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Ten Growth Marketing Hacks

By Academy Xi

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Growth Hacking (or growth marketing) is the process of rapidly experimenting, iterating, and improving a business’ marketing strategy to optimise growth. The fascinating thing about Growth Marketing is how varied it is; there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Many startup founders and marketers are faced with the mind-boggling challenge of growing a sales funnel without spending bucket loads on expensive marketing activities. But without the right hacks and skills, the solution is mere guesswork, simply crossing your fingers in hope of a good return on investment.

If you don’t have extra cash to splash on extensive marketing activities, growth hacking can help you unlock sustainable and scalable growth from the ground, up.

With emerging technologies and exponential disruption, let’s explore some examples of valuable, easy-to-implement growth hacks that you can utilise in your business:

Growth Hack 1: Dropbox Reciprocates Value

The key to a business’ success is to always be giving.” — Jordan Harbinger

We all know that one friend — the who borrows money from you or asks for a favour without offering anything in return. A brand’s relationship with their customer should be similar to human relationships, based on the same behaviour of ‘give and take’.

One of the most famous examples of clever growth marketing was Dropbox who added a ‘Get Free Space’ button on the front page of their service. If someone referred a friend, both them and their friend received 500MB free space. Sign-ups increased by 60%. Now that’s win-win.

Growth Hack 2: Hotmail Leverages the Power of Referrals

Referral marketing is an effective, less expensive tactic that results in a strong source of lifetime-value (LTV). Research reveals that 71% of marketers agree that referral marketing costs less than traditional customer acquisition, that prioritises the acquisition of new customers.

Back in the 90s, Hotmail massively expanded email use with an intriguing offer at the bottom of their emails: ‘PS: I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail.’ Their strategy was simple and still effective — and at the time generated over 3,000 new clients per day.

The practice of ‘referral marketing’ is a popular hack, and a key part of the ‘pirate funnel’ of growth marketing:

Referral Tip: Use some attention-grabbing copy or images to capture people’s interest.

Growth Hack 3: Airbnb relied on other sites

It might sound counterproductive, but leveraging high-traffic websites can be an effective way to get in front of your customers. An example of a company that has made this work is Airbnb, as they dramatically increased their user base by exploiting an existing high-traffic channel.

Through a smart email integration, Airbnb encouraged Craiglist users in America (similar to Gumtree in Australia) to replicate room ads on Airbnb. This integration worked in a number of ways — directing traffic from Craigslist to Airbnb, and automatically posting any Airbnb ads on Craigslist, effectively doubling Airbnb’s outreach.

To identify existing high-traffic customer channels, step into the shoes of your users:

  • “Where do my users hang out on social media or online?”
  • “How are my users currently solving this pain point?”

Growth Hack 4: Pinterest Generates Buzz

Another method of rapidly expanding your user base is through creating a sense of exclusivity. With one of the top human motivators being exclusivity and fear of missing out (#FOMO), crafting exceptional, seamless user experiences go hand-in-hand to form the ultimate growth hack.

Pinterest pinned their way to the top by following Facebook’s lead and starting out as invite-only. After they built a long waiting list, Pinterest generated a whirlwind buzz within the community. To keep the flames of their initial hype burning, Pinterest cemented their position in the market through the introduction of limitless scrolling.

By including this small feature, the impact on the user experience was phenomenal. Based on the insights captured, Pinterest encouraged longer uninterrupted interactions, and significantly increased the enjoyability of their app.

Growth Hack 5: Slack unlocks ‘Job to be Done’

As part of the Human-Centred Design philosophy within User Experience (UX) Design or Service Design, each product or service has a ‘job’ (need or purpose) that a customer has ‘hired’ it to fulfill.

One remarkable company that has hacked their way to success is Slack, a messaging and task management software. Slack defined their product based on a pain-point. Customers who are disillusioned with time-consuming internal email communication. By leveraging existing communities, the team invited 8,000 people to try the software, without charging them if they didn’t convert afterward. Little did Slack anticipate that their success would snowball into over 8 million daily active users today.

