Gleam helps businesses run amazing competitions across social networks. Stuart McKeown (co-founder at Gleam) originally shared these growth hacks on their company blog. I thought you will find this useful.

“Running a startup can be a very surreal experience, at the beginning you spend the majority of your time obsessing about your product, making sure you manage the roadmap to launch effectively & any other task that comes your way. The closer you come to launch the more you need to shift your focus towards user acquisition, retention, feedback & marketing activities – the earlier you can start this (even before you start building) the more chance of success you have come launch.

We are by no means a successful company yet, we officially launched in October 2013 & have been focused on acquiring customers, using their feedback to improve our product & iterate constantly. In the past month we’ve managed to positively impact all of our metrics to achieve a top-line growth of almost 200%.

Our widgets are pushing 750k impressions a month, 350k actions, we’re averaging 3 paid signups per day, enquiries have increased by 300% & our revenue is growing.

We are by no means experts yet, but I thought it’d be great to share with you some of the things (or growth hacks) we’ve tried that have worked well for us in our journey, hopefully you can test them in your own business too.

1. Offering a Freemium Model With More Features

We spent a lot of time debating whether or not to offer a freemium version of our product, I mean our competitors do it….right? When we launched we wanted users that couldn’t afford to use a platform to still be able to use Gleam, but we also wanted to make the paid version valuable enough that people would upgrade.

We did this by allowing Free plans access to nearly every action type we offer, including many that are paid with competitors (including things like viral sharing). The free plan gets restricted by the amount of data they get access to & also is completely Gleam branded (more on that later).

Having this plan drastically impacts our signup rates, it allows people to try our product before buying it & also allows users to work out if access to additional features provides the value they need to pay us.

2. Build Ways That Allow Your Product to Market Itself

We are very fortunate that most of our initial interactions with potential customers happen when they see our widget somewhere. This essentially means that the more users that are exposed to our product, the more likely we are to drive new signups. Therefore our free plan acts like a huge marketing channel for us.

Our Widget

Our widget itself contains a trackable branded link in the footer. Right now this drives over 20% of our total signups. We are planning to experiment with calls to action on this text soon to see what sort of impact it can have.

Another thing we’re planning to try is having a call to action to create a giveaway like this one when the current one has completed.

Landing Pages

All landing pages in our Freemium plan are Gleam branded, not in a way that is obtrusive, but subtle. We have plans to improve the way we leverage these for growth.

Facebook

Everything that goes through Facebook is attached to our own Gleam Competitions Facebook app. This happens when you auth, virally share or install your campaign to Facebook.

Clicking on the app takes you to a landing page on Gleam. This currently drives over 10% of our signups.

Viral Links

Our viral links are currently Gleam.io branded. So this is another indirect way that people get exposed to our brand.

3. Focus On Your Upgrade Path

Once users start using our app & running campaigns we give them a taste for what potential features they could get access to by upgrading.

We also allow Freemium users to upgrade to a few features for free by Liking us on Facebook or Following us on Twitter. This has been a great way to get our users onto Social Media – as we typically communicate issues via those mediums (i.e. an API we depend on is down).

4. Adding a Personal Touch to Everything

It can be really easy to hide behind your app, a lot of large companies do it. They make it hard to get in contact, make it hard to speak with a real person.

This is a natural advantage that we have by being smaller & more nimble. We can talk to our customers – and I make sure I try to talk to every single one.

Exactly one day after a user signs up they get this email (hat tip to Chris from Vero):

personal touch

Right now on average this email gets close to a 50% response rate. Some users go into incredible detail – which means we get a really natural conversation going. I find that users really open up, I can start to form a relationship that shows I care about trying to help their business.

At least 60% of our paid signups have engaged with me in a personal conversation via this email.

5. Case Studies Work

There really is no better way to show off what your product can do than with a case study. Not one of these fluffy corporate case studies, but one that goes into real numbers, real detail that shows how you overcome the problems that your customers face.

