Today, we have over here Aniruddha Mishra – Growth Marketing Manager at MoneyTap.
He rightly points out in his Linkedin bio – A Chemical Engineer on “paper” but a Digital Marketer by “choice”. However, his engineering background played a huge role in his growth marketing career. Right in his college days, he launched an e-commerce website. As there was no one who could code, he decided to take this challenge and used Opencart, a popular open source CMS (similar to WordPress but for e-commerce) back then. While the startup failed eventually because of some internal issues, it was a great learning experience for him – managing vendor, building website, and of course marketing.
After this stint, he ended up developing more than 60 websites for different startups, who mostly contacted him through a Facebook group such as Bangalore Startups. Quite humbly, Aniruddha accepted that he wouldn’t have made it to this stage in life without Facebook to which he owes right from these projects to the first job to the next job. At one stage, these projects also affected Aniruddha’s studies, but they pushed him to the entrepreneurial and marketing/tech path.
I must point out an interesting point in our conversation. Aniruddha admitted that he was a bit turned off by the name “growth marketing” when he first heard it.
“I didn’t feel I have achieved enough to deserve this tag. It sounds a bit pompous. However, when I read the history of usage of this word – why Sean Ellis coined the term “growth hacking”, I got convinced that for any early-stage startups it’s required.” – Aniruddha
He mentioned during the interview, “Two things really important for startup are product-market fit and growth. If you hire people from traditional marketing profile and don’t structure the role to push growth, it’s difficult to scale. Traditional marketers, more often than not, focus more on branding and approach channel with a bias, which constrains the growth. The growth title and target of chasing north star metric make your path clear from the day 1. The title pushes you to not limit yourself to the traditional marketing channel.”
We all have been there Aniruddha. Thanks for explicitly pointing this out. Let’s get started with his interview 🙂
What according to you is the role of a growth hacker?
At the end of the day, it’s about chasing the North Star metric.
For SportsKeeda, the North Star metric was unique users. Our role as a growth hacker was to use various channels including social traffic, referral traffic, direct traffic, or organic traffic. Publishing industry is going through lots of up and downs, as Facebook has changed its algorithm. It’s high time to figure a new channel for growth, and it’s happening. Quora and Google News are doing great. Interestingly, the time spent on Google News has increased. In facts, as per a few recent studies, the consumption of news on Facebook had decreased, and people are exploring options such as Daily Hunt, Inshorts, and Google News.
Overall, in the growth team at SportsKeeda, our role was to figure out new channels of growth and optimise the current channels to increase the unique user count – north star metric of SportKeeda.
How has your background in engineering helped in marketing?
Firstly, solving mathematical equations and case studies in engineering definitely enhances your analytical thinking ability, which is a great asset in a data-driven world of chasing growth.
Secondly, at engineering, everyone has to do at least one semester of coding (C++). Combined with experience in website development, my engineering experience helps me immensely in day-to-day work. When I am doing SEO, I make use of inspect element and my knowledge of HTML and CSS. This makes my work a lot easier and reduces my dependencies on the tech team.
Just to give a context, it’s pretty important to keep page loading time below 3 seconds. Page loading time is critical from both marketing and user experience perspective. Flipkart Lite, a Progressive Web App is a great example of this. Currently, we are working on optimising a mobile landing page. In this project, my understanding of HTML and cache has helped me a lot.
“By the way, do check out a developer tool – Lighthouse – in your chrome. To access this tool just follow this: Inspect Element > Click arrow marks after ‘performance’ > Click Lighthouse. Lighthouse is an open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of web pages. You can run it against any web page, public or requiring authentication. It has audits for performance, accessibility, progressive web apps, and more.” – Aniruddha
I might not be a brilliant coder, but I understand the basics well. When I am stuck in using Chrome plugin, I can find my way using Stack Overflow. Or when I using API for marketing automation, and it’s throwing me a technical error, then I am able to figure this out. Even when you are working on the WordPress, you need to customise the theme sometime or do A/B testing. The knowledge of coding helps me avoid the situation when I have to keep running to the tech team.
