Expert interview with 

Ward van Gasteren

First Certified Growth Hacker of Europe, Coach and Consultant, Author of the book ‘Grow Happy Clients’.

Ward is one of the first certified growth hackers in Europe. He is also a growth marketing coach and consultant and has recently written a book named Growing Happy Clients

What are we going to cover?

How did you get into Growth Hacking?

Most people come into Growth Hacking from a marketing perspective and see that they should do more with data and tech. Some people come more from a product development route and then decide to do more data-driven marketing. I came from an entrepreneur’s background and started a business of my own. 

I am analytical by nature, so when I did sales I realized that if I contacted 50 potential clients, I would get 2 new clients – that there are steps and milestones in between. So basically I would create my own funnel even though I didn’t know that it existed. I would learn on google and youtube how to do ads, build a website and do analytics. At some point, I was just more focused on growing the business and I ended up on the platform all of the time. Soon I realized:  wow, growing the business is the thing I like to do most as an entrepreneur. I don’t like the day-to-day operations side of the business. So going more in-depth on growth hacking was the perfect start for me. I decided to start doing more freelance jobs and soon attended the growth tribe academy for their first-ever course.


What makes a growth hacker unique? What separates him her from a digital marketer?


A CEO is working on the organization(staff) and on overall strategy. Marketers are working on the day-to-day, and ongoing tactics (The newsletter, keeping the website up-to-date.) So for the CEO and the Marketer ‘growth’ (getting new customers) was a side job and therefore harder for them. 

So what makes growth hackers unique: Focus. For the first time, every company give one person or one team the sole responsibility to only worry about growth. Not the day-to-day. They have to do nothing else than focus on growing the business faster. I think that is having a great impact, as we are giving that part of the business the time and resources it deserves. We are seeing new models and ways of working purely focussed on ‘growth’ because a lot more people around the world are putting all their time and input into it. That’s why growth hackers are so effective and unique. 

Do you as a growth hacker add chatbots to your toolkit and why do you use them?

I always try to add a chatbot to a website and I see 3 scenarios show I would use them.

1) Conventional approach
The industry and just having that different way of communicating with clients instead of using super long forms that make it not accessible for people to get to know you and your product. Then a chatbot is great. It changes the dynamics a lot.

2) Learnings and insights:
Chatbots highly improve the number of learnings you can have in a short time. It helps when users get stuck and are about to leave the website or talk to support to ask questions. With a chatbot, users can tell you why they got stuck. If you learn faster you grow faster. 

For instance, if they ask: what are the shipping costs? You will realize that you are losing customers because you forgot to mention the shipping costs. So in that way, chatbots make it easier to improve the product to grow faster. While in every other scenario you would struggle to find these answers. 

3) Social proof
Chatbots also improve your social proof. It shows that you are a real business and care about your customers. That there are people behind the business that supports you. It also lowers the risk of buying from a company.

What do you think of synergy of a chatbot and a live chat?

If you have a live chat it improves how people look at your business. But it really hurts your business when users think he or she is on a live chat but has to wait 24 hours and receive an email because there was no one at the live chat. That makes users think they are a joke. So having an instant response is so much better than having people wait for 24 hours. 

I’m still looking for a chatbot that makes the experience more personal. So you have the buttons that guide people however you can’t have 10 of those steps because it gets annoying. Because it feels like your just clicking through a FAQ page. Helping people get to a destination faster makes it more relevant.

What is the pirate funnel and how do you use it?

It’s where you start when you want to grow a business. Like I said as a growth hacker you need: Focus. You need to know where to put all your energy and effort to make a big impact. 

The pirate funnel is the perfect model to help you do that. Because it cuts your business into 6 steps based on the customer journey. From being unaware of your existence to true brand ambassadors. It cuts your business into 6 steps (Awareness, Acquisition, Activation, Revenue, Retention, and Referal) so that you know what the 6 steps are that you can work on to make your business grow faster. 

If you look at all the steps if you fill in all the steps and you fill in how many people are at each step and the you fill in the percentages that you lose most people. So you may ee that you have a lot of people are aware and the come to the website, however, fail to go from acquisition to activation. So when you lose 90% of people at that step it will give you the insight that this is your greatest bottleneck for growth. Focussing your effort on this bottleneck will help you make more impact than focussing on getting more customers to the website. Because if you improve the website (activation) you get more value from the traffic that you are already bringing in. So knowing where you get more bang for your buck is so important if you want to grow fast. 

Can you plot a pirate funnel onto your chatbot?

I think you can create a funnel for any part of your business. It helps you isolate parts of what could be a problem of why it’s not growing faster as you would like it to be. For a chatbot you could say: 

  • how many people see the chatbot?
  • how many people hover over the chatbot?
  • how many clicks on the chatbot?
  • how many people start typing?
  • how many people send a message? 
  • How many people get to a live chat?
  • how many people fully complete a conversation?
  • How many people give a 5-star rating for the conversation they had?
  • You could also look at:
  • Revenue (the value exchange)
  • Retention (how many repeat messages are there sent?)
  • Referral (what is the review of the chat experience?)

How will growth hacking evolve in the next 5-10 years?

The first thing that you will see in growth hacking in the upcoming years and it’s something that is already happening is that we are losing the word ‘hacking’. People are getting tired of ‘hacky’. It will give you a short-term spike of traffic, however, it’s more about the long-term growth and creating processes and systems to make your business grow faster. I see customers get more frustrated with all these ‘hacky’ tactics. I start to see that the field of growth hacking is moving from the tactics that will get you, 1000 new users, in a week and instead of moving to consistent tactics that will bring you 100 users per month consistently. These tactics are less sexy but do help you grow the business more responsibly. This way growth becomes a machine that’s getting a flywheel that is starting to move very slowly. But when it finally gets started it grows faster and faster. So instead of doing the growth you’re supporting the growth.

Where can people find you?