10 Commandments to Hack Your Health

On Your Marks!
I have been working on Internet & Mobile technologies for more than 17 years. That means I’m on my workstation 10-12 hours everyday. Human body is not designed to sit long hours, stare at screens of various sizes 72??? to 4“ and keep hitting the keyboard. Recently, when I showed off my workstation to my friends on Whatsapp one of them who is in the Armed Forces commented “I have No Workstation, However my work takes me to stations???. I believe that’s the kind of lifestyle Human Body is designed for.

Set!
By end of 2013, 15 years of abuse had started showing on my body, I was unhealthy and weighed 98 Kilos.

Then things changed and I Hacked my Health in 18 months. By August 2015 I ran My First Timed Half Marathon.

It’s almost a year now after my first timed Half Marathon (September 05, 2015), I weigh on an average 67- 69 Kg and have ran distances of 21 KM or more 34 times with my personal best of 1:53:46 for 21 Km.

I’m just a beginner in the world of distance running and have miles to go. This blog is a summary of how I got admission into the school of Health and Endurance. How I hacked my health.

Go!

1. It all Starts with a Challenge.
I was  living a happy life throwing my weight around everyone/ everything (literally). Parking assistants and security guards never messed up with me- I thought, they think I was a mini Hulk!
And then it happened, on a vacation in December 2013, my wife Shweta @Shwetalakhimpur (who had been practicing yoga for 6 months) challenged me to Supta Vajrasana (Reclined Thunderbolt Pose). I could never get into the asana and ended up feeling Dizzy! That is the moment I realized I was no Hulk, I was Bulk.
Lot has been said about Body Shaming lately, however, I believe, If you care for someone it’s your moral obligation to challenge.


2. You are what you Eat.
Until 2013 my meal plan was simple. Big Breakfast ( 3 Alu/ Paneer Parathas), Bigger Indian Lunch and Biggest Indian Dinner. I felt starved if I did not have 3 whiskeys, Tandoori Platter, Dal Makhani and 2 Rotis Friday evening.
Changing food habit was  not simple. In the first few months I added Maggi Masala to salads and fruits to make it taste like ‘food’. However, the hack worked, I stayed the course.
Today my staple is salad. Thanks to stores and startups like Natures Basket, Green Tokri,  Olive Plato it is much easier to eat healthy.


3. You are your Sleep.
Since I started competitive education (read Class 7) the goal was to put in long hours at desk or staring at the idoit box. By the time I started working I was sleeping on an average 4 hours a day.
Today I sleep 7 Hours on average, have clocked 10 hours+ and we have not had cable TV at home for 3 years.

4. Know your Path.
It is super important to know your path.  For example “ 5KG weight loss in 1 month??? or “join a Running Group” does not work for me. These are super awesome ways however, not for me. For 2 reasons-
I have never believed in “Instant”, apart from “Maggi”
My work week is full of meeting  people and working with teams, I want My Time.
For me the inspirations to hack my health has been the Internet and people who do not want to meet me. There’s tons of information, inspiration available. Seek and you shall get! For me Darth Vader, Yoda and Buddha are all heroes, You decide your path.


5. Get the right Gear
Indians are “Jugaadu??? and our priorities are misplaced when it come to health. For example, typical  Indian male would have 3-5 shoes for office however, one shoe for Walking, Running, Gym, Cycling, hiking and every other sport. We pay for health insurance but do not spend on health. I was no different. However,  after 2013 I have made serious investments on my health that includes:

  • Trek 4300 with 2 sets of tyres for Road and Mountain.
  • Thule Bike Carrier
  • Fitbit Flex and Fitbit Surge
  • Hiking Boots
  • Inov8 Shoes
  • ++

Talking Of Inov8, I recently retired a pair. Here’s my Thank you to my partner.

