Growth hacking is a term that’s only six years old, but has become a concept that dominates the strategy of any startup that wants to avoid being suffocated at birth.
Quite simply, a new company must achieve hockey stick-shaped levels of growth in its infancy or it has little chance of making it.
A growth hacker, as defined by Sean Ellis – the man who transformed Dropbox during its early days – in 2010, is someone whose only focus is growth. A company may have traditionally attempted to build by turning to a marketer, who in turn would have attempted to understand a company’s product and promote it externally. The growth hacker cares not a jot for anything but achieving growth as quickly and dramatically as possible. They can target social media, jump into tech issues or argue over the look of the website. They get involved in everything.
Growth hacking was at the core of the development of Dropbox following its founding in 2008. Ellis himself helped the company to attract an incredible 1m users by the end of its first 12 months, which turned to 45m in 2011 and has reached around 500m today.
As well as their own skills, the growth hacker must make the most of the tools at their disposal to achieve their goal. As a startup is mindful of cost, the hacker will often focus on inexpensive but creative ways to exponentially grow their company’s customer base.
Successful growth hackers are some of the most coveted individuals in global commerce, but their tricks are not a secret. Here are 5 great growth hacking tactics.
1 Speed hack
Make your website speedy and keep it simple. Consumers hate waiting for websites to load. If it takes more than a few seconds they assume the site is faulty, and thus your product or service is lousy. Site speed is also one of the factors that determine whether you get a good ranking in Google.
Here’s a few stats on the subject:
64% of smartphone users expect pages to load in less than four seconds, according to data company Radware. Akamai found that 47% of consumers expect a page to load in two seconds or less
Radware says a two-second delay in load time during a transaction results in abandonment rates of up to 87%
The total cost of abandoned shopping carts for online retailers has been estimated at more than $18bn per year, according to Radware
A top tip is to use Google’s Page Speed Tools to get an overview of fixes that can help increase your page speed. Some common areas of improvement include optimising images – reducing their size – and using plugins such as WP Super Cache to cache the latest version of your pages.
2 Simple site hack
Make sure your site is simple enough that first-time visitors are not put off by any unnecessary complexity, and don’t let newbies go without a fight. The key is to be informative without being over-engineered.
The landing pages of sites such as Dropbox and Twitter are only a little more developed than a newly-bought WordPress domain after five minutes’ work, with lots of white space and not too many calls to action. Visitors are invited to find out more, but aren’t bamboozled by too much information.
One really nice touch is the offer of a step-by-step tour to get started, a service used by AirBNB and Dropbox. They point out critical features and help newcomers discover the best bits of the site.
3 Contact hack
Even if they don’t buy anything from you, it’s important to take contact information from first-time visitors. Perhaps this could be a pop-up that offers a newsletter service, a voucher or notifications about special offers. Whenever someone gives you their email address, you should have an automated series of emails that get sent to them on a drip-feed basis. The majority should be answers to problems with a light touch, with perhaps just one in four being more overtly salesy.
Only by making that link can you ensure that one-off visitors will be reminded of your brand and return in the future.
Facebook and Twitter both offer powerful pre-targeting services. After signing up, you can upload your list of emails. The platform then populates each contact’s Facebook or Twitter page with ads for your product, to keep you in their mind.
4 Social media hack
If you want a startup’s social media presence to surge like Usain Bolt on a rocket, your focus must be absolute. Don’t just send a couple of tweets a week based on trending hashtags, drowning among billions of voices pleading ‘look at me’. Firstly, you must be incredibly proactive. Second, you must target your growth campaign with absolute precision.
Austin Allred, co-founder of open newsroom Grasswire, helped his site to incredible growth via a simple trick on Instagram. Through Instagram he patented a ‘follow like like like’ hack, whereby a relevant hashtag was chosen and the most recent photo selected. Simply follow that account, go to their photos, and like their most recent three. Grasswire increased its follow-back rate to 25% and amassed more than 10,000 followers in a week.
Twitter, with around 320 million monthly users, is obviously an incredibly useful place to pick up potential customers. While you could set about following every single account just in case they might be interested in your homemade wedding favours, you’re better using your time in a more targeted manner. Instead of searching ‘wedding favours’ – which might just collate a load of rivals – try variations of ‘need wedding favours’ and follow each these potential customers.
5 Kindness hack
Be generous with customers as they’re the best way to bring even more people into the fold. Make people feel good about your company and they’ll stick around. Encourage people to invite their friends along, and all of a sudden you’re on a roll and user numbers will soar.
Reward your customers with random acts of kindness without them having to lift a finger. People are no longer that excited by the promise of a 10% discount code via email. Send them an email to tell them you’ve already given them something for a free and they’ll have a glow around them all day – and their friends might ask them why. Dropbox and Microsoft will sometimes increase your cloud storage space for free, for example.
Another useful tool is friend referral. Dropbox users that successfully refer a friend receive more free storage space. The company also now gives the friend extra space simply for using the referral link. Both users feel good and Dropbox has added yet another customer. Everyone’s a winner.
GrowthMinds’ innovative growth hacking ideas can transform your company from startup to established force. If you’d like to know more about how we can help, please get in touch.