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Demystifying Growth Hacking: What is Growth Hacking and How To Get Started

What is Growth Hacking

Growth hacking is a term used to describe marketing efforts designed to increase website traffic, engagement and conversions. It's different from traditional growth marketing in that it focuses on experimentation, testing and iteration rather than relying solely on established tactics.

The term "growth hacking" has been buzzing in the startup world for quite a while now, and it's not a surprise. Every startup founder wants their product or service to grow as quickly as possible, and growth hacking is the process that can make this happen.

What does a growth hacker do?

In essence, they leverage data-driven strategies to grow companies by focusing on experiments, customer feedback and optimisation. They use creativity and low costs of implementation to find unique ways of generating more leads for their organisation. They also develop new ideas based on user behaviour, analyse results, adjust tests accordingly and track progress with measurable metrics.

A growth hacker's primary focus is on growth. They are responsible for coming up with strategies and tactics to achieve rapid growth, often using innovative and out-of-the-box methods. They also analyse data to identify areas where growth can be achieved and work with other members of the team to implement changes.

Some tasks that a growth hacker may be responsible for include identifying and testing new marketing channels, optimising conversion rates on your website or app, creating viral content, and developing referral programs to encourage customer acquisition.

What is a growth hacker?

A growth hacker is a marketing professional who focuses on strategies and tactics to rapidly grow a business. Unlike traditional marketers, who tend to use more conventional marketing methods, growth hackers use creative and often unconventional approaches to achieve their goals. They are data-driven and are constantly looking for new ways to drive growth.

How can a growth hacker help your startup?

A growth hacker can help your startup in a number of ways. By focusing on growth, they can help you rapidly acquire new customers and increase your revenue. They can also help you identify and fix any issues with your product or service, as well as help you optimise your website or app to improve the user experience.

In addition, a growth hacker can help you develop an effective marketing strategy that's tailored to your startup's needs. They can identify the most effective marketing channels for your business, create engaging and shareable content, and help you build a strong brand that resonates with your target audience.

What skills does a growth hacker need?

A growth hacker needs a variety of skills in order to be successful. They need to be able to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions to problems. They also need to be data-driven and analytical, able to use data to identify areas where growth can be achieved and to measure the effectiveness of their strategies.

In addition, a growth hacker needs to be able to work collaboratively with other members of the team. They need to be able to communicate effectively and to work well with others to achieve the common goal of growth.

Benefits of Growth Hacking

The benefits of growth hacking are many; it allows marketers to quickly test out ideas without spending too much money or time upfront. It also enables companies to make decisions based on data rather than intuition and guesswork. Finally, it encourages collaboration between marketing, product and engineering teams to ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.

1. Faster Growth

One of the primary benefits of growth hacking is faster growth. Traditional marketing and advertising campaigns can take months or even years before businesses start to see any significant results. Growth hacking, on the other hand, is focused on rapid experimentation and testing to find the most effective strategies to grow a business. By constantly testing and optimising strategies, startups can quickly scale and achieve their growth goals.

2. Cost Savings

Another major benefit of growth hacking is cost savings. Traditional marketing and advertising channels can be expensive, particularly for startups that are working with limited resources. Growth hacking, on the other hand, relies on low-cost or even free channels such as social media, email marketing, and content marketing. By focusing on these channels and utilising creative, cost-effective strategies, startups can achieve significant growth without breaking the bank.

3. Customer-Centric Approach

Growth hacking is all about putting the customer first. This means that startups focus on understanding their target audience and what they need, and then developing strategies based on those insights. By putting the customer at the centre of their growth strategy, startups can better meet their needs and preferences. This leads to higher customer satisfaction and retention, which is critical for long-term success.

4. Agility and Flexibility

In today's rapidly changing business landscape, agility and flexibility are critical for success. Traditional marketing and advertising campaigns can be slow and inflexible, making it difficult for businesses to adapt to changes in the market. Growth hacking, on the other hand, is focused on constant experimentation and testing. This approach allows startups to quickly pivot their strategies based on changing market conditions and customer needs.

