Business Performance Conversion Testing Customer Experience Innovation Product Development Search Engine Marketing

How to growth hack your business and achieve sustainable results

The first rule of Growth Hacking? Don’t talk about growth hacking.

That was my paraphrased tweet quoting one of the speakers at the Growth Hacking Conference in London recently. It seems I’m not the only one who isn’t a fan of the name but feels the principles behind it are sound, if a little misunderstood.

Many people (maybe just us Brits?) roll their eyes when they hear the phrase ‘growth hacking’, thinking it’s a cheesy term applied to the processes of inflating numbers exceptionally quickly with a goal of reaching a ridiculous valuation figure that gets Mark Zuckerberg jingling his pocket change.

So it was refreshing to hear so many of the speakers at the conference talking about sustainable growth – yes, build a product that scales, but also one that provides value to its audience, not just for 3 days, 3 weeks weeks or 3 months, but on an ongoing basis. A product that would be missed if it were no longer there.

I scribbled a lot of notes throughout that day, so let me share a few of them here, along with the speaker slidedecks. If you want more, head over to the collaborative Google doc that was edited live throughout the event.

Find Product / Market Fit

The Father of Growthhacking (or at least the phrase coiner), Sean Ellis (@SeanEllis) hosted the event and shared his thoughts on the drivers of growth:

  1. Right product in the right market and
  2. Successful execution of ideas

Product / Market fit was a theme throughout the day. Ellis posits that without it, sustainable growth just isn’t possible. In fact, it’s critical for strong organic growth (Growthhackers are particularly keen on organic growth. Most argue the paid stuff should come once you have traction. That’s not to say you can’t scale a paid channel to achieve growth. You just need deeper pockets).

Ellis has a useful way of determining if a business has a strong product / market fit. He surveys the customer base and asks how many would be ‘very disappointed’ if they couldn’t use the product anymore. If you can hit 40%, then you have a strong product / market fit. Then you need to stack the odds in your favour by understanding what those people are getting from your product so you can reproduce it / scale it with others.

Hustle to find scaleable growth

Zack Onisko (@zack415), from Creative Market, talked of trying out creative, out-of-the-box ideas to get to your goal in the shortest possible time. He referred to it as the Hustle stage – trying out a variety of channels, potentially non-scaleable, to try and find one that could be unlocked and scale.

Gaining Early Traction by Doing Things that Don’t Scale (Hustling) from Zack Onisko

He gave 20 ways to hustle, of which my favourites were:

  • Speaking with customers to find out how to improve the product
  • Go above and beyond with customers – sending them surprise gifts, thank-you messages, building brand loyalty
  • Give something away for signing up – asking for info is high friction, so do an exchange. They give you their email address, you give them something of value to them (i.e. a book, free service, money)
  • Forge partnerships with other likeminded businesses – help each other
  • ‘Eat your own dog food’ – make sure you use the product yourself. Understand it, know its weaknesses and improve them

Build a positive Net Promoter Score

NPS Driven Growth or How to grow your startup w from Nilan Peiris

Net Promoter Score (NPS), was discussed several times, particularly by Nilan Peiris (@nilanp) of TransferWise, as an effective tool for measuring how your audience views your brand or product. NPS asks a single question:

How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?

Customers answer on a 0-10 scale and labelled Detractors (0-6), Passives (7-8) or Promoters (9-10). To calculate your company’s NPS, take the percentage of customers who are Promoters and subtract the percentage who are Detractors.

Clearly you want as many Promoters and as few Detractors as possible. How do you do that? Build a ‘must-have’ product, provide great service and exceed expectations.

Be aware though that a large number of Passives isn’t ideal either as those people are indifferent to your product, meaning they’d have less resistance switching if an attractive alternative product was available.

Study your successes

It’s very easy to get caught up trying to figure out how you can persuade the disinterested to buy your product. An alternative approach was suggested by Dr Karl Blanks from Conversion Rate Experts. He suggests it’s more productive to focus on those that did buy. He recommends asking customers immediately after they have purchased this question:

What was the one thing that nearly made you not buy from us today?

Whatever their one thing was, it wasn’t enough to dissuade them, but it could be putting off many others who are dithering over their purchases also. If you can identify those issues and fix them, you’ll win those ‘almost-in-reach’ customers. That has got to be easier than trying to convert someone not interested in buying.

