Growth hacking is not just a buzzword

website hacking

Before you roll your eyes at yet another corporate training term, just read and see if this is something that should matter to you. When you read something like “growth hacking” you can see some overexcited guru sat in his room imagining the TED talk that will make him his fortune. Yet, when you get beyond the words – you will see that there is some substance to this methodology to marketing.

What is growth hacking?

Growth hacking is rapid experimentation across the marketing funnel, product development, sales, and other areas of the business. The point of growth hacking is to find the most efficient means by which to grow a business. In marketing this basically means being wholly focused on luring new customers to the brand. Therefore, the emphasis will be on prospecting, rather than maintaining the longevity of the current customer base.

According to Sean Ellis (the man sat in his room dreaming of his TED talk), a growth hacker is “a person whose true north is growth.” He goes onto to say, it is a marketer who has “a burning desire to connect your target market with your must-have solution. Put less poetically, someone interested in getting more rather than garnering the quality of the less. Or, even simpler, someone who wants to sell more products. So, every marketer ever born then.

So, even if growth hacking is probably industry-hype, it has given rise to some interesting strategies that are worth some attention. It might just be “marketing” but this new way of thinking has given birth to some sense of innovation in the way to attract new customers.

How does a growth hacker work in marketing?

One of the key concepts behind growth hacking is experimentation. It is important that development of the product and then the marketing for the product is iterative. This means that the product you first bring to market might not be the end-product. It might be that you release an early version, seek customer experience feedback, learn and then improve for the next release. Marketers need to look at the way that apps are now released to the public to learn the benefit of early prototypes and subsequent update releases.

And here is the key to growth hacking – it takes the marketer out of the boundary of the narrow silo of promotion and brings them into a broader role within a company. It is generally accepted in growth hacking that you cannot hack the growth of a bad product. Therefore, marketers need to have a role in product development too. When the product matures, the marketer then will join the engineers and logistics and the data managers, to work out a systematic way to hack the process to improve the growth. It is not a one-off moment of inspiration – it is an evaluative, repetitive process of growth management.

A simple guide to growth hacking

The reason why growth hacking has caught on is because it prompts rapid growth – with the role-models being Facebook, Uber and Airbnb.

As pointed out already, the first step in growth hacking is having a product or service that is highly hackable. Something that is easy to scale and highly desirable. Therefore, the growth hacker marketer cannot be a pure marketer – they must be willing to dip their toes in other areas of the business. They need to select the company to work with where the product can scale quickly.

The next step to consider in growth hacking is the speed by which word can spread. Bad news about your product will spread more quickly than good news – and will linger far longer. So, the growth hacker marketer needs to be on top of the products strengths and get these out to the audience quickly.

To ensure that you are getting your message out you need to be open to feedback… and to implement what you learn from this feedback… at speed. So, if you learn that some element of your product is difficult for the user – adapt it as soon as you learn this – and then market the upgrade to your market. It is actually a pretty good idea to begin by receiving extensive feedback on your idea and your prototype – rather than spending a year and your budget in development and engineering, only to find your clientele already have a solution to the problem you identified.

One of the easiest growth hack marketing strategies is to give out free copies or free experiences of your product or service. This means you will get valuable feedback with no risk of an upset customer-base. Also, if they like it, then you begin the process of word-of-mouth recommendation before you release your product for real.

Another important growth hack for marketers is to carefully target the most profitable area of the market. This means creating your ideal buyer’s persona – the one where if you put your effort in you would likely get the best results. This might be a small proportion of the wider population of human beings – but it might represent the largest portion of your prospective customers.

Then, you give these new prospects a happy first experience. Once you have acquired their interest, the growth hacker marketer must activate their membership in the company’s community of customers with excellent welcoming copy and a push for them to convert. You then show some interest in retaining them for further purchases, but the true growth hacker will be off after the next potential prospect.

In short

Growth hacking is marketing on steroids. It represents the reality that a marketer can no longer work in isolation to the rest of the company. Product development, engineering, packaging, supply chain, logistics – everything – influences the growth of a product. The marketer needs a handle of the whole life cycle of the product to influence prospects the greatest.