A startups guide to growth hacking
Growth hacking is an alternative and highly effective marketing technique that is popular with new business startups who are looking to launch products or services whilst gaining instant exposure and high growth. Essentially, growth hacking gives new companies that boost they need to really get going and get their products on the road without the costly, lengthy and tiresome processes that often come with the more traditional and 'official' methods of marketing. Growth hacking certainly isn't the easy option or a cheat, though. It requires an incredible amount of creativity, tactics and strategy, all of which are more often than not rewarded very generously in its almost instant results.
Growth hacking, marketing...what's the difference?
Though it has been practised in the world of business for some time, the concept of 'growth hacking' is relatively new, with the term only coming into fruition in 2010 after being coined by start-up advisor and marketer Sean Ellis, now widely known as the original growth hacker. Ellis coined the term to differentiate his method from marketing, i.e. one that specifically revolves around growth, from the classic idea of marketing which, whilst undeniably crucial in the later stages of a business, he believes is not entirely relevant during its early stages, in which the focus should be exclusively, and intensely, on growth. Until a certain level of growth has been achieved, a business need not really concern itself with the traditional marketing concepts which will of course come into play, but later on.
Growth hacking should not replace marketing, or be seen as an alternative to it, rather it should be utilised alongside marketing. The two are entirely different and fulfil relatively different purposes within any business. Growth hackers are concerned only, and somewhat obsessively, with growth. It is all that is on their agenda. While marketers may have growth as their aim, it is not their only aim, and other things generally come into play. Now that we have that covered, let's look at what growth hacking involves, and why every start-up should think about incorporating it into their business plan.
Just what does growth hacking entail?
Growth hacking involves a lot of tact and analytical thinking. It is about getting your company's message, your product, your service, across and into the conscience of your target audience or market without it being transparently promotional. In the modern age, people are getting wise to the old school marketing methods, and there is nothing they hate more than being inundated with ads or obvious sales pitches. How do you launch a product or service to a generation of people with such fickle minds? That is where growth hacking comes in.
Instead of going down traditional routes of buying ad space and throwing the product or service in people's faces and hoping for the best, growth hacking is all about the alternative, more inventive routes, most obviously technology-based avenues like viral marketing and social media. Not only are these two of the most powerful and effective avenues through which to engage people in the modern day, they are also relatively inexpensive, meaning that startups can save huge chunks of money early on, preventing them from any kind of debt. Most startups aren't exactly loaded in the early stages, and ad space is an expenditure that is practically unaffordable if you are in the middle of launching your business, so growth hacking is a perfect solution to potential financial woes.
Examples of growth hacking
There are many examples of growth hacking currently in play and there is a good chance that you have been exposed to one at some point. Dropbox, the popular cloud storage service, is a well-known adopter of growth hacking and use incentives and rewards to encourage people to share with friends, colleagues and family. By completing a number of steps, which in turn increases the reach of Dropbox, the end user is rewarded with additional storage. It is a clever strategy and executed in a way that is in no way in your face, you want to complete it because for a few small steps the outcome is personally rewarding.
Growth marketers take the term 'thinking outside the box' to a whole new level, they take risks and sometimes do things that someone subscribing to the more old fashioned notion of marketing would advise against. When they get it right though, the results can be as extraordinary as the methodology used to achieve them.