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An introduction to digitally growing the customer base

and revenue streams

of your startup

Textbook for the Startup Program Bachelor Entrepreneurship Rotterdam University of Applied Science

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It all begins and ends with your customers. To make your startup a success, you need to understand the people you’re selling to. Customer feedback is crucial for you as a startup and is therefore at the heart of your growth hacking activities. And even now, when you have intensively defined your customer with the value proposition canvas of Osterwalder, remember that your customer’s priorities can change depending on a their context, and that your customer is surrounded by an ocean of very different tempting propositions that get their job done. So get out there an learn, learn more. Experiment and test, in numerable ways, till you find that one perfect fit that will help you grow your startup.

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Why this eBook

What to expect

At Rotterdam University we aim to equip our students with the latest knowledge and skills in order to facilitate them becoming successful entrepreneurs. In the world of starting up a business a revolution is taking place. Therefore we dedicate an entire year of our bachelor program Entrepreneurship to this phenomenon called “Startup”.

Building a repeatable, scalable and profitable business model (the task our students face is hard work. Managing their sales funnel for growth is even harder as markets and consumers are changing on a daily basis. To survive in such surroundings constantly improving on your strategy, tactics and tools, through rapid experimentation becomes a necessity.

Until recently starting up your business was considered to be executing a small versions of large companies. However, while large companies execute business models in which customers, their problems, and necessary product features are all “knowns”, startups operate in “search mode”, seeking a repeatable, scalable and profitable business model. This search requires dramatically different rules, roadmaps, skill sets, and tools in order to optimize chances of success.

In this ebook, we want our students to learn how to digitally reach, convert, retain and grow customers. The book is very hands-on. So the main bulk of their time, students will be working on hacks and not reading about them.

Growth hacking is one of those new tools. Students who understand the art of growth hacking will have a competitive advantage that is hard to overstate. That is why we are providing our students with a robust framework for thinking about growth hacking. Giving them a simple but effective language through which they can understand and evaluate their growth hacking activities.

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We’ll explore the basics of growth hacking and introduce our students to some tactics that are easy to implement, requiring no knowledge of programming. These hack will have them work on quick wins and help them find their bearings in this new field of expertise. 


Table of contents Why this guide


Optimize organic search


What to expect


Be all over the social media


What is growth hacking


And master email marketing


A five step process


To hack the funnel



But before you start hacking


Implement 20 basic growth hacks


Build your analytics


Create Hooks that make your work addictive


Choose your metrics carefully


Use hooks


Develop a culture of inquiry


Join the growth hackers community


Know all about landing pages


Understand A/B testing


Understand usability testing


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Why a growth hacker? Why not a traditional marketer! The traditional marketer has a very broad focus, and while his skill set is extremely valuable, it is not as necessary in a startup. In a startup you don’t need someone to “build and manage outside vendors”, “establish a strategic marketing plan to achieve corporate goals”, or “build and manage a marketing team”. Early in your startup you only need one thing: GROWTH. A growth hacker is not a better marketer. A growth hacker is different than a marketer. “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth” (Sean Ellis, 2010). Every decision that a growth hacker makes is informed by growth. Every strategy, every tactic, and every initiative, is made to grow. Of course a traditional marketer cares about growth, but not in the same extend. The power of a growth hacker is in their obsessive focus on an singular goal. By ignoring almost everything they can achieve the one task that matters most early on: GROWTH.

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What is growth hacking? We define the term growth hacking as “a data driven build, measure en learn approach to getting, keeping and growing customers on a scalable basis”.

Growth hacking is about the creative use of scalable and repeatable methods with the goal to optimize every digital touchpoint in your sales funnel in order to find, keep and grow your customers.

A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth (Sean Ellis, 2010). Every decision that growth hackers make is informed by growth, and every strategy, every tactic, and every initiative, is made in the hopes of growing their business .

The term growth hacking does not describe one specific method, but is rather a philosophy, of constantly digitally building, testing, measuring and learning, which beautifully ties in with the lean startup method.

Find the product market fit by actually going out of the building and talking to prospective customers.

Talk to prospective customers and get to know them.

Validate that there’s a Job-To-Be-Done (JTBD) worth solving.

Create a value proposition that addresses the JTBD in a unique and unprecedented way. Don’t wait till you have the perfect version. A minimum viable product (MVP) will do.

Test by talking to your early adopters to understand what they find most valuable about your MVP, why they are buying, or what’s stopping them if they are about to drop off.

Iterate on the customer’s feedback. Make sure on what value your MVP delivers and build from that stronger value propositions. Also answer some of the objections that stop shoppers form buying.

Scale growth. Referrals and word of mouth will start becoming important. Ask your customers whether they would recommend your product and why.

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A five step process Growth hacking is all about listening to feedback your customers give you, so you can decrease the odds of building products no one really wants. Listening means constantly building, testing, measuring and learning, and requires diligence and a method to match it. A method that keeps you from making stupid & costly mistakes. Mistakes you simply can’t afford to make because time and cash is always short.

Step one: Define actionable goals Your overall goal is growth, but to attain results you have to break your big hairy and audacious goal (BHAG) into smaller, achievable, and actionable tasks, otherwise you will loose focus and get lost in the thick of it. When you can actually mark off individual tasks which can be completed once and for all, you know you have found your actionable goals.

