When starting and growing your business there are two things to always keep in mind:
Being able to work in your business
Being able to work on your business
The first involves the operational aspects of the business such as designing the product/service, hiring talent, legal, operational management, figuring out shipping, and of course customer service and support.
The second focuses more on the aspects of Marketing. Being able to create a brand, market and promote your brand and offer, and drive leads back to you in order to convert them into customers.
Having a Marketing Plan and strategy to grow your business is absolutely imperative. Many businesses fail because they fail to market and promote, and immediately assume their idea or product will get customers and generate sales on its own. Sure you can get by without a marketing plan, but if your goal is to truly build a long term, sustainable and profitable business, then having a marketing plan, especially one geared towards growth is essential.
Benefits of Creating a Marketing Plan and Strategy
It helps to create a brand that builds loyalty and long-term profitability. Think of the world’s most profitable and reputable businesses, especially the ones you are loyal to. I doubt it is because their product is the most amazing thing on earth, compared to their competitors. Customer loyalty doesn’t only come by how amazing a product is, it comes from the emotions that brand is able to elicit: joy, fulfilment, belonging, etc. Apple not only has customers but die-hard fans and followers. They are loyal because of how they feel when using a Apple product, that feeling of having their own individuality and expression, and that is only created through branding
It helps to create a proper metric for growth (or lack of). With online marketing it is easier than ever to measure what marketing and sales efforts in your business is making money and what is not. Having a marketing plan that is metric and data focused ensures that you are investing in your business on things that will have a significant ROI while reducing costs. According to an article by Kissmetrics on increasing ROI using Marketing analytics, marketers say 82% of executive want every marketing to be measured.
It helps you to maintain a competitive edge in your market, and gain market share. Many businesses go out of business simply because not enough people know their product/service exists (so limited sales), and everyone knows their competitors’ product/service exists. If you aren’t marketing your business it means people don’t know about you, which means no one buying, no money made, and soon business failure
You may be tempted to say you don’t have the resources, namely capital, necessary to execute marketing plans or strategy.
Thankfully, there is what is known as Growth Hacking. The term was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010. The concept is nothing new in terms of its approach to business. Many business marketing and growth practices today and business innovation stemmed from Growth Hacking, it has just now been given a name.
What Is Growth Hacking?
In its simplest sense based on my research, I would define Growth Hacking as unique, creative, unconventional, and unexpected ways to grow your business without the need for a huge budget, while relying on analytics as the basis for growth. A Growth Hacker’s primary focus is growth, nothing more nothing less. Growth can be in a number of areas:
Growing brand awareness
Growing subscribers or email list
Growing market share
The area of growth is irrelevant, the important thing is to have an ‘out-of-the-box’ mindset towards growing your business.
Examples of Growth Hacking at its best
Type the words “Growth Hacking” in your search engine and it is undoubtable that Airbnb will somehow work its way into the search results and conversation. It is typically the example many Marketers look to in order to illustrate the power of this practice. Airbnb grew to a multibillion dollar brand known for being the ‘middle-man’ between those who wanted to rent a space and guests who needed a place to stay, and connected both on a global level. Their growth came by integrating Craigslist’s API into their own software, and using Craigslist as a platform to promote their business for free. Clients who came to list rooms for rent on Airbnb could promote their listing on Craigslist, which in turn would also promote Airbnb. Just think in terms of a website integrating with Twitter or Facebook to share their content directly from their website, instead of having to go onto the actual social networks.
Other examples of Growth Hacking can be seen also from Uber who created an app where individuals could ‘call’ for a taxi and a driver would provide transportation to the person. Uber didn’t own any cars or paid the drivers, they simply found a creative way to utilize resources already available in a creative, unconventional way, not thought of before by anyone.
The ingenuity of Airbnb and Uber grew both companies to multibillion dollar brands, without the need for a huge budget to promote their services.
This is Growth Hacking in its truest sense.
This practice allows any Startup to level the playing field, differentiate their brand, and if done effectively can lead to massive success beyond imagination or even comprehension.
Now let’s get into 10 ways you can actually use some Growth Hacking strategies to grow you Startup.
10 Growth Hacking Strategies to Increase Startup Success
Get interviews on online mediums such as podcasts. This is actually a great way to super grow your Startup quicker than normal. Getting someone to interview you on your business and your story behind why you started it can help you gain immediate traction. What’s even more is that most Startups never think of this strategy. Most entrepreneurs starting out think they need to have massive or some level of success first before actually being interviewed. However, if you understand the online space, it’s all about creating engaging content that provides value. Therefore, both you and the interviewer can benefit. The podcaster gets content for their podcast and you get the opportunity to expose your business to a new audience you didn’t have access to before. Also, it gives you credibility with your existing audience and customers, which helps you to position yourself as a leader in your market, and turn potential into paying customers
Partnering with other Startups to create added value products. Online this is called Affiliate Marketing. However, it doesn’t have to be limited to only online. If you have a business offline or brick and mortar, and have other businesses in your local market that complement yours, then it’s more beneficial to partner, even if it’s for a short period. For example if you own a business consulting Startups in your market and someone else has a law firm Startup, you can partner with them to offer your service to their clients who may want to start their own business. Simultaneously, if you have clients who are starting their own business but need advice on the legalities necessary to do so, you can offer your partner’s service to your clients. This way your business can be promoted to a list of prospects that a). You didn’t have access to before, and b). You didn’t have to spend extra marketing dollar to acquire
Creating a video series. Youtube is typically viewed as a fun and leisure platform. Most business owners never think about using Youtube as a platform to seriously grow brand awareness and their business…and that’s why it’s a powerful growth hack!
