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What is Growth Hacking? Here Are 15 Techniques

The term hacking often has a negative connotation associated with it as it refers to programming. But even people that hack programs aren’t always doing something illegal or causing harm. Hacking is sometimes a workaround or a shortcut. Applying the same logic to marketing works as well. That’s growth hacking.

Growth hacking was originally applied to startups who needed to build awareness and adoption… but didn’t have the marketing budget or resources to do it. Sean Ellis penned the term on his blog in 2010 in a post called Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup where he identified a Growth Hacker as an alternative to hiring a traditional, full-time marketer.

Growth hacking was once seen as a replacement of a traditional, long-term marketing strategy with short-term strategies focused on accelerating growth and revenue. Over the last decade, though, growth hacking’s benefits have been seen by every size company and are adopted by mainstream companies as well as small startups.

Traditional marketing online and offline can drive incredible growth for companies, and those strategies often grow a company’s foothold gradually over time. However, there are ways to jumpstart or bump your marketing through non-traditional strategies.

While I don’t personally like the term hacking, it has stuck as a term that’s gone mainstream (and often over-used). In my opinion, balanced marketing strategies should use both traditional, long-term strategies and growth hacking strategies effectively.

What is the Definition of Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking is a marketing strategy that utilizes both creative and unconventional means to get a lot of exposure to your products or service without spending a lot of money. The term was applied to technology startups who lacked a marketing budget, but could creatively utilize search engine optimization, social marketing, analytics, and testing to quickly optimize and grow their online presence.

Growth Hacking Strategies and Techniques

Eliv8 developed this beautiful infographic with a collection of their 15 Best Growth Hacking Techniques & Ideas:

  1. Tap into 3rd Party Audiences – Guest blogging is mentioned, but podcasting is a great way to tap into other audiences. We often invite influencers in our industry on our podcast to get attention with their audiences.
  2. Leverage 3rd Party Platforms – This is a great idea. We’ve got a great list of online sites to account or promote your products here.
  3. Target Your Competitors’ Fans – Both paid and organic social tools exist to identify followers of your competitors. If you can help them, why not connect with them? If you can outmaneuver your competitors and help their customers… they may just head your way.
  4. Create Content For Your Buyer Journey – Answer the questions that buyers are researching online.
  5. Create Page Specific Content – We use dynamic ads that are targeted based off of the category of the article, providing a relevant call-to-action for readers.
  6. Build A Targeted List of Emails – Segment your customers from your prospects and educate them on your products and services.
  7. Personalize the Experience – What can you add to your pages that’s personalized to the visitor or segmented to them? Are they already a customer? Are they returning? Are they clicking on a referral link? If you can tailor the experience based on who they are, you can drive better conversion activity.
  8. Cart Abandonment Notifications – This is just a huge tactic that every ecommerce platform must have. It’s an opportunity to pursuade someone to convert with additional context around the transaction or even an offer.
  9. Host Contests – We’re launching some contests soon with Hellowave, a robust platform with proven, templated contests that run across your site and social sites.
  10. Build an Exclusive Community – This one takes work, but if you can convert your audience into a community, you’ve got the best business development staff money can buy. PS: This is really difficult, though!
  11. Nurture Leads Automatically – We’ve been implementing nurturing and automation for our clients using Wishpond – an incredibly affordable solution – and getting amazing results.
  12. Reward Sharing and Referrals – People are more likely to do something when a friend tells them to. If you’ve got a platform today, you should have an embedded advocacy program with it.
  13. Retargeting Ads – Bring visitors back to your website with ads that follow them. Retargeting can increase brand searches by up to 1,000% and visits by 720% after 4 weeks.
  14. Use Your Data – 50% of businesses find it difficult to attribute marketing to revenue results. Utilizing data and analytics will improve your ROI.
  15. Do Things That Don’t Scale – Continue to brainstorm opportunities and work hard to identify other growth hack strategies.

I’ll add my own favorite growth hacking technique here…

  1. Using Semrush, I identify pages that my site ranks on between the 2nd and 10th position, I view the competition’s pages, rewrite and optimize the page with more information, better graphics, some statistics… and republish it as new. When I do a great job of that and repromote the page, I typically see it get more visibility and higher rankings as people share and refer to it.

Growth Hacking Resources

There are some additional resources online, including Eliv8, Reddit, GrowthHackers, and the Growth Hacking Guide.

Growth Hacking Techniques

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and CEO of DK New Media. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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