Ecommerce Growth & User Acquisition

I’m Wilson Hung, Growth @ Kettle & Fire, previously Growth @ SumoMe, Process Engineer @ ExxonMobil.

I quit my job as a chemical engineer to apply a data-driven, and scientific approach to acquiring customers.

I write detailed essays on growth that have been featured in Forbes, ConversionXL, SumoMe, and shared by Andrew Chen, Guy Kawasaki, and 500Startups.

If you’d like growth advice, I help Ecomm companies on a selective basis. I can provide the most value if you’ve reached product market fit, and have a functional supply chain.

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Goal #2: 1000 Emails (Experiment: Messaging Users on Reddit)

Takeaway: Sending cold messages to Redditors can be effective but it’s time consuming. I was able to achieve a conversion rate of ~40% by copy/pasting a general message to users asking for permission to provide a URL to my website, FounderOrigins.

Moving forward, I will put this channel on hold because of the risk of getting banned from the targeted subreddits.


Experiment ID #2 – Acquisition (Sales) – Sending Cold Messages to Redditors

Overall Goal: 1000 subscribers

Timeframe: February 29, 2016

KR1 (90%): Weekly growth of 25% to my subscriber list (1000 subscribers by end of Feb 2016)

KR2 (50%): Weekly growth of 50% to my subscriber list (1000 subscribers by end of Jan 2016)

KR3 (10%): Weekly growth of 100% to my subscriber list (1000 subscribers by end of Dec 2016)


Objective: Determine the conversion rate of cold-messaging redditors to gain a better understanding if this is a viable channel.



I’d like to build my subscriber base to around ~200-300 before I start leveraging referrals. To get to that number, I figured the easiest way would be to stick with a direct sales approach.


If successful, the conversion rate will be at least 25% of all the redditors I message. Assuming it takes ~3 minutes to send a message per person (including finding posts, person, copy/pasting/personalizing message)… I’d send 20 messages in an hour, of which 5 people will convert.

Metric Before (hypothesis) After (actual)
Conversion Rate 25% 39%
Time to send a message 3 minutes per message

(20 messages/hour)

2 minutes per message

(30 messages/hour)

Experiment Design

  1. Determine the subreddits that have the highest probability of containing my target market (aspiring entrepreneurs)
  2. Identify recent (<2 weeks) posts that are relevant to FounderOrigins (e.g. business ideas, first businesses, inspiration, etc…)
  3. Skim through the posts and prioritize user comments who have the greatest likelihood of responding positively to my cold-message
  4. Send a message to the redditors asking if they want to sign up
  5. For redditors that express interest, follow up to see if they did sign up
  6. Keep a spreadsheet tracking each redditor who was messaged and their response


In total, I sent 46 messages which resulted in 18 sign ups and a conversion rate of 39%. I timed how long it took to send 3 messages (yes I know, it’s not the most scientific method) which took ~7 minutes (2.3 minutes/message)… 

Here’s the breakdown of the results…

  1. Relevant subreddits:
    • /r/entrepreneur
    • /r/smallbusiness
  2. Identify recent posts relevant to FounderOrigins
  3. I looked for the users of comments that are about:
    • traditional businesses
    • seeking instructions or guidance for starting a business
    • general/interesting comments I can use to personalize the message
    • for example…


4. Sending a message to the users:

  • I wrote the message template with the following things in mind:
    • Not spammy looking – I did this by asking for permission first, rather than self promoting the link right away. The idea being that potential subscribers would be more interested if permission was requested in advanced…see permission marketing
    • Personalize the message – I did this by adding a sentence or two relating to the user’s initial comment on the post. I did this to make it seem like I wasn’t just copy/pasting and spamming users
    • For example…


5. When someone was interested, I would reply with the link to the website. Here’s an example…



  • Based on a conversion rate of ~40% and ~2.5 minutes/message, with this approach I could send ~25 messages per hour… which would result in 10 subscribers an hour.
  • The approach of asking for permission was quite effective, in fact, I got some feedback from some of the users saying how genuine the message was. For example…


  • This isn’t really a learnings for the marketing channel itself, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of interest from aspiring entrepreneurs into “traditional businesses” rather than the whole online/startup types.
  • I’m positive I could decrease the time it takes to send a message by creating some sort of process/assembly line to send messages (e.g. open 5 tabs at a time, copy-paste the messages/subject into each tab, put in the names of each users, send).

Follow-up Actions

I’m not going to pursue this channel for two reasons:

1) It requires too much “input-time” to yield subscribers. 10-15 subscribers/hour is great for starting out, but if I want a minimum of ~25% growth each week, I need a passive method to drive traffic to my website

2) I’m pretty sure there is a “cap” of how many messages I can send consecutively before I trigger reddit’s spam detection and get banned. I really don’t want to risk getting banned from two of the main subreddits which consist of my target market.

I even sent a message to the mod… here was his reply