The term growth hacker and the latest hack for x,y or z seems to be everywhere but exactly what is a growth hacker and how can their skills be used to grow a tech start up business?
What is Growth Hacking?
Sean Ellis, who was instrumental in the rapid growth of Dropbox, is credited with first using the term Growth Hacker back in 2010. Their role is to grow a user (or customer) base from a low (or nil) base into the thousands and beyond. Growth hackers are marketers but they are completely focussed on one metric and one metric alone and that is growth.
The term growth hacker is now, like most buzzwords, overused to the point it is starting to get annoying but it was originally a term associated with start-up growth, particularly for start-ups working on internet based products. Many of the techniques used by those involved in growth hacking are long established and used by traditional marketers on a regular basis, but with a twist
In his 2012 post Aaron Ginn defined the three key characteristics of a growth hacker as creativity, data and curiosity. Growth Hackers tend to be unusual as two of their key characteristics are from two different ends of the spectrum. A creative person is not usually also associated with a talent for numbers, detailed analysis and experimentation.
Applying To The Tech Start Up
Although growth hacking is most often associated with businesses involved in internet based products, services and Apps their rationale and methods of working may be applied to any high tech start up. However, a pre requisite is the marketing person involved must have a detailed knowledge of the internet, generating traffic (paid and organic), analysis tools, nurturing campaigns and (crucially) how people and information flow online.
As a first step they must be able to identify the best opportunities to achieve new customer growth. With this in place they must then be able to break down the steps required to capitalise on those opportunities into actionable steps, each with a defined start, end and closure point. Finally, they must be able to put the required analytics in place to measure success (or not).
The best growth marketing process for a new technology start up may not have been tried before so experimentation, with data to back up the results, is key. Market disruption is important for any technology start up and the same applies to the marketing process. Often, Tried and trusted will not work and a seat of the pants type approach is the best way forward. This can be both scary and high risk but the risks of failing using something more tried and tested are also high.
Experience based on experimentation, the data obtained and the workings of the internet is key. Porting a process that works well for one business to the next is unlikely to work but the data obtained in one assignment is certainly important to the next. Finding the right marketing person (or to go back to our original definition – Growth hacker) can be difficult but given the high risk nature of their work and the dramatically increased chances of start-up failure if they do not succeed it is of vital importance. The problem is that outside of the U.S.A such people are in very short supply.