How I Drove Millions in Revenue to My First Employer

3 minute read

I was a Growth Hacker before I even knew what Growth Hacking was…

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That’s me celebrating our success in 2009.

My first success story:

My first job was at a property management company across from San Francisco’s beautiful Painted Ladies. My assignment was to reduce apartment vacancy rate in a housing market severely shaken up by the mortgage crisis.

My boss, a traditional marketer, preferred newspaper ads and city billboards. I argued these more traditional methods were especially overpriced/difficult to measure.

 

What I needed to do:

I turned towards what would eventually become our primary acquisition channel, Craigslist.org. We needed to get maximum exposure out of this utility site if we were to be competitive.

 

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How we did it:

It was our final year in college (USF). Max Kaplan (a junior hacker) and myself (a marketing newb) needed to get through the blocking algorithm which limited the number of apartment listings company or person could post on Craigslist per day.

Having no available resources or money, we did what we knew best and built a solution ourselves; a CMS which dynamically injected all apartment numbers, photos, and amenities into different HTML mark up templates. Our application then took these dynamic variables and rearranged blocks of code behind the scenes to make each post unique enough to pass the Craiglist similar detection bot, while maintaining the same structure on the client side. After lots of hard work, and two months without much, we finally had something; it was quite jenky but it worked!

 

What the bots would see:

Our software would rotate the mark up making it different each time. Making our posts undetectable.

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How users viewed the ad:

The ad always appeared the same to our customers.

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Where was it on the search list:

This is where the magic happens: we could post as much as we want and we were always at the top. Note, we did our best to SPAM responsibly, only leaving a few posts at the top of the list each day.

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The result:

The phones were off the hook. We had 30 people at every open house and we eventually reduced our company’s vacancy rate to a record low of 0.7%, which previously idled around 4%. This produced millions in additional annual revenue, plus giving the company enough capital to expand to 650 apartments, roughly $70MM in assets.

 

Takeaway:

There is opportunity everywhere. Make sure to log and test all ideas thoroughly. And if you don’t have the appropriate resources or know how – that’s great – because this gives us the opportunity to work together. Reach out to me or follow me on twitter!

Thanks for reading!

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