According to a research done by Hubspot in the first Quarter of 2016, more than half of consumers (55%) most preferred to consumer content in the form of video; even more than social media posts (think about that for a second). Consumers prefer to watch a video than to read a Facebook or Twitter post.
Hubspot marketing research on the trend of video content consumption
Blendtec, a company that sells blenders, understands this trend very well.
There’s nothing particular special or unique about a blender, more so selling it, and they can pretty much be found in any store. So how do you create buzz with really a boring product?
Blendtec saw the power of creating virality with a show named Will It Blend where they take every day items we all use such as an iPad and blend them. The purpose is to show the power of their blenders, while create significant awareness of their products. Result? Millions of views on Youtube per video! This is what true Growth Hacking is about! Their approach to growing their business is unique, creative, unconventional, and unexpected, and that’s why they were able to stand out from competitors. You too can do the same. It’s not so much about having a Youtube video series, it’s about infusing your own unique and creative genius in it
Invite a known expert in your industry to do a Q&A webinar or interview. It’s good to be known as an expert or thought leader in your industry or marketplace. However, until you can get to that place it would be a great idea to invite one to do a Q&A session with you. For one you can promote it to potential customers in your marketplace, collect their contact info that you can later promote your products/services to. Secondly, it can help you to gain access to potential customer base you wouldn’t have had access to. This is because it’s very likely the person you interview will promote it to their extensive audience and followers on Social Media
When he first began his journey Lewis had no success in the business world. So he leveraged the success and influence of others by interviewing them to gain insights and share with his audience. This is what helped to create and shape his brand over the years.
Create a whitepaper that is an educational piece. You can use this whitepaper to educate your potential customers on how your offering works (if it takes technical know-how). Also, how you are different from your competitors, the benefits to them as customers, and at the end you can have a call-to-action that drives them to your website, call a business contact number, or send an email. This is a strategy I personally implemented at my former employment. We sold a 2-way SMS communication software for businesses. No one in the marketplace had ever heard of or used such a platform so we had to educate our potential clients before we could even start selling to them. Not only did I send it to potential clients, but also existing. What we saw was not only an increase in interest by potential clients, but also an increase in the usage of our platform by existing ones, which then equated to increased sales for the company
Reach out to be a contributor in your local newspaper or guest post on a popular blog. You can speak about challenges customers are experiencing in the marketplace, and offer solutions, then have a contact letting them know to get in touch with you for more. This will position you as a thought leader in your market as well as let your name be associated as the solution to their challenges. Then you can build a relationship and eventually introduce them to your offering as the solution to their challenge. This can also be done through reaching out to speak for free on online summits and conferences, there are event organizers often looking for speakers who have some new and fresh insights to offer to their audience
Send direct mail with discount offerings to current customers. Direct mail may not be anything new, but it has become so overshadowed by online marketing that sending a personalized, handwritten direct mail which is delivered to people’s mailbox will instantly help you to stand out from your competitors, and win raving fans and lifelong customers. Position it so that if current customers decide not to use it they can offer it as a gift package to someone they know who could benefit from the offer. This way you are leveraging your existing customers’ network to expand your reach. If you can find a way to make it interactive that would be even more amazing.
Create referral program. You can also use this method to drive traffic that can become subscribers. Let potential customers know if they get a certain number of people to sign up or purchase your offer then theirs will be free. Then later when they subscribe and become a free user you can upsell or cross-sell them on other offers. This is what Dropbox did and still do to significantly grow their business. Users can sign up for a free account with a certain number of storage space. However, they have the option where you could either pay to upgrade for significantly more space, or you could refer people you know through an email link. For every person that signed on you would get more space for free
Gain testimonials through free trials. You can offer a few people (5-10 is usually a good number), your offer for free in exchange for their testimonial on its use (preferably video). Then showcase these testimonials on your website’s homepage as people like to know that you can actually deliver the results you say you can “Show rather than tell”. You can later upsell these few people on future offers you may have at a discounted rate as a further ‘thank you’ for their testimonial
Send your product to a famous person. This one is hidden in plain sight. If you are a Startup entrepreneur you never really think to send your product to a famous or influential person. That lingering thought of “I doubt they would even look at it much less try it” is sure to pop up somewhere. However, this is exactly what Spanx founder Sara Blakely did when she started her business. She sent a few sizes of the apparel to Oprah with the intention to have her try them on. Oprah loved it so much that she invited Sara to be a guest on her show and interview her about her business. Keep in mind that this was when Sara was in business for less than 2 months, with no network, a no-name, with no prior business experience, so it’s not like she had connections, success or clout to pull this off. It was simply Growth Hacking brilliance. That one interview helped to skyrocket Spanx to becoming a multibillion dollar brand and Sara a billionaire over time. It even got the attention of investing guru Warren Buffet. You can watch her speak on how she got Spanx on Oprah
With a mindset geared towards growth hacking there are really no limitations as to what creative and unique ideas you can come up with to grow your Startup, even with little to no resources to do so.