If there’s one thing the world of technology, business and marketing love it’s a buzzword and this year’s so far it appears to be the term growth hacking, So what is a growth hacker, what does it mean and why could hiring (or being) one make all the difference to your business?
Let’s find out.
The Struggle of the Start-up Phase
A growth hacker is someone whose skills lie in growing a business. According to Sean Ellis, many companies in the start-up phase have a tendency to take on people that have skills that are irrelevant to the business at that particular point in time. By taking on a growth hacker, a business has someone with the skills to ensure that they can drive sustainable growth, rather than short-term.
A growth hacker can:
- Be responsible for early growth
- Tweak products and services to ensure the best value to the client
- Find sustainable business/clients
- Use automation/intelligence tools to enable a scalable business
- Use creativity and analytical thinking
Isn’t a Growth Hacker just the Same as a Marketer?
Not exactly, no. Whilst most will have marketing knowledge and it will be a part of their skillset, growth hackers are better suited to the start-up environment than the corporate one. This is because start-ups look for a higher level of growth than your average, established, corporate organisation would.
“Start-ups (sic) intend to grow at 20 percent month over month (or more), while corporations are satisfied with 5 percent year over year,” says Gagan Biyani in a Next Web article. He goes on to point out that most start-ups don’t have the means or budget to facilitate growth, so need talent that can really strategize it.
In fact, many would say that growth hackers should really concentrate on product development itself, rather than marketing, but it does seem to require a combination of skills and the best growth hackers are rarely skilled in just one discipline. They will know about business, as well as marketing and it’s this, coupled with creative thinking and the ability to disseminate information that sets them apart from ‘ordinary’ marketers.
Sean Ellis, the man who coined the term growth hacking explains why you need to know what it is in the video below. (50:31)
Avoiding the Trough of Sorrow
Looking at the figure below, what it’s necessary to avoid is the “trough of sorrow”, which was a concept thought up by Paul Graham some years ago. Taking a look at the diagram, the idea can be applied to most business, starting from the outset when excitement is the main driver, to the novelty wearing off and then a sense of disappointment setting in. How a growth hacker or entrepreneur can overcome this is to first understand that it’s natural for a new business to go through this process and separate emotions from business.
(Image: Jon Yongfook)
This is how you really want your growth curve to appear, in stages and facilitated by strategy, not emotion.
How Can All This Help Drive Traffic?
When it comes to online marketing, Google Analytics and the effective use of it can be described as a part of growth hacking. Used alongside paid search and social media activity, analytics can be used to see which part of a business is doing well and what needs improving. Remarketing can be carried out to entice previous site visitors back to an improved product (or site, come to that) and good SEO and content marketing should also be a part of the mix.
According to Techcrunch, a growth hacker can be defined as someone that “ha[s] a common attitude, internal investigation process, and mentality unique among technologists and marketers. This mindset of data, creativity, and curiosity allows a growth hacker to accomplish the feat (sic) of growing a user base into the millions.”
A Growth Hacker Gets in Before the Competition
A growth hacker then is someone that has a certain amount of technical skill when it comes to marketing, business and analytics and understands how to use this to facilitate growth. In order to do this, it’s necessary to understand the sales funnel and how the site visitor/buyer/user goes through certain stages.
- Acquisition – gaining customer attention
- Activation – getting them to take action
- Retention – keeping them coming back for more
- Revenue – retaining a constant source of revenue through subscriptions and similar
Additionally, there should be a certain amount of referral, so that new business is being acquired through existing customers. Social media is, of course, one of the best referral tools out there for WOM (word of mouth) marketing.
These days, you have to make a splash if you want to succeed and that means that even before launching your website, all of your marketing efforts should be already well under way. Not only this, but they should be tested to see which landing pages/social campaigns etc. are the most effective. This can be done using A/B testing, which uses different sets of people to test different marketing techniques such as CTAs. For example, if you have a holding page before you have launched your site, then create two using different colours, language and layout and see which gets the best response.
Other techniques to boost interest before launch include:
- Press releases
- Asking bloggers for product reviews
- Social media competitions and incentives
- Sign-up forms on social, via the holding page and through advertising
- Invites that only a select few will receive on launch
Now that you have everyone’s attention, it’s time to get them to take action and this should take place around launch. You should have generated enough interest to make potential buyers want to see what you’ve got and the product should stand up to scrutiny.
Make a splash, launch the site in a blaze of glory and send out an email campaign that invites potential customers to feel like they are getting something nobody else is. Personalization makes the customer feel special, so use marketing automation resources to ensure that your campaign addresses people individually and if possible, offers something that ensures they will bite and click-through on that mail.
Announce launch through social channels and make it a big deal, make sure that it sounds like an exciting opportunity, not to be missed. If you sell physical products, then ensure that these are presented in their best possible light through the use of images and video. Make your users passionate about your site/product/service and they will buy, tell their friends and come back for more.
This is where analytics really come in. What’s working and if something isn’t, why not? You should already have created enough of a buzz to have a user base, so what can you do to expand on this and keep them coming back for more?
- New product lines
- Marketing automation
The latter is important, as it frees up a lot of the growth hacker’s time to concentrate on better things. You should also be constantly carrying out new A/B testing to see how things can be further improved and content marketing activities should be of an extremely high quality and through every available channel that your customers are likely to use.
It’s this commitment to constantly searching for new opportunity to increase sales that gives the growth hacker his edge.
Most importantly, know what your customers want even before they do by testing and examining all avenues and this will lead to growth.
This is of course the idea of becoming an entrepreneur in the first place, to make a good business that will earn revenue. Whatever your business, this has to be maintained and ideally, it should grow in more ways than one.
This means looking at other revenue streams as well as your product return, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, white papers and so on. It may seem impossible if you sell a physical profit, but it’s not – there’s always subscription discounts and loyalty schemes, for example.
Nobody said it was easy getting all of this right, but this is why it’s a good idea to hire a growth hacker if you feel that it’s beyond your capability, or perhaps you’re simply too emotionally involved with what’s essentially your baby.
A good online marketer is desirable, even essential, but using growth hackers and/or growth hacking techniques will ideally send business through the roof, and keep it there. It means keeping a clear head, using all of the available tools for automation and analytics, a good measure of creativity and sound business planning.
Getting it right is the key to becoming a successful business entrepreneur and creating a resource/product that will keep customers flocking to you for many years to come.