There are no shortcuts that can replace good products and good marketing practices. There are ways to get certain results faster, though. So, what is growth hacking, and what are the growth hacking techniques?
Growth hackers work quickly to carve out the fastest path to growing a business. They experiment, accept new tactics, and rule other tactics out. Like other marketing professionals, growth hackers can make or break a small young business.
Let's look into the strategies of growth hacking, the actual "growth hacks", and why this form of marketing is so widely practiced.
What is Growth Hacking Strategy?
In general, growth hacking is less about "hacking", and more about growth.
Growth hacking is often attempted by small companies looking to survive the first rough years in business. Then, growth strategy is about following initial efforts to achieve exponential growth.
A focus on growth requires experimentation. Growth hacking is about finding newer, more effective marketing practices, and determining which are the most promising.
What is a Growth Hacker?
The marketer executing growth hacking strategies, whether they are a marketing professional or just a business owner, is a growth hacker.
There are some marketers who focus on growth marketing strategies. They can perhaps be described informally as "growth hackers". But a growth hacker is anyone who is original, innovative, intelligent, and hard-working. These traits, when applied to finding the most creative, cost-effective, and powerful processes, describe the ideal growth hacker.
The thing is that "growth hacking" doesn't really describe a specific profession within marketing. It doesn't even describe a specific skill set, as growth hackers can be:
- Video creators
- SEO writers
- Viral marketing professionals
- Email marketers
- All of the above and much more...
Growth hackers can be described as growth marketers. However, not all marketers are growth hackers, and a growth hacker must be more than a marketer. In the final result, growth strategy is about the simple equation:
Product + Growth = Success
Aspects of Growth Hacking Strategy
As we mentioned in the list above, many types of marketing professionals could play at least some part in a growth hacking campaign. There are certain concepts that anyone attempting growth marketing must understand in context.
Simply put, growth means more customers paying more money with more regularity to your business.
Growth hacking places the above result at the top of the list of priorities. Other priorities can be overlooked.
Growth hacking implies the need for more growth in as short a timeframe as possible with as little money as possible. The priorities are:
- Growth above all
- Minimizing costs
In growth marketing theory, customers are to be acquired and retained with creative, low-cost practices. What those practices are is determined simply by what works. The growth hacker is analytical and obsessed with growth metrics. Retention rates are of particular concern.
Product managers and engineers can be some of the best growth hackers. In growth hacking, product design and product marketing are focused on the fastest paths to exponential growth.
Growth strategies can include content distributed on any mix of marketing channels. They also include a mix of techniques applied in content marketing.
Creative content is employed for lead generation, closing, and retention. That means:
- SEO content
- Viral video marketing
- Social media sharing
Content marketing requires testing, but can be used to kickstart a growth campaign. Growth hacking strategies call for aggressive content marketing plans. That means starting strong and focusing on gathering customer feedback quickly.
You can do content marketing on a budget; most approaches incorporate sharing strategies. The idea is to create content in a way that encourages organic sharing and growth. There are simple techniques (we will cover them soon) that work, especially for videos, to get as much as you can for free.
Email lists and drip campaigns are key growth hacks.
There are two aspects of email marketing that growth hackers focus on:
- A focus on expanding the email list
- Drip campaigns for maximum conversions
Potential customers who show interest in your business should receive genuinely useful and/or entertaining email content. One practice that plays on growth hacking goals is a pre-launch email list. That way you can gather an audience early and prepare a campaign with an email marketing tool like Mailchimp.
All social media channels should be taken advantage of. It's easy and free to maintain a channel on most of the popular social media platforms. Active users may feel more inclined to DM your channels if they have questions or concerns. But, importantly, social media offers massive organic reach and sharing opportunities. You can release content to your followers, again, with a focus on encouraging sharing.
Maximizing your reach is a key growth hacking goal. So, leveraging as much social media as possible is the way to go. It’s also a great medium for gaining customer feedback.
Referrals are another proven technique that is low-cost and organic. Your happy customers and online followers can be encouraged with standard practices like discount codes from a referral program. Other incentives can be used; the strategy simply calls for you to find out what works and maximize its effect.
Google Analytics and SEO marketing on the Google search engine can unlock massive growth potential. As a growth hack, Google marketing should be aggressive and experimental. That means more content, more keywords, and a focus on speed and lead generation.
How Many Stages of Growth Hacking are There?
