Case Studies of $1B Companies: Tactics to Unlock Grow

Among the 40+ companies listed below, you can find 4 main marketing strategies with 13 tactics. Most businesses use a few of those strategies simultaneously to reach massive growth.

Commonalities of how MVPs of current billion-dollar businesses get the first 1,000 customers:

  • Obsessing with your first customers and developing your product or service based on their feedback.
  • Ship your MVP fast and later iterate. (If your MVP is good, it’s too late.)
  • Creating viral features lets you outsource the marketing side of the business to your customers while allowing you to focus solely on the product.
  • The market you’re in is more important than your product.

Reach Out To The Target Audience


  1. Zapier – Forums
  2. Ahrefs – Forums
  3. WordPress – Forums
  4. Discord – Reddit
  5. Coinbase – Hacker News, Reddit
  6. Dropbox – Hacker News
  7. Cumroad – Cold emails
  8. Udemy – Cold emails
  9. Upwork – TechCrunch
  10. Airbnb – Craigslist
  11. Loom – Product Hunt
  12. Notion – Product Hunt
  13. Etsy – Social media


  1. Canva – Cold calls, conferences
  2. Groupon – Cold calls
  3. Pinterest – Coffee shops
  4. DoorDash – Local stores & restaurants, university campuses
  5. Uber – Conferences, concerts, sports events
  6. Etsy – Craft fairs
  7. Tinder – College campuses
  8. Snapchat – High school

Word of Mouth

Viral Effect

A viral effect happens when the product or service needs at least 2 people to work. People naturally invite their friends to use it and interact with each other through the platform.

Think about messaging platforms & social media apps:

  1. Telegram – Let’s have a chat
  2. WhatsApp – Let’s have a chat
  3. Discord – Let’s play together
  4. Twitch – Let’s play together
  5. Snapchat – Let me send you this message
  6. Tinder – Let’s find you another date
  7. Zoom – Let’s have a meeting
  8. LinkedIn – Let me add you to my network
  9. Pinterest – Let me show you my pins and style
  10. Groupon – Let’s do something together
  11. Onlyfans – Let’s get intimate
  12. Etsy – Let’s tag our craft fair
  13. Slack – Let’s group chat in an organized manner

Provide Superb Customer Service

Superb quality customer service is often one of the best viral factors in business.

  1. Zappos
  2. Udemy
  3. Stripe

WOW Product

These products either:

  • Solve a specific problem well, usually well beyond competitors’ ability.
  • Provide a distinctive “Wow” experience through their innovative capabilities, design, better UX or something else.
  1. Ahrefs – Solve a specific problem very well
  2. Fiverr – Solve a specific problem very well
  3. Stripe – solve a specific problem very well
  4. Youtube – Solve a specific problem very well
  5. Zoom – Solve a specific problem very well
  6. Uber – Unique experience
  7. Google – Innovation

Invite Only

Invite only strategy at the very early stage is common among many successful startups. To make it work, businesses must create enough hype around the platform.

Niching down and creating a lot of publicity around it (usually having influencers on your platform early on) seems to work best.

Scarcity + Authority Bias = FOMO

  1. Pinterest – Invite-only
  2. Medium – Invite-only creators
  3. HEY email – Invite-only waitlist


Waitlists are an amazing tool to create a gamified FOMO around the project’s launch.

A great waitlist includes the following:

  • A tracker – “87 people are ahead of you”
  • A clear CTA – “Interested in priority access. Get early access to referring your friend.”
  • An easy way to share on several channels
  1. Dropbox
  2. HEY email
  3. Canva

Leverage a Network

Family, Friends & Colleagues

Sharing your product or service with your closest network is a great way to give your business the initial boost it needs.

  1. OnlyFans
  2. Slack
  3. Medium
  4. Linkedin
  5. Fiverr
  6. Instagram
  7. Snapchat
  8. Tinder

Leverage Existing Audience First

Leveraging existing audience first strategy you previously developed following like social media followers, email subscribers, and others.

  1. HEY email – Twitter followers
  2. Telegram – Instagram followers


Partnerships provide a way of tapping into different, already-established sources of traffic and other business opportunities.

  1. Stripe – Paul Graham & Y Combinator
  2. Appsumo – Imgur & Reddit
  3. Netflix – Toshiba
  4. Google – Yahoo, Netscape & AOL

PR & Influencer Marketing

PR & Influencer marketing helps you tap into a well-established traffic channel.

The additional benefit of these channels is projecting authority.

Bias and the Social Proof:

  1. Spotify – Swedish music bloggers
  2. Airbnb – CNN promoting Obama O’s & Cap’n McCain’s

Hack The System

Abuse Loopholes in the Systems

Successful businesses often abuse loopholes in the systems to get more traffic. These loopholes usually occur in freshly-developed structures like new technologies.

  1. WhatsApp – iOS’s “What’s new” list
  2. Amazon – Website listings, book orders

Fake the Traffic or Engagement

Fake traffic and fake engagement on platforms usually bring the social proof needed to show the users that the chicken & egg problem is solved and it’s safe to engage.

  1. Airbnb – Craigslist bots
  2. Paypal – eBay bots
  3. Reddit – Reddit’s fake accounts