10 Experiments : Insider view of a growth hacker’s mind

I wanted to become a scientist when I was in school. I was intrigued to explore stars, planets, chemicals, and the subject of physics. 

I even created a small lab in my house when I was 12 years old. It was not a fancy lab. I used an empty box of apples and fixed the box under an almirah. I put some chemicals like NaCl, NaHCO3, and KMnO4 in my lab. These are commonly available things at homes but as a child, it was a whole new world to me.

Some other times I dreamt of becoming a scientist who would launch rockets by punching a few codes on his laptop. 

Needless to say, none of my dreams come true. 

I became a software engineer who was spending his nights in coding and his mornings in the meetings & filling up excel sheets.

It’s not that I didn’t like coding but Indian IT industry lacks innovation. I wanted to impact the world in a positive manner through my work but I was not getting any opportunity through my IT job. 

I looked at what my managers were doing and their managers were doing. It was pure politics within the team and with the clients. My heart shrank when I imagined my future as an IT manager. 

I left my well paying IT job in 2013 to work on my own startup. I still love the coding part but I hated the Indian IT industry environment. 

Then I became an entrepreneur and a marketer. I started companies, failed, tried again, and got some success. 

I got the kick (like in salman khan movie) when I created marketing plans and executed small marketing experiments. I felt like a scientist. The scientist within me became alive.

I helped some startups in launching their products if not rockets. 

I realized that experimentation actually helps in finding success in startups.

You break down a big problem into small actionable tasks. Execute some of the tasks and based on the results you execute the next set of tasks. This way, entrepreneurs can get more success in less time. The process is cost effective and fast.

Similarly, for marketers, you run 10 experiments and out of that 2 or 3 become successful. It happened to me many times. I made 10 high-quality viral campaigns and out of those, 2 to 3 became really viral and brought more results than average 100 campaigns.

I have seen multiple times that 2-3 experiments get success out of 10 when executed with a growth mindset. Today, I am going to share the details of my experiments that I ran in the last 6 months.  

My experimental mindset can help startups, freelancers, consultants, and professional bloggers to think like a scientist and get results in less time, less cost, and less efforts. 

I am planning another 10 experiments in the next 6 months (details at the end) and you can also do the same. I would love to extend my help to serious guys (free+paid) who are committed to grow their business with content marketing. 

#1. Paid Newsletter for people who want to start an online business without leaving their job

Time Duration : 4 Months (March-June 2017)

Expected Results of experiment : Members can select an idea, make a content plan, and bring organic traffic to their website. 

How to measure success/failure : At least 20% of the members should be able to market & promote their business online without spending any money on paid Ads. 

Status : Moderate Success

Reason for Success : 40% of the members took the action and grew their business (but at a slower speed than my expectations, thus the moderate success).  

What happened during the experiment 

Last four months were challenging as well as interesting because of my experiment with paid newsletters. 

I enrolled about 250 people in VIP newsletters in four batches. I started sending one action packed email every week. My expectation was that each and every member must take action. I shared a lot of insights through my own experience of running my business.

Some of the topics of paid newsletters were

  • Core Principles of Communication and Email
  • Organic Growth of Facebook Pages and Principles of Virality (with the example of growth story of BeingHappyMom Facebook page that grew from 0 to 150,000 in 6 months, all growth being organic)
  • Storytelling and Storyboarding
  • Keyword Research for SEO
  • How to write better content 
  • How to find target audience 
  • How to come up with topics
  • How I pitched to YourStory to become paid writer
  • How to reach out to bloggers for guest post

But the problem was that all members were at different stage of their business. Some were struggling with idea, some just started their website, some were learning content writing, some were busy in building a product, and a very few were able to execute the strategies because they were waiting for the right time. 

To make their life easy, I divided the growth of business in seven levels and prepared a blueprint of execution. 

Here are the seven levels of business growth (that can be customised as per the business need)

  • Level 0 – Idea Selection
  • Level 1 – Website & Configurations
  • Level 2 – Content Planning and Writing
  • Level 3 – Marketing & Promotions
  • Level 4 – Scaling up Traffic
  • Level 5 – Traffic to Lead Conversion
  • Level 6 – Revenue Experiments
  • Level 7 – Scaling up Revenue

To facilitate the process, I created a private portal where VIP members can login and access the content as per their business growth level. By default the content was locked. They had to submit the progress report to unlock the content. That was a lot of manual work for me but I was okay to invest additional time. 

The members were making progress and here are the results. 

vip-newsletter-members-progress

25% members crossed Level 2 

But only 5% members crossed Level 3 & above. 