A bonus tip from Blanks: reverse engineer success by creating a custom segment in Google Analytics for those that bought from you. Then look at their behaviour and the content they looked at and try and figure out why those were successful.

Find your customer’s voice

SEO Tactics to Love vs. Leave from Rand Fishkin

Moz‘s Rand Fishkin (@randfishkin) and his legendary coiffed hair adorned the stage to speak about organic SEO growth. His slides were full of great nuggets but if I’m only to pick one, I found his thoughts on using the customer’s language thought provoking. He discussed ‘intent keywords’ and how to build a list of them to target with content. Keyword suggestion tools have their limits, so he recommended these three activities to generate them:

  1. Look at your competitors activity – see what they rank for
  2. Talk to customers directly (and your sales people) – what words are used in the conversations
  3. Look for conversations online in forums and places like Reddit – what is the language used?

It’s surprising how often businesses make assumptions about the words to target for SEO and content. The gap between assumption and reality is often a chasm. Locate the words used by the customer, not you.

Other Awesome Speaker Decks

There were so many great speakers at the Growth Hacking Conference, it would take quite a lengthy post just to summarise the main takeaways. So instead I’ve rounded up the remaining slidedecks I could find and included them here.

Hands-on Hacks – A Flipbook of Inspirational Growth Wins from Marie Steinthaler

The 3 Ugly Ducklings of Growth. from Geckoboard

 A Growth Checklist

As the day closed, I tried to summarise the main takeaways in a list to take back to the office. So in my newly educated opinion, If you want to build sustainable growth for your business I would suggest:

  • Build an awesome product (find Product/Market match)
  • Develop a strong Customer Value Proposition (i.e. why you’re relevent, what you offer, why you’re better)
  • Provide great customer service
  • Build in feedback loops to your product (and act on it)
  • Find likeminded partners to promote
  • Ensure data / measurement are baked in to your product and processes
  • Optimise the journeys (using conversion rate optimisation testing, i.e A/B or MVT)
  • Delight your customers (and measure with NPS)
  • Find smart people to advise you (and to ground you when you fall in love with your product and can’t see when you’re wrong).

So, all in all a great conference, one of the best I’ve attended. There aren’t too many events you can attend where you can discuss product, data, conversion rate optimisation, customer service, partnerships, entrepreneurship, with smart people who are equally happy to talk about their mistakes as well as their successes. If its on again next year, I’d recommend you attend. I’ll see you there.

Awesome photo courtesy of Dan Barker, ecommerce & online marketing expert and dab hand with a camera. Worth a follow on Twitter @danbarker

Business Performance Natural Search Marketing Paid Search Marketing Search Engine Marketing

Looking for a RBYes Mortgage or Rabies? RBS Campaign Fail

In my previous post, I talked about how Natwest’s new ad campaign fell short because TV and digital were not integrated. The TV advert creative contained the call to action ‘Search NatYes‘ yet NatWest did not have a listing in the organic results for that search phrase. They effectively paid twice by running PPC ads to try convert the visitor.

The post generated a lot of shares, comments on the blog and some twitter conversations. Whilst reading further around the subject I discovered a couple of interesting things.

Firstly, Natwest are owned by RBS and it transpires that the same advert has been shot twice – once for NatWest and once for RBS – with different accented boy actors to cater for different regional markets.

Both use a similar call to action in the TV ads – either ‘search NatYes‘ or ‘Search RBYes‘.

Secondly, as you’d expect given the same marketers & agency, both campaigns experience similar digital integration problems. However, to compound it, the RBYes campaign has encountered another unfortunate issue.

When you type in ‘RBYes‘ to Google, the search engine has tried to helpfully correct what it believes to be a misspelling. So instead of information on RBS mortgages you get…


I’m guessing this isn’t what the bank wants prospective customers to see.

There is another link that says ‘search instead for rbyes‘ but it is below the adjusted search term and much smaller. By this point the searcher has already noticed the links to rabies information and the YouTube video thumbnails of unfortunate canines.

To RBS’ credit, they do have a PPC ad present in the top slot, albeit surrounded by less appealing links.

