In an industry awash with evermore confusing terminology and acronyms, it’s hard to distinguish between just another buzzword and something that perhaps has a little more bite. So where does current favourite ‘growth hacking’ fit in?
The term was coined back in 2010 by Sean Ellis, founder of Qualaroo and infamous marketing wizard – supposedly following his frustration in finding a replacement for himself while he was consulting across numerous companies. Wikipedia now defines growth hacking as: “A combination of art, and science and refers to a set of conventional, and unconventional marketing experiments that lead to growth of a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.”
In the finance space, Mint applied growth hacking tactics by solving a real-world problem
One principle behind growth hacking is that there is no stereotyped role assigned to any given individual; someone from a marketing background will work as a growth hacker alongside a programmer. The only stipulation is that every person shares the same goal: the growth or scaling of a company, traditionally a startup. Some simple but great examples include Dropbox’s Refer a Friend scheme, which incentivised users by offering free additional storage space for each referral, and Pinterest’s ‘infinite scroll’, removing the need for additional clicks or page loads and drawing users in to spend more and more time on the visually-oriented site.
The Mint Success Story
In the personal finance space, Mint applied growth hacking tactics by solving a real-world problem – creating content that targeted a neglected segment – young professionals looking for financial advice. Mint was also given a huge social boost when communities such as Digg and Reddit happily pumped out their infographics and articles. Smart content partnerships, brand deals PR, SEO, Facebook and Twitter then did the bulk of the heavy lifting.
According to Kissmetrics, “Mint officially launched in September 2007. In November 2009, Intuit bought Mint for $170 million. At the time, Mint had over 1 million users and was adding a few thousand new users every day. Four years later, Mint has over 10 million users.”
So how can established businesses benefit from the growth hacking approach? Startups such as Mint tend to run lean, have minimal budget and are not weighed down by the same internal pressures faced by larger companies. This means they are at liberty to take much greater risks in the name of growth. There are however some elements of the growth hacking approach that can benefit big companies:
Know Your Data
Growth hacking aims to move beyond traditional marketing techniques, combining psychology with technology to generate measurable results. Data is everything, and identifying what data needs to be measured is of ultimate importance. Focus on what data directly impacts growth, and how it can be manipulated, then make a plan of what you need to do in order to manipulate it.
Larger companies struggle to implement those new ideas, as planning and perfecting can often take so long that the growth opportunity is missed. Working agile is key to learning and therefore improving quickly. This means no longer striving for perfection but instead making sure new ideas are put live, even if they’re not quite as polished as you’d like. Rinsing and repeating regularly will bear fruit faster and more effectively than one perfectly executed (but potentially flawed) master plan.
As they say, “The best-laid plans…” That amazing campaign that sounded so great in the planning stages may turn out to be a dud but all is not lost. Failing means learning, and by working agile these lessons can quickly be used to build and improve the next stage.
Being a larger business or established brand can make the prospect of implementing growth hacking principles daunting, but it does also come with its own benefits. There will likely be an existing larger audience to test on, whether this is measured in site visits, social or email, which means learnings can be gained fast. Combining this with a data-centric approach, ensuring you focus on and listen to your customers, is a great opportunity to drive continual growth.