Growth Hacking’s Historical Big-Bang
I have known this story for 10 years, but only when the blogosphere started yapping about it, did it hit me: This is the first online Growth-Hacking incident, and it’s freaking awesome.
Back in 1996, a couple of employees in a Technology firm developed a small web-based emailing platform, to keep the bosses from monitoring their private messages.
When they realized the potential, they named it “HoTMaiL” (yes, CAPS included, and no – it’s not a typo from HoTMaLe), quit their full-time jobs and went out seeking investors.
At that point, their growth strategy was planned to be a standard 90’s way of marketing; tens of thousands of dollars worth of billboards and radio ads.
If that strategy would have been fulfilled, it’s safe to say that the HoTMaiL founders were to fail and return to their previous jobs.
But their seed investor, Tim Draper, had a creative thought as last resort: each email had to be signed with “PS – I Love You! Get A Free Hotmail Account.”
What happened then, you ask?
Legend has it that 3,000 new users signed up per day, 100,000 users in less than the first month, 1 million users in half a year, 12 millions users in a year and a half – and half a billion dollars when sold to Microsoft.
And these are the friggin’ 90’s we’re talking about, the word “viral” was only used when talking about bizarre diseases.
Fun Fact: One of the Co-Founders was Indian-American. Upon sending 1 e-mail with the “PS I Love You” signature to a homeland friend, Hotmail saw 300,000 new sign ups from India.
No Wrongs, No Rights, Just GROWTH
It angers me to read random blog posts determining that Growth Hacking equals Online marketing, or the other way around – that it’s the exact opposite in terms of pulling rather than pushing.
It is based on nothing, because both Growth Hacking and Online Marketing are such generic terms, that they MUST meet at some point.
If your’e hired to help a product GROW, you can either do it by aligning its development to the targeted audience before the public launch, and you can just as well take its online marketing to a whole new concept.
If your compass points at “GROW”, and you take advantage of every piece of experience and creativeness in you only to turn the product’s potential to actual revenue – then you are officially a Growth Hacker.
Generic Growth Hacking Levels
If budget allows, the wise product owner will hire a Growth Hacker prior to the actual development, not to mention the official launch.
From code to the visuals, from colors to the name – all the definitions of the product should be implemented with Growth in thought.
Even if you hired a Growth manager 6 months after the official launch, he will still probably want to make fundamental adjustments to the product basics, so you must be open minded.
Ideally, the Growth Hacker should have basic knowledge in design, coding, optimizing and analyzing data, to name a few qualities.
Once initiated, the Growth hacking process should consist of the following steps. These steps are NOT exclusive or mandatory, but include them in your overall plan to optimize Growth success.
Step #1: Breaking down the primary goal (Growth) to realistic yet ambitious mini-goals.
Bad example: Penetrating a new audience.
Good example: Reaching 10,000 new monthly visitors to your “Pricing” page.
Step #2: Measure numbers from day 1.
Setting up Google Analytics or one of its alternatives (KISSmetrics, MixPanel, Woopra) to measure daily traffic behavior, but far more important – setting up advanced Goals and Segments.
Besides observing daily visitors, we recommend that you start analyzing data about Referring URLS, your blog’s Time-On-Page, Mobile usage in your site, Trackbacks and Sign-Up Events.
Step #3: Hack the Online sales funnel.
Use creative and traditional strategies to leverage your user Acquisition, such as White-Hat SEO and PPC.
Use CRO (conversion rate optimization) to move the user to the next step in the funnel – Activation.
Use Customer service, Social media and Content marketing to increase Retention and Referral.
Choosing many providers and employees to work on one sales funnel will cause confusion among the user, so try and keep as many services as possible under the same roof.
Step #4: Stop what isn’t working, Leverage what works and try 1 more crazy trick.
If it’s been 3 months and no one gives a crap about your content marketing efforts, then stop it at once.
But if the unique visits to your “Pricing” page have increased by 180% since you started your Growth efforts, then point most of your guns to that page – but DON’T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET.
If this fails, you fail as a professional, so try 1 more creative way while focusing on the “Pricing” page, even if your boss doesn’t allow you to.
Step #5: Experiment.
When we perform A/B/C Testing, every new entry to our landing page feels like a CELEBRATION; we can never guess how that user will behave and affect our entire statistics.
