AMAs April 2, 2019

I teach people growth marketing, AMA / Julian Shapiro

Julian Shapiro @julian

I'm the founder of — the growth school that teaches you to become a growth marketer. For no cost upfront. Then we help you get a job.

I also write at

Ask me your growth questions — what are you working on that you want to get more customers for?

I'll be back to answer your questions on SATURDAY, so make sure to get them in by then! #AMA

  1. 2

    How do you market a physical product that sells itself in a retail environment, in a digital e-com context, where people can't really interact with it physically?

    The product is a performance dress shirt.

    Thanks in advance Julian, and I am a bit pissed off about the domain and twitter handle...

    1. 4

      3d rotating video footage paired with high-res extreme close-ups of the material. that can help replicate the feeling of being there in person.

      and don't forget video of the product in action. in your case, being worn — flexing and bending with the body :)

      1. 1

        Thanks J, all great ideas, we'll let you know how the execution of them goes.

  2. 1

    Hey @Julian - I'm a co-founder of an early stage (building MVP) startup in SF. When pitching how much marketing will cost to investors, and laying out that roadmap, how do you forecast setting up incentives to support how much $ you need to raise at first?

  3. 1

    Are IHers a good target of your course? For example, if we want to learn how to grow our own business vs get a job in growth marketing, do you have a way to make that work? :)

    1. 2

      yup! we offer to train you to either (1) become a growth marketer in your career or (2) better grow your existing company.

  4. 1

    Is there "the best universal" way or a strategy to growth promote the SaaS product?

    I'm working for a company called CrazyCall, we produce cloud-based calling software for sales teams and companies that need a phone system to operate (in-general or some of their departments). I'm working really hard on content marketing to organically grow the business which is great, but since the company isn't big-enough-yet to solely depend on organic growth I'm looking for a growth hacking way. Yet, nothing really ticks nor I have too many good solutions.

    Could you recommend something or rather than handing out a ready-to-use solution guide me to some resources or what I should learn to implement growth hacking strategies in the company(besides demandcurve :P)?

    I wish you best and thanks for taking the time to answer all of these questions!

    1. 1

      i would download the day 1 teaser of our teaching curriculum:

      that'll contain some of your answers.

      then i'd also read through the growth guide.

      from there, i'd consider working with an agency for a short while to learn from them how they do what they do.

  5. 1

    Thanks for taking the time, Julian!
    Preamble: I asked a lot. Feel free to respond to all or any :)
    Easier to read/comment:

    I’ve been working on Wing, a surprise date night concierge for couples. Wing learns about couples’ relationships through a survey and arranges their date night, presenting each part of the date as a surprise.

    An example date night would be the couple attending a private cooking class followed by a short walk to a nearby low-key cocktail bar, which Wing recommends.

    I’m trying to hit on two value props: convenience in planning date nights and the oxymoron of planned spontaneity (you can’t plan spontaneity, but Wing can).

    We’ve had a few—only friends—customers and haven’t launched, per se.

    I’d love for you to:
    A) Provide #landing-page-feedback (with my comments) or
    B) Onboarding
    • As we've discussed: for me to provide you with a quality date, I need to set your expectation for a long survey, with mostly easy to two-seconds-to-answer questions. Would you break up this longer survey, into two or three separate surveys?
    1) Basic info (name, email, partners email), submit.
    2) Info about your relationship & what you like, submit
    3) Choose a day, slot, occasion (casual vs formal).
    C) Pricing
    • At the moment, I charge an ambiguous flat-rate, and make sure the price of the tickets (to the show, class, or event) is below that, plus the cost (time) on our end to tailor and suggest options that the client would like.
    • Alternative option: keep CC on file and start a ‘tab’, with expected budget. Charge margin on top.
    • Alternative option: control every part of night in a more niche space. Private driver, Michelin-star restaurant with prepay, upscale ticket purchase.
    D) Critique the growth plan:
    1. Put out feeler ads to find effective channels and beachhead, because there’s a wide gap between a 3 month-long relationship and the couple considering getting divorced and looking for a refresh, and I’m not sure who’s ideal yet:
    a. Google Ads around ‘date night ideas’
    b. Pinterest around ‘date night’ topics
    c. Facebook/IG
    i. Separate value props – convenience vs spontaneity
    ii. Hit personas separate personas to see who clicks, and then clicks
    on ‘get started:
    1. busy young pros
    2. newly engaged
    3. anniversaries within 30/60 days
    4. married
    2. See who clicks and specifically attempts or makes it through onboarding. Then, ask them to pay.

