What is growth hacking:

Most people are not really sure how to define growth hacking. It started a few years ago and has never been very well understood by marketers outside of its origin, the Silicon Valley. In this post, we shall attempt to approach some of these things and leave you with a somewhat clear understanding of what growth hacking is and how it could help grow your company especially if it’s a startup.

The term “growth hacker” is well used by the most intelligent internet marketers as much as it isn’t well spread. It’s basically an internet marketer who uses a certain methodology through available and testable tools to push an idea into the market, grow and distribute it without having to spend lots of money marketing using mass media channels like radio, television, or old-fashioned newspapers. Some people have sort to dictate that a growth hacker needs and has to be an engineer or a coder. However, growth hacking cuts both ways and while in most cases some of the best growth hackers are engineers or coding professionals, there have been excellent growth hackers like Noah Kagan who were only marketers and made it without knowing how to write a single line of code.

Native advertising is something that sort of interrupts your day or mind to that which you were focusing on. Take for example a banner on a website page in between two paragraphs of content that you are reading or an advert on television cutting into your most loved program. These native ways of marketing are specifically what the growth hackers are trying to avoid because they don’t want to interrupt you or have to take your mind off something you have paid attention to. I bet the question on your mind.

How then do you market like a growth hacker?

Growth hacking emphasizes and often involves a pull method where the growth hacker study’s user behavior and needs, then provide you value or a solution to pursue you. This means that it’s not marketing or advertising as such, it is helping you to get what you want. Mass media advertises to all and sundry. Whether I eat Biscuits or not I’ll see the biscuits ad on TV no matter what. It goes without saying that the biscuits ad will obviously help some people, but it will be a small fraction of those who are watching TV that gets to buy it because they need it or because it’s value provision.

The intersection point where data, product and marketing meet each other is where you will find a growth hacker. He or she thrives on data to create the channels that will grow a company. They also sit at the center of the product in order to understand the terminologies used and the technical ability required to be able to market the product in the way that they want. Consequently, as you might have guessed, growth hacking techniques cannot be transferred from one product to another because they were meant for that particular product.

It requires lots of thinking out of the boxes and has no rules saying this is right or wrong. The only rule in a growth hacker’s mind is usually one, “get the users and grow the company,” meaning how you get there is not of so much importance. That last part should get you to understand why they are hackers. Because hackers never have rules or specific ways of doing things as long it gets done. Usually, the results of growth hacking are not immediate but end up growing the company to millions of users.

5 phases of growth hacking

  1. Learn

Before making your product it is important to study your market well and that should be very obvious. What isn’t obvious is that growth hacking requires the same. Learning about your customers and where they visit most online, or products and services they subscribe to is very important if you are going to make a growth hack that works for your company. In order to create messaging, that resonates with your users and allows them to see your core value proposition, you have to know as much about them as possible. Also, to align your customer acquisition with the customers’ cycles you need to know what funnels work well with them.

Lastly, to reach your customers at the right time and in the right way that allows you to utilize customer acquisition channels for growth, you have to learn a lot about them. The first phase of growth hacking is learning as much as you can about your market, customers, customer acquisition channels, etc.

  1. Develop a product that’s easy to market

Great products are very easy to market. AirBnB, Twitter, Dropbox, Facebook, Zynga and StumbleUpon are some of the products that grew with limited marketing budgets and were, therefore, able to utilize growth hacking as a way of gaining traction and fueling growth. What you will agree with me about these companies is that they all offer great products and even better for AirBnB, it offers a solution to a problem that was more prevalent as compared to the other companies. AirBnB’s growth hacking strategies worked simply because the product was easy to market, it was a solution to a problem whose answers people were looking for. Facebook made communication and following up what friends are doing much easier, while Twitter gave a clever 140-character twist to Facebook’s social aspect.

This phase is important a lot because traditionally, people built products then marketed them. Gaining users isn’t as difficult as keeping them engaged on your platform for a very long time. Growth hacking, therefore, begins to make sense right there. If you have built a product that people love and focused on how they discover and adopt it, you can build features on your product that makes the users stay hence enabling you to retain your current users while acquiring new ones. To know if your product is a market fit it’s advised in the early stages to have a non-biased person to evaluate its market fit and validate the basic assumptions as well as your product’s goals. Before getting your growth hacker, test the product with the market or a few hundred users, tweak, re-tweak, rinse and repeat until you feel that the market is ready for what you have built. Then get yourself a growth hack.

  1. Find your growth hack

Once your product is built and tested for the right market and the right users. It’s now time to find your hack opportunity that will allow your company to grow by leveraging loopholes in the existing external systems. This is a very defining phase of the growth hacking stages because it’s the moment when you should find that marketing strategy that will take you from one thousand users to 1 million or possibly more.

For Spotify, their growth hack was integrating their product with Facebook because their users were on Facebook. For AirBnB it was integrating their product with Craigslist ads because people who were looking for places to stay during vacations were looking on Craigslist. Dropbox, it’s giving users more storage space when they invited users to the platform. For Zynga, it was Facebook alerts and the use of cheap online advertising. Borrowing from all these companies, you will see that they all studied their markets. Built a product market fit, and then went for the kill by implementing a growth hack that spurred them into millions of users.

