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Growth Hacking 101: What is this Startup Buzzword and How You Can Do It

growth hacking

Looking for ways to get massive growth in record time? This is what growth hacking is all about. Check out these successful growth hacking examples from Airbnb to Facebook and learn how you can implement these tactics for your own.

If you have been in the digital marketing landscape for some time, you would know that the internet is full of marketing buzzwords. 

Had you been searching for quick or fast ways to grow your business, chances are you would have come across this marketing-slash-startup buzzword: Growth Hacking

What is Growth Hacking?

Coined by Sean Ellis in 2010, the term “growth hacking” refers to marketing strategies that focus on producing the maximum results with minimum efforts. 

More generally, it involves out-of-the-box marketing tactics and rapid experimentation across various channels and product development to find the most cost-effective way to grow and scale a business. 

What is Growth Hacking?
Image Source: Medium 

There is no linear process or specific tactic to growth hacking and honestly, anything goes as long as the marketing strategy can effectively grow customer acquisition and sell the product.

Often, this high growth-oriented marketing is largely adopted by early-stage startups and entrepreneurs whose goal is to acquire as many customers as possible while spending as little as possible. 

Of course, growing the business is the dream and goal of every business owner, but what makes growth hacking different from traditional marketing or digital marketing? 

To help better understand the concept and get some inspiration, here are 3 textbook growth hacking examples that have successfully used low-cost promotion techniques to drive unbelievable growth in traffic and sales. 

As a matter of fact, you might be pretty familiar with these successful businesses, given that they are Airbnb, Facebook, and Dropbox. 

3 Examples of Successful Growth Hacking

1. Airbnb

One of the most famous growth hack examples, you might be surprised that Airbnb which is now a huge household name was just founded in 2008.

It is now a brand that would definitely pop up if you are looking to travel abroad. In fact, Airbnb has become synonymous with affordable accommodation, and this is thanks to their famous Craiglist hack that help build their initial traction.

In the beginning, the startup realized that people who were looking for hotel alternatives were often searching on Craiglist. So to help redirect Craiglist vacation rental traffic to their own site, they offered an option for Airbnb accommodation providers to copy their listing to Craiglist with one click, verify the information, and post. 

Soon after this implementation, the startup gained immediate access to a large market of target users. 

Airbnb Craigslist Hack
Image Source: Optin Monster

Then again, Airbnb’s success was not just built around this simple integration. The tipping point for Airbnb’s massive growth in user base and reputation really stems from when they optimize the images to boost the attractiveness of their listings in New York City.

Airbnb growth hack
Image Source: Medium 

It was this qualitative improvement on their website that truly led to the massive growth in booking conversion, referrals, and traffic which exploded their growth later on. 

Growth Hacking Tip: For growth marketing, it’s not just about finding ways on how you can build organic traffic and attract your target audiences, but more importantly it’s about creating a product or service that your customers would want and retain.  

2. Facebook

When it comes to representing growth hacking, Facebook with more than 2 billion existing users is the perfect growth hacking example.  

The reason behind its success was none other than building a product that markets itself

Andy Johns, one of the premier growth hackers in Silicon Valley that has previously worked with Facebook revealed to Forbes some of Facebook growth hacks that really moved the needle. 

One of which involves adding embeddable Facebook badges or profile widgets to post on their websites and blogs, which astoundingly served billions of impressions every month and converted hundreds of millions of clicks and consequently sign-ups. 

Yet again, its user acquisition effort does not stop there, as the startup further encourages users to add their contacts as well as sending out emails to those contacts who were mentioned or tagged on Facebook to prompt sign-ups. 

Facebook product design - growth hacking
Image Source: Optin Monster

Growth Hacking Tip: Your marketing tactic does not have to be complicated. Sometimes it takes just a simple message to pique people’s curiosity and interest to prompt them to visit the website and sign up to see what has been said about them. 

3. Dropbox

Another startup that is well-known for its creative growth hacks, Dropbox’s successful growth to become a $4 billion company lies in the simple marketing tactic of gamification.