Sometimes tech doesn’t understand what the marketing team wants. Working on web browser cache will not be on their priority most of the time. Unless you convince them that creating a good user experience for repeat user will lead to word of mouth. Sometimes it’s delayed until next month or quarter, and the feature loses its charm or at times gets forgotten.
Moreover, there is generally a first mover’s advantage. At SportsKeeda, we jumped on Instagram ads before most players. After carefully testing, this channel turned out to be a huge success for us both in terms of CPI and retention. We were featured in Facebook success stories. Besides creatives, I believe the fact that we could work on this channel with minimum support from tech team really helped to rapidly scale and optimise.
Do you think growth hackers need an understanding of coding and technology and why?
Definitely. While instinct and creativity are important, an understanding of technology and data analytics is extremely important for growth hacker. If you don’t understand technology, it will be extremely difficult. You don’t need to be an expert. However, you do need to have a good understanding of the basics of coding.
As per you, what are the key traits of a growth hacker?
- Data-driven: While hunch and instincts are important, you need to be data drive to figure non-intuitive solutions that often works.
- Analytical: It’s important that you can absorb data and information and make sense out of it.
- Creative: It’s said content is the king, but distribution is the queen, and she wears the pants. It’s not enough to just create a good piece of content. You have to work on content distribution. However, I believe despite mushrooming of new age channel and machine learning algorithms for distribution, the truth remains – if you have good content, it will work.
What’s the North Star for you? What do you think is the importance of establishing a North Star metric?
For Money Tap, our North Star is AIP – Approval in Principle – that is we get a verified lead who passes our lending filter based on age, city, salary and CIBIL score.
“One small thing that has really helped us stay on top is maintaining hourly report. Besides the end of the day report, we monitor this metric through hourly report 24*7. This helps us plan our day strategically to achieve our target, and this also provides us with the insight whether a weekend or weekday is better for us, and thus we plan accordingly to slow and accelerate.” – Aniruddha
Whether it’s UAC, Facebook campaigns, or PR, we know when to push the lever. In case, the lead acquisition is slow, we know beforehand that we have to increase the marketing spend to achieve the target. Further, this deadline and target help us push out of comfort zone.
For an early stage startup, North Star metric is extremely crucial. When you don’t have a clear goal, the result wouldn’t be pleasant. I have had one such experience. While not naming the startup, I must say it’s not a good situation for any startup. It’s become difficult to plan your work without clear success metric.
Could you walk us through your typical day’s schedule?
The first thing I check right in the morning is the hourly number. Then accordingly, I decide the schedule for the day.
Currently, I am focussing on organic traffic. In case, the traffic had taken a hit, I would check keywords and changes in websites. One thing that has helped me a lot in managing work is Google Keep. I keep adding and deleting task in my Google Keep throughout the day.
What have been your 3 best growth hack tactics?
- Pixel integration for Facebook Advertisements: In fact, not just for Facebook but also for Adword and Quora. This has really helped me in moving North Star metrics. I would always suggest doing advertisements for the events as deep in the funnel as possible. However, make sure you’re providing enough data point for Facebook and Google machine learning algorithm to learn. If integration is done properly, around 50 events for Facebook advertisements ensures that system is learning and optimising.
- Instagram Advertisements: Sportskeeda was one of the first to use Instagram advertisement, and it was a huge success for us. This was probably because of a mix of first movers advantage and rigorous testing. The key takeaway here is jumping to a newly launched channel first, as the advertising inventory becomes overprices with time. While it takes time to optimise, if you crack the channel, there is a huge reward. Our story was even featured in Facebook Worldwide Advertisement Success stories.
- The third one isn’t a tactic but a tip. Join the slack channel for marketing topics such as SEO, SEO, and PPC. It’s a great place to stay updated and network. In fact, on one of the ASO channel, I met the found of Tool.io and had an interesting conversion. The channel keeps you updated and is a good opportunity to lean a lot of hacks. Some slack channels that I have joined – ASOStack, PPCchat, and BigSeoReddit.
