Growth Hacking has come to the forefront in the past 5 -6 years with the term being coined by Sean Ellis in 2010.
Sean defines a growth hacker as:
“[…] a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinised by its potential impact on scalable growth. Is positioning important? Only if a case can be made that it is important for driving sustainable growth (FWIW, a case can generally be made).”
So what is Growth Hacking?
It is the focus on growth from the very beginning of a product - growth is the goal, focus and obsession of a growth hacker. They will stop at nothing to get their product out there in new and different ways. Growth Hacking has come to the forefront with the rise of the shareable internet, the more a growth hacker understands how their target market connects, which spaces they are in online they can target and get users to sign up the more successful their growth hacking will be.
An example of this is in the early days of Airbnb, the startup piggybacked off Craigslist creating a bot to copy Craigslists' unique URLs, inputting the listing information and then forwarding the new Airbnb URL to the user to publish. Airbnb automated the whole experience for the advertiser giving them no reason not to publish the listing. Airbnb saw that people on Craigslist were looking for the same thing they offered, cheap accommodation not necessarily at a hotel, why not poach people and bring them over to the Airbnb platform?
This tactic is cheeky to say the least and they were eventually shut out by Craigslist, but in doing so the payoff was huge and the enormous platform growth was accelerated - this is growth hacking at its finest.
The hack was cheap with minimal spend outside of time to set up a great and more effective alternative to traditional growth strategies.
Often Growth Hacking is a mixture of ingenuity, creativity and moxie.
Many people define growth hackers as marketers with an advanced ability to code, but really you can have a growth hacking team - a leader with the ingenuity alongside a passion for growth with a team of awesome coders who aren't afraid of a challenge.
Growth hacking has to be brave, that's why it suits startups so well - they have limited resources and connections, what they do have is time. Therefore, they can invest their time and people into finding a way to their target audience while avoiding the expensive 'normal' way of growing a business. True growth hacking has never been done before and may have a finite lifespan - like the above Craigslist example, Airbnb was eventually shut out of the Craigslist platform but at that point, they had a significant amount of growth and were ready to move onto something bigger and better.
The biggest aspect of growth hacking is that they don't have a formal plan laid out like a marketing manager might, trialling and A/B testing with the associated analytics are the bread and butter of growth hackers.
Analytics provide hackers with proof they are on the right or wrong track - analytics can highlight where to focus attention and where to abandon efforts, streamlining the teams to do list and pointing them in the right direction - growth.
Analytics also allow you to point to the event that is making a difference - The risk is implementing the growth hack which as the example above illustrates can be bold and could fail, - but what if it doesn't?
To have a growth hacker on your team, you have to be able to trust them, their hypothesis and allow them to implement their plan - don't worry they will measure, and optimise or abandon the campaign as they see fit. The important thing is they know exactly what is is that they did that was successful therefore making it easier to expand, optimise or repeat in future.
So how do growth hackers get to be growth hackers?
1. Goals are specific and measurable
2. Analytics - As I've said Growth hackers are obsessed with analytics - the more you know the more you grow.
3. Do the easy things first - use the resources and knowledge available to you, often the most simple ideas are the most successful for example Hotmail including the "Get your free email at Hotmail" growth hack tagline". This tiny detail skyrocketed their user base from 20,000 to 1 million within a 6 month period, pretty damn amazing.
4. Think of it as an experiment - write a hypothesis to go with your goal, if you make it clear what you expect you will be able to see where you could make improvements or rationalise why it was the best idea you've had in your whole life.
5. Have multiple angles - if one doesn't work and inevitably something will fail, you have something to fall back on and test against the unsuccessful hack.
And there you have it, too bad thinking outside the box is the hardest thing that you can do.
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