Next on my list is Garmin Fenix 2 Performance Bundle. However, currently it is over budget. I’m accepting donation, inbox me, if you are interested 🙂
6. Track your Progress and Reward yourself.
For my profession I live by data and applied the same to Health. I tracked every Yoga session, Cycling Trip and Run. Looked at fat burn in each workout and over a period developed a plan for myself. A plan that works.
I have also developed a reward program for myself. Here’s 2 hack you may want try
Weighfies– When my weight reach south of 90s I was very happy and clicked a photo of the weighing scale to remember the date, after that day I clicked photo of the weighing scale every time I lost a kilo. So now I have a collection on my Google Photos called Weighfies!
BOLT– It’s tough on your body to cycle for 6 hours or run for 3 hours so you have to have a system to Reward yourself. Gatorade is my Reward! In India you get 3 flavors of Gatorade (Orange, Yellow and Blue- called BOLT). At the end of the exercise I give Reward myself BOLT if I achieve the target, if I miss the target it’s Yellow and if I’m way off it’s Orange. That’s my order of taste preference and also makes me feel like Usain Bolt for a few Hours 🙂

7. When the going Gets tough, forget your goal, think of the next milestone.
I started this journey I had set the weight target of 80Kgs- 18 Kg weight loss in 12 months. Losing first few Kgs was simple- essentially water in you body/ fat. However, the journey from 95- 90 was arduous and never ending.  It took me 4 months to shred next 2 kgs. The math did not seem to work, at that rate I needed 2 years to get to 80.
I went back to my learnings from my profession- The Lean Startup Methodology. I reset my goals. Now my goal was Lose 3 KG in the next 4 months- Or 25% better result than than last sprint.

8. You will be Embarrassed, do not give up, find solution.
After my first 2 15KM runs my Fluorescent Yellow T- Shirt was all red.  I realized my Nipple was bleeding. Now anything to do with their own nipple is embarrassing for men. I had almost decided to give up running and go back to cycling.
I did not want to go to a doctor with this problem so I put soframycin on my nipples and spent the weekend search the web. Turns out it is a very common problem with runners and could happen is warm or cold climate. It is called Runners Nipple. Primary reason- your T- Shirt rubbing against the nipple. Solution- wear fitting singlets ( I was wearing XL shirts from Bulk days when my frame was M) and applying Vaseline before the run. Ordered 2 medium running Singlets and a large box of Vaseline. Problem solved.
Pro Tip: Wear only Black Singlets! You never Know 🙂 

9. Listen to your body
In my opinion fitness is about your personal best and not competing with others. Non- runners have this notion that running is about reaching the finish line  before others. That is not what health and endurance is about, specially if you are above 30.  It is about improving “personal best”– podium finish will happen some day. Listen to you body and feel the rhythm.

10. Do not believe your body.
This is corollary to 9. You should listen to your body, however, you body has this trick to cheat you and conserve energy. Push your body and it will do more.
In my cycling trips and runs there are days when my body tricks me and I’m left with a lot of energy after the finish line. I feel horrible on those days and keep thinking I could have gone further or faster.
“If life is a walk from womb to tomb your handicap out of womb and bruises at tomb do not matter. Do your best and Hack your Health” Closing Remarks from Rio 2016 :))

 

User Personas- Get Early Adopters for your App

User Persona is a composite sketch of key segment of your target audience. Building User Personas can help streamline the growth process from acquisition thru virality and remarketing.

 There are about 1.5 Million apps on on iOs App Store and Android Play Store.  In the fast and competitive world of apps User Persona helps you reach out to your early adopters by customizing the acquisition , onboarding and engagement flows.

Most apps today are targeted for specific user groups and starting with User Personas helps app developers rise above the clutter and deliver compelling experiences.So how does one go about building user personas and what does a typical User Persona Look like? Here’s the beginners guide and checklist.

Where to start Building User Persona?

The biggest mistake I have seen app teams make is starting and ending the process of building user personas with “I think..???.“I think our users are 16-24 year old..??? Let’s call him Sid. That’s not how User Personas are created. Here’s the process I have seen working:

  1. Start with Analytics and  Activity Logs.  Look at the source of traffic, Keywords, flow on the app, exit screen to identify their intent and behavior

  2. Get the Team Involved- Get insights from the Development, Analytics, Marketing, Offline, Customer Service and other teams.

  3. Conduct user survey. Ask them about their challenges and the solutions they are looking for? About discovery, first run etc.

