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July 31, 2018 - 2 comments

Stay the f*ck away from growth tactics

While rookies use tactics, pros use processes

So, let’s get started!

You’ve probably been hearing for tactics. People are talking about tactics, everywhere.

“I learned this great hack where you can get thousands of emails.”

“Let’s do CRO to our landing pages.”

“Let’s A/B test our website buttons.”

“I heard Lead Nurturing and Lead Magnets are awesome.”

“Let’s add a referral option to our app and go viral.”

That's all really nice and attractive. Who doesn't want to grow exponentially?

But with all those growth tactics available, how come that 75% of venture-backed startups fail?

Well, having a bunch of screws, bolts and tools doesn't build a machine.

First, you have to find your process- a schematic if you prefer, and then identify which tactics might work in your favor.

Probably most of the content you find about growth is wrong because most of the content is about tactics. 😵

“Stop looking for tactics first, and start focusing on establishing a growth process.” — Brian Balfour

Brian Balfour is mostly famous about being Founder/CEO @ Reforge and Previously VP Growth @ HubSpot. He occasionally writes here. You’ll find great stuff in there.

Another great individual to follow is Sean Ellis, he’s the Founder and CEO of Before that, he led early growth strategy at Dropbox, Lookout, Eventbrite, LogMeIn (launch to IPO), Uproar (launch to IPO).

Sean talked about high tempo testing.

“We grew from 90,000 MAU to 152,000 MAU in about eleven weeks without spending a dollar on advertising or increasing the size of our growth team.” — Sean Ellis

The more tests you run, the more you learn about how to grow your company. So the goal here is to run as many tests per period of time as possible.

That’s the main idea behind high tempo testing.

Test.Learn.Repeat. 🚀

Growth is about running experiments, analyzing results, and learning quickly. And for this, you really need two things:

  1. A method for running experiments
  2. A system for tracking and reporting

By running an A/B test once a month doesn’t count! You need a process, a tempo.

Keep the same tempo for every team member over there!

What we do in Viral Loops

We read a lot.

We test a lot.

We (try to) systemize everything.

We repeat.

We’ve built a weekly process which helps us have everything documented and in order. The truth is that growth is the sum of small parts, there is never a silver bullet.

You can grow by putting effort into many small things and not in a few big. That’s how you’ll learn your channel, product, and customers better than your competitors and this will help you take risks based on those learnings.

Learnings are everything.

Failed experiments liver-punched me enough times to make want to quit. But the shock was an indicator that my team was doing something in a very wrong way.

Keeping a tight documentation about your learnings will save you a ton of time if you aim to grow your team anytime in the future.

Imagine having to teach all the past failures to every new team member. Nightmare.

Your fails should be accessible company-wide, at any moment. It makes it easier to draw the big picture.

“The only way to tackle growth is to get the whole company focused on it” — Sean Ellis

We try to systemize our process for testing and learning in order to keep a tempo.


1. Brainstorm

We keep our ideas in a backlog and try to put everyone one on the team to contribute their ideas. It doesn’t matter what their day to day job is. Growth needs to become everyone’s job.

You can use spreadsheets or any project management tools to keep these precious ideas in one place.

2. Prioritise

We categorize our backlog of ideas by using the AARRR framework (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referrals, Revenue). Then we give every idea a score from 1 to 10 by using the “ICE” system. ICE stands for Impact, Confidence, and Ease of execution:

Impact. If this idea works, how much impact will it have?

Confidence. How confident are you that this idea will work?

Ease. Is this idea something that will be easy to test?



Let's say we have an idea with the following individual scores:

Impact: 9/10

Confidence: 5/10

Ease: 7/10

The final ICE score of the idea is simply the sum of the individual score, divided by 3.

This gives our idea an ICE score of 7. The higher the ICE score of an idea, the higher it's priority.

3. Test

After picking the top ideas to run based on our prioritization, we have to think of a hypothesis and move these ideas to the upcoming tests list. Try to run simple tests.

4. Implement

Upcoming tests are moved to the to-do list and it’s time for implementation. A test might need skills from more than one team member; that’s why we try to work as a team here. 😎

5. Analyse

Once the test has finished, write down the results. Did the experiment change the situation upwards? Or downwards? Did it work or not?

Be cautious. This part might be your "getting liver-punched" arc.

Don't get frustrated.

6. Systemise

This is the point where learnings are born. Write down what you’ve learned, how important it was and how it affects your company and your team.

The main goal is to get learnings at a high tempo. The more testing you do, the more learnings you’ll have. But the key is to share those learnings with the rest of your team.

As I said, we like to keep everything documented. We write down our learnings on a weekly basis (Weekly Learnings doc). Also, we keep track of some basic metrics in the AARRR funnel (Weekly Metrics Spreadsheet). The documents we’re using are the ones below.

We couldn’t be organized without using

  • GrowthHackers Projects to track our experiments
  • Google Docs and Notion to have all our docs in one place
  • Trello and Asana to write down tasks and experiment ideas
  • Slack for team communication. (sometimes we work remotely)

Delivering value to customers is so damn important

When you’re focused on growth, sometimes you get caught up in the data, but be careful, you might lose your path.

Your path is your customers.

If you keep your customers at the top of your priorities and you continuously deliver value to them, growth will follow.

Everything you build has to be for your customers.

Happy customers are the real key to growth ❤

Generate ideas. Run experiments. Learn. Repeat.

If you run out of ideas, always remember:

Cheers 🙂

Note: Puggy recently started spreading her knowledge on Referral Marketing, so 👉 Push the "Send to Messenger" button below to grab her exclusive content 🐶

July 3, 2018 - No Comments!

How Airbnb’s Referral Program Built a Billion $ Growth Formula

Remember when people first started using “google” as a verb?

It’s every startup’s dream—beyond making lots and lots of money, of course.

It’s the arrival. The moment when there’s a universal acceptance that your company as the go-to provider of a product or service…so much so, that people now use your brand as generic noun or verb.

