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Giveaway as growth hacking

Many people look at e-commerce growth hacks as these imaginative, ingenious success stories that start out so simple, but bring in amazing results. Things like Dropbox’s extra space referral program, AirBnB’s leveraging of Craigslist ads and even Hotmail’s free email link in the subject line are all perfect examples of “unicorns” – rare, highly successful marketing tactics that are genius in their simplicity.

However—“giveaways” can be recognized as sweepstakes or free offers. My giveaway is a wooden business card. On one side you will get our information (i.e site, name and branding) on the other side you will see the text TFO TFO TFO. When you buy for the first time you get 2 cards like that, one to give to a friend to spread the word. I also like to give a nice discount for my customer's second purchase.

Before you put $10K into Google or Facebook ads, first see if there’s a way you can build in a refer-a-friend program. People will quickly jump on once they discover that there’s an incentive. With SaaS and E-commerce companies, you can also track the effectiveness of your program using it as an experiment.

A great example is the way Paypal grew from 1M cutomers to 5M in less than 4 months.

Initially users just had to sign up, confirm their email address, and add a (unique, authorized) credit card. The money was simply added to their account. This was real money. Users could send it to someone else or withdraw it. So it was a real cost to PayPal. We must have spent tens of millions in signup and referral bonuses the first year. (PayPal acquired 1 million users by March 2000 and 5 million by summer 2000.) The bonuses were gradually phased out, first by reducing them to $5, then by adding more verification hoops (like bank account verification) so they became more difficult to get. Then they were eliminated altogether. In this article, we barely touched the surface. There are many more actionable ideas to grow your online store, which I will talk about another time.

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