Today’s corporations face more competition than ever before. This fact is particularly obvious in the technical arena, where development companies go head-to-head producing their apps in tight markets – making fast, strong growth extremely difficult.
Enter the method referred to as “Growth Hacking”. Growth hacking stands to revolutionize the way firms market their digital products and compete for market share. Growth Hacking blurs the lines between scientific-minded software developers and creative types, helping them tap into the consumer mindset to grow companies faster, cheaper, and more successfully.
Defining ‘Growth Hacking’
The founder and CEO of the company GrowthHackers, Sean Ellis, defines growth hacking quite simply as, “experiment-driven marketing.” Generally speaking, it’s based on the scientific method, which we all learned about back in third grade. Back then, you may have done an experiment along the lines of attempting to grow two plants from seed, placing one squarely in the classroom windowsill and tucking the other across the room on top of a shelf, where it got virtually no sunlight. This experiment (or others like it) taught us to form a hypothesis, test it, keep careful records of what we’ve done, and then analyze the results. We then used those results to improve the next time.
Growth hacking works on the same principles as our sun-drenched and light-deprived plant experiment. First, you develop a strategy for marketing and creating a solution or product. This is your hypothesis. You then try it, carefully tracking what you’ve done, and record your success (or lack thereof) with each attempt to market your product. Based on your results, you do more of what works, less of what doesn’t, and thereby improve your marketing and your development for radically better results over time.
The Growth Hacking Process, Step by Step
Once you understand the concept of growth hacking, it’s usable by developers, marketing gurus, the CEO, or anyone else in your company. Entrepreneurs use growth hacking to quickly build strong companies that can quickly compete with other industry-leading products in their vertical. It’s a proven strategy, leveraged successfully by many of today’s top tech firms, including Facebook, Twitter, Quora, YouTube, LinkedIn, Airbnb, and others. Here are the steps for instituting these practices in your company:
- Establish methods to test your marketing tactics.
What are you going to track, and how are you going to measure it? Begin tracking everything possible, gradually honing in on the most critical KPIs (key performance indicators) until you recognize at a glance what’s producing a ROI (return on investment) and what isn’t. This method is directly opposite the way some companies market their products and services, which is normally a matter of tossing anything and everything out there, hoping some of the marketing messages “stick.”
- Track everything your marketing department does.
Sure, try it all: Google AdWords campaigns, social media marketing, setting up booths at trade shows, YouTube videos, and the rest. Just track the actual conversion rates (how many actual, confirmed sales resulted from the ads), eliminating those that aren’t producing ROI and doubling down on those that do.
- Make changes based on the actual metrics.
This step bridges the gap between science and creativity. You aren’t depending on a “gut feeling” about what’s working and what isn’t; you have real, tangible, inarguable numbers to back up the hypothesis. You may not like the juggling cat video the marketers rolled out via the Twitter feed last month, but if the sales are there, the cat stays. Conversely, no matter how much the marketers are in love with the cutesy videos, if the conversions aren’t there to support funding the content, it has to go.
- Set goals to help you improve in a timely manner and track your progress.
Just like the dieter who sets the incredibly vague and undefined goal of “getting fit,” companies often set immeasurable and ill-defined goals like, “get bigger” or “compete with X company.” Using the growth hacking methodology, you set precise goals with realistic deadlines, and it’s abundantly clear when goals are met (or aren’t). For example, “double revenue by the end of the quarter” or “triple the number of paid downloads by year-end.” Now you have a yardstick to track progress as you track your relevant metrics.
- Use the information to improve future marketing strategies and campaigns.
Here’s where growth hacking completely parts ways with the “let’s hope” marketing strategies so many firms tend to use. After you’ve run a campaign or two, your marketing strategies ought to be clearly defined, tested, and proven. That isn’t to say that you won’t ever try new things — great companies are always stretching their boundaries and trying new and interesting marketing techniques. But it does mean that you have a pretty good idea where to find your customers. Are they learning about you from blogs, social media, or your product demonstrations on YouTube? What kinds of content do they respond to best: facts-only whitepapers, how-to videos, anecdotal articles, humorous posts, video versus written, long-form content versus short blog posts, etc.? Each round of measurements produces a clearer, more accurate and complete picture of your target customer and how to find them.
No black magic, no sneaky mind tricks, and no doublespeak. Growth hacking is a tried-and-true scientific method that holds potential for jumpstarting your product and catapulting it to success quickly, effectively, and without all the usual ruckus between your serious, tech-minded developers and those creative geniuses in marketing.