Pass the Kleenex. Xerox a copy. Relax in the jacuzzi. Enjoy fish and chips with a coke.

And now...paying to stay overnight in a neighborhood flat or borrowing a local family’s rollaway bed while you’re airbnbing.  

So how did this scrappy, born-out-of-necessity, startup make their claim to fame?

For starters, they had a great idea. But everybody’s got an idea, right? What brought Airbnb to billion-dollar status was how they grew that idea, that is, how they increased their number of guest arrivals from 21,000 in 2009 to 80,000,000 in 2016. 😲

It was its well-timed and well-implemented referral marketing program.

Let’s talk about how they did it.

How Airbnb Built a Billion $ Growth Formula

Let your customers do the convincing

So you’ve got a new product, but the world is not knocking down your door to download your app or use your service?

Well, you’re not alone.

Not everyone wants to be an early adopter, and that was certainly the case for Airbnb.

What’s more, when Airbnb launched their service model, they were met with concerns—travels and hosts alike worried if they could trust a stranger.

Jumping that hurdle began with this fundamental insight: a whopping 92 percent of people say that they find recommendations from a peer more compelling than advertising.

We know how powerful word-of-mouth advertising is when used to sell any product or service. But for the services Airbnb offers, the power of a word-of-mouth was be even more critical for accelerating growth.

By building a refer-a-friend-like program that gave experienced customers the mic—along with background checks and a hefty insurance policy—Airbnb could reduce (if not eliminate) those fears, making travelers and their hosts more travel-ready.

Current customers became the trusted brand advocates new customers really want and need to hear from.

As Jason Bosinoff, Airbnb engineering manager, said in an article for Medium, “Airbnb experiences are so personal. People use Airbnb to unlock incredible experiences — anything from weekend getaways with friends, cultural exchanges, and once-in-a-lifetime events like honeymoons.”

And the referral approach is just that...personal.

Go big…and go home

When starting a referral program, everyone has the same question: What will entice people to sign on, sign up and most importantly, to refer others to do the same?

For Airbnb, the answer was simple.

Experiences. 🗽 🌉 🗼

They wanted to build a database of world travelers, ready to rent apartments, rooms, and homes the around the globe.

So the home-sharing company incentivized would-be travelers offering travel credits—$25 when a referred friend rented from Airbnb and $75 when a referred friend listed his or her property for rent on the site.

What’s particularly advantageous about this referral tactic is that Airbnb can detract swag hunters simply looking to collect loot or swag and instead, increase referrals of people who would actually travel. ✈🚆 🚁 🚍 

How Airbnb Built a Billion $ Growth Formula

Travelers who participate in the program can earn up to $5000 worth of lodging fees they can use to try out the service. 💰 🤑 💰

That’s certainly enough to pay for lots of mini-breaks weekends. 🚗 🏘

It’s up to the traveler to decide whether to spend these credits as they are earned, or save them up and use all at once.

Sounds really awesome to a traveler, doesn’t it?

For Airbnb, however, the approach was a little risky.

Here’s why...

To offer these travel incentives, Airbnb had to open up their wallet and pay some cold-hard-cash. When a traveler got a credit for accommodations, Airbnb still had to pay the host.

With this double-sided reward model, Airbnb was (and still is) putting their money where their mouth is betting that once customers try their service, they’ll return. Otherwise, Airbnb is just tossing money out the window.

If you’re confident in your product or service model — as Airbnb was — taking this sort risk just might be worth it, as the reward can be so sweet.

BTW if you want to build a referral program similar to Airbnb, we have a video tutorial about it:

Know your bullseye and keep score

Before you launch a referral program, you need to set a realistic goal and identify metrics that you’ll use to measure success or failure.

How Airbnb Built a Billion $ Growth Formula

Airbnb made sure they were aiming at a reasonable target by first running a closed beta test of its referral program.

To start, Airbnb offers the travel credit incentives for referral only to their existing 2,161 existing members.

The result? 2,107 new members joined, this nearly 1:1 growth ratio was a clear indication that this program would be a likely success.

From there, Airbnb identified six specific metrics to track, including:

  • Number of monthly active users sending invites
  • Number of invites per inviter
  • Conversion rate to new user
  • Conversion rate to new guest
  • Conversion rate to new host
  • Revenue impact potential

They looked at their growth in these areas historically (before the referral program) to see what they could reasonably expect from this program.

The results determined that the Airbnb team could expect their numbers in these categories to increase anywhere from 20 to 90 times their current standings.

This range provided a way to decide if the live referral program was successful in their attempts at bolstering their business through referral.

To see how their actual performance measured against their projection, Airbnb tracked growth every step, A/B testing new content and landing pages and using customized dashboards to make the information accessible.

And Airbnbers surely delighted in watching the numbers climb, as we know now exactly how successful this effort proved to be.

Ultimately, what Airbnb is trying to do is build a community of travel-loving followers. And their referral program is only one of the ways they are making “airbnbing” a choice preferable to booking some boring old hotel room.

June 26, 2018 - 35 comments

Dropbox grew 3900% with a simple referral program. Here’s how!

This is the 3rd addition to the "How the hell did they pull this" series- it’s not official, I just like to name things.

During the past few months we wrote about:

It’s already a cliche to try to convince you if referral programs work or not (of course they do) and why, so instead this article is solely focused on the how.

Numbers are important

Dropbox’s referral program is possibly one of the most famous cases of referral marketing done right.

Almost a decade later, it’s still used in numerous case studies showcasing how referral programs can contribute to a company’s growth engine- or even be the engine itself.

Let’s have a quick dive into Dropbox’s metric history:

  • September 2008: 100K registered users
  • December 2009: 4M registered users
  • September 2017: 10B evaluation + 1B revenue.

What happened between 2008 and 2010? Well, Dropbox managed to double its user base every 3 months, resulting in their users sending 2.8M invites in April 2010.

