Whether you’re running a startup or just a regular internet savvy, you could have heard about Growth Hacking.
The phrase is so revolutionary that it is used by almost anyone in startup environment, and begin to be followed by conventional business practitioners.
Why Do You Need To Know About Growth Hacking?
In fact, many of them are not able to pull in its strategic features for business advantages. Thus, relying on regular growth techniques.
I’m not saying the conventional marketing technique is not working anymore, but as someone who deals with daily operational in business growth, you are not going to limit yourself, are you?
So, take this as a new approach to grow.
Believe me, you will be learning something after completing this post.
Who is This Post For?
This post is for entrepreneurs, founders, marketers, leaders or anyone else who is tasked to grow a business startup.
If you are running a startup, especially in the early stage, you absolutely need to read this.
If you are in charge of developing new business and new market, you should understand this too.
For those who understand what is Growth Hacking, you may not interested in continuing reading this subject, but, I am going to write more than just its definition.
So, make sure to keep reading instead.
What is Growth Hacking?
Since Growth Hacking can be considered a new term in business, the definition ousted are differed between people.
I’ve heard some founders said it is simply another new jargon for marketing, some others believe it is pretty much similar to marketing but using some (tend to be cynical) tricks to grow, while many others have misunderstood the whole idea of growth hack.
Yeah, the word ‘hack’ itself could drive people into the wrong impression.
But growth hacking is not what they mentioned above.
Let’s have a look at the meaning of growth hacking from various sources.
According to Wikipedia:
Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.
According to Neil Patel:
Growth hacking combines the use of technical skills and creativity to develop and execute marketing practices with a primary focus on growth.
According to Growthhackers.com
Growth hacking is a process pioneered by today’s fastest growing companies to drive rapid and sustainable customer and revenue growth. It replaces static marketing plans and siloed teams with a more agile, cross-functional approach.
And according to Sean Ellis, growth hacker is:
A person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.
The History of Growth Hacking
When we talk about growth hacking, we are actually talking about a technique to grow a startup fast enough to reach its milestone.
The phrase itself is only 7 years old.
It was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010 when he was trying to find a replacement for his job. He is the original growth hacker actually, though it wasn’t being introduced initially.
Sean Ellis is a consultant that help startups achieve fast growth and capable of single-handedly driving the companies to their IPO. He was the one that startups went to when they need to accelerate their growth.
One of his client is Dropbox.
He would come to set up strategy, systems, processes and other things that later could be continuously maintained by someone else after he left the company.
Before he took off, Sean would find a replacement to continue engaging on the growth machine he had set up.
And this was when the problem began.
It is very hard for him to find the right person. They are all good, had marketing degree, had abundance of marketing experiences, but still, something was missing.
Sean wanted to find someone who was not traditional marketers. Why?
While traditional marketers have extremely valuable skill set, but their focuses are too broad. They have great marketing knowledge, able to establish strategic plan, able to lead marketing team and have capability to manage outside vendors and agencies.
But the problem is, the early stage startups don’t necessarily need these objectives. What they need is just one thing, Growth. A fast growth.
So, eventually, Sean changed the title of the job from finding a marketer to Finding a Growth Hacker for Startup. And that was how the idea born.
Why Do Startups Need Growth Hackers
Many companies have cut down their budgets to advertise with printed newspaper, magazines, radios and TVs.
It just doesn’t make sense to put money in channels that are not ‘seen’ that much anymore.
Marketing in digital age is completely different than before.
You need to understand about internet, technology and trending market behaviour in order to come out with the right method.
Now, conventional marketers couldn’t do this job. They maybe lacking knowledge related to digital environment or don’t have technical skills in internet application. Not all of them, but many of them are.
If you are wondering about the technical skills above, it can go as deep as technology related stuffs, such as design and programming.
And yes, design is technical too, not just about graphic art and visual interface. Moreover, it’s about how to get existing problem solved.
A growth hacker should have capability to go through applications, doing A/B testing and also building technology, system and strategy to grow the startup.
One more thing that identify a growth hacker is, not like traditional marketers, they often don’t care about budgets and expenses. They should not.
They have to put their main focus in growing the business, thus making budgets as second priority.
It’s either growing fast enough or die slowly. That’s the only metric a growth hacker cares about.
In startup, they often use inexpensive, innovative and creative ways to build customer base.
Who Can Be A Growth Hacker?
Anyone who simply has the idea to grow the business fast can take the responsibility to be a growth hacker. From marketer, designer, programmer or even engineer.
If you have passion to grow a startup, can come out with innovative marketing tactics, like to play with analytics, have data-driven mindset and love making things go viral, you could be a talented growth hacker.
But it is not an easy job, really. You need to use a lot of brainpower, creativity and also energy in order to succeed.
Some of the Successful Growth Hacking Stories
I’m going to tell you two best stories of successful growth hacking, Airbnb and Dropbox.
This platform was started by two guys who were unable to pay their rent. So they tried to rent out three air mattress on floor and serve breakfast.
Long story short, they had the idea to build a platform where people can rent out their spare rooms.
But they didn’t have that much cash to run advertising and marketing campaign.
So, they came out with an inexpensive idea involving Craigslist spam. We all know that Craigslist is an established platform with million of users. A nice place to capture customer base. But how?
Airbnb developed a hack to cross-post Airbnb listing on Craigslist. Anyone who searched Craigslist to rent a room for vacation would run into Airbnb’s professional listing all of a sudden, inviting them to click on over.
Besides, Airbnb also send email to inform Craigslist’s vacation rental posters about how easy it is to post on Airbnb as well.
Interesting isn’t it?
These tricks had brought the initial traction Airbnb needed, without costing it huge cash.
Dropbox used referrals to increase their user base. According to Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox, the trick could increase sign ups by 60%! A big growth for a new startup.
This was what they did.
Dropbox offer interesting incentive to its users who referred the service, an extra 500MB of cloud space, free for both, as long as the referred person sign up.
This hack worked like magic. Anyone who has signed up began sending referral links to their family and friends because they wanted extra space. Well, who doesn’t want free stuffs.
And the cost needed was much lesser than putting up advertising through Google Adwords or other similar advertisement methods.
- Growth hacking is what you need if you are bootstrapping or on early stage startup in which you don’t have much cash to spend on marketing.
- You need to get a growth hacker. A good one, to help you grow user base and business.
- When you consider hiring a growth hacker, prioritise your search on his knowledge and experience in marketing as well as technology.
- Growth hacking is not a formal academic subject, so, you might want to put this as last priority. Experience and knowledge are the most important requirements.
- Establish your user base through platforms with millions of audiences like Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, etc. is a great way to gain traction.
Do you have anything to talk about growth hacking? Let me know in the comment below.
Featured image credit: Freepik
Wahidin Wong is a digital marketer at Adkomu.com and an editor at Tobeeko.com. He is also a jazz and bossa lover.