With so much competition whether online or offline, growing your small business can be a huge struggle. This is the reason why a lot of startups love growth hacking – because beating a huge competition and converting their users into yours takes a lot of effort.
Exactly what is growth hacking and how does it help increase your small business’s market reach? Let’s take a look at the definition and the advantages that it can provide when it comes to growing your business.
What is Growth Hacking?
The term growth hacker was first mentioned by Sean Ellis back in 2010 when he started becoming frustrated about finding someone to replace him.
Sean has been helping out internet companies grow their user bases and he would set up systems, processes and mindsets that could still be maintained even if he left. Unfortunately, when he started looking for a replacement, he found out that the strategies that he used were not the ones that the usual marketers were used to.
Traditional marketers had skills that were not exactly what startups needed, especially during the earlier phases. Building and managing a marketing team was not yet necessary and neither was managing outside vendors or creating marketing plans that would help achieve corporate objectives. During these early phases, startups need someone who could help their company grow.
Needless to say, a growth hacker is not one who is better than a marketer. They are not a replacement nor do they have different jobs. As Sean Ellis perfectly defined, a growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Every decision made by this person is aimed towards the goal of sustainable growth.
Growth Hacking versus Marketing
In the traditional sense, the product team and those who would look for new users for the products work separately. However, these two seemingly very different worlds have started colliding: coders are starting to learn how to provide excellent customer experience while the marketing people have to learn the more technical aspects of a product.
A lot of experts regard growth hackers as a cross between a marketer and a coder: someone who would constantly ask themselves how they could get more customers for their products. As an overview, growth hackers constantly drown themselves in A/B tests, landing pages, email deliverability, viral factor and Open Graphs.
The role of a growth hacker is most often employed by startup companies due to the lack of resources. But, it is predicted to infiltrate the marketing department, especially in Fortune 500 companies, in the years to come.
The Myths about Being a Growth Hacker
As it is a newly coined word, there have been a lot of myths as to what growth hacking really is. Let us try to debunk these myths one by one.
- It requires one to know how to code.
While we did mention that the role of coders and marketers have been slowly merging over the years, it is not to say that the one job has taken over the other. Knowing how to code is not a requirement but it certainly is a big plus especially since in the startup world, resources are limited.
Growth hackers can have a meeting with the front-end developer and the back-end developer and discuss with them the events in their site that he wants to keep track of: sign-ups, referrals, interactions and so on. He leaves the coding to the expert and, after a few weeks of implementation, he analyzes the data and comes up with a good funnel to increase the signup conversion rate. The front-end developer can tweak and make the signup copy more beautiful on the site to help further increase the rate.
Essentially, the entire team is responsible for hacking their business’s growth but it was the growth hacker, who had no coding background, who fueled it.
- Growth hacking is off limits to traditional marketers.
Many people would think that the job a growth hacker and a marketer are different when they really are somehow the same.
What makes them different is that a growth hacker is really just focused on growth alone while a traditional marketer may have other roles to fulfill. What traditional marketers need to do is simply focus their efforts toward the growth of their business alone by implementing analytics to help them figure out how their audience behaves. Marketers are actually the strongest candidates when it comes to becoming a growth hacker – they simply have to strengthen their analytical and technical skills.
- You will have to be unethical to be a growth hacker.
When you are extremely focused on achieving a certain goal (which is to grow your business), there are many situations where the decisions we make no longer satisfy the best interest of other people.
There has been bad light towards growth hacking due to some unethical practices made by other businesses but here’s the thing: as long as you are building harmless features in your products or services and are getting it to the public through various distribution channels, there is no harm to it. It is simply being smart instead of unethical.
What a Growth Hacker Really Is
1. Growth hackers love analytics.
Analytics is considered the lifeblood of a growth hacker as it is where most, if not all, of their decisions are based from. How do they use these data to figure out how to grow their business?
- Analytics show the real thing. Is the new feature in your product or website giving decent return on investment? Did the users really use it? Did it help increase conversion and sales? Did it drive away people away from the website?
- Analytics help figure out what to focus on. Implementing systems with tracking on your products and services or in certain pages in your website, you find out how effective the entire process really is – or not. Your team is able to find out which features in the site you could focus your efforts on so that you can improve it even more.