After setting a mini-goal (step #1) for the purpose of the experiment, take a wild guess – where do you think you’ll reach in the best & worst case scenarios?
You can even play a guessing game around the office, we promise that it’s fun and educating.
In our example, you should re-design the “Pricing” page in 2-3 variations which differ in design and call-to-action, and let the data pile up.
Run a super-targeted PPC or social campaign to that page and analyze the results.
The winning variation’s pattern should be used on ALL major pages, and don’t forget – the fun is just starting.
Fun Fact: “Growth Hacking” term was coined exactly 3 years ago, by a professional soon-to-be Growth Hacker which eventually was put in charge of Dropbox’s unquestionable success.
Creative User Acquisition
The first step of hacking a sales funnel is not the hardest, but the most sophisticated one.
When you have a new brand, website or product, it’s most likely that you are entering a super-competitive niche.
While old-school & automated SEO is the most easy and cheap approach, it’s dangerous and should not be used unless you plan to get penalized by Google and go bankrupt before the year ends.
So what SHOULD you do?
Here are 5 of the most proven methods.
Creative method #1: Build a world of content inside your website.
It shouldn’t be a regular blog, it should be an AMAZING blog.
When you find a minute, guest-blog for parallel websites which have stronger metrics than you (social communities, domain age, authority).
Creative method #2: ALWAYS have a PPC campaign running in the background, even if it’s a tiny budget.
Put some budget on Google, Facebook, Outbrain, StumbleUpon and similar platforms. Give it a month and learn which draws the best conversion rate for your specific product/landing page.
Creative method #3: Write a free E-Book and spread it around.
A life-changing E-Book will spread on social media like fire, while stationing you as an influencer. And who doesn’t want to try the influencer’s product?
Creative method #4: Produce an Infographic that brings new data to the world.
Make it interesting and outstanding as much as you can, then spread it around Infographic directories and social media channels.
Just see the Infographic in the next paragraph – isn’t it educating AND fun?
Creative method #5: Participate in a Webinar. ‘Nuff said – one of the best ways to show them what you got and become an influencer.
More methods: Listing your product to Coupon sites, co-operating with bloggers, throwing competitions and giveaways, using Affiliate marketers.
Creative User Activation
So you’ve found a channel that brings never-ending amounts of traffic to your “Pricing page”.
Now, you have 3-5 seconds to convince them before they bounce away like a bunch of worn out basketballs.
Rule of thumb #1: Landing pages are everything, and no one has produced a more brilliant Infographic on this than CrazyEgg’s Founder, Neil Patel.
Rule of thumb #2: Social Proofs are the next best thing.
If I have reached your “Pricing” page through a social mention of a friend, then 90% of your work is done, and you didn’t spend a dime.
A reliable testimonial on your homepage will also touch my heart in various ways, so you better give away free samples of your product to famous brand’s executives to recommend.
Rule of thumb #3: Gamificate every corner of your product.
One of our most beloved clients, Scringo, is a platform that lets App developers easily add social features to their Apps – Gamification is one of them.
By rewarding App users for their progress and usage, they have managed to increase App retention in 200% in average for developers.
Is this a number you can ignore?
Gamification has a wide range of possibilities for you to choose from: Progress bars, quizzes, titles, badges, rewards, VIP rankings, high-scores and so on.
This is REALLY where your imagination can go insanely wild.
Rule of thumb #4: Irresistible pricing plans.
PowToon, another client of ours, attracts enormous amounts of users by allowing Free accounts.
Notice what they are doing right:
A. Scratching down current prices from previous prices (19$, WAS 57$).
B. Huge discounts on YEARLY subscriptions.
C. FREE subscription is very clear and available.
Call it Modern Online Marketing, call it a temporary fad, or call me if it’s midnight and my writing style has got you aroused (please be a girl, please be a girl…)
But once the traditional resources for marketing fail, Growth Hacking will be the ONLY way to turn your product’s potential into dollars.
Just as the time it took for “SEO” to become a famous and luxurious phrase (which soon became associated with spam), that’s how we predict it will go for Growth Hacking.
One thing’s for sure – we expect very creative marketing tactics in the future, and we know it’s just the beginning of a new and interesting age.
Author: Yoav Vilner