5. Data-Driven Strategy

Finally, growth hacking is all about data. By using data-driven insights to inform their strategies, startups can better understand what works and what doesn't. This results in more effective campaigns and better ROI. Additionally, data helps startups to optimise their campaigns and make data-backed decisions, leading to more successful strategies and greater growth.

By using creative, cost-effective strategies to rapidly grow their business, startups can achieve faster growth, reduce costs, and put the customer first.

Additionally, growth hacking is focused on agility, flexibility, and data-driven decision making, making it an essential strategy for modern startups.

The Growth Hacking Mindset

Growth hacking requires a certain mindset; one that is analytically-minded but also creative. Growth hackers must find ways to think outside of the box when crafting strategies and be comfortable with failure, as experiments may not always yield the desired outcome or results.

1. Hyper-Focused Mindset

A growth hacking mindset requires hyper-focus on the acquisition of users and revenue generation through every possible channel. Growth hackers focus on the most significant opportunities that can provide the most significant returns for their efforts. Instead of scattering your efforts in too many areas, focus on one or two areas that you can excel in and prioritise them. With this mindset, startups can spend their time and money on high impact activities that will help them grow faster.

2. Iterative Process

A growth hacking mindset requires a willingness to experiment and iterate quickly. Instead of spending months and years to develop a product or strategy, growth hackers quickly experiment with different strategies and refine them based on the data that they gather. This approach ensures that startups can learn from their mistakes and continue to refine their approach to ensure they are generating the best results. This iterative process allows startups to be agile, stay ahead of the competition and stay relevant in the fast-paced business world.

3. Data-Driven Decision Making

A data-driven approach is vital to a successful growth hacking mindset. Growth hackers rely on data to inform their decisions and strategies. By analysing data, startups can quickly identify weaknesses and opportunities in their product or strategy and refine their approach for better results. Data not only informs decision-making but also helps track the progress of your efforts and ensure that they are generating tangible results. With a data-driven mindset, startups can make better decisions, generate greater revenue, and establish a stronger presence in the market.

4. Creativity and Innovation

One of the defining traits of a growth hacker is their ability to think outside the box, be creative and come up with novel solutions. A growth hacking mindset emphasises the importance of creativity, innovation, and experimentation which allows startups to develop unique approaches to growth. This creativity allows for startups to stand out in crowded markets and find new and untapped markets for their product. The most successful growth hackers are relentless in their search for unique solutions and always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

5. Customer-Centric Approach

Finally, a growth hacking mindset emphasises the importance of taking a customer-centric approach. Growth hackers focus on understanding the needs of their customers and delivering value that resonates with them. This approach allows startups to build a loyal customer base that drives word-of-mouth referrals and long-term growth. By putting customers at the centre of their strategies, startups can create a product that is compelling and resonates with the target audience. This leads to more satisfied customers who are likely to remain loyal and spread the word about the product.

Adopting a growth hacking mindset can help transform your startup by developing a hyper-focused mindset, iterative process, data-driven decision making culture, creativity and innovation, and customer-centric approach.

Growth Hacking Principles

Growth hacking principles include understanding your target audience, testing different hypotheses quickly and accurately, understanding user behaviour metrics, leveraging influencers for promotion and creating viral loops in order to increase word of mouth exposure.

Additionally, experimentation is key; growth hackers must be willing to take risks and try out various approaches to see what works best.

Having a North Star Metric in place is also essential for tracking progress and ensuring all efforts are focused on achieving the ultimate goal.

In today's digital age, startups are popping up every day, all striving to make it big and stand out from the crowd. In this race to the top, growth hacking has emerged as a sought-after strategy for startups to achieve phenomenal growth in minimal time. Growth hacking is all about utilising creative, low-cost marketing techniques that drive user engagement and viral growth while minimising budgets. The principles of growth hacking are essential for startup success, and in this article, we'll cover everything you need to know as a startup founder.

