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December 2, 2015
Growth  |  7 min read

4 Growth Hacks for Better Marketing Automation

by Marcus Taylor 

With the exponential growth of companies including Dropbox, Instagram, AirBnB, Zynga, Eventbrite and countless others being attributed to growth hacking, it’s no surprise that the term “growth hacker” is appearing ever increasingly in our day-to-day lives.

For those unfamiliar with the term, the goal of growth hacking is to build a self-perpetuating marketing machine that reaches millions of people with little or no marketing budget. Growth hackers are a hybrid breed of engineer and marketer that prioritizes tweaking the product for better marketing performance over traditional marketing methods.

In this post I want to share four actionable marketing automation tactics that you can you use to hack your business’ acquisition, activation and retention rates. 

#1 Force virality with incentives

If you want to attract a large and consistent stream of new customers to your business, without having to pay for them, you might want to consider forcing virality with incentives.

Incentivized virality sits on a spectrum ranging from forced (e.g. preventing a customer from continuing to use your service until they’ve invited their friends), to lightly incentivized (e.g. optionally offering a report or eBook in return for a tweet).

In some of Zynga’s games, you are required to invite friends to reach the next level - this is forced virality. Dropbox, on the other hand, takes a more moderate approach. When you run out of storage on Dropbox, you have the option to either invite friends or pay to receive additional storage space.

Using automation software, I recently experimented with this technique on the website BrokersNotes. Due to strict regulations on how you’re allowed to market financial websites in Europe, we decided that it would be safest and most cost effective to incentivize our existing users to refer new users.

When certain users engage with the website’s free tool, they are sent a free premium report worth $200. On top of this, they’re also given a unique URL that allows them to give five of their friends the $200 upgrade for free, providing they do so within 24 hours. 

This not only reduced the website’s cost per acquisition (as each customer we acquire refers, on average, 1.4 new customers), but it also meant that links to the website were being posted in forums and on blogs and social media sites by our users. 

What’s great about this strategy is that it can be entirely automated and personalized to deliver customized offers and messages to different users based on their activity.

To see this in action, check out our scorecard

#2 Make yourself obsolete: grow by freeing up more time

One lateral approach to hacking your business’ growth is to simultaneously remove human error and improve lead-qualification by automating your sales process.

A good friend of mine recently made his company’s sales team obsolete by spending two weeks converting their manual lead qualification process into an automated sequence. The result? Meet Barry, the automated salesman.

My friend’s customers spent weeks conversing with Barry over email, completely oblivious to the fact that he was simply an automation sequence. On top of this, his company was able to standardize messaging (allowing for more A/B testing of messages), as well as reduce their response times. 

This last point is particularly profound. In 2011, a study on Harvard Business Review found that you’re seven times more likely to convert a lead if you respond to them within an hour as opposed to after one hour, and 60 times more likely than had you responded after 24 hours.

While a fully-automated sales team may not be feasible or appropriate for your business, perhaps you might be able to automate aspects of your lead qualification process, freeing up time for more creative and higher value work.

#3 Automate a user-generated content system 

Content marketing can be an extremely effective long-term strategy for acquiring users, but you are limited by the confines of your team’s time and creativity. To overcome this obstacle, you can experiment with creating an automated user generated content (UGC) system.

One of the best examples of this that I’ve come across is Moz’s YouMoz blog. While all content needs final approval by an editor, the whole submission and status tracking process is completely automated. 

Of course, your UGC strategy doesn’t need to involve building a bespoke content management system for your users to submit blog content. From incentivizing reviews and comments to adding a community aspect to your site, there are many ways to encourage your users to help contribute traffic-generating content for your site.

#4 Create hyper-targeted content sequences

Let’s say you’re in a sales meeting with a potential client. All of a sudden, the client mentions that they’re not sure they can afford your services. What do you do? Perhaps you offer a payment plan, or assure them that a discount won’t be a problem. 

This ability to mould our messaging to the client’s actions in real-time is the major advantage of an in-person conversation, and the major disadvantage of traditional online marketing.

Enter hyper-targeted content sequences.

While it might be a mouthful to pronounce, we’re referring to sequences that learn more about the customer over time, and use that information to change the angle of your offer to that specific customer, much like you do in an in-person conversation. 

Wishpond does this particularly well with their blog content. If you fill out a form on their website telling them that you’re in the real estate sector, for example, you’ll notice that their blog starts to display content about online marketing for real estate. Even their banners and offers promote real estate marketing guides.

Automation sequences enable you to boost your conversion rates by improving the overall relevancy of your website’s messaging to each visitor and user’s needs. 

Be in the right place at the right time

Hopefully, the case studies above will inspire you to think about how you might be able implement growth hacks into your business using automation software.

It’s important to remember, though, that the best growth hacks lead to your business being more prominent in the places where potential customers are already searching for your services

If, for example, your best leads are generated from search engines, you would be wise to build a system into your product or service that encourages customers to generate content for your website or build links. If, on the other hand, Twitter is a great lead generation channel for you, then a series of information products with ‘Pay With a Tweet’ buttons would likely be more effective. 

Growth hacking is as much about the art of understanding how your customers find your business as it is about the technical and psychological techniques used to influence sharing and conversions. 


This is a guest post by Marcus Taylor, founder of Venture Harbour and Marketing Automation Insider. You can follow Marcus on Twitter at @MarcusATaylor.


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