Some of you may be familiar with growth hacking already, whereas for others of you it’s possible this is a new concept. To learn what it’s all about and how one can hack some growth, I’ve had a chat with Kieran Flanagan. He is the Marketing Director of HubSpot EMEA, a conference speaker, blogger and NLP practitioner.
What exactly is growth hacking?
I’m going to give you the way I use it because growth hacking is a term that people use in all different ways at the moment mostly because it’s a such a popular topic. The way I see growth hacks are they’re really a result of marketers experimenting with different marketing tactics until they discover clever and original ones that they can use to grow their own brand, accelerate their growth. And generally the way I think about growth hacks as well is that they work for a defined period of time. I think that one of the biggest things around growth hacks is you discover something and we’re so tuned in to sharing everything that works these days because we just want to produce content. That we share something with the whole marketing world, “Hey, this thing works really well,” and you’ll see that everyone will pick that up.
Usually when there’s certain saturation point, those growth hacks don’t work as well. For me, I think if I would distill that into a sentence, it’s really clever and original tactics that work for a defined period of time that can really accelerate your growth as a business.
Why companies need to be hacking their growth
I guess that instead of thinking about it as a company trying to hack their growth, I think for it to be applicable to a wider set of marketers but still as valuable, companies should always be running experiments to figure out what tactics they can use to accelerate their growth. I think experiment is the best way to think about it. Are you copying and pasting the playbook that you used from last year and just rerunning the exact same this year, or are you trying to find out are there other things that you’re not using that could actually really help you to grow faster?
The cost of growth hacking
I think a lot of things that come out are actually low cost, different tactics you can use; not always free. There are a lot of different types of growth hacks I’ve seen through social advertising and a lot of paid platforms. Again it’s just this clever way that someone’s figured out how to use Twitter, Facebook, figured out how to do something with LinkedIn or all these different platforms that can actually help them accelerate their growth before that thing becomes diluted and it no longer works anymore.
Step 1: Goal and Targets
One of the most important things for marketers is actually being able to set out goals and targets.
The first step is really how do I set the goal and the target that I’m going to align myself around? What are my most important goals over a defined period of time? An example may be, “Hey, I want to grow my blog. I want to grow my blog traffic over the course of this month and my target to achieve is I want to get a 10% increase in that blog traffic from the previous month,” or it’s going to be something like, “I want to improve the number of people who engage with the second email over the nurture workflow and I want to improve that engagement by 0.5%.”
What you’re doing there is you’re setting really clear goals, very clear targets, but the most important thing is for you to do in that given month that will help you accelerate your growth.
Step 2: Insights
Insight is probably one of my favourite parts of being a marketer today specifically like most of my time I spend doing online marketing, where you can pull apart things that work and figure out why they work. I have a team of 12 now. Everyone in my team I’ve hired myself. One of the traits I look for on people is just this intense curiosity of why things work. For example, why a particular brand is so successful. If you go Google Trends, you see, “hey why is this brand getting searched so much over the last couple of years”? Why a particular piece of content has been shared so widely, why a particular page ranks for certain key words. The really best marketers will want to know why all of those different things are the way they are.
Step 3: Experiment
You’ve gathered a bunch of research and now you’re going to come up with a bunch of different ways for me to try to hit that goal. Not everything can be experiment because what tends to happen in marketing is there’s a certain percentage of your traffic leads are just going to come in from things that you know that work. And what you want to try and do is silo aside some of the time for the team to have the freedom to make big bets and run experiments.
Step 4: Promoting Like Hell
Promotion for me is one of the important topics in marketing today. If you want to be a good marketer, you need to be like Kanye West, he’s a self-promoter so if you think of your own content as yourself, you have to be really a great promotion of the things that you or your team do.
I guess one quick example I’ll share that most people can use, is that we’re using this a lot for our own big content assets that we promote is, if you think about promotion of content and the success or failure of that promotion, most of it hinges on a title and a snippet because you don’t get to see the content until you’ve engaged with the promotion.
Common growth hack mistakes to avoid
Companies aren’t hiring the people with the right skill sets to actually engrain this culture within the company itself. They need to hire people who are marketers but are also very technical, who are very curious about how things work and how they can make them work better.
And because they don’t do that, what they do is they end up with an annual plan they just roll out each and every year, and it’s the exact same stuff. That’s why a lot of companies get left behind their competitors who are working at a different pace.
If the company doesn’t have a culture that’s going to appeal to those people when they get in there, those people are going to leave and go somewhere else. The really big thing is a lot of the reasons that marketers join HubSpot is because they can’t believe for a company that’s quite big now, our sign off process is basically go do it. If you think it’s a good idea, go do it. Whereas another company, you’ll be trying to implement something that has to be signed off by four different people before it ever gets done and it really kills the enjoyment from the people who really like experiment and trying new things.
What do the next three years hold?
I feel like no one can really predict where we’re going to go in the next three years but I feel like it’s going to be the exact same way it is now. There are just going to be a bunch of new tactics people are finding that work, people are sharing. Again when you share with a wider marketing community, you’re going to have to go find something else because if you’re one of the last ones to adopt that, chances are that it’s not working that well anymore. Things just change so fast.