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As the Head of Acquisition at Grammarly, Shanik is tasked with building a world-class engine for acquiring free and paying users for Grammarly’s consumer business. Shanik and his team help people around the world discover Grammarly, the world’s first AI-powered communication assistant.  Millions of users rely on Grammarly every day to make their messages, documents, and social media posts clear, mistake-free, and impactful.

Shanik has a passion for testing and refining the growth process, building a toolset over the years that that has allowed him to consistently launch and scale new paid acquisition channels across a variety of customer segments and geos.  Sustainable and responsible growth has always been a key component of Grammarly’s DNA, and, as such, Shanik and his team obsess over high-tempo experimentation, detailed measurement, and continual optimization.

Prior to Grammarly, Shanik studied Math & Economics at Northwestern University, and then worked in the Structured Investments group at Wells Fargo Securities, honing the analytics and statistics skills that would serve as the foundation for his move into the Growth world.  In his spare time, he strives to try every pizza restaurant and ice cream shop in the Bay Area!

He will be live on Aug 17 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • MV

    Maja Voje

    4 months ago #

    Hey Shanik, thanks for doing this. Grammarly is such a fantastic product. I am using it right now :) I would love to learn more about your lead nurturing strategy. How important is email marketing to you? From what I am getting I've seen a drip campaign (10 days?), weekly reports and of course invites to upgrade to premium. Do you utilize AI or ML to send out lead nurturing emails or is everything regular/scheduled? Is there any other channel that works well for you for pushing FREE Chrome extension users down the funnel? Thanks. Keep up the good work!

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      Hi Maja, thanks for the question and for the kind words!

      Email marketing is incredibly important for our company. Aside from the product, it’s the main way in which we build and maintain a relationship with our customers. The email streams that you mentioned are correct; additionally, we use email to distribute product updates, distribute our best content, and re-engage inactive users.

      I’d call out our Weekly Stats email as our flagship email product. This email provides users with stats about their writing, including number of words typed and errors made and corrected. It also provides writing tips and information on the user’s most common errors. We’ve seen this weekly email produce results along several dimensions:
      -Motivates people by showing them their progress and accomplishments
      -Helps people learn about their own writing and how to improve it
      -Shows people how much they’re using the product (and how much value the product is providing)
      -Provides opportunities for social sharing, which aids with virality and awareness
      -Re-engages users who are inactive

      We don’t currently use any AI or ML to send out emails, but we’re starting to work on identifying key ‘a-ha’ moments that would trigger an email. For instance, if a free user is using Grammarly to write a document that is over 500 words long, we may be able to infer that it’s an important document and that the user might be more receptive to a Premium offer.

      Email is by far the most effective and commonly used lead nurturing channel for us right now, but we have experimented with tactics like retargeting ads that advertise Premium features or aim to re-engage churned/inactive users.

      • MV

        Maja Voje

        4 months ago #

        This is gold. Thank you so much for this insightful answer. Kudos to your wonderful product and an amazing team!

    • IG

      Ilias Gal

      4 months ago #

      I second that, great question.

  • AC

    Andrew Connors

    4 months ago #

    Hi Shanik!

    I recently signed up for Grammarly, and have the free product. My questions for you are:

    1) At what points during a free users' lifetime do you see users jump to premium if they don't buy it right away during on-boarding?
    2) Why do they make the jump to premium? What measures do you take to entice previously free users to convert?

    Thanks Shanik, hope all goes well!

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      Hi Andrew, thanks for your questions!

      1) This upgrade curve varies greatly depending on the channel, country, time of year, and type of user. With a persistent product, we're seeing a very long tail of purchases.
      2) I’ll answer the second question first. As noted in the answer to Elchin’s question, we’ve actually not done too much to entice upgrades; we occasionally offer discounts by email, and we also use gated Premium features/corrections/suggestions to make sure that Free users know what they’re missing. My team is now beginning to focus more on ways to boost this conversion rate.