    I asked a lot. Only respond to what you want to respond to :)

    1. 2

      first off, love the idea.

      i'm just going to randomly choose one question and respond:

      Would you break up this longer survey, into two or three separate surveys?
          1)	Basic info (name, email, partners email), submit. 
          2)	Info about your relationship & what you like, submit
          3)	Choose a day, slot, occasion (casual vs formal).

      i would start with what's most fun to answer (#2). that's how you build momentum. then when that's over, tell them they're done, then say "one last step — just quickly enter your details to save your account." at that point, they'll be happy to since they won't want to lose all their work from the fun part.

      1. 2

        This is great. Thanks, Julian.

  6. 1

    Hi Julian, big fan of your no-nonsense guides! I'm an architect (the real buildings type, not the software kind) developing a website called Green Design Guru (dated website: that is essentially a Zillow for new custom homes. We declutter & provide location-specific data - building code info, green design strategies etc. - to help people design a new home in the U.S.

    For a niche product like this (just ~100,000 custom homes were built last year^), what marketing channel should we focus on to get our first few customers? Influencer marketing / Social Media / something else? (Content marketing is a given, but it typically takes a while to show returns doesn't it?)

    ^ although many more want to build a new home but realize they can't afford it / it's too much of a hassle - so our potential customer pool is larger

    Thanks Julian, Cheers!

    1. 2

      hey shiva! i would use whichever ad channel lets you target "Green energy" or "home building" interests plus lets you intersect that with "wealthy."

      basically, the channel you should prioritize is whichever actually lets you narrowly identify your target audience. so you don't waste ad dollars.

      toy around with facebook, snapchat, and pinterest ad targeting options and see which is the best fit. then start there :)

  7. 1

    If you were to market a new social network (e.g. audio-only) from zero and didn't have (physical) access to communities to do it like early FB did, how would you go about attracting your first 5000 users with a small budget?

    1. 1

      just spitballing, but i'd perhaps spend all that budget on a micro influencer to get their audience to consume their exclusive audio content on your platform. then maybe give them some equity

  8. 1

    We're starting to build a sales enablement tool for our team solving some issues we have with our processes. The hope is once we nail it for our use case, we'll be able to figure out who else this applies too and sell to them.

    My question is: What can we be doing NOW and for the next 4 months while we're building/iterating that will help us sell it to other businesses when we launch?

    1. 1

      it's a seriously good question, and i don't have a good answer. most growth works well with a product that's finished.

      i'd probably start capturing interest with a dummy landing page then setting up a drip email sequence that builds up anticipation for the launch. like a kickstarter project.

      this way people will be invested in the product's narrative before seeing it for the first time on day 1 of launch, which may result in a lot of churn.

  9. 1

    Most people don't know where to start. So they register a few social accounts and post a blog post or 2.

    What would the getting started post you most recommend be?

    1. 1

      probably the day 1 teaser of our teaching curriculum:

      that'll contain some of your answers.

  10. 1

    I'm starting a leadership coaching business and will be using LinkedIn as my platform to generate leads. Just starting entrepreneurship.

    I have 9 years of experience coaching clients and empowering them to succeed as a counsellor.

    Any advice growing my business please? Thank you

    1. 1

      you're on the right track re. linkedin. it's the only ad platform with sufficiently good firmographic targeting to find the exact people who'd respond to a service like this.

      unfortunately it's a terrible ad channel otherwise. so get the most value out of it by using facebook or instagram as a retargeting fall back for all the LI clicks you get that ultimately don't convert but need another nudge in the future.

  11. 1

    Hi Julian,

    I'm trying to build an online community for art and aesthetic nerds (very millennial thing, I know). We discuss about art and photography, as well as shoot original content to bring out indie zines. Monetisation strategy is to sell art prints, postcards, indie zines.

    We currently have an Instagram community and a blog, and are looking to bring in more traffic. Would love to hear your thoughts on this and any advice you might have.

    1. 1

      Pinterest may be your best ad channel for selling art that lends itself well to captivating visuals. That's one ad channel I'd absolutely test.

      I'd then pair it with Instagram retargeting.

  12. 1

    Hi Julian,

    I'm building the marketing infrastructure from scratch for a fitness app. I need a link attribution tool that will allow me to not only track revenue (as opposed to just downloads) from different channel sources, but will allow me to jump in to traction channels where unique and fully trackable links are needed (affiliate/influencer marketing for example).

    Another example, on your IH interviews you mention sending traffic to landing pages instead of app stores (which I love). How are you tracking revenue off of this as opposed to just downloads?

    I know a tool like would do everything perfectly, but it's completely unaffordable for a bootstrapped startup (who has a lot of users, but not a ton of revenue). On top of that we are purchasing email/push providers, so adding a tool in the 10's of thousands is just out of the question.

