Red tapism, corporate innovation and growth

Innovate or die – haven’t we all heard this? Add red tapism and innovation in the same sentence, sounds conflicting, right?

Organisations try to live up to “Innovate or die” by trying to become Agile or migrating to cloud services or adopting OKRs, basically moving in the right direction to be able to deliver better and faster. As technology advances exponentially, customers become more demaning, organisations must now be able to quickly respond to market demands in order to compete, which requires agility.

However, trying to be agile in an established, organization with legacy systems and non-agile methods is a big challenge. Untangling teams and systems that have always worked in silos is a big hurdle and the hardest part of any organisational transformation, not to forget the red tape created by outdated processes. Earlier, organisations created processes and procedures to ensure predictable outcomes, to mitigate risks. The processes designed did not have much room for experimentation or agility. But in the current digital landscape, this type of bureaucracy is simply too time consuming and not at all cost-effective.

  • Most enterprises have standardised tedious approval processes where some of the people approving do not even possess the technical know how to judge or review the matter in question. This ends up in unending rounds of justifying the simplest decision.
  • Procurement teams also add to the red tapism making it difficult for teams to acquire services and products that can speed up their development. We have all been through this – waiting months to get Slack or JIRA approved. And IT Security will not allow Trello or Google Drive, so go figure!
  • And then there is the fear of cloud solutions. There is no denying privacy is a major concern when it comes to data and customers want to ensure that the services and products they use, handle their data well. But a cloud solution provider is more likely to have robust, well-configured firewalls and data security practices than an average enterprise, as it is the focus of their business. Keeping in mind that the cost of regulatory compliance will be substantial, but the cost of non-compliance will be higher, is important while choosing cloud service vendors.
  • To top it all there is the fear of unknown, which is a huge blocker for innovation, it is therefore important to educate and get a buy-in from everyone involved on a transformation journey.

To be able to innovate, enterprises need to deliver end-to-end business value in increments, test and validate results before starting full scale development. Creating a culture of testing and experimentation demands processes and methodologies that support faster delivery of customer-centric value, with constant room for improvement.

Starting off testing a few assumptions that could lead to a potential minimum viable product should not require written approval from legal, compliance, finance, risk management, procurement, etc. Experimenation could be conducted with data masking and that should not entail long winded paperwork such as a detailed risk analysis and architectural artefacts.
Red tapism is a sure shot way to kill creativity which in turn ensures no innovation or improvement.

If organisations really want faster qualitative deliveries, freethinking leaders should not be afraid to rock the corporate boat and cut some slack in terms of obsolete processes and procedures.

Four steps to becoming a Data-Driven organisation

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Not a day goes by when our LinkedIn news feed is not flooded with the mentions of AI and Machine Learning benefitting and changing the ways of mankind, like never before. This hype surrounding AI, Machine learning has resulted in most organisations jumping on the bandwagon without proper evaluation. A couple of years ago, the term Big Data enjoyed a similar hyped status but it has been losing it’s lustre to all the talk about AI and Machine Learning, lately.

The truth, however, is that, AI and Big data need to coexist and converge. Merely collecting and storing data in huge amounts will prove futile, unless AI and Analytics are used to generate meaningful insights that help businesses, enhance customer experience or increase revenue influx.

Making an organisation Data-Driven will take time and will happen in stages. While there are no sure shot ways to create a Data-Driven organisation, below are some ways that could lead to a change:

