The underlying principle of growth hacking is simple: get big fast.
Not every business is primed for growing fast and those that want to have to employ the sorts of strategies that are laid out in Ryan Holiday’s bestseller. Growth hacking is a strategic choice, leaving aside traditional marketing efforts and instead focusing on creating buzz, letting the crowd market for you (and for free!), and driving customer acquisition numbers sky high with the lowest possible investment up front.
Businesses that succeed with a growth hacking strategy have a few things in common. For one, they have remarkably good product-market fit, something we covered earlier in the week. They have also chosen to target the right sorts of customers, chasing the early adopters and forgetting about the rest – at least in the immediate term – as we explained yesterday. But once the early adopters are on board, what comes next?
To speed up that growth again it’s going to be necessary to reach out and touch and even greater number of people – and that means going viral.
Step 3: Go Viral
It’s the dream of many online marketers and every growth hacker marketer: going viral.
Whether it is a blog post, a video, an image, meme, or launching from the front page of reddit into the Facebook feeds of a nation, going viral is the holy grail of growth hackers. It takes the cost and responsibility for marketing a product off the shoulders of the company and, instead, relies on the networks and sharing of customers, fans, and future customers and fans to drive the brand or product forward.
This doesn’t mean that going viral doesn’t take a lot of work, or that it is easy to do. Not every product, service, or app is a candidate for going viral. Indeed, Holiday suggests that growth hackers looking to go viral check that their product is ready for the viral big-time by asking three questions:
- Why should customers share this?
- Is sharing easy?
- Is this product worth talking about?
Come up with the right answers to all three and you could see your product go viral, ramping up growth and setting you up for rapid success. So how do you come up with these right answers? Holiday suggests doing two things.
First, you need to make sure your product worthy of being shared. Frankly, if your product is not worthy of being shared then growth hacking isn’t for you. Growth hacking relies on the crowd of consumers sharing their experiences with others. If you cannot convince your customers to do that because your product is not worth talking about, then growth hacking tactics aren’t likely to help you grow your business.
Second, you need to encourage people to share the product. Though it doesn’t always come naturally or comfortably to many people, if you want to see your product shared then you should be asking people straight out to share it. This can be achieved by asking directly (‘Click here to tweet ‘I’m using Product X – why aren’t you?’ to your followers’), by making it simple to share (floating buttons for the most popular social networks), or by offering incentives to people who share (pay with a tweet or unlocking premium features with a share).
Finally, if you want to go viral, you need to get noticed. Make sure your product sets you apart, either with its design, its color, or anything else that someone can easily take note of. Those white headphones that Apple chose to market with their original iPods did as much to publicize the MP3 player as anything that Apple did directly in print, online, or in the mainstream media. Consumers knew that white headphones signified an iPod, and rushed to be part of an exclusive consumer set.
Examples: GroupOn and Uber
What’s the easiest way to get customers to share their love of your product with their friends? Offer them a bonus for doing so.
GroupOn offered users who referred friends a $10 credit when their friends made their first purchase on the site. The cost to the customer for referring a friend? Zero, save for the time to input the email addresses when prompted. If their friends bought something they would win, and if not they would not lose. GroupOn, on the other hand, gained access to millions of new potential customers for a very small price.
Uber offers a similar deal. In London, for example, referring a friend for a free (or almost free) Uber ride also gains the user who referred them a free ride. It’s a great win-win for the customer and the company: the customer helps out a friend with a free ride, and Uber gains a new convert to their ride-sharing business model for the cost of a cross-town route.
Going viral is not easy, but it is a proven growth hacking strategy. Get the product right, encourage people to share, and make the customer experience something worth sharing and going viral might be something that is more than just a dream for your company, your product, and your brand.
Now on to Part Four: Improve Your Offer
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