Growth hacking is everywhere at the moment and whilst it’s dismissed by some as nothing more than a buzzword by some, it actually has a lot of value for any business that isn’t afraid of thinking outside the box a little.
The way that we conduct business and consume media has changed forever. First, the internet changed it and then social media took hold and altered it beyond all recognition. This has meant a couple of things – firstly, that the consumer now has more power than the corporation or the marketer/advertiser and secondly, that we now consume media in a way that we never have before.
The business that attempts to hold on to tried and trusted marketing techniques that have been around for decades, is the one that will stagnate. It’s necessary now to throw out everything you think you knew and to adopt some modern techniques for creating a great product that people want.
Product/Market Fit is Key
This is the main premise of growth hacking. It’s not about creating a product and then marketing the hell out of it, it’s about creating a great product/market fit and then applying techniques for growth.
Growth hacking is not a substitute for digital marketing, although it does use techniques from the discipline. It’s a term that describes a collection of techniques that can be applied to boost growth.
Growth hacking also utilises tools and it’s important to be able to use business intelligence tools such as analytics to further develop and grow by reimagining your approach on a continuous basis.
6 Steps to Growth Hacking Success
Quick Sprout’s Neil Patel wrote the Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking along with Bronson Taylor and it’s a must-read for anyone interested in the subject. They set out six checklist items that must be carried out if you’re to have any success at all with the techniques.
- 1. Define actionable goals
- 2. Implement analytics to track goals
- 3. Leverage existing strengths
- 4. Execute experiment
- 5. Optimise experiment
- 6. Repeat
So firstly, when it comes to defining your goals, keep it simple and ensure that it’s “a narrow, actionable goal” so that you retain your focus. As Neil points out, whilst your overall goal is growth, this needs to be broken down so that it’s not quite so broad. So think about what you want/need to achieve first – is it more traffic? If so then make sure you don’t think in broad terms and define exactly how much traffic you want to gain – remember also to be realistic in your goals.
It’s not much use having goals and setting them if you don’t have any way to measure them. Use Google Analytics and other business intelligence tools to help you to achieve your goals and ensure that you look at all of the relevant metrics and set goals accordingly.
For example, if you’ve launched a huge social media campaign and you want to see how much traffic you’re getting from it, these can easily be measured in analytics and you can further tweak campaigns and meet influencers by using third party or social networking site analytics too.
Get to know Google Analytics properly, it’s your friend and one that’s going to be highly useful in the months and years to come.
I’m not going to go into any detail on the other steps – you can read that particular section in Neil’s book here, so let’s have a look at other techniques you can adopt after you have carried out the first six recommended steps.
Proven and Effective Growth Hacks
There are a few proven hacks that you can use to help to grow your business, the first of which was made famous by none other than Facebook. Sometimes it can be difficult to reach the market that you want and so in order to do so, you go for an adjacent market in order to stimulate the demand from the target market.
For example, Facebook did this by targeting schools in the vicinity of those that already had their own social networks. This meant that those using their schools own social networks would have friends in nearby schools that were using Facebook and inevitably, they adopted it and it grew in popularity until it pushed the school’s own network out of play.
Simple social proof at work – if your mates have it, you want it, especially when you’re that age. Job done.
Referrals and Rewards
Everybody loves getting something for nothing, so why not utilise that and come up with something that your customers can get if they refer a friend? It could be a month’s free subscription or a single product as a gift; whatever it is, make it valuable and it will work.
Take Dropbox for example, one of the greatest growth hack companies out there when it comes to the business model and simplicity. Dropbox uses more growth hacks in addition to this, but one of the reasons for its success is due to how users get more free space the more people that they invite.
It’s worked for me, I have lots of free space on my account now and use it daily.
Dropbox is also famous for its minimalistic landing page which allows people the ability to evaluate the product very quickly and sign up instantly.
Waiting Lists and Beta Testers
Waiting lists create a buzz around a product that can be very useful in terms of how much they grow your email list and your reputation. Waiting for something to go live online, or for an app to launch, also gives a certain amount of social proof, especially for those who get it first as it’s rolled out.
For example, J K Rowling’s Pottermore created a huge buzz before it actually launched as it had a waiting list that would only accept so many and once it was full, tough luck (for a while anyway). I also seem to remember that it also couldn’t cope with the huge amounts of traffic it generated once it actually launched. It was an ideal candidate for that particular growth hack, especially as it was set up by the author herself, rather than a fan.
Invites for beta testing are also great for creating a buzz, especially since those that manage to become a tester are often so gleeful that they’ve been ‘chosen’ that they market the product/site all over the place for nothing.
Glitz, Glamour … Flop
And therein lies the crux of growth hacking. It’s not like the huge launch, throw-enormous-wads-of-cash-at-it usual approach to marketing, it’s clever and it’s savvy and uses techniques that essentially mean that your customers are driving the marketing machine forward, rather than money.
One of my favourite analogies that I’ve come across when reading into growth hacking is from Ryan Holiday, author of Growth Hacker Marketing. He likened the usual marketing machine to a Hollywood movie launch – all glitz and glamour that’s had humungous amounts of cash thrown at it, often just before it falls flat on its face because it doesn’t fit the market well.
Yes, you can spend amazing amounts of cash on various advertisements, PR campaigns etc., but there’s nothing to say you have to. In fact, you’re just wasting your money if you don’t have good product/market fit, so why not look at the modern way of doing things and enable high growth whilst retaining enough cash to keep the momentum going?
Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Airbnb … all of these started from very little and experienced high growth without the need for the glitzy launch or indeed huge amounts of cash at all.
Users, Virility and Growth
Growth hacking relies on users, virility and the ability to gain more users quickly thanks to savvy ways of using actionable data to set goals and achieve them. It is an ongoing discipline as the goals are constantly redefined in order to ensure that they continue to fit the market and give the consumer what they want.
Growth hackers use email, social media, SEM/SEO, digital marketing and analytics (amongst other things) to get what they want. They don’t use things like commercials and PR campaigns and they have the ability to take something and make it into nothing, whilst all the time constantly redefining the product and gaining more and more users.
More on Virility
Many people think that when something goes viral it’s simply a happy accident. In many cases this simply isn’t true – virility is something that’s engineered by clever people who know very well what it is the consumer wants – these people are growth hackers.
Sure, some video clips of teenage lads pulling stupid stunts will capture the imagination and sometimes goes viral accidently, but if you stop to think about the sheer volume of teenagers who film themselves doing something silly, then it’s easy to get it into perspective properly. There’s a science to going viral and growth hackers know how to use it.
So if you’re thinking about trying growth hacking, first do a lot of reading and teach yourself the essentials. Be good at everything digital for a start, you will need to encompass every resource that you can online to be a success.
Then, think about these things:
- Make a product people absolutely want
- Set goals and act on early feedback
- Start small and work up
- Teach your customers to use the product so that they will pass the knowledge on
- Encourage sharing wherever possible
- Make them wait or give them an incentive
- Encourage virility
- Repeat, refine and improve on every step, repeatedly
Remember to use email marketing, A/B testing for your landing pages and any techniques that you feel could really encourage take-up. Hotmail was an early adopted of growth hacking with its simple invitation to sign up at the bottom of an email – it doesn’t have to be uber techy, it just has to be effective.
Remember growth hacking is about strategy – get it right and you could be well on the way to success.