Growth. Hacking. To be frank, I found Growth Hacking one the biggest buzz words in the last couple of years — overused and overvalued. Now, where the heat around it has died a little bit I find this topic much more approachable. It was used in the past to spawn a lot of debate, yet the goal to stimulate fast growth in tech companies persists. This is an overview and a collection of practices I have found useful in context of generating growth in startups.
The term was coined by Sean Ellis. Growth hacking is supposed to redefine the rules how marketing is done. The place of commercials, publicity and money has been taken by analytics, emails, blogs and platform APIs. If it is not testable, trackable and scalable it is not part of growth hacking.
A process not a plan
Growth hacking is a process and not a plan. You need to iterate on it with every phase you are going through. Write down every channel to market you can imagine. If you are thinking of social networks don’t limit yourself to one type of social network. Be aware that Facebook works differently to Twitter, consequently don’t just duplicate the content you are planning to post.
There are great tools like Buffer which help you to plan and schedule posts and shares the content automatically at the best possible time throughout the day.
It might sound funny but keep a professional and friendly tone. If users complain engage with them and try to channel the discussion as quick as possible to private messaging. Never ever delete comments of your users even if they are rude. Your censorship will be observed and it will just create a bigger backslash. Instead, if the problem has been resolved, ask the users if it would be okay to delete their comment. If they don’t consent just leave it. It’s simply not worth it.
In the next step cross out all of the marketing channels that your customers are not engaged with. After all you want to target your users and not push them forcefully on to a new medium.
In order to give yourself a better overview, create a spreadsheet and write down marketing tests. Give it a name and define the hypothesis, as in, what is it supposed to achieved? What is the lever? Eventually, you can enter the measured impact, confidence and ease which can be summed to a total score. Remember, growth hacking is about making it possible to measure and track your progress.
If you are going to use blogs as a medium to attract users make it interesting. Attention span is short which means most of your readers will drop out in the very beginning. When crafting your posts remember that the reader’s attention span might be gone every 10 seconds. Does your writing create that focus? From a systematic point of view: do the keyword research. There are a lot of tools out there, use them.
When it comes to SEO (search engine optimization), create your site with SEO in mind from the very beginning. Firstly, create a sitemap, secondly, get relevant industry backlinks, thirdly avoid keyword stuffing. Finally, don’t skip Google’s SEO start guide and please avoid cheap SEO services by all means. The most effective parts can be bootstrapped.
Conversion is where the purchase funnel narrows. This needs to be tackled in all areas of your product. Your landing page, call to actions, forms, contact leads. Try to keep your landing page as clean as possible, use clear visuals and learn about user interface semiotics, there is a whole area to it. Don’t be the sleazy salesperson. You should be confident that your product works and stand on that instead. Your call to action should not become a secondary priority for your visitors.
Something which I can heavily identify with is the advise to not rely on opinions: your friend don’t know better than you do. Rather, back it up with research and evidence. Regarding forms: prioritize strictly on what you want to ask and above all, don’t ask too much. About contact leads: don’t give up on cold leads, instead, nurture them. Also, include an opt out option in your emails it simply gives a much more positive signal. Finally, track your conversion. Google Analytics, for instance, supports this. All it takes is a defined goal which you can set up and eventually generate reports from.
Just do it
Yes, I know, that awfully hackneyed saying, but come on. Iteration is about taking actual steps. You should not be anxious about making decisions. Go out there and try it out. For instance, what can you accomplish within one week. One channel? Two channels?
Attribute every sale, every conversion for a given test and measure the results. Do they convert? If not, why do you keep spending money on it? Also, try to avoid common pitfalls. A/B testing is very popular but does it even make sense? Do you have just 100 users? Forget it. Start if you have more than 1,000 active users. Keep meetings short, that time is most likely better spend outside taking actions and attributing them. Above all do not try to be perfect in what you are doing. Iterations are a playground to get dirty. Finally, armed with your new knowledge assess your outcome and start the process again.