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If you’re running a startup or a smaller company, your marketing budget may be small to non-existent, and yet you have ambitious growth plans. You’ll therefore be looking for smart ways to develop your business using social media channels, content marketing, remarketing or marketing automation for example.
Welcome to the world of growth hacking
You’ve heard the word mentioned enough already, we’re sure, and you’ve probably seen a dozen sponsored advertisements today alone from so called “growth hackers”, promising to show you how to make it big overnight. If you’re looking for ways of growing your business quickly with limited spend, growth hacking is exactly what you’re trying to achieve. More accurately, it is the art-come-science of gaining maximum returns for minimum investment.
Add herbs and taste
Imagine a chef making a sauce. They put in the main ingredients, add heat and stir. Then they add various spices and herbs. As they stir they keep tasting until at last, voila, they are happy with the taste. The best chefs will make a note of how many pinches of each ingredient they added to the pot so the next time they make that sauce, they can make it even better. Take note of the process. They are constantly monitoring the most important metric – the taste – and this affects their behaviour not just while cooking this sauce but the next time.
Create something that blows the mind
To continue with the food analogy, the greatest chefs are able to conjure up completely original concepts in taste and presentation. They draw on their experience and expertise with tastes and ingredients to dream up culinary masterpieces. Sometimes these ideas will fail miserably. Picture the celebrity chef of your choice pulling a face of contempt. Other times, guests will heap praise on the chef for delivering an outstanding dish full of the most interesting flavours.
Genuinely superb chefs are “taste hackers”. They use a mixture of guesswork, logical thinking and measurement to create tastes that will delight their guests. They have cooked a wide enough range of simple and complex dishes to have a hunch of how they can combine flavours in a unique way. Then when they experiment with their ideas, they pay close attention to the taste to get the ratios just right. By homing in on flavours that work, making a note of how they created them and the exact volumes of ingredients used they become agile at creating flavours that deliver impact.
If “taste hacking” works for chefs, surely it can work for marketers and it does!
From taste hacking to growth hacking
The same principles can be applied to marketing. Instead of measuring taste, we’re interested in sales and all the relevant metrics leading up to sales or bookings: visits to landing pages, time spent on the site, number of pages visited, bounce rates, and further back in the funnel, the number of people following our Twitter accounts, Liking our Facebook page, connecting on LinkedIn, engaging with our posts. Never forget, however, that the real measure of success is orders, bookings and bums on seats. Ultimately, other metrics are only useful if they are leading to genuine business growth.
On the one hand, then, we have the metrics that we will measure and we will be mindful as to why we measure what we do in accordance with a well thought out strategy. There is another element to hacking however and that is the imaginative side; the hypothesising. Based on experience and knowledge we ask the question, “what if we do…?”. Then we put together a plan of action, an experiment, and see how we get on. Will our plan lead to increased interaction with our site and increased conversions or will it get us nowhere?
Five pillars of growth hacking
Growth hacking tends to include certain steps or pillars and these are:
Look at the initiatives already in place and home in on what’s working. Where do your best leads come from? What channels are working for you?
Set SMART goals
Identify the metrics that you want to target for improvement. Think about cause and effect. What factors do you think have affected these metrics and how do you think you may be able to improve them. These ideas form the basis of your hypotheses. Now set SMART goals to aim for – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound.
How will you test your hypothesis?
You’ve identified the metrics that you think are most relevant to growth and you’ve thought about the factors that affect them. This thinking should have led to some hypotheses – if this then maybe that – and now it is time to think about how you can create real life tests to see if your thinking is correct. Don’t just think of one test. Try to think of many ways of testing the hypothesis. Some ways may be more successful than others. Remember, growth hacking is data driven and agile. It’s about identifying the most effective and efficient way of achieving growth – constant improvement, constant refining of technique.
Give it a go
You need to run your experiment until you have enough enough data as for the findings to be statistically significant. That sounds far more complex than it is. If you toss a coin, you have a 50-50 chance of getting heads up. However, you could easily get a heads up three times on the trot. That result is not statistically significant. You can’t say the coin has been tampered with on the basis of three tries.
Toss your coin 100 times and you may land 56 heads and 44 tails. Toss it 1000 times and you may land 504 heads and 496 tails. That’s much closer to 50-50. Now, if you toss a coin 1000 times and you get a heads up 803 times you can be fairly sure that something is definitely happening to skew the result.
Use your experiment as an opportunity to learn. You may see a way of improving performance that is so much of a no-brainer that you implement it straight away.
Make a note of your findings
For maximum benefits, it is important to document your winning results and to share them with everybody in the marketing team. If you are all coming up with “hacks” that work and sharing your ideas, you will rapidly increase the rate at which you improve in your endeavours.
Become a customer acquisition machine
In this excellent Entrepreneurship video, Anita Newton gives interesting and easy overview of growth hacking. In her words, marketers need to start thinking more like data scientists than marketers, and the goal of goal hacking is to almost generate a “customer acquisition machine”.
Entrepreneurs often keep their ears to the ground to see what others are doing to gain exponential growth. If you choose to explore the internet for growth hacks that have worked for others, bare in mind the principles outlined here, especially the five pillars. In the end, what it takes to be a growth hacking entrepreneur is to embrace these principles in every marketing idea you have from hereon in.
If you are scientific and agile in your activities, you could be the story that somebody else aspires to.