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      The most common reasons that users upgrade are either 1) they’ve found that they’re getting value from Grammarly on a daily basis and that it’s worth paying for the Premium features; or 2) they have an important document that they’re working on and they need it to be perfect. The second reason is much more common to students, who regularly upgrade during a heavy-writing period like Finals, and then downgrade back to the Free version when their essays are finished.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    4 months ago #

    Thanks for doing this AMA Shanik. I'd like to know how important is SEO for your growth? If it's important how do you guys manage it?

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      Hi Sean, thanks for your question!

      SEO is critical for us on at least three dimensions:

      1) We have a series of high-intent, high-volume head terms in our space and, when we rank well for them, we generate a ton of conversions where CAC=0. This gives us much more flexibility in exploring new acquisition channels or testing more aggressively within existing channels.
      2) SEO is a key component to our content marketing strategy that’s designed to empower knowledge workers to invest more in effective communication. Many of these professionals find us through organic search.
      3) Lastly, as our brand awareness grows so does our brand query search volume, and so it becomes increasingly important to optimize our presence for brand-related queries, ensuring that the right pages are showing up for the right queries.

      6 Share
    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      As to your second question, we currently have one person in-house dedicated exclusively to SEO, whom we’ve supplemented with a small group of consultants each specializing in a specific area of SEO (e.g. technical, on-page, keyword research, etc.)

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        4 months ago #

        Awesome, thanks. Seems like a great channel for you guys and like you are really maximizing its impact. BTW, I had never used Grammarly before and having just signed up for it today, I'm loving it!

  • EG

    Elchin Gulmammadov

    4 months ago #

    Many thanks for doing AMA! You built a great and valuable product.
    1) What was your customer acquisition strategy? Where did you focus most?
    2) What was the most effective acquisition channel? Why?
    3) How do you convert free trial users to paying customers?

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      Thanks, Elchin, for your questions and kind words. I’ll pass that feedback to our awesome product and engineering teams!

      1)
      Our first channels were Search and Affiliate. Search, of course, was the channel that could bring us the highest intent customers, but it was also the place where we could get very granular with our messaging and keyword targeting, which gave us insights that would drive product strategy and in-product messaging, as well the messaging that we’d use when we started explore new acquisition channels.

      Affiliate was another low-risk, high-learning channel that was launched in Grammarly’s early days. Because we were only paying commission on actual conversions, we knew we could operate this channel with high margins. In addition, we could see which channels and tactics worked best for our affiliates, and then add them to our own mix.

      5 Share
      • SP

        Shanik Patel

        4 months ago #

        2)
        Currently, our most effective acquisition channel is video advertising. Specifically, YouTube has been very productive for us, and video ads on Facebook and TV have also shown promise. I believe we’ve found success on YouTube for a few reasons:

        -If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. In a video, we could communicate what Grammarly does, its ease of use, its versatility across all writing platforms, and its clean and crisp aesthetic appeal. And we could do all of that tied up into an engaging story. We could never do that through a banner ad, or any other type of ad. Grammarly is a product that isn’t easy to describe concisely in a sexy way, and video allowed us to show people how Grammarly can improve their lives, help them achieve their goals, build confidence, and more.

        -YouTube’s targeting is really, really good. Similar to Google Display, we can target certain placements, “in-market” categories, topics, keywords, interests, retargeting audiences, etc.

        -The inventory is cheap, although prices are rising quickly. The barrier for an advertiser to enter video advertising (i.e. spending the time and money to produce a video ad) is much higher than for any other channel, so it’s a less crowded space than most other channels.

        4 Share
    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      3)
      We employ a freemium model, whereby there’s a free browser extension that checks for most basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors; users can upgrade to our Premium version to get more comprehensive checks, including sentence structure, word choice, style, plagiarism, and others

      We’ve actually not done too much to convert free users into premium users. We do nurture users and offer discounts through email, and we have various hooks in our product where we encourage users to upgrade in order to see gated corrections/suggestions. Aside from that, we have mostly relied on our product. With a persistent product that is ‘there’ wherever and whenever people are writing online, it’s easy for users to see that they’re getting value from Grammarly on a daily basis, and many people decide to start paying for the Premium version to get the full value.