In my Natwest NatYes post I was critical regarding the lack of a listing atop the organic results. In that instance it would have strengthened their position, reduced their dependency on a 24/7 PPC presence and protected against guerrilla shenanigans by competitors. With the RBYes campaign, an optimised landing page in the organic listings is again a necessity but it wouldn’t help one bit with this particular issue.

Now, you could defend RBS by saying who could have predicted this? And that may well be a fair comment. However, I can’t help but feel this could have been discovered a lot earlier in the planning and preparation stage – before the ads and tag lines were signed off. Surely someone typed it into Google when the idea was to proposed to include ‘search RBYes’ in the TV advert?

Though tangential, this brings to mind the classic mistakes companies have experienced when trying to launch products into foreign markets without doing thorough research into the local translation of the brand name. Whilst amusing to read, it can be embarrassing for the business and costly to remedy.

So what happens if you click the ‘search instead for rbyes‘ link?

Thankfully a RBYes mortgage page appears near the top of the organic listings (as well as a PPC ad). Over the course of the past couple of days I’ve watched it move up from the bottom of page one to the number two position behind a Youtube video. I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before it takes the top slot, as the algorithm adjusts.

Incidentally, I performed the same search for ‘rbyes‘ on Youtube to find the TV advert video to embed in this post and the same unfortunate substitution occurs:

So what are the lessons to take from this for your own campaigns?

Preparation and detail. The planning stage of a campaign is crucial, especially when you need to account for customer journeys across multiple channels and platforms. You have to map out exactly where you need to be, with which assets and with a clear, consistent message. All that requires an eye for detail. The big themes, the messaging, the story, all are obviously essential for a campaign, but it’s the little details that hold it together and influence the outcome.

Business Performance Customer Experience Search Engine Marketing

NatYes or NatLess: NatWest Campaign Lacking TV & Digital Integration

From personal experience, I know TV campaigns cost a lot. Digital campaigns can be no small change either. But regardless of the size of your budget you need to be smart about getting maximum return on your spend.

This requires joined up thinking across your campaigns (or preferably your single integrated campaign) and plenty of forward planning.

With this in mind it’s disappointing to see the latest campaign from NatWest.

Check the video below of the new TV advert and watch out for the call to action in the penultimate ‘frame’.

Did you catch it? ‘Search NatYes‘.

Go search for NatYes – what do you find?

Nothing. Well, except for that paid adwords ad at the top of the page. Absolutely nothing about NatYes in the free listings.

This is a missed opportunity for NatWest – and an opportunity for a competitor to jump in and steal some traffic.

  1. If you’re going to ask your prospective customers to search for a keyword, then you need to make sure your website or landing page appears if someone searches on it. This requires preparation. You need to create your landing pages in advance of your campaign and given the gap between storyboarding a TV advert and the ad going live you have plenty of time to get this sorted.
  2. The advantage of using a phrase like ‘NatYes’ is that it is a unique word that no one is using – see the above search results as a case in point. Therefore, it should be easy to optimise for your chosen term(s)and get a top listing quickly.
  3. You might also want to go grab the URLs –,, etc. Customers will likely just search for the phrase, but you never know if some cheeky competitor or affiliate marketer might jump in and secure a higher listing than your page
  4. At the very least NatWest have sponsored the term on Adwords. This is essential if you have no organic listings. Even if you do you’ll need to be prepared to spend some money on PPC to support the campaign just in case any of your competitors decide to sponsor the term too.

Where NatWest have done well is the landing page. Whilst you can only get to it from the paid ad, there are a couple of things they’ve got right:

  1. Firstly they have scent. They have continued the visual design from the ad onto the landing page, using the image of the boy actor in the Indian headdress. This gives the user confidence that they have arrived in the right place. Removing doubt in the customer’s mind is a key objective of every landing page.
  2. They have reused the slogan ‘NatYes’ from the TV ad on the landing page. The only thing I’d suggest is using it a little higher up the page. Currently it is beneath the fold and not visible in that crucial first second when the user scans the page.

In summary, think about the customer journey from end to end. Everything must be consistent and flow. At no point do you want the flow to be interrupted – those are the moments you lose your customers. Even worse, is if you lose the customer to a competitor who was smart enough to optimise their activity around your campaign.

Say Yes to smart, joined up thinking.

