If you're eager to be in the same league as Dropbox, Airbnb, and Uber—all of whom attribute their rapid growth to growth hacking—then you're in the right place. Startups that have implemented a marketing growth strategy have experienced mind-blowing average monthly growth rates of 30-50%. Yes, you read that correctly—per month! Those are the best growth strategy success rates I’ve heard of since sliced bread.
A prime example of growth hacking comes from Airbnb. In its early days, Airbnb faced the challenge of encouraging more individuals to list properties on the platform, especially when users were already using multiple other sites like Craigslist. Airbnb approached this challenge with a clever growth hack. They recognized that their potential home providers were already active on Craigslist, so they decided to target them directly. By developing a simple yet effective email marketing process, they emailed users who had listed their places for rent on Craigslist and incentivized them to list on Airbnb instead.
Airbnb managed to tap into the immense pool of individuals already engaged in the rental market. This strategic move allowed Airbnb to bring a substantial number of new users from Craigslist to their platform, fueling their growth and establishing their presence as a leading player in the industry. The success of this growth hacking technique demonstrates the immense potential and impact that growth hacking can have on a company's trajectory, making it a highly valuable and sought-after strategy in today's competitive business landscape.
What Is Growth Marketing?
Growth marketing is an approach to marketing that focuses on driving rapid and sustainable business growth. Unlike traditional marketing, which often revolves around brand awareness, digital marketing, and lead generation, growth marketing takes a holistic and data-driven approach. It combines creativity, experimentation, and analytical insights to identify and optimize strategies that deliver tangible results and increase customer acquisition.
What Is Growth Hacking?
A buzzword you may have heard… growth hacking is similar to growth marketing, but happens much more rapidly and is extremely cost-effective. The goal is to experiment with something, accept it as a win or a loss, and then move on to the next thing. The singular goal here is effective growth.
Anyone can be a growth hacker! You don’t have to have a marketing background, you just have to be motivated to grow. Throw out the playbook on what you think you know and work with what is testable, scaleable, and trackable. Here I’ll get you started with 11 strategies you can use to start your growth hacking journey!
11 Growth Hacking Strategies You Need to Know
1. Create a Pre-Launch Email List
Building an email list enables you to connect with your target audience and deliver your message directly to their inboxes. But simply collecting email addresses isn't enough. Take the time to cultivate excitement and make your audience eagerly await your big reveal. With pre-launch email marketing, you can build anticipation and create hype for your products or events, giving you a head start in acquiring potential customers before your official launch.
To set up your email lists, consider using email marketing software like ActiveCampaign or MailChimp, which provides amazing email distribution and tracking services.
2. Be an Early Adopter of New Social Media Platforms
Early adoption of new social media platforms is a fun aspect of growth hacking that can take your business to the moon. By jumping on the bandwagon early, you can gain a competitive advantage and establish a strong presence before the platform becomes oversaturated. It provides an opportunity to reach untapped audiences and engage with early adopters who are often more receptive to new ideas and products.
Being an early adopter allows businesses to showcase their innovative and forward-thinking nature, building credibility and attracting attention from potential customers and investors alike. Lyft’s social media manager, Bri Reynolds, had great easy-to-follow instructions for the recent launch of Meta’s new Threads app. Snag your brand’s handle, post a “hello!”, and repurpose some of your highest-performing content from other sites for the new platform.
3. “Invite Only” Access
Make FOMO work for you. Slack is huge in how we communicate in the office now, especially in tech. Their name wasn’t always at the forefront of business communications and their success was no accident. Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack and Flickr founder, used a growth hacking tool to create a sense of exclusivity around his product that got people chomping at the bit to try Slack.
The strategy was to make access to Slack invite-only for organizations in the early stages of the launch. Butterfield thought that word-of-mouth would spread as professionals discussed their “exclusive” access to a new product.
The manufactured FOMO strategy worked because who wouldn’t want to get their hands on the hot new product? Within two years of launch, Slack had over 2 million active users. Today, they have over 18 million.
The way that the SaaS company rolled out their product also allowed them to roll out their product in a controlled fashion and scale with a growing user base at their desired pace. In addition, more intentional and steady growth translated into an improved user experience since they could respond to early feedback and iron out any issues before a public launch.
4. Build Social Sharing Links in Your Content Marketing
Staying on the social media thought train, why not build shareable links into all of your content marketing? It takes two seconds for someone who finds your content valuable to click a “share this” button. You’re then able to hack into that individual's network to reach potential new customers without any effort on your part! This is just a no-brainer.
5. Make Influencer Partnerships
Another way to hack into a network is influencer marketing! It allows entrepreneurs to promote their products and services through a voice that is trusted by an audience and to reach an audience broader than their own. By leveraging an influencer's authority and reach via social media networks, blogs, video content, or podcast, you gain access to an existing user base, boost awareness, and expand your brand's reach.
Gymshark is a brand that thrived by utilizing influencers in the bodybuilding and fitness industries. In the early days, Gymshark heavily relied on them to create brand awareness and generate traction. The conversion rates from the influencer’s existing customer base were much higher than any traditional marketing that they’d done before. Now, they’re a huge fitness name on social media with worldwide recognition!
6. Connect with Industry Experts
Similar to using influencers, industry experts can be a great way to broaden your business' horizons because they possess a wealth of knowledge and experience within their fields. By establishing connections with them, you gain access to their insights and guidance, helping you navigate challenges and take advantage of emerging opportunities.