There are four stages of a growth hacking campaign:
This is the preparation phase where you discover where your products and services fit into a market. It's not specific to growth hacking, because analysis is important in any marketing effort.
During the first stage, you are meant to find out how your offer aligns with the market. That means offering a product for which there is a demand, so you can fill the need with growth hacking strategies for maximum growth speed.
In order to do this, you need to understand the target customer base, their needs, desires, and pain points. With that, you map out the buyer's journey. This allows you to create a product that fits the market and buyer's journey. With that, you aren't quite ready to succeed, but you've built the foundation for growth.
You don't need to create a revolutionary product here, just one that is in demand. In many cases, this only requires small changes to existing products. It's a process that uses the scientific method so you can maximize sales and growth.
This is the stage where you employ the growth hacking techniques that we will go over.
This is where the scientific method is used to quickly discover the fastest and most cost-effective path to take. To do this, marketers must use their analyses to create new hypotheses. It requires initial research, a lot of testing, and some intuition and creativity for good measure. You want to constantly question how everything could be done better.
Using the growth hacking ideas we will share soon, you will have found some highly effective growth hacking methods for your business. For the paths that work well, it's time to scale.
Growth hacking is about using as few resources as possible for the most effective results possible. So, using the first two stages to find the right methods, you then follow up by investing more time and resources into them and disseminating your material aggressively.
During this phase, any good growth hacks involve getting your customers to become your growth hackers. That means:
- Referral incentives
- Review incentives for the happiest customers
- Sharing incentives
- Incentivization for any customer actions that lead to more publicity or sales
Most marketing attempts don't go viral. But word-of-mouth is always powerful, as it's more genuine than any marketing efforts executed entirely by representatives of a company. On top of that, it's the most cost-effective path you could possibly take.
One example of this is Candy Crush's decision to reward users for inviting other users to play. The user base invited more users to the game, and in return, they received more lives in-game.
This may sound too simple to be worth mentioning, but simple incentives like these are the entire point of growth hacking tools. This one decision played a large part in Candy Crush's success; it tricked the customers into doing their marketing for them!
This is the part where you dig into what works and reorganize what doesn't. You are trying to maximize your retention conversion rates.
As a growth hacking practice, user experience is where you want to focus. Good user experiences lead to outcomes where your customers do your marketing for you. This comes with two ideal outcomes:
- Maximizing retention for existing customers
- Maximizing organic reach
The growth hacking tools you want to use are familiar to those experienced in traditional marketing:
Growth Hacking Techniques
These techniques are low-cost and reach your target market.
If you want to become a leader, you want to gain a respectable position in your niche amongst your target market. One of the best growth hacking tips we can give you is to get involved in community events.
Ideally, you want to host these kinds of events. Online and in-person events can both be highly effective at generating qualified leads. For existing customers, they can also improve customer loyalty.
Thanks to the many online platforms and tools that enable event planning, it doesn't take as much time and money as it used to. If you value customer acquisition, we recommend a multi-channel approach and the use of multiple tools. This means:
- Email marketing tools like Mailchimp
- Content pieces posted on all social media channels
- Using project management software like Monday.com or Asana
- Taking full advantage of built-in integrations
- Considering integrations before choosing a tool
- Collaboration tools
- Building click funnels and using the event as a lead magnet
Thorough Referral Marketing
If you have happy customers, you have excellent marketers. Many businesses are leaving money on the table by simply not pushing customers to become marketers when the time is right.
Referrals can come from family, friends, and influencers. Referrals are great for two reasons; they are faster and cost less than other marketing practices. Referrals also tend to bring more highly qualified leads to your business. For example, if you run a fishing shop, referrals are of course far more likely to end up making it to people who fish.
The first order of business is to create a referral offer and advertise it everywhere. It should be clearly visible to people using your apps. Think about the success of Uber, for example, which leverages referrals extensively. Then, share your referral programs elsewhere, including on social media posts and on your website's dashboard.
Brand partnerships are most effective when two businesses offer complementary goods and services without too much competition between the two. But brand partnerships are generally so powerful as a growth hacking technique because:
- Both partners benefit from the power of the other's marketing channels
- They can help you break into new market segments
- They lead to more followers and more leads
- Both partners' social platforms grow
- They can create immense organic traffic
- Both partners gain more visibility
- It doesn't cost you anything!
