Growth Hacking: Let’s Dig Into What It Really Means

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If you’re a marketer looking for a way into the startup world, if you’re a data nerd looking to pursue a more creative and strategic role, or if you’re an entrepreneur looking to make an early hire, hopefully this article will help you with your growth goals.

‘Growth hacking’ meshes digital marketing with traditional marketing with customer retention and product performance. Growth roles typically apply to the startup world where software and apps are the products because these days, there’s a lot to gain from marketers being close to product development.

Growth hackers see opportunity where others see challenges, solve problems creatively and collaboratively, empathize with users and try to tie everything back to metrics. Growth hacking is the mindset of never being satisfied.

Five skills that you’ll need to become a growth hacker include:

1. Web Analytics

Arguably the most important skill of a growth hacker is web analytics and quantitative skills.  Before aggressively deploying tactics and strategies for growth, they need to have a measurement strategy in place. In other words, if we deploy this initiative, how will we measure success?

For digital marketing this often lives in Google Analytics or Firebase (for mobile apps) or if the data source feeds into a database, running queries through SQL or automating reports to populate in MS Excel are extremely valuable. Don’t confuse this with data science; growth hackers don’t need to know advanced statistics or predictive modeling, but they do need to know how to collect and interpret data.

Common Tools: Google Analytics (for websites and web apps), Firebase (for mobile apps and web apps), Excel, SQL

2. Digital Marketing

Growth hackers should have a good understanding of SEO, PPC, social media, email and retargeting best practices. They’ll likely need to implement many of the optimizations and strategies across these channels if it’s a small startup, but if it’s a company that has the support of a digital agency, the growth hacker should manage the relationship and ensure they are hitting desired performance goals.

Common Tools: AdWords, Bing Ads, Facebook Advertising, Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools), Mailchimp

3. Community Building

Building communities, both online and offline, is an important part of a growth hacking because it helps people to begin to perceive your brand as a thought leader.

Unlike social media marketing, which is more about branding and short term awareness, community building hits at the source. Like responding to people’s questions on Quora, making relationships and building followers on LinkedIn or hosting a local meetup for like-minded people in your industry or potential consumers.

Common Tools: LinkedIn, Meetup.com, Quora

4. User/Customer Experience

Empathy is a strong characteristic of a growth hacker because they are able to step into the shoes of their consumers and relate to their needs. Web analytics can help uncover weak spots in a user experience and devise a hypothesis for what can be done better.

Tools like Optimizely and VWO allow marketers to create AB tests but also have functionality for developers to add custom code for complex tests. Customer interviews are great ways to ask for candid feedback on “What can we do to serve you better?”

Intercom.io is a tool that allows you to message users from your website or app or have users message you. Hotjar similarly has website surveys, records a user’s screen during their session to help you understand what may be confusing and what may be valuable, and provide heat maps to see where they click.

Common Tools: Intercom.io, Hotjar, Appsee (mobile apps), Optimizely, VWO

5. Product Marketing

Product marketers know the product inside and out and how the features and value propositions can resonate with different target audiences. Having a fundamental understanding of how to communicate from a lead nurturing and sales perspective is key, especially for B2B businesses. For B2C, this is more focused on messaging and branding through website content like blog posts and videos.

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