HOW TODAY`S FASTEST-GROWING COMPANY DRIVE BREAKOUT SUCCESS
當今發展最快的公司如何實現突破性成功-Morgan Brown、 Sean Ellis
When I (Sean) got a call from Dropbox founder Drew Houston in 2008, I was immediately intrigued by the predicament the one-year-old start-up was in. The company`s cloud-based file storage and sharing service had built up a good early fan base, concentrated primarily among the tech-savvy community centered in Silicon Valley. Even before the product was completely built, Houston had pushed a video prototype online illustrating how the service would work, which had earned him the backing of powerful Y combinator start-up incubator and drawn a flood of early adopters.
It became clear that Houston was on to something when the waiting list he was keeping for the beta version grew from 5,000 to 75,000 in a blink of an eye when a second video was posted on news aggregator site Digg and went viral. The next wave of users who signed up after the public launch were happy with the service, but Houston was still running into a wall trying to break out beyond the tech elite. And he didn't have much time. The competition was fierce. One start-up, Mozy, had a three-year head start, while another, Carbonite, had raised $48 million in founding-versus the $1.2million in seed capital raised by Houston. meanwhile, behemoths Microsoft and Google were gearing up to enter the cloud storage arena. How could Dropbox grow their customer base in the shadow of such formidable competitors?
When Houston called me, he wanted to explore what I could do to help them grow beyond their very solid but not-yet-big-enough pool of early adopters. I was just wrapping up an interim VP of marketing role at Xobni, a start -up run by Drew`s good friend Adam Smith, when Adam suggested that we meet to discuss Dropbox`s challenges. I had developed a reputation in Silicon Valley as someone who could figure out how to help companies take off, particularly those facing fierce competition and limited budgets such as Dropbox was. I`d first had success driving growth at the online game pioneers Uproar, growing the site to one of the 10 largest on the Web, with more 5.2 million gamers at the time of IPO in March of 2000, all in the face of an aggressive push into gaming from Sony, Microsoft, and Yahoo. I`d then moved over to work on growth initiatives at LogMeIn, an innovative service started by Uproar founder. There I`d managed to help turn the company into the market leader despite a massive ma rketing campaign waged by is main competitor, GoToMyPC.
What was secret? I work with the engineers to utilize technology for what was, to them, an unconventional purpose: to craft novel methods for finding, reaching, and learning from customers to hone our targeting, grow our customer base, and get more value from our marketing dollars.
I knew nothing about software engineering when I started my career in 1994 selling print ad space for a business journal at a time when businesses were just starting to move to the Web. But I saw the promise of the future in Web business, and so when I got to know the founder of Uproar, I decided to invest some of my hard-won sales commissions and hop over to work for the gaming portal, once again, selling ads. It wasn`t long before I caught on to the dangers of relying only on traditional marketing methods-even the newer, Internet-era versions of old methods, like online banner ads—to drive growth. My big wake-up moment was probably when the leading advertising firms I was trying to sell to, such as Saatchi and Ogilvy, declined to recommend banner ads on Uproar to their clients, on the grounds that the site didn't have a large enough user base. Short on cash and in danger of missing out on much-needed sales commissions, I suddenly found myself tasked by the founder with figuring out h ow to bring in more users, fast. My first approach was paid advertising on Internet portals, like Yahoo!, and that stoked growth nicely. But it was costly, and, just as Drew Houston later discovered with Dropbox, the ads weren`t bringing in enough bang for the buck. Meanwhile, Sony, Yahoo!, and Microsoft started making their big push, flooding the Web with gaming ads, and as a young start-up, Uproar didn`t have anywhere close to the money needed to compete with them head to head. I knew I had to find another way.
That`s when I got the idea of creating an entirely new type of advertisement that allowed Web proprietors to offer Uproar games for free on their site, meaning the site got fan new features to offer their visitors, and Uproar got exposure to everyone who visited those pages. The founder gave the go-ahead, and within a few weeks, the engineers and I had created a new single-player game that could be added to any website, with just a small snippet of code: one of the first embeddable widgets. The site proprietors would become Uproar affiliates, paid just $.50 for each new game player the company acquired through their sites. The low cost made it highly affordable for us and, because the game was so engaging, the affiliates were happy to feature it. In addition to sending new gamers to Uproar, we experimented with adding an “add this game to your site” link, which made it easy for other website owners to make the game available on their sites, too.
As we saw the game start to take off, we tested different versions of the copy, calls to action, and which free game we offered to find the most potent combination. The result for Uproar was explosive growth; the free games were soon on 40,000 sites and Uproar shot to the top of the online gaming world, beating out the behemoths and their splashy marketing campaigns. Many other companies have since used the same strategy to grow, the most famous example being YouTube, who later supercharged its growth by creating its embeddable video player widget, which landed YouTube videos all over the Web and turned online video into a phenomenon.
