February 23, 2015
Whether you love the term or hate the term, growth hacking is the way startups today are describing their method of figuring out which marketing tools work, and which don't; but doing so in a brief iterative cycle. Try it, test it, dump it – or try it, test it, and scale it. That's why the availability of free tools is so important to startups. Let me figure out what I need first before you get me into a monthly payment deal.
If you find yourself in a position to defend why your email list or user base hasn't grown, you should consider growth hacking. Bookmark this article to keep it handy. You're going to want to either try these tools or subscribe to these valuable learning resources. Ali Mese recently shared the 300 Awesome Free Things list on Medium, and I've extracted the growth hacking tools listed there – with some additional analysis.
It's time to become an expert growth hacker ready to provide insights of your own. I present 17 free growth hacking tools so you can kick ass when it comes time for your next growth status update:
Collect Email and Manage Customers:
Contact form 7 is a WordPress plugin that manages multiple contact forms. And a key component to this plugin, unlike countless others, is that it's simple. When all you want is a contact form, not every other possible tool that runs a risk of not being able to play nicely with other plugins and multiple sites, Contact form 7 is the choice among reviewers. Speaking of multiple sites, if you're managing more than one platform that gathers contact information, it can be confusing to figure out where a message came from. Contact form 7 shows the URL of the page that is sending the contact, so now you've got a free plugin that's pretty much delivering to you anything you would want when managing inquiries from your site.
If Mailchimp wasn't famous before the ads it ran on the Serial Podcast, it is now. The ‘khimp is a monster email management service that offers various account levels. For free, you can manage up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 12,000 emails. So, if you're a small organization or startup with only 600 or so folks in your pipeline, you could send them a biweekly email through Mailchimp for about 6 months before deciding which paid plan would be best to suit your ongoing needs. Once you've grown your business, you're going to need to budget for about $500 per month.
A really important component of any email management service is its API. While scaling your startup, you will be using many different tools for user growth and relationship management, and they really need to talk to each other. Whether you're selling widgets or building a content platform, your mail system needs to be able to send support, update, and thank you messages as needed. Mailchimp's API supports more than a billion calls every month.
Speaking of integrations, ManyContactsBar is a contact form that, for free, you can place on your website to gather email addresses. And it works with MailChimp, MailJet, InfusionSoft, Constant Contact, and many other popular mail platforms. Having a sleek collection widget on your site is the best way to encourage your visitors to get in contact with you. Capture leads, sell more products, increase conversion rates, and do this for free with ManyContactsBar. At this time, there are not paid options.
Hello Bar is also an email grabber, built by Crazy Egg from Neil Patel and Hiten Shah. Hello Bar wants to help you use a fun, unobtrusive but visible widget to connect with your audience. Hello Bar also allows you to craft a specific message as needed. You can A/B test these messages through the button manager and view stats on how these buttons are performing. The editing tool allows you to craft your own custom hello bar, embed your code, and get more click-throughs. The sign-up is free, but you will have to choose which add-ons will work best for your company.
What happens when someone just happens to stumble by your website, blog post, or particular piece of popular content? Once they've visited and left, are they lost forever? Sumo from Noah Kagan‘s AppSumo created List Builder to allow you to easily install a lightbox popover on your site and connect it with any of your current newsletter management services. The most popular testimonials attest that installation took anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. SumoMe also offers many other free growth hacking apps for your site, including Heat Maps and Share buttons.
You want to know what people are doing on your site, but more than that – you want to connect with them when it appears that they're staying long enough to get more. Scroll Triggered Box is a free WordPress plugin that's called the silver bullet in getting people to take action. The popup can be triggered based on the engagement activities that you prescribe – percentage of scroll, reaching the end of a post, navigating to the comments – now that you know you've got someone engaged, this is the perfect time to create a call-to-action!
Your scroll triggered box can be customized with your own HTML and CSS, or you can choose from the templates in the plugin.