Principle 1: Product Market Fit

Product-market fit is the foundation that growth hacking is built upon. You must first fully understand your target customer and the problem you're solving before implementing any growth tactics. Target user interviews, behavioural analyses, and engagement metrics can all be used to assess product-market fit. By analysing these metrics, startups can identify patterns in user behaviour and tailor their product to customer needs.

Principle 2: Low Barrier to Entry

Growth Hacking is all about quick wins, so we iterate fast and fail cheap. You must minimise the cost of acquiring new users as much as possible – both in terms of time and financial resources. This is the reason why many startups offer free trials or freemium versions. By removing the barriers to entry, you can increase the user's lifetime value in the long run and allow them to try out your product before they commit.

Principle 3: Sustainable Acquisition Channels

The key to growth hacking is finding scalable channels that drive user acquisition. Using social media platforms, referrals, and viral loops can help spread the word about your product to a potentially huge audience. By using data analysis, startups can find the most effective channels for customer acquisition, figure out how to get traction, and create sustainable acquisition channels.

Principle 4: Analytics-Driven Optimisation

One of the essential principles of growth hacking is using data and metrics to measure and optimise growth. Tools like Google Analytics can provide a visual representation of user behaviour, see what they are interested in and figure out how to provide the right solution. By A/B testing different growth tactics, you can find weak points in the user journey, improve user conversion, and increase virality.

Principle 5: Iteration and Testing

No growth hacking technique is ever perfect. Startups must continuously iterate and test new strategies to stay up-to-date with changing customer behaviour and market needs. Growth hackers perform multiple tests to optimise growth tactics and measure their effectiveness regularly.

Growth Hacking is all about finding small but impactful ways to grow your business, while keeping costs minimum. By implementing the principles of growth hacking, startups will quickly see an uplift in user engagement and retention, leading to scalable and sustainable growth over time.

Startup founders can use these strategies to grow their businesses faster, more efficiently, and more creatively than ever before. With good planning, a focus on metrics-driven results, and a willingness to experiment continuously, any startup can achieve incredible growth using growth hacking principles.

Growth Hacking Strategies

When it comes to growth hacking strategies there are several approaches that can be taken. This includes A/B testing, customer segmentation, retargeting and referrals.

Which strategy you choose will depend on your business priorities, how settled your marketing channels are, and the budget and resources you have available.

It’s often useful to think of strategies within the Pirate Metrics or AARRR framework.

The AARRR framework is broken into 5 funnel stages

  1. Acquisition

  2. Activation

  3. Retention

  4. Revenue

  5. Referral

Acquisition focused Growth Marketing:

You may want to focus on Acquisition if you’re struggling to find the right channels for growth, which could be because you’re not seeing the cost per acquisition low enough or that you’re not finding the right type of users.

Commonly new businesses are able to find promising channels on a small scale but then struggle to scale while keeping ROI at similar levels.

In this case, your growth hacking strategy would be focused on:

  1. Targeting: are you reaching the right audiences

  2. Creative: are your images, video and copy doing well enough at convincing users to click?

  3. Call to actions: are your call-to-actions clear and enticing?

  4. Channels: are your channels relevant for your target audience and your product?

  5. Landing Pages and Conversion Rate Optimisation: are the locations that you’re sending your clicks through to, optimised for conversions? Are they appealing to the right audiences?

Activation focused Growth Marketing:

A typical issue is that you’re able to get users signed up or to show some interest, but you’re struggling to get enough of them to activate - i.e. become users.

In this instance, your growth hacking strategy would be focused on:

  1. Creative Messaging: are you giving the right information at the right time to your potential users. This can be in your outbound marketing campaigns and your landing pages

  2. UI / UX Messaging: are you signposting within your product effectively so users know what you offer and what they should be doing next?

