Here is What Growth Hacking Is NOT

March 16, 2016

If you are an entrepreneur, you have probably heard about growth hacking by now. You have probably heard A LOT about it by now. However, it seems that excessive growth is only reserved for a few startups or companies, despite the massive content flow about growth hacking.


In this blog, I am not going to give you tips, secrets or best practices (are there any?). No, I am going to tell you what growth hacking is not. Is this useful? Yes, because I feel the concept is still not clear to many entrepreneurs and small business owners. Reading what growth hacking is not eliminates untrue ideas about the concept, so that you can focus on the core.


‘Here Is What Growth Hacking Is NOT’ In this blog, I am going to tell you what growth hacking is not. Is this useful? Yes, because the concept is still not clear to many entrepreneurs and small business owners. Reading what growth hacking is not eliminates untrue ideas about the concept, so that you can focus on the core. Read the blog at http://budgetvertalingonline.nl/business/what-growth-hacking-is-not/


Growth hacking is not limited to startups

Not only startups can benefit from growth hacking. B2B marketers, B2C marketers, content marketers and social media experts can benefit from growth hacking too. Neil Patel highlights what role growth hacking can play for each of these professions.



  • Startup business

A startup should pay attention to creating that first impression to inspire customers and clients to trust your brand. When they feel that trust, they will buy the product or services, and they will refer others to the startup. Growth hacking can help you create that impression immediately.



  • B2B marketers

A whopping 68% of B2B organizations have not identified their funnel yet. If you are targeting other businesses, growth hacking will streamline the entire process for you, and you will ultimately close bigger deals through a funnel that centers on a great customer experience.



  • B2C marketers

This includes many information marketers, authors, bloggers, public speakers, email marketers, and consultants. Growth hacking will help define the business’s ideal customer, which then facilitates reaching and converting them into purchasing customers.



  • Content marketers

If you rely on articles, blog posts, short reports, eBooks, white papers, podcasts, videos, infographics, or other types of content to drive traffic, leads, and customers to your business, growth hacking can help you by increasing that flow of potential business.



  • Social media experts

Over 50% of all marketers use social media for six or more hours each week. This is real and difficult work. Growth hacking can help you by eliminating the uncertainty from your efforts and converting social media leads into customers.


Growth hacking is not for the average startup; it is for unicorns.

This may sound strange and disappointing. Melinda Byerly explains that she has noticed that every company is expected to have a resident growth hacker nowadays. Investors even refuse to fund young companies dependent on advertising. Young startups in turn are convinced that growth hacking is all it takes to be successful. Meanwhile, they are lost in a maze of underperforming advertising channels and they expect that product and social are enough.


In her words: “The truth is that the game has already changed. Growth hacking is now for unicorns, not for the average startup. The growth hacking experts I have talked to agree, but investors do not seem to understand this yet.” Investors expect that you can build a crazy amount of traffic with no budget, using social media only, which is just not possible anymore — especially since Facebook’s February 2014 News Feed update knocked out a cornerstone of free marketing.


Byerly and other experts agree that growth hacking:



  • is most effective as fuel on a fire already burning — the approach starts from what is working and builds on that.
  • is about making seemingly small, carefully tested changes on a huge or rapidly growing base.
  • requires time and strict disciplined thinking to be effective.

Hence, growth hacking cannot turn a poor product into a unicorn. It cannot find product-market fit. Investors seem unaware of the dilemma startups face right now. Getting to product-market fit is just a hard, disciplined, consistent effort to talk to customers, uncover problems, and fix them. In other words, it is all still just good marketing.


 


Growth hacking it not limited to one type

You probably did not know that there are two different types of growth hacking. Well, there are and these two types match the two most important company stages: startup and growth. Byerly claims that ”growth hacking is failing most of us, because most of us do not understand that what works for companies with a growing customer base does not work for earlier-stage companies still looking for product-market fit; and vice versa. If you are not using the right method, you could well sink your company.”


She describes the two types in gold rush terms: the prospector and the miner. Prospector growth hackers do best in early-stage companies that are still working to find perfect product-market fit and that do not have their first big money invested yet. Miner growth hackers do best in post product-market fit conditions, when their skills are needed to excavate datasets in large and/or fast-growing businesses and find ways to turn those insights into even more growth. Put the wrong growth hacker in the wrong company, and disaster happens.


Growth hacking is not restricted to a single department

Growth hacking is a joint effort of several departments. According to Rob Kornblum, an element of growth hacking is to make growth the goal of the marketing team, product management team, engineering team and data analysis team. These groups need to meet frequently, even daily, to organize their next efforts. Everything is based on user feedback, data analysis and growth objectives. In a very tight, incredibly iterative process of marketing, product management and engineering, people work together to bring features that delight customers and add growth.


Growth hacking is not free marketing

There seems to be an idea that growth hackers pull of amazing free marketing. Mason Pelt explains that normally, when entrepreneurs talk about free, they mean things like content marketing, public relations or social media. While Pelt understands that budgets are limited, amazing content does not simply create itself. Public relations and social media take time and research. Nevertheless, if you are an entrepreneur looking for nearly free growth hacks, his blog offers three examples.


Growth hacking is not founded on guesswork

Growth hacking is all about data and data-driven content decisions. Alex Frias states that as content hackers, “we want to use analytics backed by hard data to influence — and ultimately dictate — our content strategy and verticals.” He urges you to leave all emotion-based reasoning at the door.


What sort of data does Frias think we should watch? Here are three examples:



  1. Monitor Google Analytics

What areas of your website are receiving the most traffic? What pages are consumers staying on the longest? That will tell you what content is drawing and keeping people on your site, which you should therefore be producing more.



  1. Enhance Social Media Engagement

Social media is the ultimate real-time consumer focus group for your content. Try different tactics and see what sticks. Once you find those “sticky” content areas, expand upon them and build out your social content tempo accordingly.



  1. Boost Email Open Rates

Subject lines matter a lot. Customize your subject lines and brand voice to help separate your emails from the competition. Try out different templates and see what delivers the highest open rate. Email marketing is a long-term reach strategy, but that does not mean you cannot growth hack your user acquisition. In addition, do not be shy about collecting email addresses everywhere, including your social channels.



Growth hacking is not done without consumers

Consumers can help you. You need to encourage them to share your content. Frias offers four ways for you to have your growth hacked by means of consumers.



  1. Share your own content

You have to push your content out. Do not expect people to find it or come looking for it just because it is associated with your brand. Moreover, do not be afraid to share it more than once.



  1. Ask the consumer to share your content (and give them the tools to share it)

It is fine to ask the community to share and comment on your content. That is what the social web is all about. Do not forget to give them the ability to share your content via social sharing tools.



  1. Leverage the power of influencers

Work with brand-friendly influencers to increase the potential reach of your content. Whether it is a celebrity, a super influencer or multiple social tastemakers and bloggers, work with them to increase your organic reach.



  1. Recruit word-of-mouth brand advocates

Apply social listening tactics to your community to identify your brand advocates and engage with them in order to empower them to spread your content.


Growth hacking is not done without visuals

In 2013, when Twitter first added in-line images, Buffer released a study that showed that tweets with images received 18 percent more clicks and 150 percent more retweets than those without. After that, GIFs and videos were added, so the percentages are currently probably even higher.


Visuals – both static and in motion – make users pause their timeline scrolling. Frias therefore suggests that if all your content is based around plain text messages only, you should content-hack your own feed with original images, animated images and videos, universally accepted emojis and pop culture references.

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