Growth hacking is a field in marketing that uses cost-effective tactics to achieve rapid business growth. Growth hackers have to find cheap and creative solutions, run experiments, and measure results.

In the video below, Growth Tribe defines growth hacking and explains how it differs from traditional marketing.

This instructive guide will help you learn more about growth hacking. We’ll explore the benefits of this approach, learn how to set up growth hacking for your business, and unpack some tips and examples.

What Is the Goal of Growth Hacking in Marketing?

The concept of growth hacking appeared in the era of early startups. These businesses needed to enlarge their customer base, market share, and revenue as fast as possible. Meanwhile, startups had extremely low budgets, so they couldn’t afford traditional promotion and customer acquisition tactics.

This situation has formed the primary goal of growth hacking in marketing – to acquire the maximum number of customers for minimal costs as quickly as possible. Following this objective, businesses devised specific growth hacking methods – we’ll explore them later in this article. Now it’s time to discover how exactly growth hacking tactics differ from ones that traditional marketing uses.

Difference Between Growth Hacking and Marketing

Growth hacking lives at the intersection of marketing, technology, and data science. Thus, it goes against traditional marketing in many ways. Let’s discover the main differences between these approaches.

  • Goals. Traditional marketing focuses mostly on brand awareness and increasing sales. Growth marketing’s be-all and end-all is business growth in general, thus, this approach works with all stages of the sales funnel.
  • Product. Marketing has everything to do with selling your finished product. Growth hacking goes further and helps companies improve the product in order to meet customer’s expectations.
  • Expertise. Modern marketers must not only conduct marketing campaigns, but also measure their results on and offline. However, their expertise still lies mostly in the marketing field. Growth hacking requires the ability to automate everything, and knowledge of data analytics and programming. Growth hackers can measure the effect marketing has on business in general.
  • Budgets. Growth hacking implies limited resources and tries to make the most of them by using offbeat tactics, mechanics, and channels. Traditional marketing often operates with bigger budgets and can afford paid promotional techniques – PPC, targeted ads, TV commercials, SMM, and so on.

Focus on business growth, expertise in data analytics and programming, tight budgets, and management of all stages of the pipeline are core characteristics of growth hacking. Read on to learn how exactly this approach combines and employs all of it.

How Growth Hacking Works

To make business expansion soar without spending a fortune, growth hacking employs automation, data analytics, and creativity. Customer attraction at the top stages of a funnel requires growth hackers to use offbeat techniques. Thus, they constantly come up with novel ways to generate traffic.

After devising a hypothesis, growth hackers start testing them – this is the only way to find out which tactics drive desirable results. Here is the moment when data analytics comes in handy.

To achieve sustainable growth and improve outcomes for future campaigns, growth hackers need to figure out not only WHAT works well but also WHY it does. Thus, growth hackers use data to track customers along their journey down the pipeline and try to understand what causes the existing results and how they can improve conversions at each stage. They constantly explore the target audience's expectations and customer satisfaction and offer to change the product to improve results.

Finally, when growth hackers learn what works best, they automate those processes. After this, they are ready to repeat the cycle with a new hypothesis. These loops of creating hypotheses, running experiments, collecting data, and automating processes are crucial in growth hacking. Let’s explore the details about the importance of this approach.

Why is Growth Hacking Important?

Growth hacking is vital for startups and other businesses on a tight budget. This concept allows brands to expand their audiences and boost revenue even though they can’t afford costly marketing tactics. Growth hackers constantly search for low-priced ways to promote a business and, thus, eliminate a lot of spending.

Better yet, growth hacking has a positive effect on big corporations as well. Employing some basic growth hacking methods, brands can embrace new audiences, improve ROI, and increase customer loyalty. These are just a part of the benefits growth hacking brings about.

Benefits of Growth Hacking

There are a lot of ways growth hacking can affect a business, apart from its low cost and impressive results. Let’s get into detail and unpack the main benefits of this approach.

  • Provable outcomes. Growth hacking is data-driven, so companies that use it, run experiments, and measure their performance. Thus, they have a full picture of the efficacy of each technique employed. Better yet, they have concrete measurements that allow them to judge and prove the results of strategies they use.
  • Product improvement. Growth hackers constantly test different options and learn more about the audience – their demands, preferences, interests, and more. It leads to a deeper understanding of how to improve the product or service a company provides.
  • Adjustable strategies. Modern marketing is kind of tricky – the strategies that worked well half a year ago may suddenly stop bringing desirable results. Growth hacking keeps an eye on performance and allows you to dump less effective methods to new ones. It also works the opposite way – you can scale the bulletproof tactics and apply them to other marketing channels.

Growth hacking can change the game for your business; it works off the beaten track and lets you get incredible results by changing minor details and investing next to nothing in it. For instance, replacing a traditional lead magnet with free access to paid content can drive a 400% increase in opt-ins. Read on to discover more growth hacking strategies and techniques to adopt.