  4. Reach out on Social Media– Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and other relevant channels for your business.

  5. Put the data from 1-4 in a Spreadsheet and share it with the team ask them to validate or question the line items on the sheet.

So what information should  the User Persona contain?

For a B2C app that is pre scale-up / growth stage i.e. when teams are working on MVP and trying to find Product Market fit I think teams should work with maximum 3 personas. This helps in running meaningful experiments and also does not overwhelm the team.

Here’s the information personas should include:

Name of the Persona  ( Makes it real in discussions and communications)

One Line Profile..
like “Miss Clean Gone Green???
or “ Deal Hunter- will buy sand on the beach if there’s a deal???

Demographics

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Salary / Household Income
  • Education
  • Family

Additional Information

  • Hobbies
  • Quotes from interviews
  • Content they read
  • Their favorite App
  • How do they discover new apps

Device

  • Phone Model
  • Data Plan/ Wifi usage pattern

Geo

  • City
  • Hyperlocal

Goals – What does the users want to achieve with the app?

  • Primary
  • Secondary

Challenges-  What are their major challenges or the problems they face currently

  • Primary
  • Secondary

Once you have this you should try to put together and Twitter Pitch for the persona. Essentially, communicate the core product value that would appeal to this persona in under 140 characters.

You may want to use to build your User Persona.

 

Bhaskar Thakur- User Profile
Building User Profile

Managing App Churn with Segmentation and Notification

App Churn is the number or percentage of users that that stop using an app in a time period, in other words app users attrition.

For example, consider your app had 100,000 users end of April and you added 20,000 installs/ users in May and had 113,000 users end of May. The simple back of envelope calculation suggests that the churn rate is 7%.

Flurry’s research shows that apps usually retain 4% users after a year, that is approx. 8% churn per month. So the big question you would have – “Is 7% churn good or bad???? One would tend to think Yes! 7% churn is better than 8% however, there is more to the story. Here are a few questions that you should ask-

  1. What % churn was users acquired this month? Is the churn rate for new users going up or down?

  2. What is the engagement churn rate? Is it going up or down?

  3. What is the revenue churn rate? Is it going up or down?

Analyzing cohorts will get you insights into user behavior and the reason for churn. I will write about Cohort and detailed Churn analysis in a separate blog. In this blog I want to talk about one of the reasons for Churn and a strategy that has worked for me to fight churn.

In my experience “Notification Spamming??? is one of biggest reasons why people uninstall/ stop using apps. No one like their home screen full of deals that they do not care about.

Here’s the typical flow for app users. They discover your app from one of the app download campaigns you are running- the ad. has a context (media, content, creative) and the user builds an expectation “ Looks like this app will help me do that???. However, the experience is to the contrary. There is no onboarding, no personalization instead 2 hours after app install user starts receiving app rating/ sharing notifications e.g. “You downloaded our app, please rate us or share with your friends???.

No! this is not user lifecycle management and no wonder users uninstall apps on the first day.

Here’s what has worked for us in bringing down the churn rate-

  1. Smart “automagical??? onboarding- get to know your user asking no or few questions.

  2. Segment the app users- demographic, behavior, likings etc.

  3. Send personalized notifications and follow a user lifecycle management plan.

26 Tools for Growth Hackers who do not code.

For me Growth Hacking is all about finding the “unfair advantage” in customer acquisition- that one killer thing which lets you get customers, faster and disrupt the market.

Customer Growth is a 4 step process

1. Attracting Traffic- or Getting more people see your product/ website
2. Acquiring Customers- or converting visitors to users by getting them to the “Aha moment”
3. Retaining Customers- i.e. making sure users get the”Core Product Value” as early and as often as possible.
4. Reaping your customer’s network for Viral reach.

