By combining creative tactics with strategic insights, many small tech companies with limited marketing budgets have experienced rapid growth.
The term growth hacking was coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis, CEO of web-analytics company Qualaroo, to describe innovative, low-cost solutions used by tech start-ups to grow their businesses quickly. The success of these strategies resulted in companies of all sizes across a variety of industries adopting the same measures. There is a common misconception that growth hacking is merely finding ways of marketing without spending, but it involves much more.
Different to traditional marketing
The main strategies used by growth hackers include content marketing, search-engine optimisation, web analytics and A/B testing, all of which are also often used in traditional marketing plans. However, growth hacking is different because it is a conscious marketing mindset that considers how each strategy will affect the growth of every aspect of the business. According to Ellis, A growth hacker is someone whose true north is growth. Before any strategy is executed, it is evaluated in terms of how it will affect the company’s expansion.
The product is the starting point; it needs to be innovative and something that people want or need, even if they don’t know it upfront. Seamless user experience is essential, and often products are developed with features that allow users to share them easily.
Growth hackers take an experimental approach and are not afraid to try new ideas, but every process is measurable. The value of this measurability is that successful tactics can be identified and repeated with a larger scope, offering adaptable, scalable growth.
When file-storage service Dropbox wanted to expand, it launched a referral programme to attract new users. For each friend a Dropbox user recruited, they were given 500MB of free storage. In under two years, the tool grew from one hundred thousand to four million users. The simplicity of the recruitment programme and the fact that people wanted free storage space were two key factors that contributed to the rapid growth of the company.
Grant Shippey, CEO of digital agency Amorphous New Media, says, Growth hacking is about using sound economic principles to sweat your assets as hard as you can to maximise growth.
The agency has also used growth hacking principles to offer its clients increased value in their campaigns and projects. Amorphous breathed fresh life into the printed version of the Edgars Club Magazine, a local clothing retailer’s promotional publication, by creating a digital version of the magazine in an app for Android and iOS, where it enhanced the existing content of the magazine. The app was designed to make it easy to share articles, which readers were incentivised to do. Mass communication about the digital offering was done through low-cost channels like SMS and email, and from the results of those campaigns, readers who were more likely to engage were targeted with more expensive marketing communications. Our aim was to keep costs relatively low while doing work that was measurable, says Shippey. Within a month of its launch, the app trended at number two in its category in the iTunes Store and number five in its category in the Google Play Store.
The success of both these case studies shows how the principles of growth hacking can work in different markets and for different types of companies, from service providers like Dropbox to content producers like the Edgars Club Magazine. As competition for users attention online increases, adopting a growth hacking mindset enables marketers to target their communications effectively and to gain maximum value from their marketing budgets.