Here’s What “Growth Hacking” Is

Written By Alla Levin
June 28, 2021
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Here’s What “Growth Hacking” is And Why Mid-sized Business Must Be Doing It

“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” ~ Sean Ellis of Hacking Growth. Entrepreneur and start-up advisor Sean Ellis introduced the concept of growth hacking in 2010.

The idea has been popular with startups for the past decade-plus but has recently gained momentum with more established, mid-sized businesses. A global pandemic that totally disrupts the status quo and forces you to rethink everything tends to do that.

With businesses of all sizes now thinking outside the proverbial box for ways to grow their business — in good times and bad — growth hacking is not just for startups anymore; it has gone mainstream according to reddit upvotes.

So it begs the question…

What is growth hacking?

As the name suggests, “growth hacking” is a way to hack your way to growth. What it isn’t is a set of tried-and-true tactics that will always work, no matter what, for any industry, every time. Growth hacking is really a mindset shift. It’s flexible and adaptable enough to incorporate strategies and tactics into your marketing mix that may lead to fast and significant growth within a limited budget.

Basically, it’s asking yourself: “How do I acquire more customers as quickly as possible and at the least cost?” We know what you’re thinking…

Wait, isn’t that just traditional and digital marketing?Wait, isn’t that just traditional and digital marketing

Not exactly. Look at your marketing mix, like investing in the stock market. You invest in your 401K for the long-haul. You’re focused on growth, true, but you’re not expecting to become a millionaire overnight. Digital and traditional marketing are like that. Slow, steady, and sustainable.

Growth hacking is like being a Reddit investor. It’s being nimble but knowledgeable and willing to focus marketing dollars on strategies and tactics outside the norm in the hopes of getting your own GameStop.

Now replace “stock market” for your business, and you get the idea. A strategic mix of traditional and digital marketing leads to steady growth in the short and long term (assuming you hire the right marketing experts, of course, hint-hint).

Growth hacking is focused on exponential growth with a limited budget over a short period of time. Again, think Reddit investors. It’s really a set of strategies that involve data-driven experimentation and adaptability, focusing exclusively on quick growth — not long-term growth, brand equity, or customer engagement.

So you might be asking yourself…

Do I even need growth hacking? Or should I totally ditch my existing marketing?

Yes and no, respectively.

Growth hacking isn’t different from marketing — it’s part of your marketing mix. As a mid-to-large-sized business, you hopefully already have a marketing strategy and campaign in place to achieve your long-term brand and business objectives (if not, we can help with that).

This isn’t an either/or “growth hacking vs. digital and traditional marketing” situation. It would help if you had both. So that begs the question…

What is growth marketing good for?

If you’re a startup, the answer is obvious: To make money fast for a limited amount of money. If you’re an established, mid-to-large-sized business, the answer is also obvious…to make money fast for a limited amount of money.

Growth hacking is good for focusing on problem areas within your portfolio. Are you not reaching customers for a specific product or service using your normal marketing methods? Growth hacking strategies may swoop in to save the day.

Are you launching a new sub-brand or product line that appeals to a niche audience outside your normal core customers? Did somebody say “growth hacking?”

Point being: Growth hacking and traditional/digital marketing make a beautiful marriage and can work well when done in harmony, especially if you have the resources to invest in both. So you’re probably wondering…

What are some growth hacking tactics?What are some growth hacking tactics

We’ll stress this: There are no “Do This. Get Rich.” schemes in marketing, growth hacking, or otherwise. If there were, we’d be on a beach sipping mai tais right now. Growth hacking is ultimately a mindset shift and focuses on “fast, nimble, and experimental,” not on “we know this works because we’ve done it before.”

That said, there are a few tactics that should be in any growth hacker’s playbook.

Landing pages

Landing pages are where your prospect lands after clicking your link on social, digital, or email. Unlike a website or microsite, the landing page puts your product or service front and center and makes it as easy as possible for the customer to buy. No About Us section, building brand equity, or incorporating mission and values here. “here’s what we offer, and here’s how to get it.” Landing pages have gone mainstream, so they’re pretty much part of the digital marketing mix today…but they started with growth hackers.

Make the product itself a growth channel

Wait, what? Yep, your product can also be a sales channel. The most famous example is DropBox, which gives you more storage space if you Tweet about it, refer friends, or connect to multiple devices. It’s a slick way to make the brand more “sticky,” taken straight from startups. However, nobody would accuse DropBox of being a startup, at least not anymore.

Create a product people want

Okay, so this seems so obvious you might wonder what it’s doing on this list. But sometimes, it’s easy to miss the obvious when it comes to marketing. Most traditional/digital marketing efforts focus on making people want the product; growth hacking focuses on making a product people want. So have your finger on the pulse of your customer’s pain points and be ready to develop a tool to solve them quickly.

We’re not saying spend millions on focus groups and R&D (that’s definitely not growth hacking). Rather, be flexible enough to quickly introduce a product or service into the market that may not change the world but can make your customer’s lives a little easier. Maybe it’s the software you can crank out in a weekend or a “How To” guide that offers relevant advice. The best way to grow fast is to sell something people want without going through the typical, time-consuming approval channels.

Test, test, and test some more

We’re not just talking about A/B testing. More like A-Z testing. Have at least two versions of every message to see what’s resonating. Use the data and insights to drive your message as you move forward. Does your message no longer work? Great, try another. Then another. Don’t fall in love with your work, because no matter how it is, you’re going to change it. A lot. All to discover what’s not working, what is working, and what could be working better.

Whether you’re a dynamic startup, a mid-sized business, or a massive monolith, growth hacking demands you to be inquisitive, analytical, and creative. Growth is time-consuming, but a growth hacking mindset can speed up this process. You must be dynamic and flexible. You have to get out of your comfort zone. You must be prepared to fail 9/10 times, knowing that 1/10 will pay for the failures…and then some.

We know that may be a spooky mindset shift for some marketers, especially for established, mid-sized businesses. Let us make your growth hacking less scary and way more successful. Get in touch with us for a free consultation and level up your growth hacking with Levo.

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