Brand partnerships click every box that growth hacking theory calls for. But your choices in brand partners must be strategic. Your partners should compliment your brand, not detract from it. So, they should surround similar themes to yours, and project similar enough brand values to yours. For example, if your brand is a family-friendly one, you can seriously harm your brand by choosing a partner that isn't.
The other great benefit is that brand partnerships can often cross industries. As long as the products’ branding is complimentary, you can find great new opportunities.
Social Media: Community Over Ads
Social media marketing is necessary for any business that wants to maximize its reach. Because we are growth hacking, we want to maximize our reach at a minimal cost. So, your social media strategy should prioritize online communities. Paid social media ads can also be used, but not before organic marketing practices.
There are a few growth hack ideas to employ here.
Social media can be leveraged to gather research. Customer feedback can be used to improve your offer and find a buyer persona surrounding the "ideal customer". Audience interactions are also important - and very powerful! So, put out engaging posts, encourage responses, and interact with your audience!
This can be a bit more complex than meets the eye. It takes time (and research) to build an ideal audience. You also need to align your social media activity with your overall growth strategy.
Influencers play a large part in many marketing campaigns. The right ones can be excellent for your branding.
Influencers make viral video content and/or have large followings on the right social media platforms. Well-known influencers can be a powerful part of growth hacking as well.
For startups, influencers can be a useful shortcut. Most young companies really can't compete with the branding and ubiquity of the leading companies in their industries. Startup budgets simply cannot allow for that. But that's fine, this is what growth hacking is all about!
Depending on your industry, it may not necessarily be that difficult or expensive to find and hire the right influencer. Gyms and fitness businesses of all kinds collaborate with fitness influencers to market their products.
Guest posting is another type of collaborative marketing that fits into a growth marketing strategy quite well. There are now plenty of guest posting services that can help you generate qualified leads.
Guest posting services get leads sent your way via content that links to your website. So, you have interested potential customers coming your way with the help of better-established businesses. At the same time, this boosts your SEO by shooting your SERP rankings higher.
The latter effect is why guest posting is such a common and important part of growth hacking. It's not that expensive, but the boost it provides to your organic traffic will increase your growth potential immediately. If this is followed up with more aggressive growth marketing, the growth hacking process will receive a serious boost.
Affiliate marketing is incredibly popular these days. The reason is simple: it works.
To take advantage of affiliate marketing, you just need to find the marketers you want to work with. It's a fairly simple arrangement:
- You find a content creator of some kind who has the ideal branding to promote your products
- They place an affiliate link somewhere in their content, sending leads your way
- You pay the affiliate partner a commission for every sale resulting in a lead they send your way
Affiliate marketing is fairly low-cost. You normally only pay for the results your partner gets, so it's less risky than many alternatives. It's also easy to test and optimize an affiliate marketing strategy. Every part of the growth hacking process is covered in affiliate marketing.
Think Big: What is a growth hacking funnel?
Growth hacking funnels are one step below the growth hacking stages. Each growth hacking technique should be treated as a funnel to be optimized.
A growth hacking funnel puts together product marketing and data analysis. It's like the four-step process we covered before, and should be viewed as a funnel that you try to send qualified leads through.
Think of growth hacking in terms of a click funnel.
Like all funnels, growth hacking funnels only work when each part of them is complete. For example, you can be executing well, but if your underlying analytics aren't optimal, the funnel won't work as well as it possibly can.
This means that continuous testing is required to make sure you're really getting the most sales possible for the lowest cost possible.
To make sure your growth hacking efforts are working properly, you must account for the five growth hacking funnel stages:
This is also known as AARRR.
For example, imagine you're trying to leverage an affiliate marketing program you started.
- You acquire leads with your affiliate partners' affiliate links, which they click through to fill out a form where they leave their email
- You use your new email list to excite leads with new sales
- You analyze how many customers make more purchases and how many slip out between the cracks
- You see how many of your customers can be made into brand advocates
- You optimize what works to maximize affiliate marketing revenue while looking for other sources
What are the three main types of growth hacking strategies?
- Content marketing
- Product marketing
- Paid advertising
What is growth hacking in SEO?
SEO strategy that places a stronger emphasis on testing and aggressive marketing based on the SEO research that produces results.
What is growth hacking social media?
A focus on organic and community-centered social media marketing. This is as opposed to a focus on paid ads, which do also have a part in the growth hacking process.
Regardless of how you approach social media, your choice of images and design make a huge difference.