Here are 26 Tools Growth Hackers who do not code could use the become a “Growth Ninja

Tools for Attract Audience / Traffic
Colibri.io – Discover where your customers are and engage.
List Builder– Collect email address from site visitors.
Nerdy Data– Search Engine for Source Code.
Email Extractor– Email address Extraction software.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors
Mailchimp– Email Marketing

Tools for User Activation/ Acquisition
Bounce Exchange– Acquire abandoning customers
Google Analytics– Traffic insight
KISSmetrics– Deep customer insight and analytics.
Mixpanel– Action Based Analytics for Web and Mobile.
CrazyEgg– Visitor engagementAnalytics
Unbounce– Landing Page builder and A/B testing
Optimizely– A/B Testing
Visual Website Optimizer– A/B testing

Tools for User Curation/Retention
Nimble– Very light CRM for startups.
Rapportive– Contact/ People research inside your inbox.
Zapier– Cross platform automation.
IFTTT– Cross channel connections and actions.
Qualaroo– Website visitor surveys.
Polldaddy– Create surveys and polls
Vero– Lead curation through behavioral emails.

Tools for Virality
Twilighter– Easy content sharing.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors
IFTTT– Cross channel promotion
Share This– Social sharing widget.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors

Launching Growth Hacking Coaching Program

Happy to announce that I’m launching Growth Hacking Coaching program in partnership with my friends at DigitalVidya.

Growth Hacking Coaching is a 12 weeks intensive, by invite and selection only program. Participants Learn to Grow Hack their own Products/ Projects coached by an experienced Growth Hacker. Digital Marketing Skill Ramp-up Trainings and Business Mentorship is provided as seen fit by the Growth Hacking Coach and needed by the participants.

The Program is conducted over 4 stages:

Stage 1: Growth Hacking Basics and Program Baselining
Stage 2: Pre-skilling in Digital Marketing Techniques
Stage 3: Growth Hacking Coaching
Stage 4: Demo Day and Certification

Here’s the key take aways/ learnings for participants:

Growth Hacking Orientation: – Learn the difference between Growth Hacking and Digital Marketing.

Setting Growth Goals – Learn to analyze your Growth Opportunity and set your growth goals.
Growth Hacking Framework – Learn to apply Growth Hacking to the A2R2- Attract, Acquire, Retain and Reap Framework.
Attraction Hacks – Learn techniques to get Qualified Leads and Visitors instead of unqualified traffic.
Acquisition Hacks – Learn techniques to get your users to ‘Aha Moment’- that moment when they know what your product is about.
Retention Hacks – Learn how to quickly Deliver Core Product Value to your users and get repeat usage.
Reap Hacks – Learn how to leverage your users network to grow and build a Viral Growth Engine.
Lean Iterations – Learn how to set up the process to run quick experiments and iterate product and customer development.

You may checkout the details of the program and sign-up for the orientation here. Appreciate feedback on the content and program structure.

The Growth Hacking Academy

I was part of the founding team of 3 startups between 1999 – 2012. I also helped 4 other startups with marketing  in that period. Between 2012- and today I have been advising startups and product teams of enterprises in US and India. I have worked with 12 great teams in this period and Customer Acquisition and Growth seems to be one of the top 2 challenges for these teams- perhaps for all startups.

For the last 12 months I have been mulling over the question “ Is growth an accident or method ? I tend believe that Growth is a method and am trying to put together a 6 month program based on the A2R2 (Attract, Activate, Retain, Reap) Growth Hacking process to help Entrepreneurs and teams acquire customers and grow. Here’s the outline of the program:

Who is the Growth Hacking program for?

This 6 months program is designed for Product Teams and requires minimum 2  members to own the following processes:

1. Product Development

2. Customer Development

Month 1: Growth Hacking Basics

 Session 1: What the heck is Growth Hacking

– What, How, Who of Growth?

– Growth Hacking Hall of Fame.

– Growth Hacking Funnel: Introduction to  A2R2 Growth Framework ( Attract, Activate,   Retain Reap)

 Session 2: You cannot fill a bucket that has a hole

– How to Identify the holes and develop plan to plug the holes before thinking growth.

– Identify the holes in your product and develop plan to plug the holes before thinking growth.

 Session 3: Cut the Umbilical Cord

– How to look at your product from your customer’s perspective.

– Customer Segmentation

– Product Virality

 Session 4: Think Unreasonable, Plan Practical.