Dropbox Viral Loops referral

People, we’re talking about a 3900% growth in 15 months

OK, enough with numbers. Let’s get straight to the chase: how did they do it?

Obviously, it’s not all due to the referral program; they gathered a ton of feedback, they constantly improved their product and they kinda put a battle in order for VC’s to trust their money to them.

Since I’m not the best dude to talk about business development, I’ll have to put this aside and try to explain the factors that put this referral to the pantheon.

How the Dropbox's referral program functioned

The philosophy of Dropbox’s referral program was very plain. Since the product offered storage space in the cloud, they decided to reward people with more free space not only for referring their friends but also for accepting an invitation.

dropbox Referral Viral Loops

In order words, we’re talking about a 2-side referral program for a compelling product, that rewarded both sides for completing the desired task; registering for Dropbox.

We provide the easiest way to build a referral program inspired by Dropbox.

The details that made a champion

It was part of the onboarding process

Onboarding users can be such a pain. When people go on to start using a software or service, they expect they’ll have to fill out some details.

I don’t know about you, but when the onboarding process of a product I’m dying to use is easy, a smile carves my face.

Dropbox knew this and not only made the whole onboarding a six-step piece of cake, but they integrated their referral program in it as a final step

Just like saying ‘thank you’ by offering more of the product.

People had a clear view of the benefits

According to Dropbox's founder/CEO Drew Houston, Dropbox's referral program got inspired by Paypal refer-a-friend program.

Paypal rewarded referrals with cash (as this is what their business was about), so Dropbox had to use their product's main value in their rewarding system.

When someone decides to use a product, they exactly know what they want from it (whether they get what they expected or not is another story). In Dropbox’s case, people wanted cloud storage; the more, the better.


I get constantly asked what is one of the top 5 skills in marketing. I’ll be damned if copywriting is not one of them. Because context beats content.

That’s why instead of ‘Invite your friends’, Dropbox framed the referral as ‘Get more space’.

The ridiculously easy invitation process

After the user got hooked with ‘getting more space’, the next step was to make it as easy as possible to get it. It was clear that they had to bring their friends on board.

They could do so via social media sharing or by just sending their unique referral link in whatever way they wanted (messenger apps, email, SMS, handwritten cards, etc.)


But here lies one of the best invitation hacks I’ve ever witnessed. Email is powerful, but sending your invitations to your contacts one by one, Dropbox offered the option to sync your contacts from Gmail, AOL, Yahoo!, etc.


People knew their referral status

If you’re planning to create a referral program, listen to me; and listen to me good. You want to push users to make enough referrals in order to attain a prize goal.

How do you do it?

The easiest way is to make it visible to them how close they are to attaining this goal. I see this in a lot of referral campaigns; I complete the steps, invite my friends and then...Nothing!


No notifications or no email, informing how many of my friends actually successfully registered from my referral link. This is a huge mistake, people!

Dropbox included a panel that was accessible anytime by users, so they can see how the invites performed.

A Viral Loop on steroids

I became a member of Dropbox from a referral (what a surprise, huh?). I received an email from a friend, signed up, and then I received another email informing me that I was given 500mb for accepting my friend’s invitation.

“Sweet”, I thought. In the very same email, there was a P.S.; ‘To get even more space, invite your friends or upgrade your Dropbox’, with 2 links placed respectively.

Dropbox grabbed the opportunity in my WOW moment and offered me additional value by prompting me to get more without paying a dime. Their referral’s goal was to attain a bigger audience reach, not a boost in their revenue.

It was a chance to open their funnel in a very cost-effective way by just showcasing their will to offer more for less.


Let’s recap all the important info from the Dropbox story. First, they managed to attain 3900% user growth in 15 months. They did so, by constantly improving the product, coming head to head with VCs, and by building a legendary referral program

The referral program had 2-side rewards and was an overall success because:

  1. Offered an extended version of the same product.
  2. It was part of the onboarding process.
  3. People had a clear view of the benefits.
  4. It made it ridiculously easy for people to invite their friends.
  5. People knew their referral status at any given time.
  6. They managed to build a Viral Loop.

There you have it! Now, I’m going to step back and think what the next addition to the ‘How the hell did they pull this’ series (the name remains totally fictional, but I’ll fight for it).


In case you’re interested to build a Dropbox-style referral program, we have your back! Save yourself some time.

Cheers 🙂

Note: Puggy recently started spreading her knowledge on Referral Marketing, so 👉 Push the "Send to Messenger" button below to grab her exclusive content 🐶

January 19, 2018 - No Comments!

How Growth Team Brazil managed to grab 5.5K emails through Referral Marketing & Word of Mouth

Growth Team is Brazil's first growth hacking agency.

We interviewed Braulio Medina, Co-founder at Growth Team to know more about their marketing approach & how referral marketing acted as a catalyst for the company’s growth.

Can you tell us about what you are working on? What is Growth Team Brazil?

My name is Braulio Medina, I am a mathematician and entrepreneur who is raising the bar in growth marketing for Latin American customers.

I am the co-founder of Growth Team, which is Brazil's first growth hacking agency.

We adapt the most recent growth hacking strategies and methods to the reality of our customers and their audience to generate the best possible outcome.

At what stage is your company?

Apart from taking care of our ongoing customers, we decided to invest in growth education and bring the best knowledge in growth marketing to Brazil.

We are launching the Growth Marketing Brazil Pack in partnership with the Growth Marketing Conference, which is a digital product containing the material from the conference.

That's why we are using Viral Loops!

How are your customers using Growth Team Brazil? Could you share a few different use cases?

We have been operating for 7 months only and we've already generated some great results for many different clients.

Our strategy will vary depending on the type of business (B2B, B2C, E-commerces, Marketplaces)

How did you get your first initial customers?

We launched our growth agency using a very strong scarcity signal to the market: we would only let 10 customers join. Over 100 registered!

Do you generate sales from word of mouth and referrals?

