There’s a good chance you’ve heard of pretty much all these amazing companies I’ve talked about in this guide, and you’ve probably heard of the various press articles on how they’ve disrupted their respective industries/categories and the funding rounds they’ve received time and time again (for most of them anyway).
Yet, how well are you across some of the key strategies and tactics that helped contribute to the success of these startups that we all know and love today?
That’s why I’m absolutely pumped that you’re here because there’s so much you’re going to learn from the studies I’ve read and talked about in this guide.
The great thing about these growth hacking case studies is that they all include some epic growth hack golden nuggets you can learn from and are helpful to read regardless of your marketing/startup experience.
Also, just by reading and going through these studies helps with understanding the journey and process of what it took for these companies to experience exponential growth.
Additionally, reading these studies helps with motivation and being reminded that all these startups have tried and tested many strategies over the years. It helps us understand why certain channels and initiatives worked for them at a particular growth stage.
So, what do I highlight in each of the digests for the various case studies?
For each of the digests, I’ve done high-level notes and some key takeaways to give you a taste of what’s included in the study resource. It’s by no means an exhaustive digest that includes all the key points from the study, but I picked and shared some of the standout highlights.
For example, I mention through the digests these particular takeaways.
- Statistics/data performance
- Key channels they may have used
- Strategies they may have tested and scaled
- Top-performing campaigns they ran (which catapulted market penetration)
- And some high-level strategy observations
To view more detail about tactics/strategies and to see other key points in detail related to the startup’s growth success, you’re going to have to go through all the resources (which is totally worth doing).
Note: Quite a few of the case studies I’ve listed as resources do date back a few years. I wrote these digests based on the information I found in these studies (but I also added some context and extra notes from my end too).
Many of these startups and brands, as of right now as I write this guide, have gone on to experience even more amazing growth, so many of the numbers in terms of funding, growth/marketing analytics (etc.) are probably outdated.
However, I chose these studies because they possess awesome detail, including great insights, data/statistics, illustrations, examples, and lessons on strategies/tactics. Plus, they are just great-quality reads and are lengthy in detail.
So, whilst you may come across guides/articles that were from a few years back, they are definitely worth reading due to the amount of information and lessons that are still very much applicable today for startups.
Related resource: Oh, and just before you dive in below, if you’re in DTC/eCommerce, I actually wrote a massive guide just like this on DTC and eCommerce case studies by specific channels (of which there are over 135+ studies to check out). Channels include specific case studies on TikTok, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Referral Marketing, and so much more. Good chance you’re going to want to devour this guide as well (haha).
Okay team, time to get into these studies (woo!).
(By the way, if I’ve missed any other case studies you recommend, or if I’ve left anything out that you believe I should include in the digests, just let me know). :)
1. Canva - The design platform grew into a billion-dollar company in less than a decade
- Awesome case study by Gallantway on Canva, where they’ve done a timeline view of Canva’s growth over time (with screenshots) and other key channel areas that helped catapult Canva’s success.
- When they were just starting out, Canva focused on highlighting social proof, the number of templates they had available, and promoting their growth performance (e.g. amount of new users).
- An early-stage strategy they focused on was reaching out to influencers and bloggers in the SME/creator space, and utilising evangelists, such as Guy Kawasaki (chief evangelist).
- All of their templates and designs have a landing page, which helps with targeted SEO queries, which helped spur their organic growth fairly quickly.
- The company sends empowering welcome emails after signing up, letting people know they can easily create great designs too.
- They did (and still very much do) a lot paid Facebook ads to targeted landing pages and templates, highlighting trust and credibility (customer quotes, reviews, etc.). Their Facebook and Instagram Ads game is very good even to this day.
- They were also brilliant with Google Ads (and have done some clever campaigns over the years).
- Their goal to add value to users is sincere, made evident through their free plans offered to non-profit organisations.
2. Buzzsumo - One of my favourite marketing applications grew to $5mil ARR in 3 years
- Buzzsumo is one of the top content marketing and social media competitive intelligence platforms on the market, which experienced amazing early growth.
- In the first year, they achieved $2.5mil ARR and soon, over the following couple of years, achieved $5mil ARR over 3 years.
- Big growth levers for them were content marketing (which you’d naturally expect from a content/social media tool) and just a great product experience. They had a good retention rate.
- They had a freemium tier in the early stages, which helped with initial acquisition.
- They also worked and partnered with complementary marketing technology companies who had relevant audiences, such as Moz, Canva and Buffer.
3. Orrto (formerly Autopilot) - How this email automation platform grew from 0 - 3.5k customers in just 2 years
- Orrto (formerly Autopilot) came into the market with an offering that wanted to avoid complexity, focus on self-serve, and be affordable. They had a good product offering compared to existing solutions.
- One of the top strategies they incorporated through the lifecycle that helped with new customer acquisition and activation was content marketing/SEO.
- Naturally, as an email marketing platform, they had a strong automation email nurture sequence that would send triggered emails based in certain customer behaviour - all personalised depending on the customer stage. Really awesome demographic which shows off a high-level email map.
- They sent personalised ‘activation’ messages based on user usage during the trial period.
- They worked on product-led growth initiatives, such as testing pricing sensitivity. Used “land and expand”.
- Product integrations helped tap into new user segments.
4. Groupon - Yep, Groupon was one of the fastest-growing companies back in 2011 (and still going strong)
- We all know of Groupon’s major growth rise in the early 2010’s (everyone still remembers getting so many emails in the early days, right? haha).
- Whilst they’re well-established over the years and have acquired millions of users, it’s their early-growth journey that is certainly interesting to learn more from.
- They were masters ate FOMO-based tactics (and still very much good at it to this day), such as urgency comms via emails and on their site with limited-time deals.
- A big focus in the early stages was their referral program, where they were generating customers at an average LTV cost of $30 just by offering a $10 coupon code. So for nearly every referral, they were generating $20. I’m not 100% sure how accurate this is (as I got this straight out of the article I’ve linked to above), but the point here is that referrals are a goldmine for generating profitable, high-intent users.
- Groupon was also really effective with their viral campaigns, which help catapulted brand and email signups. Just by acquiring an email, they were able to do FOMO-based tactics at scale.
5. Moz - What to learn from this SEO marketing technology company that’s grown to $70mil+ ARR
- If you’re in the SEO or marketing world, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Moz and Rand Fishkin - they had brilliant marketing flywheels.
- When it comes to SEO, it played a major role in their early years, where they even ranked #1 for the term “seo”, which has an approximate search volume of 135,000 visits per month.
- Of course, it takes time to make this particular initiative work, and it wasn’t until marketing flywheels started to function like a well-oiled machine that the organic acquisition of traffic and users for Moz skyrocketed.
- They also understood user behaviour really well and where profitable customers came from (and how they behaved before they converted). They knew certain referral sources lead to better conversion value of customers.
6. ClickUp - How this project management platform grew to $20mil+ ARR (main lessons from the founder)
- This isn’t particularly a long case study compared to many that I’ve talked about in this guide, but I love it as it comes directly from the founder of ClickUp itself.
- Zeb Evans, founder of ClickUp, shares 3 key lessons that helped the platform get cut-through in an already highly-competitive market - getting ‘natural’ P/M fit, measure organic content (and collect feedback), and iterate + ship really fast.
- With achieving ‘natural’ P/M fit, and how they managed to grow faster in the early stages compared to so many competitors was due to focusing on product-led growth initiatives - i.e. focus on developing a great product with natural ‘virality’ mechanisms. Whilst they raised a lot of money, they double-downed on this approach rather than an ‘artificial’ approach (e.g. getting PR and hoping for users that way).
- ClickUp have done incredibly well with their organic content engine, which attributes to over $12mil+ in free clicks monthly - yes, monthly. That’s an insane advantage over other competitors in the space.
- They do a great job with ‘social listening’ and get user feedback via active communities, such as Twitter, Quora, and Facebook Groups.
7. ProfitWell - 20:1 LTV:CAC Ratio & Doubling ARR each year (amazing)
- One of the most impressive startups that many SaaS businesses know (and use) is ProfitWell.
- I always admired them with their SEO content engine, where they ranked for some incredibly competitive keywords. Just their organic traffic alone has resulted in over 170k+ visits to their site per month (with a really good time on site) and over 18k+ subscribers.
- They were also very strong with video marketing via YouTube and embeds, as well as attending many conferences. The Founder, Patrick Campbell, and their team understand the power when content and thought leadership work together.
- A big move on their end compared to other competitors in the financial analytics space was offering the tool for free (a really good section to read).
