Hacking Growth. What does this really mean? To many, it’s an assumption of a bad or a lazy, unethical way to garner marketing success. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Allow me the opportunity to demystify the term ‘hacking’ for the purpose of growth. Let’s put it in the context of how best to acquire loyal customers, differently. Disregard the negative nuance of ‘hacking,’ and focus only on the root definition of altering systems and features to accomplish a goal that differs from the system’s original purpose. Taking a hacking approach to Sales and Marketing is simply a brilliant, new way, apart from traditional and yet often effective methods of engaging clients and prospects to spark exponential growth. Companies today are challenged to pioneer, innovate and differentiate themselves in a highly-congested, dense marketplace. Simply hosting an informative, SEO strong website was leading edge just a few years ago. Today, this is the baseline. What is an inspired, game changing hack today will be common practice in due time. So, pay attention, be fast, think smart and stay unique.

New World Order

This new “hacking” way of growth strategy is a departure from large marketing budgets that tried to build broad-based brand awareness the traditional way.  Growth hackers possess the blend of product design and commercial skills (marketing/sales). They are passionate product and market experts who narrow in on specific product benefits and features. Since they love the product and are keenly tuned into what their ideal customer profile is, they are naturally situated to focus on a perfect Product Market Fit. They know who are (and often are themselves) their most passionate customers and will utilize them to maximize the initial adoption and then their engagement to bring other prospects into the fold. These hackers will build in product features that both serve the needs of their key targets but also include features and rewards to encourage customers to market the product. And all this happens while creating an on-going dialogue for continual product improvement, sharing and interaction. This most likely results in some version of automatic growth.

Follow the Giants

For example, when Dropbox allowed their users to invite new members to join in exchange for getting additional free storage, the company grew exponentially. It was not just a clever way to create virality, but a well-integrated product feature that allowed for sophisticated invitations, tracking, rewards, reporting, etc.  Other software examples of clever hacks include Evernote, Google, Trello, Slack, etc. who all had smart ways to engage their early adopters through a combination of new marketing tricks and product features, which allowed them to spread out their market footprint more effortlessly than using traditional manners. Don’t disregard their success because they cornered online services. Coke used the same technique when they launched cans with people’s names on them. How many additional coke bottle products did you purchase just because of the name listed? This product feature created a hugely successful growth hack. In fact, people who drank Pepsi received Coke cans with their name on it from their friends.

Growth hackers know the traditional marketing tactics (billboards, radio slots, commercials, magazines, conferences, etc.); they also know the base digital marketing pieces (SEO, SEM, etc.) However, they spend their time getting a Perfect Product Fit with their initial fans and focus their efforts of growth from there. They shift their dollars from marketing to product development. They take an alternative, more iterative, approach to product development and marketing with complete engagement from their most applicable prospects and clients.  When this Product Market Fit is just right, they turn up the volume and leverage their loyalists.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

These hacking professionals also understand the concept of influencers.  Influencers are people who have fans or followers who want to be like them, buy what they have, take advise from their message, or walk in their shoes. These influencers don’t have to be Oprah or Sir. Richard Branson; they can be of course.  However, there are thousands of micro-influencers with very specific or narrow, but effective impact on a specific audience (i.e. market fit).  In today’s world, they leverage social networks to communicate with their audience. There are entire businesses build on this concept, for example Whalar (https://whalar.com). Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Grant Golestan, who at 17-years old has built a very impressive business (https://socialwave.co ) that boasts an audience of 300 million on Instagram. This is not traditional anymore.

Invest To Learn

Make no mistake. Growth Hacking is a very real movement as evidenced by a number of websites, online communities, best-selling books and conferences. Type the term into Google and you will get over half a million results in less than half a second. Add conference to your search term and find Growth Hacking Conferences throughout 2018, hosted by cities across the country. As with all innovative techniques, if you want to catch the bus then you better be ready to read, watch and learn and then some more. One recommended resource to get started is Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday. This Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing and Advertising explains how “a new generation of megabrands like Facebook, Dropbox, Airbnb, and Twitter haven’t spent a dime on traditional marketing. No press releases, no TV commercials, no billboards. Instead, they rely on a new strategy—growth hacking—to reach many more people despite modest marketing budgets. Growth hackers have thrown out the old playbook and replaced it with tools that are testable, trackable, and scalable. They believe that products and businesses should be modified repeatedly until they’re primed to generate explosive reactions.”

This is not to say that traditional marketing is obsolete. A business still needs to employ these approaches to ensure that growth hacking can be taken to the final level. For more information on a more traditional marketing approach, reference our recent article: 5 Ways to Better Align Marketing and Sales.

2Swell’s sole mission is to help other individuals and businesses grow and be great. This entails being well-versed as an expert in traditional methods, as well as staying ahead of the curve in new and innovative techniques – like Growth Hacking.

What have you done with your brand or product to challenge the traditional ways to acquire new customers?  We love to hear your comments and learn from your experiences, both from veterans and new professionals in marketing, sales and product development roles. Please share your comments. Thank you!