Buzzwords for beginners . . . Growth Hacking

Buzzwords for beginners . . . Growth Hacking

There are seventy-one jobs advertised on right now which mention the term ‘growth hacking’ and about 1,500 British people Googling related terms every month.

But what exactly is growth hacking?

In this first edition of our Buzzwords for Beginners series, we take a look at growth hacking – what it means, how it’s done and examine whether it’s just another empty term.

Where did growth hacking come from?

The term ‘growth hacker’ was first used in 2010 by the Californian entrepreneur and angel investor Sean Ellis. Sean was a consultant who was instrumental in the accelerated growth of Dropbox, LogMeIn and Eventbrite. He wanted to hire someone like him to take over when he moved on but there wasn’t a word for what he did, so he invented one – Growth Hacker.

‘Growth hacker’ and ‘growth hacking’ are terms still closely associated with early-stage start-up and Silicon Valley tech culture. In the US growth marketing is a fast-growing field.

Outside the States, the term and associated concepts are newer and really only gained mass traction around 2017. Below is a chart using Google Trends data to show search volumes for this specific term. Searches for related terms and phrases are not included.

Growth hacking google search volume graph.

What does growth hacking mean?

As the name suggests growth hacking focuses on growth – above all else – generally in the shortest timeframe possible and at the lowest cost feasible. This growth is either that of users, such as those on a free or freemium service or of paying customers.

While the verb ‘hack’ is rarely used to describe ‘hacking ones way through a forest’ today this actually offers a good analogy for how it’s done. Growth hacking, after all, is all about finding the shortest route possible to your final destination. Even, and perhaps especially, if that means cutting through a lot of red-tape, best-practices or obstacles to get there.

Unlike regular marketers, a growth hacker focuses exclusively on growing the user base. Not retention rates, upsells, customer satisfaction, brand value – just the number of users.

Ok, that sounds cool, right? But . . .

How is growth hacking actually done?

It’s a good question and unfortunately, there’s no one right answer but here are some guidelines which you can follow if you’re interested in growth hacking for your business.

#1 – Make sure growth hacking is right for your business

  • Growth hacking can succeed within larger organisations, particularly those who are launching a new product, however this approach has the best chance in a start-up.
  • Growth hacking means rapid, no-holds-barred growth, so you need a product that can scale easily, cheaply and quickly. Software-based products tend to work best.
  • Growth hacking works even better in cases where the more users, the more useful – think Facebook, AirBnB or Uber. If that’s not your business model – change it.

#2 – Laser-focus on the most relevant target audience

Growth hacking utilises the power of early-adopters to accelerate growth. Therefore it’s essential that you know exactly who’s most likely to convert and focuses in on them.

#3 – Never miss an opportunity

A growth hacker is always on the lookout for opportunities to grow their user base – often in the unlikeliest of places. They’re on top of current events and trends inside, and crucially outside, their industry. They seize opportunities with viral marketing campaigns.

#4 – Pave your own way

Growth hackers, typically ignore traditional marketing channels, preferring digital channels, or hacking and coding entirely new channels to reach their audiences. They create content on new and emerging platforms and disseminate it in original ways.

#5 – Take risks

While growth hackers need to be heavily analytical using data to define their audience, seek out opportunities and measure results they are not nerds!

Growth hackers take risks, break rules and delight in overturning the status quo.

#6 – Never be happy

A growth hacker is not happy with percentages they want to convert every single person who lands on their site. To this end, they obsessively test, change and adjust every aspect of the conversion funnel. Design and dev beware 😉

Is growth hacking good?

Growth hacking is a disrupter to the traditional marketing industry. Like any disrupter, if it delivers then its good, if it doesn’t – well then it’s just a nuisance.

But what about the word . . .

Is it just another empty buzzword? Or is it a buzzword with backbone?

There were people doing activities which would now be described as ‘growth hacking’ long before 2010. There was the social media manager, the blogger, the user experience designer, the backend coder, the one-woman business owner who all did more than they needed to in search of growth. So why a new phrase?

Because words matter. With the coining of ‘growth hacking,’ people’s efforts are being acknowledged and their skills can be sought. Growth Hacking is a thing – and it’s good.

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