- By offering their product for free, they were able to aggregate key data points that helped provide benchmarks for SaaS companies and founders. This then made it an attractive way to create more content.
- Not only does aggregating data help produce more awesome content, but of course helps a lot with their core business model, which is upselling to their users for audits and consulting services.
8. Toggl - Achieving 135k+ weekly Chrome Extension users in 3 years
- This is a little old this particular case study, but there are some really solid takeaways and learnings for any Saas business that has a chrome extension.
- Toggl is a time management and project management software, and in their early days, they focused on creating an extension called “Toggl Button”, which was then used by 135k+ weekly users. In the article, it was mentioned over 85k+ new users found them within a 2-year period.
- They open-sourced the project, where they got many developer contributions, as well as internally maintained it as they saw it as a user acquisition channel.
- The key strategies that helped them reach the 135k+ number (and as of right now, it’s over 300k+ users), were chrome extension directories, SEO-optimised store listing, press, content marketing, and promotion to current users, and of course, automated email campaigns.
9. YouFoodz - 3000% revenue growth by implementing this initiative
- As we all know, there are a plethora of ‘ready-to-eat’ meal delivery services (almost too many). When it comes to growth marketing and epic results, the YouFoodz team produced some really great marketing initiatives that helped them grow WoW sales by 5-10%, and 3000%+ revenue growth in a fairly short period of time.
- What resulted in serious growth in sales and brand awareness was down to two key initiatives - influencers and co-branded marketing with complementary brands.
- Whilst they had a strong paid media ads campaign (and even above-the-line campaigns through TV), they also had a strong SEO game, which would ultimately help reduce their overall CAC and heavy reliance on ads.
- YouFoodz also had an effective referral program which helped reduce overall CAC too.
10. Stripe - The payments company was given a $36 billion valuation after 11 years
- Stripe set its foundations on placing high value on their developer audience, which eventually translated to mass appeal.
- Innovation and continuous product improvement propelled the company’s reach.
- They currently work with different companies and businesses in over 100 countries.
- In recent years, the company moved from being a payments-focused service to being a financial provider, especially targeting small and medium businesses.
- Acquisitions and partnerships levelled up the growth of the company.
11. Starbucks - The world-famous coffee brand has almost 30,000 stores across over 70 countries
- Really love the detail and explanations of Starbucks through this case study.
- Starbucks grew so rapidly because they focused on the customer experience.
- One of the things that sets the company apart to competitors is that they place high value on both the importance of customers and their employees. They believe that happy employees means happy clientele.
- The company launched Starbucks Reserve, which caters to customers that want an artisan coffee experience.
- All their stores are located in strategic places with high foot traffic.
- They used gamification to make their rewards program engaging, and it is considered the most popular loyalty program in America.
12. Morning Brew - This newsletter media company amassed four million subscribers within 8 years of launch through team and their referral engine
- Morning Brew credits their growth to a well-oiled team, as they place a high value of importance on hiring the right talent for growth.
- Their team culture is something they work hard to impart regardless of how much they scale.
- The company took three years to hire an exclusive HR person and realised it’s never too early to start on that trajectory.
- They added a hundred employees to their team in 2021 alone.
- With 9 newsletters, 3 podcasts, and 3 education programs under their wing, the most important thing was ensuring that their employees had similar values.
- Whilst the particular case study I’ve digested is focused on the growth of their team, you’ve also got to check out this referral marketing study by one of their former growth PMs (who now run an awesome newsletter growth tool called beehiiv).
- The breakdown and detail of how their referral program work is pretty awesome. (oh by the way, if you want to check out tools that can replicate Morning Brew’s referral engine, make sure to check out beehiiv and these other referral marketing software alternatives - some good free options, as well as paid options for more advanced features).
13. Dropbox - The cloud storage company grew their user base from 100,000 to 4 million in one year
- Dropbox famously launched a referral program that gave customers free space in the cloud.
- They made sure that the benefits were two-fold: both the person making the referral and the person accepting the invitation got more GB.
- Invitations weren’t just sent out via links, as Dropbox had the capacity to link contacts from Yahoo, Google, and other such platforms.
- A loop was set in place, so upon signing up, users will share to others, so they get even more free space.
- This set the foundation for Dropbox’s success, as the company now has over 33 million users.
14. Afterpay - This BNPL payments provider has nearly 15 million users and a value of $28 billion
- Afterpay was established to provide a practical solution to a common problem, instantly appealing to a certain consumer base.
- Given the nature of the company, they first established partnerships with well-known firms in the industry.
- They created an accompanying mobile app that makes it easier for customers to use and access the service.
- The company initially targeted younger users with its branding.
- As soon as they built a community of millions, they presented their service to larger merchants, further accelerating their growth.
15. Hubspot - The Martech giant’s subscriptions make up 94% of their entire revenue
- From the get-go, HubSpot has partnered with well-known industry players which helped increase its reach and audience.
- Their social media strategy centres on Facebook, Linkedin, and Youtube, with a focus on videos.
- The company also partners with micro-influencers on Instagram that have high engagement with followers.
- Content stacking is executed on their website by distributing valuable resource information and peppering their pages with lead forms.
- They built a consistent community that is able to draw around a hundred million dollars every year.
16. Veed - This video editing software gained 500,000 monthly site visits in just two years
- Veed.io greatly valued organic search as they built their company, thereby banking on SEO.
- The company built great Tools and Resources pages, with the former having 117 pages and the latter having 45 pages.
- Tools are their most popular page category, so they just focused on optimising respective pages, now drawing over 70% of their total site traffic.
- Anchor text in backlinking is mostly branded to Veed.io, which helps prop up the organic growth of the site.
- They also built communities apart from the website through the likes of Reddit, Quora and Twitter.
17. Notion - One of my favourite workspace platforms used their product to grow into a $10 billion brand
- Notion is largely popular today, and it’s because they focused on bringing an amazing product to the market.
- The product could be difficult to understand at first, so they marketed the process through YouTube.
- But what set them apart and what they did such a good job at compared to other workspace/project management tools was their “templates” - which they describe in this article as “template growth loops” (great PLG strategy).
- They openly call out the competitors that they could replace in one system and then add more value to the table.
- Loops were used in their marketing strategy, not funnels. Their whole idea was to keep people coming back.
18. TikTok - The social media platform has over 1 billion active users, outgrowing Google in terms of domain popularity
- TikTok allows all users to create and earn from their content, and this accessibility helped with their growth.
- A very powerful AI was used to curate their user’s preferences, topping even that of Amazon and Youtube.
- They have a team that actively looks for international trends and then makes them viral, adding to its addictive value.
- The default viewing mode on the app is a loop, which means that videos will keep playing until they are paused.
- Though the app has gained some controversy, they make sure to stay in the right so that these issues don’t hamper their growth.
19. Fiverr - The freelancing marketplace saw an almost 800% rise in their stock price in just one year
- From the very beginning, Fiverr made sure they weren’t going to publicise themselves through the media.
- The company grew by understanding one thing: When you have supply, you will generate demand.
- They made sure that their pricing matched their quality of services, with excellent service to boot.
- Growing and improving from mistakes is something the Fiverr team constantly integrates into their culture.
- Innovation is encouraged throughout the company, with ideas being pitched even by the receptionist.
20. DoorDash - The delivery company’s market share went from 17% to 50% in just 2 years
- DoorDash mindfully anchored itself on data by assembling teams that are known for their technical expertise.
- ⅓ of their entire tech stack team works with data, which is significantly higher than the proportion seen in other companies.
- The company works with over 300,000 merchants, millions of customers, and a million delivery dashers, and they work to add value to all of them.
- They invest in their technology and operational enhancements to help them increase their margins and contribution profit.
- Menus and food items are entirely arranged using machine learning, so they can always be presented in the best way.
21. Gumroad - This online creator platform went from almost becoming bankrupt to reaching over $140 million in gross merchandise
- Gumroad almost had to remove all team members in 2015 due to loss, yet they kept going, eventually hitting $3 million 3 years later.
- The company took advantage of the pandemic as the creator audience grew, seeing a 94% revenue increase in a year.
- They made sure to cater to even beginner and low-income creators.
- Inclusivity and tight alignment with creators built their culture and community.
- Their business model ensures that they enforce a fair margin on creators.
22. Atlassian - The tech giant established itself as a $10 billion business in just 20 years
- Atlassian capitalised on product acquisition to propel their growth.
- The company first focused on building tools instead of doing marketing, which helped increase its audience organically.