As promised a few items earlier, among the free tools SumoMe is offering, a scroll box is one of them. The idea behind the SumoMe Scroll Box is that being pushy is not the way to go. At the end of reading a post, the Scroll Box will appear. You can control whether it will slide in from the bottom, top, left, or right, and you can control how often it gets shown. According to SumoMe's testimonials, the highly technical way that this scroll box works goes something like, “Poof! More subscribers!”
Optimizely is one of the most popular testing and metrics collection tools used by bootstrapped startups. When deploying your app or website, testing each iteration is so crucial before making a decision to move on to the next feature. According to the Optimizely site:
“By measuring the impact that changes have on your metrics such as sign-ups, downloads, purchases, or whatever else your goals may be, you can ensure that every change produces positive results. Quantitative data speaks for itself.”
The basic starter plan offers A/B testing, visitor segmentation, mobile developer tools, browser optimization testing, traffic source, basic analytics, heatmapping, and several other great tools that will get you going. This tool also offers customized enterprise-level plans that allow you to test and measure ad campaigns, custom cookies and tracking, geotargeting, advanced anaylytics, third-party data integrations, and more.
Directly figure out what your users are doing after signing up for your website or product, or downloading your app. On Intercom, it's “free forever” to simply observe what people are doing – how long it's been since they engaged, how often they open the app. Put a face and location on these downloads. Figure out who hasn't performed the expected actions on your product.
This is great data for every startup to have. Beyond this data, Intercom offers pricing plans so you can customize exactly what it is that you want to do with that information. Group the customers who have performed certain actions and send a mass email to those folks. Visualize just about every piece of data about your customers so that you can solicit better business partners, investors, or create customized marketing plans to build upon those who are using your product.
Join a Community or Get Free Lessons:
You can depend on random Google searches, and maybe you can depend on Quora or other dashboards. Or, you can participate in the GrowthHackers community and literally always be connected to those who are iterating on growth every single day. The GrowthHackers community offers a message board to support discussion on the challenges that marketers face, and also curates content from notable experts in the field. For inspiration, check out the Growth Studies page where startups and tech companies who have seen major growth can be analyzed and studied.
Powered by SumoMe, this is a free course that provides you expert lessons that shows you firsthand how to double your email list within 30 days. It's as simple as that. Marketing experts from various industries share lessons on homepage optimization, reverse-engineering great content, and so on.
Design for Hackers is a book by David Kadavy. You can buy the book through any of your favorite channels. Or, you can learn from the book via your email inbox, for free. When you sign up for this program, you get 12 weeks of lessons, each based upon a chapter in the book.
Curate the content you want to read for yourself. Do you want nonstop 3D printing updates? Pick that newsletter. Powered by UpGlobal, the team that brings you Startup Weekend, Startup Week, and other entrepreneurial programs, Startup Digest was designed to keep you plugged in where you need it the most.
Mattermark is one of today's most popular funding analysis startups, cofounded by Danielle Morrill. The platform itself provides in-depth analysis of privately held companies, and the newsletter is a daily, hand-curated messaging opportunity that provides first-person accounts of entrepreneurship and investment insights.
More free lessons to your inbox: learn about user behavior. This newsletter is also curated from content provided by multiple industry experts, including Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt, Michal Levin of Google, and Nir Eyal, author of Hooked. For free, these experts jump into your email with insights on what it is that is making your customers tick.
Mailchimp UX has designed its own content to share with an ever-eager-to-learn audience. MailChimp must have nearly a billion pieces of data on user behavior, and they're ready to share what they've learned. Hunker down and study all of the past lessons, and get on board to receive future insights through the newsletter.
Kenny Chen is the lead user experience designer at Wallabycard, and he curates this weekly missive to bring studies gathered from the UX lessons learned at many major companies. How should you design a mobile tutorial? How do you take chances based on the unknown? Reduce friction in onboarding, and figure out all that other important UX stuff.
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