3 Tips for Hacking User Acquisition in Any Business

Last week, a colleague asked me how I think about brainstorming new user acquisition strategies.

While the answer depends significantly on the context of the business at hand, there are a few universals that apply to nearly every situation.

Here are 3 tips for brainstorming a new user acquisition strategy in any business.

1. Steal the Best Techniques from Others

More often than not, the answers are already out there waiting for you. The first place to start when brainstorming a new growth channel or trying to improve an existing funnel is looking at what competitors and comparable, non-competitors are doing.

Need better-performing ads? Look at the best ads running in your vertical  and comparable verticals. Need backlinks? Figure out how others are getting theirs. Want to improve your funnel? Crib the techniques from somebody else with a similar funnel.

Tools like Open Site Explorer and WhatRunsWhere, as well as sites like UserOnboard.com and Really Good Emails are excellent for helping with this approach.

2. Focus on Untapped Channels

Probably the single best piece of advice from Gabriel Weinberg’s Traction is to focus on untapped channels where your competitors aren’t competing.

If every one of your competitors focuses on advertising, you should be anywhere else. As new product—likely with a lower budget—you’re never going to beat them at their own game. The quickest way to win is to play a different game.

To this sage advice, I’ll add the following: look for large networks where your users are already hanging out.

3. Think Like a Hacker

Growth hacking isn’t called hacking just because it requires technical skills. Your goal is to hack growth; often, that means subverting the rules or pushing systems beyond their intended use.

While AirBnB’s competitors relied on users to post to Craigslist manually, AirBnB broke the rules and automated the process, allowing their users to post listings to Craigslist with just one click.

Which rules are made of stone and which are made only of laziness, human routine, and typical understandings of how things work? What unwieldy, otherwise unscalable processes can be automated?