Growth Hacking Strategies and Techniques

  • Create a brand personality
  • Collaborate to grow audiences
  • Find new communication channels
  • Employ interactive content
  • Craft a free tool

Thinking through ways to boost your company’s growth can get tough. To help you out with this task, we’ve picked five growth hacking tactics and strategies.

Create a brand personality

Facebook, Tesla, Uber – what factor unites these companies, apart from their rapid growth and market leadership? Well, there are well-known and beloved personalities behind them. That’s not a coincidence – the popularity of these startups’ founders has a dramatic effect on their expansion.

People tend to trust, communicate, and engage with other people more than with faceless businesses. Use this human psychology trait to your advantage – create a strong personality behind your company. You can start with social networks – they are a great place to build your personal brand and communicate with potential clients. To inspire people, start a personal blog telling them about your launch.

Collaborate to grow audiences

Partnerships are a golden opportunity to double or triple your brand’s audience in the blink of an eye. Better yet, it requires next to nothing in investment, especially compared to traditional marketing.

To benefit from this technique, choose the partner carefully. Opt for a complementary business – it ensures an influx of new audience members with the same interests as your brand. For instance, if you sell natural juice, you may collaborate with a protein bar manufacturer. Chances are your best customers are fitness enthusiasts.

Before offering the partnership, get ready. Prepare ideas on how to blend your audiences organically. The options may be tagging each other on social media, launching live streams together, offering product bundles, and so on.

Find new communication channels

Highly competitive communication channels are demanding. To get to your audience there and win, you probably need a huge budget. If you launch a business in a busy industry with well-established leaders, the barriers may become too high.

To break through to your potential customers, consider smaller social networks or resources. Choose the platforms, which your most promising prospects prefer. You may opt for TikTok if you work with a young audience, or go to The Dots if you target professionals from creative industries.

Employ interactive content

Growth hacking requires creating various types of content, from articles to videos to ads, and so on. In an ideal world, your audience would engage with every piece of your content. In reality, the users’ attention spans are limited. To grab their attention, use interactive elements.

Interactive content can lower your bounce rates, improve search engine results, boost engagement, and so on. For instance, the entertainment company, IMAX, achieved a 12-point increase in recall just by adding a poll to its ad on Instagram. Better yet, in most cases adding interactive elements costs brands next to nothing.

The best part of this tactic is that elements don't have to be expensive or difficult to produce. You can use special tools to create surveys, quizzes, action buttons, or subscription forms. To create web forms for free, try the form builder from SendPulse. It lets you craft embedded, floating, fixed, and pop-up forms from scratch, or use templates. SendPulse forms are responsive and adjustable on the go.

Craft a free tool

Lead magnets are a proven technique to broaden the mouth of your lead funnel and collect more contacts. Their magic is based on the reciprocity principle – people are more likely to give something – their money, time, or data – if they got something in advance. By the way, using psychological traits is an extremely effective and free technique. Read our list of hacks to make the most of them.

Returning to lead magnets, you should keep in mind that users are overwhelmed with free ebooks, checklists, and other pieces of content. So, you can take a step further and offer your audience a free tool. People will get used to it and appreciate it, so they become more prone to share their data with you and test your paid tools.

On the basis of these tactics, you may invent your solutions to start growth hacking in your company. To facilitate your transition to the new framework, we’ve created a step-by-step guide.

How to Start Growth Hacking

  1. Check your product-market fit
  2. Create a data lake
  3. Pick your North Star metric
  4. Improve your pirate metrics
  5. Build a backlog of ideas

Switching to the new approach requires resources and an action plan. In this part of the article, we’ll offer you a five-step plan you can follow to engrain growth hacking into your company.

1. Check your product-market fit

Product-market fit is the degree to which a product satisfies market demand. Put simply, if your product-market fit is great, it means that your audience needs your product. Hence, you won’t face significant difficulties in selling it.

To figure out whether you have a good product-market fit or not, you may employ various tactics. At first, consider creating a landing page and measuring the number of leads it brings. This will help you get an idea about the demand for your product.

If you already have a customer base, you may lean on customer retention and satisfaction rates, as well as the number of brand advocates you have. Customer surveys and conversations may come in handy as well.

Try Sean Ellis’ product-market fit survey. It will help you understand how many people will be disappointed with the disappearance of your product. Moreover, you’ll get a better understanding of your core benefits and the opportunities for improvement.

2. Create a data lake

As growth hacking is a data-driven approach, you need to build your data lake – a vast array of raw data. In this step, your task is to collect as much data as you can without worrying about the purpose. Here is the main information you can look for:

  • the source of a customer’s first visit to your website;
  • the pages a customer looks through on your site;
  • the source from where they’ve signed up for a trial;
  • the interaction with features of your product;
  • the customer lifetime value;
  • the references each customer makes;
  • the results of those references;
  • the reasons for avoiding your product.

