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How to Growth Hack

Posted on 1.19.2014

:: By Edward Lakatis, Zapporoo ::


You have a great concept for a product or service, but you don’t have the money to get your product to market. What do you do to bridge the gap until your product is selling and your company has cash flow? Enter growth hacking. Let’s look at what growth hacking is, how it can help you and some of the tools available for growth hacking your business.

According to Wikipedia, growth hacking is a phrase attributed originally to Sean Ellis, a counselor to start-ups and later to entrepreneur Andrew Chen. Growth hacking, according to the phrase’s creators, is marketing that harnesses free or low-cost tools to gain mindshare from potential customers.

This might appear to be small potatoes, but don’t tell that to LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter or any other widely successful start-ups who used growth hacking to move from a start-up company starving for cash to a company turning away billions in investor dollars.

What sets growth hacking apart from traditional marketing is much more than budgeting. A growth hacking strategy is actually the inverse of traditional marketing. In the old days, a company developed a product, then took the product to market through well-defined channels. With growth hacking, marketing becomes part of the product design process instead of being invited to the conversation after the product development is finished.  

The process of product development continues until future buyers notice the product and begin recommending it to their circle of friends and family. This has been called the “tipping point” or the “product market fit”.

In the growth hacking stratosphere, products are refined by the very people or companies who will ultimately consume the product. As an analogy, submarine sandwiches were originally sold on a menu that listed the ingredients for each available sandwich. With the advent of Subway, the buyer is now able to define the exact construction of their sandwich, confined only by the ingredients available behind the counter.

Although it may appear that growth hacking depends on a lot of luck, that shouldn’t be the case. Every step and next step should be tested and tested some more. Losers should be dismissed, but the question that any growth hacking company should chronically be asking itself is “what makes the product more interesting or helpful to our target customer?” By chronically answering this question, growth hackers can keep the customers they have while seeking out new ones.

So, assuming you understand the fundamentals of growth hacking and the importance of the “product market fit,” coupled with data-driven decision-making, what tools are the best for supporting growth hacking?

The first growth hacking tool you should consider is organic search. By using proper search engine optimization in your website design, creating compelling content and focusing on the search phrases that your customers are most likely to use to find your solution, you can greatly improve the odds of capturing that prospect. When using this hack, you should be constantly monitoring your search engine analytics to see which phrases are producing the most visitors and adding similar phrases to your SEO mix. I would recommend either Moz or Majestic SEO for this task.

Another growth hack that dovetails nicely with compelling content is blogging and guest blogging. Your website blog is the best place for consistent and new content, but you can also improve the search engine ranking of your website by providing content to other blogs. Although you don’t want to go overboard, you can embed links into your content that return the reader back to your website (if the publication allows this).

Since we have mentioned website visitors, another key growth hack is the website itself. You should be running multiple landing page sites and closely monitoring which ones are turning visitors into buyers. If visitors are “bouncing” off your website, the website messaging is the problem, but you’ll only know what works if you keep adding new landing sites to your growth hack strategy. In my mind, there is no better tool than HubSpot for creating landing pages and reporting on inbound marketing.

You also want to make sure that you give content readers and website visitors easy ways to share your information. Always add social buttons and other ways that your content can be shared to extend your reach.  The best tool on the market for sharing is the Addthis tool bar.

Jon Yongfook, successful growth hacker for several companies, also suggests using social media.  Although there are multiple social media sites available to you, growth hacking requires you to ask where your customers are and where they are not.  Interestingly, many of the biggest social media sites also use growth hacking to grow.  For this, you can take your pick of Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google+, Instagram or Pinterest.

Regardless of what channels you use, growth hacking can be a very effective strategy for growing your business. The key will be finding customers, asking for and listening to their feedback, refining your product and pitch and allowing data to drive your hacking decisions over time.


Edward Lakatis is CEO of Zapporoo, an app design company. He is passionate about all things related to app design and concepts. He loves to help entrepreneurs bring their apps to market.

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