Tech City UK Blog

UK Growth Hacking extraordinaire, Vincent Dignan, is currently travelling the world to raise awareness of his upcoming book on some of the secrets of his success. We hear from him on what it has taken to get to this point

I’m writing this from my Airbnb in Beverly hills, halfway through a speaking tour supporting my growth hacking book on Kickstarter. Three years ago I had £10 in my pocket and had to borrow money off my parents for rent. How did I get here? I’ll talk about the websites I built to over a million visitors a month, the rounds of investment, the agency launch or the speaking tours, but what will help you most is these two simple words: growth hacking.

Growth hacking is famously the reason companies like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can grow massive without traditional marketing spend, but it can more than work well for your business or personal brand. It’s basically getting a lot done with very few resources, made possible at that scale because of the way the internet works (i.e. ability to reach thousands or millions of people overnight, something not possible at any other point in human history).

Growth hacking is, loosely, secrets, shortcuts and innovative techniques anyone can use to get whatever their product/service is, in front of a lot of people. So what does this mean for you? Maybe you want to start a band, build an app or an online store. Growth hacking enables you to find and reach a lot of people who could be interested in what you’re doing, often using little more than a laptop.

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Most articles on growth hacking are too broad, and don’t teach you much, so here are some practical examples across multiple channels and niches to give you a better example of how it can be used:

If you’re launching a product, rather than just ask people for their emails, add them to a queue of people using something like Queue or Maitre App, then have special bonuses and prizes for the people who share it with and invite their friends. Get them to do the hard work for you. If you’re putting on a free event to show expertise so that people hire you or your agency as a consultant or freelancer, use Audiense to search Twitter for all the people in a given area who might be interested in what you’re doing, and tweet at them inviting them to your free event. Remember: It’s not spam if you’re adding value.

Once you’ve built and released the product, it might be that people get money off or free use of your product if they invite their friends to join them on your platform. You can also use growth hacking techniques to find and target customers. Use Audiense to search keywords people put in their Twitter or Instagram bio’s, then reach out to them (e.g. musician, fashion, designer etc). Type any companies website into Email Hunter to find all the public email addresses for anyone who works at that company.

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Type that email address into Charlie App to find all of the public information on the internet about that person. Use Crystal Knows to find out how to speak to that person (formal/informal etc). Use Mailtester.com to check you have the right email for them, then reach out to them via a warm intro by using Discover.ly (go on anyone’s LinkedIn and see the Facebook friends you have in common, etc), or through Conspire, where you can see how you can get an intro to a person through the connections you share.

When I started in 2012 I was so poor I didn’t even own a laptop that could run WordPress, so I used the free computers at Hoxton Hotel. The project that kickstarted my journey was Planet Ivy, an online magazine I created along with a 17-year old kid, Lewis Flude. We had just one goal: Traffic. (that’s the metric of success for online magazines, yours may be revenue or monthly active users). So we tested lots of different types of articles, headlines, and sections until we found the content that resonated with our audience, then we used social media and social news sites to send mountains of traffic to those articles.

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Once you’ve identified your one or two key metrics that your customers (or investors) want, put EVERYTHING into those. Planet Ivy got to 1 million+ visitors a month within one year, while Screenrobot.com got to 1 million visitors+ a month within 3 months. Once you have your channel, absolutely rinse it. Generally speaking, once you find a channel not many other people know about/can use, you need to rinse it, as the clock is ticking. Either the word gets out and everyone starts doing it, or the platform/competitor you’re siphoning the users/traffic/revenue changes something and you can’t use that source anymore.

The internet has levelled the playing field, allowing anyone the opportunity to get massive exposure using little more than their wits and their laptop. If you’re reading this and thinking about starting your own startup, growth hacking can help you make it happen. Meet me in L.A. and we’ll celebrate 🙂


Vincent Dignan is an entrepreneur and the author of Secret Sauce: A step-by-step guide to growth hacking.

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