“We went from 0 to $1M ARR, not focusing on revenue but product iteration” — Greg Stewart, Ladder

And how TikTok experimentation paved the way to 500% growth in 2023.

David Barnard

David Barnard

Published

At a time when fitness apps were crowding the market, Ladder’s unique journey of focusing on an underserved niche, product iteration, and innovative TikTok marketing paved the way to 500% growth in 2023. 

Embarking on their journey in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ladder faced an unforeseen challenge. Originally designed for gym-goers, the fitness app had to swiftly adapt to a world where home workouts became the norm. Founder and CEO Greg Stewart remarked on the necessity of this pivot, 

“We launched the product in the middle of COVID. Before COVID [we were] hyper focused on the 65 million Americans at the gym, which we thought was an underserved segment from a technology perspective.

We had to be really creative to be relevant to a user who was getting bombarded by all kinds of new products at that moment and somebody who was at home in their house with no equipment.” 

From 0 to $1 million

This strategic shift proved crucial for Ladder’s early traction. By collaborating with fitness coaches who had built micro-audiences on social platforms like Instagram, Ladder effectively engaged users seeking new ways to stay fit amidst changing routines. This approach not only enabled Ladder to navigate through a challenging launch phase but also set the stage for substantial growth, going from zero to a million dollars in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR).

Reflecting on this period, Stewart emphasized, “Our focus wasn’t solely on revenue, but significantly on product iteration, using our initial user feedback to refine and enhance our app to better fit our users’ evolving needs.”

Streamlining pricing

Ladder initially priced its service at $60 monthly, offering personalized coaching interactions. However, user feedback revealed a preference for high-quality, structured workout programs over one-to-one coaching. This led to a strategic pivot, reducing the price to $29 per month, focusing more on delivering comprehensive workout content. 

Employing the Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter, Ladder’s decision to adjust the price was based on detailed user feedback and analysis, providing a high degree of confidence that they found the “right” price. 

TikTok growth loop

As Ladder faced diminishing returns on Instagram, they noticed a significant shift in their audience towards TikTok as early as 2020. This transition marks a key growth loop for Ladder, but one that lacked a clear playbook and demanded a unique approach, distinct from their Instagram tactics.

The first step in this new direction involved extensive experimentation to identify what kind of organic content resonated on TikTok. Unlike Instagram, where success was tied to cultivating a loyal following, TikTok’s “For You” algorithm meant treating every piece of content as a first introduction to a new audience. This fundamental difference necessitated a fresh content strategy, focusing on creating stand-alone pieces that could independently attract viewers.

“We had to spend time…to basically unlearn all of the behaviors that made [coaches] successful on Instagram… most videos… are an entirely different audience every time.”

Ladder’s paid strategy on TikTok was equally innovative. They employ a web funnel, directing users from TikTok to a web-based quiz. This funnel not only helped in identifying user preferences early in the interaction but also optimized their ad spend by providing immediate, actionable insights into their audience’s behavior. 

Key lessons from Ladder’s growth

Ladder’s remarkable growth highlights the importance of adaptability and keen market awareness. Their strategic shift during COVID-19, responsive pricing model, and innovative TikTok marketing approach underline the effectiveness of customer-focused product development and the savvy use of emerging social media channels. This approach not only propelled them from zero to $1M ARR but also fueled a significant 500% growth in 2023.

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