Step two: Track your goals by implementing analytics Goals are empty if you don’t reach them, and if you can’t definitively say when a goal has been reached how will you know you can move ahead with your startup? It even gets better. Analytics will not only help you to track your goals, but they will help you to shape and change your goals, because of the new and valuable data they uncover. Analytics help you iterate on your customer’s feedback.

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Step three: Execute experiments As said earlier, growth hacking is all about testing and experimenting in order to learn. So take great care in executing your experiments. It will help you to write down your hypothesis and best guesses at to what will happen before you execute an experiment. The test and learning cards by Osterwalder are designed to do just that. If you do not write things down how can you ever learn en keep track of what you have learned? It will also help you not to be too naive about the time and money you’ll be spending on running experiments. Although experimenting is at the heart of your startup, experiments seldom go according to plan, thus disrupting the flow of events in your startup. Lastly, do not get discouraged by the initial results. Most experiments fail at least 10 times.

Step four: Optimize your experiments Experiments are meant to be optimized. Tweak your experiments. Use A/B tests and rerun your experiments until you have the right feedback.

Step five: Repeat As a startup you are never finished experimenting. Finished with one experiment? Than it’s already time to devise a new experiment. How else will you learn? So move through the steps in this process all over again. Put at least 1-3 experiments in your calendar every week!

To hack the funnel As a growth hacker your efforts need to be focussed on finding, keeping and growing your customers through your sales funnel.

One of the most critical questions for you as a growth hacker is: How do you ease people from one stage in the funnel to the next?

Breaking up this funnel into three distinct phases will help you accomplish your growth job done. (These phases are a simplified version of Dave McClure’s startup metrics for pirates: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral and Revenue, in short ACARRR.)

Phase one: Get Customers Your first goal as a startup is to acquire visitors: getting people to visit your website or app for the first time. They are called visitors at this stage because they don’t belong to you yet. They haven’t committed to anything. They aren’t members, or users, because that would imply that they have some sort of relationship with you, and they don’t. They are just strangers that happen to be on your site. After a visitor lands on your site, you have to activate them and turn them into customers, otherwise you haven’t done your job properly.

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Phase two: Keep customers It is hard to turn visitors into customers, but it’s even harder to retain customers. If customers come back for your product again and again your revenues really start pouring in, and you have almost reached the Holy Grail of growth hacking, which is now only one step away.

Phase three: Grow customers Once you have acquired customers, why not sell them more, since it costs less than acquiring new customers. Furthermore, why not turn customers into advocates: people who feel so strongly about the product, your brand, that they chooses to participate in the public conversation on behalf of you, and even will defend you. These individuals don’t just buy your product, talk about your product and your brand, they make your brand part of their personal identity.

How to hack your funnel? Define the phase of the sales funnel you want to work at and (1) define goals, (2) implement analytics, (3) execute experiment, (4) optimize, and (5) repeat: (the five step process we’ve explained on page 7).



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New Revenue








But before you start hacking You are ready to enter your first the loop of building, testing, measuring and learning. You are set to start hacking your sales funnel.

By now you should know the five step hack process by heart: (1) define actionable goals, (2) implement analytics, (3) conduct experiments, (4) optimize your experiments, and (5) repeat. You also have a sound notion of the sales funnel and where in that funnel you could do some hacking, being (a) getting, (b) keeping or (c) growing customers.

But before you do, we think it appropriate to draw special attention to some topics you absolutely need to “get�, will your hacking activities be successful: analytics, metrics, a culture of inquiry, landing pages, A/B testing, usability testing, organic search, social media, and email marketing.

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Build your analytics Growth hacking is a very data driven approach, therefore it is essential that you have analytics in place that allow you to measure the effectiveness of the ideas you’re working on. Only with the right analytics in place you can truly deploy the fivestep-process and learn.

Google Analytics in combination with Google Keywords and Google Webmaster Tools are a good way to start, but then there is a whole range of useful tools: Like Optimizely and Unbound for A/B testing, Mixpanel and KISS-metrics for funnel metric tracking, Qualaroo and SurveyMonkey for user feedback as well as Crazyegg and just to name a few. ( D o n ’ t f o r g e t t o c r e a t e a t i m e s t a m p f o r M o z ’s and save some of your basic metrics like your Google PageRank, current traffic, etc simply to have a reference point in the future.)

You are now able to measure user engagement throughout the funnel and user acquisition cycle, like what your users clicking on, where did they come from, where are they dropping off, how much time are they spending on your site, how much did it cost to acquire this user and much more.

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Google Analytics Signing up is free and all you need to do is drop a few lines of code into all the pages you intend to track. We recommend event tracking on buttons and links and to create goals mapping paths through your website.

Facebook Insights Facebook has some good insights about your Facebook profile, demographics and usage at https:// We also recommend claiming your domain via “Insights for your Website” providing you with further insight on actions where people have posted a link to your site, how often posts with a link to your site have been viewed and how many people have clicked through to your site from Facebook. Twitter,, Pinterest and others also allow you to claim your domain to receive more detailed analytics and insights into engagement and traffic generated through those platforms.

Google Webmaster Make sure to add your website for faster and more accurate site crawling and detailed search analytics.


Choose your metrics carefully Your analytics machine does not do you any good without building a metric tool set:

determining which key metrics need to be measured;

developing a dashboard or system to collect and monitor the data.

