Learn How to Create a Viral Campaign: Insights from Honza Valustik’s Experiment on American Startups

Posted by Anant January 14, 2023

Honza had to write a bachelor thesis on how American startups grow using low-cost marketing, and he ended up creating a viral campaign, with hundreds of startups taking his survey. In this episode, we talk about his experiment and the survey results.


→  His experiment and the survey results

→  He is a bachelor’s thesis on marketing and startups in the US market

→  Approached 300 startups

→  Created a microsite for his research

→  He created a microsite for his thesis on marketing and startups in the US market

→  Aimed for the microsite to be viral and shareable

→  Approached startups via email with the microsite

→  Succeeded in getting almost 300 responses

→  Used survey to gather information from the startups

→  And a whole lot more


→  Help Honza Finish His Study Website

→  His Tumblr Profile



Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have our hands off values. Stick with us. Hanzo, thanks for coming on the program.

Honza: Yeah, hello. I’m glad to be here. Thank you.

Bronson: Absolutely. I know I just butchered your last name, and that’s partly because you’re from the Czech Republic. And so let me tell people about you a little bit. You’re actually a student at Thomas Bailey University in Zlin in the Czech Republic. And, you know, it’s unusual for me to have a student on the show, but there’s actually a really good reason why you’re on the show. And it’s because you are a marketing student and you had a marketing bachelor’s thesis that was coming up and you did something that was really innovative. And I actually saw it a couple of months ago online. And as soon as I saw it, I loved it. So tell us, what is it you did for your thesis that was so unique?

Honza: Thank you. Yeah, I was thinking of buying my bachelor dresses, and I’m going to start ups, marketing and new media on the stars. And I wanted to create something remarkable which represents, you know, so I decided to create. What does this about marketing, about start ups, marketing in the US market? It’s quite an interesting topic for me because I’m from Republic Republican said. So I was thinking about it and I decided to write it for me. But it was quite challenging, challenging for me because I need to approach at least 300 startups in the US market quite well out of work and I have to be really hard working.

Bronson: And 300, is that what you said?

Honza: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Bronson: Wow. Okay, that’s quite a few. So you decided you wanted to learn about marketing in the U.S. and how startups are doing it?

Honza: Yes.

Bronson: Is you had approached 300 different startups. All right. So so what did you do with that?

Honza: Yeah, and social. It’s quite easy. I wanted to go to the U.S. I’m all with start ups, personal, and it was impossible. So I decided to create a microsite, I would say, and a creative company. I wanted to see my story. Hey guys from startups I’m hands off. I need to because I’m working on my budget, so please help me to finish my studies. Oh, okay. I hope that it will work because I know that people from us are great and it’s great, you know, and people from startups are great. So I believe that they work and and yeah, you work.

Bronson: So you put up a microsite basically stroke on their ego. Tell them, hey, we know startups are great, we know the Americans are great, you guys are going to help us. And so you build this microsite and it kind of told you about your thesis and the information you were needing from them. How did people find this website? We’ll talk about the response to it in a second. But, you know, did you get posted somewhere popular or did it just word of mouth, it spread around. How did people find out about it?

Honza: I wanted it to be to do a totally viral, viral, you know, shareable and so on. So I created my story. I saved and became viral and then spread Internet. And of course, I approached some startups via email with this microsite, and I succeed because they told me very often it’s a really unique approach. So it’s great. Okay, I hope you later, you know, you know, it’s really nice. Tough road. So that’s the whole point of my campaign to do something different, something interesting for people. So I’m sorry because I’m from the Czech Republic. It’s been interesting for you guys in the US, you know.

Bronson: No, it’s all it is interesting. So you decided to try to learn how American startups are marketing, but in the process you created a microsite that went viral. So you actually show yourself to be quite the marketer, even though you’re trying to learn these things, you know, it definitely shows, you know, what you’re doing at the same time. So you needed 300 people to respond. How many people ended up responding to your website?

