Growth hacking is a concept in online marketing for quickly promoting business growth. In this article, we explain what it is, and how you can use it to benefit your business.
If you ask, "What is Growth Hacking?" in the startup or marketing community, you will always get the same answers: "Creative marketing", "Startup marketing", "Marketing without a budget", "Automated marketing based on user and tracking data", etc. The answer will usually just be "limited" to marketing activities. The special thing about growth hacking, however, is precisely the fact that it is not limited exclusively to marketing - it goes much further than that.
I am often asked when I started growth hacking. Since reading a blog post by Aaron Ginn entitled "Defining A Growth Hacker: Growth is not a marketing strategy" in 2014, I have officially become a growth hacker. Cool job title, I thought. After several years of working in IT and product development, as well as countless SEO and other online marketing projects, this term finally seemed to me to be a suitable job title for what I do every day. So, what makes a growth hacker so special? What's the story behind this growth hacking? And more importantly, how can I actually start using it?
Commercially available growth hacks include, for example, SEO measures to win new customers, psychologically clever pricing strategies, e-mail marketing for customer reactivation, conversion optimization for your own website, building a powerful team, or launching social ads on Facebook or Instagram.
We developed a Growth Hacking Process (V2.0) in 2016 that links the 4 most important disciplines for the growth of start-ups, online shops and even established companies:
Figure 1: The Growth Hacking Process V2.0 by Hendrik Lennarz
Growth Hacking is a combination of the constant implementation of a maximum number of growth hacks / ideas and a very valid performance measurement. This experimental mode is particularly effective in situations of uncertainty where it is impossible to predict whether a marketing campaign, a project, a new product or a new feature will be successful or not.
The terms "Value Proposition" or "Unique Selling Point (USP)" are well known in the marketing community. They describe the absolute uniqueness of the product or company. Why do customers buy the product? Why do they buy the product from you? What problem is actually addressed by the product? By answering these questions, you can get pretty close to defining a good value proposition.
Examples of good USPs are:
A tip: Allow your customers to help you define your value proposition. Contact your customers and ask them why they chose you. If you failed to win them or lost them to the competition, ask them why exactly that happened.
Another tip: Steve Blank recommends starting with the sentence "We help X do Y by doing Z". As a rule, this describes in a clear way what you are doing, for whom, and why it is useful. A good start.
No matter what you have defined as a value proposition for yourself, the real growth hack is that this USP is not clearly communicated to website visitors on the homepage, in the shop, or the landing page. We are told that on average, a website's average visitor only spends a maximum of 3 seconds evaluating the actual value of the website for themselves.
3 seconds is very little time. If the benefit for the visitor is clearly recognizable and is evaluated positively, then the visitor will continue to gather information - however, just in that case. If the benefit is not clearly evident to the visitor, they will leave just as quickly. Tough luck and then back to Google search or to Facebook to hang out a bit ;-).
The Growth Hack: Always clearly indicate the specific benefit promise for the respective target group on the key sales pages so that it is obvious at first glance. Ideally, it should be clearly legible text, for example, by using a large, easy-to-read headline. Pictures or videos have to support this message, but should never stand on their own without any text.
Here are 2 examples of software tools (hotjar.com and ryte.com) that I believe have good value proposition on their websites. Remember, you only have 3 seconds to decide, "Am I going to find what I'm looking for or not?"
Figure 2: Screenshot of hotjar.com
Figure 3: Screenshot of ryte.com
Of course there is no bad growth hack, because even testing out an idea invariably brings positive learning effects.
One of the most boring ideas that I know of and unfortunately hear over and over again is the AB testing for the color of the call-to-action button. If you have enough visitors on a website, you can send 50% of the visitors to variant A (with a green call-to-action button) and the other 50% to variant B (with an orange call-to-action button) of the website using common AB testing tools such as Google Optimize (free of charge). After that, you track for a specific time period which of the two variants achieves more conversions.
The Growth Hack: Of course, AB testing is definitely recommended if there is enough traffic to the page. However, I often wish marketing professionals were a little more creative in coming up with ideas for AB testing than just the button color. In general, testing headlines - see Hack No.1 above, product images, descriptions, positions, trust elements such as quality seals, customer ratings or testimonials have a much greater influence on conversion rates.
I hope I could make it clear in this article that growth hacking is not about this one single super marketing idea that makes a business suddenly successful overnight. It is about establishing a process and a mindset within the team that enables as many ideas as possible to be tested and further optimized.
I have found that most people are not lacking good ideas, but rather lack resources such as time, money or colleagues who have the right skills. If you should run out of ideas, I recommend using the platform www.Growthhackers.com. Hundreds of ideas on how to optimize your marketing efforts are provided here. I also recommend Producthunt for coming up with ideas for new products.
Before you begin to implement it, however, you should always look at the growth hacking process (see Figure) to illustrate the connections between each of the different disciplines. So, seize the first idea that you believe has the most influence on your growth objective and implement it. Whether this is a pricing hack, a conversion hack of the website, the testing of a new marketing channel or the AB test of a new payment provider in the order form, is irrelevant.
Before implementing growth hacking tactics, think carefully about what you want to achieve beforehand. For example, for an online shop this could be a key indicator such as "100 additional sales in a period of 14 days". Another key indicator could be "500 new newsletter recipients in the next 7 days". You can only evaluate the success of the "growth hack" if these key figures have been defined beforehand. The hack can then be further optimized and developed, or simply discarded. There's no harm in that, as long as the team has learned something.
Practice makes perfect!
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Published on 08/31/2018 by Hendrik Lennarz.
Hendrik Lennarz, author of the book “Growth Hacking mit Strategie“, has been in the online business as Digital Product Manager and Growth Hacker for more than 12 years. Much of his experience is based on working as CTO/CPO for the e-commerce service provider Trusted Shops.
His growth hacking process helps startups, marketing managers, SEOs, social media managers, e-commerce clerks, product managers and CIO/CDOs to show the connections between the most important disciplines (product management, business model, marketing channels and agile implementation).
To date, Lennarz has helped over 120 young startups and established companies of all sizes to learn the growth hacking process with the Growth Hacking Academy.