I was not very happy with the results. I understand that it takes time to get up to the speed but at this pace no one is going to see the results in next 6 months. 

I was not sure why people were not able to make the progress. 

It could be a fault at my side as well. 

So, I sent one email to VIP members saying that I am not happy with the VIP Newsletters. I received more than 25 responses (10% of vip members).

Most of the responses were apology letters for not taking action while a few members shared some ideas to improve the way I deliver the newsletters. 

I understood that locking the content is not going to help VIP members. 

People take action when they are ready. I can not push anyone for making them successful just because I started something to help people. 

Everyone beyond Level-1 is genuinely interested in learning online business and making something happen for them. 

Actually, passing through Level-2 is not difficult. Anyone can go through a simple PDF document or a video course and generate 3000 to 5000 monthly traffic within 90 days. 

My real help starts when people have 20,000 to 50,000 monthly traffic but less than $100 monthly income. Because they don’t treat their blog like a business and try to monetise with Adsense. 

I came up with new ideas after taking feedback from VIP members, that I will discuss further. 

  1. E-book for people who are at idea level (to bring them upto Level-2).
  2. A course for people who struggle with content writing (to help them cross Level-3).
  3. VIP Newsletter weekly content for people who are already into the business or taking their blogs seriously. 

I have seen so many ups and downs through VIP newsletters but the overall results are fantastic. There were some internal failures, but at the end, VIP newsletters are successful. 

The next version of VIP newsletters is focused on people who want to grow their business with content marketing. The same advice would be applicable to freelancers, consultants, and professional bloggers, but, I will talk in terms of running and growing a business organically.

10 learnings from paid newsletter

  1. People care more about the paid content than the free content
  2. People take action when you push them on weekly basis
  3. It’s easy to filter out non-action takers by charging a trivial amount, equivalent to a large size pizza
  4. I had a few members in a closed group so it was easy to know each other and become friend with them
  5. They shared their business progress with me and I became more aware of whom to help at what level and how
  6. I understood why people are not taking action. I re-aligned the newsletters accordingly
  7. The paid newsletters gave me the challenge to invest in the success of others. I confronted my own fears (presentations and live webinars) because that was necessary to help others.
  8. It becomes your obligation to sell the products that can really impact the lives of other (I still hate writing sales emails)
  9. A small group of motivated people is more valuable than a large group of non-motivated people. I consciously kept the inflow slow in my VIP newsletters and asked people to join the waitlist.
  10. I was able to find freelancers writers, editors, volunteers and a full-time person who is capable of running the entire show on CashOverflow. The hiring becomes effortless when you work with a small group of people.

#2. Blogger Stories on CashOverflow

Time Duration : 1 Month (March-April 2017)

Expected Results : Create value for people whose stories I will publish on my blog and at the same time, inspire new entrepreneurs and bloggers to take action. 

How to measure success/failure :  If the person in the story comes back to say ‘thanks’ because of the extra traffic/leads and brand visibility generated by story.

Status : Failure

Reason of Failure : Could not create much value to people whose stories I published on my blog. 

What happened during the experiment 

I published the following three stories in a month, 

  1. Harsh Agrawal, The Man Who Is Making Rs. 22,00,000 Per Month Through Blogging.
  2. Karan Batra, Inspiring Story Of A Chartered Accountant Who Picked Finance Blogging As His Career.
  3. Shivya Nath, The Girl Who Gave Up Her Job For The Love Of Solo Travel.

I got a lot of traffic because the readers liked these stories and shared on their social media. 

traffic+from+blogger+stories

But people, whose stories I have written, got a little value.

 

=> CLICK HERE – If you want to receive updated on generating Extra Traffic. 

 

They invested their time in responding to my questions. They are busy people and I truly respect their time. So, they should receive a good value out of these stories.

To accomplish the above,  I may start writing stories about bloggers and entrepreneurs i again when I would hit a million traffic per month, but, till that time I am going to discontinue this experiment.

Learning : Think about the success of your audience/partners before yours.

#3. A Premium Facebook Group for people who want to start an online business

Time Duration : 1 Month (March-2017)

Expected Results : People helping each other with online business advice.  

How to measure : If people are asking the right questions and tagging me in the queries where no one is responding. 

Status : Failure

Reason of Failure : Not so high quality questions in the group. 

What happened during the experiment 

I made some money from the initiative but that was not the point.

facebook paid group

Charging small money filters out a lot of non-serious people. I found some good people in the group but at the same time some people were expecting quick results (or schemes) to make money online. 

The overall quality of the audience was not good. 

