February 4, 2015 / Melissa Faudree

Many startup businesses are concerned with their budget in order to grow and acquire customers. Because of the limited resources they can’t afford to use expensive marketing strategies that bigger corporations can. There are many uncertainties and challenges startup companies face. What marketing strategy will work best and how do you gain attention to grow your business? Unfortunately there is no blueprint for startup businesses that will guarantee success. However, utilizing growth hackers in the beginning phase of your startup business is becoming more commonly used instead of replying exclusively on your marketing team.

What is a growth hacker?

While the term growth hacker may be relatively new, the practice is nothing new. In fact, it has been around for a while but perhaps was disguised as something else. Sean Ellis coined the term growth hacker in 2010 in his blog post. He said that growth hackers are people whose true north is growth. However, it wasn’t until 2012 when Andrew Chen made the term popular in his blog. Chen’s post discusses how growth hackers are the new VP of Marketing.

The idea of growth hackers is that once the startup has established the product/market fit, they must find a scalable, perpetual and maintainable way to grow. Growth hackers have marketing goals but with a concentration solely on growth. Growth hackers use different tactics than traditional marketing. They seek growth with product utilization and product iterations. They want to find what works with experimentation and will focus on ROI. Growth hackers aren’t concerned how they reach their goal. In fact, they will do whatever it takes and this often provokes thinking outside the box. Essentially growth hackers need to be creative as well as analytical.

Growth Hacker’s Skill Set

growth hacking venn diagram

What are the necessary skills needed for growth hackers? Growth hackers need to have the ability to test, measure and analyze. They are constantly testing experiments and measuring their results using a tracking and reporting program. They are data driven. Growth hackers also are curious and innovative beings. In most cases, growth hackers work with a product management team, engineering and marketing. Below is a list of some common skills growth hackers possess:

  • Understanding of statistics
  • Knowledge in SQL
  • Excel modeling skills
  • Building tools
  • A/B testing and analytics
  • Programming or at least enough knowledge in HTML/CSS to test optimization
  • Design knowledge
  • Copywriting skills
  • Product development awareness

Common Misconceptions

Guy hacking computer What do you think of when you hear the word, “hacker?” The word hacker tends to have a negative connotation. I know when I hear the word hacker, I think of computer hackers. A hacker is someone that disregards the rules. One misconception is that growth hackers have experience in code. However, that is not always the case. Growth hackers do not need to be programmers or have coding ability. In fact, most growth hackers aren’t coders. So why use the term hacker? A hacker suggests that the plan or strategy will get accomplished efficiently and quickly. Growth hackers do not need permission from anyone to get things completed.

Another misconception is that growth hackers are the solution to your business problems. A single growth hacker is not the ultimate solution for your business. The reason is because it is not one person’s job to do the hacking. In reality it takes the entire team, including marketing, product, and sales departments in order to grow. There could be a designated team member for hacking but everyone is involved in the plan for growth, and any problems that are encountered along the way. It is a team effort.

An additional misconception is that growth hacking is only for startups. While growth hacking can be used for startups businesses, also established companies can utilize hackers. Perhaps an established business has lost their way in the industry and needs assistance for making a come back. Growth hacking can be a great solution. However, it is more common for startup businesses to incorporate growth hackers into their plan.

Growth Hacking Process

Unfortunately, growth hacking does not have a cookie-cutter process that every business can follow. Strategies and resources that work for some, may not work for others. It is a trial and error process for everyone. Additionally, when an original plan or idea has lost momentum, it is the responsibility of growth hackers to update their strategy in order to see further growth.

Good news! There are guidelines that growth hackers can follow in order to see company growth. David McClure, a startup marketer, created a 5-step process for business’s to follow in order for success. He calls this process the Pirate Metrics: ARRR. McClure’s Pirate Metrics are merely suggestions. Your team will need to decide what will work best for your company.

  • Acquisition: Getting potential users to the site
  • Activation: Users are satisfied with their first visit and experience
  • Retention: Users return and visit many times
  • Referral: Active users are satisfied with the product and refer to others
  • Revenue: Monetizing active users

Another great resource is Quick Sprout’s checklist for growth hackers. If you want to get into the mind of a growth hacker’s process, follow the guidelines below.

  1. Define actionable goals
  2. Implement analytics to track your goals
  3. Leverage your existing strengths
  4. Execute the experiment
  5. Optimize the experiment
  6. Repeat

Has your company used growth hackers? We want to hear your experience!

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