  3. Targeting: are you reaching the right audience(s) in the first place?

  4. Channels: are they the best fit for your Audience Personas and typical use cases? Often channels look great until you start prioritising Activation rather than Acquisition which is typically a lower barrier to entry signup or app install.

Retention focused Growth Marketing Strategies:

If the first goal is to find users or customers, the second is to get them to keep coming back. If this is where you’re having issues, your growth hacking strategy should be focused on retention.

If this is the case, you’ll likely be focusing on:

  1. Lifecycle Marketing: how can you be using your emails, SMS, web notifications, push notifications and in-app messaging to drive users to make the best use of your products or services and keep coming back? The more value they gain, the more likely they are to stick around

  2. UX / UI: similar to above, how are you signposting all the value your users get via your product? Are you making them aware in the right place, at the right time?

  3. Product Development: is your product evolving to meet the needs of your users? Growth hacking will help you identify the needs and what that evolution should look like

  4. Pricing: you may need to experiment with pricing points as well as the messaging of them if your Retention funnel requires it

Revenue focused Growth Marketing Strategies:

There’s a fair amount of overlap between Revenue and Retention as the same factors that will drive repeat usage or purchasing are of course intrinsically linked to increasing revenue.

If driving revenue is the primary issue, you’ll likely be focused on:

  1. Lifecycle Marketing: how can you be using your emails, SMS, web notifications, push notifications and in-app messaging to drive users purchase? When is the best moment to convert them? What is the right message and platform?

  2. UX / UI: similar to above, how are you signposting all the value your users get via your product and are you presenting your pricing options in the most optimised way?

  3. Product Development: is your product evolving to meet the needs of your users? Growth hacking will help you identify the needs and what that evolution should look like to drive more paying users.

  4. Pricing: you may need to experiment with pricing points as well as the messaging

Referral focused Growth Marketing Strategies:

The most sustainable growth engine there is, is to have your existing customers recommending you to their peers. Even if incentivising them to do so, this is almost always better value than any other paid activity. However there are a multitude of ways to create and scale referrals and it starts with having users who love you.

If Referrals are your growth hacking focus, you will likely prioritise:

  1. Product: Ensuring your audience likes you enough to refer you

  2. Targeting: Understanding which users are more likely to refer you

  3. Lifecycle Messaging: Understanding when and how to ask them to refer you

  4. Incentivisation: What incentives, if any, will drive the best rates of referral, both for the referrers and referees

  5. Tools / Product Development: Which 3rd party tools will be best suited for your referral marketing, or what functionality do you need your tech team to build

  6. Reviews: What channels would be most appropriate for you to collect reviews / ratings and when, where and how should you prompt users to write a review.

Each of these strategies is focused on optimising user experience and providing customers with a more personalised journey. Additionally, leveraging data-driven insights to inform decisions paired with iterative experimentation helps ensure improved performance over time.

Getting Started with Growth Hacking

1. Check your product-market fit

Before you can start growing your business, you need to ensure that your product fits your target market. This means understanding your target audience, their needs, and whether your product solves their problems. Conduct market research, analyse customer surveys, and collect feedback to ensure that your product is a perfect fit for your customers. This way, you'll know which growth strategies to pursue and how to tweak your product to meet your customers' needs.

2. Collate your data

Growth hacking also requires a lot of data analysis. Before you start running any experiments or A/B tests, you need to compile all the data you have about your customers, their behaviour and preferences, and your website metrics. This data will help you identify trends, opportunities, and potential challenges that you may face. Tools like Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, and Mixpanel can help you track and analyse your data effectively.

3. Pick your North Star metric

A North Star metric is a single metric that you will use to measure your growth success. It should be relevant to your business goals and help you determine whether your strategies are working or not. This metric can vary based on your business model, but common ones include revenue, churn rate, customer lifetime value (CLV), and user engagement. Once you have identified your North Star metric, you can focus on optimising your strategies to improve it.