- By the time they raised funding, they were already well-regarded in the industry.
- They understood that while other companies can acquire other tools as well, they couldn’t integrate as well as Atlassian.
- An IPO for the company came out in 2015 as the business grew sustainably, trading at a cap of nearly $6 billion.
23. Block - This merchant payment company maintained cheap services to eventually gain $18 billion in revenue
- Block used to be known as Square, and the name change was due to the fact that they managed to release two successful products.
- Their goal was straightforward: Make a simple solution to a widespread problem.
- Efficiency and consistent quality became their benchmarks for growth.
- They made the price attainable and the signup process easy, which helped them gain more traffic.
- Given the industry they were in, Block made sure to always stay on top of updates and software to keep their products relevant.
24. Miro - Has become one of the most valuable companies in the world, serving over 30mil+ users
- Miro is currently worth $17.5 billion, servicing 99% of the Fortune 500 companies.
- They grew by doing one thing well: integrating apps and software.
- Seeing the digital trend through the pandemic, Miro decided to double down, growing by 600% in two years.
- The software does the same core things as competitors, but Miro offers a large number of integrations and has an easy UX.
- A resource hub of blogs, templates, product pages, and use cases brings in over a million clicks in traffic every month.
25. Netflix - The streaming service went from renting videos to being a $100 billion streaming giant
- Netflix understood from the beginning that they wanted to decentralise entertainment, making it more affordable to the masses.
- The company adamantly refused to charge late fees for their video rentals, even when they were already operating at a loss.
- They provided video streaming services before there was a demand, positioning them for the long run - they knew that this was the future of TV/video/movie consumption.
- Given their business model, original dramas became the natural turn, giving them exclusive content.
- When their streaming service went live simultaneously in over 100 countries, Netflix officially cemented itself as a global company.
26. Spotify - The music streaming company hosts nearly 300 million active monthly users
- Spotify relied on word of mouth and opted out of traditional advertising for its publicity.
- They used a referral program to promote their premium subscription.
- The company presented listeners with the ability to take full control of the music they listened to, when they wanted to.
- 46% of all users are paid users, which is a high conversion rate.
- Music is no longer just the sphere Spotify moves in, as they now also have podcasts, fuelling their growth.
27. Amazon - The giant has net sales of around $150 billion every quarter
- Amazon always examines and improves on its strategies, online and offline.
- Their platform centres on customer satisfaction, visible even on product pages.
- The selection, pricing, and availability on Amazon continues to be a selling point, even after 20 years in the business.
- Targeted ads and online marketing channels prop up their publicity.
- Automated systems help them optimise the customer experience at all times.
28. Calm - This mobile app took only 7 years to become a billion-dollar company
- Calm is the #1 meditation app in many markets and is one of the biggest iOS advertisers in the health and wellness realm.
- True to form, their social media posts are calm in visuals and audio, providing a contrast to other brands.
- They had stars like Matthew McConaughey narrate relaxing stories on their app.
- Quotes and personalised messages from the app can seamlessly be shared to the social media of users, adding to their social proof.
- The app encourages users to set reminders, which helps maintain an active audience.
29. Airtable - The company constantly raises upwards of $100 million in their funding rounds
- Airtable is now growing its revenue at 70% year on year.
- The company allows users to build software solutions with minimal coding, unlocking a valuable market.
- It took them a while to hit $10 million, but they went from $10 million to $100 million in less than 4 years.
- They shifted to focusing on B2B, their most valuable base.
- Their increase in user base was matched with a rapid increase in hiring, providing sustainability to growth.
30. Shopify - The eCommerce merchant platform nearly doubled its revenue in a year
- Over 100 million customers make a purchase from Shopify every year.
- They offer a free trial to merchants to encourage a larger product base.
- The company initially launched contests wherein they gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to successful eCommerce stores, drawing merchants.
- A flash timer for a free webinar is constantly shown on their blog page, inciting urgency.
- Shopify understands that offering free tools will generate more traffic.
31. Grammarly - The writing/editing online tool has around 7 million active users every day
- Grammarly currently ranks in the top three search results for over 19,000 keywords.
- Considerable traffic is also brought in by Youtube, where they have strategically placed ads.
- They make their social media content relatable, with minimal posts about their product.
- Blogs and resources on proper spelling and words to use are all over their website, bringing in more traffic.
- The company uses remarketing for higher brand recall.
32. Wise - The fintech organisation prioritised global scaling and can be used in over 170 countries
- Wise won be offering a superior product user experience and just amazing competitive rates.
- They made sure to always abide by the laws and culture in whichever country they have their services.
- Customer development was a foundational building block.
- The company encountered several hiccups and made mistakes in the process, but they always made it a point to learn from them.
- Product localisation made their product relevant and wanted.
33. YouTube - The video platform uses real-time personalisation to keep people watching longer
- YouTube is constantly testing stuff (as you expect from a Google product), so some of the strategies/features may be outdated, but the principles of what they tested, what worked/didn’t is worth sharing. They key takeaway to learn from is how YouTube does personalisation.
- Youtube makes a lot of recommendations unique to users using their cutting-edge algorithm.
- To avoid having people feeling overwhelmed, they have a tab where people could go back to previous videos they’ve scrolled through.
- They also have a “random video” button for those who simply cannot decide.
- Narrowed-down recommendations can be seen through the “new to you” tab.
34. Monday - The 6-year-old productivity software has a $7 billion valuation
- Monday.com caters to around 200,000 customers and has more than 12,000 organic visitors to its site each month.
- They use keywords to rank high on SERPs, being the number one result under project management.
- Just one of their pillar articles has over 1,000 backlinks and almost 2,000 keywords.
- Their optimal formula is four links for every hundred words.
- The goal is always to move site visitors down the funnel.
35. Ahrefs - My favourite SEO software grows its annual revenue by at least 50% every year
- Ahrefs focused on making a good product before dishing out good marketing.
- Customer experience became their primary driver.
- They ran hundreds of blogs explaining how to use their tool, which helped people want to use it.
- Maintaining a clean and easy product interface made them more appealing.
- The company used social media ads for publicity.
36. Quora - The Q&A social platform grew by 37,000% in one year
- Quora grew from having just 1,500 users to 550,000 users from 2010 to 2011 - pretty incredible amount of users to acquire in a year.
- They used gamification to keep users coming back.
- Their blog has over 100,000 tags writers can choose from.
- A good anti-spam function was set in place, making sure audience participation is meaningful.
- Customers can sign up by existing social media accounts, making it easier for new users.
37. Slack - The popular business app went from nothing to being a $7 billion company in 5 years
- Slack relied on community and trust to help propel their company.
- Emerging markets turned out to be a great audience for their product.
- The company is known for creating the fastest-growing business app in Silicon Valley.
- They made sure that their design and UX looked appealing to use.
- An optimal market-product fit ultimately helped position their brand.
38. Pendo - The software company raised $106 million in funding within 5 years
- Pendo invested heavily in their product, which led their company growth.
- The company helps other companies improve their products as well, leading to their organic acceleration.
- They built a community wherein users can freely express their thoughts and feedback.
- Events and conferences are held for users interested in the latest tech and product development.
- For them, product and community growth always go hand in hand.
39. Intercom - The SaaS company hit $50 million in annual revenue faster than Shopify and Hubspot
- Intercom is known for growing its audience without spending a ton on advertising.
- A lot of their subscribers just transition from their free trial plan.
- The company actually intercepts traffic from competitors by marketing itself as an alternative.
- They only focus on keywords that produce qualified leads.
- Landing pages for ads and the website itself are different, with ad redirect pages leaning CTA-specific LP’s.
- They had a big focus on “alternate”/competitor landing for audiences towards the bottom of the funnel (and showed conversion-intent).
40. Outreach - This sales outreach software company grew more than 100% every year
- Outreach.io adds more than $10 million in bookings on a quarterly basis.
- When the founders realised that their startup wasn’t scaling, they decided to pivot to Outreach - and it worked.
- They followed the market demands and started riding the wave.
- In their first years, they didn’t focus on marketing; they focused on releasing a good product.
- The company owner wrote a book about the company, which got them even more publicity.
41. WhatsApp - The social chat platform gained almost a billion users within five years
- WhatsApp got Facebook to purchase them for $19 billion within the same timeframe.
- The company took advantage of push notifications to get people to use the app.
- They made sure to cater to multiple platforms early on, ensuring their reach.
- Other social platforms added different features, but WhatsApp focused on what it did best.
- No push advertising is allowed on WhatsApp to the benefit of users.
