As a startup owner, chances are that you may have already come across the terms “growth hacking” or “growth marketing” that have taken the online business world by storm.
Simply put, growth hacking refers to strategies focused on growing a platform or application, but many don’t really see the significance of it, because, well, every business obviously needs “growth” to prosper. Another common assumption people make is that growth hacking is simply digital marketing, where social media and a top-performing website are the essentials.
While it is safe to say that there are some similarities, think of marketing in general as a seed that will bring in fruit, and growth hacking as the sprout.
Still speculating? Let’s get into the core of what growth hacking really is and how some of the most famous startups and applications have
leveraged growth hacking techniques to demonstrate skyrocketing progress and bring in those hefty dollars.
The difference between Marketing and Growth Hacking
“Growth hacking is just another way of saying digital marketing.”
Traditionally, marketing is understood as a collective of online branding techniques that will spark interest among target audiences. It is seen as the channel businesses use to drive traffic through effective branding techniques to create product buzz and raise awareness about what they have to offer to consumers. Ultimately, having a marketing strategy is essential in boosting a business’ revenue.
Marketing is key – that’s a given, but the success of a startup also relies heavily on the positive evolution of their product, and this is where growth hackers step in.
Growth hackers are involved in growth through product engagement, from design and engineering to user experience feedback. Knowing your users’ opinions and sentiments about your product is extremely important in further developing the product that they will continually use and love. It’s about nurturing data-driven sustainable growth by putting the product and user experiences first.
While marketers and growth hackers share many goals, growth hacking strategies focus on driving growth through scalable, testable and user-focused design to come up with refined and optimal product experiences. Product growth happens best when there is constant collaboration between marketers, data specialists, programmers and engineers.
Fundamentally, in the early days of a startup development, entrepreneurs and founders have one main focus that can influence the fate of their aspiring unicorns: Growth.
The best growth hacking techniques
The first tactics that spring to mind when it comes to growth hacking generally cover online marketing strategies, such as utilizing social media and coming up with top-notch content that resonates with your target audience.
Some actionable growth hacking techniques include presenting your potential customers with straightforward, sign-up driven content, or adding a link to an email asking for users to share the app with someone else in exchange for a prize or a free upgrade. Viral content and its word-of-mouth value is also a fantastic way to get people talking and recognizing your product or service. Many businesses leverage Facebook ads growth hacking and its incredibly niche-targeting tools to spark interest among both new and existing consumers, but these techniques only scrape the surface.
Additionally, there is no doubt that digging into your audience’s psyche and knowing your customers are key components of any growth hacking plan. You will also find that researching your users’ behaviors is another tactic that will help your business in the long run. Growth hacking is about finding that “aha” moment when you will instantly spark interest among your target audience. Through surveys, market research and leveraging user feedback, businesses can really listen to their users and continually improve their products to best suit their needs.
Here are some examples of companies that have excelled under the growth hacking spell of success.
Low budget. High impact.
While sustainability is crucial to the longevity of a startup, growth hacking can also involve attracting consumers by lowering the cost of user acquisition and increasing customer or user retention at the same time.
Successful ride-sharing apps are still the talk of the town and they mostly seem to have stuck to one growth marketing plan: low cost rides in exchange for loyalty and retention.
Let’s have a look at ride-sharing apps in the last decade. Take Indonesia’s pioneering transportation network company that started off as a motorbike taxi-booking app to help people fight the traffic of the busy Jakarta metropolis. In the early days post-app launch, Go-Jek offered its users a flat fare of IDR 5,000 (~0.33 USD) for a maximum distance of 25km (15.5 miles).
This tactic saw an increase in demand and hundreds of thousands of ride bookings on a daily basis. Think of it this way: to Go-Jek, one customer lifetime value sat at a cost of IDR 5,000 each at the time.
Hey, we have each other’s backs.
Nothing says “win-win” than a well-crafted referral growth hack. Subtle, yet extremely effective is Uber’s referral program. A champion opportunity to grow its base of loyal users quickly and without the hassle of looking out for additional resources. They utilized and dignified the main selling point of their business, which are their riders. The program allows frequent riders to share free trips with others in exchange for a free trip of their own. The more you share, the more free rides you get. The genius behind this is that existing users enjoy the perks of free trips, while Uber garners more new loyal users – all the while nurturing product and user engagement. Acquiring a new user may cost more than retaining one, so the best bet here is to keep existing customers happy and onside.
With Uber, the high growth in user acquisition has then been accelerated further by continuous development, such as UberEats.
Feedback is a priceless gift.
One of the leaders in growth fueling is the team collaboration tool, Slack. How did this ultra user-friendly tool make it from $0 to $7 billion in less than five years?
Apart from sound decision-making based on data driven marketing trends, Slack listens. The team listens and learns from the different types of user feedback like customer satisfaction reviews, user habits for product development, and last but not least, feedback from team members.
The key takeaway from this? Go above and beyond and respond to the 8,000 Zendesk help tickets and to the 10,000 monthly tweets like Slack does.
Be available – left, right and center.
Apart from getting to know your users, their likes and dislikes, and understanding their behaviors, it is essential to solve their problems.
User-friendly UI and the simplicity of Dropbox’s drag-and-drop feature is what made it an instant hit. To top that off, easy access and shared folders that allow teams to sync documents from different devices directly to Dropbox’s cloud location is a big time-saver. Gone are the days when teams had to scrummage through folders in multiple computers – collaborative online workflows are the now and future.
By focusing on solving problems for users and providing them with a cross-platform solution, the product gives users the option to access files with ease across web and mobile app.
All in all, there is no one way to “growth hack” or a fixed procedure to follow. As an advocate for testing and scaling businesses, growth hacking is open to interpretation and new ideas along the way. It doesn’t happen overnight – it’s something to be nurtured, but the rewards are priceless.
Now that you’ve brushed up on your growth hacking knowledge and techniques, try kicking off your own strategies to grow your business or check out some more marketing ideas for small businesses here.