Update 10/06/13:

The story doesn’t stop there. NatWest’s sister brand RBS are using the same approach, with a call to action of ‘Search RBYes’ in their TV advert. This time though there is a rather unfortunate run-in with Google spelling auto-correct feature that renders quite different results…

Die Hard Natural Search Marketing Search Engine Marketing

10 Things Die Hard Will Teach You About SEO

We all know the film Die Hard. It’s the iconic 1988 action movie starring Bruce Willis, where an international band of terrorists hijack an entire Los Angeles office building and get their asses handed to them by a seemingly unstoppable, quick-witted John McClane.

Now, I’ve watched Die Hard more times than I care to admit to, but just recently, I realised SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and Die Hard have a lot in common.

Here are 10 of the similarities I spotted. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Wear A White Vest. Cover It With Blood, Sweat and Tears

By the end of the film, John McClane’s vest looks like it’s been used to clean the floor of a slaughterhouse. It’s covered with blood (including some of his own) and grime.

What this teaches us SEOs is that we need to be prepared to get down and dirty. Optimising a site for search will require you to get involved at the most granular detail.

2. Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson

He’s a douche. He hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing and he goes out of his way to make John McClane’s life difficult.

As an SEO, you’ll encounter people that may not ‘get’ what you’re doing. More often than not, it’s just a lack of understanding that’s the issue.

Whilst I wouldn’t suggest blowing up half a building to make your point, you will need to be able to demonstrate how important SEO is in a way everyone understands. After all, not everyone knows the difference between a permanent and a temporary redirect.

3. International Terrorists

John McClane collectively lands a right-hook square in Terrorism’s mouth. Along the way, McClane skools baddies from most countries around the world: snapping German necks, blowing holes in Italian sweatshirts, and laying waste to American and Asian wrong-do’ers in all manner of testosterone-fuelled ways.

Along your way as an SEO, you’ll meet with resistance too. Now you shouldn’t have to deal with C4 or sub-machine guns, but you will get grief from sales departments, from legal, from brand, from pretty much everywhere. You’ll need to be prepared to do everything just short of leaping off the roof with a fire-hose tied around your waist to make the changes you deem essential.

4. Flat-footed Sgt Al Powell

He loves twinkies and he drives like an OAP, but he’s John McClane’s mate. And without him, John would have lost his mind.

Just like John, you won’t be able to tackle the world of SEO on your own. You’ll need friends, allies and sounding-boards. Your brothers(or sisters)-in-arms will come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but they will be crucial. Getting impartial advice on technical implementation or content strategies will help you overcome the burden of knowledge and subjectivity.

5. Have a 9mm Berretta stuck to your back with Xmas tape

SPOILER ALERT: As soon as 9mm Berretta and Xmas tape are mentioned in the same sentence, you know Mr Bad-Guy is going to end up falling out of a skyscraper window. There are some things you just can’t compete with.

As an SEO, you need a proverbial 9mm taped to your back. In the ever-changing world of SEO, an opportunity to improve your rankings may appear at any time. You need to be prepared to react at a moment’s notice and fire two of your best right between that sucker’s eyes.

6. “Ho Ho Ho. Now I have a machine gun”

Throughout the film, McClane is laying down the one-liners, thick and fast.

You will learn fast that as an SEO, it helps to have a sense of humour. Not everything will go your way. Learn to smile.

7. Make Fists With Your Toes

McClane meets a guy on the plane. He learns the best way to get over a stressful flight is to go barefoot and make fists with your toes on the carpet. “Trust me I’ve been doing this for 9 years”. Later on, John ends up having to pick bits of broken glass out of his feet.

Experience for SEO is just like this. We learn some things work really well so we rely on them. But this lethargy can cause our un-doing. As SEOs we need to use our experience to do what’s right, but equally, we need to be constantly aware of what lies in store, just around the corner.

8. “You asked for a miracle. I give you the F.B.I”

In short, the FBI are even bigger douches than Dwayne T. Robinson.

What does this mean for the average SEO? External forces will throw curveballs at you. Often. Google, Bing and the other search engines update their algo’s constantly. This means the SEO landscape is constantly shifting. You’ll need to learn how to interpret the changes quickly and adapt just as fast.

