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How Do I Get Started Growth Hacking My Startup?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a General Assembly Seattle presentation on growth hacking tech startups by growth hacking pioneer Nik Badminton. Nik is a self-described “recovering management consultant, ad man” author, futurist and the current Regional Director at Freelancer, the world’s largest freelancing, outsourcing and crowdsourcing marketplace. Freelancer was founded in 2004 and is now worth over 1.8 billion dollars and has over 13.6 million users, attributing most of their success to growth hack marketing.

So what is growth hacking?

Growth hacking is a marketing technique predominantly used by technology startups, which uses creativity and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure quickly. It focuses on low-cost and innovative alternatives to traditional marketing. Examples of growth hacking are viral marketing campaigns, social-driven campaigns and using innovative tools in interesting ways to get results quickly and for little or no money. Think Twitter, Facebook and Airbnb. These companies all used inexpensive, creative ways to gain traction and growth for their startups.

Growth hacking isn’t just marketing; it affects multiple parts of companies, often driving new product lines, or sometimes removing them. It puts marketing and production in one room, working together to create growth.

Growth hacking isn’t just marketing; it puts marketing and production in one room, working together to create growth.  ← Tweet this Twitter_logo_blue

 

Let’s talk about some growth hacking success stories.

hotmail-logoIn 1996, Hotmail launched the first free email program on the Internet. When growth was slow, Hotmail invested in all traditional marketing avenues and saw very little growth. They found that most new sign-ups on the site actually came from user referrals. Hotmail hacked their growth by adding a simple line at the end of every email sent:

 P.S. I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail.

One year later, Hotmail was acquired by Microsoft and had 12 million users (17% of internet users at that time).

airbnb-logo

Airbnb is the perfect example of what is called a software growth hack. They actually reverse-engineered their site to automatically send all Airbnb listings to craigslist without actually hacking into craigslist’s API. Craiglist intentionally does not have a public API. The users Airbnb wanted were already online, they just had to get their attention. They were able to grow their rooms and renters by tapping into the user base of craigslist by creating specialty software within Airbnb’s platform. Previously to this, Airbnb had experienced limited growth. This is an example of how a growth hack actually affected the product Airbnb was offering to its users. Eventually, craigslist was able to remove this service from Airbnb, but it had already done its job by bringing millions of new users to the platform.

freelancer-logo

Freelancer really loves to capture new users by energizing their community. A great example of this is the contest they offered in which they challenged users to expose the Freelancer logo in the craziest ways, with a $25,000 cash prize going to the winner! The winner was an entire city in Bangladesh that printed a 2,000 square foot banner that was marched through the city by 300 people into the stadium where they were offering to teach women how to use Freelancer to generate income. The video went viral, drawing millions of new users to the site!

So how do I get started growth hacking my startup?

Nik’s recommendation? Stop. Stop and think. Strategy is the most important part of growth hacking. He says:

Jumping ahead without a well-thought-through and structured strategy will mean less results.

It’s important to set up framework. Nik suggested starting with GO SAM.

GOAL
OBJECTIVES
STRATEGIES
ACTION
MEASURE

While you are strategizing, Nik recommends asking yourself, “Does this matter?”

Does it offer users utility and value? Does it drive revenue? If it doesn’t, scrap it. ← Tweet this Twitter_logo_blue

 

You’ve set your goals and objectives. The strategies have been hammered out and you’ve rolled out your growth hack. Now what? It’s time to track what you’ve done. Growth hackers are obsessed with tracking every activity. Your analytics are going show you what worked and what didn’t. Where you need to focus and what needs to be let go. Analytics will help you repeat your successes and avoid repeating your failures. Your analysis will help you more accurately predict the future outcomes of projects.

You know a little about what growth hacking is, who has yielded success with growth hacking and how to get started. Now get out there and start strategizing how to growth hack your tech startup!

Want to learn more?

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Re-hiring an Employee That Quit Your Startup

ryan-gosling-back-at-your-doorWhat I’m about to write is NOT going to resonate with the millennial Gen-Y crowd and that’s ok. This post is written for the startup founder, entrepreneur, and small company CEO. This topic is looking through the lens of the person that created the company, started the company with their own money, and pretty much has everything on the line if this company doesn’t succeed. Much of this post was inspired after reading “Never Hire Job Hoppers, Never, They Make Terrible Employees“.

