If you're an active social networker, it's likely that you've seen the buzz word "growth hacking" in your streams and feeds. "Growth hacking" is a term that is often misunderstood. This is due to the negative connotation that's been given to the word "hacking" over the years, stemming from illegal hacking activities. But, the term "growth hacking" is all about the positive, not the negative.
What is Growth Hacking?
Wikipedia describes it as a marketing technique used by technology start ups. In practice, it's more of a lean philosophy of growth first, budgets second. It's about cutting through all the B.S. and working smarter, not harder. What I love about the term is that it's not just about operations, marketing or sales. It's about everything centered around growth.
"If you're not growing, you're dying" - Tony Robbins (Tweet This)
The term “growth hacker” was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010. Sean is the founder and CEO of Qualaroo and GrowthHackers.com. He was part of the early growth of Dropbox, Eventbrite, LogMeIn, Lookout and others. If you're new to the concept of growth hacking and would like to learn more, I recommend reading, "The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking" by Neil Patel and Bronson Taylor. It's an excellent resource that dives deep into the detail of growth hacking.
"A growth hacker Is a person whose true north is growth." - Sean Ellis (Tweet This)
4 Growth Hacking Principles To Guide your Success
1. Philosophy Sets The Sail
Growth hacking isn't just a marketing or sales tactic or technique. While it does involve those aspects, it's more about the way you think and act. It reflects your ideas and discipline. It's your self-direction. It requires setting goals and accomplishing your goals step-by-step, one day at a time, everyday. Growth hacking directs all your energy toward achievement.
"The Same Wind Blows ON ALL OF US. It's not the blowing of the wind, it's the set of the sail." - Jim Rohn (Tweet This)
I was recently inspired by Marcus Sheridan at the INBOUND 2014 conference. Marcus is a true example of what it means to be a growth hacker. It's hard to imagine that someone with so much wisdom and inspiration could have ever had a struggling business. But, realize that it's the struggle that sets up the success. Hear his story and it's obvious why he's becoming one of the most sought-out thought leaders and speakers in the industry today. In his breakout session, "A Serious Look at Inbound Marketing Success Today, Tomorrow and 10 Years from Now," Marcus challenged us to ask and answer this simple question:
"When prospects visit our website, do we help solve their problems better than anyone else in the world?" - Marcus Sheridan (Tweet This)
He went on to challenge our room full of INBOUNDERS. He recommend that we STOP using the following terms:
- Inbound Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Buyer Personas
- Social Media Marketing
- Every other phrase of the type.
Instead, he recommended that we START discussing how to be better at:
Here's another spark from Marcus. Do you know the difference between Google and Yahoo?
BOOM! This isn't rocket science, it's philosophy. I realize having Google's simplicity and clarity is easier said than done. It's often after the fact that you realize you fell into the trap of trying to be all things to all people.
2. Work on building relationships, not your database
David Meerman Scott has been advocating for years to ungate your content — to focus on being useful and get people exposed to your ideas. This has been a challenge for me to overcome for several years now. I have always felt the need to gate content so I can "nurture" leads through the buying journey. I finally realized that it's better to ungate your content. Opening the gates allows you to focus on how to be a better listener, communicator, teacher and helper, building real relationships along the way.
"It really comes down to goals. Do you want a few email addresses? Or would you rather have a ton of people exposed to your ideas?" - David Meerman Scott (Tweet This)
I'm not saying that you shouldn't have conversion forms on your website or that you should ungate every piece of your content. However, you should request contact information only when it makes sense — when you can add value by getting the information. Most people are not ready to make a purchase the first time they visit your website. So, why not take the opportunity to delight them? Offer them something remarkable, that will help them solve their problems, no strings attached. Then, give them the option to give their e-mail address. Help them stay informed with ideas they can use and topics they're interested in.
3. Don't be afraid to lose control
What do consumers really need to own? Mitch Joel posed this question in his INBOUND 2014 breakout session, "A Culture Of Change — How Brands Adopt to an Ever-Changing Consumer." He points out that the role of ownership is rapidly changing for consumers. A few years ago, we owned a few CDs. We would rip them into our hard drives on our computers. Spotify has proven that people don't mind paying a nominal monthly fee to get access to the entire music library. For many consumers, myself included, it's better to have access to a library full of songs than it is to own five CDs that take up hard drive space. It's important to note that this change is fundamentally driven by consumers. Forward-thinking companies like Netflix, Airbnb and ZipCar are all built on the basis of this change.
"If consumers don't own, they can also share." - Mitch Joel (Tweet This)
This shift is also changing how brands are choosing to connect with consumers. IKEA has built an entire store on Instagram. They've built a following of over 87,000 followers on the mobile photo sharing platform. Brands now have to compete with personalities like Bethany Mota. Bethany started using YouTube when she was just 13 to build her personal fan base. She creates useful content about teen style, quick tips and how-to ideas for girls that are just like her.
Now 18, Bethany is a YouTube veteran and is a total growth hacker. She's featured in this month's issue of Fast Company. What's amazing is that she has been able to connect with and influence over 7 million subscribers on her YouTube channel alone. She's ranked 49 across all of YouTube and 3 in How-To & Style. Look closer. You'll see that her following is transferable to other networks like Twitter and Instagram as well. Teen retailer Aeropostale realized the opportunity to work with Bethany. They asked her if she would like to start her own personal product line. Within just a few weeks of launching her line, it sold out. They decided to run another line, which sold out as well. She ended up selling out three product lines in an industry where celebrity-endorsed product lines rarely sell out.
4. Repurpose And Be channel agnostic
Chris Ducker is another growth hacking success story! He provided a valuable insight about the importance of repurposing content during his session. It was titled, "Virtual Freedom: How to work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time and Build Your Dream Business!" at Content Marketing World 2014. If you embrace the philosophy of working smarter, not harder, then you'll want to make sure you're getting the most out of your content. Chris recommends repurposing content to best fit the audience by channel. For example, you may have a general topic of interest or "theme" that you'll focus on for the month. From that theme, you'll create eight to 10 blog post topic ideas. Each blog post you create can be repurposed as follows:
- Video to share on YouTube
- Infographic to share on Pinterest and Instagram
- Topic for your next podcast
- Topic for you next SlideShare presentation
- Topic for Vine and or SnapChat message
- Syndicated or rewritten on LinkedIn
- Syndicated or rewritten for contribution to PR sites
- Topic for a Canva graphic to share on Facebook, Twitter and Google+
These are just a few examples of how you can repurpose and stretch your content.
"Time is our most valuable commodity — invest it wisely!" - Chris Ducker (Tweet This)
Using your content ideas to create a multitude of content assets can help you extend your reach. Repurposing content helps you build your audience with minimal effort.
Growth hacking is not just for start-ups. It's something that every smart marketer and sales pro should do. We should always keep an open mind and look for new innovative rule-changing ways to drive growth.
"Growth hacking was born out of startups, but it's something every smart marketer should embrace." - Sean Ellis (Tweet This)
It's the philosophy that sets the sail. What's new today will be old tomorrow. Sometimes, reinventing the old way can become the more effective, new way. Maybe try using Handiemail to send a handwritten letter in a world where they rarely exist! Growth hacking is about people connecting with people. The philosophy builds relationships and trust! The moment it becomes just about the numbers is the moment that you've lost. What are you doing to drive growth for your business? Let's discuss more in the comments section below.
Image Credit: Sail Boat