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Raymond Fong is co-author of “Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley’s Best Kept Secret” and co-founder of Deviate Labs, a marketing agency that has consulted for companies including Dollar Shave Club, HelloGiggles, Shoedazzle and several businesses that have appeared on “Shark Tank.”
We recently caught up with Fong to find out how startup founders can maximize their marketing ROI, why they need to grow their lists and when it’s smart to hire a growth hacker. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
StartupNation: What does the term growth hacking mean, and how does it apply to startups?
Raymond Fong: We define growth hacking as highly resourceful and creative marketing strategies singularly focused on high-leverage growth. It’s about getting rid of all the fluff of typical marketing.
What is the intention of growth hacking? To get you growth and increase your ROI.
Startups are very interested in getting results quickly. They don’t have a war chest of marketing dollars, so traditional channels of marketing can be too resource-intensive for most startups. What growth hacking does is helps compress time and provides a lower barrier to entry for startups.
StartupNation: What are some examples?
Fong: A famous growth hack, and one often quoted by literature, is PayPal’s referral program in which PayPal gave you $10 for every friend you referred, and your friend received $10 for signing up, as well.
One growth hack that we ourselves implemented on behalf of a client, an online pet company, was to leverage the fact that folks are rabid fans of dogs and/or cats. As a part of their pre-launch, the client wanted massive publicity and more subscribers. We developed a social media-based “Dogs vs. Cats” competition where folks voted with their social media accounts and referred others to vote. We also enlisted the help of animal shelters across the nation and also top pet brands that sponsored some of the prizes for massive exposure and viral exposure.
StartupNation: What are some things that can hinder a startup’s growth?
Fong: There are three words that I really want every startup entrepreneur to remember: product market fit. It’s a very simple concept. Have a really, really good product, not just an okay product and not the same product my competitor down the street has. Knowing that, find a market that desperately wants it and is willing to pay for it. If you don’t have a market that’s going to buy your product, there’s no way you’re going to run a business. It’s a cycle.
You should have a product that you think there’s a market for. If you can’t find that market, that tells you two things. Either that market doesn’t exist or your product sucks. Go back to your product and figure out what you can do to it to tweak it to make it stand out and make it amazing.
A big hindrance to a startup’s growth is not knowing your market.
It’s easy to go, “if I like something, I’m sure that other people will like it.” We tend to be biased based off our own opinion of our own products. If you have a market, ask them. Survey them, get feedback on them. What do they love? What don’t they love about your product? Know what features they want and what nightmares keep them up at night, what solutions they’re looking for. Listen to that and then implement those appropriately to your product and your marketing, and you’ll have a winning strategy.
StartupNation: When does it or doesn’t it make sense for a startup to hire a growth hacker?
Fong: If you’re a startup owner who’s getting started, hire a growth hacker out of a position of strength and not weakness. A position of weakness is, “Oh my goodness, I’m too tired. I just want somebody else to come in and growth hack my business.”
Position of strength comes from “I understand my business, I understand my market, and I know my product inside and out, and I’m tapped out. I have reached the ends of basically my creativity or my ability to produce for my company, but I recognize that I need a true expert to come in and help me grow my business.”
The time for somebody to hire a growth hacker is after you’ve demonstrated product market fit and you have some traction. I call it from zero to 60. That’s when a growth hacker would come in to help grow that business. But again, if your product sucks, you don’t have a market, what’s a multiple of zero? Still zero.
StartupNation: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Fong: This is something that I believe is universally applicable whether you’re online or offline or they’re doing a multimillion dollar business or a mom-and-pop shop down the street, but that is the concept of building a list. A list of folks, whether that’s a list of emails or phone numbers or addresses, just some way to contact potential customers and/or existing customers.
Just about every company needs a list of people they market to, to keep in touch with and foster that relationship with.
It is much more cost effective to continue to market and build a relationship with an existing customer or somebody that’s already inside your sales funnel and aware of your brand, than trying to find a complete stranger and trying to convert them into a fan and into a buyer.
“Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley’s Best Kept Secret” is available now for purchase at fine booksellers and through StartupNation.com.