42. Semrush - The SEO platform has over 6 million free users with hundreds of millions in ARR
- Semrush stayed within its lane as an SEO software, and so it excelled as a household name in that area.
- The founders focused on perfecting the product, even without fundraising.
- Their growth was largely driven by word of mouth.
- A very good affiliate program (40% commissions!) helped with their publicity.
- Multiple languages are offered on their site (multi-lingual SEO), which helps provide a localised language experience for users depending on their location/preferred language. Multi-lingual typically helps with providing a better conversion experience.
43. ClickFunnels - The lead generation funnel builder grew its ARR by 400% in 18 months
- Many of us know ClickFunnels and their ‘funnels’ success, but this is a damn good case study for any SaaS founder to read.
- The founders of ClickFunnels just ‘clicked’ (pun intended) with complementary skill sets, allowing them to build a foolproof product (and believe it or not, it tools them years before they launched - yes, years).
- They managed to maintain audiences from their previous ventures, which helped them establish the market for ClickFunnels.
- Free trials eventually lead to upsells, helping secure their market.
- Marketing was not limited to online; the founders also did in-person seminars with partners.
- They had a really attractive lifetime affiliate offer which many took advantage of (40% lifetime in the early stages).
- Their content, webinar and funnel game over the years has been superb, even in the early stages (which to those who know ClickFunnels, there’s no surprise here).
44. BeReal - This social media app has 10 million active users less than three years after its establishment
- BeReal actually calls itself an anti-social media app, looking instead to capture real moments.
- The number of users grew by over 300% over the past year alone.
- There’s one thing the app does best: authenticity, which especially appeals to the younger generation today.
- Time-limited push notifications are sent to users each day, giving them a sense of urgency to capture and post.
- Adding human interactions and human elements helps with more ‘real’ interactions.
45. Gong - The startup has Facebook, Paypal, and Nasdaq as its customers
- Gong.io actually doubles the number of employees they have each year - they now have over 1,000 after just 4 years of existence!
- The company rebranded several times, only settling when they had found an identity that sets them apart.
- They make sure that their customer growth process is frictionless and scalable.
- Culture is important to the company and employees, as they believe that they grow when they are aligned with what they preach.
- Email marketing and an SEO strategy helped propel their marketing.
46. Typeform - The form and quiz builder software improved its signups by 15% within three weeks
- Typeform understood how even the small details on a website can impact conversions.
- They built a process for internal linking, which boosted their SEO.
- Understanding user demand eventually helped them gain demand.
- People knew Typeform for their templates, so they leaned into these even more.
- The company used a content loop to drive traffic back to them.
47. Zapier - Achieved a $5 billion valuation, and some experts still think it is underpriced
- Zapier only fundraised $1.4 million, but they now have an ARR of $140 million. Seriously impressive what the Zapier team has achieved.
- They are absolute beasts when it comes to programmatic SEO - whenever a new app joins Zapier, landing/content pages are automatically released with barely any human intervention.
- They went from being a platform to being an ecosystem, significantly boosting their business and helping them to become known as the most prominent name in the no-code integrations space.
48. Lululemon - The athleisure brand went from a small studio to being worth $14 billion
- Lululemon understood the fitness trend and decidedly hopped on it.
- Their apparel was produced with utmost quality, with importance placed on both performance and fit.
- The company created a new category for their clothing, making them iconic in that niche.
- Having a clear understanding of their target market helped them push marketing initiatives forward.
- They pay their employees 30% more, and having happy employees gives them a more productive workforce.
49. Skillshare - The educational platform hosts nearly 4 million students
- Skillshare has been doubling its revenue every year, empowered by $25 million in funding.
- The funding helped grow to over 200k+ paid users.
- The company started out doing physical classes, then shifted gears when they realised that scaling was faster online.
- Personalisation helps them encourage students to keep watching videos.
- They have ‘world-class’ churn and pretty good CPA costs ($15-$20 as mentioned in this study). Maintaining an affordable monthly price for customers helped them maintain a low churn rate.
50. ConvertKit - This email marketing and creator platform started as a project which turned into an $8 million company
- The ConvertKit founder was already a known author and blogger before he ventured into SaaS, which immediately gave him leverage.
- He capitalised on his existing audience and email base to promote his company.
- The company revenue declined early on, and they realised that they had to invest more money into their growth.
- They leaned hard into excellent customer service, which gave them loyal customers.
- Targeting small companies and niche markets helped them slowly establish their base, which created some awesome growth momentum.
51. Robinhood - The stock app caters to 3 million customers and is worth over $1 billion
- Robinhood created a great app that has an appealing UI/UX.
- They charge 0 commission and earn through letting their users borrow money for trades.
- The app uses colours and icons to communicate activity with customers.
- Push notifications providing updates about the market get users checking in multiple times a day.
- Given the nature of the industry, speed in loading the app is fundamental.
52. WeWork - This company has over 500 office spaces all around the world
- WeWork started offering co-working spaces before it became mainstream.
- Their vision isn’t just to simply sell the spaces; they banked on the idea of community.
- They started their expansion into different countries even before they got household famous in the US.
- The company currently has over a hundred offices in New York City alone.
- Understanding that people eventually grow into their own companies, they started offering a new service for private offices.
53. Jasper - This AI writing assistant went from 0 to $75 million in revenue in just 18 months
- Jasper was built on the failures and attempts of its founders, who tried and never gave up.
- The software offers integrations with other writing apps, such as Surfer.
- The company built what is called the “Jasper Community”, where people can share tips and information with each other.
- Payment plans are charged per word, which helps encourage upsells for power users (scaling/usage-pricing model). Good tactic/initiative for increasing ARPU.
54. Discord - The chat app only needed three years to cross over a hundred million users (and valued at over $2 billion)
- Discord went from being a game chat app to expanding into business spaces, which exponentially helped their growth.
- They partnered with video game streaming services and game companies to enhance consumer trust.
- Word of mouth among players helped establish their initial numbers.
- Their team understood that for as long as they built a great product, the growth will happen.
55. Calendly - The scheduling tool was driven by product-led growth
- Calendly saw a problem and provided a simple solution.
- As more and more people used their app, they became the go-to for different audiences.
- They had to make sure they weren’t doing hard pushing and just let the product performance speak for itself.
- By focusing on adding value to customers through their product, they addressed the user's pain points - just shortening the cycle of qualitative and quantitative feedback helped them iron out UX flaws and provide a seamless experience.
- Calendly always requires the interaction of two people, which helps get the word out - similar to how two-sided referral programs work (and we all know how effective they can be as a strategy for WOM growth).
56. LinkedIn - The social platform didn’t need bells and whistles to hit 500 million users
- LinkedIn leaned into datasets and user demographics when planning out action steps.
- Over a hundred thousand articles/posts are organically published on the platform daily (this was dated back in 2017 - I’d say quite a bit more today).
- They stayed up to date with technological enhancements, launching a native app to success (and they’ve done a great job with their mobile app too).
- As influencers brought their followers to LinkedIn, the user base grew further.
57. Tinder - The dating app converts 8% of its customers into paid subscribers in just a few minutes
- Tinder uses social proof to upsell users to its paid plans (good compelling paid features).
- The app lets you try out and explore the benefits, and as soon as you get hooked to the “aha”, that’s when users start to see the value of upgrading.
- Clicking on some ‘boost’ buttons will again lead to paid offers.
- They also use push notifications that appeal to customer psychology to get customers to upgrade.
- By taking advantage of a person’s need to know, they were able to make over a billion dollars in the past year.
58. Zappos - The shoe retailer has been around for two decades and only continues to grow
- Zappos was acquired by Amazon in 2009, which set it up for online success.
- The company has always had one goal: to give the best customer service possible.
- They have a real time inventory system that is 99% accurate, allowing them to always be sure when responding to customer inquiries.
- Exceptional service is a result of the culture they have set even within the company.
- Accountability allows their people to feel empowered as they take ownership of their results.
59. Carta - This company handles the equity of over 20,000 organisations
- Carta only took 7 years to be valued at over $7 billion.
- This is a good study to read as mentions some good details about tactics they used for the first 100 users.
- They leaned hard into building brand authenticity and customer relationships.
- Seeing subscription plans fail in conversations with investors, Carta shifted to charging transaction fees instead.
- Product market fit became necessary for them to hit their pace.
- Email lists, including Silicon Valley, helped scale their growth.
60. ActiveCampaign - This B2B startup already caters to 50,000 customers
- ActiveCampaign capitalised on its product positioning as they present personalised solutions, unlike many other competitors.
