What is growth hacking and how is it different than traditional marketing? Growth hacking is a term that was first invented by entrepreneur and angel investor Sean Ellis. Sean helped launch businesses such as DropBox, EventBrite, Qualaroo, and first began using the term back in 2010 when hiring his replacement at the startups he had helped scale. Not so coincidentally, Sean went on to found GrowthHackers.com. The definition of a growth hacker is someone that can help ignite a businesses’ marketing strategy into growth and is willing to take any route to make that happen. A growth hacker is extremely efficient at helping startups utilize innovative, creative and inexpensive marketing methods to achieve quicker growth.
The phrase "growth hacking" has caught on like wildfire in the digital marketing sector and is almost always used in context of startup enterprises. The first two years for startup businesses are crucial and more than 90% of startups fail to reach the mark of success they first aspired to. If your company isn’t hot right out of the gates, a similar startup that offers the same products or services will be. Startups often aspire to 15%-20% growth month over month while an established corporation will be happy with 5%-10% growth over the previous year.
Startups do not have the luxury of unlimited marketing dollars that established companies such as Macy’s, Coca-Cola or Exxon Mobil might have. Instead, they will often rely on practices such as their search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns, social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, word of mouth and lead generation. According to KissMetrics, the six most important growth hacks a startup can apply without paying for customers include
- Site speed. A website that loads very quickly is more likely to generate conversions. For most websites, a page load speed of fewer than 5 seconds is the benchmark. The faster, the better.
- Social proof. Include testimonials from previous customers on your company’s website or display the logos of the news outlets your company has been featured on.
- On ramp programs. Utilize email drip campaigns or new customer experience (NUX) campaigns to create and retain customers.
- Barebones home pages. Your main homepage briefly describes what your company is all about with clear directions about the next steps to take. The main homepage should also have strategically placed calls to action.
- Product integrations. Your product provides great value to the customers of another business and becomes integrated into a more established platform (PayPal and Ebay).
- Viral loops. The goal that each new customer will generate additional customers through word of mouth or social media.
Compared to traditional marketers, growth hackers are much more likely to make decisions based on data and analytics. One key practice growth hackers will often apply to a startup’s marketing strategy is called A/B testing. A/B testing will test two web pages or apps against each other to determine which one is more effective. Traditional marketers are much easier to find in the corporate world and can help companies achieve growth but typically over a longer period of time. Traditional marketers will utilize older methods such as paid advertisements in digital and print media, pay-per-click campaigns, commercials and press releases, etc. Traditional marketers are often very data-informed and makes decisions based on a company’s hierarchy or opinions. If a business has the resources to employ both a growth hacker and a traditional marketer, the two often compliment each other very well.
In conclusion, growth hackers use more modern inbound marketing strategies than traditional marketers do. A growth hacker will have a clearly defined sales funnel and will understand how to effectively generate conversions. Traditional marketers don’t always have clearly defined funnels and instead focus on building a company’s brand and increasing awareness and then hoping for the best.
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