We did a list building campaign using Viral Loops during the last Black Friday.

We decided to give away some materials and courses that we have.

There were 5 different levels, based on the number of people referred.

Over 5.500 E-mails were collected using this strategy!

What made you want to run a referral program? What’s your goal?

We wanted to generate as much awareness as possible for people interested in learning about growth hacking in Brazil.

What are the core metrics that you measure constantly and are super important for you?

The number of people impacted on social media by our organic campaigns, inbound leads, deals closed.

What platform is your website built on and what are the top 3 marketing tools that you depend on to grow your company & how do you use them?

WordPress, Slack, Hubspot.

Final Thoughts

Growth Team Brazil ran a list building campaign using Viral Loops during the latest Black Friday, giving away some material and courses that they had.

Over 5.500 E-mails were collected using this strategy!

If you want to create a referral program like Growth Team, you can check this cool project and create a Milestone referral campaign in 4 simple steps, like Harry’s did!

The entire process was designed to be as easy as possible!

Note: Puggy recently started spreading her knowledge on Referral Marketing, so 👉 Push the "Send to Messenger" button below to grab her exclusive content 🐶


January 4, 2018 - No Comments!

How Gilt Bounced Back from Dropping Sales and Positioned for $250M Acquisition

Everyone is buzzing about you...

Sales are rolling in…


BAM! 💥

Your company hits a wall. The PR shine you once had has worn off. Sales are slowing drastically. And everything you try barely moves the needle.

What do you do? Throw in the towel?

Ecommerce retailer Gilt faced this very problem. And (spoiler alert!) managed to stop the slide and keep the company alive, resulting in a $250 million acquisition in 2015.

We’ll talk about how they did just that (and what your company can do if facing a similar situation).

But first...I want you to understand the Gilt story. We need context.

In 2007, Gilt launched with a bang. Specialising in flash-sales, 💥 💰 🛍️, this cutting-edge online retailer’s first offer was 50%-off Christian Louboutin shoes 👠 👠. The offer excited masses of fashionistas, nearly crashing the popular new site.

And it looked like Gilt’s initial success was no fluke. The company saw continued success, with sales growing from $25 million in 2008 to an impressive $425 million in 2010. 💵 🤑 💵

Like many businesses, though, Gilt was not able to maintain the same trajectory of growth they achieved when they first launched.

Fortunately, they found a solution.

A referral programme.

But not any old referral programme. They built a brand new model, merging refer-a-friend and loyalty incentives under one umbrella.☂️

The Gilt Insider is a dual-purposed loyalty programme that would both grow word of mouth sales and increase basket value (or the cost of items in a typical customer purchase).

If those milestones sound like something your business could use, here’s a step-by-step guide to making a Gilt-style programme work for you.

Start the Problem

Before they could solve the dipping-sales issues, Gilt-ers needed to understand what was actually happening.

There were two primary culprits:

  1. Overextension of the brand
  2. Poor customer retention

Let’s talk about both.

Starting in 2010, Gilt ventured into full-price items in retail, travel and foods, creating new sub-brands for each. They soon discovered that spreading their wings wasn’t such a great idea.

When overall sales started to drop off, Gilt leaders knew something had to change.

First order of business?

Drop the extra dragging them down.

So long, full-price brands.

But waving goodbye to high-dollar extras alone wasn’t enough. Gilt still needed to capture and retain customers.👱🙋👨

Turns out, keeping customers is particularly difficult for retailers using the flash-sale model.

Customers do love 😍 a discount. I mean, really love a discount. In fact, coupons and vouchers, for example, can even cause the increase of oxytocin levels in the brain.

But here’s the rub.

Retention Science reports that while sites may be able to induce a sale with deep discounts, they will struggle more to retain customers, finding that 93.8% of customers who make a flash-sale purchase fail to make another purchase 😟  from the same site within a six month period. 📅

93.8%? That’s pretty much everybody. And no business can survive on the 6.2%.

Enter the loyalty programme.

Your key takeaway: Before starting your referral program, clearly define your problem; know what you’re trying to solve. Even though a referral programme helped Gilt, gaining new customers wouldn’t have gotten them over the sales slump.

If they didn’t also handle how their brand was brought over-extended, they would likely have not been able to stay afloat.

Critically consider the issue (or issues) that may be standing in the way of your success before you proceed with planning your program. A programme is only as successful as its foundation.

Don’t Forget Customer Loyalty

Participants in this dual-purpose programme, called the “Gilt Insider” programme, can earn points by spending money on Gilt or referring fashion-loving friends. 👗

They can also decide how they use their points, making rewards less one-size-fits-all and more tailored—just like the fashion brands they are offering for sale on the site.

gilt referral marketing viral loops

With an ongoing rewards-for-referrals model, Gilt can constantly capture referrals, even from the customers who have recently become aware of the brand. More importantly, Gilt retains their formerly one-and-done customers as they keep coming back to spend their points exclusively at Gilt.

To help customers see how they could use their points, Gilt built a beautiful explainer page.

gilt referral marketing viral loops

This page shows customers how they can spend their points and earn more. Want to save $20? Start referring your friends, and you’ll get there.

Your key takeaway: Getting new referrals is important, but keeping your existing customers is as wise as it is cost effective. With average customer acquisition costs ranging from $7 to $315, depending on the industry, working to maintain your existing bank of customers is costly. By giving your most dedicated customers a programme that rewards...and rewards...and rewards…you can get your customers to stick around (and buy more). 👊

Encourage Customers to Act Now and Again

Gilt’s success depends not only on recruiting new customers but also on doing something that flash-sale retailers are notoriously bad at—getting customers to come back often.

To dissuade customers from going months and months between purchases, Gilt set a relatively short expiration date on their points—six months.

To maintain their points balances, Gilt Insiders must make a purchase from Gilt at least once every six months. 🗓️

If a customer doesn’t make a purchase, his or her entire points balance will expire. The prospect of losing not just some, but all, points is enough to encourage many participants to make a purchase.

