Everyone who starts a business has an aim to grow, become bigger, earn more money and so on. However, some great ideas never manage to take off. Some startups with great premises never manage to reach their full potential. Why is that? In the sea of thousands of new businesses, you need something to break through. A great idea might not always be enough, if you don’t have a way to reach people with it. Conventional marketing strategies like advertising, landing pages, lead generation, etc. might be very costly and an average startup does not have the budget of a huge company. What should you do in such a situation? The answer is simple – growth hacking!
What is growth hacking?
Conventional marketing strategies are pretty straightforward. You can simply order a bunch of targeted ads on, say Facebook Ads or AdWords and watch your brand grow. This will however, cost you money (and it may be quite a lot!) and you need to plan the budget, check conversions and take care of expenses. Growth hacking on the other hand may cost you nothing, but your time.
Growth hacking uses unconventional methods aimed at achieving a rapid growth in customer base. As Neil Patel, a renowned expert on growth hacking, claims – a growth hacker doesn’t necessarily have to be a marketing specialist – they could also be an engineer as well as any other profession. In fact, as he further argues, a person with marketing education might not be fully fit to be a growth hacker, because of their presumptions that a promotion campaign requires a budget. Growth hacking assumes creativity and unconventional methods over a costly campaign. The term had been coined by Sean Ellis in 2010. His work for then newly created Dropbox was quite revolutionary when it comes to utilizing effective and cheap methods for growing the number of customers. For example, Dropbox came up with a referral program – existing users could refer Dropbox to their friends. Every time a new user signed up to Dropbox, the person who referred it to them received a free 500 MB of storage. Using current customers as the ambassadors of your brand is just one of the countless ways to do growth hacking. All it takes is your creativity and innovative thinking in order to reach more and more people with a tight or non-existent budget.
How to come up with a successful growth hacking campaign?
First of all, the product. That great idea you have for something that in your mind, will improve the lives of millions of people. Remember – it’s all in your mind so far! Your product might not be needed at all – people may be content with the solutions that are already available. That’s why you need to ask for feedback. Start from getting your idea out there, ask people what do they think. Then send out beta versions to each and every contact on your Facebook and your email account contact list. Gain feedback and improve your product, until people are actually happy with what they got and are genuinely considering your creation to improve their lives.
Sending out free promo trial versions or publishing them publicly, also gives you the additional advantage of obtaining a list of people potentially interested in paying for a finished product.
The idea for a great product might be born out of necessity. Before creating a business worth billions of dollars, the Airbnb founders were just a bunch of guys unable to pay their rent. They rented out three mattresses to random people and thus the idea for a company was born!
Along with developing your product, you need to define the profile of your customer. According to Neil Patel, you need to be as specific as possible. Narrow it down to things like gender, age, interests, occupation or location. The narrower the potential customer base, the better the results. Don’t try to cater to everyone – being in the niche is the best chance of actually going huge.
Additionally, you can ask a well-known person to help you with promotion of your new product. This is what Beautymint, a company offering skincare products did! They partnered with Jessica Simpson in order to launch their website. Thanks to that, the company managed to gain 500,000 subscribers in the first day after launching.
Target your desired customers and make them react to what you offer. I mentioned the Dropbox referral program as the example above, but the possibilities are endless! You can offer additional benefits after people share your business on their social media or provide their email address (which can be used for retargeting later on!), get your product up on review sites (to do this you need to be 100% confident that the reviews are going to be positive!), get prominent guests to write articles on your blog or write a guest article on their platform. The founder of Buffer utilized the last of these options and managed to grow his number of paying customers from 0 to 100,000 in a matter of nine months!
Like I said – the possibilities are endless and it’s up to you, which ones you are going to utilize. Most importantly however – they cost very little or even nothing, apart from your time!
Growth hacking is one of the best things that happened to the startup generation. Thanks to that, new and exciting businesses with limited budgets can also get their name out there and achieve rapid growth, but without breaking the bank.
Growth hacking encompasses a lot of different activities – they are only limited by your own imagination and resourcefulness! From using social media, through referral programs, asking for feedback or defining your customer profile, there are plenty of possibilities.
With this article, I aimed to show you that growth hacking is a fantastic, cheap and efficient way to rapidly grow your customer base. What I love about growth hacking is its bottom-up approach and a “yes we can” attitude. Anything is possible as long as you really want it. With the right approach you can even overcome the biggest of obstacles, that often kills businesses, which is lack of money!