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11 Growth Marketing Stories From Successful Startups

By: Growth Kolony

9 out 10 startups fail.

It’s a tough pill to swallow if you’re a new startup founder but research concludes that 21.5% of startups fail in the first year, 30% in the second year, 50% in the fifth year, and 70% in their 10th year.

And really, growth hacking and marketing play a huge role in whether or not a startup fails or succeeds because a growth marketing agency (like ours) helps determine your product-market fit.

So if you’re struggling with growth, below, we highlight 11 growth marketing success stories that you can use for inspiration which may help you survive the law of 9 out of 10.

Let’s get right into it.

Growth Marketing Success Story #1: Instagram

In 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion.

During this time, it had 35 million users with no revenue. 10 months later, it grew to 100 million users and in 2018, it touched over 1 billion.

So, how did Facebook grow Instagram at such a fast rate?

The concept is very simple.

Facebook integrated its products with Instagram to cross-promote its users to use the app.

Cross-promotion is not anything new.

A lot of companies have been using cross-promotion as a growth hack to grow at an amazingly fast rate.

In today’s marketing world, there are tools like Madneto which allow you to discover potential brand partners and cross-promote with other brands.

Growth Marketing Success Story #2: Dollar Shave Club

Using videos for a marketing tactic is extremely effective but Dollar Shave Club incredibly changed how effective it can be.

The company took a boring topic and spun it into something entertaining and humourous worth sharing with friends.

The video went viral with over 20 million views and Dollar Shave Club grew to 1.1 million subscribers and eventually sold off to Unilever for a whopping $1 billion all-cash deal.

Growth Marketing Success Story #3: PayPal

PayPal’s big challenge was to get new customers.

Advertising was too expensive.

They needed organic viral growth.

So they started to give people money.

New customers got $10 for signing up and existing ones got $10 for referrals.

Growth went exponential and PayPal wound up paying $20 for each new customer.

Eventually, PayPal decided that the referral programs costs were too high but it certainly brought them a lot of customers early on, and possibly helped them cross the tipping point to growing exponentially.

growth marketing success story paypal

Growth Marketing Success Story #4: Groupon

Here’s a perfect example of applied social psychology.

By creating a sense of urgency Groupon puts users in a buy or else you’d miss out on a time-sensitive deal.

If you ever noticed an e-commerce website displaying how many items they have left in stock or how soon a deal would expire, they are creating a sense of urgency. 

In its early days, Groupon used this growth hack amazingly well but took it a step further.

Groupon needed a minimum number of people to buy the deal but they also had a limited quantity available.

Not only did it create a sense of urgency, but in order to take advantage of the deal, you had to spread the word about the deal and about Groupon.

Growth Marketing Success Story #5: The Sumo Group

Content upgrades are an increasingly popular growth hack to collect email subscribers.

Think of a 1,000-word informative blog post on a topic you’re interested in.

At the end of the post, you realize that whatever you read was just a trailer, and there was much more to it.

All users had to do was download a more detailed PDF to learn more.

A popup would appear to collect your email and a shiny new book (for free) would be sent to your inbox.

Sumo tried various content upgrades including downloadable spreadsheets, infographics, videos, cheat sheets and e-books.

Additionally, they created a 12,000-word guide to social sharing and published an e-book of the article.

They believed people were too lazy to read the entire article at once and that they’d rather download the e-book and read it later.

The e-book resulted in a whopping 21.2% conversion rate.

Growth Marketing Success Story #6: HubSpot

When HubSpot wasn’t as famous as it is today, it tried a lot of different things to acquire customers but none of them really worked.

Content marketing is great but almost everyone out there has a content marketing strategy in place. 

HubSpot’s founder built a small tool to grade websites on performance and SEO.

It was an incredible success and millions of people used the free tool to grade their websites.

It helped build an awareness of HubSpot and helped grow its email list.