I closed the paid entry to the Group and allowed pre-filtered members only without any charge.

Learning : Book losses if you are not adding any value to the community.  

#4. Premium Community of content marketers & startup founders with membership fees of Rs. 2000

Time Duration : 1 Month (April-2017)

Expected Results : Startup founders helping each other with content marketing advice.

How to measure : If members are asking the right questions and tagging me in the queries where no one is responding. 

Status : Failure

Reason of Failure : Not so high quality questions in the group. 

What happened during the experiment 

This was supposed to be a super premium community of startup founders and content marketers. 

I was able to find 14 such people within a few days who believed in my vision. 

community of startup founders and marketers

I started with a private Facebook group with the plans to create more ways to community (email groups, slack, forum). 

But again, I was not satisfied with the quality of conversations happening in the group. The major reason of failure of high priced and low priced communities is that everyone expect help when they pay some money.

I was ready to provide help but needed high quality questions from people. I realised that even if people were paying to join the premium group, they were not aligned with the purpose of learning from discussions. 

I discussed the matter with my mentor and then decided to shutdown the group. Of course, I refunded 100% of the money to the members.

Learning for you: Find a better way to filter out the right audience. Money as a filter does not work everywhere (It worked very well in Paid Newsletters) 

Money as a filter does not work everywhere (It worked very well in Paid Newsletters) 

#5. A new travel blog for people who want to go on the long vacations under a budget

Time Duration : 12 Months (Dec-2016 to Dec-2017)

Purpose : A great travel resource for people who travel on long vacations.  

How to measure results : By looking at the comments in the articles, if people consider our content helpful in their travel or not. 

Status : Under Process

We (Neha and I) started a blog on travel, TravelBuffer, because we love to travel on long vacations and wanted to share the helpful advice with everyone through our personal experience. 

travel buffer traffic

We published a few articles and then I became busy in VIP newsletters. 

It’s a long term project without any expectations of making money out of it. We will wait till the time when people will bookmark our travel articles for planning their long vacations. 

#6. A blog on credit card and loans

Time Duration : 12 Months (Jan-Dec 2017) 

Purpose : A separate blog on credit cards and loans rather than writing too much on that topic on CashOverflow. 

Target and expected results : 10,000 monthly traffic on blog by the end of year. 

Status : Under Process

I wanted to write so much on credit cards that I started a separate blog – CreditFrog. I could do the same on CashOverflow, but, a lot of readers could not resonate with credit cards. They come to my blog to read about money saving hacks and online business advice. 

Having a separate blog is advisable if you wish to go into the depth of a particular topic. I am able to manage everything about credit cards and loan applications through CreditFrog. 

A friend (Raghav) is helping me manage CreditFrog until I give more attention. It’s a long term asset so I am ready to wait for a more time before marking it as a success or failure. 

#7. High Value Consulting for Startups who want to unlock their growth with content marketing

Time Duration : 6 Months (Dec-2016 to June-2017)

Expected Results : A feeling of happiness and satisfaction on client’s face. 

How to measure : Charge a non-negotiable high amount for the service and then check if they are happy or not. 

Status : Super Successful

Reason for Success :  The clients are super happy with my strategy, research, and growth hack ideas, majorly,  because I fill the gap of CMO in their startup. 

What happened during the experiment 

I started taking up consulting work from startups who were looking for personalised advice on content marketing. The format was simple, I committed one hour per week for skype call to discuss their obstacles with content marketing and coming up with a solution over the call itself.

It worked for startups who had clarity about their content strategy. Then, two experienced startups reached out to me for making their content strategy from the scratch.

Making a content strategy is really time consuming and a tough task. Most of the startups do not understand that they can save more money on their resources, if they have a clearly defined content strategy.

Here is the snapshot of my current framework of making a content strategy.

content marketing framework

   

I use workflowy tool to plan the things.

If you wish to re-use my content marketing framework, then you can copy from this shared workflowy link

I have completed one strategy for one startup and about to complete the strategy for the second startup. I am not sure if they will be able to execute the plan with perfection, if they would, then I will feel satisfied. At present, both the startups are extremely happy with the association and the strategy documents that I have delivered.   

Some advice for people who want to become consultants. 

