The Most Common Growth Hacking Misconception

Growth hacking is for startups, for established companies, for corporations, for restaurants and for plumbers. Growth hacking is even for your personal life. This is because underneath all the specific techniques we “professional” growth hackers use, are powerful principles that apply everywhere.

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The Misconception


A common misconception is that growth hacking is only for online, B2C, membership-based startups.

This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the success stories we typically hear about are those of Dropbox, Airbnb, Hotmail and Twitter.

[Sigh]... Sometimes as growth hackers, we can feel so misunderstood.

The truth is that growth hacking principles are just as applicable to offline companies as they are to online ones. They work for B2B companies as much as for B2C. It doesn’t even matter if you are selling something; maybe you are just trying to gain a following.

In this post we will explain to you how growth hacking can help any type of business at any stage achieve exponential growth.


The Basics

If you have read our previous blog posts, then you should know already what growth hacking is all about. You know how it is different from traditional marketing and why so many people are talking about it. But if you need a refresher, let’s quickly recap the most important points:

Mindset - The all-important first aspect of growth hacking is the Growth Mindset. As the person or team in charge of growth, all of your activities should be geared towards achieving your One Metric That Matters (OMTM). Relentlessly pursuing a goal, even when it takes you beyond your zone of comfort, is what makes growth hackers effective.

Team - Each person in a growth team as a T-shaped skillset, where the horizontal axis represents breadth of knowledge and the vertical axis represents depth. Having the right combination of talent on your team that includes creative marketing, data analysis and computer programming is essential.

Measurement - There is no room in the world of growth hacking for assumption. Everything you do to speed up growth should be measurable. Measurement allows you to know what exactly correlates with success and it gives you a baseline to which to compare your performance as you experiment. Even if your business operations are offline, you need to understand how every decision you make directly impacts your growth objectives. 

Listening to your market - You should aim to understand your customers better than they understand themselves. When you do that, you can tailor your product offerings to resonate powerfully with your target segments. Basing all your product and marketing decisions upon careful market research will help you avoid the most common product pitfall: offering something that nobody wants.

Product/Market Fit - Once you know what makes your customers tick, you should begin making constant adjustments to your product until you achieve product/market fit (PMF). You will know you’ve gotten there when at least 40% of your customers report that they would be very disappointed if they could no longer use your product. It means that your product and your market are perfectly in sync.

Traction Channels - Growth hackers don’t like to waste money on marketing channels that have not been proven. They will start with testing various channels to find each one’s Customer Acquisition Cost and then work on optimizing the most effective ones. There are 19 channels to choose from!

Optimization - Once PMF has been achieved and the most promising traction channels have been identified, growth hackers continue experimenting and making iterations to the product and marketing channels in order to optimize and achieve maximum efficiency throughout the entire sales funnel.

In a nutshell, growth hackers are focused on a singular goal: finding the most effective and efficient way to grow a business.

This often involves rapid experimentation across marketing channels, constant attention to product (re)development and an unending focus on building and engaging a company’s user base.


Not Just for Startups

Growth hacking emerged from the Silicon Valley startup world, but it is increasingly being used by big companies.

With limited marketing budgets, startup growth teams were forced to find new innovative ways to grow companies in short amounts of time. They began to fuse the discipline of marketing with that of data science and computer programming. They constantly pushed the boundaries of what traditional marketing wisdom dictated.

These new “growth hackers” (the term was coined by Sean Ellis) learned how to harness technology in order to design and implement innovative growth “hacks” (i.e. “shortcuts” or “tricks”) that were incredibly effective at helping businesses grow.

Read about some classic examples here.

However, many of the early growth hacks had a limited lifetime. Weaknesses in systems (like the craigslist hack that Airbnb used) could be exploited for only so long. Innovative new channels were quickly crowded with newcomers. Often, newly discovered hacks became closely guarded secrets.

Everyone wants shortcuts, but the truth is that “silver bullets” are few and far between. Fortunately, though, the principles behind growth hacking are timeless.

