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The concept of growth hacking is simultaneously met with scepticism and praise; some say it’s the latest marketing buzzword that soon will be forgotten, others are convinced that it leads to rapid, sustainable growth of your company. Sean Ellis, CEO of Growthhackers.com, is one of the latter. During a growth hacking workshop hosted by Dutch growth hacking agency Bammboo (yes, that’s a thing) earlier this week, Ellis spoke about the term he coined back in 2010.
After graduating, Ellis found that the companies who grew the fastest did things differently than what was being taught in marketing textbooks. One thing was clear: you don’t need a big marketing budget to make your company grow, something Ellis proved to be true during his time at Dropbox – the company expanded massively when it began rewarding users with extra storage space, if they invited their friends to use the platform as well. Smart, effective and most of all: very cheap.
According to Ellis, the main difference between traditional marketing and growth hacking is that the latter is more metrics oriented. You test, you learn, you change. Growth hacking isn’t about finding the silver bullet to your company’s problem, however. Instead, Ellis says, a growth hacker is somebody whose true north is growth. In other words: every strategy, tactic, initiative, experiment, decision or idea is completely focused on growth.
Unfortunately, Ellis’ presentation was still filled with a lot of chewed-up marketing models, schematics and funnels that didn’t really provide much information, but instead made the idea of growth hacking vague and abstract. Still, during his hour long talk, some ideas about scaling your growth as a startup proved to be very interesting.
1. Uncover the unique growth levers for your business to grow.
According to Ellis, achieving sustainable growth is not limited to the acquisition phase of your company: it’s a company wide effort. This means that improving any of your company’s growth levers (acquisition, activation, revenue, retention and referral) will improve growth. A great example of this is Twitter; testing showed that retention increased dramatically when users followed about thirty people on the platform. By helping new users to follow people during the signup process, they incorporated retention into their registration process.
2. Figure our your company’s “Aha! moment”
When somebody signs up for your product or service, it doesn’t mean they will keep on coming back. According to Ellis, identifying the indicators that decide if a new user will turn into an active, engaged user is very important: the so-called “Aha! moment”.
This important moment is a user’s first taste of what your product is all about, in other words: its core benefit and why it’s valuable to them. Examples include Facebook (connecting with (old) friend) and Linkedin (the value of a growing network). If you figure out what your “Aha! moment” is, the company wide focus should be to get people to reach that moment as soon as possible. If you can achieve users to experience this moment on their first visit, the likelihood of getting returning visitors increases drastically.
3. Testing, testing, testing
So how can you figure out that “Aha! Moment”, or decide which lever to change? By testing. Ellis swears by it. Testing drives growth: if you figure out what users think is important about your product (and what isn’t), or why conversion is low, you can change your product, service or website accordingly. As an example, Ellis told about a free software service that a lot of people signed up for, but didn’t actually download. Through surveys they figured out why: people didn’t believe the software could be free of charge – it was simply too good to be true. The solution turned out to be easy: offer two download options, one that was free, and one that required payment. Both versions were the same, but downloads on the free version skyrocketed.
Above strategies or tips are just the beginning to a longer story. If you want to learn more about the fundamentals of Growth Hacking, you should read this guide by Neil Patel.