  • Think about the success of your client before taking money. If you feel that they can’t achieve the results after taking your advice then don’t work with them. It may be possible that you give them best strategy but they fail to execute because of their own limitations. If you sense that early, don’t take up the work. 
  • Charge a non-negotiable fixed amount. Consulting is not a commodity so the price is subjective. If you give any discount then they feel an urge to negotiate further. If you keep the charges fixed for everyone then there is no feeling of buying something overpriced. 
  • Talk about the results as deliverable as compared to the documents. I deliver the clarity of content marketing activities for the next 12 months. I try to put that clarity in one excel sheet and word document. 
  • Take payment only after gathering all necessary information from the client. I jump over a call with them with a set of questions in a shared document. I collect all the information and if I feel confident about delivering the strategy then I raise the invoice. 
  • Refund policy – Till now I worked with people who came from trusted sources, so we did not talk about refunds. But if anyone is happy with my strategy then I will do my best to revise the plan or refund 50% of the money. 
  • Charge fixed price for the work that you will do offline and hourly price for the work that you will do on live calls. I charge fixed 100,000 Rs. for making a content strategy and 20,000 Rs. per month for weekly calls. 
  • Complete the offline consulting work in a fixed time period (for me, it’s one month, provided I get the inputs timely from the client).
  • Prefer lead generation from the warm connections. Work with someone who is aware of your work & potential. The point is that you should not try to convince someone how valuable you could be for their business. 

I will share more about my consulting work as I learn. 

At present my focus is on VIP newsletters so I am not taking more than one consulting assignment per month. 

#8. A discussion forum for credit card lovers

Time Duration : 2 Months (April-May 2017)

Expected Results : Interactions around credit card doubts and queries.  

How to measure : Number of people signing up for the forum and posting a question or answer. 

Status : Failure

Reason of Failure : No interactions happening in the forum. 

What happened during the experiment 

I wanted to make a discussion forum for credit card lovers who wanted to discuss the latest features and benefits of premium credit cards. I love to explore the ways to get premium credit cards without paying annual fees. At certain times, paying annual fees becomes lucrative when credit card companies are offering additional perks. 

I admit that I could not give enough attention to the experiment. 

Two people (Anurag and Saurabh) from VIP newsletters volunteered for taking care of the forum creation and moderation. We came up with the discussion forum for credit cards

They also lost the motivation because of the little results from the experiment. 

#9. A high value (and high priced) course on content writing

Time Duration : 1 Month (June 2017)

Expected Results : 5 people who can write high quality articles, preferably better than my articles.  

How to measure : 10 people interested in investing time & money to learn writing. 

Status : Failure

Reason of Failure : Not sufficient interest from the audience. 

What happened during the experiment 

I saw that VIP members were interested in learning content writing but they were not getting sufficient help from the free & paid courses from the internet. The first thing was to help them in finding the right resources, so I asked everyone to go through copyhackers.com and kopywritingkourse.com

But they needed personalised attention, assignments, and one-to-one engagement along with a step by step process of learning different type of articles. 

I sent an email to VIP newsletter members if they would like to enroll for a high cost course with personalised mentorship, but could not even secure 10 people who were interested. 

So, I decided not to mentor people on one to one basis, rather work on making courses which can help large number of people at a reasonable cost (without any compromise on quality).

#10. E-book for people who want to start an online business but stuck at the idea level

Time Duration : 1 Week

Expected Results : E-book buyer should be able to start his business in 7 days along with a clarity of at least next 90 days.   

How to measure : If at least 10% of people take action after buying the E-book 

Status : Success

Reason of Success : It’s easy to buy low cost E-book than a high cost course. E-book buyers were able to finalise their idea and start a website. I don’t have exact numbers but received email responses from more than 10% of buyers.  

What happened during the experiment 

I started VIP newsletter to help people with starting an online business by sending them a weekly email. 

But most of the people don’t need one to one help. All they need is step by step guide to start. 

So, I figured out the 5 most important topics from the VIP newsletter and portal content, that can be used by anyone to start a business within 7 days. 

Then I prepared a structure, improved the content, and prepared an E-book and priced it at Rs. 999. 

The five chapters are

  1. Chapter 1 : Selecting the right idea
  2. Chapter 2 : Validating your idea in one day
  3. Chapter 3 : Picking the right domain & hosting for you
  4. Chapter 4 : All the tech & non-tech work that you need to do (10 days work in 1 one day)
  5. Chapter 5 : Making the content plan for next 90 days

I received some good and bad feedback for the E-book. 

Let me show you the bad feedback first. 

negative review of ebook

So, the first version of my book needs improvements in

  • Smooth flow of the content
  • Chapters should have more details
  • The value should be high as people expect more from me. 

Another email with mixed feedback

detailed feedback on ebook

E-book is good for anyone who is just starting up but I should also consider adding

  • Few tips on content writing and social media marketing
  • Cheat sheet to increase the traffic

I take all kind of feedback seriously. 

I am in the process of revising the E-book and will send the updated version to people who already bought it. 

