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How to Use Growth Hacking as Part of your Marketing Plan

Technology and buzzwords go hand in hand and for those out of the loop, it can be hard to keep up with all of the new lingo and jargon. As we move into 2014, it seems that growth hacking is one of this year’s buzzwords, but despite its daunting name, its meaning is simple.

A growth hacker is a person who has skills in starting and growing a business, although they don’t necessarily have to have been involved with a business since day one. So it’s someone you want in your company for obvious reasons, but what will they do? You don’t want someone coming in and taking over, perhaps, but you do want to see effective growth, right? So how do you apply the skill set of a growth hacker effectively?

Firstly it’s good to remember that your growth hacker is not a short-term solution. Instead they can drive your business forward in a sustainable manner. This is something that has long-term benefits.

So what exactly is a growth hacker?

Let’s look at what they do:

A growth hacker is creative, yet also analytical – not particularly an easy combination to find – they will have a background that allows them to get the best value for the client out of the products and services that a company sells.

Growth hackers other skills include:

  • Ensuring early growth takes place in the start-up
  • Discovering sustainable business/clients to further enable growth
  • Use automation/intelligence tools to enable scalability
  • Prioritise well and wisely

All of the above are of course useful to your business, but what is the most effective way to apply those skills to your marketing plan?

Follow the Example of the Big Boys

Growth hacking, despite it being a new buzzword to many, is nothing new really. It has a successful lineage that built brand equity on sites like Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Dropbox, Reddit, and LinkedIn.

These brands were built without traditional marketing techniques, such as celebrity endorsements, in less than a decade. The people that did it changed the face of marketing. So how did they do it? They developed a strategy that is easily applicable to any kind of business.

The 5 Stages of Growth Hacking

According to Mashable, there are 5 stages of growth hacking. Let’s take a look at them in a little more detail.

Marketing is often done retroactively. The product already exists, so the marketing team has to promote the product or business, even if it doesn’t work. Assuming the product development stage didn’t have any influence from a marketing team, it was never tested properly on the target market. Growth hacking approaches this differently.

Growth hacking relies on an understanding of the users of the product, or the consumer audience. This means that your business can develop and create products that the consumer wants and build a sustainable client base. Traditionally, companies would throw money at marketing companies without understanding who was going to buy their product.

A growth hacker for StumbleUpon, Aaron Ginn, suggested that growth hacking has marketing goals “driven by product instincts.” That means don’t just try to market your product, but instead build an easily marketable product.

Effectively growth hacking aims for a Product Market Fit. A business should know and be designed for a specific audience with critical and well-defined needs. This can be carried out early in a business’ development, even at business plan stage.

How do you know if your product or business is not working?

If the word of mouth or buzz surrounding the product is not there, then the product is probably not being effectively marketed or there is no demand. People talk about what they want, especially over social media, so if your product is not appearing in conversation, be it online or in the real world, you have a problem.

If the product doesn’t make a splash, then it’s a product’s problem, not the marketer’s (depending on the scenario).  Growth hacking is pointless, and so is most marketing, without a clear Product Market Fit. So instead of rushing your idea into a tangible business; first edit and re edit your idea until you know there is a market and consumer demand for your product. Use surveys, A/B testing and re-test your idea on people that fall into the niche of your target market. Once you have tested successfully, you can start to find your specific growth hack.

Finding Your Specific Growth Hack

So you’ve tested your product and found an audience but what’s next? How do you turn that interest into real world customers?

Well your business doesn’t just want consumer awareness, it needs actual customers and clients. A growth hacker’s job is to ensure growth through as many avenues as possible.

Hacking takes advantage of loop holes and missed opportunities and it will exploit them to your advantage. Those options are often missed by traditional marketers and growth hacking uses online communities to saturate the concept.

The specific opportunities are obviously contingent on your product or business. It pays to know what you’re doing and who you are marketing to, so you can identify those opportunities.

Paul Rosania, Twitter product manager, describes what growth hacker attempts to do. A growth hacker should have, “a lot of ideas, ruthlessly optimising successes and quickly discarding dead ends.”

Remember that there is no singular way to ensure growth. The key is to be open-minded and ready for whatever the next step is.

The Viral Dream

Make your initial users work for you and use them to get more customers. It’s a scalable approach and one that, if it works, could continuously add to your business and increase customer awareness of your brand exponentially.

For example, DropBox offers an incentive to share its business; users can get more storage for every friend they refer.

LinkedIn works best when you add previous employers and employees, as they can provide feedback and testimonials to help advertise your business and products. Using LinkedIn for networking, making sure you have a great company page and a discussion group, is a great strategy for all types of business.

So define and refine your product until your users are sharing it for you. Sounds pretty straightforward, but it’s incredibly effective.

Going viral doesn’t just happen and it’s certainly not easy or certain. It’s the growth hacker’s responsibility to ensure that it happens.

Keeping Users and Optimising the Experience

You may find that you have plenty of users visiting your site and interested in your product but if those users are not staying around to have a look at site content, there’s something missing.

If users are leaving, it’s likely that there’s something on the site that needs refining to improve the site and make it ‘sticky’. It might be to do with ease of access or usability, but whatever the case, it must be discovered and addressed.

The best way to discover what the problem is, is to survey existing clients and users through email, social media and on the site itself. Figure out what’s going wrong and fix it. Retention of customers is incredibly important to ensuring business growth and absolutely essential to any designs on going viral.

The growth hacker’s job in this instance is to take feedback and redevelop the idea. Don’t just pitch it harder. It isn’t working, so fix it – that’s what the growth hacker does.

Remember to also focus on the users that are leaving your site. Using resources such as Google Analytics, the growth hacker can set up and analyse intelligence events to see exactly where and why users are dropping off the site.

This stage saves your business money as you’re not having to start afresh, but instead are refining your idea, making the user experience better on your site and getting the most out of what you have already done.

The Beauty of Growth Hacking

OK, so you’ve done it. You’re site is successful, users are bringing friends and your concept has become a household name. What next?

Start again. You can apply all of the above to whatever business concept you have. If it has legs, you will hit the ground running.

Growth hacking works because of its reliance on the user. Understanding who wants your product greatly improves your chances of it being a success. Continuing to analyse and understand the target audience means your business can grow with your users and carry on giving them what they want. It should also retain a buzz around your products that mean you can use social media to really drive results and further growth. Again, analytics and acting on what intelligence tools tell you is very important so that you can effectively remarket and continue going from strength to strength.

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This is a post from contributing author Victoria Greene – Brand Marketing Consultant & Freelance Writer.

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