      We are now at the point where we have a sizeable free user base, and even a small increase in upgrade rate can be meaningful. So we’re starting to look at the levers we can pull to increase upgrades, including experiments in our funnel, new/different/personalized messaging, pricing, and an enhanced feature set for Premium.

      5 Share
  • TM

    Ty Magnin

    4 months ago #

    What are your top 1-3 favorite places's for pizza and ice cream in the bay?

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    4 months ago #

    I really love the onboarding for Grammarly. How much testing did you guys do with it? And you're welcome for sending a bunch of people to check out your onboarding :)

  • TM

    Ty Magnin

    4 months ago #

    Shanik - where does your job as an acquisition specialist end? is it as soon as they sign up for an account?

    if so, how do you align acquisition efforts with activation and retention performance? are there any key teammates you collaborate with to do so?

    Thanks,
    Ty

    P.S. posted a response to a question you asked on Vivan on her AMA the other day. thought it might be helpful ;) https://growthhackers.com/amas/vivian-qu-growth-engineer-pinterest#comment-75312

    5 Share
    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      Hi Ty, great questions, and thanks for the blog post-- very helpful!

      For our acquisition team, it’s critical that we’re acquiring users profitably. We find that there’s a lot of variance in activation, retention, and upgrade rates of users depending on the acquisition channel, the user type, the country, and even the time of year. Because of that, we have to pay close attention to the down-funnel metrics to make sure that each campaign and channel is acquiring the right type of users at the right price.

      In order to do so, my team includes a Data Analyst who is evaluating cohorts of users against the price that it cost to acquire those users. My team also includes metrics owners who are focused on running experiments to improve activation and upgrade rates, which in turn allows us to invest more into acquisition. Our acquisition channel managers have the best insight into the types of users that we’re acquiring (and the types of users who are available in acquisition channels), and so they work closely with the metrics owners to ideate and design experiments that will have the greatest impact.

      4 Share
  • DP

    Damon Pace

    4 months ago #

    I've been building extensions lately and I'd like to know what you consider your top 3 user acquisition tips for extensions. How effective is paid acquisition and what channels work best in your experience?

  • NB

    Nikolas Baron

    4 months ago #

    Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Patel.

    I'd be curious to know how you think about...
    1. Prioritizing investment in new and emerging channels vs. optimizing and maintaining existing ones
    2. What the next 2-3 most promising emerging acquisition channels will be

    In eternal fandom,
    Nikolas Baron

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      Hi Nik, it is TRULY an honor to receive your questions.

      1. In short, I'm a firm believer in spending more time extracting everything you can out of your best channels, rather than jumping into new channels. Here's my long answer:

      We’re a very lean marketing team at Grammarly, so we have to be very selective with how we spend our time and resources. There are two guiding principles that we use to determine if and when to test new acquisition channels:
      -Prioritize intensive growth
      -Consider expected value (ICE Framework)

      Intensive growth: I’ll use a farming analogy to illustrate intensive vs extensive growth. Suppose you have several farming fields. You can either maximize your yield by focusing one field at a time, using fertilizer, machinery, advanced irrigation techniques to squeeze everything you can out of that field before moving on to the next field (intensive). Or you can try to farm several fields at once, moving on to new fields grow (extensive).

      Now, if we apply it to marketing: Intensive growth, as we define it, means doing a lot of work to maximize the efficiency of one or a few high-impact channels before moving on to new channels. For sustainable growth, we’ve found that intensive growth is best.

      Intensive growth is hard work- it takes a lot more thought and effort to fully test and optimize and grow one channel than to capture the lowest hanging fruit in multiple channels. Especially if you’re only operating in a couple paid channels, it can be really tempting to grow by just jumping to other channels rather than going deep on existing channels. But intensive growth is where the real innovations and the breakthroughs occur. We’ve found that, by making our core channels more effective and efficient, it keeps our CAC much lower, which gives us the ability to test new channels with some runway towards achieving profitability. But more importantly, the learnings that we’ve acquired through intensive growth allow us to grow the new channels faster.