Experiment on the pricing of the E-book

I priced the E-book at Rs. 999 and tried selling initial version at a discounted price of 599, 499, and 399 respectively to different groups of people.

I offered VIP members to pay any amount between Rs. 100 to Rs. 999, and I was pleasantly surprised that people were paying more than minimum amount.

I thought for a moment, why are people paying more than minimum amount of Rs. 100?.

Maybe, because I was already providing them with a value exceeding their expectations, either through my free content or VIP newsletters. I am not sure yet.

But I built my pricing strategy based on that.

I extended the same offer to everyone. Pay anything between Rs. 100 to Rs. 999, choose your own discount.

I see a lot of potential in scaling up help to people who are just starting up.

I will write more E-books and keep improving the content.  

Conclusion

3 Successes – VIP Newsletters, Marketing Consulting for Startups, E-book for beginners 

5 Failures – Paid FB group for beginners, Community for content marketers, Forum for credit card discussions, Blogger Stories, Premium content writing course

2 Under Process – Travel & Credit Card Blog

3 Successes out of 10 experiments is a great outcome in 6 months. 

I will improve on what worked for me in the past and shutdown the failed experiments completely, unless, I find a strong reason to re-consider any of those again. 

What are my next 10 experiments in the line for the future initiatives?

  1. Self published book on Amazon “A Kanjoos Baniya”. 
  2. A course on creating content strategy for startups (sharing everything that I did for my clients so that all startups can prepare their content strategy themselves)
  3. A course to execute content marketing in 90 days to achieve the results that normally takes more than 200 days.
  4. 30 day challenge for bloggers to publish one article every week and getting 10,000 additional traffic. Participating along with them and sharing everything that I did from content writing to promotions.
  5. A high value course for a few targeted  people who want to scale up their content marketing to the highest level.
  6. Building a brand new website project by involving VIP newsletter members – The purpose is to help members learn writing skills while practicing on a real world assignment. 
  7. Liberal digital marketing agency – where every process will be so transparent that every member would have access to client’s proposals, income/expense reports, resource allocation, and profit distribution. Everything will be run on voluntary basis where no one will be a boss. I will facilitate the process initially but after a few years the community should run automatically. 
  8. A small community of bloggers who want to run their blog as a business (must have at least 20,000 monthly traffic).
  9. A small community of startup techies and marketers who wish to grow their startup with content marketing. 
  10. A regular AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions (I will also invite other marketers to conduct AMA).

So, in the next 6 months, I am going to be busy in executing new experiments while my team will take care of the experiments that were successful in the past. 

How you can apply experimental approach to your business

You can apply this approach if you have any kind of business that thrives on the internet marketing. Write down the most important results you want to achieve in the next 12 months. Find out ways to get those results. Then break down big problems into small actionable experiments with a clearly defined timeline, your expected results, and how you would like to measure. 

Don’t get stuck with any of the experiments. Mark it as failure or success, if the timeline expires and move on. 

Feel free to send me a detailed experimental approach for me to review. I help 5 people free of cost every month who have at least 20,000 monthly traffic on their website but less than $100 revenue. 

Note: A different version of this article was published on YourStory.

Now It’s Your Turn

Ask Me Anything about content marketing, details of my experiments, and what you wish to achieve next?

I will answer all your questions addressed to me in the next 7 days. 

Pardeep Goyal
 

I am an entrepreneur, storyteller and founder of StartupKarma & CashOverflow

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 13 comments
Understanding Sales Funnel from the point of view of a Blogger - TECHADVISES

[…] this post out where Pardeep Goyal, a friend and a mentor writes about his experiments and insights he […]

Reply
Sanju Joseph

That was a great post!

Reply
Gopesh Sharma

Power Packed Information. I think is for sure is to never quit whether its a failure of success.

Reply
Mahesh GB

God post useful and insiring

Reply
Ryan Robinson

This is awesome! Love getting a glimpse behind the scenes 🙂

Reply
priya

wow great article, its amazing article.

Reply
Nayan Kariya

Hello Pradeep,

Excellent Post of yours. I generally don’t read such a big post but I have read each and every line of this post and all I can say is it is worth my time. You have put everything so nicely that I keep on reading your post.

I am one of the member who is participating with you in the 30 days challenge of getting 10K traffic from 4 blog post.

Looking forward to read more such posts from you 🙂

Thanks again for sharing such a wonderful piece of content with all of us.

Reply
anandmarar

Wow. Amazing work Pradeep. I am working towards creating financial independence with yours and Deepak Kanakaraju’s guidance.

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