Join Brad Batesole for an in-depth discussion in this video What is growth hacking?, part of Marketing Foundations: Growth Hacking.
- Growth hacking is a fairly modern term. It was coined by successful entrepreneur Sean Ellis in 2010 through a blog post. There, he defined a growth hacker as a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth. The truth is growth hacking has been happening for a lot longer than that. We just didn't have a term to describe it. Growth hacking is really about exploiting information or users to generate impressive and often mind-boggling gains in traffic, revenue, or users.
A growth hack is typically very limited in scope. It can be very small and a very specific idea. I heard a great example of a growth hack from Adam Penenburg, Journalism Professor at NYU. He shared a story from the founders of Hotmail.com, a free email service that was launched in 1996. The founders were debating how to spread the word of their new venture. They could put ads on billboards, in magazines, or on the radio, but that would've been expensive, and those costs didn't make sense given that Hotmail was free. So they decided to put a default signature line at the bottom of every email.
It read something to the effect of get your free email at Hotmail with a link back to their site. They essentially turned their users into advertisers. Within seven months, they had over two million users. Thirty months and they were at 30 million users. It was a risky idea but the data supported the growth. At its core, growth hacking is about forgetting the rules of traditional marketing and hyper-focusing on a core piece of your business. You'll work with only what is measurable and relentlessly pursue growth by making data-driven decisions.
Let's look at it another way. If we peel away the buzzword, what we're essentially talking about is data-driven, lean marketing. We're focusing on low-cost and innovative approaches that aren't decided by instinct or a gut reaction. This style of marketing requires selecting an area you want to grow, and then designing a specific strategy that is easily measurable. Growth hacking uses data to understand what's working and what's failing. Now at a service level, that sounds a lot like traditional marketing, but we're going beyond conversion rates, beyond brand mentions, and even beyond how many likes your Facebook page has.
The type of information central to growth hacking is often centered around the product experience. Why are users clicking certain buttons? What motivates them to buy? How much time are they spending checking out? And what information are they consuming prior to purchase? Somewhere in all of that data is an aha moment. And that moment might hold a dramatic revelation that when leveraged will result in exponential growth. In the Hotmail example, they understood their customer was motivated by a free product. That free advertising wasn't a roadblock to using the service.
At the time, email was primarily used between friends and family, so this tagline looked almost like a personal endorsement and led to a high click-through rate. They saw a gap in the market and leveraged it. With that said, growth hacking isn't a tool or a one-size-fits-all approach. There isn't a clear road map to follow. What works for one company might not work for another. The best way to get started in growth hacking is to work towards a new mindset. You'll need the willingness to set aside normal conventions and adopt some pretty radical ideas. It's not for everyone.
You can't dip a toe into growth hacking. You have to be willing to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty.
The course concludes with growth-hacking case studies, highlighting the growth-hacking techniques that helped propel such companies as Airbnb, Uber, and Tinder to explosive growth.
- What is growth hacking?
- Understanding the funnel
- Setting up tracking and analytics
- Leveraging customers and existing users
- Testing ideas
- Generating an audience
- Creating an incentive strategy
- Real-world examples of successful growth hacking