  1. Strategy – It all starts with a clearly defined strategy in place, stating the Whys, Hows, Whos and Whens. A clear strategy helps in raising awareness across the organisation, about the topic in focus (data in this case) and creates a sense of urgency around the change process. It is imperative that the entire organisation understands the importance and implications of a data-driven organisation, thus encouraging people to update their skill sets and raise their level of data awareness. An all round data strategy should not only include the technology required for execution but the kind of competence and people skills and the sort of conducive atmosphere required for a data-driven organisation to thrive.
  2. People – Just as there are different kinds of skills required within a Marketing or a Software organisation, there are different skill sets for the different job roles within a data organisation. But due to the hype surrounding Machine Learning and AI while companies lack the practical knowledge in data know-how, the tendency is to either hire the wrong people or assign the wrong tasks to the right people! Not everyone has to be a data scientist in the data organisation. There will be people required to work on data architecture, data infrastructure, data engineering, data science and the Business Analysts. These could very well be the same person, if the organisation is lucky enough. But it is unfair to hire a data engineer and assign him/her the task of building Predictive models or hiring a data Scientist to be told to develop BI reports. Strategists will have to spend the time required to understand the nuances of skills and expertise required in a data organisation but it will be worth it, to retain and grown the talent pool required for a Data-driven organisation.
  3.  Patience – Creating a Data-driven organisation will require ample amounts of patience and perseverance. If data has not been involved in the decision making process, earlier,  then the data is most probably not in a state that can be used readily or maybe there is no or not enough data to begin with! In that case, it has to start with gathering the data required to achieve the business goals. Transaction systems have a very different database design than the data storage mechanisms used for Analytics purposes, which entails a design and architecting process before being able to analyse the data. Moreover, as Analysts dig into the transaction data, they surely will encounter non-existence of relevant data, data retrieval issues and unearth data quality issues and data integration problems due to the existence of data silos. In a data-driven organisation, all data sources are integrated to provide a single enterprise version of truth, irrespective of Customer data or Sales or Marketing data. A data platform, integrating all business data sources, ensuring quality and data integrity and security is a time-consuming process. Organisations will have to take this lead time into consideration when strategizing a Data-driven decision making approach.
  4. Organisational Culture – The purpose of a Data-driven organisation is to empower employees by means of data and information sharing to enable the organisation to collectively achieve the business goals. This approach requires employees to be data aware and not use gut feelings to make decisions and this could be a whole new approach for many. This new way of working requires organisational change management, educating people to use facts and figures to arrive at conclusions and make decisions. If an organisation is fairly data aware, in the sense that metrics are used to measure certain processes, in order to turn Data-driven , the organisation has to take steps to use data proactively (read Predictive Analytics) and not just summarise events that happened. The CDOs/ CMOs need to drive data awareness by showcasing quick wins and success cases of Data-driven approaches, as a means to use data as the foundation in every decision making process.

Some organisations may take longer to implement a Data-driven culture than others but there is no way an organisation can become Data-driven, just like that, one fine day! If the CDOs can gauge that the organisation has a longer incubation period then it is good to start with raising data awareness and introducing a BI/ Datawarehousing team. It is not recommended to directly leap on to AI, hiring data scientists, to be then left in a lurch if the organisation and the infrastructure are pretty rudimentary to handle their expertise.

A Data-driven organisation culture starts with the right strategy in place, followed by the right people and technology, evaluating and optimising the entire process, intermittently.

Continuous delivery of Analytics

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I am biased towards Analytics not only because it is my bread and butter but also my passion. But seriously, Analytics is the most important factor that helps drive businesses forward by providing insights into sales, revenue generation means, operations, competitors and customer satisfaction.

wud-slovakia-2015-datadriven-design-jozef-okay-8-638Analytics being paramount to businesses, the placement of it is still a matter of dispute. The organisations that get it right and are using data to drive their businesses, understand fully well that Analytics is neither a part of IT nor a part of business. It is somewhere in between, an entity in itself.

The insights generated from Analytics is all about business drivers:

  • Performance of the product (Product Analytics)
  • How well is the product perceived by customers (Customer Experience)
  • Can the business generate larger margins without increasing the price of the product (Cost Optimisation)
  • What is the bounce rate and what causes bounce (Funnel Analytics)
  • Getting to know the target audience better (Customer Analytics)

While the above insights are business related and require a deep understanding of the product, online marketing knowledge, data stickiness mastery and product management skills, there is a huge IT infrastructure behind the scenes to be able gather the data required and generate the insights.

To be able to generate the business insights required to drive online and offline traffic or increase sales, organisations need to understand their targeted customer base better. Understanding customer behaviour or product performance entails quite a number of technical tasks in the background:

  • Logging events on the website or app such as registration, add to cart, add to wish list, proceed to payment etc. (Data Pipelines)
  • Having in place a scalable data storage and fast computing infrastructure, which requires knowledge about the various layers of tech stack
  • Utilising machine learning and AI to implement Predictive Analytics and recommendations
  • Implementing data visualisation tools to distribute data easily throughout the organisation to facilitate data driven decision making and spread data literacy

As is the case, Analytics cannot be boxed into either Tech or Business. It is a conjoined effort of both business and tech to understand the business requirements and translate the same into technically implementable steps. Many organisations make the mistake of involving Analytics at the end stage of product or concept development, which is almost a sure shot fiasco. Analytics needs to be involved at every step of a product development or customer experience or UX design or data infrastructure to make sure that the events, the data points that lead to insights, are in place from the beginning.

