I've helped 400+ startups acquire customers.

Here's the framework I teach them—for ads, content, referrals, and product.

Hope this helps! A thread:
Part 1. The growth trajectory

Steps I'm seeing startups follow in 2021:

1. Build an amazing product that naturally encourages word-of-mouth.

2. Then kickstart user growth with a scalable acquisition channel, such as ads.
3. In parallel, I'm seeing them spend most of their growth resources optimizing their user funnel + product experience.

At every step of the user's journey, they A/B test to maximize per-user revenue.
4. Once their funnel is profitable + efficient, they scale it.

They also start to experiment with many more channels until they exhaust all of them.
5. Over time, they switch their emphasis to more sustainable and cost-efficient channels, such as:

• Product-led growth
• Organic social
• Influencers
• Referrals
• Content
• Sales
• More

This removes their dependency on ads, which can be volatile.
Part 2. How do you succeed at paid channels?

Most companies never make paid acquisition (ads, sponsorships) profitable.

Think about it: If they did, more companies would be successful—given how quickly scalable ads are.
To be specific, most companies are unable to profitably acquire paying users through ad platforms such as:

• Instagram Ads
• Facebook Ads
• Google Ads
• More
If they get one of those working at scale, it might be a holy grail when paired with strong word-of-mouth.

WOM is a force multiplier: every paid user attracts more unpaid ones

That's why I encourage folks to harden their conversion + referral rates before investing big in paid.
However, there are constraints that make paid channels difficult:

A. Profit margin: How much profit you earn per sale is critical to making paid work.

B. Audience size: Audience isn't just a function of how many people want your product, but more narrowly...
...how many are potentially suitable users of your product, want your product more than your competition, want it now, and can afford it.

The resulting audience is smaller than you estimate.

Many startups find their audience is too small to keep Facebook ads running at-scale.
C. Next factor in making ads work: Degree of product demand

How badly does your market want your product?

If your product is just a nicety, you're at a disadvantage relative to companies selling what people critically need—or THINK they need—such as health insurance or loans.
Further, the less obviously valuable your product is, the better you need to be at pitching it.

This can take exceptional marketing skill and months of iteration.
You might not know if your product crosses these profit, size, and demand thresholds until you've spent a statistically significant amount of money on each ad channel for every sub-audience.

You can also talk to people who've done it before. (This is what my startup is for.)
All this said, here are two types of companies with an increased chance of making paid (e.g. ads) work:

A. High margins:

If you charge customers $2,000 for a mattress or $10,000/year for enterprise software, you have more wiggle room to experiment with ads until they work.
B. Products with a high word-of-mouth or referral rate: 

If new users refer many more paying users, then you may be able to tolerate a small upfront loss when acquiring customers via ads.
Part 3. How do I make unpaid channels work?

If you fail to make paid work, you'll be relying on unpaid channels:

Content marketing, referrals, word-of-mouth, sales, PR, community, more.

This is normal. Succeeding at paid acquisition isn't a necessity—it's just convenient.
Benefits of unpaid channels:

They may be less at the mercy of ad channel volatility, audience saturation risks, and CPM pressures.

In other words: Unpaid growth is often more reliable and more in your control.
Some major unpaid channels:

A. Product-led growth: If your product grows virally from users inviting others who then use the app together, you have the potential for product-led growth.

This is probably the healthiest + fastest way to grow. See Dropbox, Slack, Zoom, + PayPal.
B. Another unpaid channel: Content/SEO

Is your topic something people are Googling for?

Then SEO is potentially viable. Consider hiring writers instead of ad managers.

Further, build distribution around your content—via webinars and newsletters—to share it beyond Google.
C. Another unpaid channel: Word-of-mouth and referrals.

Build an amazing product that people can't stop talking about.

Then accelerate their word-of-mouth through low-friction, enticing invite incentives.
D. Sales is more appropriate for companies with significant profit margins and revenue stability—due to the costs of researching, negotiating, and winning deals.
Let's back up.

What *is* growth marketing?

I define it as data-driven revenue maximization.

It's a rigorous process of experimentation, data collection, iteration, and behavioral psychology—in pursuit of increasing revenue.

Growth is not a series of hacks.
One way to think about it:

Brand marketing increases the potential energy for revenue: it primes users to convert at a higher rate in the future.

Growth marketing then converts that potential energy into kinetic: it increases conversions now.
I'll be sharing dozens more growth insights.

I post threads 2x/week like this. If you want more growth content, you can give me a follow.

See my past threads here:
@julian
@mkobach is a great example of exceptional marketing skill btw. props to him
This thread is just a high-level introduction.

For specific growth tactics, I wrote them down here for free:

julian.com/guide/growth/i…

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More from @Julian

27 Jan
If you want to write well, writing style is only 10% of it.

90% is actually having something to say.

Aim to think well.

Thread: Learnings from many years of writing...
"It's sad that smart kids want to be YouTube creators."

No, it's not. It's sad that kids ever wanted to be pro poker players or day traders—adding 0 value to the world.

YouTube: mastering writing, growth, storytelling.

This trains kids to be lifelong makers—not just consumers.
I never make new friends on Facebook.

I never book new work on LinkedIn.

Twitter, meanwhile, has brought me tons of both—plus it's sharpened my thinking.

The surprise of social:

People want to meet you based on your thoughts + content—NOT based on your connections.
Read 12 tweets
25 Jan
My day job is growing startups.

I've worked with a few hundred by now.

Here's how to grow your podcast, newsletter, blog, YouTube, and Twitter.

Hope this helps! A thread:
Growth marketing, a timeline:

2015: "We need to go viral."

2017: "Well, we raised $25m of VC. Let's dump it on Facebook ads."

2021: "Wow. We should have been focusing on content and building a great product."
How to grow a podcast:

• Be YouTube-first; do video
• Split eps into 8min YouTube clips with SEO’d titles
• Get guests that are searched for on YouTube
• Consider not publishing bad eps
• Exchange eps with other shows
• Niche is fine, but be widely accessible
Read 11 tweets
23 Jan
What’s the most beautiful piece of writing you’ve ever come across?

Bonus points if you can screenshot a paragraph and share it below. I’ll consider including it in my writing guide.

Props to anyone who takes the time ❤️
I'll get the list going. This is my favorite from last year: Image
"Reasons to Stay Alive" by Matt Haig. Sourced by @VManasvi Image
Read 5 tweets
9 Jan
THREAD: 10 significant lies you're told about the world.

On startups, writing, and your career:
People don't have short attention spans:

• They finish 3 hour Joe Rogan episodes.
• They binge 14 hour shows.

They have short *consideration spans:* they must be hooked quickly.

Point: Don't fear making great, in-depth content. But, ensure your first minute is incredible.
In observing friends who’ve sold startups and made millions:

After a year, they’re back to toying with their old side projects.

They used their money to buy a nice home and eat well.

That’s it. They’re otherwise back to who they were.

Point: Aim to be fulfilled, not rich.
Read 12 tweets

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