    Is there a cheaper way to do real link attribution tracking with revenue for a mobile app?



    1. 1

      great question. not that i'm aware of, unfortunately. maybe reach out to both branch and appsflyer and ask if they have startup/free plans to get you in the door. wouldn't be surprised if they do.

      it's possible mixpanel/heap also have this functionality these days. if so, i'm pretty sure they are early-stage founder friendly. i'd reach out to them too.

  13. 1

    Hi Julian,

    I am glad that I found your post.

    We have a prospecting software ( for which we get more than 2K unique visitor a day and also have a good conversion rate.

    We want to increase the number and want to get more visibility on our website.

    What steps do you suggest that we should follow to reach to more audience?

    1. 1

      hey seema! check for the day 1 link i posted as a comment earlier in this thread. that'll help point you in the right direction.

  14. 1

    I am working on ManyPixels, which is an on-demand, managed design marketplace. We're growing well, currently at 15-20% a month, with almost zero paid marketing (we're just testing the waters). We could grow faster but prioritise being perfect in terms of processes / retention and we're almost there.

    After 15 months of building our tech + processes, after being interviewed at YC (that's how I got to know about you as I attended a talk on growth by one of the partners just before the interview), we think we've figured a ton of stuff and serious growth starts to be in the planning.

    My questions are the following:

    1. What are your techniques to find product / channel fit?
    2. Content has always been the least obvious way of marketing to me: It seems so broad. How do we start? How do we know what to write about / which keywords to target? Does it have a chance to work? (we're a relatively niche B2B product)
    3. We grow mostly via our producing free stuff, such as illustration gallery ( that generates about 100k visitors/month (projected for this month) and we retarget with ads / promotions over email. Should we only focus on this for the moment?
    4. Do you accept clients? Or do you accept companies as part of your growth school?
    1. 2

      congrats on all your traffic numbers. that's amazing.

    2. 1

      I just started using some illustrations from your gallery.

      I started using your gallery and now my [other designer's illustration, stock images] do not have a consistent style with yours. In hindsight, I would not have hired the designer who made my hero illustration if I knew you existed. Right now, how do you normally get your paid clients?

  15. 1

    I'm building a content site in the Tokyo, Japan eats and sights niche.

    When crafting the content I also check SERPS to make sure I always one-up the competition, while also structuring the content to have a great UX on mobile.

    Question is... should I let organic do its thing, or should I go heavy into sharing content into social channels too?

    The trade-off being if I spend time on social sharing, I'm not spending that time on content creating.

    At this time the growth is purely for traffic. I don't have ads, affiliate links, products, memberships, or any other forms of monetization on it yet.


    1. 2

      Great question. I've been relying on the Blog and various Twitter posts from @nateliason over at for all things Content Marketing because it's extremely detailed and actionable.

      Their methodology focuses heavily on creating content vs. promotion ("Here’s the dirty secret on promotion: We do very little of it") but that POV varies by SEO practitioner.

      Start here for a taste, and good luck dominating the Tokyo food scene!

      1. 1

        That’s a great article. Enjoyed that read very much... though I realize now I need to press harder!

        More, and better, content.

    2. 1

      nat eliason is definitely the right place to start.

      as for whether you should do social to boost organic: i would be cautious — as this rarely works well.

      even if you pay for your content to get social impressions, it likely won't be cost effective. unless your content doubles as very compelling landing pages that convert visitors into customers. (this is definitely doable if you have the CRO and copywriting skills.)

      if anything, use reddit to help build up backlinks and get a few traffic spikes.

      but most content shared on ig/tw/fb is ignored unless you already have a big audience there. in which case, definitely promote it!

      one exception is pinterest. go heavy there if you can. that's where your content is actually a good contextual fit and very much desired.

      1. 1

        Thank you for the amazing advice. Pinterest... I’ve always had a feeling Pinterest would be good.

        Never dug in to learn it. Is it tough to break into?

        1. 1

          it's easier than facebook/instagram. not too intimidating.

  16. 1

    I've got an expensive professional services practice that caters primarily to businesses and startups looking to build new websites or mobile apps. Given the high dollar value of the work I do, it's frequently difficult to find the sort of customers who aren't price-sensitive. Where should I be looking for new customers or what can I do to grow my practice?

    1. 1

      for expensive agency-like services, i'd rely on content marketing and word of mouth.

      incentivize your past customers to refer other people they know. first, by doing an amazing job. second, by offering them a couple grand per successful referral.

      to learn more about content marketing, check out's writing.

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