Delivering Analytics solutions is a collaborative effort that involves DevOps, data engineers, UX designers, online marketeers, social media strategists, IT strategists, Business Analysts, IT/Data architects and data scientists. A close co-operation between tech and business leads to continuous delivery of smarter and faster automations, enhanced customer experience and business insights.

Build. Measure. Evaluate. Optimise. Reevaluate.

 

 

Six Great Marketing Hacks For Startups on a Shoestring Budget

 

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Startups are built around the idea of a product, with entire teams focused on crafting the perfect app experience. But once a product is built and ready for an audience, or if it needs enough traction to secure a round of funding, what should happen next?  The era of “build it and they will come” is over –  to spread the word about the product and harness an audience, marketing is key. Venture capitalists usually look for functional products that customers are already using and a plan to continue growing before investing. Whether your goal is to bootstrap or to raise venture capital for your startup, you won’t get anywhere if you can’t both build it and sell it.

In order to secure funding, startups are required to boast a substantial customer base and in order to be able to acquire customers, marketing is essential. But the good news is that marketing is not all about expensive marketing automation tools and hiring digital marketing specialists. Not only is social media marketing a boon for startups, there are a few more hacks to market the frugal way!

Let’s get started with some of the ways to get the word out about a startup product:

1. A picture is worth a thousand words

Pictures tell a story that are otherwise difficult to articulate.  When it comes to customer engagement, Instagram rules. People sharing the same interest connect through hashtags. Using catchy feel-good hashtags that are associated with the product give a boost to the promotion. For example, if promoting the launch of a toothpaste a peppy hashtag like #Riseandshine will win the toothpaste company many followers as it strikes a chord. Posting often and relevant images — not just about the product but images of related events, products and emotions — will keep the customer engaged and interested. Posting on Instagram does not of course involve money.

French photo printing company Cheerz lets customers easily print their mobile phone pictures from Instagram or Facebook in formats such as Posters, or Magnets. Cheerz use creative and feel good campaigns on Instagram targeting holiday seasons or festivities, to promote their product to print personal images meanwhile inspiring and offering inspiration about home decor with the pictures involved.

Engaging with customers to make them feel part of the product is a sure shot way to win some accolades and loyalty. Starbucks has implemented customer engagement on Instagram by resharing images posted by its fans, earning them goodwill. Here’s an example of Starbucks reaching out to an Instagram user, asking permission to use a great shot of its classic red holiday mug next to a Christmas tree as its Facebook cover image.

A big brand like Mercedes Benz has also turned to Instagram to attract potential customers through a brilliant Instagram campaign to promote the GLA sports utility vehicle by letting the targeted segment of consumers customise and design their new car. The Instagram campaign #gla_build_your_own allows the customers to create their own version of their coveted new car by choosing colour, wheels and roofs. The campaign resulted in increasing the site visits and brand awareness, manifold.

  1. Social Media Marketing

Facebook and twitter are powerful mediums of marketing. Getting customers engaged is the key, by replying to their comments and retweeting. It is, however, imperative to analyze traffic generated by Facebook and twitter to get to know the audience that is interested in the product.

Creating Facebook ads using Ads Manager to target the right audience using parameters to define the appropriate age, demographics, interests and behaviors is quite a low cost marketing gimmick. Facebook also provides an easy way to retarget customers who have abandoned shopping carts or have shown an interest in a product but have not taken the leap to purchase, this post elaborates the steps involved in retargeting customers.

Facebook for Businesses provides many easy to use features for marketing, at pretty low costs. Facebook marketing enables startups to target the right audience by creating custom audiences and boosting posts to increase outreach, geo targeting by promoting products using location based marketing and Facebook also provides insights to be able to measure campaign effectiveness. Here are some great success stories that have been able to create brand awareness and generate revenue using Facebook marketing.

