How Twos Grew Organically to 5,000 Monthly Active Users

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About Me

Seven years ago I joined the personal finance startup SmartAsset. We launched a lead generation business and have grown from $0 to over $100M in annual revenue, and achieved “unicorn” status. As the consumer marketing leader, I've learned a lot.

I am confident that my experiences can help you.

Similarly, I am continuously learning from other entrepreneurs.

What follow are insights from a recent conversation with Joe Steilberg, founder of Twos.

How Twos Grew Organically to 5,000 MAUs

Let’s dive in:

What problem is Twos solving?

Twos is a note taking app that positions itself as “the best place to write things down”.

The co-founders both experienced the benefits of writing things down: Joe for his ADHD and Parker for professional development and dealing with depression.

The existing solutions seemed antiquated.

Twos combines the private capabilities of personal lists and notes with a public sharing component. The app syncs across mobile and web.

Twos App Screenshots

How did Twos acquire its initial users?

Twos’ growth has been driven by a community of early adopters, influencers and other organic efforts.

They’ve spent $0 on marketing or advertising.

Twos is about saving and retrieving information more effectively. This resonates with the goals of productivity influencers such as Shu Omi, whose shout-outs drove some of the biggest spikes in new users.

Key insight: influencers are usually influential because they help others meet a need. In this case, productivity influencers provide value to their audiences by sharing tools like Twos with them. If you can increase the perceived value of influencers, they will gladly help you.

Twitter DM Outreach Strategy

User growth from influencers spawned a Direct Message outreach strategy on Twitter. They're specifically targeting influencers in productivity and startups.

The DM response rates have been around 10%.

Takeaway: identify relevant influencers and do manual outreach  

Increase MAUs Through User Onboarding Testing

Delighting customers is critical to increasing monthly active users.

TwosApp's “Aha” product moment is when a user is able to recall something that they otherwise would have forgotten. Because this might come a week or two after first using the app, they've focused on experimenting with different onboarding flows.

Their onboarding tests have been a highly iterative process and have included everything from gifs to YouTube videos, lists, etc.

They measure success as daily active retention of new users. Did the new users come back to write something down?

Key insight: shorten the “time to wow” to maximize customer delight. Track retention with a single KPI.

Customer Research Interviews:

Joe and Parker do two different kinds of customer interviews:

Pre-exposure to the app:

This is all about understanding the job to be done, and how people are currently trying to solve their problem:

“Where do you write things down? How do you write things down? How many different platforms do you use? Would you use an all-in-one tool?

Current app users:

They have a Discord channel where they chat about bugs and feature ideas with current customers.

Key Insight: use different customer interviews to understand your customer’s problem separately from how they use your product.

Onboarding Gamification:

Twos’ elegant UI is deceptively simple given the app's robustness. Two related insights led them to add gamification features:

  • A great notetaking app would have to appear simple to a new user, therefore many features are hidden

  • Rewarding users with coins for using new functionality encourages them to invest in learning how to use them

Takeaway: reward users for going deeper into your product features.

Unicorn Growth Strategy Recommendations

Two growth strategies for Twos to consider:

🦄 Influencer w/ equity: give a prominent productivity influencer an equity stake in exchange for promoting the app to their audience. An ongoing collaboration on both product and marketing could create a virtuous cycle of improvement. Tweethunter did this to great effect with JK Molina, and there's no reason it wouldn't work at a larger scale.

🦄 Niche down further: 5,000 users is proof that the app meets a need. But the use cases are likely diverse. Find the most common use cases (ex: sharing recipes, sharing lists of best restaurants, etc.) and create growth strategies around each of those. If a user joins to view recipes, show them a recipe-specific onboarding experience.

Takeaways from Twos you can apply to your own business:

💰 If you provide value to an influencer's audience, you make the influencer more valuable.

😮 Shorten “time to wow” to maximize customer delight. Track retention with a single KPI

🔍 Use different customer interviews to understand your customers' problem separately from how they use your product

✨ Reward users for going deeper into your product features

Lastly, download Twos! I’ve been using it nightly to record key ideas, emotions and tasks from each day. It’s simultaneously therapeutic and useful.