      Expected value: With that said, we do always need to be on the lookout for promising new channels that we should test before they become too crowded and expensive. We typically will research new channels through blog posts, conversations with other growth marketers, and calls with account reps. Based on our findings, we’ll estimate our expected value for opening the channel based on the potential impact (users, revenue, learnings), the certainty of the impact, and the estimated cost (time & effort + dev/design resources + $). There are a bunch of blog posts about this “ICE Framework” (Impact, Certainty, Effort), and I’d recommend using this or some variation for all prioritization. I'm not sure of the original source, but I think it can be tracked back to Sean Ellis: https://growthhackers.com/articles/exposed-sean-ellis-secret-growth-framework

      5 Share
  • MB

    Maria Borysova

    4 months ago #

    Hi, Shanik!

    Thank you for doing AMA, I am a big fan of Grammarly and glad I can ask you a few questions here.
    I would like to know more about the testing of new acquisition channels. What is your strategy and how do you define new channels to test?
    Also, it is interesting to know how do you allocate the budget (% of budget for testing new channels and % for "old" ones that are already working)

    Thank you!

  • LA

    levent aşkan

    4 months ago #

    Hi Shanik,
    Thank you for doing AMA.
    I am a big fan of Grammarly after the video that you have released.
    If it is not a secret, can you share its performance with us?
    Or you can compare with the previous ones.

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      Hi Levent, thanks for your question. We’ve seen varying degrees of success with the various video ads that we’ve produced. I’m not able to share exact metrics, but here’s a list of our ads along with some color about whether they worked and why:

      Clear and Compelling:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15NXrnyT2HM
      Our most successful video. It’s a simple explainer video that aims to highlight the product, how it works, ease of use, aesthetics, versatility, etc. We’ve served hundreds of millions of impressions of this video on YouTube with a terrific direct response effect.

      Better Writing for Students & Professionals
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VueSBzrIh1o
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO15VbjYv54
      Our first video ad project, which showed us the power of video advertising. It was fairly successful for several months before reaching the end of its shelf life. Each ad worked well with its target audience.

      First Day, Second Guess
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak-Y56SfkS0
      Our first branding ad, which we used on YouTube and TV. This ad wasn’t conceptualized from a DR perspective. Rather, we were aiming to introduce Grammarly to a broad TV audience through a relatable story. Unlike most DR ads, this ad didn’t mention the product until halfway through, and it didn’t explain the product with a voiceover or show the logo on the screen the entire time. Despite that, it worked very well as a DR vehicle.

      Enhance Everyday Writing
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Urbjmb6vJAo
      This format (a bunch of testimonials spliced together is great for packing in a ton of benefits and value propositions in an engaging package. We also were able to show viewers how the product looks and works, which we’ve found to be a key ingredient for success. The format is also great for making multiple versions targeted to different customer groups, since the content is very interchangeable.

      Grammar Game Time:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR_J_j1q9gc
      I really like this ad and think it’s a fun spot, but it doesn’t work well at all from an ROI perspective. I was optimistic about it and pretty surprised it didn’t work.

      Testimonials:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmEkTyw71bg
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uz7eKNtEXOw
      We tried some testimonials featuring working professionals, but they didn’t perform well on YouTube, unfortunately.

      Send with Confidence
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X19FKbypqIw&t=7s
      I worked with an animation studio to put this spot together after seeing the success of our first explainer video. It’s aimed at professionals, but doesn’t perform well.

      Common aspects of most successful ads:
      -Product shots that show how and where Grammarly works
      -Using Grammarly’s versatility to show viewer how much they write (and how important their writing is)
      -Favorable comparisons to tools they’re already using
      -Makes it clear that Grammarly is free

      4 Share
  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    4 months ago #

    Bonjour Shanik,

    Merci for doing this AMA.
    What is the growth model at Grammarly?

