Last year, I had the pleasure to speak at the How to Web Conference 2015 in Bucharest, Romania. While there, I met the founders of many amazing startups. This year, I reached out to some of those startup founders in the Eastern Europe to gain some insights into how some of them used growth marketing hacks to successfully to grow their businesses.

In their own words, here are 9 founders from innovative Romanian startups giving their advice on growth hacking.

1. SmartBill

- Leading invoicing and inventory management software.
Mircea Capatina - CEO

Engagement growth hack
In the desktop version of our product, Invoicing Software, we introduced a test database so when the user installed and opened Smart Bill it had 2 options: to configure the product with its company's data or to test it with dummy data.



This way they had the possibility to test all its features -- issuing of invoices, reports with lots of data-- with minimal effort and cost of time. And after you were done with testing, you could choose to finish testing by the click of a button and configure it with your own data.

This greatly increased the engagement within the product.

Reach and awareness growth hack
At the bottom of the invoices it was written: issued with Smart Bill (yes, even before "Sent from my iPhone") which created awareness and interest among the customers of our customers.

2. Omniconvert

- CRO software that can be used for: A/B testing, online surveys, traffic segmentation and web personalization.
** Recently rebranded from Marketizator to Omniconvert
Valentin Radu, CEO & Founder

In our own history, I can identify a couple of inspired actions that allowed us to step-up:

One of them was to continue to do AB testing,
A/B testing is not only for websites. Is for your business model. For your pricing. For choosing different paths. For building your team. Let me give you an example: being a SaaS from Eastern Europe with only 3 employees and just a big dream hasn't given us too many options :)






Pricing Strategy Our initial pricing strategy was like this: let's ask the credit card details. In this manner, the customers will be more committed (we thought). We've burnt a lot of money on ads and we had just a few conversions and no trials. So, we decided to get rid of the credit card.

Then, to do a freemium.

And it started to work. We have a very complex platform that empowers marketers do tons of things: research, surveys, on-site lead generation, AB testing, exit-intent, web personalization, weather segmentation, etc. That we provided a free plan for up to 10k visitors a month.

The catch was that if you wanted to use our over-layers, you had to leave our link. That started to generate brand awareness and leads. And then, we increased the font size Now, that alone brings us a lot around 25% of the monthly revenue, and we've been doing it for over two years.

Love your team!
Next, I have to tell, even if it is surprising to you... love your team. Loving them allows them to be confident. You, as a founder, have something any employee hasn't: the madness to jump without a parachute. And the value that they are searching for is self-confidence.

Fulfilling their need for love will allow them to become free, to innovate, to feel responsible, and to do something most employees in big corporations don't do: dream & care.

Your team is your family. Love them. That's the greatest growth hack I've applied to this company.

And it took me 3 companies to get to this tremendous insight. You share your life with your team. And you don't want to play a scene and pretend you care and run for numbers all your life. You want to be happy. That's why you've started to do a company anyway, right?

So, don't postpone the moment till you will do the exit, but be happy right now, on your way to the exit or economic nirvana.

You will gain a much more valuable thing: the wisdom to love what you do and who you do that with.

3. Caphyon Advanced Web Ranking

- A web ranking platform for desktop, mobile, and local SEO

Philip Petrescu, CEO and Co-Founder

Build virality into your product from the beginning.
Invite early adopters to share something unique from your product publicly. This will make other people curious about your product. Later on, use refer-a-friend campaigns to invite their friends and give them both something in return.

Better Onboarding Experience
Build a better onboarding experience by sending emails to new trials on a predefined schedule. The best way to go about this is to send tips that help them solve their problems with your product. This builds trust by giving them valuable insights into your product that they weren't expecting.

4. Retargeting.biz

- A retargeting and personalization platform for ecommerce
Rares Banescu, CEO & Founder Retargeting:

Product development
Making users interact on a regular basis was the tricky part for us. We developed a set of notifications for our customers that went in "sleeping away" using that kind of messages that request your attention for a few seconds and asked you to do a quick action in your admin panel in order to prevent some possible revenue loss.

Sales strategy hack
Developed for cold emails an enhancement that applies our product on the customer website without installing it and showing a live demo of what we can do and how Retargeting.biz can be used on their e-shops.

5. Gloria Food

- Online food ordering system for restaurants.
Oliver Auerbach, CEO Gloria Food

SEO growth hack
What worked well for us is to create mini-websites using separate domains. Each website can then focus on a specific angle of your product or only one feature in particular. Every page can then get SEO optimized specifically for that feature.

For example, we created Restaurant-Menu.net and Restaurant-Promotions.net which drove traffic to our main website and generated signups on a daily basis.


