In the last few years growth hacking has come to the fore as more and more businesses apply some of its techniques to grow their company. Growth hacking refers to a set of methods carried out specifically to enable high growth in a startup. The term itself was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010, who used growth hacking effectively for cloud storage service Dropbox.
His growth pyramid set out how a startup should grow, beginning with the product and its suitability for the market it’s aimed at. This is a central part of growth hacking overall – if research finds that the product doesn’t fit the market initially, then it’s necessary to start again, or find the market that it does fit.
As with many terms connected with business, many dismiss growth hacking as a buzzword. Others state that it’s simply a new term for inbound marketing and whilst it does share certain characteristics, this isn’t the case.
“Growth hacking combines the use of technical skills and creativity to develop and execute marketing practices with a primary focus on growth.”
The technical skills that he refers to often focus on data analysis and coding. For example, a key part of a startup’s strategy even before launch might be creating a landing page to capture client details or get them to sign up. The growth hacker will need skills in UX design, to understand how and why visitors are interacting with the page. They will also be familiar with analytics in order to further understand visitor behaviour.
So how can you as a marketer utilise growth hacking techniques and encompass them into your overall marketing plan?
#1: Think Like a Developer
Growth hackers are often software developers as mentioned previously. You don’t necessarily need any coding skills yourself, but you should try to learn to think like a coder.
“The growth hacker doesn’t leave things to chance […] He or she thinks like an agile software developer. They build what is known as a minimum viable product – a wireframe version of their offering – and then they get it in front of some beta users or customers immediately. The first users give their feedback on every facet of the product. From there, the developers know where they stand – does this product fill a real need? Does it lend itself to sharing? What features are important, and what can wait until a later release?”
So the first step in deciding if your offering is a good product-market fit is in getting an early version of it out there so that you can gauge reaction. The aim of the growth hacker is to facilitate early growth without spending out vast sums of money. This means that it’s not necessary to even have a prototype to offer, initially you just want to answer the questions posed above.
In order to do this:
- Build a great landing page that describes the product
- Create a buzz on social media surrounding the product
- Invite early sign ups to get involved in return for an early release/beta version of the product
When it comes to actually building your product, you will then have a clearer idea of how well the market is going to receive it and what features they might like or dislike.
#2: Define Your Buyer Personas
In order to get a good product-market fit it’s necessary to know your market. With this in mind, you should come up with buyer personas in order to fully understand who will be purchasing the product.
A buyer persona tells you what problems your potential customers have that you can resolve with your product. It should reveal enough insights about your customer to allow you to fully understand how they make purchasing decisions. Ideally, your buyer personas (you should create more than one) will be led by market research and by asking questions of your existing customer base. You should use the data that you collect through your landing page and social media accounts to inform the personas where you don’t have existing customers to address.
You should also create a buyer personas for negative customers as well as ideal customers. For example, a customer who would fall into the negative persona may not have the income to buy your product, or it may be more or less than they need professionally. You should make them as comprehensive as possible and try to drill down exactly what your ideal customer thinks about every aspect of your product.
For a buyer persona template that you can use straight off the bat, check out Hubspot.
#3: Get Creative and Social!
Growth hacking differs from traditional marketing in that it looks to achieve growth often with a limited budget. Dropbox initially was spending $233-388 cost per acquisition when using PPC for example and soon found it couldn’t sustain this. Instead, it got creative and offered a great landing page and a referral program that drove a huge amount of downloads.
Dropbox offered its users extra storage when they invited a friend and soon saw its 100,000 registered users shoot up to 4 million in 15 months.
That’s a lot of growth.
With this in mind, consider what incentives you can offer early adopters in order to drive growth. This can be growth in terms of software download, email registrations – whatever you like. Use social media to underpin this and ask users to spread the word. Users won’t take action and share without good reason, so offering something in return is a great tactic and one that can see your social media reach propagating quickly.
Growth Hack Your Way to Success
The term ‘hack’ puts some marketers off even looking into growth hacking. In this case, hack simply means simplifying something and is not related to anything illegal. Whilst some techniques – generally those relating to engineering or coding – might take you out of your comfort zone, there’s nothing to say that you have to utilise these.
I would recommend learning some UX (User Experience) design however, so that you can craft excellent, actionable landing pages. You can borrow from the discipline and apply just those techniques that are suitable and you’re comfortable with. As a marketer, it’s highly likely that you’re already familiar with analytics, so you will have a head start on that score.
If it’s something that you think will work well for you, then you should consider joining the Growth Hacker Community where you can discuss techniques and get insights delivered to your inbox each month.