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This thread on how to get started in startup marketing got me thinking about how I got started in marketing and growth. It brought me back to my very first growth hack, which I wanted to share with you all. See the comment for details.


  • Morgan Brown (@morgan)

    Our fraternity had a string of some subpar parties. They were boring, poorly attended, and we usually ended up leaving our own house to find something more fun. Never a good sign. So I started to think about why that was. Assessing the variables I found that we had quality djs, plenty of libations, ample space, we were centrally located, had fun themes, etc.

    So I dug a little deeper and started to look at our party setup. Here’s how our bar was situated during our parties. It was in the corner, and behind the main house. The entrance to the lot is at the bottom of the page (the opening in the fence).

    party-before

    And looking at it, it dawned on me, my first growth hack. Move the bar. We were suffering from the empty bar syndrome. People would walk by, hear the music, look in, see no one, and keep moving. We were the victims of negative social proof.

    So we moved the bar. The results were instant and overwhelming. From the moment we moved it, the parties were packed. We had a year of epic fiestas.

    party-after

    After that we started to make other optimizations, such as adding a flashing siren light to the roof when a party was going on which acted as a beacon and drew people in. So that was really my first taste with CRO and growth hacking. Anything can be optimized, you just have to look at it critically and ask why and how it can be better.

    • Sean Ellis (@sean)

      I think this demonstrates growth is a mentality. Morgan showed me the first graphic earlier this afternoon and I came to the same conclusion before he could tell me the punchline. After reading about this hack I’m suddenly thirsty. Heading out for a beer!

    • Nichole ElizabethDeMeré (@nichole)

      I really enjoyed this story. Fun to share these kinds of stories and really get to know what everyone has been up to outside of a traditional work environment.

    • LukeThomas (@lukethomas)

      Such a great story. When I was a kid my grandfather would sell produce (self-service) at the end of his driveway, and give us grandkids the proceeds. Business was never bad, but we experimented with signs for the different produce that was for sale. A great learning experience about how to catch someone’s attention :)

  • Nichole ElizabethDeMeré (@nichole)

    I think my first :real: growth hack was a local music blog that I worked on with a friend since bout 2006.

    We created a community around it that grew into something much bigger than the blog.

    We’ve been working on other projects so we haven’t actively been focused on it within the last six months, but here’s a couple of things we accomplished:

    - We have an active Facebook group and active in-person community.
    - We’ve had three annual get-togethers. We meet somewhere cool every year. This year we intend to go to Oregon/Washington/California.
    - We’re considered as ‘authoritative’ in the music scene in Tampa, so we’re able to get into venues for free and/or get free tickets to concerts for us and a few our friends.
    - We get interviewed by local media when there’s a major event such as Record Store Day.
    - We released a compilation album of local (Florida) music.
    - We were invited to be behind the scenes to help run / contribute to local music festivals, one of the main ones being Total Bummer.
    - For a while we had a bi-weekly DJ night in which we featured a lot of local music.

    I’m sure there’s some other things that just aren’t coming to mind right now.

    I think my involvement in that blog helped me to get the internship with GHTV when they interviewed me for it because Bronson knew about Total Bummer. :)

    Most importantly though it was a really fun project and it grew out of sheer passion.

    • Morgan Brown (@morgan)

      Thanks for sharing your experience Nikki—that’s a great case study. I also built up a blog back in the day, and I think having the hands on experience of actually moving the needle and creating something from nothing is invaluable in terms of understanding and appreciating what it takes to grow.

      • Nichole ElizabethDeMeré (@nichole)

        Absolutely. It’s really amazing how you can use a blog as a foot hold to reach out to authoritative people to build your own authority. In this case we were able to use it as a way to reach out to music artists, including ones that are internationally well recognized.

  • Gab Goldenberg (@gabgoldenberg)

    Love this case study hehe.

  • Anuj Adhiya (@anujadhiya)

    Awe.some.

    This reminded me of the kinds of things companies with manufacturing operations do to optmize floor plan workflow (and as a result outcomes) as part of Lean Six Sigma (LSS).

    The light bulb (or siren in this case) didnt go off till I saw the your floor plans that essentially that’s what these LSS companies are doing – increasing conversions – only they are the consumers as well.

    • Morgan Brown (@morgan)

      Anuj, totally right. If you’ve read “The Goal” they talk a lot about the ‘theory of constraints’ which speaks very much to this idea. If you have pieces/people bunching up at bottlenecks on the floor you’re creating friction inadvertently which kills performance.

      The Goal is one of my favorite business books I’ve ever read.

  • benhoffman (@benhoffman)

    haha I love this. I guess the question remains, how did this hack affect the conversion rate?

    Even better, here is my Qualaroo nudge for this situation:
    I notice you like drinking. Would you like to be texted the next time we throw a party?

    • Morgan Brown (@morgan)

      The hack did a couple of things:

      1) Dramatically lowered cost per user acquisition in terms of party attendees. The costs of the dj, security, etc. are fixed for each party. Beer is also fixed (for the most part, there is some variability) so for each incremental partier we were building reputation and potential recruits at a lower per recruit cost.

      2) We definitely converted these parties into more members for our fraternity, which is actually a core function of the parties.

      3) I wish I had a cell phone in college! I’m old!

  • PierrePucheu (@pierrepucheu)

    Very interesing experience.
    You wanted to open a gate and you used the right key.

    ‘So I [dug a little deeper} and [started to look] at our party setup’