Let’s start with some facts.
Our growth blueprint has helped us gain over 10,000 users in our first 12 months. 60% of them are active monthly. Broadstone is listed in the top 100 business apps in the App Store, beating out big names like PayPal and Xero.
Want to know how we got there?
It’s simple: we used a growth blueprint. This blueprint guides every facet of our growth. And I’m going to share it with you so you can use it to grow your own company.
In three simple steps, this blueprints helps you align your organizational priorities with growth. If you put this plan into action at your business, you’ll see an increase in the effectiveness of your marketing and acquisition efforts.
Don’t believe me? Check out the results we’ve gotten using the blueprint ourselves:
We haven’t just added more users, but we’ve added more new users than last month, every month.
It took us 11 months to reach out first 5,000 users. Then only 3 months to go from 10,000 - 15,000.
If you’re thinking that users is a vanity metric, then you’d be right. So let’s take a look at the growth in shifts worked through our platform:
You might be wondering why we’d make our growth blueprint public if it’s been so instrumental in our success. Let me address this right away. Our product and community efforts are even more important to our growth. So we’re not worried about people taking the blueprint and using it against us. Facebook Ads are easy, building a product people love is hard.
Before we get into the details of the blueprint, let’s make sure we agree on what we’re talking about.
How We Define Growth
Most people define growth as the number of new users they acquire. This is usually measured in signups, installs, traffic and conversions.
But that’s not how we define growth.
New user measurements are short-sighted and miss out an important part of the equation. Instead, we look at the number of Broadstone users who experience the application and realise the promise we’ve made to them.
When that number goes up, we’ve experienced growth.
Rather than being an extension of digital marketing efforts like paid media and SEO, growth is the process by which we help people realise and share the value of Broadstone.
This focus helps us run a business that satisfies the desires of the market—not just our own. In turn, our market rewards us with their referrals, reducing the money we spend on marketing. We can invest more resources into the customer experience. It’s a cycle that benefits everybody.
The best visualization of this process is the Growth Loops framework popularised by Brian Balfour, Casey Winters, Kevin Kwok, and Andrew Chen.
When our marketing works well, the growth loop powers itself. That’s what growth means to us at Broadstone.
To foster that growth, we created the Broadstone Growth Blueprint. It’s a three-step process. And now you can use it to grow your own business.
Growth Blueprint Step 1: Gather Data
There’s a saying that applies especially well when you’re growing a startup: “In God we trust. All others must bring data.”
This is the philosophy we use at Broadstone.
For a long time, Google Analytics was the primary source of marketing. Today, product analytics are available to even very small companies with few resources.
Improved data means that marketing activities can now drive the entire growth loop. This data helps us acquire a customer, encourage them to help us acquire another customer, and so on. This creates a larger talent pool, which drives more jobs to the platform and encouraging users to invite more of their friends.
We use a variety of tools to make it happen:
Facebook, Twitter, and Google Pixels
Even before we used social media and Google ad platforms, we installed their tracking pixels on our application. That helped us start collecting data and building audiences that we could use later.
If you’re already running ads on these platforms, it’s especially important to track your users and their behavior. Installing the necessary tools to collect and analyze this data isn’t hard, so there’s no excuse. Get them set up right away.
We can’t ensure a positive user experience if we don’t know how people are using our application.
Mixpanel lets us see what people are doing in the application. It paid off almost immediately after we installed it—we identified a bottleneck in our onboarding. Removing it drastically increased the number of people who registered and went on to apply for a job.
From 10.16% in April 2018, to 24.43% in June 2018.
Product analytics have completely changed how software companies relate to their customers. Instead of relying on user feedback, developers can now see exactly how users are using their software.
You’d be amazed at how much this can change your entire business.
This is especially important for our business. Broadstone works best when we saturate a tight geographic area.
To retain users, we need a consistent supply of jobs that match their needs. One of those needs is proximity—if jobs aren’t close to where people live, they won’t apply. And we need people to apply to jobs. If someone registers for Broadstone and doesn’t find a relevant job in a few months, we’ll lose that user.
It’s also important for referrals (we’ll talk about why referrals are so crucial in the next point). We’ve designed the app to foster referrals, and they’re a big part of our organic marketing, too. The security industry is tight-knit—security professionals work and talk with each other regularly.
To maximise referrals, we need a group of people that communicates a lot. Focusing on specific areas for referral campaigns makes sense.
Using locational data is still a work in progress for us. But it’s an important one. We’re using our own data, an extract-transform-load tool, and a data display tool to make it happen. Stitch and Tableau are our tools of choice. This helps us match both supply and demand on a local basis.
Growth Blueprint Step 2: Referrals
You don’t get “hockey stick” growth without referrals. They’re absolutely crucial for early-stage growth. Getting your name out to your target market is hard. If you can get your target market to help you, you’ll find it easier.
You can only do so much on the marketing side when you’re getting started. Kicking off a content marketing campaign takes a long time. Ads are limited by your available cash (though they’re very important; we’ll touch on this shortly).
Before we started on other marketing methods, we wanted to make sure that every user we acquire invites two more. If we could do that, we knew that our other marketing efforts would be more successful.
We pursued this goal in three ways:
- We built referrals into the app itself. Making a referral gives people a bonus and helps their friends. It’s a win all around.
- We designed our acquisition strategy to create dense networks rather than dispersed ones.
- We make sure everyone has the best possible experience with Broadstone.
The final point is the most important one. If someone doesn’t have a good experience, they won’t make a referral. They’ll also probably leave the platform. And if it’s really bad, they’ll encourage others to not use the platform.
We made referrals the core of our value proposition from the start of our company. Rather than go after high user numbers, we used the three tactics above to build a referral engine.
That referral engine runs our growth loop.
Growth Blueprint Step 3: Amplification
When we enter new markets, we need to catalyse growth. Our referral engine needs fuel to spin up. Our growth loop needs input.
So we use methods like Facebook and search engine ads. Facebook ads have been especially useful for us.
We found a niche search engine that was responsible for much of our early growth (and it saved us money over running ads on Google). Community outreach played an important role as well.
You may notice that these are things that don’t scale. But that’s fine. Even if a particular tactic doesn’t scale well, we know it’s worth the time, because our viral model increases the efficiency of our business in the long run. If we can use a non-scalable tactic to start up the growth loop, we will.
Even using tactics that don’t scale, we’ve been able to maintain and lower our cost-per-acquisition throughout our growth. We’ve never had problems with the efficiency of our marketing efforts because our users do most of the marketing.
Build Your Own Growth Loop
Our growth loop is built on three distinct factors: gathering data, encouraging referrals, and using amplification to kickstart the process.
It’s easy to do these in the wrong order. You might be tempted to amplify your product first, then collect data to see if it’s working, and finally start pushing for referrals.
But that’s the wrong way to go about it.
Instead, you need to collect data first. Gather data with an eye towards how you can get more referrals. Where do your users congregate, both online and in the real world? How deep are their connections to each other? How can you use the data to foster better connections?
Then you can jump into referral marketing. Make it easy for people to refer each other to your service. Start a referral program and give people the tools they need to benefit from those referrals (both giving and getting with each referral is of great importance).
Finally, start amplifying your marketing. Once you know that your users are making referrals, start pushing to get more users. But don’t back off of your referral efforts. They’re absolutely crucial for continued growth.
Once you’ve gotten all three elements in place, focus on providing great service and using non-scalable tactics to spin up your referral engine. In the end, you’ll build a great reputation and have all the right people sharing that reputation for you.
Have you used referral marketing to grow your business? Leave a comment and tell us about it!