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      Our typical customer journey for Premium consumer users looks like this:
      1. Acquisition: Visit our site; install our extension and create an account
      2. Activation: Begin using Grammarly to make messages, documents, social media posts more clear, effective, impactful
      3. Usage/Retention: Uncover the benefits of using Grammarly (This varies for different types of users, but some common benefits are fewer mistakes, more confidence, saved time, better results)
      4. Revenue: Decision to buy Premium to unlock more features & checks
      5. Premium LTV: Moving into longer plans and/or resubscribing when plan expires

      My team focuses on steps 1 and 2, and also 4 and 5 to a lesser extent. For acquisition and activation, we’re aiming to maximize the quantity of high-quality traffic relative to the cost of acquiring the traffic. In other words, we obsess over serving the perfect ad to the perfect person at the right time in the right place leading to the perfect funnel experience, all at the right cost. We’re a writing tool that can be used by pretty much anyone who’s writing in English, so that can include students, job seekers, professionals, English learners, writers, bloggers, casual email/social media users - so this is not always easy. But maximizing efficiency allows us to sustainably grow into new audiences and customer segments, geos, channels, keywords.

  • BS

    Bhaskar Sarma

    4 months ago #

    Hey Shanik

    Grammarly saved my ass, and my "izzat" as they say in the home country countless times. :)

    What's your process for finding and scaling new acquisition channels?

    What kind of metrics/KPIs tell you whether a channel is tapped out?

    And lastly, how do you optimize for best fit users?

    Thanks again.

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      Bhaskar, thanks so much for the questions! We may have to use your testimonial in some of our ads ;)

      We’re always on the lookout for new channels. Our best source of intel about new and emerging channels has been our network of growth practitioners. As growth marketers, we’re lucky to be in an industry that is very open about sharing learnings. As such, we’re very active in meeting and building relationships with other growth marketers who are like-minded with regards to rigorous testing of new channels, tactics, audiences, etc. I keep a network of ~15 growth peers who I catch up with periodically to exchange notes and learnings, and those conversations have led to some of our best breakthroughs and channel discovery.

      For scaling, it’s all about personalization for us. In other words, we obsess over serving the perfect ad to the perfect person at the right time in the right place leading to the perfect funnel experience, all at the right cost. We’re a writing tool that can be used by pretty much anyone who’s writing in English, so that can include students, job seekers, professionals, English learners, writers, bloggers, casual email/social media users - so this is not always easy. But maximizing efficiency allows us to sustainably grow into new audiences and customer segments, geos, channels, keywords.

      • BS

        Bhaskar Sarma

        4 months ago #

        You should totally do that, Shanik. The izzat bit would probably fly well in Facebook ads targeted in India and ME :).

        Thanks for your reply.

    • AA

      Anuj Adhiya

      4 months ago #

      And this is officially the first time "izzat" has been used on GH :).

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    4 months ago #

    Hey Shanik - so cool to have you on!

    I have so many questions for you but I'll restrict myself here :)

    1. What is Grammarly's North Star Metric?
    2. How is Grammarly's growth team structured? Where does it reside in the organization and why?
    3. What do you'll use to manage the growth process and communicate progress/learnings throughout the organization?

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      As a company, our North Star metric is MAUs.

      As a growth team, we have a few other metrics that we watch very closely:
      -New & Recurring revenue & 60-day upgrade rate
      -1-month and 6-month retention rates
      -YOY growth rates
      -Profitability metrics like payback period, C/Sale, C/Install

  • TE

    Taylor Edouard

    4 months ago #

    Hey Shanik! Thanks for this AMA :) What are your best and worst acquisition channels that you've tried for Grammarly?

