Marketing in the digital era has been marked by the popularization of a new way of thinking about growth. The term growth hacking was coined and it has taken the online marketing sphere by storm. We will look into several fundamental growth hacking strategies in this post, some of which you can hopefully start experimenting with immediately.
Summary: 5 Minutes read, Level: Expert
There is no single definition of the term, but several prominent people in the online marketing community have tried to make one. Neil Patel, in his inimitable way, says that “growth hacking is about getting mad creative to get real results“. This is the essence: a motley band of brave, creative, never before seen marketing strategies and tactics are employed, in the hope of supercharging user acquisition, rapidly building sales volume, etc.
Growth hackers pay little heed to the established order and the traditional corporate ways of doing things. It is also worth noting, before you go down the rabbit hole of growth hacking case studies, that each truly successful growth hacking exercise was innovative, untested and exploited a particular set of circumstances.
Having read the above, you are now fully responsible for not falling for survivorship bias stories and trying to replicate them verbatim in your start-up, because that’s how wannabe marketers fail at growth hacking.
So, the whole idea is to understand these principles which enable these incredible, scalable growth hacks. They are based on understanding the phases of your customer life cycle. Then we get creative, trying to maximize and leverage (i.e. ‘hack’) any and every little thing at our disposal.
Let’s see how a company like Quora uses growth hacking principles in practice. We’ll also use the much-loved ‘Lean’ or AARRR marketing funnel (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenue) to give structure to our review.
Quora is driven by user-generated content. So, it uses every trick in the book to make its existing users be its best ambassadors: share buttons everywhere, mechanics to get famous Quorans to answer your questions, etc. They also structured their entire website to perfectly satisfy Google’s indexing algorithm: everything is a human readable question with multiple answers, as well as being heavily inter-linked and shared on social networks. It’s perfect.
Think of this growth hacking strategy as using any means necessary to piggyback your user acquisition efforts. Growth hacking in this phase will usually mean a novel technological solution or a new way to utilize a known facet of human condition (i.e. we are all full of hubris and love to share our accomplishments with friends).
Activating casual users means setting them on the path towards becoming your customers. It means getting people to register, start posting, etc. In Quora’s case, they have used gamification to turn every action on their platform into a good-natured competition – from user profiles, to dashboards, to comment scoring.
Think of activation growth hacks in terms of what value you can offer to the people, so that they start using what you’re offering. Framing it as a massive win for them helps very much. Keep in mind that some tactics in this phase are scalable (you can give everyone a free 30-day trial), but some are not (you can hand-craft invitations for VIP-level access to your platform and do guided tours for influencers), so take note of the effort involved and estimated ROI.
This is where the wheat is separated from chaff and start-up marketers tend to fail. Retention is focused on keeping people coming back for more of what you’ve got to offer. To do that, you must creatively construct a win-win scenario for you and your user. One of Quoras growth hacking strategies is to provide advanced email automation in place to remind its users to visit, as well as various behavioural bells and whistles to make each user feel appreciated and useful.
Again, growth hacking retention is about figuring out the most effective, scalable ways to provide long-term value to your customers. Letting users collect points for regular use (any mobile game) or making their profiles beautiful and useful (LinkedIn), or reminding them what they’ve been missing (Twitter’s ICYMI) come to mind.
The most famous story about referral growth hacking comes from the prehistoric period of the Internet. Hotmail, while still a start-up, decided to add a call-to-action to get a free email address at the end of every outgoing email sent by its users. Their rise was meteoric, and we haven’t looked back since. Quora lets you invite other people to answer a particular question as well as easily share answer pages, which then serve as referral traffic generators.
Happy users mean referrals. Growth hacking this principle means understanding what makes us humans tick and finding a novel way to use this. We all want to be seen by our friends as smart, funny and successful, and we love to get free stuff for referring people to something we think they might like. Pair these two together and you’ve got the elements for most referral strategies out there.
If you want to use growth hacking strategies to boost your revenue curve, you’ve got it made. This takes careful thought and is often a combination of marketing and sales efforts. Quora isn’t famous for its revenue yet, but it’s clearly setting up the stage to capitalize on the world’s best database of answers and the immense traffic its getting. Selling contextual, high quality advertising inventory at a premium seems a safe bet for them.
Growth hacking revenue usually means hitting on a cultural nerve, becoming ‘viral’ for some reason and snowballing from there. It’s incredibly hard to do, but not impossible, as the famous case of Dollar Shave Club shows. Other than being a comedic genius, you can try various formats of Early Access to your service or product which you can then charge for, like Valve does for video games on their platform, Steam.
The world of digital marketing is awash with fancy buzzwords, but growth hacking is not one of them. Growth hacking is narrow, methodological digital marketing that breaks down the intricacies of your digital marketing strategy on a micro scale, rather than a traditional macro, all-round marketing strategy.