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By vivian on May 8, 2015
Growth hacking is an increasingly popular way for businesses to promote it… but what is it, exactly, and how does it compare to the traditional marketing methods?
This question is important – we can’t talk about ways to improve growth hacking until we know what it is and why we’re doing it.
A traditional marketing setup has the following characteristics:
In contrast, Growth Hacking tends to include:
For instance, Airbnb is one of the more popular ones that have used growth hacking techniques to boost their growth-hacking stage to the next level of success.
It all started when Airbnb engineers used some ingenious ideas to tap into Craigslist loopholes to find listings of houses for rent and reached out to all the renters to eventually ask them to place their ads on Airbnb.
As a result, this brilliant move went viral immediately and gained much popularity from many renters and vacationers. Soon enough Airbnb had grown into a billion-dollar business. Besides Airbnb, companies like Twitter, Facebook and Quora have also successfully implemented these growth-hacking strategies into their business models.
The key difference is that Growth Hackers are always asking “How could we do this better?”, and they’re not afraid to shake things up if they find an answer.
Even if it doesn’t turn out the way it is supposed to be, it doesn’t really matter. Growth hackers are always constantly searching for creative ideas to turn a concept into a fruitful and feasible plan.
Now that we understand the differences, let’s look at how to Growth Hack in a way that actually improves your business.
These are the six best techniques that Growth Hackers are innovating on and turning to their advantage so they can truly stay ahead of the competition.
1) Content Marketing
Content Marketing is a lot like creating a product for Growth Hackers – both involve making something people want.
According to CMI, Content Marketing Institute, their research has shown that 93% of marketers in North America are using content marketing as a strategic marketing approach in creating valuable content to attract their customers, and to ultimately drive these customers to purchase their products or services.
For example, let’s say that you run a company specializing in racks and trays for organizing the kitchen. Your content marketing would be focused on demonstrating the best ways to use your products, especially if it would make the lives of your customers easier.
The primary content would likely take the form of blogs – which are the guides themselves – and social media posts that show off images of people using your products in creative displays. All of the content would be focused on helping the reader organize their life, since research indicated that clutter was a pain point they had.
2) Search Engine Optimization
Content is what convinces people to buy, but Search Engine Optimization is how they find you in the first place. On the basic level, SEO is about tying each of your pages to a keyword that someone might enter.
To continue the example from above, let’s say that a searcher inputs “How to Organize a Kitchen Drawer”as their query.
By examining the intent of the query, we understand that the searcher is looking for information that will help them solve a particular problem – their drawer is cluttered and they want to organize it. We can address the intent by creating an article – with photos – that shows how to quickly and easily organize the drawer.
Search Engine Optimization is not just setting things up in a way that search engines like – it’s your guide for what content to make.
There’s no value in making content without knowing whether or not anyone cares – ensuring that all content revolves around a searcher’s intent is one of the best ways to implement growth hacking.
3) Mobile Email Marketing
Email remains one of the most powerful forces in marketing because essentially everyone who uses the internet has an account. This gives it a bigger reach than the search engines themselves, and certainly far more than any social media network.
The chart above shows that there is a rise in mobile internet marketing whereby nearly half of the emails are actually opened on smartphones and other mobile devices. That’s a significant increase of 500% in just four years!
Now, Growth Hackers understand that email is very specific in its uses, and you should be doing exactly one of two things at any given time:
Regular newsletters can keep customers informed about what you’re doing and encourage them to stick around.
Let’s say that your kitchen-organizing company is targeting moderately wealthy customers who can – and do – spend a lot to make their houses look like something out of a magazine.
After testing some strategies, you decide to offer an eight-week subscription, where your stay-at-home customers will get a package in the mail every Tuesday.
On Wednesday, as you’ll remind them each week, they’ll get an email explaining the product they got and fully demonstrating how to use it to improve their kitchen.
Every message will be mobile-optimized so they can simply look at their phone instead of leaving the kitchen to look at the next step. You can find out more about the best practices for mobile optimization here.
Email isn’t just something to send – when Growth Hacking, you can truly integrate it into your marketing strategy and provide content that readers care about.
4) A/B Testing
The best way of finding out what works best is testing – and A/B testing, where customers are directed to one of two similar web pages, is the best method of obtaining new information.
Returning to our ongoing example, let’s say that you decide to test two different guides. The first guide is a bullet-point list providing step-by-step instructions, while the second guide makes heavy use of pictures and focuses on more of a general outline.
After several months, the picture-based guide has managed to convert three times as many readers into customers, so you remove the text guide and set up a redirect that sends all visitors to the picture-based one.
You can do this with blogs, landing pages, and practically everything else that customers will experience. Remember, growth hacking is about finding what works. Never settle for a “maybe” when you can get data that proves which method is superior.
5) Viral Acquisition
Viral acquisition is where you obtain customers without spending money to advertise to them – typically by providing valuable content that’s both easy to share (i.e. through social media) and interesting enough to be worth sharing.
Imagine spending half the money and getting three or four times as many leads.
For our example, viral content might include an especially creative graphic or a how-to guide directed at college teens living alone for the first time and wanting to keep things in order.
6) Paid Acquisition
This is the last approach that Growth Hackers can use, and it’s often the one they like the least – after all, Growth Hacking involved keeping costs as low as possible.
Keep an eye on your overall ROI – if you’re spending a lot on each customer, you may be profiting less than you would if you focused on a lower-cost, lower-volume model.
This company used a significant number of infographics to promote their site, since they saw that images tended to get a far higher rate of response. In less than a year, they’d grown to nearly 150,000 users (that’s an average of several hundred new customers every single day), making them a true success story in growth hacking.
Events remain popular because there are some things you simply can’t do online. This company has reached more than twenty million users, and did it through some creative recommendation systems that allowed them to sell tens of millions of tickets for events that people wanted to attend.
This may be my favorite Growth Hack of all time – getting lost users back. Through a personal contact system and a determination to improve, this company focused on asking people what made them leave, then talked to them again once the issue had been resolved – and an average of 25% of people contacted came back to the company. That is what success looks like.
[This blog post was originally written and published by Ben Seow on May 6, 2015. It is most recently updated by Vivian Foo on Dec 29, 2020]
Updated: 4 December 2022
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