By 
Upwork Staff
 | 
January 18, 2021
 | 
6 Min Read

How to Apply Growth Hacking Strategies to Your Business

As a buzzword of recent years, “growth hacking” has gained enormous traction among marketers and tech companies. In light of the explosion that characterizes some companies’ growth, it’s no wonder that the concept is widely appealing.

However, the notion of hacking growth can be somewhat amorphous. To implement growth hacking for your own business, you’ll need a practical understanding of related techniques and what they can provide that other online marketing strategies may not be able to.

This guide will provide an overview of growth hacking’s fundamental principles and specific strategies you can implement with your team.

What is growth hacking?

The concept of growth hacking was born out of the high-pressure startup culture. The term “growth hacking” was coined by the entrepreneur Sean Ellis in 2010. Early-stage startups that sought to acquire as many new users as possible while spending very little money gave rise to an emphasis on developing low-cost alternatives to conventional marketing. Social media played a vital role in this, as did targeted and viral marketing.

There are two ways of focusing on a growth hacking approach. You can hone in on long-term sustainability, or you can center on dropping costs even further per customer acquisition. Either way, growth hacking needs to be tethered to ideas of optimization, not just lead generation. Customer retention is also a crucial part of successful growth hacking, for what is “growth” if it only lasts a short time?

All of these factors synthesize to place growth hacking squarely in the online marketing ecosystem. Everything from content marketing and A/B testing to search engine optimization and website analytics has a role in growth hacking models.

Growth hacking likewise influences product development. User testing is no longer restricted to corporate usability labs. Rather than the long development cycles of old, growth hackers can test and validate ideas at every stage of the journey.

Growth hacking vs. traditional marketing methods

The fundamental difference between traditional marketing and growth hacking is that traditional marketing attempts to bring customers to a product. By contrast, growth hacking attempts to create a product that customers will innately like, want, and be attracted to.

The design of the product or service is where the impact of this difference is most seen and felt. For this reason, growth hackers are often involved in the design process, as they are the purveyors of the immediate feedback that drives real-time design updates.

The following list provides further insight into some of the other major differences between a traditional marketing approach and growth hacking:

  • Marketers prioritize paid channels; growth hackers seek organic growth: Mode of promotion diverges sharply between traditional marketers and growth hackers. Items such as TV ads, newspapers, and billboards are often the recipients of preset budgetary allotments in traditional marketing, and those allotments fluctuate according to performance. By definition, growth hackers eschew promotional models that require expense and tend to utilize innovative methods, such as guerilla marketing, gamification, and influencer marketing.
  • Marketers advertise existing products; growth hackers build their products for growth: Conventional marketing is in place to showcase a product that has been structured and designed to its believed culmination, at least at that current juncture. This is why traditional marketers are really only advertising the product “as is.” Growth hackers have quite a different task set because they are displaying the product as it is at that moment while building infrastructure for user acquisition, virality, monetization, etc., via the feedback they receive from their own advertising. This has led some industry professionals to refer to growth hackers as a hybrid of a marketer and coder.
  • Marketers focus on brand awareness; growth hackers are data-driven: A traditional marketing strategy is consumed with the idea of making sure that potential customers and users know who the company is. It’s a kind of top-down feed of information. Growth hackers work from the opposite direction, crowdsourcing trends and user habits to inform their next advertising move.
  • Marketers work with a set budget; growth hackers always seek cheaper and new alternatives: As traditional marketers go into their tasks knowing a set figure, their advertising techniques are somewhat constrained by whatever budget the hiring company has provided. Growth hackers exist in a more feral budgetary forest, often working on tiny budgets, if any. One of the fundamental aspects of a strong growth hacker is the ability to unearth cheap or free alternatives that may not have been visible or available before the growth hacker’s previous efforts. Growth hacking advertising tends to feed off itself in this manner.

Growth hacking strategies your business can use

When seeking reliable growth hacking strategies for your company, it’s imperative to approach them with an open mind and experimental mindset. It’s impossible to predict what may turn out to be the most effective tool for your company’s needs, and winners commonly emerge from unpredictable data sources.

The great beauty of growth hacking strategies is that they’re forever morphing and multiplying. Techniques that suit your business will arise out of avenues that may not have been available a day before. The following are a few proven growth hacking strategies that represent a strong starting point for any business looking to scale in this way.

Incentivize referrals for everyone involved

Some of the most successful growth hacking campaigns in history have achieved their status by ensuring that every person involved with the advertising of their business got something back for it. The reality is that people like rewards. The other reality is that the internet has caused the reward sector of our brains to become conditioned to instantaneous gratification. Whether you’re rebranding or launching a new platform, build a growth hacking model that utilizes social sharing, refer-a-friend programs, invite-only, and loyalty clubs for subscribers.

Draw conclusions from your data

Remember that growth hacking models that work can never be stiff. Flexibility to the data at hand is important, and growth hacking does not allow for exclusive ideological marriages to any given technique.

For example, let’s say you built the idea for an app’s scalability on the notion that most users will like a given aspect of the app best. Yet, the results you get from a gamified app signup strategy do not suggest that the given aspect was even noticed or played a role in the user experience. Your company should be ready and able to pivot on that data right there and then for growth hacking to be possible.

Let content marketing magnetize interest

Any company that wishes to be taken seriously needs a content marketing strategy, no matter what brand of advertising is used. Growth hacking relies on content marketing in ways that others don’t, however. Much of growth hacking is about building virality into your marketing offerings. Knowing your users and, most importantly, what they want to learn from your company gives you the insights needed to sponsor monster growth.

Harness influencers

This growth hacking strategy may represent a combination of nearly all others listed here, as influencers are useful on a long-term content marketing level, are an incentive unto themselves to many users, and supply invaluable data that cannot be acquired by other means.

Choose your influencers not just by the symbolism of their ethos but also by using your product. It’s important to recognize that utilizing an influencer is not the same as having a celebrity spokesperson pose with a product. The influencer is there to provide genuine usage feedback to both the company and the public.

Spin “free” into growth gold

Everyone’s favorite price is free. Making aspects of your growth hacking strategy cost nothing to the user is a great way to encourage them to spend money with your product or service later. Free initial trial periods, additional accounts, or unique privileges are good places to start when designing free components into your growth hacking model.

Hack your growth with independent experts

The right growth hacking approach for your business will be determined by your own sets of data, but should always be multichannel and user experience.

Upwork can help you design or lead any marketing project you have in mind. Our vast pool of truly global independent talent means there are no limits in your access to creative, innovative growth hackers. Visit Upwork today to find the growth hackers that can catapult your company to the next level.

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