The millennial Gen-Y crowd mostly are job hoppers.
In six years of running this company I would have to label all employees who can’t stay in a company for more than 2.5 to 3 years as a job hopper. I get it that those people are just starting jobs after college are going to make a 1000 different decisions on what is best for them and their career. So, that said, I look back at my own track record as a Gen-X and see that I was with the same company for 3.2 years. Not every day in those three years was great, but, I didn’t quit at the first sign of hardship. I always think about the “fight versus flee” mentality and at the first sign of trouble are you a person fights or runs out the door? I do realize that we just came out of the worst recession our generation has ever seen and there are going to be reasons out there why the economy impacted a person’s career path. If that’s the case, make sure that your resume reflects that the company went bankrupt which is why you left your job.

I quit my job because my manager sucked.
In Mark Suster’s blog he said: “I was working for a lame boss.  I had to get out of there.”  What I hear, “You’re difficult to work with.  You don’t have gravitas.  Anybody with any common sense would know not to talk badly about a prior boss.  What will you say about me after you’ve left?  What will you say about me to your peers in my company when I make difficult decisions?”.

I quit my job because I was recruited away.
Again in Suster’s blog: “I was recruited away from that job.  The new company was willing to pay me more money / give me a title increase” – what I hear, “Three times?  You were recruited away three times?  You aren’t loyal.  The first company that offers you a higher check means you going to jump ship.  You’re only about the money and yourself.”  Believe me – people WILL offer your employees more money.  Job hoppers take it. I’ve personally been there, considered it, but I’ve turned it down.

They ran away from home.
A good employee that quit. One and a half years later they come back and say they would like to be re-hired. What do you do? Assuming that they left in good standing you have to ask them the hard questions. I’ve come up with questions to ask an employee who quit and is asking to be re-hired:

    • In what ways have things changed for you and the company so that those reasons that you left are still not reasons why you would leave again? [This is non-negotiable, if the reasons why they left the first time have not been exterminated then this employee will leave you again. Be the first person to offer and help them find a company to work for where that problem doesn’t exist.]
    • In order to build a great company, which is a huge challenge for startups and small companies, what are you going to do help me attract and retain great employees? [A lot of the momentum in your company is built upon hiring great employees, when someone great leaves the can destroy that momentum. They can even recruit other employees away on your team, and being a small company or startup it is devastating to your company. I’ve had this happen and it causes an incredible amount of pain. The flip side is when you hire great employees, it attracts more great employees, and I’m fortunate to be in that cycle right now! A-Players love it when you hire more A-Players. B-Players get scared and turn into C-Players.]
    • You’re back on my team for a month and someone that used to work with you gives you a call and recruits you to come work with them, what are you going to do in that situation? [You already question their loyalty and because a persons network is only so large, they are likely to be recruited by someone from within their network. You’re looking for loyalty and the opportunity for them to recognize that you’re giving them a second chance.]
    • What new skills have you learned in the company you are working for that you didn’t have when working at your company? [If they left your company, hopefully, they have learned something new that they will bring back to your company and improve your business. If not, then they aren’t worth re-hiring.]
    • Their life plans and goals have changed. [Find out how have those life plans changed. You have every right to understand how and why the stage in their life is now going to impact further life decisions such as finding a new job. The reasons why they left in the past, is no longer valid.]

With that I would have to say that if you’re going to take a risk on re-hiring someone that quit, the absolute number one reason to not re-hire them is if the reason why they left has not changed then they will undoubtedly leave you again. Don’t waste your time with that. You’re investing in people that believe in your company, it’s mission, and even when the tough gets going (and I’m 100% sure that it will get tough) that they are not the person that will run out the door. One of my best decisions, which was also a hard decision at the time, was making a decision on going with a new employee who really wanted to work for me rather than re-hiring someone who would have been excellent but probably not in it for the long run. I trusted my gut and now I have someone I can build the company around rather than have questions in the back of my mind.

No take back policy

I’m a person that believes that people need to be shown more grace. With that I think that if they get through those questions then it’s worth the chance that they can become exceptional loyal employees. One of my favorite blog posts that I’ve ever read comes from my advisor Annie Duncan, who wrote this blog post: Maybe the Grass is Greener on the other side. Annie says: “Instead of being jealous or threatened by greener grass, see it as an invitation to water the grass you’re standing on”. What are your thoughts on re-hiring people that have quit? What other questions have you asked to test their loyalty?