- Analytics show what the future holds. It is difficult to predict the future. A lot of companies right now make guesses about their competitors, the market and their audience but with no clear data to backup such assumptions. However, the charts will show where the line is going towards and this makes figuring out what could most likely happen in the future much easier.
2. They are also right-brained.
Although growth hackers love analytics, it must never be forgotten that they are actually right-brained people. What does this mean? These people do not necessarily follow through a guide or an outline full of procedures or they would have been better off as a manager.
Instead, these people think outside of the box and come up with new procedures and ways to achieve their goals, even if these techniques are unheard of or are way beyond the norm. It is their curiosity that pushes them forward and they try out things without fear, even if they are deemed stupid or dumb by the majority.
3. They are obsessive with results.
A successful strategy does not necessarily mean that it would remain that way for a long time. They can leverage existing sites and technologies to propel the business forward but it will have a finite lifetime. In addition, they will have to try five, ten, twenty different things but find out that it is actually the 100th tactic that will work on their business.
Growth hackers also keep in mind that one major breakthrough will help them win the game – that will be close to an impossible feat to pull off. Instead, it is the small successes, the wins during the skirmishes, which will help them kill their competition. After all, slow and steady wins the race.
Examples of Successful Growth Hacking Strategies
Still confused about growth hacking? Here are some real life examples in which ethical growth hacking strategies were used to grow a business:
A brilliantly thought-of growth hack is that of Dropbox. How do you get more people to use Dropbox? Sean Ellis decided that the best way to do it would be to give incentives to people if they share the service with friends and followers. Once other people sign up through them, they get extra free storage in exchange.
AirBnB is also considered as the poster child of growth hacking and for good reason. While the idea of having spare bedrooms rented out to strangers was great, convincing people to use their technology instead of what was already available was difficult.
To do this, they made use of the existing technology, Craigslist, to help increase their user base. AirBnB gave users an option to post their listings in Craigslist thus providing inbound links to the user’s listing and AirBnB itself. Craiglist has fixed this vulnerability and AirBnB has since removed that feature but they did get a lot of user to switch to them because of that impressive hack.
The secret to implementing a successful strategy is to figure out where potential users are gathering online and come up with a creative, and ideally automated, way to reach them. The free attraction strategy clearly works so figure out what value you can provide to your customers because they can attract a following both online and offline.
Dodocase, a company that provides those beautiful iPad cases, started out by handing postcards that contain coupon codes to people who were waiting in line for the first edition iPad in the Apple stores at major cities. They simply spent $500 on marketing and provided commissions to the people they hired over Craigslist.
Learning How to Hack Your Business’s Growth
A lot of small businesses and startups online are already learning several growth hacking strategies that they can use to their advantage. It does not necessarily take an extremely technical person or someone with a marketing degree to do it.
Take blogs for example. Aside from their social media followers, one of a blog’s biggest digital assets is their email list. But, how does a blog convince people to give them personal information such as their email addresses? The answer is quite simple: provide them with an incentive to sign up such as an email course, bonus content, a video or access to an exclusive social media group.
By employing such a strategy, blog owners are able to increase their audience exponentially – and they can do so by automating the entire process, too. In addition, the people who have signed up to join their list are guaranteed to be genuinely interested in what the blog has to offer and they will even be more interested should you give them more similar content. Building an email list makes selling products or services in the future much easier.
Growth hacking strategies usually differ from business to business but if you try to learn from the experts, you will soon figure out that these hackers actually follow through a common funnel.
- Get visitors.
A lot of newbies would think that getting a visitor to visit your site is a measure of success. It is actually just the start of the entire process. You simply cannot rely on a one-time thing; you need to convert them into loyal followers by putting them on the email list, making them a member of the site or having them purchase something.
- Activate members.
Turning members into actual users is even harder. You cannot keep them as passive members for long because then it would be a waste of your resources. Figuring out how to make them use your products or services, and a regular one at that, is the next big step.
- Retain users.
Keeping your user base loyal is yet another huge undertaking for a growth hacker and they constantly need to come up with new tactics and innovations that will help make these current users remain loyal to the business.
It can take a while to figure out what your audience really wants but as long as you are laser-focused on your business goals, it should not be long to find out a growth hacking strategy that will bring success to your small business.