook friends within ten days of signing up, that person will stick with the platform. Any less, and they give it up as a bad job.
Facebook now new how to maximise its platform’s retention rate: when someone signs up to the platform, get that friend-count up!
HubSpot provided a service called WebsiteGrader that allowed users to assess the SEO of their sites. All you needed to provide was an email address, which HubSpot quietly filed away for future reference.
Providing instant, zero-commitment value like this not only provided HubSpot with thousands of leads, it established the brand as a helpful and legitimate software company.