What is growth hacking in digital marketing?

Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most efficient ways to grow a business. Growth Hacking is more about Mindset than Toolset. Growth hacking refers to a set of both conventional and unconventional marketing experiments that lead to the growth of a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business. Growth hackers often focus on low-cost alternatives to traditional marketing, e.g. using social media, viral marketing or targeted advertising instead of buying advertising through more traditional media such as radio, newspaper, and television.

Growth hacking is particularly prevalent with startups when the goal is rapid growth at an early-stage launch phase.

So, here are the steps to start growth marketing process,

Step 1 – Gather and analyze all business data

The most accepted method of improving growth starts by creating a data warehouse. A specific location that’s accessible to all team members, in which you store all learnings and customer information in ways that you can easily segment your customer base in distinctive groupings. The warehouse should encompass both hard data, explaining what your users are doing, as well as soft data, explaining why your customers are doing what they’re doing.

Step 2 – Fire up the growth hacking process, and never stop repeating it

From there you can start growth hacking. This is not looking for the silver bullet in the dataset but focusses more on finding incremental improvements across all the different growth stages. Some improvements might be minor, some won’t work at all, whereas others will be huge. The large improvements might look like a hack, but you won’t find them without iterating through the growth hacking process, which focuses on OMTM (the one metric that matters).

Brainstorm and prioritize growth ideas

The key to finding big growth ideas is by having many ideas. The ideas can focus on one aspect of the buyer’s journey – attention, activation, retention, commercialization, or referral – or can focus on multiple. To get the greatest variety of ideas it is important to get many different people involved in the ideation process: data analysts, salespersons, marketers, and engineers.

And to ensure that everyone knows what the experiment entails, it is recommended to write down a description of the idea answering multiple questions like What is created, and why? Who is targeted? When will the test run? Where will it be implemented? How will it be tested? What is a successful result?

After listing many ideas, it’s important to prioritize which ideas will get tested first to not rush over the details of the experiments. Frameworks like ICE (impact, confidence, and ease) or PIE (potential, importance, ease) can help you with that.

Rapid iteration and execution of many experiments is the key to growth

Finding the right ideas, designing the experiment, implementing the test, and analyzing the results often requires a combination of skillsets. The goal of rapid iterating through multiple experiments is to find one test that resulted in a reliable, stable, and predictable growth improvement. These improvements can be seen as systems in which the input (i.e. money or time) leads to a certain output (i.e. revenue or users), and are thus scalable.

Let me give you 2 of my favorite examples.

This is the famous Paypal-eBay example where PayPal used eBay as a channel for growth hacking:

Step 1: Target Powersellers on eBay and purchase their products.

Step 2: Ask them to accept payments via PayPal.

Step 3: Once the Powersellers are on board (As they don’t want to miss out on sales), have them use a Paypal-verified badge to attract other sellers

Step 4: When you have sellers accepting payments in Paypal, the real buyers start paying in PayPal too This was used by PayPal to achieve their early viral growth.

This is an example of how Dropbox growth hacked their way to becoming a 4 billion dollar company:

Step 1: Creating a minimal landing page. Dropbox created a simple landing page outlining what their product did in a video and a Download CTA (Call to Action).

The more stuff you have on your page, the more confusing it is for the user to determine which action to take. This is something Dropbox knew and many companies have followed them ever since. Check out Mattan Griffel’s guest post on Andrew Chen’s blog: The highest ROI way to increase signups: Make a minimal homepage (Guest Post). This should help you understand why you need a minimal landing page for your startup.

Step 2: Referral programs. Dropbox incentivized users to share Dropbox with their friend and made it a painless process to do so. This alone increased their signups by a whopping 60%!

For example, when one person who has Dropbox refers another, they both get a 500MB increase, pending signup.

Step 3: Incentivising social sharing. Instead of asking users to simply share Dropbox on their social media, they provided customers a reason to. By providing free storage for every share on Facebook, Twitter and following Dropbox.

Remember, it’s not just about the hacks – It’s about the mindset.

Growth hacking is all about getting the mindset to develop a framework of specific, cost-effective micro-implementations for repeatable, highly-scalable, process-oriented growth.

But, growth hacking requires you to learn the processes a Growth Hacker follows and get into the mindset of a Growth Hacker. To help put growth hacking in perspective and give the process a framework, I created a comprehensive ebook to understand the overall strategies behind Growth Hacking.