It spent very little on ads and instead of paying for each new click, the startup has launched a plan rewarding existing users more free storage when they accomplish certain quests and tasks, like linking their Dropbox account to their social accounts. 

Not only does this get users sharing about their platform, but more importantly it keeps their users active on the platform which is important to all SaaS platforms. 

Dropbox reward system
Image Source: Business 2 Community

Besides that, Dropbox considers its goal first and foremost with everything it does. Just take a look at the platform homepage which is specifically designed to drive sign-ups.

Dropbox has one single CTA
Image Source: Neil Patel

Instead of congesting its sign-up page with its features or even testimonials that we often add for credibility, Dropbox made it obvious for users to watch the video and sign up. 

And the results have simply been effective, because believe it or not, this simplistic design with a clear call-to-action got Dropbox 70,0000 users overnight. 

Growth Hacking Tip: Not all companies have a sharing functionality. But if it works, why not create one and make it easy for your user to become your advocate. Take inspiration from Facebook or Dropbox and make sharing as easy and effortless as possible. 

Who is a Growth Hacker?

So understanding this now, does that make you a growth hacker? 

Well, know that this is more about the mindset than it is about the concept. 

To become a growth hacker at the core, you need to connect every action you do to growth

Image Source: Benison Media

Compared to being simply marketers or product designers, a growth hacker is an all-rounder, being well-versed and able to deal in a wide range of areas including SEO, content marketing, social media, and even in the actual product or service operations itself.

Most importantly, the core virtue of being a growth hacker is that you must have an unshakeable drive and ambition to grow. And it needs to affect everything you do, even when you are in the face of adversity and when it might seem impossible to do. 

After all, the basic idea of growth hacking is to achieve high-growth results in a seemingly impossible timeframe and budget, often this is the catalyze to using more non-traditional and creative marketing tactics and strategy. 

To that end, you also need to be analytical and data-driven to experiment, test, and always be pushing limits. And with that clear, now it’s time to figure out what growth hacking tactics are a good fit for your business.

How to implement your Growth Hacking Marketing?

Again, there’s no one shape or size to growth hacking.

But as a guideline, many startups resort to Dave McClure’s pirate funnel as a recipe for growth and it is easily remembered through the euphemism AARRR, which stands for acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and revenue.

Image Source: Medium 

Following all these criteria is a great way to kickstart your growth marketing, but first and foremost, you need to be sure that you have a product that people actually want and are willing to pay for it. 

1. How does your product solve people’s problems?

A great product is one that is able to solve your customer’s problems and add value to their lives. It could be a product that is making an undesirable task easier or it simply serves as an expression of the user.

Either way, you need to always test your product with the market because it’s about creating a product or service so good that people will simply pay for it. 

Find your target market and audience

Target market and audience
Image Source: Investor Digest

All together, it’s about understanding your target market and audience’s needs. 

Knowing the reason why your customers are buying your product and not your competitors can help you cultivate your product edge to your paying users. So do conduct an interview or survey and gather key information on what your buyer’s needs.

Update your product at regular intervals, and keep improving based on customer feedback to keep on the right track. Besides, you can use this information to ideate and create your target growth marketing tactics.  

For example, paying attention to the way people talk about your product and service can help further refine your SEO and content marketing strategy, supplementing you with data to make informed decisions. 

Let’s say you built a free tool that can help bloggers get ideas for their headlines and titles, and when it comes to branding it –  should you call it a headline generator or blog title generator?

In any case, you would need to know how your users usually refer to them. One option to help you with this decision is to conduct keyword research to find the exact queries that people are using on the Google search engine. 

Using BiQ’s Keyword Intelligence, you can do a quick search to compare the keywords, in which you will find headline generator yields more search volume and related keywords as compared to blog title generator which makes it a more desirable keyword. 

BiQ Keyword Intelligence

Now that you have learned everything about your target market and audience, it’s time you use that information to plan your growth hacking strategies and have a working sales funnel.

2. Build a converting marketing and sales funnels

Are you looking to grow your organic traffic, lead conversion, or maybe sales?