Youtube video advertising is again a great way to spread the word about your product at low costs and it includes features like targeting through customer segmentation and analytics to measure and analyze the traffic..

Analyzing Facebook and Twitter data generates great insights about consumer demographics and sentiments. In order to analyze Facebook and Twitter, open source code like R and Python are freely available on the internet, which when connected to Facebook and Twitter APIs can extract and analyze data regarding customer names, age, geographic location, number of likes, shares , comments, popular hashtags associated with the tweets. One does not have to be an ace programmer to be able to connect to these APIs using R and Python, there are numerous blogs and websites, stating step by step code snippets to connect to Facebook and Twitter APIs to extract and analyze data. Here is an example of steps to connect, fetch data from Facebook and analyze it.

Not only can the Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter APIs be used to generate online customer behavior and help target the befitting audience, the APIs can also be used to conduct competitive analysis by analyzing hashtags that are associated with a competitor’s products.

Social media management product Hootsuite offers a free version to manage up to 3 social networks from a single easy-to-use interface. Basic Analytics, Reports and basic scheduling capabilities that make the life easier for a marketeer, at no cost. Hootsuite also makes it easier to use influencer marketing to promote products by tracking online conversations for hashtags or keywords to spot influencers. Influencers could be buyers themselves but could also very well be bloggers or writers with social influence. When influencers express an interest in a product the outreach is impactful.

3. Utilising trial versions of marketing tools

Trial versions of most marketing tools, are available free of cost for customers, for a limited period. This is not a long term arrangement but while the startup is struggling to get itself noticed, at the same time trying to keep the costs low, it is a blessing. Marketing tools like Marketo, Hubspot, Adobe, Tableau all have trial versions of their tools that can be downloaded for free for a period of 15-30 days, not to forget the free version of Google Analytics. Utilizing the trial version tools also serve as an opportunity to evaluate marketing tools available in the market, that are most suited for the job at hand.

Webhose provides access to data from several sources such as news sites, social sites, blogs and from several different technical platforms with quick integration capabilities, requisites that expedite the new age data driven marketer’s job. Webhose comes with a free trial period which can be utilised to analyze multichannel data sources.

4. Free Market Survey tools

Launching a new product entails verifying that a potential market for the product exists. And if similar products already exist in the market, then it is worth checking information used to identify potential customer segments, opportunities and problems faced to further optimize marketing efforts. Free market survey products such as SurveyMonkey help startups to gather consumer insights and feedback  to optimize their product.

San Francisco based Happy Goat Caramel gained insights about which factors of their product mattered most to their customers by using information gathered through SurveyMonkey. The feedback gathered also helped Happy Goat make strategic decisions about their product and pricing in order to accomplish their growth aspirations.

Market research data that can be fetched from web crawlers or market research companies helps companies gather information about marketing campaigns designed by their competitors. Data regarding the competitor’s ad spend, methods used, SEO techniques can be helpful in creating ad copy optimization.

While working for a media giant, I was involved in a marketing effort where the aim was to increase the market share for the company in regards to online advertising. We gathered data about the big buyers and their ad spend behavior for example if they invested mostly in mobile advertising or print, the kind of advertising – native or branded video, if the method used for ad buying was programmatic or through media agencies, from Market Research companies. This information about customer ad spend gave us an edge over the competitors by being able to target the big spenders in a much more personalised manner through marketing campaigns, thereby increasing the share of wallet. This example can be used for any business case, using market research data to figure out ways to have an edge over competitors marketing strategy can yield only good results.

Data regarding consumer behaviour, preferences, trends, interesting segments are gathered by market research companies, which are usually available, on purchase. But a few government agencies, websites and nonprofit organizations make their market research data open to the general public, enabling SWOT analysis (analysis of Strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for a business) saving startups, on meagre budgets, additional expenses.

5. Crowdsourcing content and outreach

Improbable as it may seem but it is very much happening. Startups can engage customers by running contests for the wittiest hashtag and then getting the winner featured on their social media channels. Who does not like fame? Similarly, startup organizations can conduct surveys on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to gain insights about the general opinion about the product. As far as advertising is concerned, customers would feel empowered and a part of the product development journey if they contribute to social media advertising. Considering the toothpaste launching company as an example, starting a campaign by asking customers to post pictures that they can associate with #riseandshine will not only drive more web traffic and create brand awareness, but also contribute to great brand storytelling.