Honza: Yeah, it’s almost 300.

Bronson: Yeah. So you got the number you needed basically.

Honza: Yeah, I used 300 because it’s more motivated or people influenced me so high, but I reached about 256 from them. So, so.

Bronson: Each of those are sponsors that they have to fill out a survey. Is that how it works too, in order to help you?

Honza: Yeah. Yeah.

Bronson: So you give them the survey and the survey is all about marketing, right? What kinds of marketing use? What kinds of marketing they don’t use, what kind of tools they use? How many questions are on the survey that you said?

Honza: Yeah, there was about 40 question on my marketing question. I was know and I was into I wanted to know how startups use marketing approach because now I know that startups know have to use every money wisely. You know, they don’t have a the money for marketing for marketing budget. So that was my point. You know, I was thinking about that and question their focus on of course marketing approach. Yeah, mommy stuff.

Bronson: Now you taken all that data and you’re in the process of building this beautiful infographic that people will be seeing on the screen as we talk about this. So let’s actually do this. I just want to kind of talk through this infographic, talk of the data that you learned and what you found out about American startups and how they market. Because that’s exactly what this show is all about, is how people are marketing in different ways using growth hacking, which is a lot of what this is. And the first that you have on here is that 93% of the startups in your survey used low cost methods and only 7% used traditional marketing approaches. So first, how how do you define traditional marketing approaches? What kinds of things would be traditional marketing that only 7% did?

Honza: You know how I said marketing? Spend money wisely. So traditional approach means, for example, you spend all the money for television or the television commercial on or radio on billboards on something like this stuff. I would say old school marketing stops and they can afford startups because of course lot of money. So they must be much more wise. And you use the really new, smarter tools, you know, like inbound social media, you know, PR stuff that doesn’t that don’t cost too much money, you know, the low point. So some personal style and startups in two years know it and use it and will say accept it.

Bronson: Yeah. No, it’s crazy. Definitely shows a huge trend. I mean, no longer is it really acceptable to use money in old fashioned ways. And 93% are really you know, we’re on the other side of the bell curve now.

Honza: It’s really interesting and it’s it’s really interesting. And startups know it and do us.

Bronson: Absolutely.

Honza: Use it.

Bronson: And then you also have a stat on here. It says 84% of the startups that you approached use the lean methodology. Yeah, I’m assuming those go hand in hand lean methodology and low cost marketing. I mean, is that kind of what you get from the numbers there?

Honza: And it’s quite interesting. Maybe can be joined because startups need to measure everything and measure our ROI on their investments, you know, and it’s really enjoying with, I would say, lean methodology. It’s quite interesting. Number two and 84 for us and you saw that both in digital funding, I wouldn’t say be the same number.

Bronson: Oh, really? So what do you think it would be in the Czech Republic? What kind of number would be lean methodology there?

Honza: Yeah, I would say and just I guess would be about 30%. Mm hmm.

Bronson: So you feel like the lean methodology is very US centric right now? Do you think it will spread? Is there momentum in the Czech Republic with lean methodology? Or do you think it’s just an American thing?

Honza: I think it’s a great methodology. I will use it or I use it in marketing, too. And I think that now in public, it’s a buzzword, a new buzzword, you know. So it’s coming across people and now thinking about it, you know.

Bronson: And that’s actually a good kind of thing to think about as US companies decide what market they will compete in. Because if they realize that there are certain countries who still don’t have lean methodology in place, that if they have an offering in that country, they can get a lot of market share before other startups know how to build, measure and learn efficiently enough to get their own market share. So it’s just something to keep in mind that, you know, sometimes going global allows you to be ahead of other countries just because of where a methodology is that in your own country. And now the next part of this infographic, you kind of break down for kinds of marketing, and you have inbound marketing in the first one, then guerilla marketing, then word of mouth marketing and then viral marketing. And so let’s start with the one that was most used by the startups that you approached. The most used kind of marketing was inbound marketing. Right. Which is really surprising for me on this show because so many talented people come on this show and tell me they use inbound marketing. I’ve heard enough that I believe in how. And in your survey, it says that 78% of the people you approach, they know about email marketing and they use inbound marketing. Why do you think email marketing was so popular? Is it because it works really well with low cost and lean methods, or do you think there’s some other reason?

