Growth Hacker for Growth Hacking?

If you work in a startup, as a Marketer, especially in the Silicon Valley, you must be familiar with the term “Growth Hacking”. If you are none of the above stated, I hope I am about to teach you a trending word that will probably help you reconsider your growth tactics.

I know what you think, Growth Hacking is just one of these words that makes you think you have either missed something in marketing class or your marketing basics are totally has-been. Or you may  think that it’s another “Silicon Valley buzzword”. It’s not. No, “growth hacking” is here to stay! Actually, it is not even a new practice, just a new term. It has been around for a long time but it didn’t have a name until a couple of years ago. It is now a long held practice among the best internet marketers and product managers in the Silicon Valley. So you should better own it! Let’s make it clear what it means, so that we can use it and make the most of it.

Growth Hacking … Say what ?

If you are asking yourself what does Growth Hacking have to do with Marketing, well Growth Hacking is Marketing, a modern way in the age of Web 2.0 to reach a market and distribute an idea. People (you included) are drowning into tons of data, users won’t pay attention to the next best widget, no matter how good it is. Distribution is now the biggest concern faced by every startup. Just take it this way: Marketing as we have known it for the past 50 years has died and has brought different set of challenges to tackle and tools to work with.

Have you ever asked yourself how did Facebook, Twitter and Dropbox get their first 100 users? 1000 users? Million users? Have you even considered that these brands were built without traditional advertising, brand partnerships or celebrity endorsements, in less than a decade? The marketers, not to mention that they were freshmen at that time, who did this just blew off traditional marketing by using the magic –  set of tactics – formula. Their success inspired other startups, such as KISSMetrics, that turned out very well. We shall qualify them as gurus, marketing sages, but they don’t see themselves as such. Nop, they are just “Growth Hackers”.

Who are Growth Hackers?

 (noun) – « One who’s passion and focus is pushing a metric through use of a testable and scalable methodology. »

A “hacker” is, by definition, a programmer – someone who builds features that encourage a company’s product to experience viral growth. Pulling in insights from behavioral economics and gamification, to find the right message to pull in users. Living at the edge of data, product, and marketing; within the product team but uses technical vocabulary to implement what he or she wants.

Growth hackers utilize analytical thinking, product engineering and creativity to significantly increase their company’s core metric(s). Many descriptions on the Web are unnecessarily restrictive. No matter how good of a Programmer he is, that essential characteristic that makes the difference is CREATIVITY. Find someone who thinks outside the box, disregards the rules!  The end goal of every growth hacker is to build a self-perpetuating marketing machine that reaches millions by itself, THE strategy within the parameters of a scalable and repeatable method for growth.

By searching on the Internet you will find humongous numbers of articles explaining what, and how you should “hack growth”. Yeah I did it too! I have read a lot about Growth Hacking, Growth Hackers, Growth this, Growth that and ended-up going straight to the source, or close by. I had the chance to assist to a Growth Hacking Marketing event hosted by Andy Johns, that ran user growth at Facebook, Twitter, and Quora, and Sean Ellis, who coined the term “Growth Hacker” and was the first marketer at Dropbox, which made me realize that one single stunning strategy does not seem to exist after all. They all had different tactics that somehow led them to the billions users. From one company to the other, from one’s data to the other, strategy may vary significantly. While writing this article I realized it would not be able to give you the answer to : what strategy should a growth hacker use? because I don’t have it. It’s a full process with actionable tactics such as : A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email and open graph. The tools used by Growth Hackers may be the only thing they have in common, the way they manipulate them is what makes them different. Take Dropbox: getting extra storage space by referring friends.

What metrics should you watch ?

I could definitely not come up with the magic formula for you to use, however I have found an article listing what metrics every growth hacker should be watching.

It not your total users, or daily active users (DAU), not even your monthly active users (MAU). These metrics don’t give any real insight into your growth rate or the quality of the users you are bringing in. . The metrics you should really  pay attention are :

  • Daily Net Change : new + reactivated – churned
  • Core Daily Actives : count of users that have been using your service on a regular basis
  • Cohort Activity Heatmap : how your user retention curve has changed over time.
  • Conversion Funnel : track the conversion funnel for flows that affect new user acquisition

I will not get into more details because John Egan in his article “4 Metrics Every Growth Hacker Should Be Watching” explains it much better than I would, so I highly recommand you have a look at his article, or at least forward it to your Growth Hacking Team 😉

Just remember Growth hacking is a process, not a secret book of ideas. The idea is to get the first users and then …. get those initial users to do it for you in some automated way. As simple as that!

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