Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Growth Hackers: 3 More Growth Hacking Strategies to Boost Business (Based on Insights from Zapier)

As a growth hacker, you’re obsessed with growth. That’s pretty obvious. But beneath all that, you’re also constantly in pursuit of tools that enable you to work fast, efficiently, and effectively. And that’s where automation comes in. As a Communication Studies major with a concentration in Digital Media also studying Integrated Marketing Communications, I’ve been digging through news and research on workflow automation, and I’ve come across 2 articles on Zapier.

How Zapier, an API SaaS pioneer, views the industry today by Annie Musgrove and Ed Shelley at Chart Mogul, features an interview with Zapier’s Co-founder/CEO, Wade Foster. In addition to Foster stating the “unbundling of point-specific apps” is an inevitability of the industry, the interview covers Zapier’s startup growth story. Most notably, Foster shares how team used gut calls to focus on apps that they believed were already popular. As he puts it, they essentially “brute forced” their product development to build traction. Fortunately, this 80/20 approach worked. By focusing on their own personal list of the top 50 web apps, they attracted attention, and soon inbound interest was flowing in with minimal effort on their part. To maintain this growth traction, Zapier then adopted a Freemium model. This allowed its user base, both acquired and potential, to get in and play with the product in a way that was personally relevant to them. The result? Users found high value in Zapier for their workflows, and Zapier officially became a sticky product in their lives. Obviously, Zapier’s early stage strategies were successful. Today, the company manages a library of over 800 web apps which its users can hook up together to create customized and complex workflow automations.

Workflow automation is important to growth hackers

Source: Force Talks

Rather than sharing on the company’s story, the second article, Growth Hacking Automation With Zapier by Apostle Mengoulis at Growth Rocks focuses on the product itself. Mengoulis provides a detailed overview of how to spur growth with automations for Lead Management, Lead Nurturing, and Content Marketing. His guide for each area is comprehensive, and effective. His Zaps allegedly allowed him to grow his lead generation conversions by 38% in a month since he could properly track leads and use that spare time elsewhere. In aggregate, his suggestions are compelling in that they encourage fellow growth hackers to 1) reexamine how they work 2) identify areas that can use improvements 3) break down their processes into small steps 4) string them back together to perform a larger task in a quick and efficient manner.

Based on my review of these two articles and my relevant studies at Northwestern University, here are 3 growth hacking strategies we learn from Zapier that should be implemented for success:
  • Use Brute Force -- You need to cover all your bases and execute relentlessly with what you know works before experimenting with nuanced tactics
  • Let Them Taste -- You need to save yourself some effort and give leads the opportunity to sample your product/service so it has a chance sell itself
  • Stack Your Processes -- You need to outline simple workflows that stack up and piece together into a bigger picture with huge optimization benefits
Growth hacking is inherently a very interdisciplinary practice; there are many ways to approach it. Still, using others’ successes as a model for your own has its benefits. With that said, take some time to review your work performance, and see if there are opportunities to apply these 3 Zapier-inspired growth hack strategies.

Lisa Larbi (@LisaSLarbi) is a digital marketing enthusiast with a passion for nurturing growth. She will be graduating from Northwestern University in June 2017 with a major Communication Studies with a focus in Digital Media, as well as a minor in Business Institutions and a certification in Integrated Marketing Communications.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Social Strategist: 3 Actions Items to Promptly Connect With Your Audience Without Alienating Them

As a social strategist, it is important to quickly connect with your high value markets to participate in discussions, exchange ideas and grow your business.  As a graduate student at Northwestern University, the Medill School of Integrated Marketing Communications, I have two articles that will help you understand why it’s important to monitor social media and be opened minded beyond the feedback that you receive.

