by Juan Robin II
A push strategy usually involves interrupting the content that is being consumed.
You aren’t the tweet they want to read, but instead, you’re the tweet ad that they read on their stream. You aren’t the YouTube video they want to watch, but you are the pre-roll ad that they watch to get to the content they were after in the first place.
Pull is analogous to Hansel and Gretel. The sweets lure the children into the house on their own accord. Push is analogous to the Three Little Pigs. The wolf just huffs and puffs and breaks into their homes. You can pull them into your world, or you can push yourself into their world. That’s the main difference between pull and push tactics for getting visitors.
Understanding Lifetime Value of a Customers
The lifetime value of a customer (LTV) is basically the amount of money that you are going to make from a customer throughout their life. If you built an e-commerce app and you profit an average of $100 per customer, per year, and they typically buy for 5 consecutive years before they get bored with your inventory and stop shopping with you, then your LTV is $500.
This is important because another primary difference between pull and push tactics is that push tactics usually cost money. Going back to our example above, if a customer is worth $500 on average then it would be foolish to spend $501 to move someone through your funnel. You would ultimately lose $1 each time you retained a user. Keep this simple idea in mind with all of the tactics covered in this section.
1. Purchase Ads
It may not seem like growth hacking at first glance, but ads are definitely a place to hack the distribution of your product. Sure, if you just purchase ads without a strategy, void of creativity, doing nothing to gain an edge, and ignore the process of multivariate testing, then you will be like everyone else (and it probably wouldn’t be considered growth hacking). But that’s not what we’re going to do. Here are some things you must keep in mind as you approach this push tactic:
Understand Your Ad Platform Options
There are many different ways to purchase ads. Most people assume that there is just Facebook, Google, and Twitter, but there are so many more. You can also purchase ads on LinkedIn, which would make a lot of sense if you’re selling to corporate customers. There are niche ad networks such as Carbon (carbonads.net) or The Deck (decknetwork.net), both of which will allow you to target specific verticals. There is BuySellAds (buysellads.com) which allows you to purchase website banner ads, tweets, newsletter sponsorships, RSS includes, and even spots on mobile apps. There is a relatively new ad network that just focuses solely on email sponsorships called LaunchBit (launchbit.com). There is even a solution called Trada (trada.com) that will crowdsource the purchasing of your paid advertising and only take a cut if they exceed your goals. If you want to focus exclusively on mobile users then you can advertise using Tapjoy (tapjoy.com).
Here is a screenshot of Carbon, a niche ad platform.
Here is a screenshot of BuySellAds, one of the generic ad platforms.
This doesn’t even include the platforms that focus on retargeting. Retargeting gives you the ability to track users to your site and show your ads only to those people as they browse around the internet. Now, even your ads can be pre-qualified. If this sounds magical it’s because it is magical. In this space alone you have a number of platforms like AdRoll, Perfect Audience, and Retargeter.
Here is a screenshot of AdRoll, which was named the #1 advertising company by Inc. Magazine.
There has been an explosion of ad networks over the last few years. Some would argue we have too many ways to purchase ads. This can be a good thing if you are willing to investigate the options to find the ones that meet your needs.
Learn the Technical Details of Your Chosen Platform
Once you’ve found an ad platform that meets your specific needs then it will be imperative that you learn the technical details of their offering. The difference between making money or losing money could easily be the difference between knowing the technicalities or not. The most complicated and advanced platform is probably Google AdWords, and it could easily take months to truly master their product, but most of the other options can be learned in a weekend with a high degree of proficiency.
Buying Ads is a Business Model Competition
It’s always hard to know how much you should spend for a single click, or for a set of impressions, but the answer is actually a factor of your business model. If you are targeting the same audience as another company, but your business model is more efficient and your LTV is higher, then you can afford to pay more for the traffic without going upside down. The best thing you can do to win customers using ads is to have a great business model. It’s almost an unfair advantage because no amount of tips or tricks can overcome this one stronghold. If you can pay twice as much to acquire a customer then you have a very defensible strategy.
Consider the Various Personas of Your Customer
Your customers can probably be reached using various platforms. For instance, they are more than likely on Facebook and LinkedIn. You must then decide which persona they are utilizing when they want a product like yours. When someone is on Facebook they are thinking about friends and family. They are looking at photos of other people’s experiences. When people are on LinkedIn they are thinking about climbing the corporate ladder and how networking with others can help them reach their goals. If your product is for project management in agile environments then I wouldn’t choose Facebook, even though technically you could reach your demographic there. Yes, they would see your ad, but their mindset would be incorrect because you are introducing yourself to them in the wrong place. Always think about the persona your customers exhibit while using your particular product before choosing an ad platform.
