More than 40 percent of the world’s population is now online. As that number grows exponentially, so do the success metrics for consumer startups. Investor Chris Dixon famously blogged that “10 million is the new one million” when it comes to user numbers.
However getting users is more difficult than ever, with multiple devices, operating systems and screens competing for people’s increasingly fragmented attention. It can feel impossible for a young startup to thrive when you couple that with incumbents like Facebook and Twitter that can well afford to spend lavishly on user acquisition ads and incentives.\
Enter Maud Pasturaud, a startup vet who has helped grow commerce companies like Gilt Group and new mobile powerhouse Secret. She is an expert on growth and has three vital tips to hitting it big.
1. Make sure you have growth before you engineer hypergrowth.
Before working on growth, make sure you actually have product-market fit. It sounds trivial, but Pasturaund has seen a lot of startups trying to scale with a product that isn’t ready. Answer these questions before you try to scale:
Is your product’s value validated by users?
Are you seeing high enough retention?
Is your product’s value sustainable, both in the eyes users/customers, and given market conditions?
Is the audience you are targeting large enough?
If the answer to all of those questions is "yes" (you’ll find more useful checkpoints here) you have built a product that people want and can transition to Growth initiatives. If you don’t, iterate on your product until it delivers sustainable value to a specific set of users; there’s no point wasting time optimizing the upper funnel.
2. Engineer your way to hypergrowth.
Once product-market fit is proven, “engineer” your way to hyper growth. Brian Balfour described it as a “scalable, predictable and repeatable” process through which you get more people to use your product (user acquisition) while delivering optimal value to them (user retention).
The efficient ways to scale user growth are:
Viral channels: optimize for word of mouth and a virality score > 1.
Non-viral organic channels: SEO, partnerships, PR, etc.
Non-viral paid user acquisition channels: Paid Search, display or social campaigns optimized to deliver positive ROI.
For retention, engineer ongoing product experiments to deliver value to the increased subsets of users you’re getting into the door.
3. Always be learning, always be experimenting.
Growth has emerged as a science somewhere between product, marketing and analytics in the past couple of years because the industry is increasingly technical, evolves at a fast pace and demands expertise.
Between new optimization platforms like organic app download optimization platforms that emerged in the past six months, new acquisition partners such as Pinterest’s Pin ads or channels like Facebook’s audience network, there are always new growth opportunities and tactics popping up. Being first to test them can prove to be a huge competitive advantage and lead to hyper growth.
So always be curious, experiment and keep your technical edge on all things growth.
Related: How to Avoid the Sophomore Slump