Prioritize and limit the numbers of metrics (fewer than a dozen), and choose only metrics that can be acted or improved on. Think “how many, how fast, how much, and how good?”. How many customers are acquired, and how many of those are activated? How many are lost? And where in the process do you lose them? How fast do your customers arrive at your website, and how fast do they activate? After one page view, or 10? How much does each acquisition and activation cost? How good are the customers who are being acquired? Are they active users who return and return and spend and spend, or is there no “stickiness” at all?

Organize your metrics the way your sales funnel is organized. This will help you to growth hack in a consistent way. Here are some examples:

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Acquisition metrics: The total number of visits by visitor type, time of day, and source, and page view per visit. Paid and referred traffic conversation rates by source (how many links or banners, and at what cost, to generate one visitor or user) and cost per acquired/activated user. Unique behavior of actions of subsets or segments of customers.

Activation metrics: The total number of activations, hourly, daily, weekly. Number and percentage of activations, tracked back to the original source. Number, percentage and cost per activation, based on the quality (heavy users and big spenders or modest spenders and inactive users?) preferably by source.

Retention metrics: The total number of activities per customer. How often does he/she come? How long is the visit? What’s the time span between visits? Number of visits and page views by source and by cost. Number and percentage of people who download or otherwise activate (like watching a demo), register or engage within a certain number of visits or page views. Number of people who take an activation action, and then don’t activate, as well as those who abandon during enrollment or registration, and what where they doing that caused them to do so?



Referral metrics: Number and percentage of users referred. Average number of prospects and existing customers. Referral acceptance rate.

Your startup’s future lies in its customers acquisition, activation, retention and referral data. This is so important that building a dash board that displays performance data is no luxury. But don’t overdo it with metrics. Generally, a relatively small number of metrics tell the overall ‘health’ story of your startup, so resist the temptation to generate complex, overwhelming collection of data that takes your eye of the key issues: “have you been able to validate the customers JTBD?”, “do your product features resonate with your customers?”, “who in fact is your customer?”, and “do you have a repeatable, scalable and profitable business model?”.

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What does the customer feedback tell me?


Develop a culture of inquiry Don’t become an analytics machine. People want to be treated as humans. So treat them as humans. Nurture their needs and hopes. Help them to face up to their fears. Help them to grow and they will grow your business.

Force-fitting customers into a solution doesn’t help them achieve their goals and in the end it will frustrate your efforts to build a scalable, repeatable and profitable business. The lean startup method is very clear on this.

So once a visitor has found your site, aim for a stellar on boarding experience. Ensure they know how to get the most value out of your product or service. Also aim for a stellar learning experience for yourself. Ensure that you know how to get your hands on every piece of information you need in order to fully understand the job-to-be-done by your customers.

Products, services and markets inevitably change. Minimize surprises with frequent communications with your customer through newsletters, social channels, surveys and regular check-ins. Simplicity, transparency and dialogue are the watch words here.

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No product is flawless, and neither is any customer experience. Learning to use a new product always involves some level of learning curve, even in the age of downloadable apps. Make sure your customer can walk before they can run. Reduce their frustration as they ramp up their skills. It will also help you since you will enable them to start seeing immediate value.

Ensure direct support, whether through direct phone lines, email support or chat, is timely and helpful (Learn from Zappos, a true master at these sorts of things). Strive to create a customer community, where customers are helping customers. (Not only does it help your customers get service faster, in many cases they can self-service the solutions to their questions, actually driving your support costs down while improving retention. That’s a win-win for everyone.) And finally, ensure that your social channels are monitored regularly. Listen and respond to customer issues.

Develop a culture of inquiry. Take the time to survey your customers on a regular basis. Interview those who stay…. and those who leave. Both groups will provide insights that will help you understand what is keeping customers around, as well as what is driving them away.


Know all about landing pages Without a working understanding of landing pages, you are a nobody in growth hacking land. A landing page is a purposebuilt web page for lead capture or customer conversion. Typically, a landing page has a singular goal: to provide enough value to your visitors that they take the next step to become a customer or lead.

Focus - keep it simple and don’t distract your visitors.

Make sure the most important information is displayed without having to scroll (above the fold), works in many different resolutions and systems as well as mobile screens!

Keep in mind that you don’t need to know it all in advance, that’s what A/B testing is for. You can test multiple headlines and simply measure which one resonates the best with your visitors and yields the best conversion rate.

Create a headline that effectively gets your message across (be descriptive, you already got the visitors attention) and follow up with short and compelling copy describing your most important attributes (benefits, the jobs-to-be-done you are helping to get done, pain relievers & gain creators, features.)

Create a clearly visible call-to-action; don’t distract with lots of other requests.

Shine with visually clean and simple design; more white space keeps people trained on your call to action. Big fonts make it easy and compelling for them to read and understand what your site is all about. An additional video can summarize a lot of information into a small space and can increase conversions dramatically.

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Understand A/B testing A/B testing is one of the most used testing methods with growth hackers. A/B testing, also referred to a split testing, is a simple method of website optimization in which the engagement and conversion rates of two different versions of a page, A en B are compared to one another by splitting live traffic onto both versions.

Don’t be afraid to throw a drastic change into the mix (a super simplistic landing page with few words and a big button for instance), be creative and measure the results.

Think for a moment of the most visited webpage on earth. Picture it. Then you know what to strive for (Google).