- The company intelligently plants itself as the better option by conveying information to the consumers.
- Their website experience ultimately depends on the audience and vertical, as they let people choose navigation designed for them.
- A value ladder props up their entire subscription system.
- Long, thoroughly informative blogs are published on a near-daily basis to boost their SEO.
61. Uber - The transportation service became a global name within six years of its establishment
- Uber saw a need in urban cities and worked on a profitable yet effective solution.
- They made sure that the customers felt like they were in control of their safety and options.
- As an early adopter, Uber managed to stay ahead of the game even with the rising competition.
- Their services initially started out as a more expensive alternative to cabs, then they revised their cost model.
- Their simple business model made it easier to manage and scale.
62. Ikea - The famous furniture brand has nearly 500 stores around the world
- This is a brilliant read and Cascade app (the author of this study) have done an epic job with other studies on other major companies which you can check out here.
- Ikea is a household name at this point, but it took the company 80 years of persistent expansion to get to the brand recognition they have today (who doesn’t love Ikea, right?).
- Their designs have always been simple, and this gained ground when the minimalism trend took over.
- In the 1950s, IKEA faced manufacturing issues with their supplier so they decided to do things in-house.
- When expanding overseas, the company made sure that the products and services were localised to each country’s expectations.
63. Hopin - This events software startup hit an $8 billion valuation in 2 years
- Hopin focused on connecting people and was launched just in time for the pandemic.
- The software was most advantageous for the event industry during a time when events had to be virtual.
- Amidst their growth, they made sure to keep hiring people to ensure that all ground is covered.
- They eventually branched out to different products, expanding on both services and audience.
- Having a great product with a seamless growth loop benefitted their company.
64. Instagram - The social media app only needed a few years to shape the online landscape completely
- Instagram acquired a million users within its first 3 months.
- Within two years, they were launched on Android, opening up to a whole new market.
- Early on, they started venturing into sponsored posts, paving the way for influencer culture.
- Taking cues from apps like TikTok and BeReal, Instagram takes ideas from competitors and makes it their own.
- They constantly get into user data to make sure that their relevance stays amidst other rising apps.
65. Netlify - This six-year-old web product has a $2 billion valuation
- Netlify leaned hard into headless development, especially when it was starting to gain ground.
- All their free offerings and services helped get people into their ecosystem.
- They invest heavily in customer engagement by offering blogs and free trainings.
- Continuous building of an ecosystem linked to the product increases their reach.
- With all developments, the company is seeing a 100% increase in users year on year.
66. Bumble - The tactics and strategies used by the dating app which helped them achieve $14 billion+ valuation
- Bumble centres on the idea of letting women make the first move.
- Bumble used immersive marketing experiences to bring their campaigns to life for users.
- They use events as an opportunity to make their company feel personal for the people.
- A deep understanding of the market allows them to conduct targeted strategies.
- They were also very effective with UGC campaigns and using influencers for amplification.
67. Patagonia - The apparel line sees almost a billion dollars in annual revenue
- From the establishment of the company, Patagonia deliberately set itself apart by focusing on nature and adventure.
- They stand by what they say by constantly exploring new technologies that allow them to provide environmentally conscious products.
- The company ran an ad called “Don’t Buy This Jacket,” explaining how their best-selling sweater costs to produce.
- This appeals to consumers, delivering a 30% increase in revenue.
- Customer loyalty ultimately drives the growth of the brand.
68. Salesforce - The giant CRM tool company staged a rally to eventually become a $13 billion empire
- The CEO of Salesforce started out by just staging anti-software stunts around Silicon Valley to gain attention.
- The company offered something else others didn’t, which helped them gain acclaim in the market.
- Building an ecosystem around their CRM tool eventually propelled their business forward.
- Known for making controversial moves, Salesforce eventually built a community agreeing with their values.
- Their marketing, sales, and product strategies were constantly kept in alignment.
69. Lumen5 - This AI video software grew to 200,000 users without investing a dime in marketing
- Lumen5’s founder has handled companies before, and he put everything he learned into building Lumen5.
- He understood that building a good team and culture was central to a successful business.
- They had no need to please everyone; they just wanted to grow a loyal market base.
- The company now works with plenty of Fortune 500 companies, each with their own standards and requirements.
- Allowing localisation at the user’s control built interest in the brand faster.
70. Superhuman - This email platform turned into a $2 billion company even with Google, Yahoo, and Outlook around
- Superhuman focuses on speed, and they knew that once people experienced that, they can’t turn back.
- They run a waitlist, which makes people develop even more interest in them.
- The founder had an idea and saw a need, so he did something about it.
- Running press campaigns helped them build awareness around their product.
- Their onboarding process actually includes a conversation with one of their personnel to make sure users are a good fit for what they offer.
71. Supermetrics - This PLG reporting software company managed to reach $1 million ARR without outside funding
- Supermetrics centralises its entire operations on one thing: connection.
- The company partnered with a Google product early in its release, which turned out to be beneficial for the company.
- They optimised free trials to have customers interested in different products.
- Maintaining an international mindset from the get-go helped them grow larger faster.
- As they expanded, they made sure that their message and approach adjusted.
72. Zoom - The video meeting app only took a couple of months to become a household name
- Zoom especially rose to fame during the pandemic, overriding other apps like Skype and FaceTime.
- They took advantage of social media to create awareness around the product.
- Knowing the market well and posting fun videos creates interaction among followers.
- Conducting online events and contests for their audience also spurred on their numbers.
- The company also received a lot of free marketing from influencers who use their app.
73. CoSchedule - This SaaS company acquired users in over a hundred countries in less than 4 years
- CoSchedule’s founders never stopped trying, even after failing so many times.
- They kept their discipline, with their eyes set on the goal of creating a successful product that truly serves their marketing audience.
- Focusing on just one metric helped them achieve more things because when everything is your goal, nothing really is.
- The company started out by just working on getting page views, which helped them get their first leads.
- Eventually, they saw email subscriptions increase by over 300%, and they made sure to keep generating innovative content to maintain this.
74. Github - The code hosting platform grew to over 40 million users just through growth loops (and to a $7.5 billion-dollar acquisition)
- GitHub did an awesome job with growth loops even at pre-launch, which helped them with initially acquiring them 6,000 users even before they officially started.
- All they did was issue a code that people would like to show off, which increased their base organically.
- They began offering different plans for individuals and corporations, addressing needs unique to each audience.
- They did an exceptional job of building ‘network effects’ and a marketplace where users can connect with other users.
- One thing that sets GitHub apart is they actually listen to feedback - having a product that solves problems and listens to its customers (and collects data/feedback) always helps with propelling growth.
75. Evernote - The note taking app has over 100 million users and a billion-dollar valuation
- Evernote’s page actually gets 60 million views every month.
- The fact that it’s multi-platform with seamless syncing makes it ideal for all audiences.
- It is available in nearly 200 countries, of course, localised according to language, certainly helping with their user growth.
- The needs of the founders drove the innovation for the product, as they knew that if they struggled with certain things, so did others.
- Keeping to a Freemium model helped Evernote keep users over the long term.
76. Udemy - This online education marketplace is run by over $48 million in funding, but it took a while to get there
- Udemy may be a household name now, but acquiring the first instructors to get on the platform was a struggle.
- The company developed their own course to test run just how profitable the idea can be.
- They heavily invested in data mining during their establishment.
- Emailing and calling instructors one by one eventually led to their first commitments.
- A/B testing their emails actually helped lead people further down the funnel.
77. Strava - This sports social network took over a decade to launch, and within the next decade, it had 70 million users
- The idea for Strava was birthed in the 1990s, but the founders had to wait until the technology was in place before they could do something about it.
- They banked on the “come for the tool, stay for the network” concept, and it worked.
- Gamifying the performance meter of their app motivated the users to keep on doing well.
- Running and cycling became their starting point, and as they became successful in that, they branched out to other verticals.
- Data drives the company forward, with billions of records of user activity.
78. Sweat - This fitness app grew to over a million active monthly users through influencers
- Sweat never received outside funding and instead used social media to scale.
- The company founders were already well-known fitness influencers, and they banked on their already existing audience.
- Over 80% of Sweat customers discovered the brand through influencer marketing.
- All influencer posts reflecting the brand put a CTA in every post.
- Constantly posting in online communities such as Facebook groups and forums also helped propel the brand.
79. Linktree - This link solution only took 6 hours to create and is now the most common link platform on Instagram
- Linktree presents an efficient fix, so people no longer have to change links on their bios each time.