– Everyone wants to ‘Disrupt’, few do

– Think where you could be in 18/24 months, Plan for next 3

– Set your Goals for the Program

Month 2:  Laws of Attraction- From Leads to Qualified Leads

Session 5: Laws of Attraction- Introduction

– Channels to attract: Real World, Digital ; Paid, Earned

– Things You should have done yesterday.

–  We often forget the real world.

Session 6: Expert SEO

Session 7: Expert SEM

Session 8: One-on-One

– Follow up on Month 1- Holes in your Bucket?

– Create plans to Attract Customers

Month 3:  Activate Customers- Get them to the Aha moment

Session 9: Aha Moment

– What is Aha Moment?

– Tools to get customers to Aha Moment

– How to discover Your products Aha Moment

Session 10: Basics of Web/ Mobile design and UX

– For Apps- Think Mobile First

Session 11: Channels FAQs, Videos, Community, Emails

Session 12: One-on-One

– Follow up on Month 2- Attracting Customers

– Create Plan to get to Aha Moment

Month 4:  Retain Customers- Get them hooked on.

Session 13: Core Product Value

– What is Core Product Value?

– Identifying your Core Value

– Delivering Core Product Value as early as often

Session 14: Behavior Segmentation and Automating Lead Curation

– A/B Testing

Session 15: The Science and Art of Email Marketing

Session 16: One-on-One

– Follow up on month 3- Get to the Aha Moment

– Create Plan to Retain

Month 5:  Reap their Network

Session 17: From users to Brand Ambassadors

– Why people love some products

– Identifying your Brand Ambassadors

Session 18: Advanced Social Media Engagement Techniques


Session 19: Customer Loyalty and Brand Ambassador Program

Session 20: One-on-One

– Follow up on month 4- Retaining Customers

– Create Plan to Reap their Network

Month 6:  Getting Lean- Learn and Iterate

Session 21: List and Analyze Product Learnings

– Group Session

Session 22: List and Analyze Customer Learnings

– Group Session

Session 23: Iterating Lean

Session 24: One-on-One

– Plan the next 6 Months.

– Feedback

Would love to get feedback on the program and the content. Do you think this program is needed and will work?

Hacking Growth through Customer Experience

It is difficult, if not impossible, to fill a bucket that has holes. One could argue the bucket will fill if the input rate is greater than output rate  however at what cost?

Lean startups should try and address the problem of losing customers before they accelerate customer acquisition because a happy customer tells about service/ brand to 4 friends while an unhappy customer shares with 10 prospects.  The typical hole in the bucket symptom for startups include low repeat usage, plateaued Monthly Active Users (MAU), negative sentiment on social etc.

Customer Experience study helps identify the holes in the bucket and convert first time product users to brand ambassadors. There are 2 key elements to Customer Experience Study:

  1. Analyzing the recorded customer behavior.
  2. Analyzing the reported customer response.

Recorded Customer Behavior is the behavior reported by analytics and includes site/ product usage, revenue growth, social  buzz sentiment, customer channel preference. Essentially, all intelligence gathered by analytics or otherwise on how customers are using the product.

For instance, a startup in urban transportation ( dispatch service, taxi companies, cab aggregators) should start  looking at the following Customer Experience Matrices:

  1. Ratio of New Users to Total users:
  2. Source of New Customer: Ads/ Marketing Campaigns/ Channels/ Referral
  3. Average use Frequency of top 20% users
  4. Revenue per MAU:
  5. Ratio of Trips Services and Trips Booked:
  6. Ratio of Complaints and MAU:
  7. Ratio of Positive Feedback and MAU:
  8. Ratio of Complaints and Positive Feedback:

Reported Customer Response is the response to Customer Experience surveys and questionnaires. These surveys should be conducted at the time/ point of use of product. Here are the 4 most important Customer Experience measurements summed up in 4 Questions ( for the questions I am continuing with the example of urban transportation startup- The Smiles Cab):

1. Overall Satisfaction
Question: How satisfied are you with “The  Smiles Cab

Measuring Social Media ROI

Love it, hate it, you can’t ignore it. Social Media is here to stay. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, G+ are the primary channels for traffic and growth for most  online businesses today.