You can also test more than just two versions. Use Google Experiments as a great free A/B testing tool (it is part of Google Analytics and you can find it under the “Behavior” tab on the left). Make sure to set up your “Goals” (e.g. ‘sign up”) in advance and create the different pages you want to test against one another. Then you provide the original/control page plus its variations to the tool and paste a few lines of Javascript cod into the control page (standard landing page). Google Experiments will now route incoming traffic to all pages (control + variation(s) and allow you to measure which one converts better than others. Your goal is to optimize the conversion rate.

Make sure you run your change/tests against a control group (A/B test) to measure the difference. Small changes in copy or design can drive huge differences in conversion.

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Understand usability testing Usability testing checks whether the users of your site/app use it the way you intend them to. It can be as informal as inviting your consumers into a room ad watch them spend time on your website, or as comprehensive as a formal focus-group testing. With usability testing you can identify weaknesses in for example how your site explains your product, its benefits and the reason to buy it. It can trace user’s behavior so you can ermine new ways to optimize your conversion rates, enhance online product demonstrations, or find confusing copy or navigation.

Test facilities: Invite your target customers to your office and watch as they engage with your site 9and use any of the inline services like Userfy or Usertesting that do low-cost user testing). Watch these customers explore uninterrupted. Make notes about where they went and where they didn’t, and follow up to learn why the did what they did.

Heat maps: By using eye tracking to show where most people look or click on a website or page you can see if and how your customer’s attention is drawn to for example ‘demo’ buttons, or the ‘try now’ button. Heat map software tracks a user’s gaze and translates them into regions colored yellow orange and red. The richer the color, the more eyeballs are focussed on the button, headline or graphic.

Eye tracking: Eye tracking uses heat-map technology in a different way. When people visit your site, what do they look at first, second, or third? For example the ‘Z’pattern? (Starting across the top, from the left to right, and then skimming diagonally downward across the page.) Eyes move at astounding speeds, and users are known to spend as little as a few seconds scanning a page to find something of interest. Een prima plek om te beginnen.

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Optimize organic search Knowing how to optimize your website for organic search is an art and business of itself, but there are a few easy things you can do right away that will set you up in a good position.

Create an XML sitemap Most Wordpress SEO plugins do this automatically, and submit it to Google Webmaster Tools as wel as Bing Webmaster Tools.

The key thing you should optimize is the page’s content itself (headlines and copy), so avoid masking text within an image as a search engine won’t be able to read and analyze it. Apart from the page’s content, pay attention to the page title, URL, and image names (give all images a descriptive title like growth_hacking_ canvas.jpg instead of IMG001.PNG).

Use descriptive URLs Avoid using URLs like 22763/s401.htm. Rather use something like growth_hacking_

Make sure all the pages you want to be crawled, are linked to from within your website and linked to one another. Search engines usually come in through a popular entry point and then follow all links within that page, ranking them accordingly. Choose relevant words for the anchor tag itself especially when linking to content within your blog’s archives for instance.

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Reduce the use of flash and frames. Your content needs to be fresh Updating regularly and often is crucial for increasing traffic. A blog is the perfect tools to do this.

Share links Share through social media channels and especially make sure your links are posted on Google+.

Insert backlinks They are still important for your Google Pagerank, so start building relationships and linking to others in your blog. Media mentions with a link back to your website can be very helpful here.


Be all over the social media Social media are a highly effective way to generate awareness, convert customers and give advocates something to talk about. In a world where advertising is increasingly ‘tuned out’, ‘the creation and sharing of media and publishing content is paramount in achieving business goals.

The fact that people actively share is itself an area worthy of conversation. With all of the other demands on our time, why do people bother to actively share to Twitter of Facebook or Pinterest or a blog? Research from the New York Times indicates that the key reasons are:

to bring valuable and entertaining content to others

to define ourselves to others

to grow and nourish our relationships


to get the word out about causes and brands

First, make a list of all the key influencers like journalists and bloggers. They can hugely amplify and accelerate the spread of your message. To identify key influencers you can use a Google search but also services like Little Bird, Klout, Kred, Tracker, Quora, WeFellow, Alltop, Peerindex and others. Rapportive is a great tool to find the right email address. Give your influencers sample posts that they can modify and share, ensure that they know about your offering and run awareness campaigns to keep them in the know. When you have something important to say make sure to start the conversation well in advance (weeks ahead). Most journalists need some time to schedule an interview and some time to research and write their story.

Then start reading, listening, blogging and engaging on social media. Start building a relationship over time. Maintain the relationship and be a great contact, (Maybe you have only some news to share that is simply industry-related but is not necessarily about you? That’s fine, it still can help people.)

By providing value in the form of information and distributing it though social channels, people learn about your product, driven by their interests.

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Blog posts Post blogs 1-3 times a week, with content useful to your customers.

Create Infographics, how-to-guides, case-studies, white papers, and become a thought leader in your field.

Share content Use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Slideshare, Medium, Quora. Stumbleupon, Udemy, etc. based on which channels are most relevant to your prospects and customers. One platform certainly won’t do the trick. Be at at least on 10 different ones. Using a new platform earlier and more effectively than others can give you a great competitive advantage (usually at lower cost too), so make sure you keep some of the newcomers in mid like Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit and others.

Participate in conversations on other blogs relevant to your product without being spammy.

Guest posts Write them first, then offer them to others.

Publish Ebooks Visually appealing, on-topic, with a designated landing page for lead generation.

Share Videos Short videos (less than two minutes) almost always win.