It was this success that led the founder of Uproar to ask me to come help grow his next venture, LogMeIn. LogMeIn was an ingenious product that let users access their files, email, and software on their home or work desktop computer from any other PC connected to the Internet. Yet while an aggressive search engine marketing campaign led to a good initial burst of customer sign-ups, they soon plateaued, and I realized that ads were once again proving far too costly for the payoff—especially since, at my suggestion, LogMeIn had pivoted from a paid to a freemium model in an effort to differentiate the service from its fierce competitor, GoToMyPC. At over $10,000 in ad spend per month, the customer acquisition costs no longer generated a positive return on the investment. Despite lots of ad copy testing and playing around with different keywords and advertising platforms, the conversion rate was woefully low-and this for a service that was clearly incredibly helpful, and was free, to boot. So once again I turned to technology to find a novel way to try to solve the problem.
I decided that we should try to get feedback from people who had signed up but had then abandoned the service. We had collected their email addresses as part of the sign-up process, and we sent out an email asking them why they weren't using LogMeIn. Seems obvious, but it was a radical idea at the time. After just a few days, the collective responses offered an absolutely unequivocal explanation: people didn't believe the service was really free. At the time, the freemium software model was new and it still seemed too good to be true to lots of people. So with that realization, I got my marketing and engineering teams in a room to brainstorm ideas for how to change the landing page, to better communicate to customers that there was no “catch”—that LogMeIn did, in fact, offer a completely free version of the product. We experimented with many iterations of marketing copy and page designs, and yet even this led to very little meaningful improvement. We then decided to test adding a simpl e link to buy the paid version to the page. And with that, we found a winning combination of design, message, and offer that led to a tripling of the conversion rate. That was just the start, though. Upon digging into the data , we discovered an even bigger drop-off among users who downloaded the software but then didn't follow through and use it. We kept experimenting, such as with changes in the install process，the sign-up steps, and more, and ultimately we improved the conversion rate to the point that search ads not only became cost effective again, they could be profitably scaled by over 700 percent. So scale up the company did, and immediately growth took off.
Once again, the solution had been found in just weeks, using a recipe that included healthy doses of out-of-the-box thinking, cross company collaboration and problem solving, real-time market testing and experimentation (conducted at little or no cost ), and a commitment to being nimble and responsive in acting on the results. These are the very ingredients that I later codified into the growth hacking methodology you`ll read about in the pages that follow.
Of course, Uproar and LogMeIn weren`t the only start-ups in town combining programming and marketing know-how with the emerging characteristic of the Web to drive growth. Hotmail, for example, was one of the first to tap into the viral quality of Web products-and their ability to “sell themselves”-when it added the simple tagline “PS: Get Your Free Email at Hotmail” at the bottom of every email that users sent, with a link to a landing page to set up an account. At the same time, PayPal had demonstrated the extraordinary growth potential in creating the synergy between a product and a popular Web platform-in their case, eBay. When the team noticed auction owners promoting the PayPal service as an easy way for winners to pay, they created AutoLink, a tool that automatically added the PayPal logo and a link to sign up to all of their active auction listings. This tool tripled the number of auctions using PayPal on eBay and ignited its viral growth on the platform. LinkedIn, which had str uggled to gain traction in its first year, saw their growth begin to skyrocket in late 2003, when the engineering team worked out an ingenious way for members to painlessly upload and invite their email contacts stored in their Outlook address book, kicking network effects growth into high gear.5 And in each of these cases, growth was achieved not with traditional advertising, but rather with a dash of programming smarts and on a shoestring budget.
當然，Uproar和LogMeIn並不是唯一一個將編程和營銷技巧結合起來的初創公司，知道與網絡的新興特色相結合，推動增長。例如Hotmail,是第一個利用病毒網絡產品質量一和“自我推銷”的能力——它簡單的口號“附:獲得你的Hotmail免費郵箱”，在每封發送郵件的底部，並鏈接到一個登陸頁面建立一個賬戶。同時,Paypal已經展示了非凡的增長潛力在創造產品和一個流行的Web平台eBay之間的協同, 當該團隊注意到拍賣所有者推廣PayPal服務時，他們創建了AutoLink，這是一種自動添加PayPal標誌的工具，並鏈接到所有活躍的拍賣清單。該工具在eBay上使用PayPal的拍賣次數增加了兩倍，並在該平台上引發了其病毒式增長。 LinkedIn,難以在第一年獲得增長動力,看到他們的增長在2003年底開始飆升,當工程團隊成員制定了一個巧妙的辦法輕鬆上傳,並邀請他們的電子郵件聯繫人存儲在Outlook地址簿,啟動了網絡效應發展進入了快車道。在上述每一種情況下，增長都不是靠傳統的廣告實現的，而是通過少量的編程技巧和低成本的預算實現的。
Approaches like these to building, growing, and retaining a customer base that relied not on traditional marketing plans, a pricey launch, and a big ad spend, but rather on harnessing software development to build marketing into products themselves, were proving both extraordinarily powerful and incredibly cost effective. Perhaps more important, companies, growing ability to collect, store, and analyze vast amounts of user data, and to track it in real time, was now enabling even small startups to experiment with new features, new messaging or branding, or other new marketing efforts—at an increasingly low cost, much higher speed, and greater level of precision. The result was the emergence of a rigorous approach to fueling rapid market growth through high-speed, cross-functional experimentation, for which I soon coined the term growth hacking.