Growth Hacking is using low-cost alternatives to traditional marketing. What you are growing can be enquiries, signups, sales, retention or some other measurable quantity that matters most to your company. The low cost aspect is particularly applicable for many New Businesses that don’t have significant budget to compete in the advertising space.
While I provide some examples of growth hacking, there’s no magic formula or ‘silver bullet’. For maximum effectiveness, you should innovate growth hacks and tailor them to your specific situation. That’s the reason why growth hacks tend to be of more value than old fashioned marketing. You are competing with far fewer people or ideally no one using the same technique(s). Also, techniques suitable for you usually aren’t as easy to action or viable for your competitors.
We live in a time where traditional marketing is being diluted by more and more channels, competition, people turning off attention and disabling via ad blockers. Advertising channels are increasingly becoming bid-driven causing cash-rich startups to spend on ads at any cost to try to quickly acquire customers. You can’t and shouldn’t try should compete with them. It’s instead necessary to find other ways to cause growth through leveraging existing mechanisms and/or creating new mechanisms if they don’t already exist.
Growth hacking isn’t an activity solely performed by marketers in your organisation. Instead product managers, developers and engineers should participate to devise, less expensive, longer term mechanisms for growth. The ‘longer term’ aspect is important because, done well, growth hacking is unlike advertising in that it can sustain for a long time without a continual injection of money.
Here, I give some examples for growth hacking. However, as I previously mentioned, you need to think hard to innovate growth hacks tailored to your particular situation.
Create Separate Information Sites
Create a place people go to get information about your particular industry or technology. Think in terms of a directory, blog, wiki or interactive tool. Thread in links to your main site that needs to get the traffic. Also promote your competitors. I have used this technique again and again over the years.
When I sold apps, I created various app directories. The sites and my blog became my sole source of leads. One directory site became so popular that Casio ended up paying me to run it.
Today I maintain bluetoothle.wiki that I point people to when I don’t have the time to fully explain concepts but it’s also the 2nd site, after Google, that brings in traffic to Beaconzone. Much of the software you need for such sites is available as open source or for a small cost via sites such as CodeCanyon.
Provide Something that Potential Customers Need with Your Offering
Provide something for free that complements your offering. This might be before purchase or a promise to provide something post-purchase. Pre-purchase can be used to create traffic and there’s some overlap with creating separate information sites (above).
Another more physical example from Edward De Bono’s book Sur/petition: The New Business Formula to Help You Stay Ahead of the Competition, is where he suggested to Ford that they offer free city car parking to their customers.
Experiment With User Interfaces to Impact Discovery and Action
Do you have features you think that people really should be using but aren’t? Are your customers even aware these features exist? Experiment with new user interface flows and buttons in web sites and apps to get direct people to unused, but key, functionality.
Promote Your USP and Reputation at the Point of Sale
At your point of action/sale, try adding simple text, buttons or links to reasons why people should use you and references to customer feedback. Not everyone reads what came before on your main or ‘about’ web pages so provide that extra nudge to get them to commit.
Become a Trusted Authority
Become a trusted authority and influencer in your field. This usually works best if it’s done from a personal rather than company viewpoint. This can include a blog, networking, speaking engagements, stack exchange, social media sites and forums. Also search out specialist groups such as industry associations and standards bodies that you can participate in to gain credibility. Once you have an audience, mention your products/services as examples.
Leverage Customer Feedback to Ease Customers’ Concerns
Your customers and potential customers will nearly always be a better source of ideas for improvement. Consider asking for customer feedback to discover their purchasing concerns and unmet needs. Find out what are the ‘must have’ features for particular types of use. Use this information to try new onboarding or upgrade schemes that ease their concerns.
Try New Channels
Experimenting with channels can be one of the most rewarding growth hacks. Some say that channels can be more important than the product. For example, Theil in his book Zero to One, observes how many offerings end up in the ‘doldrums’:
The book is full of counter-intuitive insights and well worth a read.
A good channel, ideally different to your competitors, can make all the difference. Experiment with different channels such as partnering (get other’s to do the work), offline events, trade shows, affiliate programs, email marketing and publicity stunts.
Try New Types of Content
I have previously written how contemporary marketing revolves around content. While this usually involves a blog, experiment with other, perhaps less obvious, content types such as webinars, videos, podcasts, eBooks, cheat sheets and infographics. Cover topics such as solving problems, general industry issues and case studies.
Improve Retention Through Education
You might be losing people because they don’t understand your product or service. Try to improve retention through the use of product tours, help and wizards.
There’s a strong link between growth hacking and analytics. Growth hacking is much like innovation in general. You have to try lots of ideas until one or more work. The important thing is that you have to know is whether they have worked or not. Hence, it’s important to only create new growth hacking mechanisms for things you can measure.
Think in terms of measurements such as acquisition, sign ups, retention, churn or using features. Try to identify your most important metric. The book Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Morgan Brown and Sean Ellis speaks of a North Star Metric that’s the one that matters most. The book provides additional reading on growth hacking but is oriented more towards larger companies, with growth hacking teams, rather than smaller New Business.
In many organisations, data comes from several sources and can be difficult to analyse. Take time to aggregate, report and display pertinent numbers so it’s easier to regularly measure growth, its contributory factors and the affect of growth hacks.
Some say that you should only do growth hacking when you have determined you have achieved product market fit. Otherwise, you wasting effort trying to grow something that that can never grow. While there’s truth in this, be mindful that there are cases where a growth hack can be the fuel for your initial channel to market when the normal channel is being over used by your competitors.
You should be open to the fact that growth hacks nearly always won’t work. You need lots of them. You also need to remove those that don’t work so that they don’t continue to unnecessarily consume efforts and resource.
When growth hacking, create a list of ideas and rank them. Consider 1) How quick each can be implemented 2) The potential impact of each. Do the most valuable first which are those that can be implemented quickly and have high potential impact.
Innovate new ways of improving a quantifiable, pertinent aspect of your company. Look for unique growth hacks not being used by your competitors. Implement and quantify experiments and remove them if they are not working.
Finally, growth hacking isn’t a one off activity. You will benefit most if it’s an ongoing exercise that evolves together with your offering, your team’s skills and the changing market needs.