New year, new goals. And, for our SaaS family out there, we’re willing to bet some of those goals are pretty ambitious.
If you’re looking to supercharge your results this year, these growth hacking strategies are for you. In this article, we’ll break down what exactly ‘growth hacking’ means for SaaS companies in 2022 and share 14 growth hacking strategies that are worth considering.
What is a growth hacking playbook?
The phrase ‘growth hacking’ has been floating around for well over a decade now, and has been widely adopted in the startup and small business space.
In short, growth hacking playbook is a marketing recipe that is focused on creative strategies for quickly acquiring, activating and retaining new customers without requiring a lot of resources.
Growth hacking playbook for SaaS and startups
SaaS and growth hacking are a match made in heaven. After all, rapid growth won’t lead to a sudden issue with inventory or distribution, data is readily available, and you’ll learn more about how your customer interacts with your product with each experiment.
But there are two sides to every story, and while the competition is there, these staggering figures also tell us that the average consumer understands how SaaS works. They’re more willing to test new products and self-educate along the way to ensure that the product they’re using really solves their problem.
The superstars of the SaaS world use growth hacking to increase their user numbers quickly. Take Dropbox. They decide to give existing users extra storage for bringing friends on board, turning their customers into ambassadors. Co-Founder & CEO Drew Houston shared that referrals increased Dropbox signups by a huge 60%.
There are countless examples of similar stories floating around the SaaS sphere, but the truth is, growth hacking is not a magic bullet. It’s likely these companies tested countless strategies before landing on the ones that worked. Growth hacking is all about being creative, testing new things, and learning along the way. That’s what makes it so fun.
14 growth hacking strategies to supercharge your SaaS marketing playbook
Ready to hack your way to the history books? We’ve rounded up 14 growth hacking strategies to get those creative juices flowing. Let’s get into it.
1. Build integrations
According to pandium, the 15 largest SaaS companies have an average of 347 integrations, while some of the major players like Shopify and Okta have over 5,000. If you’re not integrating with other well-known products, you could be missing out on a huge audience of people who will be more likely to sign up for and use your products.
To start, do some initial research on popular products that you could potentially integrate with. Check out your competitor’s add-ons and find out which products your existing users or network are already using.
Once you’ve got a final list and the integration process has begun, prepare a landing page featuring integrations on your own site to ensure that you have somewhere to link back to. Slack’s apps and integrations directory is incredibly comprehensive, allowing for discovery and search. While you may not need something this complicated at first, it’s worth thinking about how your landing page will evolve over time.
When you’re live and out of beta testing, announce your integrations to the world. Make sure to tag the brands in any social promotion to reach their social audience and encourage them to re-share.
2. Compare the pair
How many times have you searched ‘product vs. product’ when trying to make a decision? When we’re shopping around, we’re looking for a simple cheat sheet that shows us what really makes two products different but, often, they’re almost impossible to find.
It’s likely you’ve already done this competitive research for marketing purposes, so all you have to do is create a landing page that distills the information and shares it with the world.
Make sure to do some solid SEO research before you hit publish, as you’ll want to generate as much organic traffic as possible. Continue to link to this page through social posts and blogs to keep it ranking.
3. Use activity-based marketing to boost referrals
In 2022, it’s likely you have a referral program set up with a nice discount or offer available for those who refer and, perhaps, the referee.
The Dropbox example above is a one-way referral program where the benefit is offered only to the existing user. Many SaaS companies, for example car-ride services like DiDi, Lyft and Uber, will often use a two-way referral technique that gives both the referee and the new user a discount or offer.
If you’re not seeing results from your referral program, it could be because you’re prompting your potential referees at the wrong time.
Since so many products now offer discounts and offers for referrals, people have become a little pickier about what they’re willing to refer. They want to see the value of the product before they recommend it — especially if we’re talking about a B2B product, or something that requires more investment in time than virtually hailing a cab.
Use data and insights to identify what action a user takes when they really see the value of the product. This will help you identify your product-qualified leads. Then, using activity-based marketing, you can encourage that person to refer your product when they’ve seen the value themselves.
If you’re an Ortto customer, you’ll be able to automate this by setting up a Custom Activity that tells you every time a customer takes an action that is important to your business. Once you have that data, you can create a workflow that sends the person a message asking them to refer a friend. You can then continue the workflow, thanking them after they refer and offering them a little something extra to keep those referrals flowing.
4. Gamify slippery parts of the process
If your growth blocker is lack of use, you might want to consider how you could gamify the slippery parts of the process to ensure that new users see the value in your product before they bounce.
