What is growth hacking?


The constant growth of digital marketing has continued to redefine traditional business roles. Indeed, products in the digital space now require more effective and adaptable marketing techniques in order to allow your business to grow.

Growth hacking is one of these emergent marketing techniques. It focuses specifically on strategies that can cause your products to reach a wider customer base. Some notable companies that have leveraged growth hacking are AirBNB, Uber, and Facebook.

The interesting thing about growth hacking is that it can be used in a broad number of ways. Unique product features, distribution channels, and technology advancements all form the basis for growth hacking.


Defining Growth Hacking

To put it simply, growth hacking is the process of exploring multiple areas of the business in order to identify opportunities and innovative methods of growth. The process involves analyzing marketing channels, internal operations, sales segments, and distribution channels.


Who are growth hackers?

As opposed to traditional marketers who are often guided by budgets, conversion rates and business expenses, growth hackers purely focus on what can make the business grow. Their role is not confined to a specific department or methodology. In fact, a growth hacker can be someone in the engineering department as much as someone in marketing. The key role of a growth hacker is to use creativity, qualitative research, and curiosity to identify channels for continuous growth.

Growth hacking most often occurs in startups. A specific position may be created within the business to focus on growth when a new product is introduced. The role of growth hackers may overlap closely with digital marketers, but with significant differences. For example, a marketer may have the goal of building overall brand awareness. On the other hand, a growth hacker may set the specific goal of increasing online traffic by 30%.

Growth hackers may use some of the same performance metrics that marketers use, such as conversion and retention rates, SEO, social media listening, KPIs, etc.


An example of Growth Hacking

Perhaps one of the best examples of growth hacking at work is Uber. Uber started off in 2009 as a luxury car service in San Francisco. By using an intense marketing focus and tapping into the needs of a wide customer base, Uber was able to achieve significant growth in a short amount of time (an 18% increase in revenue month by month). How were they so successful? They used a combination of market research, word of mouth networking, and the ineffective taxi service system to tap into the needs of their customers.

In the past, you would have to stand out in the cold to wave down a cab (or call and wait for 20 minutes). Payment was complicated, tips were ambiguous, and customer satisfaction was low. Uber tapped into this void by providing quality, reliability, and lower cost. As a result, they were able to demand a significant market share and achieve astronomical growth (the company is now valued at $72 billion as of February 2018).


How Growth Hacking works

For growth hacking to be successful, you need to take a systematic approach that can produce tangible results. The process typically has 5 steps:

1. Define actionable goals

It starts off with what you want to achieve. Identify realistic and measurable goals for the growth of your business.

2. Implement analytics to track your goals

Next, you need an accurate method of tracking the progress of your growth strategy. Use analytical tools to collect and analyze specific data. In addition, have specific KPIs in mind that will serve as a guideline for measurement.

3. Leverage your existing strengths

Use your Unique Selling Points to clearly define and polish your product. By using a specific approach, you can achieve a direct and positive impact to customers.

4. Execute the experiment

Try out your growth strategy and identify what works vs. what doesn’t.

5. Optimize the experiment and Repeat

Once you have a working model, refine it and create a repeatable pattern.


Understanding the Growth Hacker’s Funnel

With a reliable growth hacking strategy, you can guide customers down the growth funnel. This funnel typically consists of 3 phases: getting visitors, activating members, and retaining users. The funnel is a useful resource, as it provides a framework for obtaining loyal and habitual users of your product.

The key to achieving growth hacking is developing a structured process that is scalable and reproducible (take the examples of Dropbox and Uber- both very scalable operations). With such a framework, you can refine your product to continuously grow and appeal to a wider audience.