So, you’ve got an amazing idea for a new business. If you build it and market it the traditional way, they will come, right?
It doesn’t matter what your niche is. There are bigger competitors in it, and traditional marketing has gotten them far. As for your business coming in and taking over? Good luck with that.
I tried that once. I created a product with my co-founder, Hiten Shah. It was pretty amazing.
But then we realized something disturbing.
We were competing against Google.
Google? You don’t compete with Google. Instead, you get squashed, obliterated, bought out, or ignored.
We had to do something different. And that “something different” turned out to be growth hacking, and that’s when I first developed my fascination with the field.
We still compete with Google, sort of, but our product is highly differentiated, incredibly value-added, and distinct in every way. (Business is booming, by the way.)
Let’s face it: The old way of doing things works reliably only for large, established businesses—companies that have huge customer bases and vast marketing budgets.
Enter growth hacking. Since the term was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010, the concept has been shown to deliver amazing results time and time again. If your business is floundering despite supposedly tried-and-true techniques, it may be time to get on board.
Speaking of time, though, you may not have much of it. Don’t worry. Right here, you’ll learn everything you need to know to become an innovative growth hacker in a single month.
What is growth hacking, anyway?
Perhaps I’ve gotten ahead of myself a little. You can’t embrace growth hacking without knowing what it is.
At its essence, growth hacking is a method of quick product development and experimentation across marketing platforms. It aims to pinpoint the most efficient and effective ways to grow a company.
An affordable alternative to traditional marketing, growth hacking involves quickly testing and tweaking various marketing tactics to increase conversions while reducing the cost of customer acquisition.
Unlike with traditional product development, in which a product is fully formed before being tested, user testing begins during the earliest stages in growth hacking, and ideas are tested every step of the way.
One helpful way of thinking of growth hacking is with three overlapping circles. Marketing, experimentation, and automation or development of some sort all come together in a nexus of growth hacking.
Why engage in growth hacking?
Growth hacking is a modern alternative to traditional marketing, which has become increasingly ineffective for startups and small companies in the fast-paced digital era.
A hacker is more concerned with achieving an end than following a prescribed course of action and will cut corners to do so. Likewise, growth hackers’ goals are similar to those of traditional marketers—but achieved in innovative ways.
You can have different types of growth hackers. For example, one popular iteration of growth hackers is the content hacker, who looks like this:
So, why engage in growth hacking? You do it when you need to hit the ground running with a new product or concept but can’t afford to rely on traditional marketing efforts.
For example, with traditional marketing, you wait until a product is fully developed before subjecting it to user testing. This, of course, requires you to sink a ton of time and money into something that users may hate. Similarly, you may develop a traditional marketing strategy and follow it to a T only to discover that it falls flat.
With growth hacking, products are tested at every stage of development. Marketing techniques are continually tested and adjusted too.
Who benefits from growth hacking?
Companies that benefit the most from growth hacking are ones that are willing to put intense effort and focus into marketing and launching a product in exchange for much faster growth.
Like many startups and small businesses, yours may not be able to afford the time and money it takes to do things the traditional way. By becoming an innovative growth hacker, you begin marketing and testing right off the bat and continue all the way through product launch and beyond.
How does growth hacking work?
The growth hacking process is actually pretty simple to understand. Once you have a strong grasp of how it works, you can dive right in.
That’s great news for you if you have an amazing idea for a new product and are eager to see how the market responds. By learning how to become an innovative growth hacker, you can watch your ideas either blossom or fall flat more quickly. And that allows you to move on to the next thing right away if need be.
Although it varies a great deal by company and circumstances, growth hacking usually unfolds as follows:
1. Establish mini goals
As a business owner, you probably already have a goal in mind for launching your new product. For example, perhaps you would like to see its website attract more than 250,000 visitors in a single month.
Attempting to achieve that goal in and of itself is daunting. Instead, break things down into mini goals to stay on track and to continually move toward reaching your ultimate goal. For instance, set a goal to attract at least 10,000 visitors to your website in a week.
2. Start analyzing from square one
Modern analytics provide information in almost real time, so there’s no need to wait around to see how various techniques are faring. Since your marketing strategy will likely kick off with online marketing, set up an effective system for analyzing traffic to your site and landing pages immediately.
Continually tracking the effectiveness of your various marketing efforts helps because you can address problems right away. When you try something and it doesn’t work, you can switch tactics virtually midstream.
When setting up your analytics, make sure to be tracking the right metrics. Whether you use Google Analytics or another app, set up advanced segments and goals. Keep an eye on KPIs like time on page and referral URLs. Don’t forget to track mobile usage too.
3. Optimize your sales funnel
Be ready to pounce at every step of the sales funnel to keep prospects and customers moving right along.
For the acquisition stage, focus on content marketing. Amass a large library of high-quality content as soon as possible. Offer free webinars and e-books in exchange for email signup. Create and share infographics regarding trending topics in your niche, and maintain a PPC campaign from square one—even if your budget is small.