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And master email marketing Although email has been much-maligned over the years, it is still one of the most effective channels for engaging with your customer community and nurturing your prospects. A few points to keep in mind:

Make it easy to get on your list Don’t bury your subscription box in a sidebar. There are plenty of site and blog plugins that do a great job of asking folks to join your list ad then getting out of the way. The best plugins will allow you to configure how often they are shown to visitors, which enables you to ask newcomers to join, while not overly inconveniencing your regular site and blog visitors.

Start the flywheel right away When someone joins your list, send them a welcome email. Include a short note of thanks, but also include a link to a bonus piece of content for subscribers on your list. They just went through the effort to sign up as a result of interest in your brand, reward them, with another snippet of insight that can help them achieve their goals.

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Keep the drumbeat going Regular but not-too-frequent emails keep engagement up and keep your brand top of mind without being spammy or annoying. Twice-monthly is a good frequency to start with for newsletters, which can be scaled more-or-less frequently based on the information you can deliver and its timeliness and value to your readers.

Plan and execute Keep an editorial calendar for your emails, just like you do for your social channels. Know what items are going to be in which edition and get the writing done early, if you can.

Test relentlessly If you have the luxury of a large list, don’t be afraid to A/B test different subject lines to small subsets of your list to see which ones get the best open rates. Once you have your message dialed in, then you can send the newsletter to the broader group. If your list isn’t large enough to allow segmentation of the list to do this type of testing, make it a habit to write 15-25 possible subject lines before choosing one.


Implement 20 basic growth hacks It is time to get your feet dirty. As you already know, when taking a course in Rotterdam, we always require you to do some practical work.

First of all we need you to implement 20 simple hacks. These hacks have you work on quick wins. Tactics that are easy to implement, requiring no knowledge of programming. They may not draw in huge crowds, but they will help you find your bearings in this new field of expertise, and overtime will have a positive impact on the growth of your startup.

When you’ve have finished implementing these 20 hacks we take you to the next level, building addictive products and websites, and analyzing state of the art hacks with our Growth Hacking Canvas.

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1. The email signature hack

2. The Twitter profile hack

What Include at the bottom of all the emails your startup sends out, information about your startup such as name, url, Twitter business @profile, and your value proposition.

What Add your business @profile to your personal Twitter @profile. Get all your fellow founders in your startup to do the same. If you don’t have a personal Twitter profile yet, now is the time to create one.

Why It is an easy way of exposing your startup to a growing amount of people. Anyone you send an email to, from that point on will be exposed to what your company is and does.

How Go to your email client’s setting page and design the perfect signature for your startup. Make sure to include a callto-action which could be simply your company’s url or a link that says “click for more information”. Make sure your links work. Nothing is more disappointing for a potential customer then getting a message “not found”.

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Why @profiles that appear in your Twitter bio are clickable. Therefore, anyone who checks out your profile has the opportunity to check out your business profile too. This is traffic that you can then drive to your site.

How Simply include your company Twitter @profile in your personal Twitter @profile.


3. The SERP hack

4. The social media hack

What When you type a question into Google, it is likely that the items shown on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) will be a result from a Q&A site such as Quora. By making sure your products appear on relevant Q&A threads you create a way of indirectly appearing on the SERP of Google for that query.

What Again a very easy but efficient hack. Create social profiles for your product, across as many platforms as possible.

Why At first it will be difficult for your startup to get on the SERP. But it is easy to contribute to a Q&A page. By embracing this simple strategy you will be able to capture some of the residual search traffic even in the early days of your startup.

How Search Google for terms or questions that are relevant to your startup or product. Those are the terms you want to rank for. Then find Q&A that appear in the first SERP and start contributing to the thread in a useful manner. Be sure to insert a link to your product homepage in your contribution.

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Why Your customers expect you to be in places that they are using to socialize with their friends. That makes it easy for them to for example go to Twitter for support, to Facebook to see what you’re up to, and to Linkedin to see who works for you and more. By being in all the places users expect you to be, you create trust and convenience. But also you have the opportunity to drive traffic back to your own site. It is difficult to to maintain an active profile on all of these platforms. Be careful in choosing which platforms you’ll be using to engage with your customers. Because ones you have started, you cannot stop. Social media that is not being updated is a big nuisance.

How Here’s a starters list of places you should consider creating a business profile: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google +, Instagram, Youtube, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Reddit. Remember on each one to put a link back to your main site.


5. The guest post hack

6. The name drop hack

What Write a guest post on a popular blog or news site related to your startup.

What When writing blog content, refer to or mention influential bloggers, then reach out to them after publishing.

Why Writing a guest post on a established blog with a targeted audience is an easy way of getting visibility for your startup. Even if you do not get much direct traďŹƒc from guest posts, they can help to establish your image as a thought leader. This again can have longer-term benefits such as brand name recognition.

Why Influential bloggers have vast networks. Tapping into that network can expose your startup or product to a large new audience of potential customers. As a newcomer to the startup scene it might be diďŹƒcult to get an influencer to mention you, but you can enhance your chances if you involve them in your content somehow. For example, quoting something they wrote and saying whether you agree or disagree. Your quoting them, strengthens the position of the influencer and makes it more likely for them to share a fact or two about your startup with their audience.

How With established blogs there usually is someone who looks after guest posts. Pitch them an idea for a post. Keep the content informative and interesting, and mention your product only either at the very start or the very end. Do not worry about being rejected by the blog, since there are many blogs out there and you can simply pitch the same idea to another one.