When it comes to planning your growth marketing strategy, it’s easier to start by setting your goals and intentions, then slowly reverse engineer what your priorities should be.

Most growth marketing strategies fall into three main areas of content marketing, email marketing, and paid marketing.  

Depending on the tactics you used, we’d recommend you to go with the content and email marketing combo as they are the most cost-efficient way for lead and sales generation. 

Starting a blog and creating valuable content targeting your potential customers can be one of the most effective ways to get your brand out there.

Not to mention, when your content or article ranks high for an evergreen keyword, it will create a massive compounding effect, generating your website organic traffic for months and even years after the content was created. 

To improve your content visibility on search engines, one of the best practices is to optimize your content for your keyword, in which case you can use BiQ’s Content Intelligence

BiQ Content Intelligence

All you need to do is simply plug in your content URL with your target keyword, and our tool will analyze and compare your WordVector to the Top 10 ranking results to let you know if you have any missing content gaps and what you can improve on. 

While content marketing will solve your traffic and lead generation problems, you also need to make sure you offer additional value to get opt-ins so that you can use email marketing to build a strong connection with users. 

Then again, do not restrict yourself to just blog writing, there are many content marketing and lead generation activities including: 

  • Creating social media content
  • Video marketing
  • Guest blogging
  • Podcasting
  • Running webinars
  • Influencer marketing
  • Getting listed in relevant marketplaces and sites
  • Joining relevant forum and groups

Ultimately, find what works for your business to get the best results and above all, make sure they integrate with each other perfectly in your marketing and sales funnel so you wpn’t drop any leads along the way. 

3. Analyze, track and maximize your conversion rates

At the base of every growth hacking strategy is a strong foundation of experimentation and analysis. To make sure your marketing activities are working as expected, you need to keep track of the right metrics. 

As management thinker Peter Drucker said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”. If you are looking to improve your marketing activities, you need to be able to track them.

In any case, implement the right analysis tools and systems to collect the data and metrics you need to judge if you have succeeded in your objectives. 

For content marketing, BiQ offers an awesome Rank Tracking tool that can help you track your website or your competitors’ keyword rankings. 

BiQ Rank Tracking

This can be super handy when you are reoptimizing or updating your old content to make sure your rankings are not negatively impacted. 

4. Make your existing users advocates

As you can see with the many well-known examples of successful growth hacking businesses like Facebook or Dropbox, leveraging your existing users to become your advocate is a strong tactic to build your user base. 

If suitable, try offering incentives and rewards through a referral program that will benefit both the referrer and the new user or gamify your user onboarding process to get your users to spread the word on their social media accounts. 

Otherwise, you can also make tweaks to your existing product. Just follow the example of Hotmail, which included a famous PS I love you line to each outgoing email that encourages people to sign up for a new account. 

Image Source: Growth Hackers

Though as simple as this may look, it was massively impactful and responsible for skyrocketing Hotmail to getting 1 million users within 6 months. 

5. Retain your customers and cross-sell

You might have heard it before, but it’s always cheaper to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. As much as growth hacking focuses on attracting new users and customers, it is equally important that your product is able to retain customers as well. 

Retaining is all about creating an exceptional product and valuing your customers by treating them with respect and delivering on your promises. 

So as much as you might need to hit your sales target, always spare time to create top quality and valuable content that will help your users, no matter if they are paying customers or not. 

One of the most valued tactics you can use is email marketing to foster a great relationship with your user and keep them reminded of who you are as a brand.

To get the most out of your email marketing, make sure you segment your leads properly so that you can build targeted emails to lead them down the funnel or even to cross-sell or upsell your products.

Key Takeaway

If there’s one big takeaway from this, always remember that there is never a fixed strategy to growth hacking. If anything, growth hacking is a mindset of using data and information to create and innovate your way to growth, so start experimenting today!

About Vivian
Vivian is an anthropologist lost in the world of digital marketing. She has an interest in learning about the science of marketing and the creativity that businesses use to transform themselves into purple cows.