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What the Hack Is Growth Hacking?

What is growth hacking?

Growth hacking, a strategic approach to rapid business growth, involves utilizing innovative and unconventional techniques to achieve maximum results.

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What is growth hacking?

Growth hacking and digital marketing go hand in hand, and it’s a tactic that can help your business…well…grow.  Growth hacking uses digital marketing strategies, specifically designed to build or expand your customer base.  “Traditional” digital marketing consists of search engine optimization, pay-per-click ads, social media marketing, content marketing, and more.  When you turn to growth hacking for your digital marketing strategy, you’re taking more “traditional” digital marketing strategies and using them in unique ways to captivate and grow your audience. You’re constantly testing new ideas to see what works for your business, always with a growth mindset. 

What are some growth hacking examples?

A lot of companies that you probably know have used growth hacking to expand their customer base. These companies include Facebook, PayPal, Airbnb, and even acclaimed Broadway musical Hamilton. 

Growth hacking example: Hamilton

Let’s break down how Hamilton used growth hacking and became a success. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man behind Hamilton, created a musical that had never been done before.

He really thought outside of the box and made something that people will remember.  When you’re thinking of a growth hacking strategy, having a unique product can help you draw in your audience. Now before Hamilton was even a musical, Miranda pieced the songs together as a mixtape and performed them. He was even invited to perform one of the songs at the White House and as you’d guess, his performance went viral.  For your business, keep the word “viral” in mind. You want whatever you do to catch on and catch on fairly quickly with your audience…

even if they are smaller than Hamilton’s audience. Ok so fast forward to the musical. Lin-Manuel’s White House performance helped it gain popularity before the door even opened. But to further encourage demand for the musical, the next growth hack they planned was a very popular ticket lottery for Hamilton.

The lottery drew even more demand for the musical as well as a huge crowd…so huge the lottery moved online over safety concerns.  Now, there’s not just the wildly successful Broadway musical and the cast recording, but there is also a new mixtape, an instrumental album, an app, and performances across the U.S. So many unique ideas went into building Hamilton into what it is today. That’s called growth hacking.  Now you probably don’t have a musical about one of your founding fathers in your toolbox, but you, too, can use growth hacking for your business. 

Growth hacking example: Airbnb

In this next growth hacking example, Airbnb knew that they could reach their target audience through Craigslist. At the time, Craigslist was the go-to place for cheap vacation rentals.

Getting in front of that audience would be a big deal! So, that’s what they did. Basically, Airbnb made it possible for a host to publish their listing straight to Craigslist with just one click. This Craigslist post referred people back to the Airbnb listing. This tactic was certainly risky – Craigslist didn’t have this functionality, so Airbnb basically had to build the backend themselves to make it all possible. Craigslist eventually caught on and made it impossible for this functionality to work anymore, but it had already helped get Airbnb off the ground. With some creative ideas and custom code, Airbnb took their company to the next level.

Growth hacking example: Dropbox

In a simpler, but still incredibly effective growth hacking example, Dropbox grew its users with a referral program that got current users of the platform to invite their friends.

They went from only 100,000 users to 4 million users in just over a year.  When Dropbox became publicly-owned in 2018, its market value reached 12 billion dollars I’d say that was some ingenious growth hacking.   

So, how can you use growth hacking to benefit your business? 

Your idea doesn’t have to be so huge that it requires years to develop, but it should be noticeable enough to attract new customers.   As Dropbox and Airbnb did, you can take resources that already exist and use them in creative ways. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You just need to use it differently.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. 

You are the scientist, and you have to research, hypothesize, and experiment with ideas. 

How do you become a growth hacker?

You don’t have to be a startup to use growth hacking, but you do have to always look for new channels to reach your audience.

Ask yourself these questions when you’re brainstorming: 

  • Where is my audience online?
  • What does my audience value?
  • What can I offer my audience that is unique enough to compel them to become customers AND spread the word to other customers?

This doesn’t mean that you should abandon all other digital marketing strategies and focus solely on growth hacking for digital marketing. Even in more “traditional” digital marketing methods, not everything you try will work.  But, digital marketing tactics like SEO, content marketing, pay-per-click, and everything else are proven to make a difference for your business.  I hope you enjoyed this video on growth hacking! To keep learning the ins and outs of digital marketing, subscribe to our YouTube channel! 

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