The lifeblood of start-ups is action and speed. Without quick and significant growth, start-ups are destined to fail.
The need for speed shaped a new breed of marketers. During 2010, Sean Ellis dubbed this new breed, Growth Hackers.
Today, growth hacking extends beyond hungry start-ups. Growth hackers are present in all industries, propelling companies from stagnation to growth, and adoption by the masses.
Why is someone described as a growth hacker?
Sean put it best when he said a growth hacker is “a person whose true north is growth.”
A growth hacker is singularly focused on growth, specifically fast growth. There are no other metrics to track if a business fails because of a lack of growth. A growth marketer is driven, passionate about results (and ideally the product) and accountable for those results.
What is Growth Hacking?
Growth hacking is simply an experiment-driven strategy, designed to discover the most effective methods to grow a business quickly. The process combines marketing, development, engineering, data, design and analytics. It is a mindset as well as a strategic approach.
A growth hacker won’t rely on and often won’t even use conventional wisdom or processes. Creativity and innovation drive the process. The necessity to generate quick results and keep costs low are the core characteristics that drive a growth-hacking strategy.
To describe a growth hacker succinctly: all he or she does is for the singular goal of fast growth.
What Growth Hacking Is Not
Unethical and illegal are words often floated in conversations about growth hacking. Those who join the conversation without a solid understanding of the concept have perpetuated this misperception.
Growth hacking is neither unethical nor illegal.
Since growth hacking is a data-driven strategy, marketers are held to truth and transparency.
As defined by Merriam Webster, a hack is a clever tip or technique for doing or improving something. “Hack” has become part of the standard vernacular today: life hacks, work hacks, marketing hacks. Growth hackers personify clever methods to improve growth
Who is A Growth Hacker?
A growth hacker isn’t necessarily a marketer. He or she may be an engineer, a student or even a tech enthusiast with a passion for making things happen. It is someone who is original, creative, clever and driven. Complacency is not in the nature of a true growth hacker.
Technical Skills Needed for Growth Hacking
Statistics: Data drives their strategy and success. Basic knowledge of statistics is beneficial to growth-hacking marketers.
Data Modeling: Data, without organization, visualization and insight, is useless. Learning to model data, either with platforms designed specifically for this task or simply in Excel, is a skill that will make a growth hacker’s work easier.
Programming/Coding: Growth hackers don’t need to be able to program in every language and become an overnight techie. They can work quicker and more efficiently, however, if they are able to perform some basics, such as building split tests, adding pixels, troubleshooting basic glitches, etc.
Scraping: The Internet is a wealth of information and resources. Scraping content is an efficient method to harness the power of that information.
Mission Critical for Start-ups
Fast growth that is sustainable advances start-ups from obscurity to mainstream. It gives them life.
Sustainability is not lost on these fast-paced strategists. They are even aware of the growth hacks who create the original growth must outpace churn to sustain the initial growth and propel the start-up to maturity.
While growth hacks need to focus on leading the masses to the product – it means nothing if churn outpaces growth.
How do you generate the buzz, attract the masses and keep the masses in today’s crowded marketplace?
- It starts before you even begin. Before you take any other action, determine with certainty you have a product people want. To ensure your product will attract interest, start with feedback on your idea. Before you even produce the product, validate it. If you already have a product, then ask for feedback now and make any necessary alterations. All of the growth hacking in the world won’t help you if your product experience is unsatisfactory.
- Next, the product must be as good as consumers expect – or a novel concept even better! Gone are the days when fancy marketing campaigns and hype mask the mediocrity of a product. Today’s sophisticated consumers, with louder voices, more buying power and higher standards will tell everyone about a dud – loudly and publicly.
- Develop an in-depth profile of your ideal customer. Dig deep. Be granular. Know him or her thoroughly: likes and dislikes, pain points, motivators, social media activity and content consumption. Then, it is easier to craft a message that will engage him or her and generate interest.
- Start creating and distributing content and, ideally, a freebie (a PDF book or guide, a video with insider tips, etc.) to generate some buzz and offer something of value. When you laser-target your audience and put quality content in front of it, when you quickly follow up with your offer, members of your target audience will be more receptive to it.
