Dropbox is one of the few SaaS companies which managed to achieve that sort of SaaS growth in such a short time.
It has a well-known story in the SaaS world – being in the spotlight as one of the fastest-growing cloud services in the world. Founded by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi in 2007, Dropbox has continued its fast and wild growth ever since.
The company has an estimated annual revenue of over $250 million and over 300 million users. With a value of more than $10 billion, it had become “cash-flow positive”. This means Dropbox won’t need to raise any more money. Dropbox even managed to gain a tempting nine-digit acquisition offer from Apple.
But what factors made sure the consistent growth of Dropbox? How did this online start-up gain its momentum? We will be discussing a few techniques and lessons that Dropbox implemented into their product to hack their growth rate. So, tune in to learn these SaaS growth tips and lessons:
Top 10 SaaS Growth Lessons from Dropbox in 2023
1. Referral Programs
Dropbox markets its product through its customers. The majority of users have free accounts with limited storage on Dropbox. With simple and efficient referral programs, Dropbox upped its game. Dropbox offers extra storage space to users, for bringing each friend on board.
These referrals worked and increased Dropbox’s sign-ups by 60 percent at the start. Hence, it played an important role in the fast growth of Dropbox.
2. Solve a Problem
The most important thing for any company is to solve an important problem with a compelling solution. When you launch, you will have an audience that will care about your product. These people will tell others because they care about that problem as well. Dropbox focused on solving the real-time problem for the people. It used a brilliant strategy of self- promotion through its use.
In a conversation with GLOBIS president, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston advised
“Find a hard tech problem from all the things that get you excited”
No company can succeed without defining the problem that their company solves. Know your problem, propose its solution, and sell it to people.
3. Embed Virality
Dropbox is designed to be a viral product. While simply sharing a file with someone who is not a Dropbox user, they were invited to open a free Dropbox account. Dropbox provided its users with the incentive to invite other people on the platform. The users complied with the plan for extra storage, but mostly to make the collaborations easy over shared files.
Establish virality points in your product as a series of user reactions to maintain engagement and sharing. These viral points will generate reactions leading to another reaction. So, it will keep creating viral loops that will further lead the user deeper into the product.
4. Test Rigorously
Dropbox was able to create such perfect viral loops with extensive testing. They ran these strategical tests over the two most important areas of their field. Referral and Sign-up Flow. Tests were conducted with scenarios based on in-depth user surveys and research.
Feedback from these initial tests, carried out on a small level helped Dropbox in clarifying its goals. After understanding the psyche of people with these tests, Dropbox integrated methods to boost its growth.
5. Take a Phased Approach
Dropbox started small with explicit milestones. The Dropbox team adopted a phased approach for launching the product in different regions.
Phase I was carried out on existing Dropbox employee or employees. Upon success, the inbound and SMB sales from the first phase were analyzed and reported to the executive and board of Dropbox. They didn’t move onto Phase II until the success of Phase-I. In Phase-II alongside Dropbox employees, local employees were hired to prove the hiring and training model. Next came the Phase III of testing which was building on the previous and the final phase of the process.
After successfully carrying out these tests in a region, Dropbox proceeds onward to another region. From this success story of Dropbox, we concluded to adopt a phased approach and setting goals upfront to eliminate risks.
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6. Cross-Device and Cross-Platform Availability
One of the key factors for the tremendous growth of Dropbox is its availability everywhere. Along with other platforms, launching Dropbox for Linux was an excellent move by Drew Houston.
According to an estimate, there are over 20 million Linux users across the world. By adding Linux support, Dropbox increased its users’ rate. About 5% of the total Dropbox user base is formed by Linux users. Dropbox also supports Blackberry and Symbian despite their shrinking market share. Support on various platforms provided Dropbox with the opportunity to grow.
For the wild growth of your product, make it accessible to everyone, and capitalize on minor platforms too!
7. Constant Product Evolvement
Dropbox didn’t stop even after crossing various milestones. It had come a long way since after its launch in 2007. After establishing a foothold in the market, Dropbox made several changes in its design. With the launch of more features, change in the UI design, this evolution succeeded in attracting more users. Regarding the changes brought up in Dropbox, Houston said:
“The problems we need to solve today are not the problems we were solving 10 years ago”
The launch of Dropbox Paper might appear as a shift in the company’s mission. But it was strategically important for Dropbox. Being in the race for the best cloud storage service out there, Dropbox evolved with time, giving stiff competition to its rivals.
Embracing the dramatic and startling change – when necessary – is one of the factors that makes a successful company stand out from those that eventually fade away.
8. Leveraging Digital Marketing Channels
Dropbox tried out affiliate marketing, display ads, and a bunch of other things to gain customers in its early days. Unfortunately, none of them worked out and the numbers went completely off for Dropbox. Even hiring an expensive SEM professional to target keywords on Google Ads failed for the company.
Drew later realized that these techniques are effective, but they were just not working out for Dropbox. The main reason for the failure was the nature of the product. At that time people were not actively looking for cloud storage. Dropbox team made substantial changes by abandoning paid channels and focusing on what clicked for them.
Realizing the marketing channels that work out for you, can save your budget and time. All the while, helping you expand your growth.
9. There is no ‘SaaS Growth Manual’
Implement the methods that work out for your product. Following only the best practices might not be a good decision. The nature of the product is very important while deciding the marketing technique to be implemented.
Dropbox tried and tested many techniques, even the ones that were thought to be the best. Most of these techniques didn’t work out for Dropbox. As they were not aligned with the nature of the product. Dropbox still made it big in the industry only because the company never hesitated to test different techniques. Learn from the experience and analyze the results to get a better understanding of the market.
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10. Value Proposition
Never forget the elements of your value proposition while focusing on growth and expansion. These core values made your business successful, holding onto them will keep you on track.
Unlike most of the companies, Dropbox get this thing right!
Since the inception of Dropbox, the company has kept its focus on providing the cloud storage and sync facility across different devices.
Dropbox has never overdone its homepage and rather kept it simple and attractive. People’s attention spans are profound online. There is a high probability of losing your reader’s interest unless you efficiently explain your value proposition.
The changes you make not only affect your company but also impact millions of users. Use the core tenets of your value proposition to make critical decisions – no matter how big you grow.
You cannot hack your product’s growth by following a set of rules or copying other companies. Growth hacking is all about hustling and innovating. It is not an overnight process. Yet, you can always learn from the experience of similar companies and implement what best serves you.
We have mentioned the growth tips and lessons learned from Dropbox to assist you with your SaaS venture. The reason for the success of Dropbox was not spending dollars on marketing, but its unique design. To make it big in the market, understand your customers, do thorough research, test rigorously, and be patient.
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