Growth Hacking is an essential tool that every startup should be making use of. Since startups don't have the same resources as larger companies, they can't just throw precious money, time, and manpower at the wall and hope something sticks - they need to find quick, effective, and cost-efficient solutions to securing a viable growth strategy.
Growth hacking is all about doing just that. Think of it as "Moneyballing" but for marketing instead of baseball. You take an empirical approach to growth, ensuring that all metrics you focus on are quantifiable, malleable, and scalable. You then try to develop innovations around these metrics, since conventional growth strategies can often be too slow or too costly for startups. It relies heavily on experimentation and risk-taking, but since you're taking an empirical approach to things, you can minimize your risk and ensure that you pick the best growth strategy for your business.
Here are some tips to help you refine your approach to Growth Hacking.
1. Create an Email Waiting List
Emails are the bread-and-butter of online marketing; nothing beats a solid email strategy. It's so reliable and yields good results in so many areas that it is the best choice as the foundation of your growth strategy. An email list makes you able to pre-launch (or "soft launch") a product, which gives you access to valuable customer data and feedback even before your product launches. You can even start to build a customer base before the launch of your product too.
Emails are virtually free to set up, but if you are willing to spend a bit of money to take your emails to the next level, you can always use an email service like HubSpot, MailChimp or GetResponse to streamline the process for yourself and ensure you're doing things correctly.
2. Use third party platforms for your product
Setting up an email list is only the starting point. It's a great way to expose people to your work, but it is very much limited to your audience. Making use of third-party platforms like Product Hunt or Launching Next is a great way to broaden your pre-launch marketing range. You'll get access to these platforms' recurrent users, and you'll have an opportunity to pre-launch your product to them. These third-party platforms are also an excellent resource for feedback collection since they usually have some type of user-driven ranking system for products that are going to launch. By putting your product on one of these sites, you can get a quick survey on how people from outside your audience - and more importantly, people who are simultaneously exposed to many other pre-launched products - about your product.
The point here is that if you want to build your platform and community from the ground up, you'll quickly notice how time-consuming it is. Instead, you can make use of sites that have already gone through this slow process and already have an audience. Tapping into their audience is the best way to jumpstart the growth of your own. In addition to this, established platforms are already the best way to fast-track the growth of your reputation online, since doing well on a user-driven third party platform is an extremely valuable organic endorsement.
It's essential to figure out which platform to use. Product Hunt can be useful for a general advertisement for a singular product, but that's not always what you're looking for. Is your content educational or video-based? Then platforms like Youtube or Skillshare can serve as a great bridge between your target audience and your site.
3. Be a presence in events and conferences
Events are a great place to get a feel for companies and audiences' current trends and tendencies within your industry. It's also one of the best ways to build a network of friends and partners within your field. In terms of competition, they are an amazing resource for inspiration and collaboration because of the concentration of people and businesses that are focused on the same area. Finally, potential customers, investors, and venture capitalists often visit events, which makes them a great place to sell your product and business overall. These are all critical factors in boosting your growth and setting your business up for success.
Attending conferences and events is clearly the most straightforward way of gaining access to the perks they offer. You could consider holding your own events, but this is more difficult than merely attending them. They're expensive and time-consuming, but their success also depends on your reputation. Most startups won't have the notoriety to hold a successful event since building that would require a lot of time and effort.
Jennifer Spencer has a great list of important conferences to look into as a startup.
4. Build your brand and community through social media
At this point, this should be clear as day. The first three tips are a great way of gaining exposure to your target audience, but exposure is meaningless without interaction. Social media is where you want to focus on how you interact with your audience. The massive social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) offer a wide variety of avenues for interaction: surveys, hashtag trends, challenges, memes, etc. By making use of these platforms, you will get to know your audience on a deep, quotidian level, and you'll be able to hyper-personalize your content and your brand to them.
5. Keep an eye on your competition
A startup is a business, and like any other business, you will have competitors. You mustn't treat them with apprehension - they don't have to be a threat to you if you play your cards right. Viewing competitors as a threat can push you away from them, and that would be a great opportunity lost. You should always keep tabs on your competitors, because, just like you, they are trying to growth hack their business - and that means they're trying to innovate. If something they do works really well for them, maybe it could work well for you too.
Many businesses fail in the first two years, but not all of them fail on all levels. Some might have had a killer marketing strategy, but their product was lacklustre. Others may have had great branding but weren't able to market their product well. The point is that if you keep track of your competition, you will be able to notice where they're doing a good job, even if they eventually fail and disappear.
Growth is the name of the game when it comes to startups. The challenge is getting the results without going through the years, or even decades of brand building and trust earning. Growth hacking pushes you to think more creatively about your business, your product, and your marketing and help you streamline your growth process to ensure your long-term success. While the tips mentioned in this article will help you set the foundation for a great growth strategy, remember that experimentation and innovation is the ultimate key to breaking conventional rules for growth. Once you know your audience, your brand, and your competition, it's up to you to find that edge and take a creative path to boost your growth.