6 Surprising Ways for Growth Hacking Your Digital Startup

There was no turning back. They had little food, disease was taking its toll and the instructions he had been handed were clear. It was a point of no return. Hernan Cortez was on the shores of the Atlantic.

He gave the order “Burn the boats“. The result.

A start-up can be seen with the same eyes. Give up your job, leap into the unknown and hope that it all works. It’s courage on steroids.

It’s scary and fraught with danger. Broken marriages and other collateral damage can result.

It’s the “do or die approach”.

The other is start a business while you keep your day job. Take that small idea, build the website…a blog, and just start. It’s the bootstrap business with little risk. But it means that to achieve the goal you will have to get up early, stay up late and say no to some of those social events.

There are no right or wrong ways. I know…. because I have done both.

But everyone’s appetite for risk is different.

It will vary according to your age, current relationship and circle of friends. It will also depend on the bank balance.

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When you are young it is easy to run home if doesn’t all work out. As you get a bit older going back to live with Mum and Dad is a touch embarrassing and also reduces your dating options.

It sort of cramps your style.

There is a phrase I have grown fond of. “Build an audience before you need them“.

Most of us don’t realise it but in a digital world the options to do this are extensive. It can be as simple as…

Then start adding value to those connections before asking for anything in return.

The standard approach by most people is to sell first.

It plain doesn’t work. But every day on Linkedin there they are. Just connected and guess what. The sales pitch is their first muttering.

The rules of the game are not complex.

Add value, educate and “then” sell. The marketing game is 75% education and the last 25% is the selling.

But first you need traffic and that all important online attention. It can be summed up in one word. Traction.

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When I started the blog I decided to test all the shiny new toys for gaining traction.

These included Twitter, Facebook, Google plus, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin and YouTube, email and search engines. I tested re-purposing and re-publishing the posts.

It involved creating powerpoints for Slideshare and launching a personal magazine on Flipboard. Tumblr was tested and Medium was also used.

What worked for me was Twitter, Facebook and search and email.

In the main it was social media. Bbut if you aren’t prepared to consider other options then you are leaving a lot of traffic on the table.

In their book “Traction: How any Startup can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth“, Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares (The founders behind several successful startups including DuckDuckGo and Opobox) mention 19 different growth hacking categories. Here is the full list.

The challenge is that for most of us we will go to our comfort zones.

That might be social, selling, email marketing or even public speaking. The reality is that you need to test a bunch of channels to see what works and then focus on the tactics that work best. It will also vary for every type of business.

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It is not one size fits all.

It will also change over time as the business evolves.

Successful marketing is not a singularity but the planned testing of multiple channels to market. The social and mobile web has made this possible.

There are no shortcuts. It will take time, persistence and a passionate purpose. Passion is vital as it will give you the energy to sustain the journey.

So what are some ways to build an audience?

This is all about adding value first. Most bloggers have a time problem but they have a ready made audience. So offer a guest post for their readers.

So write an awesome article and offer it for free.

Back in 2012 I was approached by Leo Widrich who was one of the founders of Buffer. He asked if he could write a guest post that added value to my audience.

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