Growth hacking has been a buzzword in Silicon Valley for the past few years. While many people have heard the term, it's a completely new mindset for most entrepreneurs. That's a shame because some of the biggest companies – including Airbnb, Dropbox, and Yelp – have used the technique to fuel their rise from hidden startups to household names.
The growth-hacking mindset involves a shift from conventional marketing strategies to ones whose sole purpose is to help a business go viral. Getting the maximum return from your resources and budget is one of the underlying principles and it's crucial to find out where your customers spend their time and engage with them there.
The best growth hacks generate a major impact with minimal effort. If your strategy involves a significant investment of time or money to reach your goal, it's more of a growth strategy than a growth hack.
Groupon is a great example of how growth hacking can be low-budget and effective. When the company launched, a certain number of people needed to sign up for a deal before the users actually got it. As a result, anxious buyers would urgently share deals with their friends so they didn't miss what felt like a fading opportunity. Each time this sharing occurred, Groupon gained more users in the local area to market its offers to. Thanks to this hack and others, like a daily deal email sent out to all its local subscribers, Groupon increased revenue by 228% in a single year.
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There's no guarantee your business will be the next Groupon, but virtually anyone can take advantage of growth-hacking techniques to propel a business higher. To start down the right path, follow these five rules of growth hacking:
Run several experiments at once
Every business is different, but there's one common thread connecting them all: Not every growth-hacking idea is going to succeed. If you're operating at a snail's pace and testing ideas one at a time, you're not really growth hacking.
Instead, put as many lines in the water as possible. It will likely take several attempts before you find what works for your business. Once you do, you can tap into its full potential and catapult your business forward.
Start small and test a hypothesis
If your big idea doesn't work on more than 25,000 passionate users – proof that the concept we were testing had significant market traction.
Analyze the data carefully
The devil's in the details. If you aren't using technology to track your results, you aren't investing your time or money as efficiently as you could be.
This technology solution could be Google Analytics, a survey platform or a CRM. Be sure to analyze the results of every growth-hacking initiative and make every effort to quantify the value of each of them. Over time, you'll build a valuable encyclopedia of what succeeded and what sank and you can use this knowledge to inform future decisions.
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Keep an eye on competitors
If your competitors are experiencing growth from a creative initiative, odds are that the same technique will work for your business.
That being said, don't resort to blatantly copying a competitor's idea. That will get the competition as much attention as it gets you, especially if the company calls you out on it. Instead, put your own spin on the idea and make it fit your business, your branding and your customers.
Be patient and invest wisely
If you're afraid to spend some money trying new approaches, you'll never see the results that growth hacking can produce. At the same time, don't waste money on hacks that promise overnight results. Not all your endeavors will yield fruit, and the ones that do could take time. Be patient and watch carefully for signs that an effort is paying off, whether the ROI comes in the form of sales, customer satisfaction, or brand awareness. Each of these outcomes can promote continued growth, which is the ultimate goal of the growth hacker.
Growth hacking isn't just for Silicon Valley-backed startups. Any business looking to grow rapidly can adopt the principles behind growth hacking, and with time and effort, it's possible to see incredible results. Follow the above steps to give your initiative the best possible chance of success and keep an unwavering focus on the overarching goal of growth.