We live in unprecedented times of constantly evolving digital landscape, and with these shifts comes the whole spectrum of new terminology. Many of these notions become indispensable parts of our speech, but some still cause confusion despite being widely used. In business, one such notion is “growth hacking”. Every startup wants growth hackers, and by “growth hacking”, marketers and entrepreneurs mean the best possible way one can grow business. But what exactly does this “best way” look like? To clarify this, we need to understand the history of this term.
The term “growth hacker” was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010. Sean helped lots of startups, such as Dropbox, grow very fast, but whenever he would leave the startup, he could not find a proper replacement for his position, and that’s why he came up with the “grow hacker” notion. He did not want simply a marketer, or even an outstanding one. He needed someone who would be all about growth in its exact and purest meaning. That’s where we find the root of the notion “growth hacking”. This requires the specific mindset of the person in charge, that is, implementing every strategy, developing every technique, and using every tool based on the desire for growth. A growth hacker conducts experiments based on a process-based approach to boost the number of customers as fast as possible. Thus, the word ‘hacking’ in this context is a metaphor which implies growing in a distinct, cheaper and/or faster way. Since the invention of this term, more people started calling themselves growth hackers, growth marketers, data-driven marketers, or heads of growth. They recognized themselves in this outlook and understood its difference with traditional marketing. And that is why we have witnessed such impressive growth results in companies such as Airbnb, Uber, Facebook, Instagram and many others.
So what’s so special about this growth hacking mindset, and why the meaning of this term is sometimes so elusive to understand? First of all, a growth hacker puts the goal above the means; the growth of a ‘North Star Metric‘ comes first, and which channel, technique, or tool is used to achieve this is a secondary task. For this reason, it is crucial that a growth hacker has a combination of profound knowledge and skills. What concerns growth hacking skills, data knowledge is a must because that is the surest way to understand your main problem and its roots. Creativity to resolve the problem is another necessary feature of a growth hacker. Finally, a growth hacker needs technical skills to implement the intended solutions. But wait, does it mean that a growth hacker needs all those skills mastered? No. He/she does not need to be a wizard in everything, but in any case this person should understand the basis to be able to do the main part by themselves. A growth hacker has to be able to work fast and, thus, needs to be as independent as possible. That is why, it is essential for a growth hacker to be able to program, manage data, and design.
Growth hacking was originally meant for startups, and it is ideal for such ventures due to their restricted budgets and resources. For those startups, growth hacking was their means to pave the way in the established market and fight with the big corporates. They did not have the same resources and budgets as their big competitors, and, hence, they had to find other ways to promote their products and services. However, growth hacking is also useful for larger companies. Many large companies consider growth hacking as the best strategy for the 21st century since business now has to be flexible to win competition, has to be quick to use chances, and needs to be data-driven because it is not viable to spend thousands or millions of euros based on a sole intuition or instinct.
So now let’s see how growth hacking can be useful to your business specifically and what steps are necessary to take. Any effective growth hacking is based on a rigorous iteration and scalability process. It does not matter if you are a startup or large organization, B2B or B2C, this process can be adjusted and included in a successful growth strategy:
1) Come up with a minimum viable product (MVP). You have to understand more than the mere function of the product. You need to know why the product is needed, who needs it, and how to convey its value. With that approach at the beginning, you have more chances to create a successful product.
2) Establish measurable goals. The success of a growth hacking strategy is in setting precise and achievable goals that will help the overall aim of your growth. This step will reduce the temptation to widen your focus, and, thus, will let you have the time needed for testing and improving your approach.
3) Put your approach to the test. Growth hacking and creativity/experimentation are inseparable. Testing is crucial to see what is and what isn’t working. Make sure your tests are simple and lean and keep the record of the data to further implement the best combinations and proceed with your growth.
4) Analyze your performance. Analysis is essential if you want to reach the expected progress with your goals. While recording the progress in one area, the data can also be used to adjust other areas.
5) Optimize as much as needed. Whether you need to utilize a whole new approach or upgrade the current one, you should leverage the “learn by doing” approach. Success requires effort and comes with mistakes and practice.
At the end of the day, what you must remember first and foremost is that growth hacking is not a fixed strategy; it is a mindset, which you can and need to develop if you want to reach impressive results in your business. Before starting a growth hacking journey, ask yourself if you are curious and creative by nature, have a demanded product, know your ideal customer, and can handle analytics. If that’s about you, hard work and determination will let you do the rest.
If you’re thinking about diving into the growth hacking world, you need to be sure that your company is at a good point to start. Lean and Sharp will help you with a fast take-off and a successful business journey.