Growth hacking involves focusing on digital ‘hacks to grow your business. It’s a term based on the techniques used by the likes of Air BNB, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
What is Growth Hacking Exactly?
It started with ‘Growth Teams’ within silicon valley tech start ups. Start ups needed growth but lacked the marketing budgets that large conglomerates had. Instead, they creatively leverage tech know how to out maneuver the bigger players in the field.
As Sean defines it,
[Growth Marketeers] are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of ‘How do I get customers for my product?’ and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph.
What are Traditional Examples of Growth Hacking?
Growth hacking in the early days of the internet were just marketing tricks. Many of them include elements of virality, appealing to people’s sense of scarcity and other well known ideas. Some of these date back to the 1800s, as documented in the marketing classic The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind by Gustave Le Bon. A more recent incarnation of these ideas from the 1980s can be found in one of my favorite marketing books of all times: Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini.
Here are some of the ‘classic growth hacking’ examples;
- Hotmail and the P.S. I love You ‘Hack’
In 1996 Hotmail had achieved an impressive 20,000 users. But they didn’t have the budget to get where they wanted to be. They though of just giving away free accounts to everyone, but they felt it would be too ‘spammy’. So instead they included the now famous line at the end of each email: “PS I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail” – That little change made it so their existing customer base helped bring in hundreds of thousands of customers, who in turn brought in millions of users leading to the company’s eventual acquisition by Microsoft. A viral reaction had been started and it helped create one of the best known names in email, Hotmail. If you want to read more on how this happened, I found an awesome post by Simon Scholes on the Hotmail growth hack.
- AirBNBs Craigslist Scrapping
When the founders of AirBNB started they had a chicken and egg problem. They couldn’t get renters until there were rental properties, and they couldn’t get rental properties until there were renters on the platform. So how can one crack such an ‘egg’? They used whats called a ‘web scrapper’ to get information on existing vacation rentals in the area. They then posted this to their own website. They also made it so that any rentals posted to their website were automatically posted to Craigslist.org
- LinkedIn SEO for Personal Names and Friend Emails
LinkedIn found an ingenious way to go from 2,000,000 users to 200,000,000. First they implemented a system where users could sign up using their email account. The system would then ask if the person signing up wanted to invite their friends. Because of the design of the page, most did. LinkedIn reached 100s of friends and family of each person that signed up. Additionally, LinkedIn made user pages public to search engines and made it so that search engine spiders would crawl the links. Now when you look up most professionals with their city you find their profile on LinkedIn, giving users even more incentive to polish their profiles.
What are the Steps to Growth Hacking Success in 2020?
Growth Hacking is really a buzz term used to describe a set of principals. Since the term was created to describe existing trends, there is no set standard of principals. But if we had to create a set of steps, it would look like this:
Step 1: Find Product-Market Fit
The biggest difference between regular marketing and ‘growth hacking’ is the view of the business as part of the marketing process, not something that is done to it after the product has been created.
When product market fit happens, a specific sub set of your customers will have a VERY strong positive reaction.
‘Product Market Fit’ means that the product, price, value proposition, target audience and competitive landscape are all taken into consideration and ‘click’. Products are changed. Audiences re-defined. Value propositions challenged. Despite Growth Hacking having some of the highest ROI, many businesses don’t like it. Because it ultimately will challenge some of the fundamental concepts and assumptions held by stakeholders.
An example of product market fit work: A writer wants to create a parenting book, but isn’t sure of the focus it should have. Behaviour? Schooling? Should it be filled with examples or focus more on studies? A growth hacker might challenge the writer on whether he really knows his audience. So the writer might need to start a blog. Then see which blog posts he can get to resonate with his audience. What styles work. The writer can also build up a customer email list which can then be used to promote a release or even a pre-release of the book.
The fundamental idea of product market fit is testing assumptions and going beyond what merely works and instead finding something your customers will be wild about. Many times this effort compounds by laying the ground work for the next phase.
Step 2: Find your Hack
A core concept in growth hacking is finding a set of ‘product evangelizers’. These are people who will love your product enough to not only use it, but tell others about it. For this, growth marketeers will intentionally focus on a sub group of users. The more niche the better, since we aren’t looking so much for sales at this point, but to create a ‘fan base’ of users who will swear by your product.
Continuing on with the example from Step 1, the writter might find a group like California Parents of Severely Autistic Children. If the writer made a post about this that was promoted and liked by this group, he might choose to include a chapter or two on “Severely Autistic Children” – it could be written in such a way that it benefits everyone, by providing guidelines to parents of non-autistic children tools, but that particularly resonates with this particular segment.
A growth hack that could be attempted in such a case would be to post to an existing online community (a Facebook group, online discussion forum or sub-Reddit) asking for advise on your chapter. Once the community likes it, offer a free download of the chapter by invitation only. This will make a product that not only resounds with your audience, but that has an added layer of exclusivity.
If you are using a WordPress site, this can be done quite easily with the many ‘invite only’ plugins available.