Chaordix Crowd Intelligence process and platform facilitates hundreds of thousands of high-value customer submissions, comments from social media platforms to gather feedback on new products, services and marketing campaigns. Chaordix’s small-business-centric Pro plan costs only $99 per month.

This marketing gig by Unilever to promote Magnum ice creams by letting customers design their own ice creams was a huge hit with customers posting images on social media with a hashtag #magnumstockholm, acting as brand ambassadors.

When it comes to crowdsourcing content marketing – there are numerous talented bloggers and writers that wish for nothing more than a platform to showcase their writing skills, liasoning with such skillful writers to roll out great content on the sites is a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Refuga, a travelpreneur site has a team of crowdsourced writers spread across the globe, writing content for them, not only to showcase their writing to a worldwide audience of entrepreneurs but also winning a free trip per year for adequate amount of high quality articles in return. It is a mutually beneficial collaboration and has worked out well for me, personally.

  1. Marketing swag

To create brand familiarity, giving away branded merchandise at events or as contest prizes or as an incentive is a great idea. But again, it does not necessarily imply a huge cost. Surely there exist startup companies that have tote bags, personalised mugs or USB sticks as their products. Collaborating with such companies to co-sponsor advertising and promote brand awareness, while sharing costs, is a wise thing to do.

New Relic is a SaaS (Software as a Service) application performance management that provides comprehensive, real time visibility into web and mobile applications. New Relic uses marketing swag in the form of their Data Nerd t-shirt which acts as a motivator for their buyers to try the software and deploy it. And of course the subsequent tweets and Instagram images of the t shirts only add to the website traffic volume and brand awareness.

There could be countless other ways to market products on a shoestring that I will add to the list as and when I get brainwaves. Please feel free to share your ideas, views or tips about marketing on a limited budget.

AARRR Metrics for a Fintech

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 Lets assume this is a case study for a Fintech company’s KPI definition.

Company X is a Fin Tech company providing payment solutions to SME and small businesses via mobile app, card reader and NFC. Company X solutions provide bookkeeping and analytics features to its customers by means of tracking its product usage and events.

Tracking mobile app usage and web sites are done by using web and mobile analytics tools such as Localytics, Flurry, Google Analytics, Tealium, Xiti etc. But in some cases the data from the analytics tools are not enough to deduce conclusions and hence require additional data from various systems such as CRM, Financial transaction systems, CMS and inventory control systems. Due to the need for blending data from disparate systems, a data strategy needs to be defined and a robust and scalable data architecture needs to be in place.

I would like to provide two relevant blog posts from my own blog that point to the concepts of growth hacking and data blending.

Data Value Chain

Growth Hacking

KPIs

Data monetization for the growth of businesses, entails tracking user behavior both online and offline to optimize products and processes. A list of KPIs or metrics to measure product usage and means of revenue generation are used as a guideline for data monetization efforts. Whether it is to assess global performance of a site, measure the impact of a specific campaign or product feature change, a set of indicators will be needed to focus on the changing parameters.

There are 5 metrics defined by Dave McClure : Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referrals, Revenues or AARRR also known as the pirate metrics that serve as a good indicator of business growth.

For each of the metric area there are several KPIs defined. For each of the KPIs there are again 4 essential components or ways of analyzing:

  • Data points – Data points are the points in the app or site that generate interesting insights about the business in question. It could be individual features in the product or events.
  • Funnels – Setting up funnels ensures tracking all the steps that lead to completion of a particular process on the site or app like tracking steps that lead to an online payment page or the steps that lead to a signing up for a newsletter.
  • Segmentation – Segmenting the potential and existing customer base to be able to understand their wants and needs in order to be able to serve them better, which is a means of revenue generation. Segmentation can be
  • Behavioral – Users who spend lot of time on the site or app, frequently login or rarely login, browsers, visitors that leave without making purchases or visitors that make purchases
  • Technical – The browsers used, the OS versions, devices used and if the users have saved the site as a bookmark or enter the site through search engines or social networks
  • Demographics – Clustering users based on their age, gender, location etc.
  • Cohorts – Cohorts are also a type of segmentation but more from a time series perspective to be able to compare data sets at different points of time. For example checking trends or shopping behaviors at different points in time.

