What is the Deal with Growth Hacker Marketing

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An idea sparked when they realized a giant tech convention was coming to town, selling out almost every hotel room in the city. 

So, they threw money down on a couple of air mattresses and rented out their apartment to make some extra cash. 

Fast forward to 2009, their small idea blossomed into Airbnb. They wanted to expand to New York. However, there was a problem. 

They realized many listings had under-par images of their spots and therefore didn’t showcase their true potential.

They hopped on a flight, rented a $5,000 camera, and took professional photos of those listings for free. By doing so, they doubled their weekly revenue in New York overnight. 

This went down as their most infamous growth hacking strategy, which, believe it or not, actually comes from Craigslist. They identified that most of their customers who didn’t want to stay in hotels hung out on Craigslist, so they automatically cross-posted all their listings on the platform. 

Today over 2 million people stay at an Airbnb every night, and it has become one of the leading companies in the accommodation industry. All from some creative thinking and bold moves. 

So the question is, how can you use growth hacker marketing like Airbnb did to skyrocket your business? Let’s dig right in. 

What is Growth Hacker Marketing?

Growth hacking is the ability to grow a business at a rapid pace without a big budget. 

The term ‘growth hacking’ was coined by Sean Ellis, the founder, and CEO of GrowthHackers, in 2010. He has helped startups like Dropbox, Eventbrite, Uproar (and many others) achieve accelerated growth on a tight budget as a consultant.

How To Use Growth Hacker Marketing To Grow Your Business

Growth hacking may seem like a complex tactic, but in reality, it’s as simple as:

  • Creating a product or solving a problem for a specific group of people
  • Nailing down a lead acquisition strategy, and 
  • Leveraging referrals to boost growth 

Let’s take a closer look at all 7 steps to leverage growth hacking for your business. 

1. Know your audience and create a product they want

First and foremost, you must know your audience like the back of your hand. When you understand their lifestyle, problems, needs, and desires, it’ll be smooth sailing to create an offering that fits their interests. 

But let’s back up for a moment. If you aren’t crystal clear about your audience, start by creating a buyer persona. Find out what your customers’ pain points are and the specific challenges they go through daily.

You can do this by:

  • Conducting surveys
  • Hosting interviews 
  • Sending out questionnaires 
  • Looking at your social media analytics
  • Asking your sales team
  • Checking Amazon reviews, Reddit, Quora, or Facebook groups

After this research, you’ll want to identify a demographic and psychographic profile of your ideal customer, including their:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Hobbies
  • Job
  • Income
  • Even their favorite social platforms

The more detailed you get, the easier it is to imagine them interacting with your business. When you understand them on a profound level, you can create the most valuable offers for them.

2. Push beyond the early adopters

Aside from understanding the ins and outs of your customers’ pain points, you should aim to know their buying tendencies. When we refer to buying tendencies, the law of diffusion of innovation comes to mind. 

Simply put, this law states that each one of us is on a buying spectrum from far left (innovators) to far-right (laggards). The closer to the left a person is, the more they are willing to risk, the more open they are to new ideas, and the more excited they’d be to try your offer.

The Law of Diffusion of Innovations
The Law of Diffusion of Innovations

For mass acceptance of your business proposal, you need to push beyond the innovators and early adopters to reach the majority. You need to push past the 15%. Otherwise, you risk your product or service dying out. 

For this, we turn to “social proof” or referrals. The majority of people need to know that your product or service works before investing in it. Other ideas from Geoffery Moore’s book, Crossing the Chasm, discuss other ideas on how businesses can go beyond the threshold of 15%. 

Determine the audience that’s most likely to benefit from your business and focus on them to start. 

As you grow, continue to ask those customers what their experience has been like with your brand and how it can be improved so you can keep leveling up your offers. 

3. Create a lead acquisition strategy

Narrow down on a strategy that gets you customers and trim off whatever doesn’t work during the process. By doubling down on one strategy that works incredibly well, the chances of gaining more customers quickly are higher. 

Test out some of the following lead acquisition strategies to see what fits best for your business:

Content marketing is creating valuable content and distributing it on multiple platforms to attract your target audience. Content marketing is also a more cost-effective way to advertise your business compared to traditional efforts. 

Here are some content marketing methods you might try:

  • Sharing valuable content through blog posts
  • Guest blogging on other reputable sites in your niche
  • Conducting informational webinars
  • Repurposing blog posts as social posts
  • Writing ebooks and white papers
  • Influencer marketing

Product marketing refers to the development and launch of a product and the marketing involved in making it more attractive to an audience. Let’s take a closer look at some examples:

  • Offering incentives that benefit both the referrer and the new user
  • Leveraging the power of FOMO, or fear of missing out, by creating invite-only signups 
  • Taking advantage of affiliate marketing

Advertising is a way in which companies gain traction for their product or service. Today there are numerous mediums you might choose to advertise, including:

  • Social media advertising
  • Pay per click (PPC) advertising 
  • Podcasting
  • Email Marketing
  • Outdoor (or traditional advertising)
  • Guerilla advertising

When testing out different types of lead acquisition, think about your budget, where the majority of your audience is, and how they consume information. These elements help you develop an effective strategy. 