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      Best new channels that we launched during my time at Grammarly:
      -YouTube: Time consuming to create ads, but they work. The scale is enormous, the targeting is great, and the inventory is cheap!
      -Facebook: Amazing scale and targeting, but expensive and time-consuming
      -Sponsored Content (Taboola & Outbrain): We've not been able to scale it, but it's cheap
      -Pandora: Good results when we bid on the cheap, remnant inventory

      Worst:
      -Twitter: Just didn't work at all. No targeting, crappy ad formats, expensive.
      -Podcasts: I'm not giving up on podcasts yet; I think they can be incredibly effective. But we weren't able to make them work because we don't have a mobile product, so we weren't able to drive people listening on the phones to their desktops. (Maybe it worked, but we just couldn't measure it)
      -LiveIntent: low quality installs (for us, at least)

  • CQ

    Calvin Quallis

    4 months ago #

    Hey Shanik!

    For a relatively new personal care, ecommerce company, with a strong repeat buyer rate (50% of monthly revenue is from repeat customers), looking to grow aggressively, I'd like to learn more about what you'd advise as an acquisition strategy? We're hooking customers once we have them, but need to drive massive new customer acquisition growth.

  • NA

    Nissar Ahamed

    4 months ago #

    Hey Shanik, thanks for doing this AMA!

    1. What is your B2B Strategy?
    I have noticed that most of Grammarly's acquisition (ads,videos) seems to be geared towards individual users like me.
    With your recent funding round - is there a shift towards Enterprise/B2B ? If so, where do you see Grammarly's growth opportunities are?

    2. As a Product company - what is your content marketing strategy?
    How effective is your blog (https://www.grammarly.com/blog/) in helping you acquire customers?

    Thanks in advance for your answers!

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    4 months ago #

    Hi Shanik - thanks for joining us today!

    I'm curious, are there any routines or habits engrained in Grammarly's processes that you think contribute to improving growth?

    Looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

    Cheers,
    Dani

  • MD

    Matt Derrick

    4 months ago #

    Shanik, thanks for doing this AMA. My question is, not surprisingly, around growth--do you foresee growth coming from continuing (and increasing) execution on your current product, or building out additional product features & extensions that open up new markets? I realize it likely may be a combination of the two, but just curious your gut on where you'd lean if forced to pick just one. Thanks!

    Matt

  • SP

    Shanik Patel

    4 months ago #

    Hey guys, thanks so much for all the amazing questions! I have to go for now, but I'll be back later to get to answer the questions I didn't get to!

    3 Share
  • JJ

    Jitendra Jain

    4 months ago #

    Hey Shanik,

    Love Grammarly.

    How are affiliates doing for you? What percentage of subscribers come through Grammarly?

    • SP

      Shanik Patel

      4 months ago #

      Hi Jitendra, thanks for your question. I’m not able to share an exact percentage, but Affiliate marketing is one of our most meaningful acquisition channels. It’s our fastest growing channel and also the one with the highest margins.

  • AA

    Aayush Agarwal

    4 months ago #

    Hi Shanik! Any tips for early stage B2B SaaS acquisitions? Thanks in advance!

  • LB

    Laura Borghesi

    4 months ago #

    Hi, Shanik - thanks for your time in this AMA!

    My question is relative to paid marketing and goes into the granularity of brand and non-brand campaigns. In the beginning, while building out the paid marketing program, how did you define which type of campaigns to run first (if at all) and how did you and team demonstrate the success across both brand and non-brand campaigns?

    Thanks!
    Laura

  • MN

    Matt Neely

    4 months ago #

    What tips could you share about growing a user base for a new chrome extension?

  • PH

    Paul Hopkins

    4 months ago #

    Hi Shanik

    As you mentioned YouTube is a good channel for you and I have personally seen your campaigns on there a lot.

    I noticed you have changed from the 'new social media exec' campaign to a new creative.

    Have you any tips on the creative, length of video or call to action which is good for CTR?

    Thanks

    Paul

  • JJ

    Jitendra Jain

    4 months ago #

    What are the things that you look into affiliates?

  • DD

    Dhiren Desa

    4 months ago #

    What strategy would you recommend for a new product launch (in this case a reimagined LMS) ?

  • ST

    Stanley Tan

    4 months ago #

    Hi Shanik,
    How do you communicate your marketing strategies that get the "OK" from your bosses?

    I've found that leads, sales and ROI potential aren't the main things that gets an "OK" from mine.

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