The pirate metrics for product usage can be broadly classified as below:

Acquisition

The process of acquiring customers, which would mean tracking new customers that visit the site or download the app or search the product. The KPIs for acquisition would include all the metrics that indicate a growth or changing trends:

  • Number of unique visitors
  • %mobile traffic
  • %web traffic
  • % traffic from social networks
  • % traffic from search engines
  • Number of app downloads
  • Visit trends
  • Page view trends
  • App Download trends
  • New User Account Creation Rate
  • Bounce Rate
  • Funnel analysis for conversion
  • Number of new customers in the last Month/Quarter
  • Number of new customers YoY growth
  • Campaign effectiveness – measuring the number of customers signing up or deregistering

 

Activation

When the users have logged in and have started using the product, the usage needs to be tracked to be able to further develop the product for better customer experience.

  • Page views
  • Time spent on the site
  • Hourly traffic
  • Seasonal traffic
  • Monthly Active Users
  • Number of paying customers in the last Month/Quarter
  • Number of paying customers YoY growth
  • Type of payments
  • Types of Merchants (small/SME/seasonal)
  • Types of businesses/industry
  • Type of most sold items
  • Customer Segmentation (Technical, Demographics, Behavioral) to understand customer’s need to use the product to improve product development

 

Retention

Retention is the process of retaining existing customers by continued service leading to customer satisfaction. Measuring the factors that lead to retaining customers is a good indicator.

  • Number of returning customers
  • Average time for transaction
  • of transactions
  • Transaction failure rate
  • Number of transaction per payment type
  • Peak hour
  • Peak Season
  • Types of Merchants
  • Average revenue per Merchant
  • Average Revenue per Merchant per branch/Industry type
  • Average time taken for deposit to merchants
  • Competitor Analysis through web/Facebook crawling
  • FaceBook engagement (Likes, Shares, Comments) per Month/week
  • Number of Complaints per category of complaint type
  • App Store Ratings/Review trends
  • Text Analysis for tweets/ Facebook comments
  • Number of cash payments Vs Card payments

 

Referrals

When the customer satisfaction index is high, the customers refer the products to others thereby acting as brand ambassadors. Referrals are a means to measure customer satisfaction because customers refer the product only when they are themselves happy with the product usage.

  • Number of visits coming from social media
  • Number of site entry from Facebook ads
  • Number of shares on Facebook
  • Text analysis of tweets and Facebook messages

Revenue

One of the most important part of a business is revenue generation as revenue is not only the sustenance factor but an indicator of growth.

  • Total Payment Volume
  • Total Net Revenues
  • Transaction losses
  • Net revenue YoY growth
  • Net revenue YoY growth per type of business
  • Net Revenue per type of card (Master/Visa)
  • Sales turnover of customers
  • Number of transactions per Month/Quarter
  • Number of transactions per type of business
  • Number of transactions per Location
  • Net revenue per platform (mobile app {ios/Android/ipad}/ card reader/NFC)
  • Net revenue per type of merchant
  • Average revenue per client
  • Average value per transaction
  • Peak volume of transactions per hour
  • Peak volume of transactions per hour per location per type of business (to be able to suggest to similar merchants about the optimum time and hour of transaction)
  • %churn
  • %churn per type of merchant/type of business/Month/Quarter
  • Average Selling price per type of Merchant per type of business
  • Average Selling price per type of Merchant per type of business trends – Monthly/Quarterly/Seasonal
  • Number of customers that have applied for loan
  • Type of customers (business/demographics) that have applied for loan via Company X

 

Conclusion

Product usage tracking to improve the overall product features and outreach is an iterative process involving several processes like continuous A/B testing, UX strategy, Analytics, ideation and product development. In order to create state of the art products, Company X needs to know who their audience is and how the product will make it easy for businesses to sell. By tracking product usage, the aim should be to learn deeply about the customers’ needs and behaviors to be able to generate great solutions, proactively. Iterating towards the solution that creates the most value by collecting and analyzing data is the key.