4. Act quickly
Growth hackers think quickly on their feet, which is why they are so successful at growing huge customer bases in short periods of time.
As soon as it’s clear you’re barking up the wrong tree with a marketing technique or product feature, scrap it. Better still, have backup plans ready to go so that you can seamlessly introduce them.
At the same time, make the most of techniques and features that do work. Leverage them for everything they’re worth. For example, if you discover Twitter is where you’re most likely to find your target demographic, intensify your efforts there.
Growth hackers aren’t wishy-washy. They are decisive. Don’t second-guess yourself if you need to abort what you initially thought would be an amazing idea.
5. Experiment and tweak
For you as a growth hacker, A/B testing is one of your best friends. Use it extensively while designing websites, landing pages, and other aspects of your campaign to quickly zero in on features that deliver the best ROI.
The simple act of adjusting where a call to action is placed can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of a landing page. The wording you use is highly influential too, especially when it comes to headlines.
As you test what resonates with your target audience, you will also learn more about it. This information will further enhance your ability to grow your business.
Tips for being an effective growth hacker
Now that you know the basics of growth hacking, you’re probably ready to give it a go. Still, knowing which steps to take is merely the first step. True success lies in mastering subtler skills.
As you go about your growth hacking, keep the following seven tips in mind. When they become like second nature to you, you’ll really start seeing results from your efforts.
1. Listen and suggest
Thanks to the Internet and social media, feedback about anything that you offer is readily available. You don’t even have to create an official poll or survey.
Growth hackers know this and embrace it by being actively involved in online conversations regarding their company, products, industry, and niche.
Odds are that users will be commenting about things that matter to you and your business. By being there to hear it, you can implement users’ best suggestions to further enhance growth.
At the same time, offer suggestions to visitors to your site and elsewhere online to keep them engaged in your brand. For example, if someone buys or expresses interest in one product, suggest another one they may like.
2. Be accessible
Don’t assume your products will be used only one way or that those who want them will be found only in one place.
Instead, employ a multi-pronged approach by considering a variety of possibilities. In its infancy, Spotify offered streaming music across a number of different devices and platforms. In a wise move, Spotify also gave different ways for users to enjoy music.
Not surprisingly, the app has had a very broad appeal and has been a massive success.
3. Use scalable techniques
Innovative growth hackers don’t focus solely on the here and now. They’re visionaries, so they always keep an eye on the future. Instead of putting all their eggs in one basket by implementing a massive, expensive technique, they start small and see how things go.
At the same time, they leave plenty of room for growth. After all, that’s what the process is all about. Facebook did this well early on by not sinking too many resources into any one particular thing. Instead, the company started small with new concepts and techniques, designing them to be scalable so that they could grow right along with the company.
4. Deliver content quickly
Rapid growth is likelier to happen when prospects receive content at the right place and time. In other words, you must be ready to pounce with the perfect content at any given moment.
You only need to look to Upworthy to see this done properly, at least when it comes to getting your point across quickly.
Engaging headlines play a huge role in this, so take the time to craft incredible ones. Include plenty of visual elements to pique users’ interest.
Design your content to be easy to share. Viral marketing is a low-cost, low-risk venture you can integrate into your current efforts.
Don’t be afraid to branch out in different directions. Just make sure your content is provided at the right time and to the right people.
5. Roll with the punches
Just when it appears a new product has finally “made it,” its target demographic changes course, and interest peters out. Unfortunately, such is the way of the world. Change is the only constant, and as a growth hacker, you have to be able to roll with the punches.
Instead of fearing change, embrace it. Always be on the lookout for the next big thing in your niche, and be ready to bring it to your customers. Even if you design an incredible product, it won’t be perceived that way forever.
6. Nurture prospects effectively
In the mad dash to grow a business, it’s easy to let viable prospects slip through the cracks. To be an effective growth hacker, you must have a strategy in place for nurturing leads to increase the odds of conversion.
First, you must know what your ideal customer wants in the first place. Once you do, figuring out how to appeal to them is somewhat intuitive. However, the method of doing so will vary depending on the prospect.
With that in mind, have plenty of tools in your arsenal. Ensure your content library is stocked with pieces that can be used to guide prospects along the path to conversion.
7. Be as niche as possible
The most successful growth hackers are thought leaders within their industries. It’s almost always the case because they have focused on a specific niche and have become true experts.
Learn everything you possibly can about your niche. Use that knowledge to create compelling blogs, guest blogs, e-books, white papers, and other pieces of content. Conduct webinars, engage in email marketing, and be highly active on social media.
Eventually, you might even consider establishing a special forum for “insiders.” When they opt in, give them a login so that they can be among the first to learn about emerging trends in your industry.
Growth hacking has become so popular that businesses hire professional growth hackers. Luckily, you don’t have to outsource this particular task. Instead, become a growth hacker yourself.
By taking a more innovative, outside-the-box approach to growing your small business or startup, you’re more likely to get where you’d like to be in a timely manner. So, what are you waiting for?
How will becoming a growth hacker benefit your company?