Austen Allred is one of the Internet’s finest growth hackers. Having done everything from building websites to launching groundbreaking new businesses, even while homeless, oddly enough, Austen knows what it takes for small- to medium-sized companies to make a name for themselves out on the World Wide Web.
Recently, here at Kickstagram, we had the chance to sit down with Austen and ask him about a few different things—work, growth hacking, his latest business venture and a bit about Instagram marketing, too. Keep reading to see how things went!
Tell us a little about your background. You’d consider yourself a growth hacker, correct?
Yeah, I don’t like that term, but that’s probably the most accurate and easiest way to describe what I do. I mean, I work in growth. That’s pretty much what I do.
Could you shed a some light on how you got to where you’re at today?
So I started out in SEO before SEO was really a thing. That was back in the days of Altavista and it was really, really easy to manipulate search engines. I was in my early teens at that point, but it was just fun to throw up a website and make it rank for whatever I wanted to—like one hundred people would visit it, and I’d be like, “Oh my gosh! I have the most popular site on the Internet!”
Of course that wasn’t true, but it felt great at the time. From there, things just kind of grew, and I became more involved in all kinds of lead gen and agency stuff. Now, I work at LendUp in San Francisco as their Senior Growth Manager. I’ve pretty much spent my whole life trying to make stuff grow.
What exactly is Growth Hacking? What does it entail?
Yeah, so it’s own of those ill-defined words that’s definition changes, depending on who you ask. In my mind, growth hacking is finding a way to get your products or services in front of the people that you need to see them. But it’s also doing it in such a way that makes them feel more inclined to buy your stuff.
It’s really just digital marketing, but you add on the functionality of the Internet, and you add engineering and you add an ability to scale and you add that there are people actually using your stuff and sharing it, and it all kind of compounds into making something interesting.
Tell us a little bit more about your latest project—Secret Sauce.
Sure, so that’s actually something I’ve been working on for several years, now. It started out a few years ago when I had some friends that wanted some marketing help. They had a product, but had no idea how to market it, sell it, get users or develop traction.
They knew that’s what I did, so they called me up and asked me to take a look at what they were working on. They wanted me to sit with them and walk them through how to go from having zero prospects to have a bunch of customers.
So, I went over a few things with them, and then they referred me to a few friends, who then referred me to a few other friends—before I knew it, I was giving tons of free advice to people who didn’t know what they were doing and couldn’t afford to hire somebody to help them full-time.
This was great, but my time just didn’t scale all that well, so I ended up writing down just a couple of things in blog posts, and those things started really blowing up. I think that now they’ve been seen by over a million people, and every once in a while I’ll run into somebody who kind of got their start by reading one of those blog posts. It just slowly developed from there.
Over the years, I’ve been keeping track of the stuff that works and writing it all down and reverse-engineering stuff that other people are doing that works. That’s pretty much what Secret Sauce is.
I’m just trying to say, “Okay, if you’ve never actually done any of this stuff before, here’s how you start—here’s the stuff that actually works.” And when you see it all laid out, it’s all really intuitive and pretty simple.
When do you find time to work on all of this stuff?
The books is like 90 percent complete. Again, this has been something I’ve been working on for several years on the side.
Your Kickstarter is killing it—who’s responsible?
Well, I wrote the book section—most of the book section. And then, I teamed up with another guy named Vincent. He’s actually a guy that kind of got started with growth hacking by reading one of my blog posts five years ago.
We’ve pretty much been talking ever since then. He’s doing the video portion of the guide, basically turning it into a follow-along video guide where he physically shows you what you can do, while working on projects for companies that he’s doing stuff for—that kind of thing. So there’s both the book and video courses.
What are you gonna do with all the Kickstarter cash?
That’s pretty much just for us!
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to launch an awesome Kickstarter?
This is actually my first Kickstarter, but the process for launching a successful Kickstarter is no different than any other product or service. I mean, I always break it down into a couple of different things—how do you find and identify the type of people who are interested in what you’re doing, and then how do you get in front of them in a non-intrusive way?
We’ve don a lot of stuff on social media where it’s just finding people who are interested in growth hacking, grabbing all of their names, chatting with them, adding them to lists, keeping track of what they’re saying and building email lists through content marketing. We’ll throw out a chapter, and then tell people they can get the next chapter by putting in their email—it works.
Right now, I think the stats say that almost five percent of our sales have come from Kickstarter, and the rest we’ve just driven internally. I mean, that’s what we do, right? Part of the guide will cover specifically what we did and what the process was like to grow our Kickstarter campaign, but it’s all pretty straightforward—just good first practices and principles to get out and do.
There’s a chapter of your book on Instagram—could you share a few secrets?
First, you identify your market and figure out how you want to get in front of them. When you look at social networks holistically, you start to discover what touch-points you have with other people, right?
So on Instagram, if there’s somebody I wanted to contact, I could follow them, like their pictures and comment on their posts. If they followed me back, I could even direct message them. These are really the tools you have to work with. Your strategy, at least when you’re first getting started, is to figure out what you can do to connect with as many people as possible.
For a lot of companies, it could be as simple as finding the right people, following them, liking their posts and commenting on what they do. For example, if you had an Instagram account that was solely dedicated to dogs, and you conducted an Instagram search for “dogs,” and you followed everybody who was sharing stuff about dogs, you’d probably grow your Instagram account by one hundred, maybe two hundred followers a day—these are kind of the baby steps.
Apart from that, much of the chapter is about how to nail down a specific audience and scale those practices up within the limitations of Instagram.
- Note: Though the link was also included within the body of this post, for more information on Austen’s new course, Secret Sauce: The Ultimate Growth Hacking and Marketing Guide, visit his Kickstarter page here.