9. “Hans, booby, I’m your white knight”

Ellis is the slick, mouth-moves-faster-than-mind sales exec. He reckons he can talk his way out of trouble. He gets shot in the face.

Ellis teaches us SEOs a lot about content. Some general rules are: talk in a language your audience will understand; don’t pretend to be an authority on something you know nothing about; don’t fill your content with waffle, jargon and bull. Or you’ll get shot… in the rankings.

10. Yippee Kiiyay

McClane sees himself as a one-man cowboy-style wrecking crew. Just like Roy Rogers.

This is another content lesson for us SEOs. When trying to create content that resonates with your audience, tell a story. A story that involves a blood-stained, bare-footed cowboy, wielding a machine and has a 9mm taped to his back. Do that and you’ll never have to beg for attention, or another backlink, ever again.

So there are my 10 things that Die Hard can teach us about SEO. I’m sure I’ve missed some, so if you have any to add, please leave them in the comments.

Geronimo, Motherf*&ker!

– Gary Elliott

Business Performance Mobile Search Engine Marketing

Your 60 Second Mobile Review

This article is one of a series entitled Digital Marketer+. The series is aimed at marketers working in the digital marketplace and also at others looking for new ways to promote or build their business online.

The intention of the series is to take a second look at what you’re currently doing and approach it from a different perspective. So far we have covered knowing your objectives and fixing your customer experience. Plenty more to come, including tips, best practice and case studies.

Let me know if you’ve any ideas or experiences you’d like to share.

For many companies getting the website right is enough of a task, so something like Mobile just has to wait. Especially as it’s not yet mainstream, right?

Or is it? If you read the press / blogs, it’s very clear that this year is finally the long-promised ‘Year of Mobile’. Smart phone uptake is substantial, Facebook has 150 million active mobile users and more and more companies are making mobile revenue.

Great for them, but your market isn’t quite there yet, is it?

Or is it? I think it’s an easy assumption to make, especially for less ‘glamorous’ industries. But I’ll ask you this, how do you know?

On the clock

This series is about being a better digital marketer and making a personal impact. Well, to do so you have start looking at things differently. This is an easy one, it’ll take just 60 seconds for you to work out if you need to pull your finger out and go mobile now or whether to add it to your list of ‘check back in 6 months’ projects.

It’s simple. You could survey your customers now and ask them if they would use a mobile solution and run the risk of getting a bunch of “sure, probably would, I guess” answers. Or, you could just look to see what they are already doing with mobile.

The answer lies in your analytics.

A mobile case study:

Before I show you where to look, consider this example. Over at we have just announced some fantastic stats for our mobile usage. Over the past 19 months, traffic from mobile devices to the website has increased by over 600%. We’re not playing around with impressive sounding percentages on tiny actuals here either, the mobile traffic represents over 5% of our total site traffic – more than double what Yahoo and Bing search engines provide to us combined.

The takeaway from this example however, is that we only discovered the initial mobile traffic growth because inquisitive minds asked the question (“I wonder how much mobile traffic we get?” ). Stunned by the numbers, the data was fed into strategy and product development discussions and a year later Jobsite is now leading the way in mobile recruiting.

We could have waited until the mobile recruiting market was more established, but our customers were telling us otherwise – they wanted a mobile job hunting solution now – so we moved quickly.

What are your customers telling you? And are you listening?

Checking the numbers

So, this is what you need to do (using Google Analytics for this example):

  1. Login to Google Analytics
  2. Select your date range (top right). Recommend at least a year to see a growth pattern.
  3. Open the ‘Visitors’ menu on the left of the page
  4. Click the ‘Mobile’ link to open up the mobile options
  5. Select ‘Mobile Device’
  6. Marvel at the information

So what do your customers say? Is there a need for a mobile friendly version of your offering? If yes, you need to ask – and answer – some important questions.

  • Does your business lend itself well to mobile?
  • Can you improve the customer brand experience via mobile?
  • Should I do something in Mobile right now?
  • Which first – iPhone, Android, Mobile or other?

You can answer these questions soon, but right now you need to spend 60 seconds in your analytics package. You’ll learn something about your business and customers and have an opportunity to influence the future direction of your company’s strategy.

