Growth Hacking: How YesGraph Got Its First 1000 Users

(This post was written by Ivan Kirigin and originally ran on YesGraph’s team blog. The post is being shared here with Ivan’s permission. What’s YesGraph? YesGraph helps scale referral recruiting. For more information, visit YesGraph.com)

When you’re building a new kind of product, your focus should be on driving engagement, not scale. Do people understand your product? Are they actively using it? How often do they come back? Answering these questions is more important than user acquisition at the start because if your product isn’t engaging, that attention is wasted.

But there is another side to this story. You need to listen to users to find potential improvements. If one person gives feedback, you might have something important. If twenty people say the same thing, now you know it matters.

You should find metrics for your important funnels to understand engagement. If you experiment with improvements, a very practical matter is that you won’t get statistically meaningful results until enough people have tried the variants. At the start, your funnel won’t be perfect, which means measuring the impact of changes deeper in the funnel will require even more people coming in the front door.

Another side to this is your attention. It is hard to focus on getting everything right. This is especially true if you have a small team, but any size team will want to do more than the team can muster. So where you spend your attention matters.

All this together means you want just enough growth. You want to spend a measured amount of time to get enough attention to drive your experiments to make your product better.

 

Let’s dig into what YesGraph is trying. Please do share your own experiments in the comments below.

 

Tell friends.

The best part about friends is that they are willing to wade through confusing parts of your product to help give you great feedback. If you’re like most founders, you probably have a at least a few hundreds contacts to ask. If you’re working on an enterprise product, your old friends from high school probably don’t matter as much as your professional contacts. If you’re working on consumer, getting further out from the tech echo chamber is actually ideal. If you’ve done your product design correctly, you’ve already interviewed potential users about how to solve their problems. Ask them to test things as soon as you have something to test.

Blog.

If you make great content, people will read it and share it. Readers might then test your product. Yes, this post you’re reading right now means you’re in YesGraph’s funnel. While I’m breaking the fourth wall: go ahead and try YesGraph to help you hire.

There are a few great blogs we’ve been enjoying recently. We’re customers of Intercom and learn a lot from their blog. The content on Priceonomics is so good that I don’t even know how they have time for anything else. If you need more inspiration and help, there are lots of blog posts about making effective blog posts. Writing is a muscle, and you need to work conscientiously to improve and find what resonates with your community. We expect some positive side effects too, like improving how we explain YesGraph to customers, candidates, and investors.

Ads.

This one is tough because creating effectively targeted campaigns with good creative can take a lot of attention. Worse is that you won’t be happy comparing your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) to your Lifetime Value (LTV) because your ads won’t be optimized and the whole point is that your funnel needs work. You could spend a lot of money to get some attention, and treat it like a fee to learn about your product. We’ve tested the waters with Facebook ads, promoted Tweets, and Google adwords, and we plan to keep testing.

Retarget.

This is going to be more successful than your regular ad campaigns because capturing the attention of those that have come by your site or blog is much easier than someone who has never heard of you. If you can make specific messages tailored to certain users, all the better. The effort vs reward ratio changes. We’re using AdRoll. What have you tried?

LeadGenius.

Before you have a sales team up and running, a service like LeadGeni.us sounds great. Get low cost humans to do your lead generation and outbound messaging. It hasn’t proven effective for us yet because we need to develop our sales process and messaging. I’m told it has been really effective for Stripe, among others.

Community Engagement.

I just ran an experiment on Reddit: an “ask me anything” (AMA) about “Growth Hacking”. There were dozens of excellent questions, and answering them was really fun. I posted it to /r/startups, which doesn’t even allow you to post a link directly. The only choice to get the attention of this community is to engage. The result was a healthy amount of traffic and direct interest in YesGraph for recruiting. I plan on continuing this experimentation in communities that are more directly tied to recruiting.

What we aren’t doing… yet

There is a lot we haven’t had the time to try. Just making a list for this post shows how much of your attention can be spent on just getting people to come try your product.

  • I’m told I should be leaving lots of comments on relevant blogs.
  • We haven’t actually pushed to get any tech press yet.
  • Writing answers on Quora is apparently a great source of traffic, with links both in your profile and and in your answers.
  • We should be trying more advertising channels, like Google display ads and maybe purchases directly on blogs and services in our domain. We should investigate tools to make the breadth of testing easier.
  • Our manual outreach to our contacts should expand out more broadly into directly reaching out to people in the recruiting community.
  • We need to refine our outbound sales process and message companies we know are looking to hire.
  • Other kinds of content marketing like infographics, interviews, guest posts, and videos could all be effective. The data from YesGraph is going to be fascinating to explore and visualize.
  • BetaLi.st and others like it let you directly reach people that want to try new products

We think of this all as marketing experimentation. This is a fitting parallel: as you improve user acquisition with experiments, your product gets better through product experiments and feedback from your first users.

What Are We Missing?

The way to learn a lot about a topic is to behave as if you don’t know it all. I’m incredibly eager to hear what others have tried that has worked here. The most specific the tactics and results, the better. Let us know in the comments below!

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