Collaborating with industry experts can also provide valuable mentorship and open doors to future partnerships. Their endorsement and support lend credibility to your business, enhancing trust and attracting the attention of potential customers and investors.
LinkedIn is a great place to look to see how brands are using industry experts as a growth hack. Jack Appleby recently posted a case study in collaboration with impact.com. This is a perfect example of a brand recognizing a respected voice in the social strategy industry, and working with him to put their brand in front of his audience.
7. Give Guest Posting a Try
Guest posting is a hack that can fuel your brand's expansion by building meaningful connections and boosting your online presence. This gets you in front of new eyes and new potential leads. By including a link to your website in the guest post, you can bump your search engine rankings and improve your overall online visibility.
Buffer utilized guest posting as a growth hacking strategy during their startup days. They approached influential bloggers and collaborated on creating shareable content. This approach helped them secure backlinks from websites with good Domain Authority (DA), boosting their credibility and driving traffic to their site. By leveraging guest posting, Buffer harnessed the power of established networks and expanded their reach, positioning themselves as industry leaders.
8. Leverage a Referral Program
When it comes to driving conversions, referrals from friends, family, or industry influencers are a secret sauce. They have the power to convert leads much faster than other marketing channels. Not only that, but the cost per acquisition (CPA) of referral customers is lower, helping you save money! These referred customers also boast impressive retention rates, resulting in a 16% higher customer lifetime value (LTV).
We all know Uber. They started their journey with a referral marketing strategy! By offering users $5 credit for every successful referral, Uber quickly skyrocketed in brand awareness and user reach. This idea was so successful that it’s been replicated by every ride-sharing app since.
9. Use Twitter (X) Retargeting
Have you ever looked up something on Amazon and then gotten an ad for that brand on Twitter (recently rebranded 'X')? That’s you experiencing Twitter retargeting and seeing social media algorithms work their magic. You’re able to capture who has interacted with your brand or website before and then serve them tailored ads in their newsfeed. This technique not only increases the likelihood of driving conversions and sales, but it also reinforces brand messaging and boosts brand awareness. By repeatedly exposing your target audience to customized ads, you stay stop-of-mind for your consumer.
10. Tag Your Social Media Content
While it may seem tedious, tagging your Instagram, TikTok, and/or Youtube content is a great hack to boost the visibility and discoverability of your content on social media. Tags act as keywords that help the algorithm understand your content, making it more likely to be shown on the homepage of users interested in similar topics.
TikTok offers a great resource on their creator page that lists out all the trending audios and hashtags for the day. Use it to sneak into new timelines!
By carefully selecting relevant and optimized tags for your content, improve your SEO and you increase the chances of it appearing in search results. Effective tagging allows you to tap into popular trends, target specific niches, and attract new users.
11. Offering Freemium
“Freemium” is a growth hack that can have a huge impact on your business's growth. By providing a freemium model, where a basic version of your product or service is offered for free, you can attract a larger audience and generate interest in what you have to offer. This strategy allows potential customers to experience the value and benefits of your product firsthand, creating a sense of trust and familiarity. Dropbox is a top example of freemium working.
Imagine this: you sign up for Dropbox's freemium plan and enjoy the benefits of 2GB of free storage to efficiently manage your precious data. You'll eventually reach the storage limit of the free tool and at that point, the growth hack kicks in. You'll find yourself inclined to upgrade to a paid plan and become one of Dropbox's paying customers.
Why? Because you've already stored most, if not all, of your data on the platform. Dropbox leverages this by offering enticing additional features exclusively for premium users. These incentives make the decision to upgrade irresistible. So, with your data securely stored on Dropbox and the allure of premium features beckoning, becoming a paying customer becomes a no-brainer.
5 Steps To Implement Your Growth Strategy
1. Define Objectives
What specific goals do you want to achieve? Whether it's increasing audience size, expanding into new markets, or launching a new product, clearly articulating your objectives provides a focused direction for your efforts. Ensure that your objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to set metrics for success.
2. Foster Ideas
Always be listening! Encourage an open and supportive environment where every idea is valued, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and entrepreneurial thinking.
Host brainstorming sessions, use idea-sharing platforms, or even creative workshops to generate ideas that align with your growth objectives.
3. Determine Priorities
With a wealth of ideas on hand, it’s easy to get flustered. You can’t do every single idea all at the same time, so prioritize based on feasibility, impact, and alignment with your objectives. Narrowing down your options ensures focused execution and maximizes the chances of achieving meaningful results!
4. Implement Strategy
Once your priorities are defined, it's time to roll up your sleeves and put your growth strategy into action. Develop a detailed action plan with specific tasks, timelines, and responsibilities assigned to each team member. Break down your strategy into actionable steps, keeping in mind the key milestones and deadlines, and regularly check in on your team to make sure they feel they have what they need to succeed.
5. Measure Results
Measuring and evaluating the results of your marketing efforts is crucial to track progress and make informed decisions. Define key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your objectives and regularly monitor them. Don’t forget to celebrate milestones and successes, and adjust your approach with a/b testing if something isn’t working.
Want To Learn More?
Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown’s book “Hacking Growth: How Today's Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success” is an incredible resource full of how small businesses and startups grew to be worldwide names.
How will you use the growth hacking tactics you learned today? Comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to The CMO newsletter for the most up to date marketing strategies straight to your inbox!