Think Big. Grow Big: Growth Hacking Your Startup
Reading time: An easy 4 minutes
How many new users do we have? Are there more or less than last month? Why do our competitors seem to be growing faster than us? How do we gain more Twitter followers? Why aren’t we in TechCrunch yet!?
Sound familiar? Probably because you’re working for a startup and in startups, it's all about growth or, to be more specific, Growth Hacking.
You may have noticed that Marketing Envy have gone slightly gaga over Growth Hacking recently. Of course, we aren’t the only ones. In the last few years, the term ‘Growth Hacking’ has become the startup marketing buzzword. But what is it and why do we all care so much about it?
Growth Hacking - What is it?
‘Growth hacking’ is the process of acquiring and engaging users, combining traditional marketing and analytical skills with product development skills. In simple terms, it is the process of finding the right ‘hack’ or strategy that will accelerate a company’s growth.
The term was originally coined by self-professed Growth Hacker and startup marketing extraordinaire Sean Ellis. Sean noticed that too many marketers were focused on branding and strategy and were forgetting that in the early stage of a startup, all your really need is GROWTH.
Of course, this does not mean that a startup does not need a traditional marketer, nor does it mean that a growth hacker is in any way a more superior asset. A growth hacker is simply a different kettle of fish. To quote Sean, ‘a growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth’.
Growth hackers eat, live and breathe growth. Every tactic, every strategy and every creation is focused on achieving growth. Growth is the cheese in their grilled cheese sandwich and the chocolate in their chocolate milkshake. To quote Aaron Ginn (another expert Growth Hacker) “Growth Hacking is a mindset, not a tool set.” For growth hackers, achieving optimum growth is the sole purpose and only goal.
In the past, marketers ran around like headless chickens promoting products only to find that they weren’t reaching the numbers they’d hoped for. This is because marketers were spending their time promoting the product after it was created, without taking the time to discover whether the product was truly the right ‘fit’ for the customers. News flash; building what you think users want and what they actually want is very often different.
Josh Elman (the Growth Hacker responsible for making Twitter what it is today) explains Growth Hacking as a process; “when you focus on understanding your users and how they discover and adopt your products, you can build features that help you acquire and retain more users, rather than just spending marketing dollars.”
This is why Paul Graham defines growth hacking as ‘Making something people want’. In other words, “Growth hackers believe that products can and should be changed until they are primed to generate explosive reactions from the first people who see them.” Get that right, and you’ll look like a genius.
Take Instagram for example. Instagram started as the a location-based social network called Burbn. Burbn included an optional photo feature, but the founders noticed that users were only using the photo feature of the app. So they made a few changes and...hello Instagram.Why is Growth Hacking so important for Startups?
Startups depend on growth. They need to show rapid and continuous growth in double (and often triple) digit numbers. On top of that pressure, startups are usually expected to achieve this goal with a very modest marketing budget and with fewer resources and connections than a larger company. Growth hacking is all about using whatever tactics you can find to scale up your product and drive as much growth as you can.
The social web and mobile apps have made it easier for startups to grow quickly. Whereas businesses were once constrained to traditional events, and a few newspaper ads, they can now start, exist and grow from just a mobile app. Enter Whatsapp and Uber.
A/B testing landing pages, email drips, referral gifts and regular activity on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter are all easy and relatively cheap ways to growth hack your startup.Some (lesser known) Examples of Growth Hacking.
Need some clearer examples of Growth Hacking in action? If you’ve read at least one blog post on growth hacking, you’ve probably come across the Airbnb and Facebook growth hacking case studies, but what about those examples that are a little less well known?
The Community Hack
Moz, an SEO tool, have focused their growth on creating a ‘community’ for their users. They created the ‘Moz Community’ website where users (and potential users) can share their questions with experts and other members of the community. They also developed ‘Mozinars’, short clips explaining some of their product’s features. Moz focused on ‘hacking’ the emotional side of their users and when it comes to making users feel like they are part of a ‘community’, Moz has it covered!
The Landing Page Hack
Zapier (that cool integration tool everyone keeps talking about), has a landing page for every integration pairing they have AND the one’s they don’t have. This improves Zapier’s SEO and is also great for user onboarding. By tracking the number of visitors for each landing page, Zapier is also able to determine which integrations are the most popular and need to be promoted more, and which integrations they need to focus on next to keep their users happy. Even better, every landing page invites new users to sign up. Growth hacking at its finest.
The Entertainment Hack
Sometimes, having a smaller budget can actually encourage you to think outside the box and experiment with something new. Jodie Ellis knows all about this. In 2013, he took a plunge and made himself head of Experimental Marketing at Optimizely - a role which basically involved using unusual (but affordable) marketing techniques to encourage growth. In 2014, Optimizely wanted to spend $20,000 to rent a booth at San Francisco’s annual Dreamforce event. When they realised they simply didn’t have the budget for such an event, Jodie decided instead to hire a blimp for just $7,000 with the phrase "Blimp ads don't work, website optimization does” blazed across it. Turns out, he managed to get the attention of everyone at Dreamforce at a much cheaper price! Jodie has since developed the alter-ego MC Commerce and has managed to increase the buzz surrounding Optimizely with a few pretty simple (although quite outrageous) hacks.
Growth Hacking - The Next Steps
In today's’s startup world, there is no longer a separation between the coder, the marketer, the product guy and the designer. Growth needs to be woven into every aspect of the organization. But how should you do it? What tools and tactics should you use? Stay tuned for our next few blog posts as we take you on the Growth Hacking journey of a lifetime…
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