Coming out as a “Growth hacker”


By Henrik Thomé, Founder and CEO Sonetel

I was invited last week to be a panelist at a Meetup about Growth Hacking in Stockholm.

The funny thing was that I barely knew what the term Growth hacking meant prior to participating. I only had a vague hunch.

Luckily, it turned out that Growth hacking simply is a new term for what I have been doing for years – and a term that nicely captures what I truly believe is the only right way to run an Internet business today.

So – what is it?

Growth hacking is basically a method and mindset for generating growth in an Internet business.


Measure everything

The core idea is to measure everything, and to verify what actually works in practice – in terms of generating paying customers and making them stay. It is also about blurring the borders between marketing, product development and business analysis – and between design, technology and financials.

At the core of all this are conversions. These are the magical moments when the princess kisses the frog and he turns into a prince – or rather the moment when your prospect makes their first purchase and turns into a paying customer.

This is the “holy” moment that everything else should be measured against.

This is also where funnels come into play- i.e. the steps that a potential customer needs to take in order to reach the moment where they convert.

  1. They need to click on your ad
  2. They need to quickly understand from your web site what you are doing
  3. They need to click on a sign-up button- or maybe just leave an email address – to allow you to start a dating sequence.
  4. They need to go through the sign-up.
  5. They need to understand your value and possibly play with your service.

At each of these steps you will lose a large part of the prospects, since they didn’t get it, it took too long time, they didn’t know where to click, they couldn’t understand how it would benefit them, they got the “wrong feeling”, they got distracted by something else etc.

Every little check box, color and shape of buttons and wordings impacts the percentage of prospects that make it to the next step in the funnel – and the amount of conversions you end up with.

Services such as Optimizely can help you do so called A/B testing – where you do experiments at your web site to see if this or that color, text, image, or design brings you more or less conversions.

You can also measure lots of stuff for free with Google Analytics, or use powerful software tools such as Tableau (that allows you to analyze any data anywhere as if it was in Excel) or on-line services such as MixPanel.

If you run Google Adwords marketing – or any other type of online marketing –  you are wasting your money if you are not defining conversions as when people become paying customers.

At Sonetel we used to measure sign-ups as “conversions”, but when we changed to instead measure payments as conversions, we found that 90% of the clicks we had paid for earlier were wasted, and never lead to any purchases.



Google, Facebook and many others offer a service called remarketing or retargeting.

This basically means that you show ads for your business in Facebook, or on millions of blogs worldwide – but ONLY for the people that have visited your site without buying something.

This is accomplished by adding some code from either provider at your web site, and then defining that everyone that has visited your site during the last 30 days without buying anything should see your ads.

This is highly efficient if done right.


Event driven email

Many marketeers say that email is the cheapest and most efficient may to grow your conversions.

This is probably true. But you have to do it in a smart way.

Tools such as MixPanel can be used to send emails and other notifications to customers based on triggers that you define.

For example, if a customer unsubscribes to your service, there can be an email sent out automatically to that customer a few hours later, that “comes from” some named individual in your team – or from you – that in a personal way reaches out to the customer.

It needs to feel personal and real, so use text only and no images.

Some marketeers are even adding lines such as “Sent from my iPhone” at the end of the email, which gives them huge response rates by really seeming personal – but in my view that is going too far, and something I wouldn’t do.

Many companies define  hundreds of email flows, that automatically communicate with the customer at different stages of the on-boarding phase (while they still are prospects), retention phase (when they are paying customers and you want to keep them) – and in the win-back phase, where they have left you and you want them to come back.

The general principle in all of this is to deliver value. Give your prospects and customers good advice and information that is useful for them – and don’t sell anything – until maybe after 6-7 emails.


Content marketing

One way to drive conversions is to do it indirectly, by providing valuable content to your potential customers, in a blog or newsletter, making people come to you for unbiased information.

Naturally the information should relate to what your business does, and down the road, some portion of all those people that consume your content may turn into customers – since they now trust you as a reliable and knowledgeable player. A thought-leader.

While writing really good articles and blog entries can be very time consuming or expensive, there are now smart tools available to keep up the speed of your news flow, without you having to write it.

It is called curated material – and it is something that pretty much all news sites already do.

A tool such as Opentopic can scan the web for you for all reliable news sources that write about the specific topic of your interest. All the articles found (from the hundreds or thousands of sources you select) are then presented in a way that allows you to republish a “snippet” (the initial part of the article) at your site, and then refer the reader to the original location of the article for reading the full article.

This allows you to become a trusted provider of the latest news within the topic that your company operates within, and to come out with multiple news updates per day via Social media, your blog and web site – with very little effort.


This does not cover all the aspects of Growth hacking, but probably gives you an idea of how automation, user interface design and lots and lots of data is used to grow your business – in an iterative and experimental way.

Adding local phone numbers from Sonetel – close to your prospects – at your web site, is also a proven way to increase trust and conversions. So even phone numbers can play a role in Growth Hacking.

If you have plans to start a company with the Internet as your primary vehicle for attracting customers – then all of this is something you really need to take a close look at.

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