Circumvent the Ad Networks When Possible
This tactic may not scale easily, but it is still well worth mentioning. You could go to BuySellAds (or other places) and buy banner ads on a particular blog that your audience reads. However, if you cut out the middleman (BuySellAds) and go directly to the owner of the blog then you can get cheaper rates for two reasons. First, BuySellAds is making a cut of every transaction, so if you go direct that is money that you can recoup without the blog owner losing anything. Second, you are able to negotiate. Very rarely is the lowest price and the advertised price the same thing. You can ask for a lower rate and often close a deal relatively simply.
If You Are Paying Per click Then Qualify Every Click
There are two ways to buy ads. First you can purchase them on a CPM basis, which means you pay for set number of impressions and it doesn’t matter how many clicks they get. Second, you can pay per click and this means that it doesn’t matter how many times your ad appears, you only pay when your ad is clicked. If you are paying per click then you don’t want people to click your ad unless they are seriously interested, because it costs you money every time they do. Luckily, there are things you can do to qualify clicks using the ad itself. Consider putting the price of your product in the copy so that people don’t click unless they are interested in spending money. Also, don’t use emotion to pull them in unless that same emotion will cause them to buy from you. Don’t put a picture of cute cat on your ad, just to get cat lovers to click on it, if your product doesn’t have something to do with cats.
Test Variations of Your Ad
One of the most fundamental lessons of ads is that you have no idea what your audience will respond to. You have to test multiple versions of the copy, multiple versions of the imagery, and then multiple combinations of the copy and imagery together. The numbers will tell you the truth about which ads you should be running, but your intuition or gut is probably not accurate.
2. Promo Swap
One of the easiest, and free, ways to drive traffic to your site is through cross promotions with other companies. If you find a company who is already serving your target demographic, and you wouldn’t be considered a threat to them, then there are plenty of ways that you could coordinate to promote each other. Here are some ideas to help you brainstorm possibilities:
- Swap Tweets: Each company sends out a tweet to their followers about the other company.
- Swap Facebook Posts: Each company writes a post on their Facebook page about the other company.
- Dedicated Email Swap: Each company send out an entire email about the other company.
- Sponsored Email Swap: Each company puts a “sponsored by” link in their existing newsletter, linking to the other company.
- Ad Space Swap: Each company allows the other company to place a banner ad on their website or blog.
- Pre-roll Video Swap: Each company gives away video ad space to the other company.
- Giveaway Swap: Each company promotes a giveaway from the other company on their blog.
Another way to push people toward your site is by hiring affiliates. This is an arrangement where you pay someone every time they reach a certain goal for you, like getting a visitor to your site, or activating a member. An affiliate might use many of the tactics in this book, but you are paying them to do it instead of worrying about it yourself. Here are a few things to know if you are going to use this tactic:
Think Carefully About the Incentives
If you give an affiliate $100 for every new signup, but there is no clause that says the new signup has to stick around for a certain number of months, then you could find yourself in a situation with misaligned incentives. The affiliate would be rewarded for getting you low quality customers that cancel quickly because it doesn’t affect their profit either way. Create a system where the affiliate only benefits if you benefit.
Don’t Roll Your Own Affiliate Solution
There are a number of products that will allow you to easily get up and running on the technical side of creating an affiliate system, and on the acquisition side of finding affiliates to promote your product. There are products like Commission Junction that will connect you with affiliates, and products like Omnistar that actually track affiliate payouts.
Vet Every New Affiliate Early On
When someone becomes an affiliate for you then they are representing your business to some extent. The tactics they use, the language they employ, and their general style, is a reflection on you. They may not be an employee, but they will be the front of your brand for the people they reach. Choose your affiliates very carefully.
4. Direct Sales
I’m going to be honest, this is a hard one to categorize as a growth hacking tactic, but it is a way to get traffic at the top of the funnel so I would be remiss to completely ignore it. Direct sales teams do not work for every kind of product, but in some cases it is a worthwhile tactic. AppStack, a startup that creates mobile websites in conjunction with mobile ads for local businesses, was able to grow revenues to over 50k a month in a relatively short amount of time, and their primary strategy was direct telephone sales. I use them as an example because it’s hard to imagine a startup using this method, but some of them do, and it actually can work.
- A push tactic usually involves interrupting the content that is being consumed.
- Push tactics usually cost money.
- Since money is involved with push tactics you must understand the lifetime value of your customers (LTV), so that you don’t spend more money on a customer then you’ll make from them.
- We covered 4 push tactics: purchase ads, promo swap, affiliates, and direct sales.