As I've continued to refine my approach to growth hacking through the optimisation of techniques during implementation I've become increasingly certain that for those endeavours to be successful growth hacking and the engineering of products cannot be mutually exclusive. There must at worst be a synergy between the two parties in order to collectively achieve success. Ideally though the product manager is also a growth hacker and is involved in both elements concurrently ensuring the hack is not carelessly appended onto a final product. From personal experience, and from those instances I have studied, the likelihood of that succeeding is less than zero - the insincerity of the attempt never gains traction. Growth hacking must be as essential to the product as oxygen is for survival; without it the product isn't optimised for consumption.
Recently I've been fortunate to have been afforded time to apply those principles to almost everything I have read or seen. My mind-set implores me to relentlessly pursue opportunity for suggestion and development of services which I feel could benefit from the knowledge I have cultivated regardless of my requirement to do so.
Andrew Chen probably defines the growth hacker mind-set better than anyone: A tech startup doesn't want awareness. What it wants is users, customers and clients. A growth hackers job is to cultivate that and stitch it all together, through any possible means enabling the opportunity for exponential growth. A growth hacker must then foster the incubatory conditions necessary for the spreading of the product or idea.
There are of course concepts that I allude which are universally inherent within any Internet economy startup. Though I surmise the innovation intrinsic in the way these are implemented ultimately determines the success derived. For me innovation requires a platform for development and I utilise historical precedent as a directional starting point. It is important to recognise that these are only a node to begin from and repackaging the same idea is never the intention.
1. Spot Trends and Paths to Success
What factors are more likely to ensure users of your product/service turn into successful and active ones? Spot the elements of your site which are most like to encourage the behaviours you seek to cultivate, like a funnel which actions lead to the most desirable outcomes. Does sharing on social networks produce a makeable increase in traffic and sign up? If so then optimise for that and make it as easy as possible for the behaviour you desire to occur. It's often easy to begin small with these tests then scale up as their success becomes more apparent watching and tweaking as the hack acquires traction. It's of course easy to speculate on the possible avenues which will produce increased traffic and sign up but spotting these opportunities and instances is the most important element of the process. The abundance of data can often blind us, it is important to develop the ability to distil this information and extract the elements which are pertinent and producing palpable results. It is equally as important to not be precious with the information you extract. If it transpires what you think is the reason for growth isn't producing any results the answer is you've probably missed something. Not being too proud to admit your mistakes, to go back reassess and consult the data, learn from it and move forward with a new solution should never be discounted as a skill; it is the essential difference between an average growth hacker and a great one.
2. Pre-product/market fit
The most important element for achieving growth isn't the growth hacking method implemented. That might sounds counter-intuitive as a central component of a post about growth hacking but bear with me. The most important aspect is achieving product market fit. Without this you are figuratively spitting into the wind. Nothing you can do will remedy the fact your product isn't what the customer wants it to be. If you do succeed in achieving product market fit growth will follow as a result and then growth hacking can be utilised as a means to optimise that curve. The question then isn't how or which growth hack to use, rather the converse question of how you achieve product market fit is the most pertinent.
Prior to achieving product market fit a product is often in a state of purgatory whereby usage isn't at a level where growth hacking would be useful. At this stage hard marketing techniques are required. You need to talk to people about your product and let them know it exists getting the user base to a scale which provides useful feedback at which point you can use quantitatively driven growth marketing techniques. If you reach this point but your platform still isn't retaining users you must go back to the drawing board immediately. Sure, the vanity metrics of hits and sign ups might look good but you must be smarter and more pragmatic about these almost worthless statistics. To progress past the point of growing an active userbase through signup you must maximise retention to enable growth. 1,000 signups with 2% retention only adds twenty users. The key then is retention and optimisation of the growth hacking methods which maximise this.
3. Incremental Change Leads to an Optimised Product
If you're in the early stage of developing a product or service, struggling for traction, lacking users and usage why stick with something that isn't producing results? Don't be scared to change things, and keep changing them, as a conscious effort for progress. If you believe the ability to share on Facebook directly from your product would add users just do it. If you think your landing page isn't producing the conversion rate it should change it. The goal is to move quickly and to fail forward. Through these failures you can quickly figure out what works, what doesn't work and what you can do to move forward in order to cultivate to a user base which allows measurable results which can be optimised later. These early, cheap and easy iterations of the product are what lead to the growth hacking opportunities once the user base has reached the required level. Each small incremental change is a step forward towards a more holistic gain.
The job of the growth hacker isn't as simple as only achieving growth. For me the responsibility and remit of the growth hacker is to embed virality at the very core of the product. The ultimate goal would be that the product doesn't exist without the viral feature and the virality is bespoke to the product. The product and its virality are one and accentuate one another enabling exponential growth. This of course is neither practicable nor reasonable but it hints at the importance and the level which it should be entwined within the fabric of the product or service. Virality is the most difficult thing to achieve for a product but it is the Holy Grail for any marketer. If Virality is achieved growth will surpass even the wildest estimates. This is what every growth hacker should aim for in the knowledge that if you just miss there are still huge growth opportunities to be had.
5. Developing your Growth Hack
What is your growth hack and how will it work? As intimated previously I have recently taken the chance to apply those principles to almost everything I have read or seen. This self-generation of opportunity has led me to have conversations with numerous start-ups and established businesses about growth-hacks, product ideas or viral features they could implement or consider. It was also what differentiated my competition entry from the thousands of others who entered the skyscanner CEO for the day. My approach generally begins with the same process; to delve into the inner workings of the service/product understanding the mind-set of the user and the 'rewards' encouraging specific behaviours. From here I seek to develop bespoke, directionally disruptive approaches through innovation. Any growth hack must be conceived with the end user in mind and as such I have in the past written user manuals for the product I'm producing prior to it ever existing. This allows me to boil down the minutiae details and envision how every element will be seen or used. For me this is where the best growth hacks are birthed.
Ultimately you have two options when it comes to the acquirements of new users: pay for them or you can hack your way to growth. For the latter your economic outlay instead involves an upfront investment to obtain the talent capable of designing and implementing the growth hacking directives but once in place you can sit back and reap its rewards with only small tweaks for optimisation.
Ready to embrace the growth hacking mindset? It would be mindful to explore the following hacks and record the results:
- Increase site speed
- Use a minimalist home page
- Form strategic partnerships with the right platforms
- Increase your viral coefficient