4. Use brand activation to improve conversions 

As our society moves to a more conscious way of interacting with brands, creating personal connections between businesses and consumers is no longer optional. 

Consumers that feel a personal connection are more likely to stay loyal and tell others about your products/services. 

With that said, brand activation is the creation of deliberate interactions to spread brand awareness and strengthen relationships with a consumer. 

Brand activation is an essential step in developing your growth hacker marketing strategy, as it is through this, you’ll create a buzz and organically gain referrals (and customer trust).

Let’s look at some examples. 

Experiential Marketing immerses customers into your products or services by offering them an experience. It is also one of the most popular types of brand activation. 

In 2015, Carlsberg’s ‘probably the best poster in the world’ campaign sparked curiosity by handing out free samples.

Carlsberg 'probably the best poster in the world' campaign in 2015.
Carlsberg ‘probably the best poster in the world’ campaign in 2015. (Source)

Not only did they create an in-person buzz through this campaign, but consumers automatically felt compelled to post their ‘free beer’ photos on social media, thus creating even more momentum. 

Sampling Campaigns allow customers to try out your product/service (like the beer example) and get them to talk more about it. M&M’s ‘flavor rooms’ come to mind for sampling campaigns. 

As M&M was selecting a new flavor, they turned to their customers by creating a flavor room pop-up in New York. The rooms were not only a sampling experience, but a five-sensory exposure to smells, sights, and feels.

M&M's interactive crunchy chocolate pop-up in 2018
M&M’s interactive crunchy chocolate pop-up in 2018. (Source)

In-store brand activation is similar to experiential marketing, but customers get to interact with your products within your stores. A great example of this is the Monty the Penguin Christmas Campaign in 2014 by John Lewis.

The common theme amongst all these ideas is that it creates an immersive experience with the customer so that they can truly feel what it’s like to be a part of your brand. 

Ready to hack into your industry with unique campaigns?

5. Ensure customer retention and loyalty

Often new businesses focus too much on gaining more customers and not enough on retaining those they already have. However, keeping customers is the fastest way to attain success. 

Why? Well, simply because it costs five times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. To spit some numbers at you, increasing your retention rate by only 5% boosts your profits by 25-95%!

By focusing on the people who already love what you offer, you deepen relationships with them and organically present opportunities for them to brag about you to their friends and family. 

Chick-fil-A is an outstanding example of this. Because their customer retention strategies are so good, they can afford to pay their employees double the industry average and continue giving 10% to charities. 

Allocate a certain amount of your marketing budget towards retaining current customers and keep it separate from your lead acquisition budget. 

To keep the energy high among your current customers, use your marketing budget on tactics like email marketing, targeted social ads, or even special discount incentives for being loyal to your company. 

Facebook taps into that “FOMO” mentality as they send emails after you’ve been logged off the platform saying, “Hey! You’ve been gone a while, here’s what you’ve missed” And, lo and behold, you’re drawn to click on what you’ve missed by logging back into Facebook. 

The bottom line: treat your current customers like royalty, and they’ll do the same for you in return. 

6. Leverage referrals to boost growth

People buy from people they know, like, and trust. 

We know you’ve heard that one before. So when your friend Alex tells you he’s found this super awesome (and cheap) service that delivers cool new adult beverages to his door each month, chances are high you’ll check it out.

85% of people trust recommendations from family and friends more than all other forms of marketing – which is why referrals are one of the best ways to acquire new customers. Once you’ve activated your brand and created lasting memories for your customers, they’ll be happy to share it with others they know. 

Think about it. When you tried a new business for the first time, did someone suggest it to you?

More than likely, the answer is yes.

Let’s bring this full circle and talk about Airbnb’s credit system as an example. You get an affiliate kickback whenever you refer a friend, and they get $40 off their first stay. Not too shabby, right?

Dropbox has done a swell job at leveraging referrals by incentivizing current customers with more storage when they invite new friends. The best part? They make it as easy as ABC to refer a friend with a simple click. 

To wrap up, here are a few tips to build an effective referral program:

  • Always exceed expectations
  • Make experiences shareable
  • Offer incentives and a customer loyalty program
  • Seek out positive feedback from customers and highlight it
  • Be open to suggestions and quickly adapt

Speaking of quickly adapting, let’s close by talking about improving your product or service. 

7. Continuously improve your product 

The markets are constantly changing because of current events, lifestyle changes, and technological advancements. Take, for example, how businesses adapted to quick delivery systems during the midst of the pandemic. 

By continuously adapting to what’s going on in the world, you’ll find it easier to retain customers. Through an open mindset and incorporating customer feedback into your business, your customers will feel seen and heard, and therefore stay loyal to your brand. 

Use growth hacker marketing to scale your business

Congrats! You’re officially an expert ‘growth hacker’! 

But all experts need others in their corner to bounce ideas off of. So, if you find yourself stumped during this process, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at AS Marketing. We’re ready to bring our heads together to create an epic plan to hack into your industry. 

By leveraging growth hacker marketing, you’ll not only build a spell-binding brand, but you’ll do it quickly and effectively. 

About the Author

Adriana Stein is an Online Marketing Consultant based in Hamburg, Germany. Originally from the US, she is a native English speaker and specializes in helping companies with their SEO & content marketing strategies, along with graphic design, brand copy and website development.​

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