Think through how you will collect this data, where and how you plan to store it, and what tools you will use to analyze the information. The easiest way is to use CRM software. Opt for analytical systems – they are made to manage data about your customers. To find the best option for you, follow our comprehensive guide on CRM systems.

3. Pick your North Star metric

In recent years, Silicon Valley companies have come up with the concept of the North Star metric. This term stands for the single metric that a company uses as a focus for its growth.

Each company chooses its own North Star metric according to its growth model and the value it provides to customers. For instance, Facebook aims at boosting the number of daily active users. For companies that work on a subscription model, the metric might be the number of premium subscribers, or customer lifetime value.

To find your metric, think of what will help you achieve long-term growth. Thus, if you develop an eCommerce business, you can grow due to the number of purchases per month. This would be your North Star metric.

4. Improve your pirate metrics

To successfully grow your North Star metric, you’ll need to keep an eye on pirate metrics as well. The pirate metrics, or AARRR, is a framework devised to help startups understand the customer journey and optimize a sales funnel. AARRR stands for acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and revenue.

Now let’s get into the details and find out how to work on every step:

  1. Acquisition. In this step, you should revise your customer acquisition channels. Find out the one that drives the most valuable traffic and the one that has the lowest cost. Try to improve your conversion rate on these channels – follow our comprehensive guide on conversion rate optimization.
  2. Activation. Ask yourself how good the user’s first experience with your product is and when a potential customer realizes the real value of your product. You can reinforce the activation with a polished value proposition – read our article to create and improve one.
  3. Retention. Try to understand how many of your customers you retain, and why others go. To improve this metric, employ some of the strategies we’ve listed in the article “Seven ways to keep your clients for life.”
  4. Referral. Think through the ways you can turn your customers into your brand advocates.
  5. Revenue. Mull over the question of how you can increase your revenue.

The key indicators in the last steps are your Net Promoter Score, customer lifetime value, and customer acquisition cost. To work these metrics out and improve them, follow the tips from our article “5 KPIs to keep an eye on.”

5. Build a backlog of ideas

With large data arrays and defined metrics, you can start thinking over ways to grow your business. The more ideas you have, the more regular experiments you can run. Consistency is the key to success with testing, so you should have a backlog of hypotheses and creative ideas.

For effective work, your backlog should fit the following criteria:

  • it has a place to create a list of ideas;
  • it lets you add a description and hypothesis to each of those ideas;
  • it allows you to prioritize ideas;
  • it enables teamwork;
  • it lets you save the results of your tests.

Thankfully, there are a lot of tools that provide the opportunities listed above. You can opt for any tool from traditional Google Sheets and Trello, to specific software, such as Experiments by GrowthHackers.

After finishing these five steps, you have everything to start running tests. Remember to track their results carefully and replenish your backlog of ideas according to the new data you get. You also need to automate processes that drive desirable outcomes. To perform all these tasks, you’ll need a wide set of tools.

Growth Hacking Tools

Working in a growth hacking framework requires a lot of tools to handle all the processes effectively. We’ve picked our favorites to help you set up integrations, collect data, run experiments, and automate processes.

  • Zapier is a core service for each marketer and growth hacker. It allows you to connect over 2,000 online services and tools together to help users be more productive. Apart from that, the service lets you create automated workflows with a few clicks without coding or any technical skills.
  • Colibri.io is a tool for internet monitoring. It helps you learn what people think about your brand or any chosen subject and allows you to approach these people. The service also helps you improve search engine results and your brand visibility on social media.
  • Optimizely is an A/B-testing tool. You can run experiments and measure the effectiveness of new headlines, offers, or campaigns in general.
  • SendPulse is a multi-channel marketing automation platform. The service lets you work with emails, SMS, push notifications, messengers, and chatbots. With SendPulse’s Automation 360 tool you can start automated message flows based on dates, events, and user’s actions. Among other useful features are message personalization, subscriber ratings, and advanced statistics. SendPulse provides an easy-to-use drag and drop landing page builder that allows you to create a landing page, online store, or link page for your social media bio without any coding skills and for free. You can also automate sales and communication with your customers with the help of our free CRM system. Sign up with SendPulse to automate your marketing, create subscription forms and chatbots, and send up to 15,000 emails to 500 subscribers a month for free.

These are only a couple of the tools you may need as a growth marketer. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to describe all the services in one article. However, we already have articles on the most popular tools:

You can save this guide to address the compilations listed above later. Now, let’s move on to the tips experienced growth hackers would give you.

Growth Hacking Tips

  • Ensure you can scale
  • Leverage your strengths
  • Book more time for tests

Although growth hacking is a relatively new field of marketing, it has accumulated a lot of mistakes and ways to avoid them. Read on to learn more about them.

