How to see another company’s growth tactics and try them yourself


Julian Shapiro

Julian Shapiro is the founder of BellCurve.com, a growth marketing agency that trains you to become a marketing professional. He also writes at Julian.com.


acquisition strategy is out in the open. If you know where to look.

This post shows you exactly where to look, and how to reverse engineer their growth tactics.

Why is this important? Competitive analysis de-risks your own growth experiments: You find the best growth ideas to adopt and the worst ones to avoid.

First, a warning: Your goal is not to repurpose another company’s hard work. That makes you a thief. Your goal is to identify other companies who face the same growth challenges as you, then to study their approaches for solutions to draw from.

As I walk through uncovering a competitor’s tactics, keep in mind which competitors are worth looking at: For instance, you should rarely over-analyze early-stage companies. They’re unlikely to be methodical at growth.

Meaning, if you blindly copy their site and their ads, it’s possible you’ll be copying tactics that are not actually responsible for their growth. Their success may instead be from network effects or other hidden factors.

Instead, it’s safest to get inspiration from companies who’ve sustained high growth rates for a long time, and who face the same growth challenges as you. They’re likely to have sophisticated growth operations worth studying deeply. Examples include:

Pinterest
Airbnb
Amazon
Facebook
Uber
If these aren’t your direct competitors, don’t worry. You don’t need to audit a direct competitor’s tactics to get incredibly valuable insights.

You can look past direct competitors.
You’ll gain useful insights from auditing the user acquisition funnel of any company who has a similar audience and business model.

Examples of audiences:

Wealthy consumers

Enterprise businesses

Middle-class adults who use Chrome

Dog owners

And so on
Audiences matter because their behaviors and needs differ wildly. Each requires its own growth strategy. You want to audit a company whose audiences is similar to yours.

You also want to ensure the company shares your business model. Examples include:

A high-touch sales process with multiple phone calls
A consumer ecommerce site with easy checkout
A self-serve SaaS signup with a freemium plan
A pay-to-play mobile game
And so on
Each model may necessitate different ads, landing pages, automated emails, and sales collateral.

The process
Never implement another company’s tactics blindly.

There’s an effective process for growth analysis, and it looks like this:

Source potential growth ideas.
Prioritize them.
A/B test them.
Measure if an A/B variant significantly outperformed its baseline and whether the cost of implementing the winner would be worthwhile.
Only then should you implement it.

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