If you haven't heard of growth hacking yet, where have you been?! Coined way back in 2010, it's fast becoming the business buzzword of the moment.
But, as with many buzzwords, it can be difficult to work out whether it's genuinely innovative and useful, or just a load of hot air. So, we thought we'd lend a hand.
Growth hacking is basically what it says on the tin, i.e. hacking for growth. That means rapidly generating and testing ideas with the sole focus of growing your start-up, as quickly, efficiently and cheaply as possible.
By growth, we're talking increasing user numbers, maximising conversions or boosting engagement – the exact measure will depend on the stage and model of your business. But in essence, it's entirely focused on the short-term outcomes of a particular action, with the aim of building greater awareness, excitement and momentum around your brand.
Many people talk about growth hacking as a method of marketing but it is bigger than that. To work, every element of the business needs to be considered and hard-wired into the development of the product or service itself. You need to think as creatively and laterally as possible – considering all the resources at your disposal.
There are a number of famous examples where growth hacking has worked brilliantly, the majority involving adding a viral, sharing element to the product itself. This means the resulting growth is self-generating, leaving founders to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
Fancy trying it yourself? Here's an outline of the basic process:
In principle, growth hacking can be a valuable approach for start-ups, giving you a laser sharp focus on what is important, helping you avoid being side-tracked by strategies that don't deliver. It also encourages you to move quickly and take a ruthless approach to your development, a definite benefit when you're short of money and resources.
But it's important to remember that at the heart of it, you still need to have an awesome product for any of this to work. After all, you don't want to attract thousands of new users, only for the customer experience to be subpar, or the site to crash. You need to be confident that you're in good shape for if and when the growth materialises.
In addition, with growth hacking's focus on growth above all else, there is the danger of going down certain murky routes, and straying onto the wrong side of ethical. A recent example involved eggless mayonnaise brand, Just Mayo, which reportedly employed contractors to buy up jars of its product from supermarkets to falsely inflate sales figures. Most would agree this takes the concept too far and is likely to have damaged the brand's reputation as a result.
So remember, growth hacking isn't magic. Ultimately you still need to focus on creating something unique, a great customer experience and a trusted brand, that will keep your users and customers coming back. If you get it right, hacking is one way of helping you get there a little quicker.
Food for thought
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