The Ultimate Guide to Growth Hacking

01/14/2015 03:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

SEO. Social Media. Content marketing. They are all popular forms of marketing to drive traffic. Even so, if you think that you have all of your bases covered, if you are not yet leveraging the power of growth hacking, you are leaving a portion of your customer base untapped.

What Is Growth Hacking?

Let's start by defining a growth hacker.

Growth hacker (noun): One whose passion and focus is pushing a metric through use of a testable, scalable and replicable methodology.

Growth hacking, therefore, is the actions taken by a growth hacker. According to growth hacker Aaron Ginn, "Growth hacking's goal are based in marketing but driven by product instincts. A growth hacker lives at the intersection of data, product, and marketing." While growth hacking may be the new kid on the marketing block, it is quickly taking the world of marketing by storm, and in many circles has been for years. The term hacking itself might have some negative connotations, but growth hacking has the potential to produce extraordinary results. So, what exactly is it? QuickSprout reports that the term was coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis. There are numerous definitions scattered around online, but basically, growth hacking refers to the practice of companies, often startups, with limited budgets making use of innovative and non-traditional techniques for generating exposure and growth. It should be noted that growth hacking is certainly not a replacement for marketing. It is simply different from marketing as you know it. 2015-01-13-GrowthHackingFunnel.pngAlthough growth hacking has come to be largely associated with startups, this method for generating growth can be used by companies of any size. Companies such as PayPal, Dropbox, Airbnb, and Twitter have all made use of growth hacking for expanding their user bases. Regardless of whether you are trying to launch a startup or you are an established company focused on expanding, growth hacking has something to offer.

Measuring Your Goals

The key to making growth hacking work for your organization is to focus on measurable goals. With so many different metrics that can be measured today, it is easy to fall into the trap of paralysis by analysis. Growth hacking works best when the overall goal of growth is broken down into smaller tasks that are quantifiable. For instance, rather than stating that your goal is to increase your number of users, you might instead state that your goal is to increase your number of daily active users by 2x. Once you have established your vital few, actionable goals, you need to implement tracking and measurement so you can track user behavior and continue down the iterative path of improving your results. If you do not already have appropriate analytics in place to track user behavior or know when you have attained goals, now is the time to do so. Goals mean nothing without analytics.

Metric tools such as Mixpanel and KISSmetrics give you the opportunity to analyze data in a more event-focused manner. For instance, if you opt to focus your growth hacking campaign on frequency of visitor activity, you can use metrics for tracking how often unique visitors visit your site or app, what features do they use most, etc. Using services like Qualaroo you can even work survey type questions into the user experience to capture insights into who your biggest fans are, why people buy, or why they don't.

Deciding on the Right Growth Hacking Tactics

There's no one size fits all set of tactics or marketing channels for you to choose from. The biggest and best tool for a growth hacker to posses is creativity, vision into the hearts and minds of users, and the desire to pull them in with each message or action. The goal is to develop a strategy that is measurable, scalable and replicable. It's not about SEO or paid media. It's about value, creativity and building something that's addictive or instinctively worth sharing for today's social user. Instagram, originally called Burbn, is a great example of how a company picked the most popular feature of their platform, sharing images with filters, pivoted as a company and exponentially grew their user base through integrations with Facebook and others to achieve viral growth. Less than two years later they were purchased by Facebook for a billion dollars. Yes, a BILLION.

Testing, Testing, and More Testing

One reason why growth hacking is ideal for companies of any size is that it is focused on continual growth. This means that companies of any size can expand their current size by simply not accepting the status quo and never giving up. Growth should always be a key goal of all businesses, regardless of size. A/B testing may sound simple, but it also forms the backbone of lasting growth hacking success. If you are not testing your methods, you have no real way of knowing whether what you are doing is truly effective or not. Many companies are easily blinded by what they perceive as success and ultimately never reach their true potential. Always be testing.

Growth hacking lives at the intersection of marketing, data, and product-market-fit (see The Lean Startup by Eric Ries). Growth hacking is rapidly becoming the premier form of marketing that is making it possible for companies of all sizes to drive growth. If you are not tapping into the power of growth hacking, you could very well be unwillingly handing over some of your business to the competition. So, tell me, what ideas did this give you for your business?

For more great info I suggest you follow the Godfathers of Growth Hacking Sean Ellis, Bronson Taylor, Aaron Ginn, Ryan Holiday and don't forget Brett Relander (the Underboss).