Honza: Yeah, I think inbound marketing is really much more or a little of your role more. I think it seems that it will work because it’s cheap, but I’m not sure if it’s really cheap. You know, creating great content. Of course, a lot of what a lot of people think that inbound is free of charge. I would say so. So, you know, social media, Facebook, Twitter and so on and swarm logs and so on. And this is stuff which is inbound marketing, basically creating great content. So startups can use it because it’s free of charge for them. But you have to spend some money to that to create great content, you know, so it’s not or it seems.

Bronson: To be so inbound. Being popular and low cost being popular may not go hand in hand because inbound does cause you’re absolutely right. Now, the most known of the four kinds of marketing was viral marketing, but it’s just the most known. It’s not the most used, you know. Do you think that’s kind of it shows our obsession with viral marketing, even though we don’t use it or even know how to use it sometimes.

Honza: But yeah, that is really interesting. Viral is obviously the buzzword roadsides everywhere and every start ups want to create viral video, for example, because, you know, they, you know, approach a lot of people for a small amount of money. So it’s. It’s really important for the more interesting for them to talk about. It’s interesting that just for 4% don’t know tomorrow what the jobs below 55% know and use mobile. So they know it’s not so easily how it looks like to create a viral video. So, you know.

Bronson: So out of out of all the startups you talk to and you talk to some very large name startups, I mean, let’s be clear here. You talk to people like Airbnb. And what were some of the other big ones you talked to?

Honza: Yeah, I was talking with only. But no, I don’t remember who exactly.

Bronson: No, no. Yeah, that’s fine. What were some other some other companies that you talk to that were well-known?

Honza: It was, for example, about me or some chick startups which are in the US, for example, social big girls or death. You know, startups are based in China, but they are involved for us too. So, you know.

Bronson: Yeah, there are some big names on there, you know, about not me, you know, Airbnb and some of the other ones. And so even with that kind of caliber of company, only 55% use viral marketing, but 78% use inbound marketing. So I do think that really tells us that viral marketing doesn’t necessarily work for every startup and you may not know how to use it. Or inbound is more democratic, it’s more ubiquitous. Inbound, a lot of different people can use viral. It is still more niche and it may always be. I think now you have two other kinds of marketing on here that we’re not the most used or the most known, which is word of mouth and guerrilla. Let’s start with guerrilla. How do you define guerrilla marketing? What does that to you?

Honza: Yeah, guerrilla marketing. It doesn’t have to be online, can be a foreign to it’s something. Well, it’s absolutely different from something interesting and it doesn’t cost us much money, you know? It must be something crazy. Mm hmm. Something like these thoughts.

Bronson: So this is really the out-of-box thinking that doesn’t take a lot of money. Is that kind of to sum it up?

Honza: Of course. Although folks thinking. Absolutely. Guerrilla marketing.

Bronson: Yeah. And 45% use this. So really when it comes to viral and guerilla, it’s almost the same, you know, about the same way that you use both of those, you know, which is, you know, I don’t know what that means. But, you know, we talk about viral all the time. We don’t talk about guerilla as much, but really, they’re both use kind of neck and neck there. And then the other kind is word of mouth marketing. So what’s the difference between word of mouth marketing and viral marketing? How do you make that distinction?

Honza: Yeah, viral marketing is in online world, I would say. Yeah. And word of mouth is in in the offline world, you know, talking to people. So it’s interesting in these are startups that seem to offer some millennials wonderful marketing and inspired startups more work like community and something like that. And you have so many meetups and they talk about what they are doing and you know, so it’s natural for startups. I would say more of a small market. Yeah.

