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By allysa on April 29, 2015
Growth hacking may be one of my favorite phrases – but when I sat down and thought about it, I realized that it’s more than just a pair of words, it’s a unique view of the world.
That’s why I’ve decided to take some time and show you what the mindset of a true growth hacker looks like.
Here’s the growth hacking definition. Despite the name, growth hacking isn’t a way of cheating to get your company ahead. It’s actually an advertising technique focused on growing your company as fast and efficiently as possible – and given the success of companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Dropbox (all of whom used these techniques), it’s clearly capable of working.
There are six kinds of behaviors that are present in the successful growth hacker’s mind, and lacking these is often what causes people to fail when they try this system.
A true growth hacker loves analyzing things.
From conversion rates and trends in advertising to searching for flaws in products and dealing with ideas from employees, growth hackers approach everything they do with the mindset of testing, analyzing, and ultimately improving it.
Growth hackers are never satisfied to do things a certain way because “that’s how it’s always been done”. They see this as foolish, inefficient, and ultimately a waste of their time and talent. On the other hand, they won’t just dismiss classic techniques, either. A true growth hacker wants to analyze things and find out what works best – so if the old standbys still make sense, they’ll go forward with confidence.
What if you don’t have an Analytical Mindset? Go get some training. Analytics isn’t a magical skill that some people are born with – it can be taught, so go get some lessons.
Growth hacker behavior is dominated by curiosity.
They don’t simply need to understand the basics of a given subject – they want to know as many details as possible about what they’re doing and how it could affect them.
We call it T-shaped because of the image of spreading out. Imagine that there are two professors at a prestigious university, both of whom are researching the same ancient civilization.
Professor Albert focuses on the historical evidence – bits of pottery, tools, art, and whatever other things people have managed to dig up.
Professor Baker, on the other hand, is studying astronomy (to understand what this civilization saw when it looked up at night), language (to understand how they spoke and communicated), agriculture and animal husbandry (to learn about their food and eating habits), and religion (to better understand how their faith was integrated into their lives, ceremonies, and symbols).
Which one of these professors do you think could give a better reconstruction of how that civilization lived?
What if your knowledge is too narrow? Start studying material related to your current field and branch out from there. The more you study, the easier it gets to learn more.
Edison, Franklin, Watt, da Vinci… history is rife with examples of creative people who have quite literally changed the world with their inventions.
I’ve got some bad news for you: You’re probably not going to make a paradigm-shifting invention the way they did. You could, however, come up with a new combination of technologies, a new approach to doing things, or a new product that’s so helpful everyone wants to buy it.
There’s no way to be a growth hacker if you don’t have a creative mindset – parroting what everyone else says and hoping for the best will not give you the best results.
What if you’re not creative? Sit down for a few minutes and ask yourself what a creative person would do. You might be surprised at how many ideas you’ll have once you start pretending to be creative.
This trait goes hand-in-hand with Trait 1, but it needs to be addressed separately.
The growth hacker’s mind is not pleased if they’re limited to guessing about what other people are doing. They want to know exactly how well anything is working, and they have the ability to decipher complex data and turn it into a workable plan. It’s not enough to simply collect the data – you have to understand it.
What if you’re not data driven? Start focusing on technology that can help you interpret Big Data, then figure out which questions you should actually be asking.
A growth hacker wants to be found by anyone who’s looking for them.
The best way to be found, of course, is to be truly optimized for search engines. This means constantly tweaking and improving the site, staying on top of algorithms and changes, and providing outstanding content that helps the people reading it.
Remember, the best site in the world is meaningless if it doesn’t get traffic.
What if you’re not focused on SEO?
Learn it or hire a professional to help you with it. There are countless guides on the internet – companies like Google wants you to be optimized and are glad to provide helpful information.
They’re always searching for new ways to spread their content and get the word out… and they understand how important quality is. If you’re thinking about tens of viewers instead of tens of thousands, you don’t have the mindset of a growth hacker yet.
So what do you do if you’re not viral-driven?
Focus on understanding how and why consumers share things and turn it to your advantage.
Check out this viral video that has already gained more than 137 million views.
The old adage that knowledge is power holds true in the growth hacker’s mind. When you understand consumer behavior, you will:
That’s right – understanding consumer behavior is part of what works for the six traits we outlined above. The more you know about customers, the better you can appeal to them. It’s difficult to over-emphasize that point, so let’s take a look at some of the many kinds of online shoppers whose behavior you should understand:
Growth hackers know they have to appeal to all of these people – and more as well. You can’t hack the growth process if you limit your appeal to one kind of shopper.
Growth hacking does have ethics that you’ll need to follow. Wanting to get ahead of your competition and succeed is one thing, but if you start violating these core ideas, then people will eventually notice and start to abandon you. Here are the things you should be doing – and why.
Don’t base all of your information on a single source – if you do, you’ll simply end up copying them and repeating what’s always been said. Instead, try to draw your own data from many places and focus on providing a composite view. Plagiarism is bad – research, on the other hand, is good.
Drawing from multiple sources also helps to build up the confidence of your readers – when they see a long list of sources they can reference for more information, they’re more likely to see you as the expert and place you above your competition.
Never, ever fill your site with massive blocks of text quoted from someone else. At best, you should provide narrow, specific quotes that are relevant to your subject. This is another issue dealing with plagiarism.
The right quote in the right place, on the other hand, can reinforce your authenticity and expertise by leading readers to acknowledge that other authorities agree with you on this subject. This is a type of Halo Effect you can put to good use.
This may well be the most important ethic. Don’t repeat the views of others – offer your own. Explain what you think, what you’ve experienced, and whether or not you agree or disagree with the few quotes that have been made.
Providing your own view on a subject is one of the best ways of making your content unique and valuable. That is what readers and search engines are looking for, and there’s no reason to avoid doing it.
Does your information seem… incomplete? Is there something else readers ought to know to form a decision?
Fill in the gaps by answering their questions and providing as much helpful content as you can. This is another way of being original, and readers naturally favor companies who provide them with more information.
Images are great – they help to quickly reinforce the point you’re trying to make and encourage people to think what you want them to think.
However, over-sized images are never a good choice for your site, especially if people are accessing your content on tiny mobile screens. Thumbnails they can click to enlarge may be a far better choice for improving the reader’s experience.
Coming up with a new title can be tough, but it’s important if you don’t want to be seen as copying others. Besides, search engines don’t like it when too many things have the exact same name, and they may well penalize you for it.
A growth hacker wants to get noticed, and so they’ll always be looking for new titles, especially if those titles lead to new ideas.
This is what the mind of a growth hacker looks like. They have certain traits, they follow the ethics of the field, and they use their knowledge of consumers to drive their designs and business plans.
The best part, though? All of this can be learned. Anyone can acquire the mindset of a growth hacker as long as they keep this information in mind – even you. If you truly want to succeed in business, don’t let your own mind hold you back. Instead, become the person you truly want to be.
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[This blog post was originally written and published by Ben Seow on April 27, 2015. It is most recently updated by Vivian on Dec 30, 2020]
Updated: 10 December 2023
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