- They use a Freemium model that allowed them to remain net flow positive from the very beginning.
- After seeing 3,000 simultaneous sign-ups crash their server, they decided they needed to upgrade for the scale.
- The company also understood that hiring enough personnel to manage growth was necessary.
80. Allbirds - This sustainable sneakers brand hit $100 million in revenue just two years after its launch
- Allbirds was initially promoted on Kickstarter, where it hit its funding goal after just 5 days.
- The company’s tech stack includes integrations to relevant branding tools.
- Much of their success comes from WOM (word of mouth) through online advertising and sharing via socials.
- They invest quite a bit in maintaining and improving their product quality.
- A great welcome email campaign that includes informational videos and discounts draws in even more subscribers.
81. Instacart - This delivery service company grew its revenue by 14% during the pandemic
- Instacart decided to upgrade its approach and business model to survive in this new landscape.
- The company indexed their entire product list on Google, increasing their organic SEO even post-pandemic.
- Their keywords hit different categories to maximise reach.
- Product landing pages reflect all the details a customer would search for.
- Recipes are also available on the website to increase traffic.
82. Zomato - The food delivery app generates over a million orders each day
- Zomato was launched just 7 years ago, and they now have a valuation of nearly $6 billion.
- They offer services apart from food deliveries, as they also now manage dine-in transactions.
- Launching a subscription that provides large discounts to customers became their main selling factor.
- The app also offers placements for ads from restaurants.
- Using an SEO strategy that targets millions of keywords brings in considerable traffic to Zomato’s website.
83. Drift - This web chat utilised a blog content strategy to grow their brand
- Drift’s first approach to the competitive industry they found themselves in is to create a brand that set them apart from the rest.
- This meant providing valuable content to users.
- Meaningful knowledge sharing eventually resulted in a bounce rate as low as 25%, resulting in increased user trust.
- Their blog posts cover many categories, such as thought leadership, case studies, podcasts, and top-of-the-funnel.
- Keeping in mind that they cater to many different audiences allows them to provide content that is able to speak to these markets.
84. Foundr - This online magazine grew their Instagram app to over 100,000 followers in just 6 months
- Foundr saw 1.43 million likes within the same span of time.
- Deep awareness and knowledge of what their target market is interested in allowed them to post content that would appeal to their audience.
- By keeping the community engaged, they were eventually able to convince followers to become magazine subscribers.
- Posting religiously every day gave their followers a sense of expectation.
- Adding CTAs such as questions to drive engagement or getting followers to tag friends boost post performance by 300%
85. Copy AI - This AI writing software is two years old and already has 250,000 users
- The founders built Copy AI in public to gain an audience even early on.
- In the process, they also received feedback from users so they can make their revisions to the product before launching.
- They also maintained transparency throughout the entire building period, providing social and Twitter followers (they did super well on this channel)with regular updates.
- This gave them greater social reach and developed deeper brand loyalty.
- Giving free accounts to non-profit organisations became a part of their social efforts, and this gained them recognition from the online community.
86. Webflow - This no-code website builder sees over 4 million visitors to its website monthly
- Webflow managed to capture and retain users by staying true to what its product intended to do.
- They started out by catering to just one customer profile, which helped them precisely target their market.
- Yet as the company grew, their customer personas also grew.
- Given the nature of the company, they made sure that their own company website is interactive, engaging, and intuitive.
- The company generates multiple forms of content to prop up its website, such as blogs, ebooks, and tutorials.
87. Basecamp - This web application that decidedly refuses to innovate is a $100 billion business
- Basecamp lives by their company values: grow slowly, go to sleep, underdo.
- The founders are not fixated on cashing out on the company; they just want to keep the ship asail.
- They don’t believe in staying on trend; they’re all about being timeless.
- So, the company’s base products are all about solving problems which are not going away anytime soon, and doing that consistently.
- Their product is simple and straightforward, which is exactly why people use it.
88. Buffer - The social media scheduling app sees a yearly income of $4 million
- No one initially wanted to promote Buffer, so the company had to create their own blog for content.
- They released articles 3-4 times a week, centering in on how to generate more followers and other such social media tips.
- Ranking on both longtail and relevant keywords as well as short and unrelated keywords is part of their SEO strategy.
- Link building only comes into play when it's organic and properly placed.
- Guests are invited to write for their blog, to gain external traction.
89. Gusto - This HR platform has a valuation of over a billion dollars - a rarity in that industry
- Gusto saw a problem they wanted to fix, so they did with all bases covered.
- They knew that as long as they took good care of their product, people would want to stay with them.
- A simple onboarding process and a UI that is easy to understand positions the company for even those who struggle with software.
- They saw the opportunity to partner with accountants who acted like ‘influencers’/ambassadors (i.e. network effect), which helped in particular with their next stage of growth after their initial traction phase.
- Running a referral program for employees and customers helped them bring in the numbers.
90. Duolingo - The language learning app uses guilt to get people to stay, and it works
- Duolingo constantly sends out emails and notifications to users who haven’t used the app in a while.
- The messages depend on the location, demographic, and overall profile of the user.
- Gamifying the educational experience already helped keep more people on the app.
- They do a great job with their “guilt-tripping strategy”, which then spurred memes on the internet. Smart and playful copy to get users back using the app and completing more milestones.
- Something to check out as well is their TikTok profile/marketing, where they managed to achieve a 40x increase in their TikTok following in half a year (pretty impressive).
91. Snowflake - The cloud-based company went from being worth $10 billion to $70 billion in just 8 months
- Snowflake has more than a million interested site visitors every month.
- They stick to old-fashioned paid marketing strategies with a very accurate targeting of their market.
- The keywords attached to their brand are specific, precise, and relevant to their service.
- Multiple landing pages and offers were developed for different kinds of visitors.
- The company also conducts webinars that are educational and gain a lot of traffic in that industry.
92. Pandadoc - This documents app grew 10x in 10 years
- PandaDoc is currently used by over 7,000 companies.
- They launched a partner program among companies to channel sales.
- The company offers benefits for their partners such as their marketing collateral, tech stack, and other items that could be of use to them.
- Discovery calls are also utilised to create more awareness about the brand.
- At all times, their approach is that they keep the best interest of the customer in mind, as this in turn allows them to gain trust.
93. Clubhouse - The social media app is invite-only and has a $4 billion valuation
- Clubhouse leans into the status and scarcity selling point.
- Everything on the Clubhouse happens live, so once you miss a conversation, you just miss it.
- This means that if users want juicy content, they will have to stay on the app.
- Users can turn on push notifications so they will receive a notice every time a celebrity or a person they’re interested in goes live.
- On the other hand, when users miss a live they wanted to listen in to, this could cause feelings of frustration (it did for me personally when I was first using the app).
94. Etsy - The online marketplace where people can find nearly anything is worth nearly $13 billion
- Etsy has become a household name for online selling, as small hobbyists and companies alike can list whatever they wish to sell on the platform.
- It started out as just a niche marketplace where people with small markets can find buyers.
- They banked on growth loops to popularise their service.
- Given the nature of the market, word of mouth definitely became an important part of their growth strategy.
95. Warby Parker - The eyewear brand built $700,000 worth of monthly click value with the help of SEO
- Warby Parker uses a targeted keyword strategy.
- The company used to run a blog, but they stopped that to focus more on their SEO approach.
- They also do off-page SEO by communicating brand stories and values.
- Backlinking and having pieces of content on big websites like Forbes and Market Watch build up their brand reputation.
- Paid ads and campaigns are also being done to ensure that Warby Parker remains in the consciousness of the public.
96. OnlyFans - The app was launched in 2016 and quickly grew to 150 million users
- The founder of OnlyFans saw the potential in the adult content industry and knew there was a market waiting to be tapped.
- They rode on the online wave during the pandemic, seeing a 540% growth in just one year.
- A lucrative referral program for creators got the company the base they needed.
- In the process, they recruited creators with an already-existing audience.
- Their subscription plan has multiple tiers, depending on what the customer is after as value.
97. Koala - This eCommerce company hit $13 million in revenue within their first year
- Koala focused on influencers to drive fast cut-through and awareness, utilising in particular micro-influencers with a loyal audience.
- The company provides discount codes to the influencer’s following, and in turn, the influencer will get a commission for every purchase using their code.
- They also went the old-school way and posted billboards – beside their competitors’ billboards.
- Videos on people using their products that show off the stability of their mattresses became huge hits, drawing attention to their brand.
- Interestingly, they also did radio marketing to hit as much of the market as possible.