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How Once you have found influential bloggers or Twitter users in your industry, start looking for content by them that you have a strong opinion on. Writing an interesting supporting or counter argument via your blog is one simple way of executing this tactic. You just have to write and reach out.


8. The can’t go back hack

9. The # all things hack

What Disable or remove on the signup page for your product, all navigational elements that enable a user to go back to the previous page. This includes disabling your site logo, which is often linked to the homepage.

What Actively use relevant hashtags on your startup or product in all social media.

Why Preventing a user from backing out of the process is a good enough motivation for some users to complete the process. This can increase your conversion rate on the signup page. But be careful. Like me there are lot’s of people who hate being trapped, and they will punish you for that. So choose wisely. Does this tactic fit in with your customer profile.

Why For your customers hashtags are a discovery tool. By hash tagging your content you increase that new audiences will find you. Hashtags also can help to clarify the context of your message. “Tweeting about #growthhacking”.

How Do not forget to pre-fill hashtags when other people share your content. Twitter’s embeddable tweet button has a feature that allows you to set hashtags whenever anyone shares content.

How Use CSS to hide navigational elements and use Javascript to disable links to other pages on the signup page.

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10. The widget hack

11. The video tutorial hack

What Add an embeddable widget to your product, allowing users to easily add your content to their own websites or blogs.

What For new users, show a video tutorial of how to use your product. Even better use YouTube to make educational content about your startup or product.

Why Any time a user adds your content to their blog it is a chance to indirectly advertise on that user’s blog. For example your content can be watermarked or simply have a link back to your product. In this way, having an embeddable widget is a way of reaching an exponentially wider audience.

How Look for areas where you can enhance a user’s blog in your content somehow. YouTube became popular for this. Social sharing buttons are popular because they help the 3rd party blog get shared, and therefore more page views. Any embeddable widget should primarily enhance the functionality of the 3rd party website it is being embedded on, and secondarily promote your product.

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Why Some people are learner by exploring. They are happy to discover the features of your product by themselves. Other potential customer are more learner visually. Offering a video of what to do can increase the amount of users who complete your on boarding process and become active users. Youtube not only has a huge distribution range, but also happens to be owned by the world’s largest search engine, Google. YouTube results often feature in favorable positions on Google’s search engine results. With a good YouTube video you can influence your ranking.

How Keep the video short and concise. (The “top 10 list” format works well on video.) If you are not comfortable making full-blown videos, check out sites like and They can help you design stunning visual story boards. If you do not know where to start, use the content of presentations that you have created and got good feedback, be it on Slideshare, or be it on an outdoor event.


12. The Slideshare hack

13. The survey hack

What Convert your blog post into a Powerpoint presentation and Infographics, and upload them to .

What Growth hacking is about conducting research (the fivestep-process we talked about earlier in this book). So why not share the results?

Why Powerpoints and Inforgraphics are widely shared in industry circles. Be sure to include interesting content, creative design and a touch of humor, Putting them on Slideshare helps, because Slideshare content gets good visibility both from potential customer browsing Slideshare and Google. This means that a good piece of content on Slideshare will get your startup seen by lots of people you otherwise would not have reached. With a clear call to action at the end of your slides or graphic, this can be a great and easy way of acquiring new customers. Do your work well and you have found a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader.

How The simplest form would be to convert any list style blog content you have into a Powerpoint presentation with a slide for each list item. For creating Infographics you will find both ‘free’ and ‘paid for’ programs on the internet, is a great place to start.

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Why Surveys are useful in two ways: (1) the information are insightful for your startup learning curve; and (2) participants in the survey may want to know and share the results, since they have taken time to participate in the survey. Reward their investment.

How Conducting a survey is simple with tools like . The data can be shared via a blog post or infographic. The alternative is the method where you analyze the data you already have on hand about your user’s behavior and try to extrapolate interesting insights in order to share.


14. The UGC hack

15. The Polyglot hack

What Create a feature on your product/website that allows users to create and share their own content (User Generated Content, short UGC).

What Translate your site into other languages. Dutch and English of course, are already mandatory for you, but try out another language too.

Why Creating content yourself does not scale well. It is hard work, and where to find interesting content? Allowing people to create content for you means content can scale exponentially. More authors and more content means more sharing and more traffic to your platform. And… people love to create content. Being an author in their own right, sharing experiences and thoughts is what many people find very stimulating. Make them happy, provide them with the ways and means to become creative.

Why Offering your site in another language can lower the barrier to adoption in a particular market. If the market size is large enough, this can increase metrics across the board, from social sharing to user sign ups to revenue.

How If you are running a Wordpress blog you already have the capability for multiple authors with an approval workflow. Invite users to sign up as an author on your blog. Or create a forum or other space where a community can foster, allowing you to cherry-pick and feature the best content on your blog.

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How Making use of crowdsources translation is a good way to do it. This can be a paid service such as or a free implementation such as the Facebook example. And as a student of Rotterdam University, make use of the free language courses the school provides, ranging from Spanish, to Mandarin Chinese, to Arabic. Or find a fellow students who already has absolved these courses successfully, and ask for help. Get networked.


16. The mobile hack

17. The welcome email hack

What Design your landing pages in such way that are readable from a mobile device screens.

What Sent a welcome email to users after they signed up, in order to orient them with your product. Give them a special welcome. make them feel unique, and help them proactively to master any problem they might encounter when engaging with your startup.

