Defining Growth Hacking

Growth Haking
Rita Zahir

Rita Zahir
VP of Marketing and Growth

It’s usually easier to start with what something is not, to define the borders of a made-up phrase and kill all the hype. In this case though, there still isn’t complete census on what is included in the concentric circles that encompass Growth Hacking. There are definitions as narrow as simply calling it fast-growth acquisition marketing and some as broad as the collision of engineering, product and marketing sciences.

So, here is a simple breakdown of what some marketing experts have agreed, is the essence of Growth Hacking and why it’s important.

Growth Hacking is NOT Free marketing, it’s not black hat, it’s not malicious, it’s not trickery. It’s not about growing through unsustainable tactics or even some magic pixie dust sprinkled on your dreams.

It’s closer to being a harmonious marriage of the art of traditional, creative marketing combined with the science of data analysis, testing, and precision targeting. It leverages multiple disciplines to create more focused acquisition strategies that incorporate creative intuition, a deep understanding of the customer, and data-driven optimization.

This means abandoning strategies that grow users/customers/viewers for the sake of numbers alone, numbers that will never equal a positive ROI. It means focusing on the true ROI, the bottom line, and letting that clarity define your direction.

The steps of this process end up looking like this: Define. Target. Acquire. Nurture.

  • Define: Everyone says that having market fit is the essential first step to success in this competitive environment, and that is true. But you will need more than a basic understanding of how your product/service solves a problem for your customer. You’ll need to truly know the most profitable potential customers; where they work, live and play and what value you are creating for each group of them.

As example I once created a matrix of customers for a retail fashion site. This system grouped people by the brands that they purchased, the margins on those brands, likelihood to return the purchase, potential for future purchases (LTV) and their propensity to advocate (refer) for your brand. There are now tools that can now incorporate influence scores on top of this data. This allowed me to be very aggressive in acquiring the groups with the highest ROI and maintain a smaller presence for those areas with less potential.

  • Target: Once you understand the value of each segment you can then develop weighted CPA goals based on that potential value. This will give your marketing the flexibility that you need to aggressively target the high-value customers. You will also be able to created more targeted messaging that addresses specific needs of each cohort, as well as the ability to build behavioral targeting strategies that really resonate. You will also have a more clear understanding of where and when to deliver your message.

I was recently working with a subscription service that had an experiential sell- you had to spend time and engage to understand the value of the brand. When creating a strategy for that brand we targeted people when they were casual consuming media that generally required interaction, but not when they were just reading the news or doing a quick scroll through a social media feed. It is not enough for a channel to index highly with your target but to also provide the type of interaction that your brand requires.

  • Acquire: The soul of Growth Hacking lies in the successful acquisition of new, high-value customers. The key is to imagine a strategy that powerfully communicates to people, engages them in a conversation, creates a delightful experience, and builds a relationship with your brand.

Being agile enough to test and iterate is vital to a growing acquisition strategy. Within digital marketing the channels are quickly evolving and your team has to be able to adapt to thrive. This requires a creative imagination to be able to see things differently, to envision how an evolving platform can work for you and how you can contribute in a meaningful way.

  • Nurture: “Recurring revenue” if you’ve been thinking that this article needed more buzzwords, there you go. But everyone is talking about recurring revenue for a reason, it is mission critical. For most companies it’s not sustainable to continue to acquire customers that make one purchase and then disappear, particularly in the retail space. To create scalable, profitable growth you must develop a program that drives more than a purchase, it needs to create a lasting relationship.

That is it. Probably not as complicated as you imagined. Being aggressive in your market, experimenting, learning fast and adjusting, using data to focus your efforts and building scalable, profitable growth is the new black.