- Make it easy for your audience and customers to spread the word. Look at Facebook as an example – it is always showing possible connections and sharing your network’s activities. Facebook makes it easy for you to find and connect with people and engage via meaningful content. Identify how you can build that into your product and/or experience. Use incentives to motivate your audience further.
- Focus on the entire customer experience, from first glance through consumption of the product. Create tutorials, how-tos and other content to connect with customers and create a smoother experience for them.
- Focus on retention. If you lose too many customers, then your growth-hacking efforts will only replace the lost customers.
- Continuously growth hack, creating exponential growth.
Growth Hacking Process Overview
Why Growth Hacking?
Entering a market that isn’t competitive won’t produce big results. To win big, you have to play big, which means entering a crowded, noisy and competitive market. To gain traction quickly and grab your market share, you must move fast. You have a small window to make things happen if your business is to survive.
Growth hacking moves you there quickly. Your only goal is to find affordable, scalable strategies to attract more users. All other distractions should be ignored.
Another great explanation of growth hacking, from Sean Ellis, “Experimentation across the full customer journey to accelerate customer and revenue growth.”
Rapid-fire experiments, when initiated with proper tracking and good data analysis, allow you to remove quickly what isn’t working and scale up what is.
The obvious strategic plays, such as SEO, PPC, paid social, email marketing, content marketing, joint ventures, affiliates and competitor analysis, are the foundation of your efforts. Keep in mind that Google receives 100 billion searches every month, or an average of 40,000 searches every second. Focus on SEO and you can benefit from this huge amount of traffic. Unlike a standard marketing approach, you don’t stop there. Being creative and exploring other tactics can lead to some real magic.
Some strategies that have proven effective:
- Emphasize FOMO: The “fear of missing out” is the greatest motivator for humans. Generate some healthy FOMO in your prospects. Create an invite-only group or exclusive product access to generate buzz and genuine interest.
- Host or attend events: Network and generate in-person excitement for your product. Consider attending events in adjacent markets to find more of your audience.
- Guest post: Publishing content on relevant, high-trafficked sites is a great way to generate exposure and you also benefit from implied credibility. When a blog owner publishes content, his or her credibility is passed to you.
- Send gifts: Identify highly targeted prospects and use gifts to be noticed.
- Offer discounts: Don’t devalue your offering by discounting immediately. Find beta testers and give them a deep discount or even a free version.
- Repurpose content: Don’t recreate the wheel. Repurpose content to save time.
- Use Quora: Answer questions, become a helpful resource and generate awareness about your product.
- Recruit Influencers: Finding the right influencers in a market can result in a massive influx of new business, often overnight.
- Check out HARO: Look for opportunities to provide information to reporters and to generate some exposure.
- Create a referral program: Incentivize customers to refer their family and friends. The double referral is always popular. They receive something of value for referrals, and they, in turn, receive a discount or freebie for accepting the referral.
- Do the unexpected: Send a gift or a valuable insider tip or share content that was gated previously. Surprise people and their instinct to repay the favor will make them more receptive to your offer.
- Build trust: Use social proof, testimonials, reviews and any other available tools to demonstrate the quality of your product and the value of associating with your company.
- Loyalty program: The better the loyalty program, the more likely participating customers will share their experiences and perceptions. People love sharing when they earn points or freebies.
- Create urgency: Give your potential customers a reason to act, NOW.
- Go Freemium: Start with a free, limited version to attract consumers to your offer and then offer upgrades for more advanced features.
- Swipe files and resources: Review content in your swipe file and any other resources for quick ideas.
- Use an Empathy Map or Customer Persona: Identify the thoughts, pain points, feelings and interests of your audience to create more compelling ads, blog posts, emails and Website content. The content should paint a very strong and clear picture of the problems your target audience face and the solution(s) your product offers. Tell a story in which they visualize themselves – they are more likely to relate and respond.
- Create an Infographic: According to 3M, visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text and 65% of people are visual learners, according to the Social Science Research Network. Both compelling reasons to create infographics to share your story. Build a strong narrative, based on facts and data. Guide the reader from one point to the next, culminating in a simple, but effective, conclusion.
- Join social groups: Create profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, forums and online communities to answer questions and offer solutions based on your ideal audience. Self-promotion won’t usually fly in these groups, however if you are authoritative and helpful, then you can still attract customers.
