In this post we'll teach you the basics of growth hacking and give you some tips and resources for where you can learn the ropes.
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So, after years and years of soul searching you have finally found your calling in life: you want to be a growth hacker.
OK, maybe it doesn’t have to be that dramatic.
You probably came across the term after reading one of the millions of posts and articles on the topic. Maybe you heard some of the stories about companies like Dropbox and Uber who “hacked” their way to multimillion dollar status.
In any case, you find the concept intriguing. You get it. You see the promise in taking a data-driven approach to growth and you want to learn more. Awesome!!
But where do you begin?
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Start With Getting Your Facts Straight
While you are probably familiar with some of the more sensational growth hacking success stories (Airbnb, Spotify, etc.), it’s important to know that growth hacking is not a magic formula.
Growth hacking is a process that involves lots of hard work. Just like any job, it involves both setbacks and breakthroughs.
Behind every sensational success story are typically a long series of attempts that didn’t lead to breakthroughs. A growth hacker will often try 20+ iterations before they find something that works.
It’s also important to understand that the “hacks” (as in shortcuts or tricks) in growth hacking are not always some feat of technical prowess or wizardry. Actually, it's the principles behind growth hacking more than the techniques themselves that make it so effective.
Growth hackers are always on the lookout for shortcuts and weaknesses to exploit, but most of what they do comes down to analyzing, improving and optimizing systems using creative and sometimes unconventional methods.
Growth hackers do whatever it takes to achieve exponential growth in an organization. This involves a process of continual ideation, prioritization, testing, analysis and optimization.
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Understand The Basics
In case you’re new here, let’s give a quick definition:
Growth hacking is (take a deep breath) a structured approach to growing businesses through rapid testing and experimentation, leveraging data in order to tailor product offerings and marketing channels to specific target customer segments. It involves optimizing systems and processes until they reach maximum efficiency in an unending quest to find the most effective ways to build, grow and engage a company’s user base.
If that isn’t clear (or if you were just too lazy to read that paragraph), check out the comprehensive 7 Pillars to Growth Hacking.
Also, check out the post Growth Hacking: All Hype And No Substance? These should give you a pretty firm grasp on what it’s all about.
Know The Difference: Beyond Marketing
Some people are calling growth hacking “Marketing 2.0” because it involves a lot of what marketers already do, but takes it a few steps further.
Growth hacking combines creative marketing with data science, computer programming and product management.
The most effective growth hackers are deeply involved in product development. They use the rich data they collect to influence product design. They make constant adjustments and improvements based on what users are asking for.
The result is that a business quickly achieves product market fit (PMF), meaning that their products and target customers are in perfect sync.
Sean Ellis, the guy who coined the term “Growth Hacker” explains PMF this way: When at least 40% of your customers report that they would be very disappointed if they could no longer use your product or service, you probably have PMF.
PMF is the foundation for exponential growth.
Remember That Data Is Your Boss
A growth hacker knows how and what to measure. They use analytics, landing pages and A/B testing to understand their target customers’ habits and behavior.
They test everything, iterating and optimizing until they find the most effective solutions with the most potential for growth. They don’t make assumptions. Instead, they are obsessed with data.
Eliminating the destructive power of assumption from your business is the key to success in today’s digital environment.
Most companies (actually most humans) assume that they know what other people like or dislike. Entrepreneurs come up with products they are sure people will buy. Marketers run campaigns they intuitively know will be successful.
In the world of growth hacking there is no room for intuition or assumption. In fact, they only move forward after hypothesis have been verified. They do only what the data tells them will work.
By basing all decisions regarding product development and marketing on solid data, growth hackers can save lots of money while improving a company’s ability to acquire and delight customers.
It’s a new approach that puts data foremost and center.
Understand The Mindset
You can’t be a growth hacker without understanding the growth mindset. It’s what gives us our competitive edge.
Growth hackers are focused on growth like a laser beam. All of their activities are geared towards achieving their One Metric That Matters (OMTM).
An OMTM is the name we give to a business team’s ambitious growth goal. This is a clearly defined target that is both specific and measurable. It should aim high and yet be achievable. It might be something like, “To acquire 30k monthly subscribers in 2 years.”
Everything a growth hacker does focuses on this singular goal. It governs all decisions and always rests in the forefront of the mind. It gives growth hackers focus, but it also gives them the freedom to pursue whatever means are necessary to achieve their target.
For a growth hacker, everything is an option worth exploring. They are constantly asking the question “What if?” They are unafraid to try new tools and techniques. They are unafraid to ask for favors or reach out to influential people.
And if they don’t know how to do something, they figure it out. If the right tool doesn’t exist, they build it.
Basically, they are just like Chuck Norris… [cough]
The growth mindset is about being open minded and having the courage to reach above and beyond what others (what even you) think is possible. When you do this, you will find inspiration all around you, and you will be surprised at what you can achieve.
So, if you’re still with me after the Chuck Norris joke, let’s move on to some of the resources you can check out to take your understanding of growth hacking to the next level.
First let’s look at some blogs:
- Sean Ellis is the guy who coined the term Growth Hacking back in 2010. He was the first marketer at Dropbox and is currently the founder and CEO of growthhackers.com and runs the great Startup Marketing Blog.
- Noah Kagan is the founder of 2 multimillion dollar businesses, he worked at Facebook and Mint, and grew his own 700k+ email list. He runs a growth hacking blog at www.okdork.com.
- Andrew Chen is the growth hacker behind Uber. He is also an advisor for Dropbox, AngelList, BarkBox and Tinder. You can find him here.
- Paul Graham is an English computer scientist, venture capitalist and essayist. He’s the founder of Ycombinator and is a Cornell and Harvard grad. Find him here.
- Neil Patel is the founder of Quick Sprout, Crazy Egg, Kiss Metrics and more. He is a successful entrepreneur, author and public speaker. You can read his blog here.
Then, there are books to check out:
- Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday is a short, to the point introduction to growth hacking.
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is full of practical principles that will help you begin to approach business more scientifically.
- The Lean Entrepreneur by Brant Cooper & Patrick Vlaskovits is all about customer insight, rapid experimentation, and actionable data.
- Work The System by Sam Carpenter will help you understand the Systems Mindset--a powerful way of viewing work (and life) that will allow you to achieve more.
- Unbeatable Mind by Mark Divine, former Navy Seal, is one of our favorite books for helping to develop the mindset needed to succeed in the world of growth hacking.
- Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, also former Navy Seals, is required reading for RockBoosters. It’s full of powerful principles that will change the way you work.
Finally, it goes without saying that you should follow our amazing RockBoost blog. We have some great posts, for instance, about various tools we use to help our clients grow.
You can join our mailing list to make sure you never miss a post.
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More Ways To Learn
If you’re serious about growth hacking, you should endeavor to become part of the community as well.
- Join the community over at Growth Hackers to read posts, ask questions and connect with other growth hackers.
- Check out Quora forum for a virtually endless supply of useful info about growth hacking.
- Find some growth hacking meetups and conferences in your city… they’re happening all the time!
Also, RockBoost will soon be offering an online e-course. Learn how to think, work and live like a growth hacker! You can leave us your email address if you want to stay up to date.
Just start trying it! Check out some of the tools we’ve written about and give them a go. The sooner you get familiar with these, the sooner you’ll be a pro.
And remember, failures are inevitable… but they are part of the learning process. The important part is that you keep testing, testing and testing!