The Start-up Lifecycle

The start-up industry may appear very glamorous from the surface, but it entails endless meticulous planning and back breaking hard work, it’s anything but a cake-walk. Most success stories that come into limelight have already gone through testing times and been bitten by failure at some stage or the other and have survived the winds of change.FullSizeRender

The typical stages in a start-up are more or less as below:

  • Ideate – An idea that has been incubating for a while gets more concrete and is at a stage where it can be implemented. It has to be beyond the pen and paper stage, on the path to a more concrete objective.
  • Feasibility study – validate your idea, think through all the possibilities, market demands, fall back plan and get an initial feedback from friends and family about the viability of the idea.
  • Conceptualize the idea into a business case, planning the inception, the initial capital required, the source of fund, the launch of beta version of the product and the marketing of the same to acquire a customer base.
  • While you’re at it, you’ll need to create an online presence in this age of digitalization, you will have to be visible. Brand building and audience buying begins even before the actual launch of the product. Send out teasers in the social media, engage your potential customers and get them interested in your product.
  • To allure the venture capital funding, your product has to be foolproof in this age of competition. The VC firms have to see a potential market for the product to be convinced to invest in it. Be prepared to be grilled.
  • Midway, if gets bumpy and you realize start-up life is just not your cuppa, you should return to your plan B, in case you give up. But if you have a heart made of steel, there’s no stopping you….
  • Then slog even harder. Learn from mistakes. Curate and analyze:
  1. consumer behavior both offline and online
  2. abandoned baskets
  3. competitive analysis
  4. social media analysis
  5. shopping history

Success is hard work and in order to acquire new customers and retain the existing, there’s no short cut but to get the above steps right, if it does not work at once – reiterate. When success does come by, in the form of reaching targeted number of customers or reaching the targeted revenue, all the hard work does pay off. The incredible feeling of having achieved something, which is your own, based on your accomplishments, is almost hedonistic. Handmade success!

Growth Hacker’s Marketing

growth_hackingMarketing is being disrupted and no more run by only traditional non-technical marketeers. Marketing is supported by a wide range of – call it reporting, dashboarding, marketing analytics, marketing automation processes. Moreover, the startup scene is very exciting and a hot bed for innovation. Most startups spring into action sans a huge funding. The startups will have to grow exponentially, boasting a substantial customer base to be able to entice investors. Enter the growth hacker – with a single minded goal, growth!

Typically, the UX team designs the UX strategy, the product team develops the product, the coder codes in order to deliver the product and the marketeer tries selling the product. But with the new age disruptive marketing, the UX team, product team, code development team and the marketing team will have to work very closely, trying and testing every trick in the book to elevate growth. A growth hacker is a bit of all the above.

A growth hacker is more of a full stack employee armed with Swiss knife like multiple skill sets, analytical abilities being top rated. Growth hacking is primarily a focus within the startups, the budget being a constraint, lesser number of employees expected to contribute more. But with time, enterprise companies will adapt to growth hacking means of increasing revenue generation. Growth hacking is based on data, analyzing data to improve the business processes, to sell more, to convert more, to gain new customers and retain existing customers. Growth hacking does not entail data reporting only for the purpose of data visualization, it uses data to derive at hypotheses and reasoning to better understand and improve internet marketing.

So what’s growth hacking all about? Growth hacking is about

  • Improving user experince by A/B testing to reduce bounce rate
  • Content Marketing
  • Designing, implementing and analyzing sales funnel to reduce drop rates
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Channelizing all it takes to increase conversion rate
  • Using analytics to track click stream data about consumer’s online behavior
  • Analyzing past online or shopping behavior to be able to predict consumer’s probable behavior at the next visit
  • Social Media marketing – paramount for startups on shoe string budgets. Using Facebook, Twitter APIs to analyze the demographics of consumers sharing and liking the products, consumer opinion in social media and competitor analysis
  • Being able to analyze consumers that are likely to churn and the reasons behind, which can be addressed. Analyzing the response data from campaigns targeted at reducing churn, to measure campaign effectiveness.
  • Improving omnichannel advertising and using analytics to analyze data to conclude the channel that yields most and finding potential market opportunities

From the above list, growth, data and analytics are evidently the point of convergence for growth hacking. Growth hackers have to be inherently curious, tenacious, analytical and above all innovative. Growth hacking is an an art, not just number crunching or coding. It is the ability to see beyond code, to be able to analyze the implications of new features or every change in any part of the business processes that drive growth.

As Sean Ellis says, a “growth hacker’s true compass is north.