The NYTimes article United and Pepsi Affairs Force Brands to Respect Social Media by Sapna Maheshwari, discusses the importance of in-house monitoring of social sites and reacting quickly to address any situation at hand.  For example, when the United Airlines passenger video being dragged off the plane had gone viral, it reminded companies to understand the power of conversations on social media and its negative effects on the brand image.  Today, all the social media feedback is made public therefore pushing companies to invest more and build a stronger social media team.  Companies are using analytics to group data, understand the gravity of the situation and train employees to better respond with a high awareness of consciousness.


Cass Sunstein, author of #Republic takes on a different approach to social media’s effects on society.  He states in The Economist article, In Praise of Serendipity,  that the filters used by social media limits different points of view to readers.   For example, his book talks about Facebook promoting shared experiences through similarities and people in the same circle of family & friends. Sustein believes that people should request social media to play a role to “foster a culture of curiosity and openness.”  Today, marketing is in real time and listening has become mandatory for communities and companies.  Society can benefit more from "eye opening"news and shared content if companies like FB can provide content curation with opposing viewpoint offered through an algorithm option of more or less information.

After reviewing these 2 opposing articles and from my graduate studies in the Northwestern Medill
IMC program,  I highly recommend a few action items that you should consider in your social media strategy.

  • Simplify Customer Access – Make sure your brands have an easier way to access consumers in real time by investing in social media monitoring.
  • Interpret Consumer Responses – Use social media analytics to tackle situations before they spread and welcome new ideas to prevent future mistakes.
  • Promote Curiosity – Share opposing views with your audience by introducing to them to new sources of forums, blogs and networks.                             

As marketers, we must practice humility connecting with our audience and define new ideas to them.  If all the social media content is customized, then people will NOT be exposed to new ideas and different perspectives in life; aka democracy.

Bella Brahmabhatt is a passionate marketing and social media strategist.  She’s pursuing her Master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications at Medill- at Northwestern University.   Bella is a lifelong learner and you can get in touch with her on Twitter @bhatt_ta.

Newspaper Publishers: 3 Ways to Improve Your Digital Revenue

As a newspaper publisher, you know that growing your digital revenue will be key to a viable future. In my graduate-level studies in Northwestern University's online Integrated Marketing Communications program, I have found two articles on how publishers are ramping up their digital subscriptions that will help inform your decisions.

Esther Kezia Harding provides a deep dive into the successful trail the Financial Times has blazed online in her article “Truth, trust, transparency: the FT’s approach to a sustainable future” in The Media Briefing. The Financial Times' approach is built on having a direct relationship with their audience, which informs their approach to both breaking news events and long-term brand messaging. Chief Commercial Officer Jon Slade tells Harding that the Financial Times was well-positioned to benefit from such major news events as Brexit and Donald Trump's election because of their focus on quick, deep news analysis. Moreover, they have teams working around the clock to change subscription offers in response to real-time web traffic.

Image source:

A newer media outlet, the digital publisher Quartz, turned a profit from online advertising after four years, as Matthew Flamm writes for Advertising Age in "Mobile-Focused Startup Quartz Manages toActually Turn a Profit on Digital Journalism." The key to their success? Pursuing an elite readership. With a clean design free from pop-ups, banner ads and other visual junk, Quartz has positioned itself well for advertising from prestige brands who want to reach the "right" audience. Their rates are at the top end of the market, according to the article, because they offer a distinctive news product.

From my graduate studies in the Northwestern Medill IMC program and my review of these two publications, I have developed three key lessons to help you ramp up digital revenue.  They are:  
  • Seek quality readers - Pursue the highest-value audience for your publication to earn more from subscribers and advertisers.
  • Push real-time marketing - Be prepared to adjust offers when traffic spikes happen.
  • Value your content - Your main selling point is the quality of your journalism, and what makes it special to your readers.
      By focusing on quality journalism, and selling that journalism to the right audience, as these two publications are, you will be able to chart a path for your publication into the future for years to come.


    Bridget Thoreson is a digital marketer, journalist and graduate student at Northwestern University. Contact me through Twitter or LinkedIn.