“Growth hacking” is one of those buzzwords that’s started popping up in digital marketing circles over the last few years. But what exactly is growth hacking and how can you use it to benefit your content marketing efforts?
According to Wikipedia, growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.
The term was first used by startup marketing consultant Sean Ellis in 2010 to describe people and organizations who use creative, experimental approaches to drive fast growth on a budget. Since then, it’s become a marketing industry buzzword and growth hacking strategies are being embraced across industries.
In 2012 Entrepreneur Andrew Chen claimed that “Growth Hacker is the New VP Marketing.”
And while some of the emphasis from both of these gents is that growth hackers will be engineers and coders, they are open to technology-minded marketers like me who just want sustainable growth and cannot live with marketing created to check the list, to please the boss, or to hang on the wall.
While growth hacking has long been associated with startup culture and entrepreneurs, CMOs at large organizations have often found it to be irrelevant for their more established teams or too difficult to implement amidst layers of bureaucracy.
Well, they’ve been proven wrong in a big way this past year.
More than ever, it’s clear that organizations of every size, shape, and industry must be innovative and agile if they want to survive, and growth hacking is one way to do it.
The good news is that it’s really not as complicated as many companies or c-suite execs make it seem. Any company can start growth hacking right now if they want to.
- Growth hacking requires a creative mindset and willingness to experiment.
- Content that drives growth is relevant, shareable, visual, and interactive.
- Brand partnerships can multiply your audience and significantly increase brand visibility.
- Valuing your current customers is one of the easiest and most effective ways to grow your brand.
- Social media is ideal for producing shareable content and engaging directly with customers.
It’s worth noting that this article is focusing on growth hacking strategies, not tactics. The difference (as it applies here) is that we’re covering long-term growth hacking approaches and mindsets you can build into your organization vs. specific executional steps.
There are tons of tactics you can use to execute each strategy, and we’ll discuss some of them (but not nearly all) of them here. The opportunities are endless — once you get going with growth hacking, you can research and use the tactics best suited for your company (and come up with new ones yourself!).
One central part of growth hacking is the willingness to experiment — a lot — in order to find out what works and eliminate what doesn’t. This sounds great, but it’s one of the hardest things for companies to do because managers often equate experimentation with irresponsibility.
In reality, the opposite is true. Growth hacking uses tactics like observing customer behavior, collecting and analyzing data, and studying market trends to implement informed experiments that yield valuable insights. These insights allow companies to quickly eliminate anything ineffective and focus only on the products, services, and activities that drive company growth.
Some simple ways companies experiment:
- A/B testing emails or marketing campaigns
- Releasing multiple versions (like different packages or product features) to see which perform best
- Trying different price points or models
- Offering varied incentives to see what converts most
Keep in mind: experiments are only as valuable as the insights they find. Smart business experiments are based on data-driven hypotheses, thoughtfully implemented, and always measurable.
This one’s nothing new in the marketing world — the core purpose of any campaign is to make people feel like they need to have your product or service, otherwise they’d be missing out.
In a world where the public is inundated with advertisements everywhere they look (and ignoring most of them), marketers have to get creative if they’re going to incite a real fear of missing out (FOMO) in their potential customers.
Growth hackers take it a step further to find ways that FOMO can get them something that helps their company grow, like an email address or a survey response.
One way to create FOMO is by using high-value lead magnets that give your potential customers a sneak peak of something they want but require contact information in order to get it. Another is to implement exit intent strategies that capitalize on a potential customer’s interest at the moment they consider leaving.
Produce Better Content
If you’ve been paying attention to marketing trends (we hope that’s a given), you know that content marketing is the most effective form of marketing. But even smart companies who publish consistent content may not be making the impact they could be if they took a growth hacking approach.
Growth hacking your content means consistently producing the highest converting content possible, and you can do it a few ways. First, make your content visual.
It’s widely known that customers only retain about 20% of the text on any given web page they visit because they’re mostly scanning content. Add in visuals? That number goes up to 70%.
