Companies that Aced Growth-Hacking (and Tactics you can Learn from Them)

If you read my last article, there may be some part of you that concluded that the modern notion of ‘growth hacking’ as it applies to marketing is just a get rich quick scheme disguised in catchy buzzwords. That - in order to create great success – a brand simply needs to conduct rapid experimentation of various marketing tactics to see which ones yield the greatest results.

But that thinking would be folly.

Because, at its core, growth hacking requires marketers and their team to pause, plan, innovate and change. It involves leveraging the latest automation tools in smart ways, while simultaneously running tests AND fostering that rare start-up level of creativity and ingenuity. All this while keeping a focus on the customers’ desire and beliefs because that’s where your company’s true value lies if you don’t want to end up just being another choice.

After years of watching brands do this both effectively and ineffectively, I’ve recognized two growth hacking tactics done by those that enjoy huge successes:

1. Reverse Engineering a Solution

Several years ago, Airbnb had a problem: people were only signing up for accounts once they had already decided to travel. Without log-ins, the marketing team was unable to use consumer behavior to enhance their matching algorithms and create better suggestions – thereby creating a better customer experience.

By the time they knew how they could help customers, it was already too late.

In a recent video, their growth team shared how they disassembled the customer experience and approached a solution in four steps:

  • Finding an opportunity.
  • Running a small preliminary test.
  • Defining what success would be for them and then,
  • Continuing to experiment as they rebuilt the solution.

They initiated the bold tactic of locking out home listings from the very customers they were trying to attract – until sign-in information was shared. By creating some initial friction, the brand piqued consumer interest in what laid behind that log-in prompt. They watched signup numbers skyrocket and the number of members using advanced search and wish list functions (two important parts that inform their matching algorithms) increased with them.

Ultimately, they were more worried about delivering big value first than they were about driving visitors to their site, and their reverse-approach paid off ten-fold. By honing in on the signup process, Airbnb can now seamlessly enable cross-platform (desktop to cell phone and vice versa) continuity in customer experience and track behavior throughout each phase of the customer journey – giving them the tools to understand and listen to their consumers like never before.

2. Finding the Magic Number

Another startup fundamentally changing the way we think about growth-hacking, is Slack. Always keeping their finger on the pulse of their customers via data, the tech start-up learned early on that customer conversions and retention are key elements in long-term success. So, exactly what did it take them to realize who was using their platform and how to get them to keep using it?

They studied the numbers – and then they studied them again, until patterns arose.

“As it turns out, Slack’s magic number is 2,000—that is, users who send 2,000 messages are much more likely to keep using and eventually paying for the service. It hit us that, regardless of any other factor, after 2,000 messages, 93% of those customers are still using Slack today,” said Steward Butterfield, CEO and Co-Founder of Slack.

That’s a powerful thing to know about customer retention and the very definition of actionable insight, allowing Slack’s marketing team to focus their attention on making sure each new user has the information and motivation to send those first 2,000 messages.

Every brand has their magic number – for example, Twitter’s is 30 (users who followed 30 others were much more likely to remain engaged with the service over time) – and knowing this number empowers them to build a strategy around cultivating customer engagement and tracking behaviors.

So, what’s your brand’s number?

Before you begin mining data for that ‘ah-ha’ moment, it’s important to identify what retention and customer activation mean to you and your team.

Not all brands are created equal, and perhaps one of the most important things to remember when creating a strategy, is that exponential growth occurs at the intersection between truly understanding your product and customer, and being open to change.