Unlocking Startup Growth: Three Strategies Beyond Budget ConstraintsFeatured

Starting a startup, although it seems like a very fun endeavor, in reality, involves a great deal of hard work. Simply having an idea and implementing it won’t guarantee success.

Unless you’re Elon Musk or Adam Neumann, thinking that thousands of people will rush to buy and test it is mostly a utopia.

The truth is, there are thousands of tasks and efforts (and tears and nerves) involved in generating millions in revenue. Ultimately, it all boils down to the growth strategy.

What growth means in a startup

It's impossible to give a direct meaning to the concept of growth, as it will vary depending on the type of startup.

For instance, for a mobile app, growth and a measure of traction could be the number of downloads.

For a desktop productivity application, it could be an increase in the number of registrations and time spent inside the app.

For B2B projects, growth could be measured by the number of leads and sales they have made.

But growth cannot be sustained by desire alone; it is accompanied by various steps, particularly in the realms of marketing, sales, and product departments.

Growth hacking tips

When we think about "Growth", of course, the first things that come to mind are "launch an ad on Google", “market the product through collaboration with thousands of influencers”, "make an advertisement on a billboard in Times Square."

But let's return to reality, almost never does a startup have the funds for marketing, let alone to hire a whole team of specialists to handle everything.

Often, all roles are combined in a single marketer or product manager, who is also a salesperson, creative, and copywriter. And on their shoulders lies the difficult task of finding some free(!) channels for promotion and growth.

In light of these challenges, here are my top three Growth Hacks, which I am currently testing with a positive effect.

1. Launch on Product Hunt

This is an international platform for early-stage startups, where products compete daily for community support and can also gain their first users and traction. Participation is free, but proper preparation is necessary if you want to become the product of the day and attract as many people as possible. This preparation usually takes at least two months. The platform is also great for testing the product from a functional perspective.

For example, when I launched my last product on PH on February 1, 2024, we received no less than 15 ideas from the community on what to improve in our app.

My advice: study this platform from a benchmarking perspective, see if any of your potential competitors have launched, what their results were, and assess whether you have 2 months to prepare.

2. Test cold email outreach

It seems that emails are a thing of the past. But in my experience, it's an excellent channel for a B2B startup if you're looking for leads for your product. I use this channel as follows:

  1. Define segments of your target audience, on whom you will test different messages. For example, for my startup in the information security sphere, instead of just focusing on security directors, you can segment your audience into different groups such as security managers, compliance directors, risk managers, etc. When it comes to outreach via email, constant A/B testing is essential. For this task, I prefer using the Apollo platform and have also recently experimented with the updated version of Lemlist. Both are good.
  2. Prepare the message. I try to never write sales emails; when a person opens it, they should not drown in a sea of marketing jargon. This is also important for the deliverability of your emails. My advice: don't use trigger words like ‘sale’, ‘pitch deck’, or ‘discount’, as they are often flagged by security systems'. I've noticed many times that when sending emails to semi-state companies or Fortune 500 firms, the deliverability of those emails is almost always lower because they have strict incoming mail filters. But I found a way to solve this problem. I try to frame the email as a request for advice. That is, in 2-3 lines of my cold email, I tell the person that I am seeking advice on my startup from them as a professional. This approach offers dual benefits: it increases the likelihood of responses to such emails, and enables you to not only identify potential customers but also engage individuals in your customer development process, especially for conducting interviews.
  3. Send emails. I respect the recipient's time, so mailings are scheduled according to their time zone.
  4. The second email. In 40% of cases, I usually send a 1-2 line follow-up email to clarify the recipient’s status after 2-3 days. But more often, I try to convert those people who, according to the mailing service's analytics, opened the emails, on LinkedIn. So, the path is: I start by checking the opening status of the first email and then search for the person’s LinkedIn profile. If I find it, I send a ‘connect’ request with a message informing them that I tried to contact them via email.

My advice: this chain works in reverse order. That is, from LinkedIn to email. This means you can try to connect with someone on LinkedIn, but if the person does not accept your request, you can write them an email, referring to the information that you previously attempted to contact them but were unsuccessful.

However, it's important not to do this immediately after they fail to respond to your request within 1-2 days; it's better to wait at least a week, or even more, before following up through another channel. From personal experience, sometimes people accept 'connect' requests even a month after they've been sent.

3. Try cold outreach on LinkedIn.

When using LinkedIn, I recommend taking a seeking-advice-based approach similar to email campaigns.

Firstly, this increases the conversion from ‘connect’ to ‘friend’, and then, for example, to a demo. Keep in mind that for the initial contact on LinkedIn, you have only 200 or, if you have a premium profile, 300 characters. This size fits roughly a couple of words about you, a couple about the product, and the request itself.

My advice is not to advertise the product in this short message but to pique interest with an intriguing description. However, the only way to discover which description will be engaging is through testing. Before I found the perfect text for the 'connect', I sent more than 30 different versions and a total of over 300 messages (connections). Now, my conversion rate from 'connect' to 'friend' is about 30%, and approximately 4-5% of these connections lead to a meeting (demo of the solution).

Don't be afraid to test

Remember, building and growing a startup is constant hypothesis testing. It’s not wise to apply another successful startup’s strategies to your project without testing them first. Be prepared to explore and test both traditional marketing channels and invent new ways to reach out to your target audience.

For example, several years ago, we launched a small test campaign on Twitter, tagging profiles of well-known figures in the startup world, and in the accompanying message, we invited them to test our technology directly on Twitter. Although it may seem far-fetched, several individuals actually responded to our thread and requested more detailed information about the technology. We even wrote to Tim Cook and Bill Gates, but unfortunately, they did not respond.

Therefore, don't be afraid to experiment. A new approach or even a random subject line of your email might just be your ticket to growth hacking.

I love this, thank you for sharing! Especially the point on testing different approaches - the more you try, the more likely you are to find something that works!
Thank you for your comment! Yes, I believe that for a startup, testing is the most important thing, as it allows for quicker achievement of results!