4. Improve your pirate metrics

Pirate metrics are a framework for understanding how users move through the customer acquisition funnel. These metrics are: acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referral. Each stage has its own set of metrics and goals, and optimising each stage is essential for growth. For example, optimising acquisition involves increasing traffic and leads, while optimising retention involves improving customer satisfaction and decreasing churn rate. By improving these metrics, you'll be able to grow your business sustainably.

5. Build a backlog of ideas

Finally, growth hacking is an ongoing process that requires continuous experimentation and optimisation. To ensure that you always have new ideas to test, you should create a backlog of potential growth hacks that you can pursue. This can include ideas from your team, industry trends, or insights from your data analysis. Prioritise your backlog based on your North Star metric and experiment with different ideas until you find the ones that work best for your business.

Growth Marketing Tactic Ideas

Here are twelve growth hacking tactics and techniques that you can use:

1. Pre-Launch Waiting List

A pre-launch waiting list is a great way to build anticipation for a new product or service before launch. It allows you to gauge customer interest and start building a customer base while still in the development stage. You can use platforms like Launchrock to create a simple webpage where interested customers can sign up for your waiting list.

2. Leverage existing platforms (like Product Hunt)

When launching a new product, you can leverage existing platforms like Product Hunt to expose your product to a large and engaged audience. You can also tap into online communities and forums that your target audience frequents. Doing this will help your product to gain traction and generate buzz around it.

3. Leverage Referral Marketing

Referral marketing is an excellent way to reach a broader audience through word-of-mouth recommendations. By offering incentives to users who refer new customers to your business, you can increase your customer base exponentially. Referral programs can be as simple as offering discount codes to your existing users that they can share with their friends and family.

4. Make New Brand Partnerships

Collaborating with other businesses that share the same target audience as your business can help you reach new customers and increase your exposure. Partnering with complementary businesses can help you reach a broader audience and build brand recognition.

5. Attend Offline Events

Attending offline events is a great way to connect with potential customers and partners. It allows you to build strong connections and network with like-minded individuals.

6. Build a Social Media Community

Building a social media community can help you connect with your target audience on a more personal level. You can create content that is relevant and engaging to your audience, and it will help you attract more followers and increase your engagement.

7. Follow Your Competitors

Competition is good and always there. Whether direct or indirect, it always exists. Keeping a close eye on your competitive landscape allows you to continually tweak your unique selling proposition and how to leverage that in your content.

Also by tracking what your competition is doing in their marketing, you can ensure you remain ahead of the game. Although always be careful not to assume that what they’re doing is working!

8. Create an Aggressive Content Strategy

Creating an aggressive content strategy can help you establish yourself as an authority in your industry and attract more traffic to your website. You can create high-quality content that is relevant to your audience and optimise it for search engines to reach a broader audience.

9. Target Market Blogs: Guest Posting

Guest posting on market blogs is an excellent way to increase your exposure to a new audience as well as having a direct impact on SEO because of the highly relevant backlinks. You can create valuable content that is relevant to the blog's audience and drive traffic back to your website.

10. Work with Influencers: Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a great way to reach a broader audience through social media. You can collaborate with social media influencers who have a large and engaged following to promote your product.

11. Free PR: Use HARO for Press Opportunities

Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is hard work but absolutely worth spending the time and energy, even if you only get sporadic coverage. It allows you to connect with reporters and bloggers who are looking for expert sources for their articles, samples to review or competition prizes, so can help you gain press coverage for your business for free.

Stages of Growth Hacking

The stages of growth hacking usually involve: understanding the core objectives, brainstorming ideas, designing experiments, running tests and analysing results. It's important to have a North Star metric in place so you know what success looks like at each stage of the process.

Stage 1: Understanding the Core Objectives

The first stage of growth hacking involves understanding your core objectives. This means identifying what you're trying to achieve and why. For example, if your objective is to increase revenue, you need to have a clear understanding of where your revenue is coming from and how you can increase it. Once you have a clear understanding of your objectives, you'll be able to develop a growth strategy that aligns with them.

