How to Think Like a Growth Hacker

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Startup culture is intense.

Businesses in their early stages require a TON of effort and focus in order to lift off the ground - and many find themselves chewed up and spit out before they've even had a chance to get started. 

Not to mention, the burnout is real. 

To appeal to investors, the pressure is ON for startup leaders to quickly find ways to grow as quickly - and for as little money - as possible.

With limited budget, and limited time, the typical boot-strapping startup will need to be creative. 

This is where the growth hacker comes in. 

Different from marketers, growth hackers have only one objective – to grow the company. This is done through a variety of tactics called “hacks.” These hacks generally are inexpensive (often free), and they are aimed at increasing the viral coefficient.
 
The OG growth hacker who coined the term in 2010, marketer Seth Ellis described it as “a person whose true north is growth.”

Some of today's biggest companies - Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, YouTube, to name a few - have attributed their successes to early growth hacking techniques.

Take the case study of Dropbox – when they looked at their initial pay per click campaigns for acquiring new users, they knew that $300 per new user wasn’t exactly sustainable. So instead, they decided to try a referral program (you’ll hear about this technique a lot when you dive into growth hacking). Users could get 500 megabytes of free space for every friend they invited who signed up. By implementing this program, their signups increased by about 60%, and today almost 35% of their customers are acquired via referrals. 

Take the case study of Dropbox – when they looked at their initial pay per click campaigns for acquiring new users, they knew that $300 per new user wasn’t exactly sustainable. So instead, they decided to try a referral program (you’ll hear about this technique a lot when you dive into growth hacking). Users could get 500 megabytes of free space for every friend they invited who signed up. By implementing this program, their signups increased by about 60%, and today almost 35% of their customers are acquired via referrals. 

Some innovative companies and startups today are even hiring designated growth hackers; keeping their marketing departments separate and hiring growth hackers to work separately from marketing.
 
Whereas traditional marketers will typically consider elements like creative, branding, messaging, target audience, budgets, expenses, conversions, etc; today’s growth hacker simply only focuses on one thing – and that is growth. So you can be a marketer, or an engineer, it really doesn’t matter. It all comes down to focus.
 
Growth hacking is basically a process of experimenting across marketing channels to find the most efficient way to grow the business.

How can YOU implement growth hacking strategies into your business?

1. Attract Business with High Value Content
 
Have you ever heard of inbound marketing? This is a key way to appeal to audiences who could potentially be your customers or clients, and a great means to encourage repeat business from former customers.
 
Build your brand, and start with content creation, social media, blogging, newsletters, etc - powered by a strong targeting strategy (after all, the right content doesn’t mean anything if it’s not in front of the right audience). 

High value content positions you as the expert in your industry, keeps you top of mind, brings traffic to your funnel, and encourages them to contact you. 
 
It’s simply one of the best ways to do business in today’s technology-driven ecosystem.
 
     a. Engage and Convert
 
Once you’ve got traffic, you’ve got to engage (and hopefully charm) your audience and convert to close. Spend time on community management on your social profiles, harvest your email list, and make time to convert your online relationships to real-time transactions. This is why you’ll really want to have nailed the following: who your ideal users are (and which group of users to sidestep to next if you reach a saturation point), how your site looks/feels (now is the time to perfect user on-boarding and great first week experience), build a great referral program and other systems, and refine the sales funnel.
 
2.    Get Intimate With Your Data

Data leads the way in the growth-hacking environment. 
 
It’s one thing to create content and have people engage with it, but if you don’t understand the where, why, and how – it’s almost impossible to scale and improve upon it with intention.
 
You’ll want to be analyzing every piece of information in your funnel, and constantly split test every aspect and variable of your funnel.
 
If this falls outside of your level of expertise, it might be worth calling in an expert even for a consultation or two on this. But, do your homework first and ask someone you trust - if you're stuck, ask us for our recommendations. Don’t believe everything you read on blogs and forums, either – remember that it’s usually in everyone’s interests for companies not to reveal the tactics they used going from zero to one – just like we don’t share all of our tips and tricks that have worked for our clients.

Growth Hacking As A Mindset

Maybe we can’t all be growth hackers (and it isn’t really a replacement of traditional marketing methods), but we can still incorporate its virtues to optimize sustainable growth; like data-driven thinking, scalability, creativity, and our personal favourite - a penchant for ignoring the “rules.”

You can become a growth hacker of your own business by changing the way you see problems and trends. 

To adopt the growth hacker's mindset, one must be willing to learn, experiment, analyze, assess, and evolve.

That said, it's imperative that we hold on to our ideals and fundamentals; not always an easy task in the face of technological change and chaos.

To grow it one thing; but to sustain, we can't forget our why. 
 
If you haven't yet read Built to Last – Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins, we highly suggest it. This marketer's classic go-to manifesto explores the importance of core ideology behind today’s greatest visionary companies, and suggests that entrepreneurs and business leaders simply cannot get too attached to the product or service to market – this is where dreams can go to die. If it doesn’t work, then the company fails.

But if you are able to hold on to that strong why or vision behind what you’re doing, you’ll be more adaptable to evolve and change as you find new growth “hacks” along your path - the ones that best serve you AND your customer.
 
Thanks for reading.
 
Your Marketing Geek,
Elle