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Growth Hacking

Where Did Growth Hacking Come From?

Sean Ellis coined the term growth hacker in 2010 after having worked with numerous internet companies in helping them achieve huge user-base growth. When he begun to look for people to replace him in his work; people that could do his job, he struggled to find a suitable replacement. Among the various candidates holding marketing degrees and qualifications, most failed to produce the innovative growth solutions that were required for internet startups. The lessons learned throughout a traditional marketing degree were not sufficient for early stage startups that only had requirements for one thing: growth.

Traditional marketers had learned how to manage marketing teams, build corporate marketing plans, and drive big campaigns. Sean Neill changed his role requirement from a marketer to a “growth hacker.” This would be someone with ‘growth’ at the center of their activities and objectives.

In a startup, there are generally limited resources to play around with. To grow as an internet startup requires innovation paired with growth-centric tactics and strategies. This is why traditional marketing strategies are not suitable for early-stage companies who solely require growth. Traditional methods used in university are generally taught in a corporate context.

‘Growth Hacking’ is having an understanding of what is required to grow online, and coming up with innovative methods to do just that. Growing online is much different to growth as a brick and mortar business, and to do effective growth hacking requires an understanding of SEO, software, API’s, and databases. A sought after quality of a growth hacker is true ingeniousness, where they will come up with growth strategies that appear obvious in hindsight, but have been undertaken as new and innovative methods that have not been approached before. What’s tricky about growth hacking is that it must be undertaken cheaply and quickly. Startups are difficult because in general, you grow quickly or you fail. As well as this, you have little or no budget, so you can’t avail of easy, traditional, paid methods like a simple ad.

To successfully “growth hack” for your startup, you need to have these things:

  1. A good product that people actually want. Your user base cannot grow if people don’t want to use your product- if they don’t need it, if it’s not solving any problems for them, or if it’s not desirable in any way. Even the best growth hacker will find it difficult to grow a startup with a useless product.

  2. A good knowledge of who your customer is. Growth hacking is not about targeting everybody. The mindset of “target everybody and someone will want it,” is completely wrong and will waste you of time and money. A good growth hacking method is to target only your ideal customer group. Know who they are, find them, advertise, and sell.

  3. An idea of how to best to acquire your customers. Will this be to aim for virality? This will mean getting your product out there in every way that you can to make sure it reaches the attention of huge audiences. I could be to aim for stickiness. This will be with the objective if getting users to come to your site and stay there; time spent using product. This requires trying to get the new customer acquisition rate to exceed customer churn. It could also be via paid growth. If your startup is in the position where you will be able to make a margin for each new user, then it could be worth it to pay for user acquisition if it means you will end up with a return worth the initial costs.

  4. An understanding of acquisition, and how you are going to increase conversion rates. Attracting users to your site is the first step, getting them to stay on there for more than 10 seconds is the second, and actually converting them to (paying) users or customers is the third.

  5. Awareness that retention is just as important as acquisition. Trying to retain your existing customers means getting them to come back. This means emails, marketing, keeping track of their stats. Knowing what is going to make them come back and ensuring that they do.

  6. Revenue! Testing what is making you money. Try out different things, test, repeat. Go with what makes the most monetary sense.

  7. Referrals. Growth by word of mouth. Ask your users to recommend to a friend! Introduce incentives to encourage this.

  8. Continuous improvement. This is essential for growth hacking efforts; to be continuously improving your product!

So growth hacking is simply doing everything you can to grow the business. Think innovative methods, low budget, short time span. Growth hacking is not about following the book; growth hacking is about doing what works!

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