The continuous emergence of technological advancements has enabled businesses to utilize a wide variety of strategic tools and methodologies to grow and expand their reach. Over the past 5 to 10 years, the focus of successful growth has shifted much more towards Design Thinking and keeping the end-user front-and-center. This has also opened up the door for so-called “growth hacking”. Growth hacking is a term coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis, and defines the relatively new trend of human-centered and data-driven decision-making regarding digital innovation and growth strategies.
What is growth hacking?
Growth hacking focuses mostly on data analysis and the constant experimenting and implementation of new growth strategies. It is a constant exchange of implementing a strategy, and checking the effects this strategy has on your digital solution and its users by the means of data analysis and Lean Analytics. Everything to make your company grow as quickly and smoothly as possible, with little to no investment in expensive advertising campaigns. Growth hacking embraces the close collaboration of commercial teams, developers, engineers, designers, and project managers as possessing a bit of each of those skills forms the ultimate recipe for becoming a growth hacker.
Although growth hacking often gets associated solely with the world of (digital) marketing, it can be applied to pretty much any aspect of your business, as long as it involves growth potential. The main goal of a typical growth hacking campaign is to increase conversion rates and achieve rapid growth of the user base by implementing continuous iterations of testing and adapting to a better strategy. Usually, growth hacking practices come into play after the development of a product, when the client is looking for ways to effectively guide his/her product on the market, and successfully grow their customer base and subsequently, their business.
Ultimately, growth hacking is about using analytics to track the most important metrics in order to achieve your business objectives and KPIs and actioning accordingly. This can be done through, for example, A/B testing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), implementing Google Analytics, targeted marketing and advertising campaigns, and implementing specific (design) changes to optimize a landing page. The practice of growth hacking follows the principle of putting in the least amount of effort in order to achieve the biggest changes. Instead of reshaping your entire business plan and strategies, growth hacking focuses on minor changes and adaptation that can have an outsized impact on the growth of your business.
What does a growth hacker do?
A growth hacker obtains a various set of skills that, when combined, forms strong specialization and knowledge about analytics and growth strategies from basic programming skills focused on data analysis and Lean Analytics to the basics of behavioral psychology and the principles of design thinking. Because a growth hacker masters the basics of all these skills him/herself, he/she is able to better create cross-functional alignment of tasks, strategies, and overall knowledge in order to improve the growth of the product. At Lizard Global, cross-functionality forms a core part of our work culture, as we believe that being specialized in one skill, combined with a basic knowledge of other skills, takes teamwork and product success to the next level.
They know the market
Possibly the most important part of data-driven digital innovation is the awareness of the audience you create your content for. Using the principles of design thinking provides growth hackers with a deeper understanding of their audience, and implementing the practice of creating customer personas brings them closer to the individuals who might be interested in their product or service. Focussing on a niche market will form a safe and steady foundation of interested visitors who are likely to keep coming back. This foundation will eventually form the framework of your company for years to come, upon which you can build your growth. Hiring a growth hacker can give you better insights into the people you’re selling your product or service to, and what audiences you can expand to with the least amount of effort therefore allowing your business to implement innovative strategies that speak to your customers.
They understand social media
Social media platforms are booming, and they are your best friends in the field of data-driven digital innovation strategies, digital marketing, and the process of obtaining new leads and retaining audiences. The time of investing in expensive advertising campaigns on these kinds of platforms is long gone. Strategically posting and sharing your content has been proven to be a better bang for the buck. Growth hackers can help you make use of social media platforms by creating high-quality content, sharing this content on the right platforms at the right times, continuously analyzing the results, and either make data-driven changes to their strategy or stick with it, depending on the results. It is essential for businesses to base their content on the characteristics of the platform they decide to use. For example, Instagram, a so-called “B2E” (Business to Employee) or “B2T” (Business to Talent) platform, is often used as a space to create a more casual and informal relationship between a company and its followers with the intention to speak to potential future employees. Platforms like LinkedIn, which is a typical B2B (Business to Business) platform, are mainly focused on a more professional, formal, and informational relationship, creating deeper connections with other businesses. Growth hackers generally know exactly what platform to use in their campaigns, and how to closely analyze the effectiveness of their content strategies.