Startups and businesses get attracted by the large and fancy numbers that are floating around (  e.g. 1.26 billion users500 Million Tweets per day)

and start projecting their hockey stick growth based on these numbers. To add to the the pain most online marketers over commit and under deliver.

According to BusinessInsider “Many brands are moving away from metrics that purport to measure ROI on social media.

They’ve realized that social media isn’t a transactional engine or sales machine, so they’re dropping half-baked indicators that gauge secondary effects, such as financial return.???

Large brands and advertisers look at monetization over long term and tangible and intangible goals. They measure ROI of social media strategies in terms of audience-building, brand awareness, and customer relations.

I work with startups and startups are a different beast. They need to run quick experiments, decide what works for them and ROI is a simple arithmetic:

ROI = (All Returns- All Costs)/ All Costs.

I feel responsible for every $ that startups trust me with to hack growth  and hate BS-ing when it comes to program performance. I want to evaluate programs in real time and make quick decisions. I use the following spreadsheet to measure the ROI of the programs built around the simple arithmetic definition of ROI.

Download BhaskarThakur-Social-Media-ROI   (Right click and save)

Give it a spin and let me know if  it works. Big Brands you may also want to try this simple tool.

10 Questions that help identify startup opportunities

2013 has been a year of questions for me. Questions about business models, about pivots, about change of plan. The year started with a big question persist, pivot or perish WorldWithourMe? and then there were at least 4 major question every month.

It’s befitting that the last post of the year be about questions. So here’s my pick of 10 questions that have helped me evaluate startup ideas.

Questions to identifying Problem/ opportunity

  • What experiences( good or bad), have you had with the [current solution/ product]?
  • What is the frequency of purchase [current solution/ product]?
  • other products/ solutions did you consider?
  • Has [current solution/ product] worked well for you? How/how not?
  • Top 3 changes you would make to the [current solution/ product]?

Questions to probe/ validate

  • Can you give an example?
  • Tell me more.
  • What would you change?
  • Can you be more specific?
  • How did that impact?

Happy Starting Up 2014!

 

 

My 5 Favorite Gmail Plugins and Tricks for Growth Hacks.

‘Agility’ is one word that is core to the idea of Growth Hacking. While classic Marketers rely on long term data and user behavior for decisions, Growth Hackers often work with smaller sample size and act in ‘real time’ to convert visitors to customers.

In my experience, email is one of the most powerful tools for converting visitors to customers. For example we improve conversions for an edutech startup by almost 100{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} within weeks, through an email campaign.

However, for email ninjas- life is inboxed. They live, eat, breathe emails. I use Plugins, Tools and simple tricks to help me manage my inbox. Here’s 5 favorite Gmail Plugins and tricks for Growth Hacking.

Gmail Tabs and Inbox Zero:
The New tabs help to focus on what matters and reduces my inbox size by ~30{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} -50{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} . I let Google’s technology take care of the spams, social updates and promotions and focus on emails that really matter.

GMail- Tabs

Further, I Live by Inbox Zero, which means I either Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer or Act on the emails in my Inbox. Thanks! Merlin Mann.

Google Alerts and Labels
I use a combination of Google Alerts and email filtering + labels extensively. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on one’s interest. If you are following 50-100 keywords on Google be sure Alerts will swamp your inbox. I have configures email filtering rules and labels to keep the clutter off my inbox.

Rappotive
Rappotive shows you everything about your contacts right inside your inbox- what people look like, where they’re based, and what they do. It also helps grow one’s network on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook without leaving the inbox. Rappotive is more like a mini CRM married to LinkedIn.

Rappotive

Yesware
If you rely on emails for growth you want to know who opens your email and clicks on your link and Yesware does exactly that. It also let’s users track prospects and has some ready to use email templates.

Yesware

Boomerang Calendar
Boomerang Calendar helps schedule meetings from within the emails. It highlights the date and time in email ( both absolute and relative i.e 5PM 10/18 or 5PM Tomorrow) to make scheduling meetings a breeze.

Go on Startup Ninjas install your arsenals and win the Growth Hacking war.