Bronson: I mean, this one’s it’s 71% and the highest one of the four was inbound and 78%. So word of mouth and inbound are, you know, the two dominant kind of leaders in terms of the categories of marketing, you know, that people are using in your survey. And I think you make a really good point that it’s there’s a lot there’s an offline component to the startup world, and it’s becoming more and more of an offline component. There’s an actual community around the startup ecosystem now, and so your product appeals to startup people. There’s actually groups meeting and talking and you know, they’re sharing grab and sharing your thing that you’re making. So so you make a really good point.

Honza: Yes.

Bronson: And the next part of your data here, it really talks about the tools that startups use. And I like this because it gives us a grasp of what tools are using a lot and which ones are not using much. So let’s kind of walk through this a little bit and then we’ll touch on a couple of them. By far, the most used tool was social media, 96%, which isn’t really surprising. I mean, you know, we expect all kind of companies to have some sort of social media presence. Next on the list, 85% use email. And so, you know, I think that makes sense because email is so powerful. But now we have the data saying, look, social media is number one. Emails, number two, I do think they should be hand in hand there. Number three surprised me. The third most used tool was public relations. And when I think of PR, I always think of like larger companies are the ones that can hire a PR firm. But to think that, you know, there’s a third most used tool and startups are using it who are also primarily lean. I thought that was interesting. Next on the list at 60% of companies is. Paper click. 48% sponsorships and this starts to go down from their display roadshow print radio. And then at the very end, 5.4% use TV commercials. Out of all these, what surprised you about this data? Was there anything that you learned here that you kind of weren’t expecting about what they use a lot?

Honza: I think it’s what I’ve been expecting from this part of my survey. Social media, you know, free of charge. It’s very cheap to TV commercial to know that it’s okay. It’s not surprising to me. Yeah.

Bronson: It’s good. Now it’s just kind of cool to see it laid out like this, especially when we know the makeup that they are lean and you know, they are using inbound and word of mouth and then see what kind of tools are they’re using there. And then you also break down what the most popular social media sites they use are. And number one is Facebook in 94%. And number two is Twitter and 90%. Did you expect Facebook to be larger than Twitter in terms of the social media they use?

Honza: I expected it. Yeah. For example, in the Czech Republic, Facebook is really huge. In Europe, about 4 million people are users. But Twitter is really small and just for a few people, about 100,000, you know, different from the U.S.. I think we’re going to look almost similar. Seems like it’s more Facebook. It’s a different place, you know?

Bronson: Yeah, no, totally. You know, it’s interesting. It’s kind of an anecdote from growth after TV is that we put a lot of emphasis and effort into Twitter not long after I’m applying the people, I’m talking to people. We share our new episodes on Twitter. We have almost no really presence on Facebook. I think it’s wise to and we will eventually. But right now it’s just about resources. And yet in our inbound leads, we get almost as many from Facebook as we do Twitter, even though I put no effort into it. So I think what you’re saying actually is right is that Facebook is far more dominant than we realize. And I’m putting no effort into it. And it’s still giving me almost the same number of visits. And so I think there’s something there. I think I need to start putting more effort into Facebook and less into Twitter, even though that, you know, wasn’t the assumption that I had coming in. And your data kind of backs that up. And what you’re saying about the numbers in the Czech Republic also back that up. It kind of builds the case even further in my mind there. And then below that is LinkedIn. But, you know, to be clear, Facebook and Twitter are a 94% and 90% and then LinkedIn’s at 55%. So we have a drastic drop between the two main leaders and then kind of the rest of the pack. And then below LinkedIn is YouTube. So those are kind of top four. But then number five, which would have been true a couple of years ago, is Pinterest. And then you have blogging platforms number seven there, which wouldn’t have been true a couple of years ago with Instagram. But then you have Tumblr and others and Foursquare and the Vine with a really small 2.7%. So it just shows you kind of the changing landscape, too. A couple of years ago, Pinterest would have been on this list. It wouldn’t have been on this list, Vine wouldn’t have been on this list. And now they make up more than a fourth, actually almost half combined and all the social media use. And so that’s quite astonishing.

