Traditional marketing is a long and winding road. It’s a road that could be a bit too long for startups, for which time and resources are of the essence.
With pressure for keeping margins as low as possible, new businesses typically don’t have adequate budgets for undertaking marketing in the traditional sense.
Enter growth hacking.
Growth hacking allows a company to cut through redundancies and unhelpful practices while zeroing in on the main purpose of marketing – customer acquisition.
The term growth hacking was invented by entrepreneur and startup advisor Sean Ellis in 2010 out of frustration. He made a career of helping internet companies grow fast by putting such processes and systems in place that could easily be continued once he moved on.
However, it turned out to be difficult for him to find marketers who could understand his fast and growth-oriented approaches. A knowledge of traditional marketing was not adequate for this purpose. He wanted growth hackers, not typical marketers that walk a slow and beaten path.
You could look at this style as lean marketing. Lean to the point of minimal body fat!
The focus is to grow with minimal investment of resources so that one is forced to think out of the box to get (often fantastic) results. There is no big spend on commercials in print or on TV/Web, interrupting consumers to get the message across, as would happen with traditional marketing.
Instead, with growth hacking is integrated within the product being offered. You have at once saved on time as well as money and made your customers an offer they would love to take up.
Which companies have had success with this? Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Airbnb, and Uber come to mind. (Here’s a masterclass on growth hacking, the Airbnb way.)
How to hack your way to growth
The amazing part of growth hacking is that you may already be doing it without knowing it! If you are marketing in the digital age, you should already be researching and targeting your audience, creating unique, targeted content and the like. However, you need to approach these tasks with a growth-oriented mindset that focuses less on the process and more on scalable impact, while being open to taking risks along the way.
- Get super clear about your target audience
With growth hacking, you don’t want to waste any time.
The growth and impact you are looking for will only come when you are very clear about who you want to reach.
Detailed demographic research is a necessity.
- Find a good analytics tool
Growth hacking involves a lot of analytical thinking, which is only possible with reliable data.
You are going to need a tool to gather demographic intelligence, for keyword research, social media research, to find influencers and for information on competition.
You will also want numbers regarding your website – the organic traffic it receives, the bounce rate, etc. – to inform your efforts and deliver a better user experience.
So this is one investment I’d recommend you to make.
Google Analytics is a good place to start. Crazy Egg, Hotjar, and Optimizely are other helpful programs, depending on what you are looking for. Bear in mind that you may have to invest in more than one tool for this.
- Create quality content
Yes, content rules. The success of growth hacking is heavily connected to the content you publish.
Content is how businesses communicate with prospects in the digital world. When it is clear that traditional methods of marketing are intrusive and plain annoying, not to mention resource-intensive for cash-strapped startups, we need to find a better way to reach our target audience.
People love consuming quality content. Devise a content creation and distribution strategy that taps into this demand.
Encourage people to share your content on social and follow you there.
- Distribute on relevant social channels
Where does your target audience like to hang out? Who influences them, what kind of conversations engage them, and what is trending in the niche right now?
The purpose of this is to direct your time and efforts towards the social platforms that are most relevant for your business.
Forget about the most popular platforms and where you should be. Research will give you concrete data on where the prospects are so that you waste little time elsewhere trying to reach them.
- Crank up your email marketing
Email is still gold because every single one of us uses it, every single day. People may go for a couple of days without logging into social media but if they are working professionals they will definitely check their email at least once a day, often multiple times a day.
Encourage people to sign up for your blog in exchange for downloadable resources and weekly newsletters that are of clear help to them.
As you grow your subscriber list, create content that speaks to the readers. Address their main concerns, fears and aspirations. Everybody loves actionable advice which they can implement in real life. Invite questions and respond to them on time. Email marketing presents you with high chances of conversion.
- Offer integrated marketing
Marketing should be built into the products/services you offer for an incremental effect.
What can you offer your readers to make them sign up with you and also spread the word about your brand?
Dropbox, for example, offered its users extra storage space.
Perhaps you could offer a free yoga class to encourage people to join, or a free haircut for those who refer your services to their friends?
- Take an inventory of your marketing process
When your team is given a campaign to execute, how many steps does it take in order to get to the right people?
Digital marketing has already considerably shrunk this process. With improved focus you can further pare it down to just a few steps that take you to the desired goal without requiring heavy investment of time and money.
I’m not asking you to become stingy or lazy. Just be very specific about which steps you really need to keep and let go of everything else.
Make your own rule book
When the term ‘hacking’ comes into picture, we know there isn’t a particular set of rules.
You’ve got to use your imagination and work with your specific circumstances to make the most of the available resources. Be creative and think laterally to grow your company. Hacking for growth is a mindset that scrutinizes processes to weed out redundancies and approaches resourcefulness with an almost sacrosanct devotion. It’s brave, bold, and effective. It’s also unique to each company that undertakes it.
Can you think of one process that you can get rid of today, or refine it, to make your marketing more growth-oriented?