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How Gamma Acquired 10M+ Users Through WOM

The 3 tactics behind this wild growth strategy.

Hey — It’s Nico.

This is another edition of Behind Tactics 🧠, where I delve into different strategies startups are using to win over their markets.

Today, I’m diving into the 3 strategies Gamma has used to boost its word-of-mouth and acquire +10M users in 9 months.

Let’s get into it!

The Strategy

The WOM Growth Channel

What would you do if I told you there’s a startup that grew to 10M users in 9 months?

And if I told you 80% of that growth came from word of mouth?

I’d personally try to invest right away in the company.

Or at least try the tool to understand what makes it so sharing-worthy.

This is the case of Gamma, a tool for creating beautiful and engaging presentations and documents using AI.

They acquired 8M+ users through WOM, either from friends recommending the tool to other friends or from organic social media and online content.

When I heard about this, I thought, “They must be doing something to incentivize WOM.”

So, I did some research and found 3 key strategies that were crucial for this wild WOM growth:

  1. They created an onboarding experience that feels like magic and makes the Aha moment happen instantly.

  2. They rode the AI trend by adding AI features to their tool, getting everyone to talk about Gamma as the new AI thing.

  3. They set up clever growth hacks to get people to take Gamma into the companies where they work.

Each of these tactics is worth a deep dive into…

Magical Onboarding

This is the first thing you see when you sign up for Gamma:

You have three options, all of which allow you to immediately see Gamma’s value.

Most users click on “Generate” since it’s the bigger and center option. This is what you see next:

You write 10-15 words about some specific topic, and Gamma uses AI to generate a presentation, document, or webpage. If you don’t even want to write the words yourself, you can select one of their example topics.

Over the following 10 seconds, you’ll see how the AI creates each element of the presentation or webpage. This experience feels like magic:

30 seconds after signing up, you’ve already gone through the Aha moment of Gamma.

This really incentivizes people to talk about Gamma and the incredible experience they had testing the tool.

Plus, it’s so easy to show to other people how the tool works and get them to try it.

Leveraging the AI Wave

Initially, Gamma didn’t have any AI features. They launched prior to the AI boom, looking to build “a new medium to replace the slide deck.”

But as AI boomed, they decided to pivot into an AI-first tool. This proved to be not only a clever product strategy but also an amazing marketing decision.

For many months, everyone wanted to discover the new AI tool doing a crazy thing. When they did, they’d share it all around with friends and co-workers. This powered Gamma’s WOM.

Moreover, they also rode the AI content wave. Thousands of newsletters, blogs, and Twitter accounts were created, covering the latest AI news and tools.

Just to give you an idea of how wild this wave was, only in 2023, +3,000 AI newsletters were launched on beehiiv.

A search on Google for “site:beehiiv.com gamma.app” shows how Gamma was featured in thousands of AI newsletters, including the biggest ones like Superhuman and The Rundown, getting them a ton of free marketing.

A B2C2B Approach

For a tool like Gamma, the real business is in B2B.

With people already using the tool, they only needed to get them to push their companies to start using Gamma.

To incentivize this, they added a few clever growth hacks:

  • “Made with Gamma” badge: All presentations and documents created by free users have a Gamma badge when being exported, which links to Gamma’s website. When sharing a presentation with team members, they might want to see what is this new tool they hadn’t heard of and will create a Gamma account.

  • “Invite others to collaborate”: Just as in Google Docs, users can invite other people to collaborate on their presentations. This gets other people in a user’s company to create a free Gamma account.

  • “Invite a teammate” program: Gamma has a referral program in which free users can win credits to keep using Gamma’s AI features. If a user invites a teammate, both the user and the teammate get 200 free credits, getting them to keep playing with the tool.

Should I?

Why This Works

  • Everyone likes being the one who discovers something new. With AI tools being so disruptive and mind-blowing, people want to be the ones who find the new AI thing. When they do, they’ll make sure to share it with everyone.

  • When new technologies surge, new content around that technology also surges. Building on a space where there’s a ton of content creation can get you free media coverage.

  • A freemium model naturally boosts WOM. If there’s no free plan, you limit a lot the amount of people trying your tool and being able to talk about it.

How to Apply It

1) Create a Perfect Onboarding

When you lose a user’s interest during onboarding, they typically never return.

You need to create an onboarding that makes the user feel the Aha moment as soon as possible.

Some design tips to achieve this:

  • Remove unnecessary steps from the onboarding. You can make the user go through this later.

  • Decrease friction. The next step of an onboarding process should appear low-friction.

  • Reduce perceived complexity. Break down tasks and visually demonstrate them.

  • Reduce choice anxiety. Hand-hold users through anxious moments.

  • Present the user with pre-filled sample data they can play with.

2) Ride a Trend

Add AI features to your business to ride the AI wave.

Gamma wasn’t an AI tool initially. They added AI features and were able to get a ton of free publicity from AI content platforms.

If AI doesn’t fit what you do, find some new technology that’s getting popular.

For example, Spatial Computing / Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality. I’m already starting to see a lot of content on these topics — launch some features in this space to get free media coverage.

Yes, But

  • This AI-powered magical experience Gamma gives to all new users has a cost. If the user doesn’t convert into a paid customer, that user generates a loss for the company. Plus, there might be some users who abuse generating free accounts to have free credits (even though they can’t access other paid features, like removing Gamma’s badge).

  • Word of mouth is not an acquisition channel you have a lot of control over. SEO and paid acquisition are, in contrast, more predictable. Moreover, to keep getting WOM and coverage from AI content platforms, Gamma needs to keep launching new features.

  • Creating such a great user experience as Gamma has requires a lot of work and investment in design. To give you an idea, one-third of Gamma’s team are designers. Plus, this might lead to a lack of focus on other important things of the business, like product development.

Keep Learning

Others Playing It

Many AI tools have similar onboarding experiences, allowing free users to see the magic of their tools quickly.

LogoAI, for example, allows free users to generate company logos using AI through a really straightforward onboarding.

Other non-AI tools have implemented AI features to drive the AI wave. In that way, they were able to get a lot of free media coverage.

Notion is a good example of this. They launched their AI add-on, which got them a lot of promotion in news sites and newsletters.

I’m now following how startups begin to launch AR features to drive the Apple Vision Pro trend. Endel, for example, has already released a version of its app adapted to the new device, which has won them features on websites like Vision Directory.

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