And, of course, Gilt doesn’t expire these points without warning. They send several, spaced reminder emails to give customers a heads up and encourage them to make that points-saving purchase.

Though some would consider selecting a relatively short six-month window risky, with clear reminders, Gilt continues to find success with this model.  

Your key takeaway: While most loyalty programme experts agree that having a point expiration is an important motivator to making a purchase, the debate remains regarding the ideal term. Your programme’s mission is to give customers and potential customers a reason to act now.

Whether you use expiring points or limited time referral offers, you can benefit from forcing customers to stop pondering the purchase and just buy already. 

Consider Making it Exclusive

As Gilt Insider customers gather points, they also climb levels within this program.

Developing a tiered program, with enticing benefits on each level, adds an element of exclusivity.

Depending on the number of points they earn, Gilt Insider programme participants can climb to Select 🥉, Premiere 🥈 or Noir 🥇 tiers. Each tier offers its own exclusive benefits, with the most sought-after reserved for Noir members.  

gilt referral marketing viral loops

Noir members enjoy waitlist preference and get a 1-hour preview of new items added to the site—a substantial lead on other competitive flash sale shoppers chomping at the bit.

Because tier status is re-evaluated annually, customers have yet another reason to keep on referring and spending, fuelling the continued success of the programme and, by connection, the continued success of Gilt.

Your key takeaway: By providing exclusive access, Gilt taps into customers fear of missing out (FOMOand creates a sense of urgency. Offering something to an elite group of buyers makes other customers aspire to be one of these high rollers. And, if they have enough aspiration, they may just make the purchases necessary to get there.

So, do you want to create a referral program similar to Gilt? We've got you covered.

This template is inspired by Gilt and it's the best way to let your store visitors refer their friends.

It's that simple!

In case you’re interested to launch a referral program like Gilt, we have your back! Save yourself some time.

Cheers 😉

Note: Puggy recently started spreading her knowledge on Referral Marketing, so 👉 Push the "Send to Messenger" button below to grab her exclusive content 🐶

November 10, 2017 - No Comments!

Insider Series #1: Steal our Inbound Marketing Stack

This is the first article of our ‘Insider Series’ about how we do things in Viral Loops. We thought that there is no better way to start things than explaining how we turn our leads into customers.

Inbound Marketing is a raw force; an art. And like every art, it’s a matter of perspective.

That means that there are (almost) endless ways to do it and endless reactions that people might have over it.

My good friend Pablo (yes, Picasso) said that great artists steal. Nothing is original and everything is a remix, that’s why this article is something you can literally copy/paste for your own business.

This piece of writing encloses the Inbound Marketing Stack we’re using for Viral Loops, and now you can get it to work for you. Note that it’s important to adjust this stack to what you do, otherwise it’s not going to make any sense and also it’s not going to work.

Read more

November 3, 2017 - No Comments!

MailChimp Made Its Mark With Masterful Giveaways And Funky Swag

Whether you’re heading to an event and need swag for your promo table, or trying to increase brand name recognition, every company’s got a use for swag and could benefit from a well-planned giveaway.

But that’s also the problem, isn’t it?

Every company gives stuff away.

That means, your customers already have a drawer full of pens, tees, squishy stress balls and glossy stickers from the last event they went to.

If you want to be different and have a meaningful, memorable, sure-to-keep-your-company-top-of-mind giveaway, then it’s critical you treat the swag process as more than the act of thumbing through a promotional catalogue or website.

One company that’s done just that with surprising—even weird—swag? MailChimp.

We ❤️ MailChimp. 📧 🐵

Everything about their brand, in fact—from the cheeky monkey, Freddie (no offence Lil’ Poogy), to their approach to design.

We even tried to get a tour of its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, the last time we were there. But no success. 😞

If their rate of growth is any indication, we’re not the only ones feelin’ the love.

Since the company’s launch in 2001, this self-funded email marketing platform has grown like crazy, gaining 14 million users and reaching $400 million in revenue just 15 years since its launch.

While their drool-worthy swag and engaging rewards aren’t the only reasons for company growth, certainly they’ve played a part in building the brand and its reputation.

These forward thinkers have created some of the most sought-after merch we’ve seen to date.

What’s their recipe for giveaway success?

Let’s take a look at these MailChimp-inspired giveaway tips.

Curate the right merch

According to Mailchimp, choosing the right merch begins with thinking about giveaway products from the right perspective.

At MailChimp, employees consider freebies less as marketing swag and more as thoughtful gifts.

While the Atlanta-based team hopes to yield a return on its investment, they’ve asserted that there’s no way to determine with certainty if the latest MailChimp colouring book, MailChimp windbreaker or Freddie & Mannie stationery picked up at a giveaway table will result in a sale.

But it ultimately doesn’t matter, because giveaways are all about the customer experience.

Let’s make this idea real: What would you think if you received as a gift the latest piece of swag your company ordered?

Would you respond with “oohs and ahhs” and couldn’t wait to use it?😍

Would using the gift make you feel like a kid again? 👶

Or, would you say... “meh” 🤷... instead?

If you’d be less than impressed, then why would you expect your customers to feel any more enthusiasm?

You already care about your company, but your customers don’t…yet.

Endear your customers to your brand by selecting swag that creates this feel-good moment.

It’s like giving your customers a hug 🤗, but with swag. 🛍

Because let’s be honest, pens and mugs can be cool. But a monkey pen holder that lives well beyond the life of my Bic pen and sits on my desk for years to come, well that’s so much cooler.

MailChimp didn’t have to guess whether customers would think the swag was cool. From assessing the softness of Freddie plushies to ensuring the durability of tote bags, to trying on winter hats, MailChimpers selected and tested each gift with care in-house.


To make sure that the treats used to tempt their customers are adequately…well…tempting.

And it’s worked.

Their merch is so tempting, in fact, that people have begun to collect MailChimp swag—some even willing to buy MailChimp merch that may have once been free.