Ensure you can scale

Growing a company seems alluring – who doesn’t want to boost their revenue? However, before starting growth hacking, make sure that you really can scale your business. Will your infrastructure really fulfill the increased demand?

Check up on the main points of your business and try to answer the following questions:

  • Is your team ready to manage the increased number of leads and prospects?
  • Can your infrastructure cope with bigger arrays of data?
  • Will your current business model work effectively for an upscaled company?
  • Can you cope with the increase in expenses?

Evaluate your processes, team, resource, and even your psychological willingness to handle a large business. Startups too often cannot cope with rapid growth, and the outcomes can be disastrous.

Leverage your strengths

There are two approaches to improvement. The first one implies focusing on tackling weaknesses to get well-rounded expertise. The problem is it often leads to mediocre or average results at best.

The second approach is to focus on using your strengths. For instance, to promote a new product, you may employ email marketing or influence marketing. Meanwhile, you don’t have the experience of working with digital influencers but have a huge mailing list full of loyal customers. Chances are good email campaigns will bring you more sales with low investment.

Don’t be afraid to refuse marketing channels or strategies that don’t work for you and don’t drive amazing results. Remember that growth hacking is all about testing and finding ways to get better outcomes for lower efforts.

Book more time for tests

You can spend hours discussing the effectiveness of ideas and hypotheses. However, the results of these conversations are only speculative, and putting ideas into practice may lead to completely different outcomes.

You should prefer testing hypotheses rather than talking about them. Keep your meetings short, make good choices, and implement them to get provable results. Be ready to refuse from poorly-performing practices or improve them on the go.

Remember to book enough time for testing your hypotheses. Most of the strategies only bring reliable results after several weeks or months. Don’t rush to get rid of some practices after several days of testing.

Even the most successful examples of growth hacking took time. Let’s examine effective techniques that transformed recent small companies into modern market leaders.

Growth Hacking Examples

Practice is the best teacher, that’s why you can’t learn without examples. We’ve picked three companies that came up with creative solutions to grow their businesses. All of them have a sustainable market share and customer base now.

Dropbox

The file-hosting service, Dropbox, shows a perfect example of rapid growth with little investment. The company didn’t use advertising or costly marketing techniques to acquire new customers. To win their audience, Dropbox created one of the most successful referral programs ever.

As you can see in the picture below, the company offers its users over 500 MB of extra storage space in return for each friend invited to the service. Immediately, this move helped Dropbox achieve a 60% surge in users.

Dropbox’s referral program

Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club did the impossible – the company won an oversaturated market, which has been dominated by another brand for decades. To do so, Dollar Shave Club spotted customers' pains and offered a solution – delivering razors and other personal grooming products by mail for only a dollar per month. This is the perfect example of a product-market fit.

To deliver its message and benefits, Dollar Shave Club, invested in video marketing. The reasons for choosing this strategy are simple – this type of content gets 135% more reach on social media. The company crafted a video seasoned with a dose of humor, which went viral. It has got over 26 million views and triggered over 12,000 orders within a couple of days.

Airbnb

In the beginning, the little startup, Airbnb, had a strong competitor – Craigslist. To overpower their rival, Airbnb went cheeky – it encouraged the audience to cross-post Airbnb’s listings on Craigslist’s website with a backlink. The mechanic was super-easy, so hosts could publish their ads on two websites with a single click. As a result, they got more views and traffic, and so did Airbnb.

However, simply pulling traffic from your competitor's website is not enough. Airbnb knew they needed a unique value proposition, so they offered one. The pictures for listings on rival websites were terrible – people couldn't see what they were paying for and refused to book anything. Airbnb owners rented a camera and made high-quality photos of as many apartments as they could. A month after the experiment’s start, revenue doubled. Since then, Airbnb offers professional photo services to hosts.

Airbnb

An offer to book a professional photo shoot on the Airbnb website

Growth hacking is the perfect way to scale your business fast with minimal investment. To employ this framework, you need skills in data collection and analytics, programming, as well as a huge dose of creativity. Book time for brainstorming and creative thinking by using automation services for routine tasks. Sign up with SendPulse – we’ll help you set up automated email and messaging campaigns, web push notifications, and email flows.

References

  1. If you need more information on how to start growth hacking, consider reading the article “What is growth hacking” by Neil Patel.
  2. In the article, “Growth hacking: the 12 best techniques to boost conversions,” Crazy Egg not only covers growth hacking techniques, but also provides some examples.
  3. Optin Moster assembled growth hacking tools in their article “28 best growth hacking tools for marketers” and divided them according to stages of the customer journey.
  4. Wishpond created the amazing collection of growth hacking tips in their article “Growth hacking: 100 hacks, strategies & techniques.
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