We published one 2 weeks ago about our client BeardBrand. This lead to Eric casually mentioning us in another case study he did for Shopify.

hat post alone grew our paid signups this week by over 100%. Thanks Eric & Mark.

Just whilst we’re here, just look at that beard – isn’t it marvelous?

6. Cornerstone Projects Build Trust

One of the hardest areas to penetrate is corporate clients that already have existing relationships with competitors. Quite often they will want case studies & examples of work you’ve done in the past – they want to know that you can be a trusted partner.

hat’s why we’ve found it is incredibly important to at least have one Cornerstore project under your belt, for us this was Gleam powering Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP Gallery competition in Australia in conjunction with MCM Entertainment & Telstra. This project has helped us create great relationships with people, get an understanding of how more complex projects work & also opened more doors to work on more awesome stuff in the future.

7. Use Alerts to Drive Engagement

Keeping your users engaged helps drive growth & reduces churn. We try to use smart campaign alerts to let users know when they have to take some sort of action.

8. Make Your Users Feel Special

We strive to help our users as much as possible, normally within Australian timezone we’ll respond to requests in minutes. We will always try to go above & beyond their expectations where possible. We’ve found that doing this really improve the chance that a customer will talk positively about us with their friends.

One of the tools that really helps us scale this approach is HipChat, you can read more about how we use it.

9. Product Integrations Open Up New Markets

This is a real nobrainer, consider what products you can partner with or use their API to integrate into your own offering. For example we enabled MailChimp as an addon last month & already we’re seeing users signup to use that functionality.

You can also leverage integrations as a marketing opportunity, reach out to companies to see if there any joint communication you can do around it.

We have a number of key integrations on our list that will give us more exposure to certain markets, for example getting listed on the Shopify App Marketplace.

10. Include Your Business Name in Discussions

This is something I’ve only started doing recently but with extremely positive results.

When I used to comment on discussions I’d just leave my real name:

include your name

Now when I comment I also leave my company in the format Stuart @ Gleam.io, doing this really improves the chances that someone reading the comment with come check out our product. The number of emails I’ve been getting has increased by about 150% since using this technique.

11. Pay it Forward – Help Those Who Need It

If you see someone that needs help & your product is a perfect fit then use this as an opportunity to reach out. Sure it might not generate any revenue, but think about the positives of the relationship.

We reached out to Eric from BeardBrand & gave him a free account for a year. He offered to help increase the awareness of our product in return – provided he got good results. A win win for both parties.

12. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For (Or Give) Help

We all have great networks out there of friends that are always willing to help or that need help, the average user has 300 friends on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to reach out & help people in need.

13. Twitter Rocks for Outreach

Twitter has been a lead generation machine for us, simply fire up any search with #win or #competiton, see how they are doing things & commence outreach.

14. Learn to Win Over Influencers

Influencers pay a key part in our strategy, we simply give them a free Yearly Pro account for Gleam. Most are happy to respond & give feedback based on this.

15. Customised Demos Work

One thing that we’ve found when outreaching is that boilerplate stuff rarely works. I get almost a 70% response rate when creating a custom campaign that replicates what the client is doing in a better way.

Here’s one I pitched to Neil Patel earlier today (he responded, but they don’t giveaway free plans).

We have signed at least 10 customers in the last month using this technique.

16. Make it Easy to do Anything

This particular hack can take many forms but the idea behind it is that you should offer no roadblocks in doing anything useful within your app, this includes:

  • Unsubscribing
  • Signing Up
  • Upgrading/Downgrading Plans
  • Contacting Support
  • Finding documentation

Making our customers lives easier reduces our need to support for various situations, which means we can spend more time on growth :)

User Emails

Okay we only had 15 things that we’ve already tested, however we’re currently in the process of implementing the 16th.

If you’ve ever read the story on how HotMail used calls to action in their early emails to drive growth then you’ll see where we’re going with this.

This particular hack will increase our exposure to over 10k new users every day, how many signups its leads to we’ll see.”