- Use push notifications: Use browser or app push notifications to communicate and engage with prospects.
- Use tech: Try exit pops and various other tools to capture leads and build your mailing list. Use automation to keep your prospect engaged. Following up with leads within 5 minutes results in a 9 times greater probability to convert them into paying customers. The case for automation is clear.
- Personalization: Experiment with personalizing content. 78% of consumers say personalized content increases the likelihood of buying from a company. (Source: MarketingInsiderGroup)
- Introduce multimedia: Using videos on landing pages can increase conversions by 86%. ‘Nuff said.
- Split test your messaging: Test on email, landing pages and ads to finetune your messaging and build incremental improvements in your conversion rate. Did you know long landing pages can generate up to 220% more leads than landing pages with above-the-fold CTAs? To determine if this would be beneficial for you, test the concept thoroughly. (Source: Wordstream)
- Analyze data: Find new traffic opportunities and learn more about your audience and how you can convert them. Determine which sections of your page they are viewing. Study the links they click in emails. Mine data from all possible sources.
Innovation is key to the success of a growth hacker. Implementing the tried-and-true strategies and constantly testing new tactics will guide you on the path to significant growth for your company. A growth hacker will forge that path, quickly and very intentionally.
The Future of Growth Hacking
As companies adopt digital transformation, and digital normal ensues, the structure and interactions in companies are changing. Product development and marketing teams talk more. IT talks to everyone more. Sales and marketing finally play nicely together.
Growth hacking benefits from the collaboration of departments. While it’s true your dev and engineering teams build and marketers promote – there is learning to be shared on both sides to enhance the product and expand its reach.
As worlds continue to collide and integrate, growth marketers will have increased success. In a larger company with more resources, the power of a growth hacker is multiplied exponentially.
The adoption of growth hacking at the enterprise level is slow in coming, but signs point to greater adoption. What will enterprise marketing look like then? No one knows for sure, but the thought gives me goosebumps.
The introduction of AI, stronger tech and the innovative breed of growth hackers combine for a perfect storm of marketing magic.
Some of the biggest, most well-known companies relied on growth hacking to put them on the map, including Facebook, Dropbox, and Airbnb, to name just a few.
Growth hacking requires innovation, creativity, tools, drive, a strong knowledge of your product and audience and hard work. The payoff is a business that thrives. True growth hacking is a commitment to think outside the box, methodically work strategies until they either succeed or are set aside for more effective alternatives.
A key distinction between a growth hacker and a “normal” marketer is the growth hacker immediately focuses on customer retention. Most marketers focus on creating successful campaigns. The key metric is the return on those campaigns. Growth hackers build retention strategies into the heart of the marketing, ensuring that churn doesn’t undo the benefit of their original efforts.
What is Growth Hacking?
A growth hacker is singularly focused on growth, specifically fast growth. There are no other metrics to track if a business fails because of a lack of growth. A growth marketer is driven, passionate about results (and ideally the product) and accountable for those results. Growth hacking is an experiment-driven strategy, designed to discover the most effective methods to grow a business quickly. The process combines marketing, development, engineering, data, design and analytics. It is a mindset as well as a strategic approach. Statistics: Data drives their strategy and success. Basic knowledge of statistics is beneficial to growth-hacking marketers.Data Modeling: Data, without organization, visualization and insight, is useless. Learning to model data, either with platforms designed specifically for this task or simply in Excel, is a skill that will make a growth hacker’s work easier. Programming/Coding: Growth hackers don’t need to be able to program in every language and become an overnight techie. They can work quicker and more efficiently, however, if they are able to perform some basics, such as building split tests, adding pixels, troubleshooting basic glitches, etc. Scraping: The Internet is a wealth of information and resources. Scraping content is an efficient method to harness the power of that information. Why Growth Hacking? Entering a market that isn’t competitive won’t produce big results. To win big, you have to play big, which means entering a crowded, noisy and competitive market. To gain traction quickly and grab your market share, you must move fast. You have a small window to make things happen if your business is to survive. Growth hacking moves you there quickly. Your only goal is to find affordable, scalable strategies to attract more users. All other distractions should be ignored.