What is Growth Hacking and How Can I Utilize It?

Growth hacking has become a marketing phenomenon in the past few years.

Today, it’s a major part of conversations about how companies can grow quickly.

Most commonly associated with startups and smaller companies, growth hacking is a marketing style that is resource- and budget-conscious. It is designed to kick brands into a growth spurt that quickly expands their audience, without relying on paid methods or other luxuries that companies that are just starting out can’t afford. However, it is not exclusive to new brands, and is also growing among more-established companies. For example, TikTok and Shopify now have their own dedicated growth teams.

It’s an increasingly attractive option for businesses that are ready to grow but can’t yet access traditional marketing strategies.

What exactly does it mean and how can you utilize it?

Growth Hacking in 2021

DropBox, AirBnB, and Hotmail are among the top companies that have famously succeeded in growth hacking, using minor and easy-to-implement strategies to drive new users and retain their larger audience. They’re held now as testaments to the potential success of growth hacking, making it more mainstream and desirable to replicate.

Growth hacking, in essence, is any tactic that can be used to quickly bring in new, on-target users at a large scale without the need for traditional campaigns and funding. Using one of our previously-mentioned growth hacking success stories as an example, Hotmail was able to grow its user base by adding the ending line “PS: I love you.” to its users’ outgoing emails. When recipients clicked the link, they were directed to Hotmail’s website to discover that they offered their service for free, leading users to switch to their platform.

The sky’s the limit for possibilities, and each brand has its own set of potentially successful growth hacking strategies. Most commonly, companies today will try:

  • Influencer marketing
  • Social media content creation
  • Blog posts with relevant content that bring users to their website
  • Hosting webinars
  • Participating in social media and forum conversations that provide places to promote their product
  • Contests and giveaways
  • Improving their SEO to be discoverable to a wider audience

The key is to figure out why your product is special, and identify the circumstances that foster the most growth. From there, it’s all about engineering those circumstances to create many instances of growth simultaneously, leading to a rapid increase in users and recognition.

Growth Hacking vs. Traditional Marketing

When thinking of traditional marketing, large-scale campaigns, television advertisements, and celebrity endorsements that can grab the attention of wide groups of people often come to mind. While these tactics are exciting, they’re out of reach for smaller brands that don’t yet have the resources and connections to make them possible, and can be seen as a “slower” way to market the brand.

With that being said, in many ways growth hacking and marketing rely on the same concepts. The differences are subtle, but make all the difference in distinguishing between a growth hacker and a marketer.

What Does a Growth Hacker Do?

Growth hackers tend to focus on what’s coming: the next opportunity is the most important, and as soon one strategy is implemented, it’s on to the next. They experiment with A/B testing and other minor tweaks, looking at the data to optimize their practices and figure out their best course of action for acquiring and retaining users. As a result, they’re typically more involved in product development, contribute ways to change the product to better target its audience, and may have more technical skills that can aid them in their execution.

A wide range of ideas, technical know-how, and a healthy dose of creativity all make for a great growth hacker. Ability to prioritize, assess metrics to track success, and scale based on those markers are keys to growth hacking.

Growth Hacking Your Way to Success

Getting started with growth hacking requires a solid foundation to build on. Having a clear mission, vision, and purpose for your brand and a good target market make growth easier. These components also help retain the users you acquire by staying consistent with messaging. Once you have that covered, you can begin to branch out and experiment with growth marketing strategies.

Understanding which area of your funnel is in need of the most work is a great place to start. This knowledge can help you shape your tactics to fit your needs; if you have low acquisition, you probably want to search for ways to reach a wider audience. If you have a steady amount of new users, but see a major drop in users retained, then it’s time to take a look at the product and user experience to identify possible holes. From there, set up your experiments and begin tracking important metrics so you can assess the results. Use those numbers to adjust the experiments as needed, and repeat the process to utilize all growth opportunities.

Need inspiration for how to growth hack your way to the top? Valerie Nilsson, International Growth Strategist for Google, curated her favorite resources in her Growth Marketing microcourse with Chet. Check it out to see what she finds useful while navigating growth.

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