Step 3: Encouraging Virality
You have completed step 1 and found a product market fit. The right product for the right people at the right time and place. You have found your hack, creating an aura of exclusivity by making the ebook chapter download an invite only item that people in a certain group can get.
Now you need to ensure those people share and spread the word as much as possible. This shouldn’t be an afterthought, but a core part of the product.
Following the example of the writer he might include inside the book a mention of a ‘Free Parenting Calendar’ or ‘Learning Flash Cards’ or a Free Children’s book. To get the perk, the user must sign up. As part of the sign up process, the user can be required to Share to Unlock. There are a lot of plugins for WordPress that provide this functionality.
Other ideas include:
- Create a win-win refer a friend program – Both friends get $X credit.
- Send free gifts to customers that they can use in public or give away.
- Putting share links on posts and articles.
- Creating contests that require sharing.
- Creating embed-able videos.
The goal here is to make it as easy and natural for users to spread the word.
Step 4: Retain and Optimize
Getting sales from existing customers generally only costs a small fraction of what it costs to get new customers. So ensuring you maximize retention is a key to any growth hacking ‘system’.
Using the previous example of a growth hacking technique to maximize retention for our Parenting Author:
- Create a ‘letters from the editor’ newsletter where users can submit anonymous parenting questions. The author can then send out a weekly newsletter with questions and answers.
- Implement birthday auto mailers. You could even work with parenting product providers to promote ‘birthday treats for parents’ that are discounted.
- Create a parenting course and provide ‘parenting tip’ videos that entice your existing customers to purchase the course.
- Create a forum for parenting as a Sub-Reddit or a stand alone forum.
- Implement a re-marketing campaign so that you can show ads for new services/versions to your existing user base.
- Stay active on twitter, facebook and any other marketing channel you choose. Better have less channels but stay connected and engaged.
If you still need more reasons to prioritize Retention, I love the breakdown that Savino Longo does here.
From ABCs to ABTs???
In the famous sales movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” the successful Alec Baldwin character tells the novices to know their ABCs… “Always Be Closing”.
With growth hacking we have a similar concept: Always be Testing.
Even if you found product market fit, found a hack to get the word out, gone viral and retained your customers, things change.
Especially online. Myspace was a great place to advertise. Not so much anymore. There are many self serve advertising platforms to test, from big names such as Google Adwords, down to smaller, higher ROI platforms such as Reddit, Plenty of Fish and others.
User’s expectations and needs change. The same elements that make online marketing so powerful, are also the same elements that make it so that constant testing is needed.
Set up Google alerts for your brand, your main keywords and your main competitors. See what happens and try to respond immediately. Opportunities online are born and very quickly become saturated. A major key in staying profitable with your growth hacking is to remember not your ABCs, but your ABTs: ALWAYS be Testing.
Testing online is very complex and there are hundreds of books written on the subject. If you are looking for a short overview, I suggest you read a post on how to test effectively written by Daniel Burstein. If you want to learn more about one of online marketing’s most powerful tool sets, I recommend the following article on multi variable testing by Ruben Corbo.
10 Growth Hacking Tips for 2020
Now that you understand growth hacking, have seen some of the classic examples of the industry, what specific techniques are working right now?
- Google My Business Growth Hacking Tip for 2020
Find “Tips” or “Reviews” related to your industry. Create images using these tips and reviews and upload them to your GMB with Geo Tags. Now when people look for tips/reviews your images will appear and rank for your Geo targeted location.
- Browser Push Notification Growth Hacking 2020
Push notification acceptance is one of the most overlooked areas of staying in contact with users. Email marketing effectiveness has been consistently going down over the years. The average American receives several HUNDRED emails per day, of which only a handful are looked at. So finding other ways to connect with your customer base should be a top priority. Right now, it is very easy to get permission from users to send push notifications. A company called “One Signal” offers a freemium push notification system that has free plugins for wordpress and most major CMS systems. Then you need to find ways to get users to hit ‘accept’.
- Influencer Outreach in 2020
Influencer marketing is one of the hottest and most cost effective methods of online promotion in 2020. According to Shane Barker, a full 30% of US adults and 70% of Millenials make purchasing decisions based on non-celebrity bloggers and social media influencers. Reaching out to influencers in your niche and particularly your geographic area can provide you with a very high ROI.
- Twitter Snipping – Growth Hacking Tip for 2020
Did you know you can set up Twitter advertising campaigns where you upload a list of users that you want to show an ad to? If you combine that with scrapping the followers of your main competitors, you can put out an ad campaign that specifically targets your competitors followers.
- Growth Hacking Tip for 2020: Glocal is the New Local
More and more companies are popping up to fill the need to connect neighboors. An excellent example of this is Patch.com – Participating in such communities provides very low cost exposure for local service providers such as Dentists, Doctors, Lawyers, Contractors and others. Before you post though, be sure to participate so that you are a member who is offering a service and not seen as a spammer.
Nicolas Gorden has 100s of tips and techniques that are working right now. If you are ready, feel free to schedule a free consultation to find out how you can be next one to benefit from Nicolas’ expertise.