Author: Traci Saiz

Growth hacking is a surging trend when it comes to branding and marketing, with startups especially. But what exactly is “growth hacking?” Let’s start there; growth hacking is a type of marketing which focuses on low-cost and innovative alternatives to traditional marketing. Common examples include social media and viral marketing, as opposed to buying advertisements through traditional media.

Growth hacking originated with startups and entrepreneurs who had little to no capital for building their brand or marketing mix. Ultimately, the success of growth hacking entrepreneurs created a buzz which, in turn, is transforming how we approach marketing in the Digital Age. In this way, catalyzing growth through even more strategic and cost-effective means. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

So can large corporations, or professional service businesses, leverage a growth hacking approach to the same effect? Absolutely! The concept of “hacking”, by nature, revolves around finding and utilizing otherwise missed opportunities. It is a surprisingly strategic thought process. How do you reach your target markets? What are the interests of your target demographics? Are you providing something user-friendly and easily digestible? These are a few of the strategic questions to ask yourself and your organization.

A few success stories:

Airbnb essentially hijacked Craigslist by cross-posting their listings to Craigslist. This allowed them double exposure with all of the many users Craigslist already had, as well as helped ensure their properties were being booked more often.

Dropbox used incentivizing as a hacking model with current users, asking for referrals in return for free additional storage space.  The company also utilized social media to incentivize people to like their Facebook page or follow then on Twitter, with every new like or follow a user received an additional 125 MB of storage space into their account.

Hotmail also capitalized on a hacking approach.  In fact, they are most notably known as the earliest example of viral marketing. Tim Draper, Hotmail’s first investor, pushed the founders to add “PS I Love You. Get Free Email” to the bottom of every email. Recipients who clicked on the tagline were redirected to an account setup. Within six months, Hotmail had one million users. Within a year, 10 million.

Twitter, a popular social media channel among hackers, had a retention deficit of its own. Users were signing up for accounts, but not interacting or using the platform. So Twitter conducted analysis on why users joined and didn’t return, versus those who joined and engaged immediately. They didn’t spend money on advertisements or newsletters they, simply looked at data. In doing so, Twitter found that following 5-10 accounts increased the likelihood of engagement. So, they rebuilt their platform to encourage following others and fostered a new type of user experience.

Now, transferring these ideas into corporate settings can be easy and just as effective. What are some interesting ways to get your information out there, and be more engaging? As one example, our firm posts articles and blogs to StumbleUpon and utilizes their system for more exposure. Helpful tools like Buffer and Klout allow you to track, schedule, and suggest relevant posts. With these accounts you can look at data and see who, what, and when your target customers are online, engaging, and how so.

Creating videos and podcasts is another way to grab short attention spans or on-the-go types, who rely on visual or audio cues. Engaging in Tweet Chats and hosting your own Tweet Chat are other great ways to gain exposure and relevant followers who will learn more about your company and feel engaged. Using other applications such as SumAll and Twitter Analytics allow you to view further the analysis of posts and engagement. Keep track of these customers and how they engage with your company.

Growth Hacking is all about your market, viral engagement, and retention. First you figure out who you are marketing to, then you use free platforms and creative digital techniques to reach out to your demographic. Next you want to retain your followers and customers. Best way of doing so, you need to track your data and analyze what works best for keeping customers, and eliminate what isn’t successful.

In lieu of big marketing budgets, growth hackers look for scalable expansion from viral factors and social sharing. In addition to “hacking” growth, these business leaders ruthlessly analyze data and findings in order to best understand, engage, and retain their customers.