Commission the right manufacturer

In their nearly two decades, MailChimp has done quite a lot of memorable stuff—but almost nothing quite as notable as one particular giveaway.

Tiny hats for cats. 😻 ❤️ ❤ 😻 ❤️

And no, we’re not joking.

In a killer contest, which ran in November of 2012 on Facebook, MailChimp offered participants crocheted hats for cats (and tiny dogs, too).

All a pet-parent needed to do to earn a chance to win one was to sign up for MailChimp’s email list.

This ingenious event was the perfect storm of giveaways, bringing together both the already viral nature of cats and people’s love for their pets and need to post pet pics on social media.

It became a viral campaign—cat video included.

The result? Tons of hats for a ton of cats needing to be sent all over the world. Who’s gonna handle manufacturing and logistics?

Fortunately, MailChimp figured this out before they promised to deliver feline headwear. By partnering with manufacturing and fulfillment company Amplifier, MailChimp prepared to deliver on promises.

They gave customers what they said they would give them, when they said they would give it to them.

MailChimp valued Amplifier so much that they considered this company their secret weapon, keeping their relationship secret for quite some time so as to not lose their competitive advantage.

Choose the right method

We’ve all seen those annoying sweepstakes spam pop-ups.

“CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve been selected…”

No thanks! 🙅

And then there are the social giveaways that ask you to follow 5 different people, comment on a photo, tag three friends and send in your email address.

I don’t know about you, but the prize would have to be seriously awesome for me to go through all of those steps.

If you want your customers to participate (let alone remember you), you need to give them something memorable, delivering your giveaway in a decidedly distinctive way.

That’s exactly what MailChimp did when it gamified its Freddie squishies giveaway.

Check more here 👉

Website visitors enjoyed an interactive landing page, full of animated objects, that encouraged them to search through the items, looking for the hidden prize. Only when they found the reward and clicked on it could they enter.

Engaging? Definitely.

Memorable? You bet.

Giveaways and swag helped MailChimp become the inbox dominators they are today, but that feat wasn’t achieved simply by the acts of running the giveaways and handing out the swag.

It’s the way in which they approached, planned and implemented these promotions that’s made all the difference.

So, do you want to create a campaign similar to Mailchimp? We've got you covered.

This template is inspired by Mailchimp.

People can join your competition, just by putting in their info. You give them the chance to increase their chances of winning by referring their friends, every friend is one entry.

It's that simple!

In case you’re interested to build a giveaway like Mailchimp, we have your back! Save yourself some time.

Cheers 😉

October 20, 2017 - No Comments!

Would Someone Spend $18,000 to Win Your Contest? Jet Made it Happen.

Listen, I’m pretty competitive.

Whether it's a game of football or who can finish a beer first, I’m in it to win it.

But even my competitive streak has never driven me to invest $18,000 toward winning a contest. I mean, that’s how much a brand-spanking-new 2017 Honda Civic 🚗. would run me.

So needless to say, when news of a man who shelled out this much cash for a chance at winning a referral marketing contest crossed my desk, I was intrigued to say the least. eric martin

Who am I kidding 😲 ? I questioned his overall sanity.

And I wondered what in the heck this company had offered to inspire him to spend the equivalent of two years of uni tuition.

The short version is this: Before its launch, (a startup wanting to compete with ran a growth hacking contest.

The result?

Besides the fact that some guy invested $18k securing a win, gained a quite the number of “insiders,” which most certainly contributed to their later multi-billion-dollar acquisition.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s dig into this brilliant referral marketing campaign, then you tell me...

Could you copy this model and inspire that kind of investment from your referral marketing participants to grow your business—or perhaps come even just a little close?

It may not be as difficult as it seems.’s Recipe for Referral Marketing Success

1. Give the people what they want. knew that the only way to ensure a strong launch was to build some online buzz; and what better way to do it than to hold a contest?

But this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill giveaway offering free product, swag or a cash prize, decided to tempt participants with something more valuable—shares of their business. giveaway

And they weren't just giving away a share or two... they were giving away 190,000 shares spread across 10 winners.

Yowza! 😱

Here’s the breakdown:

At the end of the contest, the winner earned 100,000 shares of stock (no, that wasn’t a typo. I said 100,000 shares).

Participants in places 2 through 10 received 10,000 shares each.

Your actionable tip:

Ok, so you might not have 190,000 shares of your stock you want to part with. But the takeaway here is that you must give participants something of value.

Logically, people are going to put more effort into your contest if you are offering something they actually want.

A free t-shirt is nice, but not many people are going to invest much time or energy for a chance to win a shirt to add to their probably-already-overflowing drawer of tees.

So don’t just copy your competitors. Think outside the box (📦 🕺) and offer something that hasn’t been done before.

2. Show participants their progress along the way.

What did contenders have to do to add these shares to their portfolios?

Simple. Get people to sign up as a Insider.

At sign up, each contest participant received a unique sign-up link so that could attribute referrals. Participants shared these links with friends and promoted’s insider program on social media using their unique links.

Jet sign up page

People hoping for a win didn’t have to guess as to how they were doing. There is a reason stadiums have a scoreboard, after all.

In this same vein, provided regular email updates to content participants showcasing their place on the leaderboard.

A virtual leaderboard—a sure way to motivate the competitor in all of us—tracked those with the most referrals, specifically, the top 10. giveaway

By feeding their referrers a steady diet of data, empowered those racing for the top spots, keeping the contest alive day after day.

Your actionable tip:

Follow’s lead and give your participants information on how well (or not well) they are doing.

Your ultimate goal is to get as many leads as possible.

By reporting your referral program competitors’ progress, you encourage those going after the prize to ramp up their efforts, in turn ramping up your lead list.

3. Get the word out far and wide.

When launched their referral program, they managed to obtain some serious media attention, which worked out to their advantage.

The man who ended up winning those shares learned about the program when in a Bloomberg Businessweek article.