Generally, people remember:
Second, make it interactive. Interactive content keeps people engaged for longer and makes it easier to collect customer data that can be used for following up on leads or analyzing your marketing efforts. It’s rated as effective by 93% of marketing professionals and increases the likelihood that your content will be shared by nearly 30%.
Some examples of interactive content include:
- Interactive infographics
- Surveys and polls
- Quizzes and assessments
Building partnerships is a proven way (and common growth hacker strategy) to multiply your audience and amplify your brand.
Partners can fall under different categories. Brands often partner with other companies that are non-competitors, serve similar customer bases, and have complementary offerings. Partnering with influencers is another way to increase your brand awareness and gain access to a large audience.
Partnerships have compounding growth effects by exposing your brand to new audiences and building your brand reputation at the same time. While the new audiences you’re exposed to bring in new leads you can convert, your partnerships with credible brands and influencers attract additional partners, which then bring in additional leads again — you can see where this is going.
Ultimately, partnerships create a virtuous cycle of growth for your brand with both partners and customers.
Value Current Customers
How does valuing your current customers — who are already engaged and making purchases — help you gain additional growth with new customers?
One answer: word-of-mouth marketing.
The stats around this one speak for themselves:
- Acquiring new customers costs 5x more than retaining current customers
- 92% of consumers trust brands referred to them by friends, and consumers referred by a friend are 4x more likely to make a purchase
- 76% of consumers say they’re more likely to trust content shared by a friend than by a brand
- 88% of consumers specifically seek out referrals from their peers before making a purchase
Brands who build strong brand advocates and value their current customers save money through high retention, generate higher-converting leads, and increase their visibility and social proof when current customers recommend them to peers.
The takeaway? Don’t focus your growth hacker energy solely on new leads. Cultivating your relationships with current customers makes them more likely to stick around and do your most effective marketing work for you.
We already discussed a few key growth hacking strategies: interactive content, cultivating relationships with your customers, collecting feedback, and promoting partnerships.
Social media is your central hub for all of those things. It’s the one place where you can interact with your customers directly on a daily basis, get feedback in an instant (often without even having to ask), and create content that’s always shareable.
Even better? Customers like interacting with brands on social media [stat about customers liking social media], so you’re engaging with them in a welcome and organic way.
Some ways to growth hack on social media:
- Run a giveaway or contest that requires followers to tag friends and share your page
- Partner with influencers
- Always share your blog content on social media to encourage sharing
- Participate in viral trends and hashtags
- Stay active on multiple platforms and optimize your content specifically for each one
The Growth Hacker Wake-Up Call
Ryan Holiday is a consultant and author of the slideshare “The Growth Hacker Wake-Up Call” and the book Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising. He explains the wake up call like this:
Instagram, Zappos, Airbnb, Twitter, and Facebook all became billion dollar brands without any traditional marketing. None. Zip. Zero. Growth hacking is how they got there.
That’s the wake up call because let’s face it, most marketers are classically trained traditonal marketers.
Does that make marketing more or less relevant? One thing is for sure, it has changed the way business leaders think about marketing.
“Growth hacking is a mindset, not a toolkit,” according to Aaron Kinn, Growth Hacker at StumbleUpon. And you could say the same thing about content marketing. According to Ryan:
A growth hacker is someone who has thrown out the traditional marketing playbook and replaced it with only what is testable, trackable, scalable…while their marketing brethren track vague notions like branding and mindshare, growth hackers relentlessly pursue users and growth.
Some of Ryan’s additional tips
- The worse marketing mistake you can make is starting with a product.
- Don’t sell what you’ve got. Work with what you’ve got until it’s something people want (and want to talk about).
- Growth hacking is never being complacent because whatever you have, you can always do better.
Get Going with Growth Hacking
If there’s one takeaway to leave with, it’s that growth hacking is not a snap-your-fingers, quick-fix kind of solution — it takes time, effort, creativity, and consistency to pay off. But that does not equate to being overly difficult.
So many brands fail to enact growth hacking strategies because they feel intimidated by the prospect or they just don’t know where to start.
If you’re ready now to start creating content that drives significant, noticeable growth results, check out our Content Builder Services or schedule a free consultation to find out how Marketing Insider Group can help!