What is Growth Hacking and how to utilize it

Finnish version of this post

Big time corporations severed their marketing budgets after the burst of dot-com bubble. When unemployed techie marketers and bachelor students started up new companies, they found themselves operating in a different world. New means were needed to get exposure to users and investors.

Solution was growth hacking.

Sub-headings in this post

All the new big success stories from Facebook to AirBnB have been founded within five years and their growth was based on growth hacking. They sold scarcity and got exposure with referrals in a way that was not seen before. One would need an invitation to get in, or perhaps needed to invite other people until all features were unlocked. In both cases people started to talk about the company with their friends, asking for invites and trading with referrals.

Social platforms started up
Major part of today’s success stories was founded at the same time

The term growth hacker was coined by Sean Ellis as late as 2010, when he talked about people, whose true north was growth. Those people evaluated each of their actions based on scalability of the action’s impact. The blog post only got 18 comments, but the term was adopted in a second. Massive amount of people mention growth hacker in their Twitter profiles and GrowthHackers.com has over 130,000 followers with their Twitter account (a month ago it was 10k less).

What growth hacking actually means

Wikipedia says growth hacking is a technique utilizing creativity, analytic mindset and social media. Instead of traditional advertising, it seeks out inexpensive alternatives.

What it doesn’t mean, is transferring the old mass advertising Mad Men attitude into electronic surrounding of the Internet. Growth hacking is not a single tactic but a process of exploring and refining them. Both requires testing and measuring potential growth factors constantly. Three folded lean cycle is especially suitable here

Build, measure, learn, repeat

GrowthHackers.com talk about High Tempo Testing. Brain storming phase of idea collecting is gamified and monthly contributors are awarded. Then ideas are subjected to ICE evaluation (impact, condfidence, easiness). Weekly Growth Master’s meeting prioritizes ideas into tests and inspects the results of tests already done.

It is not a marathon, nor a sprint run. It is a combination of both. One test is done as a sprint but there are so many sprints, it becomes a marathon process. GrowthHackers.com has a goal of five tests per week and Hubspot does even 100 test per month!

What’s tested?

When we’re talking about improving conversion on a web page, one test could be relocating email collector from bottom to top. Although the impact (I of ICE) anticipated might be very low, the implemention would be very easy (E of ICE). Another test might take months to set up and involving lots of personnel from administration, graphics and coding, and despite being valued for very high on impact, can in reality produce no growth at all.

But, the point is, that you simply cannot know until you’ve tried it out and measured it.

I personally am very interested in this type of testing when business is not done in global arena, but in local market where there aren’t that many customers. Currently majority of my customer are having less that 20k users per month on their website.

Herein lies the true potential of growth hacking. When market is small and fragmented, traditional mass marketing just don’t get enough traction.

Hacking in growth hacking

Since no one really owns the term and this is my blog post, I’m taking it into my own hands for little stretching. Especially the hacking part.

Hacking is using pure genious or unorthodox ad hoc bubble gum McGyver fixes to either tune the machine or bend the system’s limitations (such as convention or legislation). Having this perspective, growth hacking is tuning and bending for growth.

Making million Facebook posts is not growth hacking. Having other people doing it for you, is. It is growth hacking – albeit creepy and a bit dark sided – to have a peek on people’s LinkedIn profile and wait for them to do the same until connecting with them. You just have to think different.

Traditional marketing aims for incremential growth, while Internet enables exponential results

Juuso Myllyrinne, TBWA

Crazy ideas and constant testing can produce exponential growth or circulation. Growth hacking is not a function assigned to a designated hacker, but a state of mind that needs to built in into corporate’s culture.