Were this program not featured there, he might have never discovered it. And would have been down the 8,000 referrals he generated. 😬

By getting the word out, managed to catch the attention of their contest winner—father of two, Eric Martin works as a product specialist…or I should say, worked. He also ran for Congress in 2012, but his run ended in a disappointing 5th place finish Republican primary.

Martin heard about the contest and entered it late in the game, starting in January despite the fact that the contest had been going on since November.

jet eric martin

In the case of Eric Martin, it wasn’t slow and steady wins the race. It was, instead, pretty much the opposite of the Tortoise in the Hare.

In just three weeks, he signed up 8,000 people by investing 18K between Facebook advertising and marketing the promotion on and, giving him the #1 spot on’s leaderboard.

Your actionable tip:

Posting your program on your website and social media channels and hoping for organic traffic isn’t going to be enough. Pay to play with boosted social posts and traditional media to spread the message and get the attention of a larger crowd.

You can’t just depend on an “Eric Martin” finding out about your promotion accidentally.

So how did make out in the end? And what about Eric Martin?

At the end of the day, the referral program model worked out pretty sweet for

Yes, they gave away 100,000 shares 💰, but they ended up getting what they wanted – a strong customer base.

Before they even launched, had amassed quite the collection of customers — 350,000 to be exact, thanks in large part to their referral program.

The company had some hiccups—they had to give up on charging a $50 membership fee three months after launching, for one—but it looks like it worked out pretty well for them. Their big payday came when bought them for $3.3 billion in early 2016.

Oh, and as for Eric Martin...while he’s keeping mum as to exactly how much this deal netted him, experts say it somewhere between $10 and $20 million. 🤑

He’s suddenly seeming very wise indeed…

And in case you were wondering, Eric Martin himself is still at it. He won 50,000 shares of investing start-up Nvstr in May of 2017.

So, do you want to create a campaign similar to Jet? We've got you covered.

This template is inspired by People can join your competition, just by putting in their info. Then, the more friends they invite, the higher they climb up the leaderboard.

It's that simple! viral loops

In case you’re interested to build a giveaway like, we have your back! Save yourself some time.

Cheers 😉

July 28, 2017 - No Comments!

How Joeywears used referral marketing before raising $100,000 on their Kickstarter campaign

^ That’s JoeyWears an e-commerce company which tries to change the way we wear underwear.

Yang, Jake and their awesome team want to offer superior quality fabrics, the perfect fit and innovative designs to make underwear the most comfortable thing in your wardrobe.

Their motto?!

"No more sweaty balls"

joeywears viral loops interview

We interviewed Jake Mellet, Co-founder at JoeyWears to know more.

Hey Jake, can you tell us about what you are working on? What is JoeyWears?

In a nutshell, JoeyWears is the underwear your balls deserve.

We wanted to create a pair of boxers that are comfortable, sustainably sourced and look great - most undies just do one of those well. It’s taken us about 9 months to develop these bad boys, and we’ve just launched our Fresh-Man range.

Our pouch technology is designed to prevent sweat, our fabric is 3x softer than cotton & sustainably sourced, and they don’t ride up. We tested them on 100 beta testers, and they really loved them - even describing them as the “the upgrade my underwear drawer needs”.

Tell us more about the stage of your company?

3 weeks ago we launched on Kickstarter. We wanted to raise around $15,000 over the campaign, to hopefully find a community who loved JoeyWears. We managed to do this in 30 hours.

We’re now over 1000 backers after 3 weeks, which is incredible. 

joeywears interview Viral Loops

How are your customers using JoeyWears?

Currently, only our beta testers have a pair of JoeyWears. We actually have two versions - the Pro and the Active.

The Pro version is perfect for everyday wear, and we recommend it for people who work in offices or want the perfect pair of undies for a sofa day.

The Active version is (you guessed it) aimed at the more sporty amongst us. It’s designed to be great for running, the gym and especially cycling, and the feedback from our customers confirms this!

joeywears interview viral loops

That's great! Were there any early 'growth hacks' or tactics that have contributed to your current success?

One of the really cool growth hacks we did when launching JoeyWears on Kickstarter was to tag everyone who bought a pair in a picture on Facebook. This meant that JoeyWears was appearing on their wall which gave us loads of exposure fast.

This only worked for the first day, as now around 95% of the people we sold to we don’t know, but for the first day, which is so important on Kickstarter, it was a great way to recognise the people who supported us, and surprisingly, actually drove quite a bit of traffic as well!

Wow! Do you think that you generate sales from word of mouth and referrals?

Yeah, so pretty simply we were acquiring emails through referrals and now we’re converting those emails into backers on Kickstarter.

viral loops joeywears milestone referral

What made you want to run a referral program? What’s your goal?

I mean at the core of it, we wanted to get more email sign-ups so we could have an enormous first day on Kickstarter.

The interesting thing about Viral Loops was that it actually saved us money.

We drove some of the email sign-ups from Facebook Advertising - the cool thing about that is that it turned each sign up into 1.4 sign-ups, which cuts the CPL.

Essentially you can look at Viral Loops as a way to improve the efficiency of your ads - so if you are doing paid acquisition I’d strongly suggest looking at them!

milestone referral viral loops joeywears

that's the Milestone referral template that JoeyWears used

Can you share with us some results/metrics of your Viral Loops campaigns?

Viral loops has a load of options for how you can set up your referral program - so we tried a couple of these out to see how they performed - at the end of every three people we signed up we’d be getting an extra participant, which really helped push us to a huge revenue number on the first day of Kickstarter.

Do you have any core metrics that you measure constantly and are super important for you?

Now, we’re looking mainly at revenue of course - but for me, the most important metric is the number of backers.

The point of this Kickstarter is to be able to manufacture our first big bulk order, but more importantly, make sure that people like the idea - and hopefully that number will hit 1000 in the next few days.

