#9 Growing from 7,000 to 28,000 sign ups in 5 weeks

Here is the sequel to my first post: getting 7000+ users in 7 days.

Hey folks!

As a quick reminder, we launched EntryLevel on January 29th and within 7 days we ended up getting 7000+ sign ups purely organically. If you want to learn more about that journey, you can read about it here.

Also before, I kick it off - if you like reading my articles (though, I make zero guarantees on consistency) feel free to subscribe below.

Thinking about Growth

After our initial spurt of growth, we canned all growth activities in order to focus on operations and running the first cohort. Transparently, we had had two natural growth spurts, during and right after the program from referral volume. By the end of the program, we were sitting on 13,000 total sign-ups. With our first educational program out of the way, we could now go back to growth. Realistically, it looks like we just had a cool referral loop and everything worked but actually, we just had to think about where our users lived. Right now, people are hungry for jobs and experiences so they are looking for communities and other sources for help. After a quick brainstorm, we came up with the following ideas to test.

  • Organic Facebook Groups

  • Organic Linkedin Groups

  • Organic Slack Groups

  • Job Boards (Indeed as a pilot)

  • Distribution Partners (Universities)

  • Paid Google Ads

  • Paid Facebook Ads

Organic Channels

The first time we did growth, we only did facebook before our viral growth loop kicked in so we just stopped going through the list.

This time, we posted in a list of groups we found on FB, Linkedin and Slack. We had the following results from just post 2-3 weeks over the course of a few weeks.

Job Boards

We also had a hypothesis that we could make a job post and disguise our virtual experience as a job to get more eyeballs on it but in the end, we couldn’t find a good way to do it that wouldn’t make the user a little annoyed that they clicked on a supposed job ad which ended up being a program. (We advertised it under volunteering which naturally gets much fewer eyeballs than an actual job)

Distribution Partners

Distribution partners were interesting. I did this by collating a hit list of people I wanted to talk to (in Australia there are only 43 universities) but there are also many public lists after google searching on universities across Asia, Europe and the USA. As a quick pilot, I started with Australia. Now, you can go on Linkedin and just add the careers folks and send them a message that is somewhat interesting and solves a pain point for them. I tend to flex the number of students we have and that we’re a free program. You can also use a number of tools on the internet to extract their email address from LinkedIn, in this case, I used ContactOut. From there, I crafted targeted emails to each person with an offering asking for distribution help. In the end, I managed to talk with 3 universities and get some minor support on advertising to their student base.

Paid Ads

Paid is an interesting beast and there’s a reason we only used this after we had initial traction. It’s because paid is not a bandaid for poor products, it is more like fuel for a rocket that is already moving. Naturally, because we had success with organic, we wanted to trial paid acquisition strategies.

We started with Google Ads, which yielded really poor results. We received a total of 23 sign-ups.

Though it says we received 110 conversions, the actual conversion point was a user hitting the success page so it’s 23. The average cost of acquisition (CAC) was $5.00 which wasn’t absolutely terrible but I knew we could do a lot better. So I paused google ads and went to explore Facebook.

Facebook Ads was interesting and I worked on it, in collaboration with Michelle Lia. For those who don’t use it much, the way my team and I like to approach Facebook ads is to start with relatively small ad set budgets ($10-20 per day) and then split any interesting demographics we get and then scaling ad spend up proportionate to the level of success that we’re seeing. For example, after a good amount of sign-ups, we can break down their demographic to see if they are from Gender X, Country X, Age group X or some other variable. Then we can split that into a separate ad set and see if that gathers more results.

We used our existing userbase as a lookalike, set up some ad sets and also a retargeting campaign (basically hitting people who came to our website with more ads to convert them). 

The traditional strategy is to target people then drive home conversions with a remarketing campaign. However, what we found was that people generally signed up on the first interaction with the website (our website had a relatively high conversion rate) which rendered the remarketing campaign obsolete. We also made use of dynamic creative which allowed Facebook to do the work by spinning up multiple variations of image and headline combinations and testing personalised ads on our behalf. This not only kept our costs down but maximised the number of sign-ups we were getting.

As you can see our CAC decreased to between $0.33 and $0.46 which is more than 10x better than Google Ads. With marketing channels, I believe in tripling down on the ones that work the best rather than diversifying. We’re also not afraid to quickly kill off any underperforming ad sets or strategies that we may be testing out.  So we started pushing more and more money into this channel. You’ll also notice that I haven’t included the remarketing channel since the CAC was over $1, so it was not worth the spend even if we lost people in the funnel.

Final Result

For the growth that occurred between 13,000 to 28,000, this was the breakdown:"

  • Organic Channels: 3000+

  • Google Organic: 1000+

  • Paid Facebook Ads: 4000+

  • Linkedin Groups: 200+

  • Referral Traffic: 6000+

  • Other Channels: ~800

As for google organic, we don’t have any blogs but our word of mouth traffic is really high so people are googling us to find our programs from an in-person referral. As a final note to the reader - growth shouldn’t be difficult. If you’re truly solving a need and an issue, people will flock to your product. If you’re trying all of these tactics and nothing is working, maybe it’s time to reflect on the product.

Want to Learn All This for Free?

I’m going to let you know in advance that I’m plugging an EntryLevel program here. We’re kicking off our latest program in Digital Marketing. You’ll learn all the above and much more for free! The next cohort kicks off in August and we’re taking in 100 people (for now) to join us for the program and learn how to be a digital marketer under real work conditions. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, student or looking to land a job - this is perfect for you.

Though the program is free, we ask for a 100% refundable commitment bond. If you finish the program on time (30 days + 2 week grace period) we’ll give you 100% of your money back. Education companies often talk about how you need skin in the game to be committed so they charge thousands. If they truly meant that, why don’t this refund you at the end of the program? That’s what we’re doing!

Join the August Cohort

That’s all from me! If you enjoyed this and are cool with zero consistency on when content comes up then feel free to subscribe.