Growth hacking

How Your Startup Can Adopt the Growth Hacking Mindset

Growth hacking, a ground-breaking tactic that has swept the business world in recent years, refers to using creative strategies to ignite a company’s growth. The idea is to skip the big-budget production of conventional marketing, in favor of experimentation and low-cost alternatives that expand and engage their user base.

The approach was designed for startups on shoestring budgets, although many larger B2B companies have embraced growth hacking, as well. By being nimble and testing a number of different, innovative marketing and sales strategies, your company can experience exponential growth.

Ready to don your growth hacking hat? These tips will help:

Make strategic choices that solve problems businesses don’t know they have

It may be tempting to test every new channel or trend as you see it happening. However, a new marketing or sales tactic isn’t a growth hack unless it strategically addresses trends occurring within your market, industry or buying demographic.

Ask yourself: Will this innovation provide something my buyers or customers need before they even recognize the need? Will it resonate with my ideal customer? Will my company be first with this solution?

Example: Slack

Two weeks before launching his highly successful company, Slack co-founder, Stewart Butterfield, wrote his development team a memo titled, “We don’t sell saddles here.” It stated Slack’s mission like this: “Despite the fact that there are a handful of direct competitors and a muddled history of superficially similar tools, we are setting out to define a new market. And that means we can’t limit ourselves to tweaking the product; we need to tweak the market, too.”

Butterfield positioned Slack as not only a chat system but also a vehicle for “organizational transformation.”

“We’re selling a reduction in information overload, relief from stress and a new ability to extract the enormous value of hitherto useless corporate archives,” he explained. “We’re selling better organizations, better teams. That’s a good thing for people to buy and it is a much better thing for us to sell in the long run.”

Related: 6 Growth Hacking Tools for Entrepreneurs

Use your best buyers as your research laboratory

Revamp your approach to growth by using your best customers for research discovery. Analyze their characteristics to understand why your products appeal to them, why they chose your company and what led to their purchasing decisions.

Your findings can help you scale the success with your best buyers by targeting similar accounts. At the same time, getting to know your buyers will give you necessary insight to create new products and services that will prime your company for growth.

Example: Instagram

Location-based mobile applications were booming in 2009 when Instagram co-founder, Kevin Systrom, developed an app called Burbn. That original app enabled users to check in to locations, post planned activities and post pictures using filters.

But after the company secured $500,000 in funding, examination of user behavior revealed that the photo-sharing capability was by far the most popular. Using that insight, Systrom and his first employee, Mike Krieger, studied the marketplace, recognized an opportunity and developed the app that became Instagram. Thirty months later, with 30 million users, Instagram was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion.

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Leave your comfort zone and use “what if” analysis to create new opportunities

Growth hacking, though strategic, is not about playing it safe. It’s about experimentation.

To jump-start your company’s growth, you need to leave your comfort zone.

Don’t be afraid to explore different approaches, audiences and channels in search of new opportunities. If your company already has a viable product or service, growth hacking can help you broaden awareness.

Example: Airbnb

The company, which enables a user to rent out a spare bedroom as a hotel room, used a growth hack to increase its market penetration. It took a chance on reverse-engineering an application program interface (API) that allowed its users to post listings on Craigslist. The Airbnb team opted for the potential payoff despite obstacles and no guarantees it would work.

Success followed. Since Airbnb’s listings were superior to traditional Craigslist ads, Airbnb was able to increase traffic to its app at virtually no advertising cost. 

As all these points illustrate, growth hacking is a cat-and-mouse game. You must always be one step ahead of would-be competitors. If you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest technologies, market trends, customer behavior and buying preferences, you can capitalize on trends at optimal times to drive significant growth.

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