In the future, of course, we’ll be looking more at CAC and LTV as we grow the business.

joeywears viral loops interview

Before we end, what platform is your website built on and what are the top 3 marketing tools that you depend on to grow your?

Our platform is built on Instapage - which was cool because some of the Viral Loops options integrated with that.

Top three marketing tools that have been really useful have been:

  1. Buffer, to help schedule our social posts.
  2. Thunderclap, which helped us launch with a big bang.
  3. Our old faithful, Google Analytics to help us know what we are and aren’t doing well.

Final thoughts

Their campaign on Kickstarter has over $100,000 of funding from over 1000 backers.

Guess what? They have 6 more days to go.

Support them 👉 here if you liked them.

If you want to create a referral program like Joeywears, you can check this cool project and create a Milestone referral campaign in 4 simple steps, like Harry’s did!

The entire process was designed to be as easy as possible!

July 21, 2017 - 4 comments

How Harry’s gathered 100K emails in a single week with a milestone referral program

Last week, I wrote a throughout article considering my experience with The Hustle’s milestone referral program.

I like this article, but I feel that there is more into milestone referral programs than just an example.

That’s why we decided that this week we should shed some light in one of the cornerstones of referral marketing:


Harry’s is a New York-based grooming brand that manufactures and sells shaving equipment via mail order.

The idea for the campaign was built by Jeff Raider & Andy Katz-Mayfield, Harry’s founders.

Their belief that the most powerful and effective way to launch their grooming brand was through a credible referral.

Thus, they focused on building a campaign that helped people to spread the word to their friends—and not just spending a ton of money on Google and Facebook.

They managed to gather 100,000 emails in a single week.

I want to write that again. 100,000 emails in a single week!

Although their original referral is discontinued, they have a new one in the making:

Harry's milestone Referral Viral Loops

Where this pre-launch led Harry’s?

Well, initially it helps the company to get 100+ million dollars in funding, for buying a 94-year-old razor blade factory. This way they could produce their own blades, taking on shaving heavyweights, Gillette And Schick.

Here’s how it looks like:

Harry's milestone Referral Viral Loops

Also, their team has now more than 500 employees and their digital store is one of the fastest growing in the industry. Apart from that, Harry’s owns its own barber shop in NYC (which I’m dying to visit).

The cherry on the pie is that they’re publishing their own magazineFive O’ Clock. Love it!

Can I tell you a secret? This referral was one of the reasons we decided to start Viral Loops.

By the way, we created a free tool to help you you build a referral campaign like Harry’s in 4 simple steps.

So, how Harry’s got so famous?!

I think the answer here is simplicity. Even a child that was capable of reading could easily be part of their referral.

The website of the campaign was something really simple, yet catchy and effective; just 2-page microsite.

1. When people landed to, they were asked to give their email in order to participate in the campaign.

The big bold image made pretty clear to people what Harry’s is all about in the first 5 seconds.

That, along with the nice tagline sparked the notion that Harry’s is launching soon and will disrupt the industry (respecting the face and wallet since like… right now).

Harry's milestone Referral Viral Loops

According to Jeff Raider himself, these words were intended to be playful and introduce people to the purpose of their brand but also leave an air mystery as to what they were all about.

They paired the line with a photo of one of their razors, but they included no more information about their company or product.

One thing that I would surely do if I were in their shoes, is that I would also allow people to join the campaign with Facebook login—this would give them more data and also increase conversions.

Younger people are not keen on checking their emails constantly.

2. After giving their email, people had to invite their friends to get the prizes.

The page included the unique URL of each user, a brief explanation of how the program works and a tracker where people could see how many friends they had referred and what prize they had attained.

Harry's milestone Referral Viral Loops

Harry’s followed the concept of a “Milestone Referral Campaign,” meaning that when people reached a specific number of referrals (milestone), they instantly win the corresponding prize.

There were 4 milestones in total:

  1. Referred 5 friends = free shave cream
  2. Referred 10 friends = free razor
  3. Referred 25 friends = free premium razor
  4. Referred 50 friends = free shaving for a year

Their clear messaging: "Invite friends to earn product.", along with the fact that attaining a prize was super doable (who doesn’t have 5 or 10 guys that shave?), skyrocketed the sharing count.

According to Jeff Raider, Co-founder and CEO of Harry’s, the referral mechanics were amazing. 77% of the emails were collected via referral, meaning about 20K people referred about 65K friends.

This means referrers, on average, every user referred more than 3 friends.

Yet there were a lot of people who referred well above that average: More than 200 participants referred more than 50 of their friends, achieving the highest tier reward.

This social sharing frenzy might be due to the campaign was designed to be share-friendly. I mean, they used pre populated tweets with a simple, yet irresistible copy:

Harry's milestone Referral Viral Loops

How did the fire start?

In their case, Harry’s did the exact same thing that The Hustle did; they focused on email.

All employees handed their email addresses (that was crucial as the first announcement about the product, went straight to people that were known to each other; you can’t ignore an email from a friend), and set their email signature properly.

The recipients received a personalized email in a very friendly tone of voice, announcing that Harry’s is coming. In the same time, the copy encouraged people to spread the word.

Apart from that, there was a ‘special’ batch of people (like company CEO etc) that receive emails crafted accordingly in order to incentivize them to share the message with their entire team, or company.

Can you do it like Harry’s? 

I think it’s clear enough that this type of referral campaigns is perfect for eCommerce Stores.

So if you own one, then the rewards can be your own products and coupons. Also, if you’re in pre-launch, want to just build an amazing referral program, this is a thing for you.

This is awesome for blogs, too. You can use it for email list building and give merchandise, like stickers, t-shirts, etc.

I think the only thing that stops you from doing it, is the will to do it.

For the rest, we’ ve built this milestone referral program tool, inspired by Harry’s that will help you setup your campaign in minutes.

Are you in?

Note: Puggy recently started spreading her knowledge on Referral Marketing, so 👉 Push the "Send to Messenger" button below to grab her exclusive content 🐶