As you will have noticed, the strategies are totally different for each of those companies. There is barely anything to carry to your product’s growth hacking strategy except for the knowledge of how the growth hack worked for these companies. In order to find your best hack, try a lot of hacks within a short period of time. See which one works best then settle for it in the long term as you continue to evaluate and study the rest.

  1. Get your users to get you more users

I only had to refer more friends to Dropbox then get more storage space. So did you and everyone else who first adopted Dropbox when it was launched. They still use that strategy and that largely explains why they were able to make it in a very fierce market dominated by tech giants like Google and Microsoft. Facebook and LinkedIn grew in their early stages by imploring their new users to invite their email contacts to the platforms. Hotmail on the other end had a very welcoming message “PS I Love You.

Get Free Email” at the end of their emails, which moved them from one million users in the first six months to 10 million in the first year. These companies found a way to make their users. Early adopters grow the company for them by word of mouth and these explained growth hacks. Your company should also have that viral lift; something about the growth hack that allows the company to exponentially grow without much effort by enabling its users to invite more customers.

  1. Optimize

There is no use in getting several users every day when you cannot retain them. Optimizing your product allows you to study the customer’s behavior once they start using your product. Then enables you to understand what needs to be tweaked here and there to make them stay. The goal of this stage is to ensure you retain as many customers as possible. This involves building better features and continuing to be more innovative every day to ensure that the customer experience is improving and so are the services. To achieve sustainable growth you will reach an equilibrium point where your product is already top-notch and most people who begin to use it usually stay and continue engaging for a very long time.

However, there is always room for improvement and never take your sights off improving the product as much as you can because that moment you do that is the moment you start to fall. Remember MySpace.

6 characteristics of the best growth hackers

  1. Passionate – The best growth hacker breaths, sweats and breeds growth. They are passionate about what they do and have a very serious love for growth.
  2. Obsessive – They are obsessed with growing the customer base. They will do everything in their power to make sure they find the missing piece that enhances that.
  3. Leadership skilled – Growth hackers are and should be good leaders. Good leaders listen to their teams and are good at getting people to follow them and their beliefs in the product.
  4. Resourceful and Informed – The best growth hackers are well informed about the aspects of growth hacking. They will ensure they are well informed about your product and the market it intends to attract. While having a lot of information on these things is great, it goes well with being a resourceful person. Growth hackers who are resourceful are usually very creative and will be relishing to get past any challenge they face.
  5. Curious – In order to understand everything they can about your company’s data, product and marketing, they have to ask questions. Their curiosity nerves are always ready to act when they don’t think something is right or are looking for specific explanations to dissect the information they are given.
  6. Socially capable – In order to understand human behavior which is very important for the product. The growth hacker has to be engineered to be socially sound and very understanding of the human aspect. In order for them to formulate the best tactics to get people to adopt your product. They should be able to understand several things about your to-be customers.

5 myths about growth hacking

  1. Growth hacking is a secret book full of secrets for growth

The reality is that growth hacking is more about the mindset than it is a book of secrets. In fact, it isn’t a book of secrets because if there was anything like that then all startups. New businesses would use this book to be successful. Most growth hackers will have their mindsets focused on the growth aspects of your product. Some of which you as a founder or as a company may have set aside to focus on product tweaks and implementations.

  1. Growth hacking is an entirely new phenomenon

First of all it isn’t a phenomenon, secondly, it isn’t new. It has existed for as long as Hi5, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, AirBnB and Dropbox have existed. It may be a new title but not an entirely new thing.

  1. Growth hacking is marketing

Marketing and growth hacking are related, obviously, but none is the other. Growth hacking is entirely different from marketing in the ways we have looked at earlier in this article. Marketing involves advertising and usually requires massive financial budgets and large teams. Growth hacking is everything we have said before we got to the myths section. It definitely didn’t involve large marketing budgets or building huge growth hacking teams. However, let it be known that the goals that marketing seeks to achieve are usually the same for growth hacking. The tactics used in marketing and growth hacking are totally different.

  1. Growth hacking must use huge networks

We have seen Spotify use Facebook’s huge network of people to gain more customers. AirBnB using Craigslist, an already established company, to reach millions of users and gain traction. Despite these successes using huge networks to reach millions of people, growth hacking doesn’t have to use such networks. Sending emails to existing clients or calling them to give them the company’s offerings can all be utilized in growth hacking and as much as they may not bring in millions of customers, the customer retention for the tens of customers you get might be very huge which is a success in itself because these channels are more personalized.

  1. Growth hacking is all about new customers

Actually, it’s not. Growth hacking is about a lot of things from data, to product and marketing, customer acquisition, growth, and retention. It’s not just about getting new customers. It’s about retaining them and continuing to innovate as a company in order to keep them.

Do you have anything to add about growth hacking? Let us know in the comments section below.