The company’s founder credited the tool for its initial success and has since been revamping the tool and also launching others to acquire customers.

growth marketing success story hubspot

Growth Marketing Success Story #7: Gmail

In today’s world, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is a powerful growth hack and if you have a product that offers value to the masses, this tactic can be instrumental to your growth.

When Google launched its email service Gmail, it used an invite-only system to drive growth and it was a an instant hit.

It worked so well that people were running eBay auctions to sell invites.

However, use this strategy very carefully. Google has used this strategy for their Google+, Buzz, and Wave products that failed.

Also FOMO can be tricky for closed communities.

For example, using Gmail doesn’t require the email recipient or sender to also use the Gmail service.

But that’s not the case for Google+.

With closed communities, it’s best to ensure that you choose a small but connected community to send exclusive invites.

Facebook did this in its early days by sending exclusive invites to Harvard students.

Growth Marketing Success Story #8: Dropbox

We’ve all seen call-to-action prompts like “Like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter”.

Some brands go as far as running contests or announcing special rewards, like a free T-shirt, to incentivize users to spread the word on social media for overall growth.

Dropbox decided to go in a different direction.

With each follow or linking of social accounts, Dropbox would give 125 MB of storage space.

This growth hack was incredibly powerful.

Not only do users spread the word but they also were given more reasons to keep using the product.

Today, Dropbox has over 3.8 million Twitter followers and most of their growth success goes to this powerful growth hack.

Growth Marketing Success Story #10: Netflix

Back when Netflix was into DVD rentals, it struck partnerships with DVD player manufacturers like Panasonic, Philips, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, and others to include a Netflix coupon inside the DVD player box sold to customers. 

This solved a critical problem faced by DVD manufacturers.

Customers didn’t want to buy DVD players since they found it difficult to buy DVDs, which were at the time weren’t widely available in stores.

By including a Netflix coupon in the box, the DVD manufacturers could showcase a library of more than one thousand titles to customers.

At the same time, Netflix benefited because they could easily target customers who owned a DVD player. Within a year, Netflix’s subscriber base doubled to 500,000 customers.

Growth Marketing Success Story #10: Hotmail

Freemium is a popular way to onboard customers today, especially for SaaS products.

Get your target audience to use your products and once their usage goes beyond a certain limit, or they need extra features, start charging them.

Super easy and efficient. 

But going freemium isn’t a growth hack.

Sure, it helps you, onboard customers, faster since they don’t need to pay, but it doesn’t get customers to your website in the first place.

But if you couple the freemium model with advertisements, it can really blossom into a great growth hack that’ll help spread the word.

Hotmail used this model to spread the word. Every email sent by Hotmail had a “Get your free email at” signature at the end.

That one line made the sender an advertisement to the recipient.

And the word spread fast.

Heck, an iPhone isn’t even free but Apple adopted the same strategy for an email with a “Sent from my iPhone” signature in the end.

However, tread easily if you’re planning to use this for your paid product.

Customers may not welcome it as much as they do Apple unless you’re a premium brand.

Growth Marketing Success Story #11: Airbnb

In its early days, Airbnb used an extremely bizarre way to grow.

They provided a feature on Airbnb to simultaneously post on their biggest competitor Craigslist. 

If you think about it, it was a genius growth hack at the time for Airbnb.

Craigslist had a massive customer base and Airbnb was new.

So, they gave their users the chance to post on Craigslist at the same time, and in fact, encouraged them to do so.

The Craigslist users that viewed the property were allowed to contact the owners only if they joined Airbnb.

They also noticed that Airbnb listings were far more superior than the other – nicer photographs, better descriptions, and more personal.

The rest is pretty much history.

Many claims that this single hack was responsible for Airbnb’s success.

Today, Airbnb has raised more than $4 billion and a valuation in excess of $30 billion.

If you have any questions about growth marketing and growing your online business feel free to call us at 1.888.593.4159 or chat with us in real-time on Twitter.

Growth Marketing Toronto

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