Some other good blog posts on this topic:
Never hire job hoppers. Never. They may terrible employees
Why job hoppers make the best employees (I have to say I totally disagree with this blog post)
A Gen-X Managers Advice to Millennials
Confessions of a job hopper
Job Hopping Is the ‘New Normal’ for Millennials: Three Ways to Prevent a Human Resource Nightmare

A Roadmap to Develop Leaders With Both Heart & Horsepower

heart+horsepowerI’ve been running my company for six years and it still feels like a startup. I’ve had bits and parts of a leadership team in the past but it never matured into a leadership team that was able to scale and grow to reach the next level. We’re already in the top 4% of all companies and have $1M+ in revenue but our goal is to be named in the INC 5000 and also reach the top .4% of all companies and have $10M in revenue. In order to reach this level, the right people, strategy, and ability to execute has to be in place. The part that I’m most excited about right now is the launch of the thinkspace Leadership Academy with a new framework that I haven’t had in the past.

Creating Leadership Academy

I’ve formed a Leadership Academy which is modeled after the Bramble Berry Leadership Academy. The intention that I have set forth for this program is to elevate the directors on the team which bleed our core values and have both the heart and horsepower to reach our goals. My goal is to focus on both growing our IQ as well as our eIQ. There also needs to be true passion, the same kind of passion that drives me as the founder. This kind of passion is the feeling like one is able to change the world through this business and it’s not because of monetary compensation. Its hard to put words to it, but, if someone were to treat your passion like their job, you would probably hate that.

“Great lives, great businesses, don’t happen by accident. They happen through deliberate design and hard work” – Anne-Marie Faiola, CEO of Bramble Berry.

Creating Space to Learn

bellingham-view-chantel-bailey-katie-walvatne-peter-cheeThe love of reading is a requirement. We’re reading a book each month. Reading opens the mind to new ideas. You must have an insatiable appetite for learning. Good thing that’s one of our core values! The first book we’re reading is “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson.

One of our key training initiatives is having my leadership team participate in the EO Accelerator Program. This is a program that focuses on helping companies go from $250K to reach the $1M mark. The importance for me is total alignment with my team. The Accelerator Program helps them think like an entrepreneur. The primary book we’re reading is “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish.

Modeling Success

anne-marie-peter-chee-soap-queen-tvRather than learn to be a successful from scratch and re-invent the wheel we are modeling ourselves after successful leaders that have already achieved a high level of success. Each month we are meeting with CEO’s and leaders that exemplify similar core values as us. The goal is to surround yourself with extraordinary people that have been able to break through and model yourself after people like that. It’s the fastest way to successfully learn.

It’s About the Journey Not The Destination

This year I’m on a mission to complete my first marathon. My goal is to just finish. I’m not looking to break any land speed records. I’m defining success as the journey to get there not just the actual act of crossing the finish line. A few people on my leadership team are also participating in this journey with me. I know through doing this it’s going to further push the edge out for all of us and its the most exciting thing for me this year — I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

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Campfire Show & Tell | Showcasing Mobisante

mobisante-productsA wise food blogger once wrote, “Valentine’s Day will be over soon, but chocolate is forever.” So take those words to heart, and join us for some cocoa confections as we showcase thinkspace member Mobisante at our monthly Campfire Show & Tell event! It’s all taking place in the second floor lobby at our Redmond location on Wednesday, February 18 at 1:00 pm.

Mobisante is the company responsible for bringing portable ultrasound diagnostic imaging to your smartphone or tablet. And they’re doing it at a fraction of the cost of other expensive portable ultrasound systems. As Mobisante puts it:

We’ve put the power of diagnostic imaging in the hands of the world. On a smartphone or a tablet from Mobisante or a Windows-based device of your own. Not just in the emergency department or the bedside, but on the street, in a home or a remote village.

And at a price for everyone.

mobisante-logoMake sure you get there on time! Sailesh Chutani, Mobisante’s CEO & co-founder, will begin the event with a brief presentation, followed by Q&A, networking and—of course—chocolate.

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A post-Super Bowl-post: Stop trying to have a better past.

Handling loss.

A fitting topic for this dreary-raining-post-Super-Bowl-Monday morning.
Especially if you’re a Seahawks fan.
Especially if you’re a Seahawks fan that wore her wedding dress+jersey only because that’s what you wore on February 1st, 2014 (thinking, superstitiously, “This better work…”).
Especially if you couldn’t sleep last night because you replayed that last possession over and over in your mind.
So…about that loss…
After a restless night, this morning I’ve found solace in what a friend of mine says:
“If you want to have a better future, stop trying to have a better past.”
There’s nothing we can do with yesterday.
Only what we can do with today.
Feel free to apply that to yesterday’s game, or wherever it is fitting in your life.
Looks like Russell Wilson already has. #leadership #gohawks

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