Growth hacking has become a buzzterm in the past 6 months, ever since this post written back in April by Andrew Chen. There’s even a growth hacking agency in New York City (linked at the bottom of the post) and startups are starting to hire growth hackers to help them scale up their user base faster.
I’ve heard the growth hacker term thrown around a lot, and have experienced both positive and negative reactions to it from people I know.
The goal of this post is to define down what a growth hacker is, how this integrates well into online marketing, and then to give a few examples of some growth hacks I’ve either seen or heard about that have helped tech startups grow.
What Is Growth Hacking
Growth hacking is, at its essence, “data driven marketing.” It’s coming up with new ways to engage your audience, to incentivize them to share, to find ways to keep them engaged on the site longer and clicking more “things” (whatever that is – ads, links to forum posts, Buy Now buttons). Growth hacking is BOTH about growth (duh) and retention (keeping your existing customers happier and around longer, as this is how you ultimately grow).
After product-market fit and an efficient conversion process, the next critical step is finding scalable, repeatable and sustainable ways to grow the business. If you can’t do this, nothing else really matters.
Growth hacking is not about having your users sign up to your service through LinkedIn or Facebook, with promises that you won’t post anything to their Facebook or LinkedIn feeds, and then emailing all of their contacts and invite from you. It’s not about spamming Facebook NewsFeeds (think about the days of SocialCam destroying your NewsFeed on an hourly basis) in order to gain customers. You may gain them for a while, but you’ll also anger a lot of people and ultimately, I would submit, will lose potential customers because they think badly about your product and approach.
Why Growth Hacking Matters For Online Marketing
We’re all working hard trying to grow either our company’s website and online presence or that of our clients. We’re working hard as inbound marketers to increase traffic through search, social, email, and other mediums, all while building a loyal userbase.
1. Coming up with new ideas for ways to reach new users, whether that’s guest content on an influencer’s blog, ranking for some important terms or dominating a type of search term in your space (“How to (x)” for example), triggering emails to the opted-in users when a product they have subscribed to is updated, etc), building a split-testing engine for email marketing, or any number of other things.
2. Getting the resources, building towards that goal, and executing on the plan; and
3. Measuring the effectiveness, iterating on the campaign execution, and continuing to measure;
4. Rinse, repeast.
SEOs Are Growth Hackers
Is it just me, or is everything above that I mentioned exactly what SEOs do? Or rather, isn’t this exactly what SEOs should be doing instead of being pigeonholed as “the SEO guy” or “the SEO girl”?
Let’s look at a couple examples:
We know that technical fixes can make a big difference in traffic:
We spot opportunities so that we can get more rankings and better clickthrough rates:
We measure using custom reports in GA to see what keywords (and which types of keywords) are converting well:
We can look for other channels that could be converting better, such as I talked about here concerning mobile optimization and testing.
We get A/B testing and CRO:
Image via Conversion Rate Experts
We understand that when you send targeted content to users, engagement increases:
We should also understand that hooking your app into a network like Facebook can lead to great growth:
But this growth can also be taken away and thus we need to diversify traffic sources:
Growth Hacking is Smart Customer Acquisition
That’s it. Growth hacking is leveraging the channels of opportunity that drive users. This can be technical (hence the “hacker” language), but can also involve social, content, email, or any of the other inbound marketing channels.
You should also remember that I’m an all-around marketer, not just an SEO. I think this is the way that you should be thinking if you don’t want to stay as just an SEO analyst or consultant forever, but want to move up in position and ultimately become a CMO or Director of Marketing somewhere.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.