- Googe Trends: It’s one of the most useful and often underutilised tools. Here is how we used it at Sportskeeda:
- Competitor Analysis: One of our competitors was doing a big campaign, and we wanted to monitor the impact. The Google Trends was the perfect tool for that. We could the increase in search trend and accordingly, correlate with the effectiveness of the campaigns.
- Related trends: At Sportkeeda, we saw that during one big boxing match, a related trending search was “scar on the face of X” or “wife of X”. This helped us figure out what people are interested in, and we could extrapolate this for the next match. Then, we used to be ready with such articles for leading goal scorer or key players of the match.
- One more hack – Whenever you need ideas and inspiration, just search your topics such as ASO or UAC, and the use of Google search Tools > Any time > (Past 24 hours/week/month etc) to limit the result only to a set duration. This you will be able to stay updated with new tips and tricks.
Which channels do you think will be more valuable and money-worthy in future for growth?
- Messenger: Probably, there is already 1 bn FB messenger users. People are spending more time on WhatsApp and Fb messenger, and thus they have become a supercritical channel. More importantly, these channels are still not overcrowded and have a personal touch.
- Facebook still remain the biggest and one of the best platform. With around 240 million active users in India, Facebook pretty much covers every smartphone users in India. Moreover, the level of filtering and targeting that Facebook provide has still no match.
- Vernacular platforms – The platform has a huge untapped potential. Platforms such as Sharechat and DailyHunt have a huge audience from small towns and cities. I am sure you have noticed Sharechat icon on viral Holi and Diwali messages
“One point to note here is that new channel can’t be dealt with copied creatives and old strategy. It requires time and patience to experiment and follow a rigorous approach.” – Aniruddha
At SportsKeeda, we had success with the campaign on Reddit. While Facebook gave us more leads for hiring writers, by targeting specific subreddits in Reddit, we could get higher quality lead for recruitment. The strategy of Facebook of wouldn’t work on Reddit or for that matter Linkedin.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a growth hacker?
One big challenge is how to get maximum out of new channels while keeping the cost of experimentation at the minimum. Despite the availability of the best practices, some learning only comes after implementing and testing.
Testing is particularly costly in the video channel. One good hack here is to first spy the videos of your competitors and share the guidelines to create video on Fiverr. Here you can get the video created at a pretty cheap rate, and then you can test with a small budget. Only when you are satisfied, it makes sense to invest a professional high-quality video.
What has been your biggest failure as a growth hacker?
Not being able to crack Linkedin.
“While Linkedin has data and has our target customers, the CPC an CPA are extremely high. We haven’t been able to scale the Linkedin channel despite putting a lot of effort.” – Aniruddha
However, I believe we need to do a lot more testing and study to run an optimised campaign on Linkedin.
What’s your one tip for budding growth hacker?
“Read a lot. Read, experiment, implement, fail, and then try again. There isn’t any other way to master this game.” – Aniruddha
One critical must-do for growth hackers is to maintain a log of all the experiments whether bigger or smaller, and this becomes more crucial as the organisation grows. Note down all success and failures. With the log of experiments, you would have an idea what experiments worked and could be scaled. This will even help in figuring out what changes resulted in the loss of traffic.
What tools will you recommend for our fellow growth hackers?
- Consumer Barometer
- WebEngage (User feedback/surveys etc)
- Hotjar (Heatmaps)
- FullStory ((Session Replay, Understand Customer Struggles)
- Smartly.io (FB Automation)
- Canva (Design tool)
- Slack for useful channels such as ASOStack, PPCChat, and BigSEOReddit.
- TheTool.io (one of the best ASO tools)
- MozBar (for SEO)
- MailChimp (Email marketing)
- Campaign Monitor
- Google PageSpeed Insights (Page speed analysis)
- SemRush (for SEO)
- Majestic/Ahrefs (for SEO)