Growth hacking is quite a buzzword, but what exactly does it mean? How the heck do you hack growth? If you’re curious, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I will explain what it is and how it differs from growth marketing. We will also look at some examples of successful companies that have hacked growth and, of course, some of the famous growth hacking tactics nobody wants you to know (just kidding, we definitely want you to know them).
So, grab your cup of coffee – or tea if you’re from the UK – and make yourself comfortable.
3,2,1… heeere we gooo 🚀
What is Growth Hacking?
Growth hacking is an approach mostly used by fast-growing startups to carry out whatever tactics and activities it takes to… yeah, you’re right, grow as fast as possible. Growth hackers usually try different approaches and cut through the jungle to come up with creative ways of growing faster than everyone else.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of growth hacking as it supports creativity and sparks a lot of inspiration. The only thing I often miss, though, is the strategic approach present in growth marketing. Which brings me to the next point: How does it differ from growth marketing?
The Difference Between Growth Hacking and Growth Marketing
As explained in this article, “growth marketing is an approach based on a growth marketing strategy, experimenting with growth hacking tactics and combining them into a comprehensive plan leading to the growth of your business.”
With this ☝️ complex sentence, I mean to say that growth hacking tactics are part of growth marketing; only with growth marketing you add strategy to outline the path from the point where you are currently to the point where you want to be (meaning much bigger and better than you’re now).
However, there is one other difference that needs to be mentioned. When we talk about “growth hacking tactics”, it’s not the same as “growth hacking” because the second of the two is an approach. And this approach differs from growth marketing as follows:
- Growth marketing – you have a plan and experiment with tactics.
- Growth hacking – you don’t have a plan and experiment with (usually the same) tactics.
Now, which one is better? From my perspective, there is no correct answer. While growth marketing that uses a plan helps you stay on track and ensures you’re going in the right direction, the plan itself can limit your creativity. Growth hacking, on the other hand, can become a pure guessing game (like waiting to win the lottery), as the absence of a plan can very easily become crucial. At least this is the case if you are not 100% sure of what you’re doing. But if you strike gold… 🦄
That said, I would always go for growth marketing as it is more predictable and much easier to scale. Not to say that the chance of losing without a plan is always incomparably higher than reaching the final destination, but the choice is yours.
Who is a Growth Hacker?
People often think that a growth hacker needs to be a marketer, but that’s not true. As explained in the previous section, growth hacking lacks a marketing plan, and therefore you just need the right mindset and understanding of how things work and why people should buy your stuff (register or pay for your product).
A growth hacker is simply someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to grow the business, often with almost no money, but having a creative mind instead.
3 Growth Hacking Success Stories
Before starting this section, I have to put a disclaimer here: None of these brands grew just because of one tactic mentioned below. That one, however, catapulted them to fame.
- Dollar Shave Club
This iconic brand took viral videos to a whole new level when they combined their founder Michael Dubin’s natural talent for shining in front of the camera with a bit of controversy and humour worth sharing. The result is infamous today – a video that helped them go from zero to a billion dollar exit in five years.
Once again. Billion. Dollar. Exit. In five years! … and maybe that’s all just because their blades are f*cking great.
Dropbox, on the other hand, focused its marketing on working with communities and recommendations. Want some free space? Like us on Facebook. Want some more? Tweet about us. Even more? Recommend us to friends and don’t spend a penny.
Airbnb tried some really weird stuff in the early days. Did you know they created their own cereals and sold them to fund their main product? They’ve also made some fantastic moves, one of them being their Craigslist “exploitation”. They created a special feature to cross-promote a property on their direct competitor’s website, which turned out to be a genius move. As Craigslist was much bigger than Airbnb at the time, many people would search for properties on the website, and once they found a flat or house for rent, they had to sign up with Airbnb to contact the property owner.
Looking at where they are today, we can safely say it wasn’t a bad move at all.
7 Growth Hacking Tactics
Finally, we’re getting to the most important part: How the heck can you hack your growth? Below I’ve listed several tactics to help you increase your leads/users, turn them into paying customers and help you grow. However, as I’ve mentioned above, hacking is about having the creativity to come up with something new, and not about following a plan.
- Reach out to people via a cold emailing campaign
This is especially useful if you’re B2B as you can focus exclusively on your persona/potential customers. This is something you’ll never achieve with any type of ads. Not to mention, for B2B, email is still one of the best converting tools. So, pick the right audience and talk about their challenges, issues, pain points, and how you can help them overcome them. If you add value, this could be the hack that will help you grow, especially in the beginning.
- Add value to the conversation in social groups
Do you think people are searching for your stuff? No, they aren’t. They have their own issues, challenges, goals and dreams. But they love to talk in their (online) communities. Find those communities, find those conversations, find the questions related to your product’s topic and add some value. If you don’t promote in the first place but focus on value, you may receive some high-quality leads. A side effect of this tactic is that you’ll understand what your potential customers are talking about and their challenges. And this can serve you well later on.
- Create high-quality content and lead magnets only available after sign-up
Get inspired by Hubspot. If you search for nearly any topic related to online marketing, they are not only present with a blog post but also with a follow-up offer. Let’s say you search for a topic like “what metrics to measure on social media”. Booom, they’re on the first page of Google with their article about social media metrics and, of course, a template related to this topic. The good thing is that you don’t even have to create that much content like templates or ebooks; you can promote your product’s features as a blog expansion.
- Partner with another company and help each other grow
It’s always easier to walk with someone else when you’re heading in the same direction. Find a company with the same audience and help each other out.
- Reach out to influencers
Do you want to expand your audience? Try influencers. Yeah, I know, it’s expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have something that is of value to them, give it to them in exchange for spreading the word about you. Or there is another tactic I’ve used several times with good results. One time I wanted to create a blog post about customer service for one of our clients, so I reached out to 10 influencers in this field and asked them a simple question like, “What is the advice you’d give me on the topic of customer service if you could only give me one?” Seven of them replied, and I created an article based on their answers. After publishing, most of them shared the article on their Twitters and LinkedIns, resulting in more than a 1,000% increase in visits compared to the same client’s average blog posts. Not to mention the time spent on the article.
- Go for referrals
Be like Dropbox – offer something interesting in exchange for sharing your product. Just keep in mind that Dropbox did this more than 10 years ago, so it has been copied infinitely by other companies. That said, be creative and push it to the next level.
- Use a chatbot to increase conversion rate
As I’ve said above, people want to solve their issues and overcome their challenges; they don’t have time to study your product. Help them by talking to them and offering them the right solution for their pain points. The best part is that today it’s not necessary to do this on your own – hire a chatbot to automate the work for you.
Always find and promote your biggest strength to go viral and grow – be it a product or a CEO who loves being in front of the camera. Then try, test and experiment. And plan. At least for me, this strategy always delivers results. If you’d like us to help you grow your startup or scale-up, feel free to schedule a short call with us, and let’s scale throughout the Universe together.