Stage 2: Brainstorming Ideas

The second stage of growth hacking involves brainstorming ideas. At this stage, you'll want to come up with as many ideas as possible for how you can achieve your objectives. This can include anything from optimising your website to running social media campaigns. The key is to be creative and think outside the box.

Stage 3: Designing Experiments

The third stage of growth hacking involves designing experiments.

At this stage, you'll want to take your top ideas and design experiments to test them. For example, if you want to optimise your website, you might design an experiment to test different headlines or calls to action.

The key is to design experiments that are specific, measurable, and achievable.

Stage 4: Running Tests

The fourth stage of growth hacking involves running tests. This means implementing your experiments and collecting data to see how they perform.

It's important to run tests for a specific amount of time, so you can collect enough data to make informed decisions. This stage can take some time, but it's worth it in the long run.

Stage 5: Analysing Results

The final stage of growth hacking involves analysing your results. This means looking at the data you collected during the testing stage and using it to make informed decisions about how to move forward.

If an experiment didn't perform as well as you had hoped, you can use the data to tweak it and try again. If an experiment performed well, you can use it as a foundation for future growth strategies.

Growth Hacking Frameworks

Growth hacking frameworks are an effective way to break down complex problems into smaller components which can then be tested and iterated on over time until desired outcomes are achieved.

None of these frameworks are mutually exclusive though - they’re designed to work together. Ideally you will use a combination of more than one depending on your business goals, your resources and your targets. For example, here at Rise - Growth Marketing Collective, we use all of the following frameworks:

Pirate Metrics: AARRR

One of the most commonly used growth hacking frameworks is AARRR, also known as the Pirate Metrics.

This framework focuses on five key areas of growth:

  1. Acquisition

  2. Activation

  3. Retention

  4. Referral

  5. Revenue

By measuring and optimising these areas, startups can create a growth engine that drives inbound leads, generates revenue, and turns customers into advocates. This framework is particularly useful for businesses with a SaaS product, but can be adapted to any B2C or B2B business.

Lean Startup Methodology

Another popular growth hacking framework is the Lean Startup Methodology.

This approach emphasises rapid experimentation, testing, and validation of assumptions in order to minimise risk and maximise learning.

It involves building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), measuring feedback, iterating, and pivoting as necessary.

The Lean Startup Methodology is ideal for startups that want to quickly validate their business model and find product-market fit.

The Bullseye Framework

The Bullseye Framework is a growth hacking framework that focuses on identifying and testing the most effective channels for customer acquisition.

The framework involves brainstorming and prioritising channels based on their potential impact, testing a small number of channels, and doubling down on the most effective ones.

The Bullseye Framework can help startups focus their resources and efforts on the channels that will provide the most growth, maximising ROI.

The Growth Marketing Framework: The best of all worlds

Finally, the Growth Marketing Framework is a comprehensive approach to growth that combines the best practices of multiple growth hacking frameworks.

It involves setting clear growth goals, identifying key metrics, experimenting with marketing channels and tactics, and measuring progress. The framework is flexible and adaptable, making it suitable for startups of all sizes and stages.

Employing these frameworks may enable startups to grow quickly and sustainably, but it's important to remember that there's no one-size-fits-all solution to growth.

Experimentation, testing, and iteration are critical to finding what works for your business and achieving sustained growth. With these frameworks in your toolkit, you'll be well-equipped to discover new and successful paths to growth.

Tools to fuel your Growth Hacking

Finally, there are a number of tools available to help fuel growth strategies.

These include analytics platforms such as Google Analytics and Mixpanel, customer segmentation tools like Segment and Amplitude, A/B testing platforms like Optimizely and Unbounce, and social media management tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer.

Growth hacking is an effective way for companies to increase website traffic, engagement and conversions without breaking the bank. It requires a certain mindset that enables marketers to think creatively while leveraging data-driven strategies. With the right approach it can be used to drive massive results for any organisation.

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