Nowadays, the word “Growth Hacking” is being a buzzword that everyone in startup industry is talking about. I believe that you may have heard of it even if you don’t know what is it yet.
Many huge companies or even small startup is trying to implement the whole growth hacking technique into their product. But, what exactly does growth hacking means? Furthermore, how to do growth hacking on your startup?
Actually, in this article, I will explain to you the insight I got from Ryan Holiday‘s book “Growth Hacker Marketing”. What exciting about this book is Ryan using the growth hacking technique itself to publish this book. How? We’ll get into that later.
For your information, Ryan Holiday is a media strategist and a prominent writer on strategy & business. He is the former director of marketing at American Apparel for many years. He dropped out of college at 19 to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power. Well, he is the right guy to write about the whole growth hacking stuff.
What is Growth Hacking?
According to the definition that Ryan provides in his book, growth hacking is a business strategy that throws out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaces it with customer acquisition techniques that are testable, trackable, and scalable.
Growth hacking is the hybrid concept of marketing meets engineering. If you are interested in marketing as well as programming, you have to learn about the growth hacking technique. I believe you will find it fun to learn.
Why doing Growth Hacking?
Ryan said that traditional marketing is not effective. It uses a lot of effort as well as a large quantity of money, but the result is untrackable.
In the other hands, growth hacking is trying to build a small clever trigger that works like a self-perpetuating marketing machine. It integrates the marketing into the product itself.
For example, let me tell you a story about the famous “PS. I Love You from Hotmail”
Hotmail launched in 1996 when the consumer internet was still an unfamiliar idea. Growth was slow to start and the team started to doubt around the idea of putting up billboards to promote the revolutionary idea of a free web-based email service. During these first few weeks, however, an interesting figure stood out: 80% of new signups found out about the service from a friend. This gave seed investor Tim Draper the simple, yet brilliant, idea of a message at the bottom of every Hotmail email.
It was an instant hit (the final version lacked the “PS: I love you.”). With the addition of just six words at the bottom of every Hotmail email sent, the product itself became Hotmail’s promotion and distribution channel.
From an initial pool of a few thousand users, within hours growth became exponential. Fast-forward to December 31st, 1997, just a year and a half after launching, Hotmail had 12 million users (out of a total internet user base of 70 million — this would be equivalent to having over 400 million users today) and was purchased by Microsoft for a record-breaking 500 million dollars. Hotmail’s “PS: I love you” was the most lucrative postscript in history and one of the first documented “growth hacks.”
The New Mindset on Marketing
Noah Kagan, an ex-growth hacker at Facebook, Mint.com and AppSumo explains that “Marketing has always been about the same thing—who your customers are and where they are.”
What growth hackers do is focus on the “who” and “where” more scientifically, in a more measurable way. Suddenly, finding customers and getting attention for your product are no longer guessing games but rather called as a “science”.
Thankfully, growth hacking is not just a technical process shrouded in secrecy. Growth hacking is more of a mindset than a toolkit.
Growth hacking at its core means putting aside the notion that marketing is a self-contained act begins toward a product’s development cycle. But rather, marketing is something that builds on the product itself.
The Key of Growth Hacking
1. Develop a product that resonates with your market
In another word, achieve Product-Market Fit (PMF) first. PMF is another buzzword that every startup dreams to achieve. It is the condition when your product is accepted by the market. People start to buy your product and you start to get traction.
The simplest yet complicated way to achieve product market fit is to follow the Lean Startup Methodology that is created by Eric Ries. There is no product that perfects on its first try. You need to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). MVP is a minimum version of your product that you can test on the market. It’s more like a “lite” version not a part of it.
After developing an MVP, you test it on the market and get feedback as much as possible. Use that feedback to optimize your product until the market started to accept the product.
2. Resist the temptation to go big
Being big is sometimes hard to resist. You want your product to be used by everyone. But it is really really expensive for a startup. Furthermore, it’s how traditional marketer thinks.
Instead, what you can do is to focus on a small niche core user base that can you reach cost effectively. The first fanatic user can help you to grow on a minimum budget or even for free.
Marketing these days is not only about advertisement and always expensive. It can also be cheap and effective. The growth hacking technique is combining between marketing and science to get the most effective way to reach your customer on a limited budget.