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Growth Hacking 101

Growth Hacking 101

If you read business blogs, you’ve likely stumbled across the term growth hacking. Promises of instant riches are always attractive -who wouldn’t want to read about the company that acquired 4 million users in just 4 years? Growth hacking promises phenomenal business growth in short period of time. But is it marketing hype or a genuine business technique?

What is growth hacking?

Growth hacking is an umbrella term given to a number of marketing and technology techniques that focus on increasing a user base rapidly. Growth hacking is experimental, innovative and low cost, and therefore very appealing to start-ups who are often idea rich but cash poor.

Examples of growth hacking include:

  • Creating a partnership with a third party – by teaming up with a third party you can gain access to an existing customer base, as well as customer data.
  • Targeting Referrals – shortly after their launch Hotmail began to include a signature with all of their emails that said ‘P.S. I Love You. Get a free Hotmail account’. By ensuring all of their users automatically referred them, they sky-rocketed their growth. Another, more traditional, way to use this technique is to provide a reward for customers based on a referral (it can be ask kooky as you like, such as a free coffee when they visit you or tickets to a local attraction)
  • Target your competitors fans – social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook make it easy to target fans of your competitors. The message you choose to is up to you. You can make it clear that your product or service is superior to your competitor, or even offer a discount.
  • Build a community – look at ways that you can build a community around your product. If you’re a hair salon, perhaps you could host ‘bring a friend’ product testing evenings. Or, if you’re a book store, you could start a literary quiz.  If your business is online you already have an advantage – and can easily set up a forum for your users to discuss your product.
  • Be proactive – growth hackers never wait for customers to come to them. Think about where your customers are already spending their time, and then find a way to get your name in front of them.
  • Gamification – add a ‘game like’ element by introducing a customer loyalty card, or allowing users to ‘unlock’ benefits to your service as they go along.

Whilst growth hacking has found its home in Silicon Valley, all businesses can learn something from its theory:

1.Test often and embrace change

Growth hacking is an experimental discipline, and depends on constantly looking for new tactics to test. Create a culture of constant improvement, and encourage your staff to share ideas. If you come up with something that you think will be a game changer, test it on a limited basis first. Growth hackers don’t throw everything into one idea, and they don’t claim to be able to predict what they’ll be doing in a year’s time. Whilst marketing plans are a business must, remember to allow flexibility to innovate.

2. Don’t follow the competition

Competitor research is integral to traditional marketing, but growth hacking depends on finding new ways to do things. Sometimes a business can become so focussed on what others in their niche are doing that they become resistant to trying new things. True growth comes from leading, not following the pack.

3. Results are king

Growth hackers are 100% focussed on a specific result – be that increasing sign-ups, website traffic or purchases. Get friendly with your data and you’ll end up knowing your customers inside out. Without a strong focus on results, business activity has a tendency to become direction-less. By keeping your eye on the prize, and profits, you’ll make smarter decisions.

4. But don’t be scared to try…

Yes results are the end game, but trying something new always has an element of risk. Don’t become so focussed on the outcome that you only go ahead with dead certs. Some of your experiments are bound to fail, accept this early on so that you don’t become discouraged when your seventh attempt is a dead end.

Have you tried growth hacking? Let us know on Twitter.


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