If you’ve done any research on how to grow a tech business, you’ve probably come across a guy named Ryan Fujiu. He has led growth at both about.me and Lyft. Recently, he gave a talk at the 500DISTRO conference, where he discussed how to use products to grow through existing channels and find new ones. This post is a summary of his presentation. The end of this post contains the video and his accompanying slides.
Take Advantage of Existing Channels
When attempting to grow, you need to focus on your existing channels or create new channels. With your existing channels, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It’s often about taking a different approach or better aligning your product with the way people think about it.
We’re all familiar with product/market fit, which is reached when a product fits in a good market and can satisfy that market. Think of product/channel fit as the same thing, just with growth channels instead of markets.
Airbnb/Craigslist is a good example. In the early days, Airbnb had a high demand for places to stay, but low supply. Craigslist had the supply. Airbnb created a system to recruit these people to their platform and thereby found themselves a solid channel for growth.
Three Steps to Achieve Product/Channel Fit
To get the right product/channel fit, you need your product to align with growth channels. Here’s an outline for how to do that:
1. Identify Your Growth Channels
Use an analytics tool to identify which traffic sources consistently bring you customers. Attribution is a little more difficult on mobile, but a link referral tool like Tapstream may help provide clarity.
2. Talk to Your Users
Find out why users share your product.
Why did they do it? What benefit do they get out of it?
Over time, you’ll learn some of the fundamental reasons people want to share your product. Gaining this understanding is very important when you’re building and optimizing your product. You can ask this during your customer development interviews.
3. Build/Optimize Your Product
Once you’ve identified the channel you want to go after and you have thought and depth of understanding about why people want to share your product, you can take this information and apply it to your product. In talking to your users, you’ll pick up some keywords and messaging they use. Use this same messaging in your product.
After about.me was launched in 2010, the team noticed a lot of traffic was coming from Twitter. They looked at their data and saw some of it was from tweets, but much of it was from people putting about.me in their bio. They talked to their users and asked why they put about.me in their bio.
The answer was simple: Twitter allows only one link in the bio. People have a lot of accounts on the web (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, GitHub, etc.) and since they couldn’t list them all in their bio, they used their about.me link, which puts all their information in one place.
This led to a major discovery for the about.me growth team. They had found a product/channel fit. The challenge then became what to do next. How could they grow this channel as fast as possible?
Use Case Frequency
The first thing to think about when optimizing your product around a channel is the use case frequency of your product. If you have a product that has a high use case frequency (people use it a lot), you can put your CTAs to the growth channel at the end of the golden path.
For example, Instagram is a high-frequency product. Twitter and Facebook are growth channels for Instagram. Because of the high frequency, Instagram can put their CTAs (share on Facebook and Twitter buttons) at the end.
About.me has a much lower frequency. It’s generally a “set it and forget it” product. About.me has to place the CTAs during the onboarding process. They discovered the best way to do this was to have people sign up for about.me using the Twitter API. Once the user completes signup, it automatically places their about.me profile link into their Twitter bio.
Identify New Growth Channels
What makes your product unique is what helps you create new growth channels.
Lyft differs from Uber in that it’s used by a young crowd and many of the users have more than one passenger with them. Once Lyft found this out (through customer surveys), they created a new channel called Free With Friends.
The way it works is when a current Lyft customer calls for a Lyft and is riding with a friend who doesn’t have a Lyft account, that ride is free. They first get a code, and then the friend needs to download Lyft, sign up, put in their credit card information, and enter the code before the ride is over. This offer caused people to talk about Lyft with their friends, and it helped bring a lot of signups to Lyft. Uber has something similar called Split Your Fare.
Dropbox has a system where a user can share a file with a friend. The friend is brought to Dropbox, discovers the value prop, and can sign up on the spot.
Find Your Growth Opportunity
Take a moment to think about one of your best users going through your golden path flow. Think about the places in your product where this user can interact with someone who is not a customer of yours.
Where’s the opportunity for them to interact with this outsider?
After you have that, think about the mechanics of how you can get that user to interact with the outsider.
Is it with an email? SMS? Facebook share?
Next, think about the benefits each person gets.
What’s the benefit for the user inviting them? What’s the benefit for the person on the receiving end? How can you align those two things?
This is one of the best ways to discover a new channel. Take a step back, look at use cases, and figure out where there are opportunities for your customers to interact and share your product with people not using your product.
One Question to Help Narrow Your Focus
Ryan Fujiu always asks his teammates and colleagues one question. If you talk to him about growth, he’ll probably ask you as well.
How does your product get better with each friend (co-worker) who joins?
If you can answer this, you’ll be on your way to new channels and more growth in your product.
Video and Slides
Click the play button if you’re interested in watching the entire presentation. His accompanying slides are embedded below the video.
About the Author: Zach Bulygo (Twitter) likes marketing, finance, and learning about different businesses.