98. Groove - This help desk solution used content marketing to reach $5 million per year in revenue
- Groove’s team readily sought out mentors in the industry so that they can learn how to improve on their existing approaches.
- Although they already had a running blog at the time, Groove decided to scrap and then rebuild their content marketing approach from the ground up.
- Research was done on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit so that they could get a handle on what people actually wanted.
- They asked about what people wanted to read, and then proceeded to make posts built around exactly what their audience answered.
- By providing thought leadership and interaction, they eventually gained enough trust so that the audience would use their product.
99. Asana - This workplace and project management tool founded by two former Facebook employees is now worth $1.5 billion
- Built upon the experiences of the founders, Asana is meant to be a project management solution for easier collaboration.
- The team knew what they wanted to solve, so they narrowed their product scope and did that well.
- They made multiple iterations and conducted user tests to know exactly how to improve what they had.
- Given how Asana worked, they released an API so that companies will feel free to do what they need with it.
- As the base of the product functionality grew, they began focusing on user experience and the interface of the website.
100. Pinterest - The social platform used SEO to make their brand a household name
- Everybody now knows Pinterest, but the company had to conduct a lot of testing to know how to build their brand.
- Their team built their own experimentation tool, through which they can measure how certain actions affecting their SEO will impact performance.
- Whereas A/B testing tests users, Pinterest’s tool tests pages.
- This helped them know which popular SEO tactics worked for them and which didn’t.
- Their end goal was to make data-driven decisions, and in getting numbers, they were able to do so with greater precision.
101. Figma - The design software took three years before they started releasing their beta
- Yet today, Figma is arguably one of the most well-known software in the entire world.
- They took their time in building what their product needed, so they were able to deliver on what users required.
- Before the software was released, the Figma team built a community they could release to.
- They started hosting demos to generate buzz, and they invested heavily in customer engagement.
- Even after the launch, Figma kept on engaging with its users, increasing brand loyalty.
102. Acadium - This marketplace connects thousands of businesses with interested apprentices
- Acadium is all about getting rid of the one-sided power dynamic in unpaid internships and offers a mutually beneficial solution for interested parties.
- They crafted a growth engine that would emphasise partnership and affiliation.
- The company doesn't utilise paid ads all that much, as they do believe in organic growth.
- This has resulted well for them, as they currently have 30,000 companies and 60,000 apprentices on their platform.
- Once they saw how companies utilised their network, they started charging more - and people willingly paid.
103. Mailchimp - The famous email solution added 4 million more users over just one year
- As if MailChimp wasn’t already big enough, they went from 12 million to 16 million users within 12 months.
- They grew their market by organic word of mouth.
- Over the years, they tried different pricing models until they settled on one that would help users take control of their spending.
- The company also has a forever-free plan, which definitely helped attract more interested customers.
- Facebook ads also helped position MailChimp, especially during the beginning of their rise.
104. Axio (formerly Walnut) - This money management app saw its rise by catering particularly to Indian users
- Note: this case study is old, but I thought the analysis was good and worth including. Some really good growth/digital marketing takeaways.
- Walnut grew in popularity by being a recommended app on reviews and forums.
- SEO helped prop up the app on the web, enhancing their brand recall and recognition.
- They have a lot of reviews on app stores, which gives interested users a view of what they do.
- By responding to review concerns, they show people how they address app issues.
105. Classpass - The fitness and wellness services marketplace has a billion-dollar valuation
- Classpass is available in over 90 countries and features thousands of wellness and fitness partners.
- They started with a payment scheme charged by class, then switched to a subscription model which gained them more traction.
- The company released promotional pricing for the first month through Google Ads, bringing up their numbers further.
- An unlimited model was initially offered, then they dropped it for being too risky on the profit end.
- Diversified packages are offered depending on the type of user.
106. HelloFresh - The food subscription company caters to almost a million customers
- This is a really awesome breakdown of HelloFresh, which great examples across their ads, emails, key product pages, and landing pages (including some click and heatmaps).
- They have very impressive operations on a global scale - they operate in numerous countries across three continents (note: it says 9 in this resource, but it’s now 17).
- They attract customers by keeping a simple yet engaging website.
- Colour psychology is a major point in their design and attraction method.
- The CTA button for meal plans and ‘getting started’ is always a focal point across most of their pages.
- Providing free shipping helps push customers down the funnel.
107. Thumbtack - This home services platform grows their online audience through experimentation
- Thumbtack gives customers more choices, so they can see which ones people are drawn to.
- They conduct A/B testing and use data to drive decisions.
- When making pricing changes, they also first measure customer reaction to see how to move forward.
- Innovation and experimentation is central to their organisational culture.
- Of course, tools are indispensable to their strategy.
108. Dribbble - The “LinkedIn for designers” is all about virality - and sustainability
- Dribbble believes that growth is compounded, and rightfully so.
- The company saw an increase in their users within 30 days through sheer networking and affiliation.
- They use word of mouth to grow their base, spending almost nothing on marketing.
- Given their audience, they make sure to maintain a brand personality and verbiage that resonates with creatives.
- Adding user rewards to their system encourages interaction and involvement.
109. Squarespace - The website builder and creation company has a billion-dollar valuation
- Squarespace grew to over two million paying customers within thirteen years.
- The premise is simple: make website building easy, and that drew in many interested users.
- While they are part of a crowded market, Squarespace managed to set itself apart by leaning into aesthetics.
- The company built a team of like-minded individuals, which helped set the pace and growth of their brand.
- They have released ads on Superbowl and well-known podcasts, increasing mainstream brand awareness further.
110. Headspace - The mental wellness app meant to promote mindfulness quickly turned into a multi-million dollar company
- Headspace wanted to make meditation more accessible to the masses, so it did.
- They used design to communicate relatability to their audience.
- Though they largely use cartoon images, they make sure that even then, the characters are diverse in their colours, sizes, and lines.
- Metaphors and ideas are used to communicate meaningfully to the audience.
- A simple onboarding process and a great UI helped draw in users to what they had to offer.
111. Airtasker - This labour marketplace has a high-profit margins and huge potential for growth
- Airtasker connects clients with labourers pretty easily, with a very sleek user interface.
- The booking process is very straightforward and transparent, incurring trust from the users.
- There are no upfront fees, and people can avail of services using three different models.
- They refreshed their brand along the way, to make their identity more up-to-date.
- Using traditional marketing channels such as ads are a go-to for further brand recognition.
112. Reddit - The social platform has 500 million active monthly users
- Reddit knew what it set out to do, and they stayed on their lane.
- Through the years, the company understood what customers wanted from them and their updates were always in tune with these.
- Built upon community and anonymity, Reddit places a strong premium in relationships and privacy.
- Moderators are given full control of subreddits, allowing niches to form unique cultures of their own.
- At the end of the day, the platform is driven by the sense of belongingness and communication.
113. Invision - This design platform is a standout even for marketers
- Invision is known for their approach to content creation.
- They constantly release articles meant to pique the interest of users.
- Tutorials and thought leadership from industry leaders are featured, and their audience are also directed towards Invision.
- The company posts five times a week, on every weekday, which gives users something to look forward to.
- Branching out to podcasts, ebooks, and workshops further increased the authority of the company.
114. Zendesk - This company went from $1 million to $1 billion in just over a decade
- Zendesk was created by experts for experts, yet they grew because of their accessibility and simplicity.
- Although the company faced detractors, they knew what they were building and stood by their vision.
- They delved into enterprise deals to create a larger market for the brand.
- As people want efficiency, they eventually launched an easy sign in for users, immediately simplifying the process and making them more attractive.
- The company is known for being compliant to regulations and upholding privacy laws, which is especially important in that industry.
115. Eventbrite - The ticketing platform sold ten million shares during its initial public offering
- Eventbrite has sold over $10 billion worth of tickets, and the numbers continue to grow year after year.
- The company focuses on doing one thing and doing it well.
- Being customer-driven lies at the heart of their values and builds their entire culture.
- The more they engage with customers, the better their reputation and company growth is.
- Their customer acquisition depends on a cycle where their customers market their platform for them.
116. Preply - This tutoring company grew 10x to be considered a hyper-growth startup
- Preply has millions of active students and tutors from over 200 countries.
- Through trial and failure, they managed to develop a system that works best for their company.
- Data-driven decisions end up being major drivers for their growth.
- By being efficient with their coding and strategy, they are able to implement features that have the most value with minimal opportunity cost.
- One thing they learned as a team is that for each feature to be maximised, there needs to be an onboarding for users.