Backlink growth hack
Every time a restaurant purchases the sales optimized website, we also add a link to our own website in the footer of the restaurant page. We now have hundreds of real unique domains linking to all of our own domains.

6. MonitorBacklinks

- A tool designed to check your bad links and your competitor's good links.
Răzvan Girmacea, CEO

SEO Widget hack
Most successful tactic for us was generating special reports for websites automatically and add an embedded widget that users could add to their website. This is #1 conversion funnel for us and is responsible for more than 30% of our business (more than the homepage traffic).

Cross Promotion hack
A tactic that is rarely used due to the complexity of execution, we successfully used Cross Promo to find SaaS partners and run ongoing campaigns that are driving constant new leads to monitor backlinks.

7. Yarooms

- An online space management and room booking solution..
Dragos Badea, Co-Founder & Product Manager

Replace monthly plans with annual payments
This improved our cash flow and also helped us refine our customer base. Nowadays, clients not ready for a realistic commitment opt for a Pay as You Go Plan. Thanks to this setup, our Churn numbers went down and our year-over-year revenue increased.

Re-humanize follow-ups
Seeing that everyone in the SaaS business is automating tasks more and more, we decided to de-automate a crucial process in the customer's journey - sales and support.

By going back to the basics and actually talking to every customer ourselves, we identified some friction points within the app, discovered features that were extremely useful to our user base and increase our secondary conversion rate, turning more leads into paying customers.

By talking to them. From human to human.

8. Cognitive SEO

- SEO tools to increase your site's traffic.
Razvan Gavrilas, Founder CognitiveSEO:

Share to Activate Your Account
We've used this growth hack for our Brand Mentions tool, and it allowed us to use the power of each user's social network to create awareness and generate more leads. Once the user registers for the account, he is presented with a limited set of brand mentions results for his query. The people that find the tool valuable have the option to unlock their account by sharing on one of their social media channels.

Creative Outreach + Augmented Email Automation
Getting people to engage with you is getting tougher every day. At cognitiveSEO, we tested various email campaigns. One of them stood out with a very high email open rate. It was 66%. The only thing that made the difference compared to the others was the subject line: cognitiveSEO + "your_company_name".

Simple and Effective. Not your standard everyday email subject I would say. It was a lead nurturing campaign, and this was the first email outreach. It was by far the best bulk outreach we ever did.

9. InnerTrends

- A growth analytics tool for SaaS companies.
Claudiu Murariu is Co-Founder at InnerTrends and the author of The Experiment.

Growth Metrics
There are times when all the metrics looks just right, but for whatever reason the growth expectations aren't being met. I was analyzing the performance of our paid campaigns and things looked great: customer acquisition cost was below what we were expecting and yet, we weren't meeting our sales targets.

We used our own analytics service to dig into data and soon discovered that the onboarding rate for our paid users was half of the onboarding rate of our non-paid users. We were basically paying for users that never received a benefit from our product.

✮ Optimize Onboarding
We realized that the problem was not the onboarding process itself, but the promises we were making through our ads. We fine tuned all our advertising messages and in less than 30 days the onboarding rate of our paid users was identical with the one for our non-paid users. We basically doubled the sales from our paid channels in less than a month, but kept the same advertising budget.

✮ Hack Product Roadmap Surveys
Another challenge we managed to growth hack our way out of was when had our product roadmap full of ideas, but there wasn't enough data to prioritize which features needed to be built first. We decided to ask our customers, but we needed a big number of them to reply in order to get enough data.

Surveys usually have very low open and click rates, but are less time consuming than calling each customer. So, we created a survey that did not really look like a survey. We sent a text email from the CEO which had a short intro, and 4 links inside, each linking to a feature that wasn't built yet.

We measured the clicks for the links and in less than 24 hours and more than 30% click rate we had our road map prioritized by our customers.

Conclusion

As you can see from the list, there are many different ways to look at growth as a discipline within your startup. One of my favorite resources for Growth Hacking is GrowthHackers.com. You'll find a lot more growth hacks there, to keep the growth rolling for your startup!

Another great resource is GrowthX, where I've recently been asked to mentor in San Francisco. If you want to learn the dark arts of growth hacking, GrowthX Academy has a 12-week training for those who want to work in a startup without coding experience. They have growth hacking, sales dev, and ux tracks.

And, if you are in Europe, make sure to check out HowToWeb next week, it's an amazing conference, and the people there are extraordinary. It was a great experience to give a keynote presentation there on MarTech in Eastern Europe. I met so many of these amazing entrepreneurs there.

Eastern European entrepreneurs have a unique fire and passion to them, that I've not seen outside of the early days of Silicon Valley.

Published on: Oct 26, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.