Top 12 growth hacking tips according to Techstars' DigitalOcean

by Meghan Mahar
April 21, 2014


Mitch Wainer, CMO and co-founder of cloud hosting company DigitalOcean, knows a thing or two about growth hacking. Launched in 2012 through TechStars Boulder, DigitalOcean skyrocketed from a mere 100 web-facing computers to 7,000 in the span of six months (December 2012 to June 2013). Obviously, the team has some growth hacking tricks up their sleeves, a few of which they shared at a TechStars event recently:

  1. Learn as much as you can about your early adopters.
    That includes anything from why they chose you to what websites they visit. Figure out what makes them tick, and they’ll lead you to more customers.
  2. Set a budget and come up with target goals.
    It doesn’t matter how small the budget or modest the goal. It will keep you in check and show later how much you’ve progressed.
  3. Always keep track of monthly metrics on each channel.
    This way you’ll know which channels have the best cost per acquisition, so you’ll know to invest in them. You want a monthly churn less than 2 percent and never above 10 percent.
  4. Test your first 100 customers without fear of failure.
    You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t without a huge customer backlash. Don’t be afraid to list features on your website that don’t exist yet but have links to information. It’s a great way to see what they’re interested in and gauge their reaction.
  5. Hire a writer.
    Content marketing is key, and you need a good writer to create that content. Have them write tutorials and blog posts that appeal to your customers and post on industry-popular sites to create backlinks. Consider hiring freelance writers with a flat rate per post or event paying customers to write articles.
  6. Optimize for SEO best practices.
    Take a look at Google’s keyword tools, and make sure you’re using the right words in your heading tags, meta descriptions, title tags, and image alt tags to drive your site to the top of search results.
  7. Keep the signup simple.
    Make it free and easy to sign up with an inline form on your site. Keep it to one or two fields, then ask for more info later. You want to ease them into the platform with email promos and demos throughout the first week.
  8. Don’t forget the power of PR.
    Keep your pitches brief and your writers in the loop. Request to speak to CEOs whenever possible, and constantly reach out to connections. What you need and what they can offer will change over time. Save your big announcements/stories/articles for the big time publications.
  9. Add retargeting tracking codes to all your site pages.
    Retargeting is the best channel with the lowest CPA. Facebook and Twitter proved this years ago. Adding tracking codes helps you monitor the success of each retarget attempt so you’ll know what worked.
  10. Give out credits in your referral program instead of cash.
    This is key for startups. It keeps money from leaving your pocket and gets your customer more involved in your product.
  11. Engage in social media during peak web activity hours.
    Social media marketing is still an untapped resource for some and is sure to saturate soon. Post new articles, target your competitor’s followers, and answer the tough questions when your customers are most likely to be online: Tuesday thru Thursday, 11am – 4pm EST.
  12. Re-engage your customers when activity dwindles.
    If a customer deactivates their account or doesn’t engage back, send an email checking in with them and include a small credit to their account. You may get them back as a customer, gain valuable feedback, or nothing at all. That’s better than what was going to happen – just nothing at all.

By following these lessons, you can keep your marketing engine roaring and bringing in customers. “It creates a snowball,” Wainer said.  “You basically continue to build your audience list and your awareness and your organic growth and you start snowballing your growth over time, and the snowball just continues to get bigger. And then at the end of it you raised $37.2 million and the rest is history.” 

Applications for Techstars Boulder are open, the final deadline is 5/4.

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