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Understanding Growth Hacking

When we first start a new business, we do so with the hope that our brand will be successful. We want to make sales and attract lifelong customers in a way that’s scalable for our business. At the same time, most of us start our businesses from the ground up, meaning we build it, and hope that the throngs of customers will come.

Growing Your Business

For most of us, that means there’s a bit of a lull in business at first, but certainly not time to stop and rest. Instead, actively building growth for a new business is one of the busiest, most hectic, and downright frantic times of all.

Growth hacking is one of the terms used to characterize a variety of strategies used during this time by experts and marketing go-getters. In fact, understanding growth hacking may open a few doors to easily increasing your growth as a new business.

What Is Growth Hacking?

Typically when we see the word “hacking”, it’s in reference to a nefarious internet activity that involves other users and their personal information exposed.

Growth hacking is not illegal, nor is it unscrupulous. It’s merely a series of very common marketing tactics used to create massive growth in the least time possible, on the smallest budget. The term was coined by master marketer Sean Ellis, who built his company GrowthHackers in 2010, based on this concept.

The basic idea is to employ the most suitable marketing avenues and tricks to create the greatest level of sustainable growth, and often, that means changing tactic mid-stream, or trying multiple avenues of potential growth at once. 

Growth hacking strategies can lead down a variety of marketing avenues, including content marketing, product marketing, and advertising.

Growth hacking is also characterised by the expertise used in each method the hacker uses; in fact, growth hackers aren’t always marketing gurus first and foremost. Anyone who is involved with the product and business in an intimate way has the potential to introduce a new strategy.

Read also: Marketing with a limited budget.

So What Makes Growth Hacking Different Than Just Marketing?

While someone absolutely needs to know the different tricks and tips regarding the available marketing strategies, growth hacking views the process a bit differently.

As mentioned earlier, growth hacking involves huge growth on a tight deadline with a tiny budget, aka “making something out of nothing”. Therefore, business owners looking to use this method can’t just metaphorically fling things at the wall to see if they stick. Instead, they are analytical in every step of the process.


growth hacking requires an analytical approach on every step

First, growth hackers need to have an intimate understanding of the product or services and their overall value. They know the key audience, and how to play to different demographics.

They have done the market research to understand the niche, the key players, and how various demographics interact with brands and with each other within the niche.

From this information, they create an informed hypothesis regarding a new and innovative way to increase brand awareness, which they test and analyze to understand if it’s performing well, and why or why not. They move quickly and deliberately, so as to not waste time or money on a strategy that is not working as anticipated.

The Goal

The goal of growth hacking does not differ from other forms of marketing. The typical life cycle of attracting visitors, converting visitors into customers or users, and ensuring those customers stick around for a long time is still very much in play: just on a larger and more immediate scale.

Growth hackers continuously run and track their experiments, based on data from analytics, and frequently tweak their methods or start an entirely new experiment, depending on how things are going.

What Are Some Growth Hacking Strategies?

There are no set “rules” for growth hacking, because no two businesses are identical. This is why it’s more of an experimental process than a systematic regimen of marketing exercises.

Offer Something in Return…

Perhaps the most inspiring strategy for growth hacking lies in the “freebies for referral” method. This type of traffic growth has been employed by loads of large companies, including Facebook, Dropbox, and even Gmail, when it was in its infancy.

The concept is simple: if you refer someone to a business, you can get free stuff.


freebie offer

Typically this means sending a referral code to your friends, coworkers, and family members via email. If they use your code when signing up for a particular website, you get free perks added to your experience.

In the case of Dropbox, that meant additional storage space. In the case of home meal delivery services, that can translate into free meals or huge savings on add-ons, like desserts or wine pairings.

As the user, you want the free thing, so you cheerfully forward the code, and encourage your friends, coworkers, and family members to do the same.

This is the grand-daddy of growth hacking examples because it works so well, with so little effort from the business, with very little investment on anyone’s behalf.

As the user motivated by the free stuff, you end up doing the hard part, convincing others of the company’s and product’s value in order to get your free reward.

Other Methods…

Social media is another area in which growth hacking has exploded. Combined with blogging and guest blogging, publishing eBooks, podcasting, posting webinars, and adding YouTube videos, each avenue feeds into each other with the shareability factor.

All of these can lead to more followers, more shares, more engagement, and an overall long term greater sense of brand loyalty.

Gamification is also a big motivator, with contests and giveaways inspiring a lot of attention. Affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are both tried-and-true ways to get your business’s details out “beyond the box” of where your experience may lead you, as well.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Growth hackers are the superstars of the early stages of building a business. With a blend of curiosity, deep product knowledge, and plenty of marketing know-how, they are able to bring strategy and order to a process that has previously been something of a trial-and-error source of anxiety for many business owners.

They create a recipe for growth with very few ingredients, and they know when to start again if their methods fail to boil. Growth hackers expect results, and persistently try to achieve their goals.

What do you think about Growth Hacking? Do you have any strategies to share? Let me know in the comments below…

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