These principles have been documented and written about by many people. At RockBoost, through extensive experience, testing, failing, learning and persevering, we’ve developed our own step-by-step approach with which we have helped many companies achieve exponential growth (see the 7 pillars of growth hacking).

The principles behind growth hacking apply to companies of all sizes, not just startups. They constitute a new data-driven approach to marketing in which continual ideation, prioritization, testing and analyzing guide all decisions.


Lean Marketing

Growth hacking is often called lean marketing. It’s great for companies that don’t have the funds to spend recklessly on marketing guesswork but are ready to start basing business decisions off of solid data.

Of course, some big companies may be interested in saving money too…

This often means saying goodbye to big, expensive marketing campaigns that aim for broad general awareness (we call that the “shotgun” approach, and it is soo last decade).

In contrast to the shotgun approach, growth hacking tends to be highly targeted, focusing investments on the segments and channels which show the most promise in terms of Customer Lifetime Value.

It is a highly data-driven process where all decisions are based on extensive testing. Hypotheses are made, results are analyzed and theories are proven or disproven. Options are explored until the most effective and efficient methods for acquiring high-value customers are identified.

This data-driven approach is a product of the technological era we live in. Today just about everything can measured, analyzed and optimized. Traditional marketing teams are typically not equipped with the skills to implement such an approach.

With growth hackers leading the way, the manner in which products are both designed and marketed can be perfectly tailored to your target market through research and user testing.

When this happens--when your product and your target market are perfectly in sync--we say “you have achieved product market fit (PMF).” Achieving this is the first step towards exponential growth.

The advantage startups have here is that it's often easier for them to make adjustments to their product in the early stages based on experimentation. However, there is no reason why larger companies cannot do this as well.

When growth becomes your north star goal, all options need to be on the table--including the willingness to take your product back to the drawing board.

That’s why the most effective growth hackers are not just marketers and data analysts--they are involved in the product design as well. For a large company where marketing and product development are typically separate departments, this boundary spanning usually requires a paradigm shift and may cause internal friction.

But most consider business growth to be worth a little friction.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” - Frederick Douglass

While startups may require this lean approach to survive, no corporation will scoff at the prospect of saving money while simultaneously making their efforts more efficient.


Growth Hacking for Offline Companies

So, what if you own a restaurant?

For businesses that function mainly offline, can growth hacking still help?

Like with growth hacking in any company, it all starts with product market fit. The trick is to develop a product that sells itself. If you have a product that people feel they can’t live without, they will want to share it. Your job, then, is to make that easy for them.

In a sense, your aim should be to turn your customers into your salespeople.

Start with gaining a deep understanding of your customers. Figure out what their desires, fears, pains and hesitations are. Then work out how you can address these. One useful way to do this is to create a customer desire map:

Hopes and Dreams What does your customer want to attain or achieve above all else?
Pains and Fears What are your customers wanting to avoid or get away from?
Barriers and Uncertainties What is preventing or getting in the way of what your customers want?


Once you really know your customers, you can start tweaking your product offering. You can tailor it according to what your potential customers are already asking for.

The Clean Plumber is a great example of an offline business that listened to what customers in their industry were complaining about and then created a value proposition to address that specific pain point. The Clean Plumber, with their unique, protective CleanBoots, won’t mess up your bathroom with dirt and grime.

Once you have a product or service that people can’t live without, you should make it easy for them to share with their friends.

Think about referral programs. Give awards for reviews. Add your location to Google Maps and Yelp. Create an Instagram competition for the best selfie in your restaurant. Set up a WiFi system where they have to log in with their Facebook or Twitter. Reward people for ‘checking-in’. These are just some ideas. You should experiment, and use what works.

And remember, growth hacking is all about utilizing data.

Even print and radio advertising can be tracked, analyzed and optimized. Rapid iterations might not be as easy, but you can still measure and test. Use different landing pages for your various advertisements so you know which ads are bringing in visitors. Or use different promo codes to track where your customer’s journey began.

Or, simply ask your customers how they found you!


Hack Your Systems

Much of growth hacking comes down to optimizing systems and processes so that they work for you.

