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Growth Hacks? Not so Fast

Do you know how long someone is likely to spend on your website? According to Nielsen Norman Group, 10 to 20 seconds. You put all that effort into building a site to showcase your business, and you get very little time to make an impression. And worse, once those people have visited your site, if you didn't convert them into customers the first time, you likely will not get another chance.

This was week 3 of the GovStart Program at PUBLIC, as well as Launch Week at EF. Edoardo and I have taken our first steps into the world of marketing. I have to be honest, it’s all pretty new stuff to us. I can’t imagine we’re the first technology entrepreneurs to feel this way! Up until this point our growth has been driven by word of mouth, and without any marketing spend. 

However, if we’re going to scale we need to reach a much larger audience much more quickly. 

The problem is that there is currently nothing comparable on the market, we are unique; and that’s a blessing and a curse. If you sell apples, the consumer knows what to expect. But people have never heard of a data protection bot. Therefore getting our message, language and value proposition finely attuned to our target audience is absolutely key.

Is Growth Hacking like Life Hacking?

So what do you do when you have no idea how to benchmark outcomes vs. costs? Every dollar we spend that doesn't turn into growth, we've diluted ourselves. We've been told we need to learn to "growth hack" which simply means build a funnel of potential customers by finding the keywords they use and the platforms they frequent. So we've engaged a few consultants, and its been quite an experience.

Just the term "growth hack" makes me nervous. It reminds of some of the "life hacks" I've seen in the past that turned out to the less than useful; for instance this piece explaining that I've been eating bananas wrong my entire life. There a lot of people who are labelling themselves as growth hackers but many are unwilling to commit to firm targets which makes me feel like the advice I am buying is just a banana turned around! Obviously I could have done that myself!

Start Small, Go Slowly, and Use your Network

So what have we learned? My advice to anyone following in our footsteps, is to start small and go slowly (at least initially). Before launching a Google Adwords campaign, and a Facebook campaign, study your audience. It is important to make sure your targets use the platforms upon which you are spending. 

If you are targeting students, don't use Bloomberg. If you are after baby boomers, Snapchat doesn't make sense. We weren't quite sure which platform was right for us, and so we decided to allocate a small amount of money to each to see which generated the best results. Because we don't know for sure the right way to proceed, we are collecting as much data as possible each step of the way.

Next, personal recommendations are invaluable when you are entering new areas for the first time. We have relied heavily on friends and mentors to introduce us to growth hackers who have helped us understand the landscape more fully, allowing us to make more informed decisions. 

Finally, exploit London. One of the benefits of being based here is the tremendous startup support community. For example, we are members of the Google Campus facility, a free co-working space for anyone working on a tech startup. In addition to the physical space, the Google Campus community provided us with some free growth hacking advice, and is just one example of the multitude of ways in which London supports technology entrepreneurs. 

Whilst this is very much an experiment for us, I’m enjoying learning new areas and having my skill set stretched. We've launched our new site with our new logo (big thanks to Kika!), inspired by one of my favourite brands of all time, and we can't wait to hear the feedback from our customers (as well as visitors who only stay for 10 seconds.)

Benjamin Falk, co-founder of Yo-Da, was talking to David Savage

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