In the past few years, the term “growth hacking” has begun to crop up quite frequently in the world of digital marketing. For many the term is one of great mystique, yet just as many are skeptical because the term bares all the hallmarks of being just another marketing buzzword. However, in practice, this is far from the case.
Summary: 5 Minutes read, Level: Advanced
Growth hacking is a fundamental marketing philosophy that has a proven track record of success. This strategy is all about deploying marketing strategies that optimize growth and creating a business model that adapts to this need. There is a constant trial and error process as growth hackers find which marketing techniques deliver the greatest returns.
One of the most famous examples comes in the form of Airbnb, who’s notorious for using Craigslist as a way to fast-track their growth. The Airbnb team used Craiglist’s property listings to find houses for rent and contacted their owners asking to feature their ads on Airbnb. By using the reach of another network the company grew its business model at a staggering pace.
In order to understand growth hacking, you need to understand the role of a growth hacker. A growth hacker is an individual who looks to redefine organizations strategies, tools and processes to provide as much growth as possible. Whether you’re deploying growth hacking in a startup or a multinational corporation, the principle of this philosophy is clear; growth.
Of course digital marketing is all about growth on a large scale, but growth hacking is about securing growth in the very crevices of your marketing strategy. The current digital marketing sector is saturated with competition and growth hacking has been one of the strategies necessary to survive. It’s a sink or swim economy, and only the most efficient internal processes will optimize growth.
As mentioned above, digital marketing and growth hacking bear certain similarities, but they’re separate entities. Growth hacking is geared towards the growth of smaller processes that add up to big overall gains. A growth hacker weighs up every decision based on its ability to increase engagement, conversion rates or retention and will tailor processes accordingly. Whereas digital marketing goals are generally quite broad, a growth hacker will set very specific goals.
For example, a digital marketing goal would be to improve engagement on email marketing. A growth hacker would look at that goal and set a smaller goal like increasing conversion rates by 15%. A growth hacker looks for weaknesses in the sales funnel and meticulously solves each problem one by one. Generally, in digital marketing, the emphasis is on spinning plates and trying to keep a business-wide strategy running.
The key to implementing growth hacking is to start embracing your data in all your decisions. Measure all of your processes and assess where your marketing is strong and where you need improvement. If you have high traffic, but your website isn’t converting, then your growth hacker would look at specific ways to get that figure up. In terms of growth marketing strategy, there is a formula to follow.
Your first port of call is to define a clear and actionable goal. The narrower the goal the better, as broad goals will give you too much to think about it. Of course growth is your aim, but what brings about growth? And how can we measure where your business needs to grow?
Maybe you want to increase your presence on social media. This is quite a broad goal so let’s narrow it down. A better goal would be getting more social media users to engage with your brand. Yet this is still a broad goal. Narrowing this goal down further still we’d end with a goal like increasing our overall shares on social media.
A good goal to set would be to double your social media shares. This gives us a clear target to work towards and allows us to tailor our growth hacking strategy towards one small goal. You can start to create content with call to actions for customers to share on social media and increase your overall shares and thus your visibility on social media. This is much more effective than a broader goal like increasing our social media presence.
It’s pointless having a goal unless you plan to track your progress. After all, if you don’t have specific metrics to point at, you’ll be using guesswork to drive the growth of your business. Employing data analytics to track specific goals enables you to tell where you’re going right and where you need work. For example, if you’re website is getting traffic but your losing visitors on the homepage, then your landing page needs serious work.
Analytics will help you to track your user journeys and see where your digital marketing plan is falling flat. This way if you implement a new landing page with higher quality copy and a clear call to action and 10% more visitors make it through to the contact page, you know that you have made a significant improvement.
Once you’ve given your goals some thought, the next step is to plan what you are going to change to achieve your goals. Again, you don’t need a grand plan, a small simply thought out write up of a minor strategy is all that’s needed to log your method.
If your email conversion rate is poor and you wanted to set up a plan to improve it, you could say that 50% of your new emails would include industry tips, and the other 50% would include sales copy and offers. This preliminary plan would allow you to test the waters and see which email garnered the better response rate. Then if neither garnered an increased response you would know that you either had to refine your approach or ditch them altogether.
After you’ve drawn up a plan it’s time to put it into practice. If you’ve made your goal specific enough and drawn up a clear plan, then this is the stage where you find out whether your work pays off. In most cases, you’ll need to refine your approach several times before you see any significant improvements in growth. Don’t be dissuaded if your growth hacking strategy is stagnant the first couple of times.
After you’ve used your plan, you’ll see how effective your approach has been. As mentioned above, if your growth hacking doesn’t get the results you were expecting, refine your test. Adjust your plan over and over again until you see improvements or you establish that the plan is ineffective and scrap it for a new one. Remember, growth hacking is not a quick fix solution, and you may need to fail a few times in order to establish a strategy that works.
Ultimately, growth hacking is a science and should be treated as such. Rather than setting expansive goals, growth hacking is to be used when finding solutions to smaller problems. Solving each of these problems one at a time adds up to huge increases in growth if done right. You build a wall one brick at a time, and the mentality of a growth hacker is no different.