Other posts in this series:

Know your Objective

8 Steps to Fixing your Customer Experience

Over the course of this series, we’ll be looking at a wide range of things for you to try in your marketing, including behavioural re-targeting, smarter customer service, social media monitoring, conversion rate optimisation, mobile marketing, and creating linkbait to boost search performance. Please feel free to add your comments and join the conversation.

Or if you’d like to contribute to the series by writing a guest blog post, please get in touch to share your idea for consideration.

Business Performance Innovation Search Engine Marketing Social Media

Top 10 It’s Digital Marketing Posts of 2009

And that was 2009.

Hopefully yours was a good one, it certainly was for me.  On reflection, much happened in 2009 – both from a personal and web perspective. So much, in fact, it’s hard to imagine it all happened in just 365 days.

I felt like I learnt a lot this year. Much of which, I can say was due to Twitter. On the 5th of January 2009, I wrote my first blog post, entitled ‘What’s the point of Twitter?‘. I’d heard about it, wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it, but thought it was worth a go for a month. I never looked back and now check it at least a trillion times a day via my laptop or iPhone.

Twitter gave me access to the minds of brilliant people. Particular favourites being Chris BroganBrent PayneBrian ClarkLisa BaroneScott Stratten and Steve Rubel. I’ve learnt a tremendous amount from them all (many thanks!), impacting my day job and the handful of personal endeavours that have spawned over the year. It’s been an incredibly enriching experience.

It makes me very excited about the prospect of 2010 – what on earth will we learn and acheive this year?

As we close the book on 2009, I’d like to thank everyone that has read my blog this year (or at the very least, come looking for images to re-use). It’s been a very enjoyable experience – one that I need to dedicate much more time to this year.

For one final look at 2009, I’d like to share with you the Top 10 It’s Digital Marketing posts this year. Enjoy!

1. Twitter Statistics: UK traffic increased 22-fold in a year (24th June)

2. Google Profiles to take on in job market? (7th May)

3. 10 Insider Tips to win a Search Agency pitch (2nd March)

4. Ryanair: Cheap flights and cheap service (24th Feb)

5. Building an App for Twitter (2nd July)

6. 10 Signs you’re addicted to Twitter (25th March)

7. Social Proof: The wisdom of crowds (15th Sept)

8. To find a job think like a SEO (13th Feb)

9. Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll: Google Maps Mashup Style (23rd Nov)

10. Social Media Innovation (9th Oct)

Have a happy and prosperous 2010 everybody!


Search Engine Marketing

For Google size is everything

You probably didn’t notice the subtle change that occured on the Google homepage yesterday. I’m guessing that at a glance you still wouldn’t know if I held up before and after shots of the page.

As reported by Mashable, Google have said they have increased the size of their search box to remind us that their focus is on search.

I don’t know about you, but I appreciate the timely reminder, because I’ve been finding myself staring at the slightly smaller box on the big white page recently and wondering “what’s this all about?”.

Image borrowed from Mashable – click for their article

Forgive me for being skeptical about the message Google have put out, but they rarely do something to their core product ‘just to remind us’ of something (in this case, the blatently obvious).

It’s more likely they’ve tested the varying boxes lengths and discovered the longer one performs better than the shorter one. Who said size doesn’t matter?

My hunch is that it may have something to do with the increase in popularity of long tail searching by the masses. According to Hitwise, the length of search queries is increasing. Longer queries, averaging searches of five to more than eight words in length, have increased 7 percent between April 2008 and April 2009 alone. Perhaps the longer box encourages the searcher to enter more keywords, resulting in a more relevant set of returned search results. End game, one happy searcher = increased loyalty, more visits, more ads to click.

I would be interested to know if they used their own Web Optimizer tool to test the two variants. If you’re not familiar with Web Optimizer, check the description from the product page:

“Website Optimizer, Google’s free website testing and optimization tool, allows you to increase the value of your existing websites and traffic without spending a cent. Using Website Optimizer to test and optimize site content and design, you can quickly and easily increase revenue and ROI whether you’re new to marketing or an expert.”

(The bolding is mine)

I’m in the process of using the tool myself in my work capacity – partly as an inquistive test drive and partly to tweak out a better return on some revenue generating processes. Small fry compared to changing the design of perhaps the most viewed web page in the world, but important nonetheless.

It will be interesting to see if Google make any further changes to the page over the coming weeks.