At RockBoost, we focus heavily on helping companies optimize their online systems, but the principle extends to every aspect of any business.

After all, all businesses (whether online or offline) are nothing more than a collection of many subsystems. Each one can be analyzed and improved. Processes can be streamlined, removed or added.

It is important to understand that failures and successes don’t happen in isolation. They are rarely the result of random chance. When you understand systems, you realize that every event is part of a sequence. If you aren’t seeing the results you want, it is almost always because of a system deficiency somewhere.

So the smart thing to do is to stop spending all your time trying to fix negative outcomes, and instead dig in and fix the system behind the outcome. Good outcomes are the natural outworking of well-managed systems.

This is a powerful life principle as well. By managing or neglecting the systems that govern our lives and businesses, we set ourselves up for failure or success. [Tweet That!].

This is an extensive and powerful topic. If you’re interested in reading more about it, you should check out the book Work The System by Sam Carpenter. It's phenomenal. 


Hack Your Mindset

“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” - Sean Ellis

Whether you are online or offline, growth hacking is primarily about adopting a new mindset--one that is outcome oriented rather than task oriented.

It is about shedding old business paradigms, pushing boundaries, transcending traditional job functions, and relentlessly pursuing whatever works to achieve business growth.

This is by no means unique to online businesses or startups.

The mindset begins with identifying your overarching goal--your One Metric That Matters (OMTM). This is a business growth goal that should be clearly defined and measurable… it could be something like, “to achieve 1m in revenue by the end of next year.”

Once you define your OMTM, your job as a growth hacker is to direct all your activities towards accomplishing this goal. Your OMTM should guide your every decision. In order to achieve it, you will need to be relentless and willing to step beyond your zone of comfort.

It will require you to think big, take risks and maybe even try new and unconventional things.

At RockBoost we like to constantly remind each other to hustle. By this we mean to take risks, go the extra mile and attempt things outside our comfort zones. We do this in small things like randomly asking for discounts at Starbucks… just for practice. But we also try big things like reaching out to well-known figures in our industry.

Hustling is about having the courage to reach out for what others might think to be unattainable.

You’ve got nothing to lose. And you will be surprised by the doors that open when you step out and simply ask.


Growth Hacking for B2B Companies

The only difference between B2C and B2B growth hacking is that you will be targeting a narrower audience. Selling your products or services to companies has always been about getting in touch with the right people.

So, what can you do to reach the “right” people?

Think about the places where your target audience already congregates, and about how you can you get your promotions to show up in those spaces. What does your target audience read? Where do they get their information? What do they search for on Google? Where do they have coffee?

Figuring out these details will put you a step ahead and likely give you new, creative ideas as to how to reach your customers.

It is also important to realize that there are many traction channels that most people don’t usually consider, but that might be effective for your situation. There are actually 19 channels we’ve identified that are each worth exploring.


Leverage Other People’s Audiences

One ever-useful trick is to find other companies that are not your direct competitors--but that sell to the same customers as you--and make some kind of mutually beneficial arrangement. Do a joint promotion with them. Get your ad on their mailing list. We call this leveraging other people's’ audiences, and it can be very successful.

An example of this is guest blogging. Find out which influencers your customer segments follow, and then reach out to them. Make an amazing blog post about your industry and offer to run it on their blog (of course with a link to your website). If you can, get them to write something on your blog too--they will bring their audience with them!

Leveraging other people’s audience is all about creating a win-win arrangement with those that target the same customers you do.


Growth Hack Everything!

Growth hacking is for startups, for established companies, for corporations, for restaurants and for plumbers. Growth hacking is even for your personal life.

This is because underneath all the specific techniques we “professional” growth hackers use, are powerful principles that apply everywhere.

Once you get the principles, you will find yourself growth hacking everything. It will work itself into your DNA. Your studies and exams, your relationships, your job interviews, your vacation--all of these consist of systems and processes. With the right mindset, the right approach to analysis and a bit of creativity, you can maximize your results and achieve more.

It’s not rocket science… it’s growth hacking!


Chris Out Chris Out
follow me: @chrisout

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