Why Growth Hacking is Crucial for Your Startup’s Success
Growth hacking is a recently coined, little understood concept in marketing that is most important for startups. In a nutshell, growth hacking is simply using qualitative and quantitative data to find out what makes your company grow, how the growth process works for your company, and figuring out ways to stimulate and catalyze that growth.
To properly explain growth hacking, it is important to tell the story of how the phrase was coined in the first place. In 2010, Sean Ellis had helped several online companies generate massive growth. He had already been well-known throughout Silicon Valley and his services were in high demand.
Sean would set up growth-driven systems, processes, and mindsets for these companies. He would take them by the hand throughout the growth process until eventually heading off to his next project. When he used to look for professionals who would replace him at that stage, he would often search for marketers to fill in the position.
As he met one potential employee after another, he realized that the mindset and toolkits of traditional marketers were not as valuable or relevant to his process of driving growth. This is when he coined the term ‘Growth Hacker’ in his blog post, ‘Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup’.
Growth Hackers, as Sean put it in his blog post, have one overarching priority in general. “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.”
Growth hackers are guided by growth in everything that they do. They iterate, test, reiterate, and test again incessantly until they help their business achieve a large spike in growth that fuels its future success. To a growth hacker, A/B testing is their bread and butter.
Many growth hackers use Dave McClure’s Pirate Metrics to measure growth. They are called that not because of their affinity to eyepatches and peg legs, but because the collective abbreviation for the five stages of the buyer journey these metrics relate to spells out ‘AARRR’.
The five stages of Dave McClure’s funnel are:
This stage is where potential customers are first introduced to a brand. While generating revenue does not usually occur in the acquisition stage, it is a crucial step in the process of turning non-customers into customers and fans of a brand. Some of the most important channels used in driving increased acquisition include search engine optimization, search engine marketing, blogging, organic and paid social media, and email marketing.
At this stage, the focus is placed on getting newly-acquired customers to try out the product or service for the first time. This could be done via a homepage or landing page that is optimized for conversions, or via leveraging and highlighting unique product features to increase the amount of acquired, and activated, customers.
The retention stage is crucial for the longevity of any business. Sure, you could generate thousands of leads and persuade hundreds of them to try out or purchase your product for the very first time. If these paying customers are not making repeat purchases or cross-purchases, then it could be a huge drain, money-wise, to continue to generate interest and purchases before the root cause of the brand’s lack of customer retention is dealt with.
To boost retention rates, growth hackers look at user engagement as a metric. Some channels that can be used to generate engagement, and receive some all-important feedback, include blogging, publishing consistently valuable content, e-mails, alerts, system events, and time-based features.
At this stage, the focus turns to converting these potential customers and early adopters into paying customers who make multiple purchases. To drive revenue, ads become extremely important to speed up growth. Continually generating and nurturing new leads is still crucial at this stage. Businesses at this stage can also benefit from business development endeavors, as well as subscriptions, up-selling, and cross-selling.
The referral stage of the customer journey can make-or-break a business’ success. When customers are satisfied and happy with a product or service, they tend to recommend it to their friends and family members. This creates a network effect and can also unlock a consistent stream of new leads and customers through word-of-mouth. To accelerate referrals, businesses may opt to use e-mails and offers that motivate referrals through discounts or special benefits. Businesses may also use campaigns and contests to push people to refer their friends to win prizes or earn perks.
Now that we know what growth hacking is and how we can measure and drive growth, here are some of the steps a business can take to begin implementing growth hacking.
1. Focus on Product-Market Fit
Before beginning the implementation of growth hacking strategies, businesses must ensure that their products are designed specifically to fit the needs of the target market and to solve their target customer’s pain points. Products that don’t correctly fit the needs of their target market are already bound for failure; no amount of growth hacking efforts can save a product that does not add value to its target market.
2. Set Measurable, Actionable, and Attainable Goals
Setting goals that are measurable, actionable, and attainable at every step can have dramatic effects on productivity and focus. This skill helps growth hackers focus on the issue at hand and avoid distractions. Moreover, by setting these goals, testing and measurement of results becomes crucial to see whether certain efforts have lived up to their goals, which transitively means there will be more data to work with in future endeavors.
3. Test, Test, and Test Some More
Testing is crucial to figuring out what worked, what did not work, and what could work in the future. By placing importance on constant testing, businesses are able to figure out what small changes can be made to improve conversions, drive acquisitions, or encourage engagement. Because growth hacking couples experimentation with creativity, constant testing can be one of the most efficient ways to optimize for growth.
4. Analyze the Data
Analytics can help businesses keep track of their goals, measure their key metrics, and guide future efforts through leveraging data and using it to spot where any bottlenecks in the customer journey could be.
As mentioned before, constantly testing and reiterating can have great results on the growth of a brand or success of a product. By working to optimize for results at every stage of the customer journey, businesses can use a “learn as you go along” mentality to perfect their marketing efforts and ensure that their products are a perfect fit for their target market.
Growth hacking may seem complex, vague, and frustrating at first. That probably comes down to the simple fact that it actually is complex, vague, and frustrating! There is no magic formula or fixed strategy to make it any easier. Growth hacking is more of a mindset than it is a set-in-stone process, which is why real, good, growth hackers are a rare breed.