Honza: It’s interesting and I can say interesting numbers about linking in to your public. We don’t use usually LinkedIn for marketing in the Czech Republic is not so popular here.

Bronson: You know what is not so popular there again. So what is it you’re saying that’s not popular?

Honza: Yeah, and not so popular like Facebook or Twitter. I would say it’s quite interesting. This number is surprising for me. The link of 55% of startups use it for marketing.

Bronson: Oh, I see you’re saying LinkedIn is not that popular in the Czech Republic. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. See, in the US, it seems like everybody’s connected on LinkedIn, but of all their users, I’m sure you know, the most the largest percentage is probably from the US. That would be my assumption anyway. So yeah, it is very interesting how things change from country to country and the tools they use and the trends and the methodologies. Do you think after seeing this data that is going to make you a better marketer? I mean, you’re already, you know, skilled in that you can get a microsite to go viral and you put it together in a way that really made people like you and like the site. But do you think this kind of data will help you in the future?

Honza: Yeah. For example, should market learn from this data and they’ll think about Lincoln. And now I’m thinking about linking more of my, you know, marketing. Practice. So I will use Lincoln now because I think it’s so important, because it’s so important in the US so comes to material public tours.

Bronson: So yeah, let me ask you this. When you when you were in class and you did this and the people, your professors or, you know, classmates, they saw the kind of response you were getting online and you were becoming a little mini celebrity. What were they saying when they when they saw that happened?

Honza: Yeah, it was quite interesting. I was featured on some sites of through Internet on Twitter, and you can find some friends. And my friends and they didn’t believe I can do that. You know, I can approach it, but they do it and I’m popular because I am in the market place because it’s like a smaller market that’s know each other years. It’s quite interesting for me, this project. Yeah, I’m for me, of course.

Bronson: Yeah, exactly. And I think that your example is actually maybe the best thing to learn from this interview. I mean, the data is cool and it backs up some of our assumptions. It changes over other assumptions. The data is great and infographic is great, but I think your story is what’s actually the reason you’re on the show. If you just made this infographic, you wouldn’t be on here. You’re on here because you’re a nobody from the Czech Republic. You just want to try something, use some, you know, guerilla marketing tactics in your own work there. And then it went viral. A lot of people saw it and you actually got a lot of people helping you out. And it just goes to show that whatever kind of startup you’re in, whatever kind of resources you have in your disposal, whatever country you find yourself in, if you can get creative enough, there is always a way to grow 100% at a time. If you just get creative enough and people don’t realize that creativity is one unlocks everything. Yeah, it’s great to have money to throw at things. It’s great to have a team, it’s great to have a well-known brand name. But I would take creativity over those things any day of the week because the creativity you can generate from thin air entire campaigns that that some of the Internet will take notice of. So hands off. That’s actually why I think you’re on this show is because you tried a project like this and then it worked, which is even better. Well, so, Hanzo, thank you so much for for coming on growth out of TV and sharing your story and also sharing your infographic with us.

Honza: Thank you. It was nice experience and thank you for information.

Ready To Grow Your Startup?TVicon

Get the strategies, motivation, and in-depth interview with all the details every week!


Popular Blog Posts

26 Simple Websites that Prove Innovation Doesn’t Have...
Learn Thomas Schranz’s Secrets to Blossom IO’s Growth...
Chris Brisson on Using Marketing Automation to Succeed:...
Learn How Siqi Chen Built and Scaled Viral...
How Ryan Farley Built Cutting-Edge Lawn Care Business...

Share On

Are you an
who is trying
to grow a

Get the strategies, motivation, and in-depth interview with all the details every week!