First, you’ll need to take a look at where your drop-offs are coming from. Do new users drop off during the onboarding process? If so, consider how you could gamify the process and give the user an offer or discount if they complete it. It’s unlikely that a new user will be engaged throughout your entire product tour, so gamifying steps and dangling a carrot will help them understand the product.
If drop-offs happen in a different part of the process, the same thinking will apply. Keep it simple, even a checklist with a sound or a gif to celebrate completion goes a long way to keep people engaged.
5. Create a free tool or resource
This is a growth hacking technique that has gained a lot of speed in recent years. Hubspot is renowned for it, with tools for everything from creating an email signature to generating a buyer persona. These free tools get people into their email funnel and drive new users.
One of the best stories in this space comes from Crew, an online marketplace for mobile and web creators that was sold to Dribble in 2017. They had 3 months' worth of cash left to turn things around when they had the genius idea to launch a stock photography site that gave people free, high-quality stock photographs. Every photo would link back to Crew, driving traffic to the site.
This stock photography site is called Unsplash and, after posting about it on HackerNews, the traffic started pouring in — to Unsplash and, then, Crew.
It’s worth reading the whole Crew-Unsplash case study and thinking about how your side projects could drive growth for your main squeeze.
6. Think outside the Facebook box
By now we’ve all seen SaaS products explode on TikTok thanks to clever content and a willingness to embrace the platform’s in-jokes and quirks like our favorite evil owl duo. It’s a great place to be if you’ve got the resources and the right strategy in place.
If TikTok’s not for you, there’s a world of social platforms outside of Facebook and Instagram that are just waiting to be tested. Reddit, Medium, Tumblr (yep, it still exists), Viber, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, Line, and even Venmo can all be used in creative ways to get in front of a different community.
Consider how your brand can show up and, like any social platform, how you can ensure that your content is truly native and offers the community real value.
7. Add some flair with badges
Whether for courses and certifications like LinkedIn and Google or milestones and achievements like Peloton and Apple Watch, badges incentivize existing customers and act as a form of social proof.
Consider how you can get creative with your badges. You could have intakes on courses every quarter (school is in session!) to put some urgency around completion or could align badges with days that are important to your business.
There are also ways to further incentivize with prizes for people who acquire a certain number of badges. And don’t forget about your partners — if you’ve integrated into another app or product, you could team up with them to create a multi-brand badge.
With all your ideas on the table, trim it back to ensure that badges still feel special. We’re not looking for ‘Certificate of Participation’ awards here.
Using Ortto’s customer journey builder, you’ll be able to simply and easily set up workflows that notify customers of their achievements and encourage them to share badges on LinkedIn and elsewhere.
8. Get serious about content marketing
According to DemandMetric, content marketing is 62% less expensive than traditional marketing — and generates approximately 3 times more leads. Short answer: content marketing is a valuable strategy for businesses of any size.
Having a blog on your website that offers engaging and useful content is a great place to start. Blog posts generate more traffic to your website, convert visitors into customers, and keep the search engines happy. More importantly, blog posts that are insightful and engaging will help you present your business as an expert in your industry — and help you form a trusting relationship with your audience.
But in 2022, it’s worth taking things a step further. Consider the other types of content you could be creating — from infographics to downloadable cheat sheets, videos to podcasts. Today, search engines are looking for content that is original, comprehensive and topically-rich and interactive meaning any additional content types will help you rank, not to mention create a more dynamic and engaging experience for your audience.
Whether you are starting from scratch or you’ve had a blog you’re not really investing in, publishing content of all types is a worthwhile endeavor. Not convinced? Check out the stats below.
9. Improve your email marketing with action-based automation
As growth hacking is time-sensitive, there’s not a lot of time to waste. Marketing automation refers to the technology that manages marketing processes and customer journeys across multiple channels — automatically. In its most basic form, marketing automation streamlines and simplifies some of the most time-consuming tasks that small business owners might have, including sending emails.
Email is one of the most effective marketing strategies when it comes to reaching new and existing customers today. One reason email marketing has been so valuable for small business owners is that it’s an easy way to connect to consumers without having to spend a lot of money. More importantly, emails are engaging for most people, especially when the messages are relevant and interesting. According to DMA Insights, every $1 spent on email marketing garners an average return of $32 — not a bad ROI at all.
Thanks to marketing automation software such as Ortto, you can write a set of emails just once, and send them to your customers after they’ve completed certain actions. For example, with Ortto, you can set up a playbook that automatically sends a congratulatory email every time someone completes the onboarding process. The action - completing the onboarding process - is the trigger for the email, which can be sent within a time frame that you specify. For example, one hour after the action occurs.
