By Eoin O'Hara
I am something of an initial ‘growth hacking’ cynic. ‘What a contrived way of referring to something which is essentially marketing’ I thought to myself when I encountered the term back in 2011. Little did I imagine that within just a few short years ‘growth hacking’ would have inspired such excitement (and indeed success) to become one of the startup world’s most vigorously discussed and revered processes.
But despite its adoption into the everyday language of business, it still remains a controversial term, exciting wonder and doubt in equal measure. Over the past few years the key debate seems to be, is ‘growth hacking’ the marketing revolution of our time, or is it just salary-bumping jargon? For those of you who share in my immediate scepticism, it’s a good idea to give the notion a fair and reasoned hearing.
There is no universally accepted definition of what growth hacking actually is but it does differ from marketing in a major respect; whilst marketing (and marketers) are concerned with a number of tasks; everything associated with creating and managing a marketing team, and creating a long term strategic plan, growth hacking (and growth hackers) are only interested in one thing… growth, and bloomin’ fast growth at that!
This is why growth hacking as a process and concept has gained such acclaim in startup circles; to them, fast exponential growth is like the holy grail of business. Growth hacking, as a work activity has the sole purpose of creating growth, and nothing else! Hackers are by definition innovators using instinct, intuition, and sheer gutsy conviction to find new ways to ‘cheat the system’ and generate huge growth, that traditional marketing would find extremely hard to emulate.
Growth hacking, as a term, refers entirely to digital / online products - those which have an untapped potential for exponential growth, which is often created by leveraging users existing networks, and finding new and innovative ways of integrating products within the digital sphere.
Some key examples of well known businesses which have successfully undertaken growth hacking (whether they knew it or not) include Facebook, Twitter, and (most famously) AirBNB.
Growth Hacking is Available to all!
There is a school of thought which asserts that in order to growth hack your startup, you need a programmer/coder in possession of exemplary skill; I don’t agree with that at all.
Anyone with even a smattering of technical thought in their head can have a go at growth hacking their startup. There are plenty of tools which can lend a very welcome hand in this matter, and others which won’t be of much use at all!
Here’s a few broad-spectrum growth hacking tools which should give you an idea of the kinds of technical innovations which are available to even the technically-challenged founder. Use this list as inspiration to go searching for the ones that are right for you!
Colibri Social Media / SEO tool
The San Francisco based Colibri.IO have created a number of tools that can be used as a growth-hacking aid for your startup by increasing social media visibility, as well as search engine optimisation. Their services are based around social media listening (monitoring what people say about your brand / what they say about your competitors and influencing purchasing decisions etc.) as well as SEO monitoring (monitoring search engine rankings, quality backlink discovery, on-page SEO analysis etc).
The growth is intended to come through a diversification of traffic, and embedding your business within the most relevant online conversations.
Minimum Viable Product Validation Tools
For the very early stage startup / online product these services offer an inexpensive way to quickly launch and test a product idea, to validate (or invalidate) its likelihood of success after a full-blown launch.
Services such as Quick MVP, and Unbounce allow you to build, publish & A/B Test landing pages without the need for coders / programmers. Once created you can monitor the metrics as a way of assessing the demand for the products that you will offer.
Services like this, are clever market research for the 21st century, giving you the opportunity to create a tiny ‘dummy’ version of your business, eliminating much of the risk usually associated with such testing. They also allow you to create well qualified leads for when you go to market comprehensively.
B2B Lead Generators
They are client / customer discovery platforms and softwares which take some of the grunt work out of lead generation by automating the process.
They are list building tools which provide sales managers MixRank with the tools they need to identify the companies that they could be working with. As well as that, most of them provide information which will help to qualify the lead, and make sure that you are targeting the best quality business that you can. Mixrank is just one example of a service like this, although there are dozens more out there.
The success that you will see from using a service like this is largely dependent on the industry in which you operate, with more quality leads generated for more generic markets than obscure, niche ones.
Conversion / Behaviour Tools
These are growth hacking tools which allow you to improve your online conversion rates either by assessing the behaviour of visitors and/or equipping your with the tools you need to actively encourage more profitable behaviours.
For example, SessionCam is a rather clever little tool that lets you have access to recordings of the behaviour of visitors on your website. You can identify where they are clicking / hovering and use this information as a catalyst for targeting problem areas and increasing your conversion rate.
User feedback tools
We all know how crucial getting feedback from your existing customers is if you want to experience rapid growth, and of course there are many tools available with this purpose in mind. These are generally geared towards not just identifying why customers are behaving in a certain way, but their motivations as well.
One such example is Qualaroo which embeds simple surveys into your site which are specially designed to dig down to the root of visitor’s interaction and behaviour. The idea is that this will give you a much more substantial overview than mere analytics alone.
I must confess that I have left one of my favourites until last … Olark Live. This is a very clever tool that gives you the opportunity to connect directly with visitors to your site, if and when you choose to. But the really clever thing about this tool is that it provides you with useful information about the visitor, such as where they have been and their behaviour on your site, allowing you to engage with them in a more meaningful way. You can even enable this feature for specific pages only, allowing you to immediately engage with potential customers of your more high value / niche products and services.
Eoin O'Hara is a business developer at Startacus.net. Follow them at @Iamstartacus