117. Product Hunt - The online community platform grew to 100,000 users through mindful relationship building
- Product Hunt makes sure that it’s relational no matter what the topic of choice is.
- They initially targeted their ideal audience and just grew through word of mouth from there.
- By issuing invitations during the early release of the product, they built an exclusivity that eventually turned into community.
- Knowing the different categorisations of their company helped immensely.
- They also conduct personal meetups in different countries to strengthen their camaraderie.
118. Glassdoor - The review platform sees more than 17 million visits to its site every month
- Glassdoor lets employees and companies leave reviews for each other, and thus is source to things a lot of people want to know.
- It’s a place for social proof, taken to the next level.
- 70% of their traffic comes from organic searches and SERP positioning.
- Providing data-driven assets and resources helped establish their brand at the beginning.
- They have very strong backlinking to help with SEO, with hundreds of millions of backlinks.
119. TaskRabbit - This labour marketplace went raising from $120 million to $40 million
- That’s not a good thing and just means that TaskRabbit failed to keep up with the market.
- Though the company was an early pioneer in the gig economy, their bidding system ultimately became too liquid for users.
- Because of how their process is, bidding and negotiations could take time, which is a disadvantage in the workplace.
- The platform had no focus or niche and eventually became too generalised in their offerings.
- Though they eventually pivoted their approach, it was already too late as competitors have gained leverage.
120. Superdry - This clothing retailer sees hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly revenue
- Superdry has been around since the 1980s, but it only rose to fame in the early 200s after a celebrity was spotted wearing something from the brand.
- Using an omni-channel marketing strategy to continue growing their market proved to be effective.
- They also made bank-on mobile experiences for customers, knowing how much traffic it generated.
- Most of their marketing efforts are focused on social media.
- Although the company does campaigns for all demographics, they specifically lean into the younger market for relevance.
121. Snackpass - This food service app saw a 25% month-on-month growth throughout a year
- Snackpass started out by catering to just one campus as a restaurant promotions app.
- Then they launched gifting, which allowed users to send food and rewards to other users.
- They built a college ambassador program which helped them spread like wildfire, allowing them to eventually host 10 campuses. Given its size at the time, the company achieved a $10 million GMV (which is pretty impressive for early-stage).
- They’ve focused on creating a great product, which lead them to naturally getting referrals and WOM. They also have a really impressive roadmap of features to help them expand outside of just students and campuses (which they’ve already done quite well since this study was released).
122. Postmates - The company holds a 9% share of the entire food delivery industry in America
- Postmates covers more than 100 areas, with collaborations with big brands such as Mcdonald’s and Starbucks.
- Beyond that, they also have partnerships with small local businesses.
- The service sets itself apart by allowing customers literally anything from anywhere in their area.
- Their low fees are competitive and definitely comes as a selling point.
- They also recently launched a pickup option in a bid for service expansion.
123. Paypal - The online payments service provider saw its stock price go up by 700% since its launch
- Really enjoyed reading the growth journey at a high-level on PayPal over the years.
- Though it looks like PayPal has already stagnated, their value continues to grow (a market cap of over $300 billion).
- They know their product market fit and continue to lean into that. They keep building new features and products which are quickly adopted and used by millions and millions around the world.
- As for their service, they know the needs of the people and just keep on doing what they do, providing consistency and fostering loyalty.
- By acquiring companies like Venmo (way back in 2013) and acquiring more merchant/payments-based software, PayPal keeps on scaling their reach into new audiences.
- Venmo alone and unlocking social payments has probably been one of the best decisions PayPal made for revenue growth.
124. Cash App - The fintech service launched in a crowded market yet still managed to acquire 30 million active users
- I enjoyed reading both resources as was good to see where the product started as (first resource), and how hip-hop made them go viral (second resource).
- Cash App just used the same old marketing strategies people have been doing for years, but they did it flawlessly.
- The company hosted $500 giveaways through podcasts, immediately increasing user interest.
- They also got hundreds of artists to actually drop the name of the brand in one of their songs.
- Eventually, they started offering debit cards (really awesome read) - in both online and physical form, thereby expanding their service.
- Through offering crypto and stock trading among other advancements, Cash App eventually stayed ahead of the game.
⚡ Frequently Asked Questions ⚡
What are the best growth hacking strategies (and your favourite tactics) used by some of the top startup companies that you love, which produced great results?
There’s a lot to learn from these top growth studies I’ve highlighted in this guide, everything from overall growth strategy and how companies have dominated their particular category to specific tactics for a certain channel or learning something that is so creative that it simply puts you in awe. The exciting part is that this guide uncovers potential opportunities for growth hacks and strategies you could implement for your brand, regardless of your business vertical or niche. For me personally, when writing this guide, there are six companies, studies and specific growth hacking strategies that I really enjoyed that stood out to me, which everyone can learn from (both results-wise and how well they’ve done with executing a great design/UX). Firstly, Morning Brew did (and continues to do) an amazing job with their referral program. Second, Veed, a social video editing platform, has done a superb job when it comes to scaling SEO. Third, Notion with their templates and onboarding. Fourth, Gong with their B2B SEO strategy and their LinkedIn engine (seriously amazing what they’ve achieved with LinkedIn organic). The fifth would have to be a combination of Calendly and Airtable, with both doing an amazing job in their respective use cases with product-led growth strategies. Then finally, the sixth study that has done a great job with multiple growth hacking strategies that I really love is by Duolingo. They’ve done a superb job when it comes to personalisation, gamification and in-app notifications. This is not an exhaustive list, as there are many others I could mention, but for me personally, these were the standouts.
Which is your favourite growth hacking case study that you recommend other SaaS businesses, founders, VCs, product managers, and growth hackers/marketers should read?
This is a hard one to truly pick just because so many of these growth hacking case studies are worth reading if you’re in SaaS. However, probably my favourite study that really goes into amazing detail, including detailed breakdowns, illustrations and a good amount of takeaways, would have to be the Airtable growth study by Sacra. Amazing for both product managers and growth hackers as it goes into detail about their product-led growth strategy, GTM analysis, upmarket analysis for them targeting new customers in the corporate/enterprise sector, and just awesome breakdowns to learn some great takeaways across their marketing and product. The level of detail is quite phenomenal and worth bookmarking for future reference, and that’s regardless of whether or not Airtable is in your space.
Which is your top recommended eCommerce growth marketing case study that you recommend founders and digital marketers need to devour?
Similar to the SaaS growth hacking case studies, I’ve talked about a few amazing eCommerce studies that are pretty damn awesome. Yet, if there’s one I absolutely recommend that you have to check out if you’re in the world of eCommerce, is the Lululemon study by Dejan Gasjek. The level of detail is truly awesome, with a great level of illustrations and references to check out, which support the key takeaways Dejan points out. This study itself does a great job in illuminating the overall marketing and strategy initiatives, tactics and trends that Lululemon implemented to beat Nike in a few categories. I definitely learnt a lot, and I also have a lot of respect for how Lululemon has done digital marketing, branding, and delivering great retail experiences to help them stand out and compete against one of the most recognisable brands in the world. Plus, I really love how they understood their customer segment and demographic.
What are some of the best low cost strategies, growth hacks and channels that you thought were clever from these startups that can apply to most SaaS companies and eCommerce brands?
How you define ‘low-cost’ does come down to the growth stage of your business and the resources you have available to properly execute and scale. Having said that, some of the best low-cost growth hacking strategies I’ve found to consistently work for SaaS or eCommerce businesses are - Content and SEO (and working out how to scale this process - just look at Veed’s study), referral programs (cost barely anything to setup aside from tools - look at Morning Brew’s and OnlyFans study), affiliate programs (costs around tools and engaging influencers - look at Clickfunnels and Semrush study), influencers (can be expensive but micro-influencers can be budget-friendly - see Koala study), TikTok (organic reach is pretty decent - check out Duolingo study), and co-branded marketing/partnerships (try to leverage off established brands and tap into audience pools - see Afterpay study).
Which are the best SaaS growth hacks and tactics that are worth concentrating on for businesses that are in a more competitive vertical/category?
For SaaS companies, the more consistent strategies, ‘growth hacks’, channels and initiatives that have consistently produced great results for clients and startups I work with, as well as what I’ve noticed over the years watching top SaaS companies (plus from what we can see with these case studies), is that SEO, Content marketing, outbound/outreach, and just good product-led growth strategy, typically delivers the best results. Each of these areas is pretty big in its own right, but for anyone in SaaS reading this, I can say for certain that each of the four areas is primarily what you should focus on when it comes to sustainable and scalable growth.