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Growth Hacking: what it is and why you need to be doing it

If you’ve been sitting under a rock for the last few years, you may not have heard about ‘growth hacking’. It’s a phrase coined by serial entrepreneur and angel investor Sean Ellis in 2010, after he used it to rapidly grow LogMeIn, Eventbrite and Dropbox.

Each of those companies are now worth billions of dollars. Essentially, growth hacking is identifying low-cost ways to make a business (usually a startup) grow really, really fast. This involves often unconventional strategies that reflect modern thinking in marketing, sales, product development, staffing or any other part of the business.

Growth hacking is not, in fact, new. Businesses have always sought out innovative and unique ways to beat the competition. Entrepreneurs have always focused on growth. What’s new is the way it’s now being packaged as a methodology (and a philosophy) that can be taught, learnt and implemented.

First thing you need to know: experimenting and pushing the boundaries to see what produces the best results should be in the DNA of any company that wants to grow. Real growth originates from the work of a team. When Sean Ellis was looking through hundreds of CVs trying to find the right people to lead his businesses, people were responding to ads with experience such as the ability to establish a strategic business plan, build and manage the marketing team, build relationships with outside vendors, etc. What he quickly realised was that all this was meaningless unless every individual in your company is prepared to take responsibility for growth and has an entrepreneurial drive.

Ellis famously said that, “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.” This means that not all VPs of Marketing, Business Development Managers and Sales Executives are the same. It means that attitude and drive are more important to growth than experience.

Next lesson: everything starts with your customers (or clients) and how you market to them. You need to be creative while keeping in mind two fundamental questions: what keeps them up at night and what do they really want? Here are some typical growth hacking strategies backed up by that thinking:

1. The ‘double-edged referral’ hack

Many gyms do this: you sign a friend up, both you AND the friend get a month free. Services like Dropbox do it too: you get extra space and so does your referral. People love incentives.

2. The ‘random act of kindness’ hack

Here’s a free ‘whatever’ is unexpected. It generates good will and increases open rates. Rather than ignoring your next marketing email, your customers will be intrigued to see what your next offer is.

3. The ‘use the trolls to build on trust’ hack

In short – don’t censor the comments. Let people leave feedback. It shows you believe in what you do. You’ll find that most review communities self-regulate themselves. This is very modern thinking – in the past most businesses would censor negative comments or reviews.

4. The ‘reward loyal customers’ hack

The cost of retaining customers is six to seven times lower than acquiring new ones. Offering a loyalty card or programme, or special offers for top customers, creates a reason for them to remain loyal.

5. The ‘fabricate a sense of urgency’ hack

“Hurry, ends soon!” may be a common sales cliché but the basic principle is this: good sales is about creating a sense of urgency. displays a ‘Discount ends in ..’ constant countdown that never leaves the top of its website. And when that one finishes they start another.

7. The ‘capitalise on FOMO’ hack

Limit access to your product or service – Monzo, the crowdfunded “smart bank” and one of the fastest growing mobile banking businesses in the world, only offers an account to those who’ve received an invite (and by the way, it’s literally a “golden ticket”).

8. The ‘piggyback on a thriving network’ hack

Spotify gave users the option to automatically post their song likes to Facebook. Suddenly, millions of people on Facebook knew about Spotify. It’s a no-brainer.

9. The ‘think like a scientist’ hack

Experimenting is probably the single most important thing in growth hacking. It means not being afraid to fail and it works like this: create a theory around a tactic and goal, run tests and look at the results. If it fails, adjust the theory and try again.

The techniques above are not enough on their own. There are thousands of articles, talks and seminars out there that will give you similar tips and tricks. But the real trick isn’t a trick at all – it’s about you and your company culture. At PA Business Support, we focus on understanding your company culture and business objectives so that first and foremost the executive and secretarial support we provide is aligned to your true north. If growth is the primary objective of your business model then we assess potential candidates by their ability to make a tangible impact on it.

Want to know more? Take a look at the services we offer and drop us a line.

IMPORTANT: Please take extra special care to comply with GDPR (coming into force on the 25th May) before doing any growth-hacking! Some of the tips above rely on communicating via email to contacts in your database, and the new regulation requires that you ensure all your customers and prospects know you have their data (and that they consent to you having that data) before you email them. Very soon we’ll be doing a post on GDPR – so watch this space for more helpful tips and advice!

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