Three things you didn’t know about Growth Hacking

Kandu expert Alfie Lambert explains the ‘dark art’ of growth hacking. No unicorns required.

“I’ve read the blogs and watched the videos… and it still doesn’t make sense!” I received this message from a potential client last week. He’d asked me to try and growth hack his business and was ready to move heaven and earth to get some new users.

I’m sure we can all relate. Some of us can also relate to getting excited by the next big thing, the new discovery. After all, the startup world wouldn’t survive without early adopters! Put those two things together and you get messages like the one above. I’m not sure what it is, but I know that I need it.

To help you get to grips with Growth Hacking and decide whether it’s an ingredient that your business could use right now, here are 3 things that perhaps you didn’t know:

1. It’s not all lightning bolts and unicorns

I first came into contact with the term ‘growth hacking’ in London’s startup scene. There were whispers of a secret sauce - a dark art that could turn your business into an overnight success. As a semi-retired journalist, I had to hear the full story; I needed to know all the facts and get right to the heart of this myth. If it was true, I was going to come up with my own growth hack, send the app I worked for up into the stratosphere and collect big on my shares! I could retire to my yacht and tell the world I owed it all to growth hacking. Wonderful.

Tropical paradise here I come!

People were telling stories about companies like Dropbox, and the often-touted example of how they grew their user base by 4 million users in 15 months “all using one clever referral growth hack!”.

Except that wasn’t quite the case.

The referral system did work incredibly well. So well in fact that the very story of Dropbox is now considered something of a cliché among Growth Hackers (who knew we could be so snooty?). Digging deeper into this and any other examples I could get my hands on, I came to discover the underlying framework that is the real essence of growth hacking — and it’s a framework that you can start applying to your business today.

You don’t have to be the next Dropbox (as fantastic as that would be), and you don’t need to dream up that one show-stopping lightning bolt idea that catapults your business to the very top. You need to switch up your thinking, pool your creative resources, think up lots of little ideas — and test them!

You don’t have to get it right first time!

Growth hacking is about getting to grips with your core offering and taking time to understand your audience and your goals. Explore the data you’ve (hopefully) been logging over the previous months or years and use this to come up with some hypotheses; how can you leverage the data to grow your key metrics? Is the language-market-fit right for the demographic that visit your page/app/store? Are they the demographic that you wanted, or expected? Are repeat visitors more likely to buy — and should you be retargeting with emails and ads to leverage this?

What about your sales funnel: is there scope to optimise the process, reallocate resources to better-performing channels, remove obstacles at signup?

There are guides online with some ideas for you to test out if you need a little inspiration. The facts are already in your hands. Find a split-testing service such as Google Optimize (this is free) and start trying out your ideas today. Or, find somebody like me to either guide you through the process, help to train your team or simply run the experiments entirely, reporting their results back to you. There’s a sea of data out there waiting for you to explore it and customers eager to give you their feedback. Unicorn status is not required.

2. You don’t need a Growth Hacker

This might seem a little counter-intuitive: I’m a freelance Growth Hacker, I should be telling you all why you absolutely can’t live without me! The truth is, you might have the skills in your team already and they’re just not being fully tapped into.

Build a growth team using the resources you have and meet once a week for some dedicated ideas and implementation time. Block out an hour from your diaries — two if you can spare it — and come up with ideas for tests, get them running, arrange to meet the next week (maybe each with some homework to look at some data or customer feedback) and assess the results.

You can do this on your own (solo entrepreneurs I know you’re already slammed but for two hours a week, it is definitely worth it!), ideally a team of three including a developer and a marketing person should be the foundation.

If you don’t have the time to set up and get your team up to speed, you could bring in a growth hacking consultant to set the ball rolling and provide some training for your staff. Sometimes it helps to be pointed in the right direction and having someone to check in on your progress.

3. It might not work for you

If you have read some blogs or watched a few clips on YouTube, you’ll know that good growth hacking hinges on a solid product-market-fit. If you haven’t achieved this yet but you’re willing to make those changes and pivot where necessary to make it happen, the growth hacking process could be the very thing you need to identify issues. If you’re not willing to listen to the data and your product-market-fit isn’t right, then growth hacking won’t take you very far.

If you’ve got an app designed to sell fidget spinners to pensioners, there’s not much I can do to help you make that a success. If you’re trying to sell something people don’t want or need, or even trying to sell the right product to the wrong person, no amount of split testing will save you.

By delving into your data, getting feedback; both from your current customers and from the demographic you’re trying to target, you can glean this information and take positive steps forward for your business — but only if you’re willing to listen to what you find.

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