By creating an action-based email marketing strategy, you’ll be able to communicate with your customers at the right time, with the right message rather than sending them irrelevant communication. This means less unhappy customers, more automated product support, and better open rates.
10. Knowledge panels and google my business
Knowledge Panels increase your brand’s real estate on SERPs, meaning more attention and more clicks.
When people search for your product on Google, they may see information about your business in a box that appears on the right-hand side of their screen: this is called the Knowledge Panel (also known as a business profile). With a Knowledge Panel, your business will stand out in the search results when people are specifically searching for it — driving additional clicks.
The catch? Only Google will decide whether or not it’ll show a Knowledge Panel for your business. The good news is that there are steps you can take to increase your chances of having one. Enter: Google My Business (GMB).
You can use GMB to add your business name, location, hours and relevant photos, as well as monitor and reply to customer reviews. The more relevant information you have on your GMB, the higher the likelihood of your business having a Knowledge Panel.
11. Get HARO happy
Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a platform that allows you to display your expertise and receive daily emails from publications looking for experts to quote. It is an incredibly powerful tool that is often overlooked by businesses with information to share.
All you have to do is sign up to HARO, set up your profile and respond to the requests that are relevant to your business and expertise. Journalists are typically very specific about what they need and working to a tight deadline. Plus HARO queries can receive a hundred or more submissions, so the competition can be tight.
When responding to a query, be clear, concise and speak in soundbites to stand out above the pack. It’s also a good idea to install Grammarly or have a colleague proofread your work. If you take some time to write a great response and don’t hear back, keep it in your back pocket for a blog or social media post, or for another query that comes your way down the track.
12. Influence with influencers
In the SaaS world, influencers are often overlooked. And while it’s still ecomm businesses that tend to dominate the influencer sphere, things are changing rapidly — your business does not need a hair-growing gummy bear or a lip-plumping gloss to reach an engaged audience through influencer marketing.
The new world of influencing includes FinTok stars who talk finance with their followers, entrepreneurs who share their growth hacks with the world on Instagram, and LinkedIn influencers who help small business owners grow.
That said, whether you’re a fashion brand or a SaaS, finding the right influencer is the hardest part. You’re looking for someone with the right audience, the right message, and a sizeable enough audience to make any investment (time, free product usage, or money) worthwhile. But you also need someone who creates great content and is genuinely excited about your product and sees the value. It’s a lot to ask.
The best place to start is your very own feed. Pay more attention to the people you follow, and who follows them. Ask your colleagues who they’re listening to.
As you start to put a longlist together, do some outreach and offer influencers a free trial. It’s best to let them trial your product and come back to you with feedback before you ask them to create content. Best case, they love it and share with their followers and you can develop a long-term relationship with them.
If you’re a budget-conscious start-up steering away from influencers because of the cost involved, it may comfort you to know that Influencer Marketing Hub’s latest report showed that brands still tend to give away free products or discounts on products rather than paying cash. And, given 90% of survey respondents believe influencer marketing to be an effective form of marketing, it must be working for some of them. Once an influencer has proven their, well, influence, you may want to look at carving out some budget and tracking the ROI on the campaign.
13. Generate buzz with a pre-launch
If your team has spent the last few months working on a killer new feature that you just can’t wait to launch into the world, consider channeling all that excitement into a pre-launch campaign.
It’s a growth strategy that fashion and beauty brands have seen perform for years now, but there’s absolutely no reason that it can’t work for SaaS companies too. The fact is, people love getting their hands on things first, especially if there’s an element of exclusivity to it.
There are so many ways to build buzz — here are just a few to get those creative wheels turning:
Prepare a series of pre-launch videos that tease the feature on your social platforms, with a CTA driving to a landing page where people can sign up for early access to the feature
Create an email campaign that gives a select number of your existing customers early access to the feature in exchange for a referral or social share
Run a contest giving a select number of winners early access to the new feature, along with a small prize
Turn your employees into advocates, giving them a pre-launch video to share with their network along with a code for friends and family to receive early access to the new product or feature
14. Utilize employee-generated content
There’s every chance your employees are your best brand advocates. After all, they know your product intimately and they’ve likely developed their own hacks within it. Incentivize them to generate content for social posts, blogs, podcasts or YouTube videos. Not everyone feels comfortable on camera or on the mic, so give them options for content creation including written blogs.
And, remember, unless they’re on the social or content team, content creation is not part of their job description. So take the pressure off, make it fun, offer help, and make that incentive a worthy one!
No matter what kind of creative growth hacking you’re doing this year, you’ll need a universal source of truth to ensure that you can see exactly which hacks are working, and what you can learn from those that don’t. Sign up to Ortto today to get the most out of your growth hacking efforts.