They have patience
Although frequently analyzing and testing your digital innovation strategies is a core element of growth hacking, it does take some time for ideas to turn into strategies and strategies to result in growth. A minimum of two to three months is essential in order to create a clear and plausible image of the functionality of a growth strategy. Content takes time to spread, and a reliable audience takes time to grow. As a growth hacker, strategy is never static. It evolves together with the results they get along the way, and that process takes time. Patience is key, as actions will not boost a business’ growth overnight.
They make data-driven decisions
As data analysis stands central in data-driven marketing and growth strategies, it is a growth hacker’s job to keep up-to-date with the metrics that matter for their growth campaign and your business’ objectives. That’s the only way they know whether their strategy is working or not. This is where their knowledge of development and data science comes in handy, as analytics involve quite a bit of data and calculations. For growth hackers, it can be beneficial to be familiar with collecting and reading data. However, even without all the analytical skills, growth hackers can still track the success of their campaigns.
There are loads of tools and programs to help them get insights into the effects of their growth strategies by means of digital data dashboards, which automatically collect the data that matters most and visualise it in the form of clear and concrete graphs and diagrams.
Product vs. Market in growth strategies
Growth hacking includes many different aspects and focus points, but has an emphasized focus on the product-market fit of a business. This involves having a close eye on the current state of the market, as well as making sure that the product or service that’s provided fits the right requirements and demands. It’s an interplay of both the product and the market, as they both need to satisfy each other at the same time: the right product needs to satisfy the market and its customers, and the right market has to contribute to the success of the product. Generally, growth hacking includes 4 closely related focus points within its practice:
Growth through market penetration typically involves the optimization of your current product or service in order to better align with the needs of the current market, rather than moving into new markets and creating new products. Growth hackers perform their strategies through market penetration by increasing efforts to pull customers away from competitors or creating lasting customer relationships by, for example, providing rewards when a customer invests in a long-term subscription instead of a monthly subscription.
Whereas market penetration focuses on the attraction of the customer to your existing product or service and away from your competitors, growth hacking through product development involves the innovation and development of improved features or new features within the same market, to better meet the target audience’s needs. Of course, this product must fit the market you’re already active in. For example, it would be quite a challenge to successfully start selling burgers in an ice cream shop. A better idea would be to start selling take-home containers or add new ice cream flavors to your menu. When we look at a few of the most successful companies in the world, we can see that their growth hacking strategies had an immense impact on their success rate. Take, for example, Uber, which started off as an efficient way to order a taxi ride with just one or two clicks on your phone. After that still quite basic taxi service, Uber implemented minor adaptations to include more people into their target audience. Starting off as a usual taxi service, they turned their focus towards so-called ride-hailing, which allows anyone with a driver's license and the right requirements to drive for Uber, wherever and whenever they prefer. From that moment, Uber’s success skyrocketed, which triggered the desire for more and freed the way for the next big step: Uber Eats, which combines its ride-hailing service with food delivery, and therefore embraces an entirely new audience. By staying close to its original form, Uber managed to implement additional features and focus points and therefore managed to grow out as one of the leading businesses in the world.
Market expansion or development
Growth hacking through market development is very similar to the approach of product development, but instead of creating new products within the same market, you’ll introduce the same product or service within a new market. Also in the case of switching to new markets, it’s essential to stay close to your market. You can do this by simply targeting a different market segment within the market you’re already active in. For example, your ice cream shop, which used to be focused on the consumer market, can take the step towards a more commercial market, delivering your product to restaurants and retailers.
Growth through diversification is the most radical strategy, and therefore also involves the most risk. Diversification involves the creation of an entirely new product within the bounds of a completely new market. Although this is a very high risk growth strategy, it can also provide the potential of a high payoff, which can be a reason to take such a huge step for inspired daredevils.
Need a hand?
Growth hacking isn’t a skill one learns overnight. On the contrary, it involves many different fields of knowledge, from data analytics and basic design and development to copywriting and social media marketing. That being said, if you’re really aiming for sustainable growth with the right strategy for your business, it might be a good idea to partner up with an expert. At Lizard Global, every member of our cross-functional team possesses their own expertise and specialty, but they are also regularly involved in the practices of other departments. With the combined power of our commercial experts, designers, and developers, we know exactly how your business can get the attention it deserves. Together with you, we will look at your target audience, their needs, and their behaviors. Based on that information, we create an airtight growth strategy that can keep your business moving forward and growing for years to come. Interested? Get in touch with our experts to learn more!