A Guide to Growth Hacking for the Modern Marketer

Growth hacking. You may have heard the term tossed around before – preceded or followed by “innovation,” “success,” or even “viral.” You may have even used it yourself. But what does this term really mean, and how does it apply to today’s marketing leaders?

For me, I define growth hacking as using a scientific approach for finding and optimizing factors that are correlated to brand growth. It’s not just the trend of the moment but a necessary skill and new status quo for Digital Age marketers to live and breath by.

How it all started

Having been in the tech industry since the late 90’s, I’ve seen first hand the plethora of technologies that have emerged to make marketing more efficient, transforming everything from operations processes to sales cycles. First, it was the widespread adoption of the Internet as a marketing vehicle, followed closely by PPC and social media. Then, third-party tech companies introduced management and tracking for all the channels we were using to get our names out there.

Now, technology is so engrained in our daily lives as marketers, that we don’t even need to attach the word ‘technology’ to it – it’s just the way we do things. But, as we have an ever-growing list of tools at our disposal and more data than we could ever dig through in a lifetime, there is another wave of change happening to counterbalance the mass influx: paring down.

The world has never been noisier; Brand messages saturate every corner of the Internet. Meanwhile, traditional marketing channels increase in price and decrease in effectiveness while organizations have limited resources and unlimited data.

Growth hacking lives at that crossroads of data-driven learning and guerilla marketing, using existing resources and the restructuring of processes to drive success.

Adopting the Growth Hacking Mentality

I’m an advocate of the opinion that, if you want to truly master a concept, you – and your whole team – must believe in the collective goal.

We all know that Facebook has enjoyed exponential success over the years, and this has been no accident. Their team dedicated hours, weeks and months to understanding every piece of information they could glean from their customers, learning early on that if each new user to their site found 10 new friends in under two weeks, that person was likely to become an avid user of the site. Enter the friend recommendation feature – an early-days contributor to the widespread growth of the social media site and the first domino in a long line of complicated algorithms that result in the Facebook we all still use 10 years later.

Their team of hackers may just be the first poster children for what it means to live the growth hacking mentality in the modern age.

Informing to Empower

A large part of your success that goes hand-in-hand with your team’s ability to be informed, agile, intuitive and a little bit scrappy. In fact, I believe that 80% of your effectiveness lies in knowing every detail of your customer acquisition and retention. In order to do this, your team will have to employ a variety of tactics, including conversion rate optimization, persuasive design, web scraping, agile scrum and analytics analysis. In the example of Facebook, they essentially hacked their own information to find the hidden customer truths, and other companies are following suit.

In an article published on Growthackers.com, Stewart Butterfield, Founder of Slack, summed it up when he said, “Every bit of grace, refinement and thoughtfulness on our part will pull people along. Every petty irritation will stop them and [contribute to] the impression that it is not worth it.”

The remaining 20% of my growth hacking equation? Subversiveness practice – it is called hacking, after all.

Too Much of a Good Thing…

You know how the saying goes. And as brands become more empowered than every before by data and customer knowledge, it’s up to us marketers to determine how to wield the sword. This is where we must connect information to brand values, which come down to our own personal values, and determine which tactics best fit the mold – and which break it.

One example of a company toeing that line, is the Houston airport. Their #1 complaint was the waiting time at the baggage claim area. After much research and planning, they spent $1 million to re-engineer baggage handling and reduce wait times from 9 to 6 minutes. However, another post-implementation survey still reported the same complaints. So, they moved the arrival gate further from the baggage claim – a roughly 6 minute walk away.

Guess what happened to complaints? They dropped. A lot.

Growth hacking isn’t about the biggest budgets or the most award-winning campaigns. It’s about looking harder for those unconventional solutions that push the envelope just enough to solve a problem for customer AND aligns with your brand’s future goals.

As a marketer, you have the power to unite your team of graphic designers, web developers, analysts and sales managers around this cause, giving them an outlet for this creative problem solving. Then, you can watch the magic happen.