In today's business environment, particularly in the digital realm, traditional marketing methods cannot always achieve the rapid growth required for startup businesses to stay afloat and become successful. In this article, we will explore how growth hacking strategies can enhance conventional marketing and turbocharge sales growth.
What Is Growth Hacking?
The origin of growth hacking is attributed to Sean Ellis, an entrepreneur, angel investor, and startup adviser, who in 2010 coined the term "growth hacker" as someone who focused specifically on accelerating business growth by identifying ways in which a company can accelerate the product development and marketing cycles to get new products out to customers in the shortest possible time.
Growth Hacking Success Stories
AirBnb is the poster child for growth hacking—the online property rental marketplace grew from approximately 140,000 guest arrivals in 2010 to over 100 million in 2017 by using out of the box marketing strategies such as giving users the option to also post property offerings on the enormously popular Craigslist website.
GoPro is another example of a company that used growth hacking strategies to great success. The wearable camera maker's revenues grew to $250 million in only their second year by encouraging customers to post GoPro videos of their sports activities and adventures on YouTube, essentially generating free marketing for GoPro products.
Growth Hacking Steps
Successful growth hacking is an agile, iterative process that consists of the following steps:
- Develop your product(s) to directly address the needs of your target market. Growth hackers refer to this as "product-market fit"—having a superior product in a high-demand marketplace is the foundation for growth. In the example above, Airbnb's colossal growth stems from a great business idea that addresses the preference for private accommodation among holiday and business travelers—an enormous and rapidly expanding worldwide market. Similarly, GoPro tapped into the huge demand from people wanting a small, rugged, waterproof camera that can record action videos.
- Set specific goals. Your main goal may be, for example, to reach $1 million in sales in the first year. However, to do so the main goal should be broken down into a series of shorter, smaller goals so that you can monitor your progress on a more granular basis and be prepared to make changes on the fly as required. A specialty clothing vendor might want to become the next Lululemon, but reasonable short term targets should be the day-to-day objective (for example, selling 100 hand knit designer sweaters in the first month). An online content site might have a long term goal of reaching a million page views per month but weekly and/or monthly targets will (hopefully) demonstrate a steady rise to the desired levels.
- Implement methods of tracking results. Growth hacking is a data-driven methodology that relies on accurate product metrics. Aside from the traditional results from product sales, you can use social media "buzz" to gauge the level of interest in a new product. For example, by posting information about your product releases on Facebook you can monitor and measure shares, likes, and feedback from "friends". Twitter analytics can tell you how many times the Tweet about your product was re-Tweeted or the embedded link to your product information has been clicked. Customer feedback via reviews or emails regarding product usability and/or reliability (even if negative) can provide valuable information. In the case of the online content example above, there are a variety of sophisticated analytical tools available to monitor the popularity of content via page view statistics.
- Test drive your product in the marketplace and measure the results. One of the great things about the digital revolution is the ease of testing the demand for new products or services. Introducing a product or an idea for a product on social media in a "what do you think?" fashion can get you immediate customer opinion including suggestions for improvements that can be incorporated into the finished product before it goes to market. Selling a few sample items on eBay or Craigslist can also allow a business to quickly gauge customer interest in a new product without the time and effort required for a traditional approach such as setting up focus groups, etc. Similarly, crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter have also become platforms for introducing products to potential customers. Accompanied by photos, video, and ad copy, a product can be launched on Kickstarter and discounted or even given away for free to encourage customer reviews, ratings, and general feedback.
- Using the customer feedback from step 4, refine the product, the pricing strategy, and re-examine the target market as needed. Repeating steps one through five leads to continuous refinement of the product, a deeper understanding of the needs of the customer base, and greater growth possibilities.
Whether your product is a new line of specialty clothing, a content website, or a coffee shop, growth hacking strategies can improve your sales and increase your bottom line.