Once you understand what jobs people are striving to do, it becomes easier to predict what products or services they will take up and which will fall flat.” ― Stephen Wunker, author of Jobs to Be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centred Innovation


Growth Hack 6: LinkedIn prioritises SEO

With 93% of all online interactions starting with a search engine, it is obvious that your site’s SEO shouldn’t be neglected. While meta descriptions and canonical URLs can be difficult to grasp, tackling your site’s SEO offers invaluable benefits.

LinkedIn is an example of a company at the forefront of site optimisation. Through a simple change; allowing users to create public profiles that show up organically in search engine results, LinkedIn completely changes the rules of the SEO game.

Before our extensive social media presence, valid search results, when searching a name, company or title, were few and far between. LinkedIn, therefore, had some valuable search-result real-estate, and as a result, were able to create a multi-million dollar viral loop in the business.

Growth Hack 7: YouTube makes it easy to share

From the earliest of days, word-of-mouth is naturally one most powerful marketing tools available. Customer awareness is one of the most difficult stages of the marketing funnel to crack, and any effort to increase awareness puts companies in good stead.

The key to YouTube’s success was to focus on making it easy to share videos and create a community. YouTube presents you with an embed code to easily share on your social media channels, website, or blog. Video suggestions that show up encourage further engagement, making a user more likely to share another video suggested to them.

Sharing Tip: Employ tools like Share Link Generator to encourage people to share your content and expand your outreach. As a personal recommendation carries more social proof than any paid marketing effort, build your brand’s reputation from the bottom up by people that we trust most — our peers.  

Growth Hack 8: Twitter optimises their signup process

For most products, only less than 16% of the market can be classified as an early adopter or innovator and it can be challenging for businesses to get their product in front of the majority.

Twitter experienced the same situation and was able to solve this problem. When Twitter first launched there was a lot of interest and people signed up and shared Twitter across social networks by the thousands. But Twitter hit a roadblock when new users starting dropping off and disengaging.

By thoroughly exploring the key factors that led to the continued use of Twitter, they identified that people were more likely to stick around if they had the following conditions:

  • They followed at least 5-10 people
  • They had selected interests
  • They had created a network

Twitter shaped their sign-up process around this, encouraging users to invest in their account. This dramatically increased engagement.

Growth Hack 9: Tinder thinks outside-the-building

While stepping outside of the building isn’t a growth hack per se, a number of companies have capitalised on growth opportunities with a physical presence.

Tinder swiped their way to success by using offline, in-person strategies to grow user interaction with their app. By identifying their target market, Tinder uncovered that universities were a great place to reach their ideal persona. Through a number of free organised university parties, Tinder significantly increased their customer awareness and acquisition, with only one requirement to attend — that you created an account.

Growth Hack 10: Whatsapp built a great product

The heart of any successful growth hack is to simply build a great product. It may sound cliche but having a great product is a straightforward way of securing user acquisition.

Whatsapp employed clever strategies to enable them to gain 400 million users without spending a dollar on user acquisition. Understanding and delivering key value is the momentum they needed to lead Facebook into buying them out in 2014 for $22 billion. How did they do it? Put simply, they had a great product.

Whatsapp did their research, understood their users’ needs, and continued to iterate until they perfected their product. Nothing else was needed, and they spread like wildfire now with over 450 million daily users in 2018.

Creating a great product tip:  Uncovering what your users want may seem like a monstrous task. Research methods such as developing user personas will uncover who you’re solving for and what their functional, social, emotional, and personal drivers are.

From the outside, it’s hard to tease out what these different examples have in common. The main takeaway should be that no one principle, technique, or offer will suit every business type. The key to growth hacking within any business is to complete thorough testing to determine the approach that will work, and then creatively tackle challenges based on your insights.

Learn how to grow businesses with our range of  Digital Marketing courses.