Why Your potential customers are using mobile devices more and more. Particularly in sharing your product with their social network, a large percentage of clickthroughs will be form mobile devices. Making sure the reading experience and subsequent call to actions are clear to users of mobile devices, will have a positive effect on your conversion rate.

How Responsive design uses CSS features such as media queries to tell browsers how to display content at different screen sizes. Most responsive designs are achieved through a creative mix of CSS and some javascript.

Why People do want to be noticed. Acknowledge them as unique individuals. Show them you are willing to take time out of your busy schedule to talk and listen to them. There also will be a percentage of users who sign up for your product and run into “trouble”: (1) they become distracted and go elsewhere; (2) they do not immediately find the feature they are looking for; or (3) they have questions about your product but are too lazy to look for your contact page.

How Sending a user an email after an event like signup is a feature provided by most web frameworks. The key to the success of your welcome email will be the content. At the very least you should seek to make them feel special, provide support contact channels for them, answer their key questions, and encourage them to get through the on boarding process.

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18. The invite a friend hack

19. The teaser hack

What Offer a user an incentive for inviting a friend, and also offer that friend an incentive for signing up

What When a new user comes across your product via their search engine or their social network, make not all of the content viewable until a user registers. People love a good mysterie.

Why Inviting a friend is an action the comes natural to humans. So it is often used as a way to increase traffic to websites. With good reason. By making the action a win-win for all, you can maximize the potential conversion rate of the invitation system. But since everybody is doing it, make it stand out. Get creative. Just copying others is not enough any more.

How Although not technically difficult to implement you will need measures in place to mitigate abuse. For example tokens that expire so invitees cannot sign up over and over again, verifications to check that emails are valid and not being faked, and IP checking to make sure the inviter and the invitee are from different IPs and not simply the same person creating multiple accounts in order to receive rewards.

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Why Requiring registration (or even payment) before viewing the full content can accelerate your growth rate. Not only plays it on the notion that people like to discover, and uncover things -you could view it as a striptease (but please don’t make it tacky), it also makes people feel special (being part of a club that not for all to be part of). Whatever you choose to do, make the journey a tasteful and encouraging adventure.

How Most mature CMS platforms such as Wordpress have “paywall” plugins. These plug allow you to create things that can only be seen by users who have registered or paid. A variation of this, is allowing users to freely browse all content until a certain milestone is reached, for example after viewing 5 articles freely a user must register to view a 6th (for example The Economist and Harvard Business Review, make good sport of this). 


20. The pay with tweet hack What Payment does not have to involve money. Getting exposure, getting endorsements, can be great non-monetary compensation for your eorts. For example give away a freebie (extra functionalities, or free shipping) but instead of asking for a credit-card, ask users to pay by tweeting a link to your site.

Why Depending on your objectives, exposure could be more important than being paid. Getting users to tweet about you helps to expose you to a wide audience.

How This mechanism has a weakness. If users simply delete the tweet after receiving the benefit, the impact of the campaign is lost. To avoid this situation, you must think creatively. The golden rule is to make the users look good in some way such as make them appear attractive, or make them appear funny and creative. 

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Create hooks that make your work addictive Now that you have implemented your first 20 basic hacks, you are ready to do some serious growth hacking, deep-dive style.

But before you take the plunge, we want to challenge your brainpower once more: What if, instead of you doing all the hard work, (pushing and pulling your customers through the sales funnel) your products or website itself could change behavior over and over again? What if you could build habit-forming products and websites? Wouldn't that be awesome?

We have good news for you: You can! You are be able to supercharge your growth! How?

In his book “Hooked (2013), Nir Eyal investigated habit forming behavioral patterns. He found four: (1) triggers, (2) actions, (3) rewards, and (4) investments. By building these four patterns into a reinforcing loop, you can created a “hook” that moves your customers to action again and again. Eyal defines a “hook” as an “experience, designed to connect the user’s problem to your solution, with enough frequency to from a habit”. (In our program you should have learned by now that nowadays customers no longer buy products, or solutions.

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They buy experiences. By building hooks you can finally act upon this knowledge.) Inserting these “hooks” into your products and/or websites, will call your customers to action over and over again, without you reverting to traditional push and/or pull sales funnel tactics.

First let us look in more details at the four building blocks of the hook:

Triggers A trigger issues a call to action, the actuator of a behavior. Triggers come in two flavors: “external triggers” and “internal triggers”. An external trigger contains information that tells the user what to do next. Examples are your website button directing your visitors to log in, a button to buy now, or (non digitally) a billboard that tells you not to drink when driving. Each new message posted on WhatsApp, is an open invitation, an external trigger for others to react. An internal trigger comes from an association in the user’s memory, and is based on what the customer in the past has done in a similar situation. Negative emotions are powerful internal triggers. Depressed people check their email more often, when feeling lonely we use Facebook, when we are unsure we use Google, and we we are bored we surf Youtube.


What triggers make Instagram so habit forming? The design of the platform invites you to share. It solves the pain of loosing the moment, and as a social network it helps you to feel less lonely, less bored, less stressed and more informed.

Thus a habit-forming product could start with an external trigger to get the user’s attention, and over time, with repetitive use, the association in the customer’s mind is enough to trigger his action.

Action Triggered in the appropriate way, the user of the product responds with an action, which potentially becomes the habit itself. There will be no action unless the trigger is clear and presented at a time when the user has the necessary amount of “motivation” and the necessary level of “ability” to act.

