If there’s one buzz phrase which has seriously made the rounds in the last couple of years, it’s growth hacking.
Growth hacking may seem to be just another buzzword, but it actually applies to a very specific set of techniques. While it’s not possible with every product or service, you’ll want to at least know the basics to know if it’s possible with what you’re doing.
Of course, you might also learn something useful along the way. Consider that a bonus.
So, before we start getting into the how of growth hacking, let’s discuss the what.
What is Growth Hacking?
Growth is the lifeblood of a startup.
You grow fast enough to become enormous, or you die. There’s really no in between, and the rapid movement of companies in and out of the public consciousness over the last decade or so should be more than enough to convince you of this simple truth.
Startup culture is truly a world of it’s own. It’s outside of the realm of traditional marketing where things like conversion rates, ROI, and expenses and the like are of paramount importance.
Instead, growth hacking relies on using methods which are different from the usual fare.
Indeed, a lot of it relies on an intuitive understanding of where the world is going and placing yourself in the right spot at the right time to take advantage of new developments.
One of the most powerful tools: word of mouth. By getting the people using a service to promote it, you can achieve enormous growth in a short amount of time.
Of course, you also need to be able to scale your product properly. It’s mainly used for services and digital products, where factors such as physical storage space and logistics are less of a concern.
If you’re selling widgets, for instance, and you suddenly find yourself selling hundreds of times what you were originally your expenses are going to scale quickly, it’s going to be a logistics nightmare, and you’ll have to retool your entire process from production to shipment.
On the other hand, if you’re selling a mobile app then you don’t have to worry about any of that. It’d be a welcome increase, with very little new in the way of infrastructure needing to be implemented.
So What Kind of Products Have Hackable Growth?
There’s one big rule for your product, and you’re going to need to get honest with yourself: does your product suck?
Growth hacking relies a lot on the organic factors involved in your expansion.
Meaning that people need to be talking about your product, positively.
While in the past a mediocre or even bad product could still propagate, at least for a while, through heavy marketing campaigns you’re not going to be able to pull that off anymore. Word spreads far too quickly through social media.
If you do badly enough, you might even have the dubious honor of your infamy spreading outside of reviews and into the popular consciousness. And let’s face it, you’re screwed if that happens.
Your product also needs to be scalable. Quickly. If you have a lot of infrastructure in place then you’re better off with traditional, and slower, methods of making your business bigger. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s also not in the scope of this article.
Digital products and app-based services are pretty much ideal.
Think of things like Facebook or Uber.
Facebook requires few resources per user on the part of the owners, and each person who joins makes the entire thing just a little bit better. That’s an amazing recipe for growth.
Uber on the other hand, can expand into a new area with basically nothing but putting the word out that they’re hiring drivers there. Since the drivers are considered independent contractors and all payments are handled through the app, there’s very little new infrastructure which needs to be put in place for them to have gotten huge.
You’ll also need to be flexible. You’re going to try and take advantage of the ability to adapt quickly and easily to the market’s demands.
So, if you’ve got the following qualities, you might be in position to start:
- A great product or service
- Scalability with little infrastructure and room for more demand
- Flexibility without commitment to a hard business model
So, How Do I Get Started?
Provided that your product is capable of going, you’ll need to get started pretty much as soon as you’re off the ground.
The most important part of this entire process? Getting feedback as soon as possible in the development cycle.
This is where flexibility comes into play. If you’ve launched and you have just one idea and you’re going to stick to your guns no matter what then growth hacking isn’t going to be an easy, if possible, process.
You need to adapt to the feedback of your customers… quickly.
Indeed, you might even want to try and validate it before the development cycle even begins. Try gathering money from your peers or through a crowdfunding venture. If people are willing to pay to get something made then others will probably end up paying for it.
And, if everything goes south you’re not out of a ton of your own capital.
If you can’t gather funding, try starting out with free content. Make a Facebook page. A Youtube channel. Whatever avenues you think will work for the niche interest you’re planning on working with.
Once you’re validated, then it’s time to gather as much feedback as possible and respond to it appropriately. Look at how upset gamers get when a developer ignores their feedback… now imagine you’re trying to provide a valuable service to people but they dislike one aspect of it.
Change and adapt, or give up on the possible exponential growth you can see.
Targeting the Right People
Targeting the right people from the outset is going to be a huge part of achieving growth at a rapid clip.
You don’t try to sell things to everyone. Especially when you’re just beginning. Instead you want to focus on that core group who need and desire your product.
As with any marketing venture: you need a laser tight focus on your target audience. Getting other people to adopt things will be easier from there, depending on just how deeply niched your product is.
Pushing for Virality
Now, you need to make sure that you get that word-of-mouth that we discussed earlier.
There are a few different ways to go about this, but one of the most common is referrals with a concrete reward for the person doing the invite.
Take a look at DropBox, which gives you more space for inviting friends. Groupon offers a financial incentive.
Of course, there are other ways to burst into the public consciousness.
If you can, try and get your product into larger platforms.
Most social media platforms, for instance, convince people to allow for sharing. These days it’s hard to find something which you can’t share, whether it’s a blog or a video or just a picture. This is only possible because they convinced some larger platforms to take on their button first.
Paypal experienced an insane surge in growth after partnering with eBay, because they became an accepted payment option alongside big names like MasterCard and Visa.
This is the hardest part of the growth hacking process, and the one which relies the most on luck and sheer talent.
Remember earlier when we discussed being in the right place at the right time? This is precisely what we meant.
You want to find a way to break into the sphere of being a household name by offering something unique. And if you can do that, then you’ve got it made.
Putting it All Together
So, for those of you with a short attention span, you need to do the following to have any hope of achieving the exponential growth which is possible in the modern age:
- You need a scalable, flexible, great product to begin with.
- You need to take, and respond appropriately to, feedback as soon as possible in your development process.
- You need to have a laser tight focus on your initial target audience and maintain it, reaching through larger platforms rather than expanding your customer base until it’s generic.
- You need to push to make things better for those who share your product with others.
- You need to find a way to break into the public consciousness, increasing your visibility more and more as time goes on.
Sounds simple, right?
Yes, I know it doesn’t. It’s definitely possible though, and it’s the process by which household names create and recreate themselves on a constant basis. Really, it’s the end goal of the entire start up culture.
It’s hard, but it can be achieved.
And if you do it right, your business is on its way to a success you’ve never even dreamed of.