It’s now been seven years since Sean Ellis coined the term “growth hacker”. Since then, growth hacking strategies have propelled many startups to become important players in their industries. As the initial hype around growth hacking is starting to wane, it’s beginning to look as though growth hacking is a thing that every business should try out, regardless of how new or established they may be.
For manufacturers and distributors, the benefits from adopting a growth hacking mindset couldn’t be more timely. We’re almost a full decade after the recession, and the sell-at-all-costs approach that had kept many companies afloat during the crisis is no longer relevant today. As one analysis published in the Harvard Business Review argues, every company needs a growth manager to help it thrive in today’s business environment.
To be clear, growth hacking goes beyond testing and tweaking marketing tactics to net more customers. It’s combining product development and marketing in ways that contribute to faster business growth. In other words, growth hacking is all about finding shortcuts to achieve extremely high rates of growth for a product.
As you can imagine, every business needs to develop its own unique set of growth hacking strategies, but successful growth hacking programs cover the following seven key steps:
#1) Prioritize customer and product knowledge over traditional marketing skills
According to growth hacking marketing expert Ryan Holiday, the reason why successful startups achieve phenomenal user growth rates is that they managed to really get to know their target customers and are intimately familiar with the product they’re selling. Oftentimes, in the absence of resources to spend on traditional marketing expertise, that’s all that startups ever rely on.
Does your product truly solve a pain point? How can you measure your target customers’ level of interest and need?
#2) Break down product development-marketing silos
In most manufacturing and distribution firms, product development and marketing teams are typically separated from each other. This can hinder growth since there’s little collaboration going on between engineers (i.e., the people who design the product) and marketing specialists (i.e., the people who talk to users of the product).
Growth hacking means rapidly testing what works and what doesn’t, so these two teams need to be on the same page together.
#3) Embrace experimentation and failure
Speaking of rapid testing, the main idea behind growth hacking is careful experimentation of ideas and, more often than not, these ideas tend to inevitably fail. But that’s okay, since this process is eventually going to yield something that works.
But with so many ideas to test and so little resources to run these experiments, prioritizing which hypotheses to work on can help you save time and money. To identify which ideas to test first, Sean Ellis developed the ICE scoring framework which involves answering three key questions:
- What will the impact be if this works?
- How confident am I that this will work?
- How much time/money/effort is required?
#4) Find one thing that works, stick with it, then move on
One thing that overextended startups do to avoid becoming even more overwhelmed is to specialize on a single growth tactic or platform at a time. Once you find that growth hacking sweet spot through testing, stick with it and find another one once the data tells you so.
This also implies that you have to avoid channels and strategies that you cannot measure, since they won’t allow you to scale the learning you gain from your experiments.
#5) Grow by small increments, not huge leaps
We often label great products as innovations when, in fact, quite a number of the things we consider as “innovations” are actually just iterations of a product’s earlier version. While the term “growth hacking” conjures up images of world-changing ideas, a lot of the things you’ll do in growth hacking will involve making tiny changes to an existing process.
So, don’t swing for the fences when developing and testing your ideas. If you’re looking to introduce a new feature or test a new approach, choose a small subset of your customer base as your sample and run your A/B split test accordingly.
#6) Streamline the customer acquisition funnel
It’s still a little surprising that nearly 7 out of every 10 B2B marketers have yet to identify their funnel. For these organizations, it can be quite challenging to measure and (eventually) optimize the customer acquisition process.
Consider applying the AARRR startup metrics model (which stands for acquisition, activation, retention, referral, revenue) to help you clearly identify your funnel and run tests to improve each step of the process. Read more about our customer acquisition process.
#7) Know where to look and listen for growth
Opportunities for growth can pop out anywhere, so it can take quite a lot of testing to pinpoint where to focus your efforts next. This means that you need a decent level of familiarity about when, where, and why your customers communicate–typically, this happens on social media–even for B2B–so it’s a good place to start. Here’s why social media deserves attention.
Of course, as always, it’s going to be data that’s going to help you decide. So, be sure that you take a look at both quantitative and qualitative data to paint a more complete picture of the growth landscape.
Adopting an unyielding focus on rapid growth isn’t only for startup founders–it’s for every business that wants to thrive. Growth hacking strategies work for companies on so many levels. It’s about doing more with less and, more importantly, it’s shifting the focus toward the customer.