Growth Hacking: 5 tips for marketers… and a little inspiration.

Growth hacking has been hot on the lips of digital marketers for while now; it’s a technique that’s easy to understand but a little harder to practice. When a brand “growth hacks”, it delves deep into the world of its audience, to understand its audiences’ perspectives and create products and services around their needs and desires. Brands start by carefully measuring their audience’s feedback, preferences and behaviors, in order to create, trial and augment products and services to better suit the customer. Growth hackers are customer thrill seekers and problem solvers at heart; searching for the subliminal product / market fit, in order to drive business growth and, in its ultimate application, transform category growth.

Growth hacking means taking an experimental, creative and data-driven approach to the way business is conducted. While the approach is often led by marketing, it’s inherently a cross-functional discipline, drawing together many functions of a business, particularly R&D, Marcomms, Sales, Engineering, Production and Distribution, to gear around the customer. There’s also the “small” matter of C-suite buy in 🙂

To the digital marketing natives among us, growth hacking should be like breathing air, it is both the form and function of how we operate. It’s our job to listen to audiences at both a micro and macro level to surface insights that inspire new ways of conducting business. How many times have you listened to your communities and thought “Why can’t my brand just do what the people want?” To growth hack and transform a business in a way that delights both audiences and shareholders is a marketer’s ultimate dream! The secret to a successful hack is internal buy-in, a degree of organizational agility and perception change – stakeholders need to see that marketing isn’t just a cost centre and can meaningfully inform and shape business growth.

So… you lookin’ for a revolution, punk? Here are 5 tips for developing a growth hacking initiative that will help noise things up:

  1. Start with data-fueled insights, backed up with examples: Growth hacking isn’t an assumption, it’s premised on known information conveyed by customer data. Use the wealth of first, second and third party data that’s open to you. Form use cases and user personas premised on market examples that are representative of your findings
  2. Make decent business cases: Notice the plural here? Don’t just get stuck on one good idea. Get used to (rejection) writing compelling, succinct business cases. Keep it simple, but do your best to include the opportunity, the mutual benefit, the risk, cost, tech, timescale, measurement frameworks, operational and organizational impact and capability. Granted, you may not have full visibility over this, however it can be top line and seek input… which takes us to our next point:
  3. Gather your allies: Start with those who are most likely to understand where you’re coming from, such as your R&D and sales people, for instance and search for allies throughout the organization: a friendly face in distribution could be a killer addition to your renegade growth hacking team.
  4. Allocate a budget for experimentation: September is soon upon us and we’re gearing up for 2019 planning. Now’s the time to allocate a budget for marketing innovation. It doesn’t have to be big… but enough to conduct some monitoring, market testing, customer segmentation, outreach and trial.
  5. Prepare to be challenged: Similar to digital transformation initiatives, of which growth hacking is a natural cousin, expect people to be resistant to change. It’s human nature. Don’t be dismayed, all you need is a small green light to set your idea fly! Remember, all those detractors will become the initiative’s biggest advocate once they small success. Again, it’s human nature.

Need a little inspiration?

Let’s take a look at some of the best examples of growth hacking, to give you a bit of context and hopefully inspire you:

  1. The WIN/WIN.

Dropbox increased their signups by 60% by using growth hacking techniques to grow their customer base and augment their product to better suit their customers needs. In their early start-up years they experimented with many different hacking techniques and were recognized at The Webbys and The Crunchies for their results. One of their most successful initiatives was their “Refer a Friend” through which they were able to exponentially grow their customer base. Existing customers were offered 500mb of extra storage for every friend they managed to recruit via the link, the incentive worked both ways as the new joiners also received the same bonus. By offering the same incentive to the new user, they are encouraged to pass on the message further and so the growth continues. Essentially Dropbox was able to get its existing customers base to take charge of the marketing to potential customers, at very little cost. In addition to this, the referral process has much more credibility than traditional advertising as users were more inclined to trust information that comes from someone they know. 

2. INSPIRED BY HUMAN NATURE.

For our second example we’re going to club Gmail and Hotmail together (so controversial, we know). Both used classic characteristics of human nature, namely curiosity and belonging, to attract their audiences.

Hotmail launched in 1996, with “PS, I love you, get your free email at Hotmail.” This curious tagline, punched on the base of emails, sparked global virality… and the rest is history.

Gmail’s 2004 launch was same same but different; it launched by releasing invites to 1,000 tastemakers and granted them permission to refer friends. A gmail invite became the hottest invite in town – we remember the mad scurry to get said invite, it was a digital social status *thing*!

As you can see, successful growth hacking often comes about from leveraging the nature and behavior of audiences and working with them so that all parties involved benefit. And while everyone’s talking the technique up, wouldn’t you agree that listening to your customers needs and acting on them to drive business growth is simply common sense*? We certainly think so.

Please share with us your thoughts and experiences on growth hacking.

*And yes, we are more than well aware of “that” Henry Ford quote and guess what? He never said it!

Image credit: Bruno Cervera / Unsplash