Motivation (the energy for action) is determined by one or more of three core motivators: (1) feeling pleasure rather than pain, (2) feeling hope rather then fear or despair, and (3) being socially accepted rather than ostracized or rejected. But even the right trigger and the right amount of motivation won’t be enough to elicit action if the behavior is too difficult. Six factors increase or decrease the ability to act: (1) How much time will the action take? (2) How much money is involved? (3) How much physical effort is needed? (4) How much mental effort is needed? (5) Is the action too outside the social norm? (6) Is the action too outside the users regular routine?

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The easier the action, the more likely it is to occur. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, and the I-Phone all use simple interfaces that prompt quick action in anticipation of immediate reward. Just scroll on Pinterest, type something into Googles’ search box, or press the play button on YouTube.

Another way for you to influence the ability and motivation of your users is through “heuristics”. For example the “scarcity effect“ comes into play when rooms appear to be in limited supply on With the “anchoring effect” you can play on the tendency of your customers to fixate on a single piece of information to exclusion of other facts (buying a product simply because it’s on sale). And with the “endowedprogress effect” you can exploit your customer’s tendency to double down on an investment when an associated reward seems imminent (a frequent buyer card for example, or “de hamsterweken” at your local Albert Heijn).

Variable rewards After users take action, responding to a trigger, give them a reward. Users crave for rewards (the itch we seek to scratch, and ohhhhh the relief we feel, when we are scratching). Of course your product must deliver on its promises but that’s not enough. The reward also needs to offer a degree of variability to stay interesting. It needs to have an element of mystery. The unknown fascinates us, and causes us to focus and engage. Nir Eyal distinguishes three types of variable rewards: those of the “tribe”, “hunt”, and “self”. Rewards of the tribe are social rewards, which are pursued 34

because users want to feel connected to other people. Facebook and Quora are examples of how companies can use tribal rewards. We like social rewards, so we are happy when a friend presses the like button on Facebook and gives us a thumbs-up. Rewards of the hunt take the form of information or tangible goods acquired as the outcome of the pursuit. Online services like Twitter and Pinterest, take full advantage of these variable rewards of the hunt. Scroll the pages and you’ll find the information you’re looking for. Rewards of the self come from learning and mastering new skills as well as from completing tasks, meeting goals, or attempting to control inherently variable situation. Online gaming are a ready example of products that offer rewards of the self, as the player can move up levels, or gain higher powers and better resources. But whatever rewards you incorporate into your products, three things must be done: (1) align the rewards with what your customer really wants, (2) keep your customer in control, and (3) maintain an element of surprise. In other words, your product still must address the itch, yet leave your customer wanting more.

Investment Asking the customer to do a bit of the work increases the user’s perceived value of it. For example the more time and effort customers put into something, the more likely they are to continue with the behavior or line of thinking. Users also have the tendency to disproportionately overvalue personal efforts. For example growing more attached to a piece of IKEA

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furniture if they’ve assembled it themselves. The more effort a customer puts into a product, the more valuable it becomes. As we invest, we seek to be consistent with our past behavior, and because these investments improve the customer’s experience of the product, they are more likely to come back again and again. The amount of followers on Twitter, your rating on AirBNB, your stars on Ebay are all stored value, improving the product with use.

We started this chapter with a question: What if you could build habit-forming products and websites, instead of bombarding your customers with one growth hack after another? We have learned that users are sensible and responsive to hooks designed to connect the user’s problem to your solution. Each pass through the hook helps shape and build their preferences and attitudes. And with enough frequency a habit is formed. From now on, you create only growth hacks that take your customers through the loop. It saves you time and supercharges your growth.

From now on you’ll be creating hooks, instead of a loose array of growth hacks. Hooks like the Pinterest hook: External trigger: E-mails, notifications, Facebook, Twitter. Internal trigger: Fear of losing content, boredom. Action: Logging in and scrolling. Rewards: What did friends post? (tribe). Interesting objects (hunt). Investment: Install pin-it button, pin, re-pin, follow, comment. 


“Users take technologies to bed. They check their devices before saying good morning to their loved ones.�

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Use hooks We’ve agreed that from now on you create hooks instead of a loose array of growth hacks. An awesome deal, but rather hard to deliver upon without some help.

Consequently we give you "Fifty Shades of Growth" by Sid Bharath and Danny Halarewich of Lemonstand. In their work they introduce you to 50 irresistible growth hack experiments.

Of course you can copy these hacks, and instantly benefit from the advise of the best experts in the field. But would it not be great to become an expert yourself?

Get Customers Acquire Activate

Keep Customers Interact Retain


Grow Customers New Revenue Referral


It’s obvious we like you to become an expert in your own right. That’s what Rotterdam entrepreneurs are destined to be doing. Therefore we challenge you to analyse the fifty growth hacks of Lemonstand, using the sales funnel as a roadmap and the “hook” as your model, and then build your own super hacks to really skyrocket your startup’s growth.


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Join the growth hackers community Growth hacking is being reinvented on a daily basis. To keep up with the latest developments, join the worldwide community of growth hackers at

Start interacting with fellow hackers on this premium destination for growth hackers. Collaborate, have fun, get inspired, and deepen your learning.

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Profile for Hogeschool Rotterdam Community Entrepreneurship

Growth Hacking an Introduction  

Textbook for the Bachelor Program Entrepreneurship at Rotterdam University

Growth Hacking an Introduction  

Textbook for the Bachelor Program Entrepreneurship at Rotterdam University