We’ve all heard about growth hacking, and we’re all interested in this digital-savvy term. So here’s how to implement this strategy in your own business.
Growth hacking sounds awesome, doesn’t it? It’s like the Silicon Valley version of marketing a business. Why simply promote your business when you can growth hack, right?! Well, as a marketer-turned-digital publisher with 20+ years of experience, I was intrigued by what this new “growth hacking” strategy could do for me and my small business…
What is growth hacking?
So firstly, let’s set ourselves up with Andrew Chen’s (one of the GH originals) definition of Growth Hacking:
Growth hackers 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 factors, email deliverability and Open Graph.
Another definition which I think nails it is:
The end goal of every growth hacker is to build a self-perpetuating machine that reaches millions by itself.
Almost overnight this new breed of marketer has become the rock star of Silicon Valley. They aren’t there to ‘do marketing’ – but instead to take companies from zero to hero really fast. All through growth hacking.
Growth Hackers throw out the playbook of traditional marketing and turn it on its head – putting the customer first, before the product or the company’s initial desires. What I mean by this is: the first thing a Growth Hacker does is they evaluate the product and they focus on the ‘who’ and the ‘where’ more scientifically. They take away the “gut feel” or the guessing game of traditional marketing, and they start with the Product Market Fit.
So what is Product Market Fit?
Make something people want. It might sound obvious, but the first thing a Growth Hacker does is make sure the product is something people would actually buy – this is called Product Market Fit. Growth Hackers believe that products should be changed until they are exactly right for the market. This is different from traditional marketing, which usually tries to flog something that has already been created. Product Market Fit means that if the product is not right, you need to go back to the drawing board until you have a product that people really want.
An example of this is AirBnB. It initially started in 2007 as a way for the founders to turn their living rooms into a little bed and breakfast – it’s original name was airbedandbreakfast.com. They have a number of iterations on the product, including a version where the business was about networking at conferences before they landed on the current offering. Similarly, Instagram started as a location-based product called Burbn. It wasn’t when the founders realised that users were flocking to only one part of the app (the photos and filters, which were optional) did they realise that was their secret sauce – the one-way ticket to a product they could really scale.
So, the first step of growth hacking is to find a product that is going to blow people’s minds. And never settle for mediocrity.
How can small businesses use growth hacking to scale?
If you don’t have a team of 25 Growth Hackers on staff (and who does?) then the next best thing to do is to think like a Growth Hacker. By that I mean:
- Understand your customers needs, wants, desires, fears and frustrations – I mean really, really get under their skin
- Design a product that will blow their mind (and test it!)
- Find ways to ‘hack’ your traditional marketing process
Understanding your customers
Amazon is an interesting case study here. They call this approach “thinking backwards from the customer”. Amazon encourages product managers to “think like Oprah” – that is, would she rapturously shout about this product if she were giving it away to her fans?
The entrepreneur Marc Andreessen (who was behind Netscape) explains how companies need to “do whatever is required to get Product Market Fit. This includes changing out people, re-writing your product, moving into a different market, telling customers no when you don’t want to, telling customers yes when you don’t want to … (doing) whatever is required”.
Designing a product that will blow their mind
This could be an ah-ha moment like Instagram, or this could be 1000 iterations to get to the perfect product like Amazon or AirBnB. It’s about not resting until your product is mind-blowing.
Hacking traditional marketing
This is where the engineering nerds and IT geeks are required (no offence, we love you!). Firstly, you still need to generate awareness and demand for your product, but instead of a massive big-budget campaign, you are thinking very strategically about where your users are, and target them there. This might be through an API or a tech-hack rather than an ad-spend campaign.
Then you need to constantly analyse the numbers (cost per customer, churn rate, engagement rates) to ensure that you are focused on the right customers in the right places for your new product to continue to grow.
Growth Hackers are constantly tweaking to ensure they have better and more profitable customers, rather than new customers. Growth Hackers believe that whatever your current state is, it could be better. And that’s why they are constantly making iterations and tweaks to the products. At the end of the day, the focus needs to be on improving customer retention.
So, it’s time to turn your marketing strategies on their head to give growth hacking a go. And don’t forget to tell us all about your tweaks and shifts, and later, your big wins!