While some old-school methods should still play a part in modern marketing strategies, growth hacking has become the essential next step for any business that hopes to stand out from the crowd.
But what exactly is growth hacking? How does it work, and can it really make a difference to your business success?
Here are a few tips to help bring you up to speed with this 21st century marketing must-have, and help you develop a winning growth-hacking strategy for your brand.
Origins of growth hacking
As a concept, growth hacking originally emerged in the early 2010s as a counterbalance to marketing. Rather than marketing, growth hackers were tasked with one thing: growth. Exponential growth. Viral growth. Valuable growth.
Probably the most comprehensive explanation of the term comes from the guys at Quicksprout who have created a whole growth hacking guide.
Sean Ellis gives us a great example of the tensions that exist between marketing and growth hacking:
A growth hacker is not a replacement for a marketer. A growth hacker is not better than marketer. A growth hacker is just different than a marketer. It’s a person whose true north is growth.
Since those early days, the term growth hacking has been used to describe a wide range of marketing tactics and strategies. Some of it more accurate than others, the consensus is that growth hacking is a data-oriented approach to marketing that primarily focuses on growth.
In the spirit of creative inspiration, this post will help marketers adopt some of the tactics and ideas behind growth hacking, but I am afraid it probably won’t change you into a growth hacker (yet)….But even if you just take a few things away from growth hacking for now, you will dramatically improve your marketing strategy.
Adopt the growth hacker mentality
As the name suggests, growth-hacking is all about accelerating the growth of your business. Yet, while this is of course an objective of any marketer, for a growth hacker it is their sole focus. This means that every tactic employed as part of a growth-hacking strategy will be chosen specifically to achieve a particular objective, as part of an overarching endeavor to boost your business growth as a whole.
This extreme focus is the reason growth-hacking is so effective; no resources are wasted on secondary goals, and nothing is permitted to distract from the primary aim.
And naturally, in today’s high-powered, hyper-automated digital world, your idea has to be ironclad if you want to stay a step ahead of your competitors.
Of course, this is not to say that there are no other factors to consider when building your marketing strategy. However, in the early days of your business, few things are as valuable as expanding your reach, and generating high quality, convertible leads.
One key area of improvement for most businesses will be automation — especially sales automation. Sales processes can and should be automated to ensure a steady influx of leads. It’s never a good idea to let conversations go cold when you’ve got a growing business on your hands.
Create an awesome product
It will be a lot easier to market something that’s awesome… so why don’t you start there?
Growth hacking works by finding ways that a product or service can market itself, encouraging users not only to engage with your brand, but to spread the word on your behalf.
This means offering something valuable, actionable, and shareable, and then making it visible to your audience of choice.
Get early adopters to share your product or service with others, and keep improving the user experience with each iteration.
- API integration is a great way to quickly launch your product into an existing app or software ecosystem (PieSync might help here).
- Try to build sharing into your product or service (think referrals and invite codes — super easy to do with modern tech).
Work towards tangible objectives
As with all marketing techniques, successful growth hacking requires careful planning, and precision execution. This means setting your targets, budget, and schedule, then breaking these down into actionable, manageable objectives.
For example, a one-year plan could include transitory targets such as:
- A 20 % boost in web traffic by the end of the month.
- Retarget and convert 10 bounced visitors.
- Generate 100 fresh leads from social media content by X date
As each goal will require specific strategies to achieve, this enables your marketing team to pinpoint their efforts, securing the desired results quickly and effectively. In addition to making the task at hand less daunting, these milestones allow you to track progress and adjust your strategy far more effectively.
There is nothing wrong with setting ambitious targets, as long as you are prepared to learn from your mistakes, and develop a flexible strategy that can be continuously optimized as your knowledge increases.
Growth hacking doesn’t necessarily stop at marketing — it should also be factored into product development and financial planning.
- Instead of delaying a product launch until next year, why not do a soft, beta launch to a group of VIPs?
- Instead of agonizing over perfecting your brand, why not invest in a website and get out there fast, constantly shifting and re-iterating your brand and products based on user feedback?
Growth hack your funnel
To achieve growth, your business needs to draw potential customers down the marketing and sales funnels, moving them seamlessly and efficiently from their first interaction with your brand, to becoming a regular user or customer. To do this, you need to ensure that your campaign targets each level of the funnel effectively.
Use great marketing content, word of mouth, and social media outreach to secure visitors. Develop high-quality landing pages, and engaging on-site content to convert leads. Engage regularly with customers, respond to feedback, and remain accountable, in order to retain customers, and build your brand’s reputation.
Once you’ve secured those leads, and guided them successfully down the funnel, the final goal is to keep them engaged. This not only enables you to secure repeat business, but it also means they are more likely to share and engage with your content, and recommend your business to others.
Awareness of your funnel, and its success at each stage, will help you to identify weaknesses in your campaign and improve it accordingly.
Work with your audience
Your audience is, of course, critical to the success of your growth hacking campaign. As growth hacks tend to capitalize on the power of social proof, a captive audience is undeniably valuable, and can vastly accelerate the growth of your business.
To market effectively to the right people, you will have to do some research, not only on the sort of people most likely to be interested in your product, but also where, when, and how to reach them. This will enable you to create an impactful brand identity, and create structured content designed to be useful and interesting to your target audience.
Guest post on authoritative websites to reach established audiences. Social media management platform, Buffer, secured its first paying customer in just four days; a mere three years later they reached 1 million users. Part of the company’s success has been attributed to founder Leo Widrich’s avid guest posting.
Incentivize sharing. This can mean creating a referral program, such as Trello’s system, which offers temporary access to premium features for each person referred. Equally, your product may incentivize sharing simply through its own functionality. For example, Facebook is more beneficial to the user if the people they want to connect with are also on Facebook. This encourages them to invite friends and family to sign up for the service themselves. (This was also the thinking behind Hotmail in its early days, and why Apple includes ‘Sent from my iPhone’ in every email).
Create engaging video content. Video has become a powerhouse of marketing potential, capitalizing on the growing preference for easy-access visual content. Consider the success of e-commerce startups such as Dollar Shave Club, which ran out of stock within just six hours of launching their marketing video. The entertainment value of the advert made it inherently shareable, while the innovative idea behind the business gave it the weight required to convert viewers into customers.
This is where customer analytics come into play. Start up-friendly and scalable email automation tools like Moosend are a godsend when it comes to creating customer funnels that make the most of your database. Add in a website behavior tool like Hotjar, and you will have loads of ammo for creating personalized and engaging marketing campaigns.
Data helps you grow
Scalability is key, as the faster you can respond to an increase in demand for your products or services, the greater freedom you have to use growth hacks to their fullest potential. To keep track of your success, and be sure you are able to keep pace with your rate of growth, it is vital to remain up to speed with your core business statistics.
While customer feedback, and other qualitative data is undeniably valuable, growth hacking primarily leverages quantitative data to secure success. After all, you first need to build your customer base before you can learn their thoughts. Analytics tools and platforms need to inform and steer all crucial business decisions — data insights are at the heart of any growth hacking campaign.
These insights not only enable you to highlight where your campaign is succeeding and where it needs work, but also help you to improve your understanding of your audience as a whole. Over time, this will allow you to make better decisions and develop even more effective growth hacking strategies.
While some products are more naturally suited to growth hacking strategies, with a little creative thinking, and willingness to take a chance on an innovative idea, you can give your business a valuable boost in those make or break months following its launch.