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How to Growth Hack a Startup

How to growth hack your startup. Enact the plans, strategies, and tactics from the plans which you’ve created and purchased from the startup development kit to grow your customer-base and learn how to grow startup sustainably.

Learning how to growth hack a startup is a long, but extremely worthwhile process. However, it gets a lot easier the more you do it.

In this post, we’ll:

  1. Explain what growth hacking is and the definitions of it.
  2. Explain why growth hacking is so important.
  3. Show the difference between a growth hacker and using growth hacks.
  4. Explain how to growth hack your startup with the lean startup model.
  5. Show you how to growth hack anything with 7 steps.
  6. Tell you how to keep track of your tests.
  7. Show you how to build towards product-market fit.
  8. Help you find out what your customers want.
  9. Show you how to how to attract your target customers.
  10. Share the significance of analytics in your startup and your growth hacking experiments.
  11. Show you how to get started with Google Analytics and share information about other analytics suites.
  12. Give you information on how to create a measurement plan for your analytics
  13. Share growth hacking tools with you.
  14. Give you 20 examples of how to growth hack your marketing.
  15. And we’ll wrap up the post in the conclusion

What is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking doesn’t refer to performing any illegal activities.  So, you definitely don’t have to worry about that.

Instead, growth hacking is about finding inventive and/or creative ways to maximize user engagement, user retention, traffic, sales. 

And, growth hacking is also about finding ways to reduce time, effort, and cost. 

Below, you can learn about the three different types of growth hacking.

Definition #1

People can growth hack marketing activities by setting up analytical experiments or tests to find what brings you the best results. You can do this via A/B testing or multivariate testing.

If you keep doing this with, let’s say a specific Facebook ad, you can keep increasing your conversion rates or click-through rates. Thus, hacking your growth.

Definition #2

Create and code variations in software features of your SaaS and set up experiments with your analytics to see what your users like more.

This type of growth hacking is also known as the lean startup methodology and it allows you to grow with confidence.

Definition #3

Growth hacking can also mean shortcuts to perform marketing activities in as little time and with as little effort as possible.  

This style of growth hacking is incredibly popular.

It can be through software that automates processes for you, such as chrome extensions for LinkedIn which can auto-connect with types of users and auto-message specific niches of users.

Additionally, you can software stacks. A software stack is when you use two different pieces of software to significantly reduce time, effort, and even cost to perform a marketing activity.

An example of this is using a data/email scraper to create a list, and then sending out automated emails to the people on the list.

A third example is by creating a script to perform a function that would have taken a long time for you to do. Thus, saving you time so you can spend it on other activities. Time is money, after all.

Examples of these Growth Hacks

For instance, you can use data scrapers to collect data from a given page instead of copy and pasting individual data sets and creating new columns and rows.

Data scraping saves you time and allows you to harness that data towards your business development, marketing, or product development.

Or let’s say you want to get in touch with all of your your LinkedIn connections, but you don’t want to take the time to message them all, you can instead export your LinkedIn connections straight from LinkedIn. They have an option to do this.

Then, all of your connections and tons of data about them go into spreadsheets and you can then upload that data into your email client. This means you don’t have to individually message every one of your LinkedIn connections.

 

Why is Growth Hacking Important for a Startup?

Growth hacking is important for your startup because it gets to the essence of your value proposition.

You want to be successful, right?

To create a truly successful startup, it’s important to focus your product or service around a problem in your target niche.

There are growth hacking tactics and then there’s general growth hacking for your startup which is based on the lean startup formula.

All of the smaller growth hacking tactics used to increase your conversion rate in the world won’t keep your startup afloat in the long-term if your product sucks.   

That’s right, split testing email subject lines or post titles won’t help you enough in the long-term to survive.

Your product or service needs to be something your target audience wants and needs (product-market fit).

If you don’t have product-market fit, no specific or generic growth hack will take care of growth unless your product near-magically goes viral. It’s through the constant optimization of the sales funnel on your website where you will find the best results.

However, traffic and growth are obtained by the implementation of numerous marketing strategies, methodologies, and distribution channels aimed at your target customer.

Moreover, qualified lead generation targeted towards getting emails remains to be the best tactic to convert people into paying customers.  

This works best for both the short and long term through a combination of automated, drip, and manual email processes.

 

The Difference Between Growth Hacks and a Growth Hacker

There are a considerable amount of growth hacks on the web that will say you can increase your growth by doing a certain action or by switching from one technique to another.

The people that performed the tests and discovered those growth hacks are the true growth hackers.  

Using someone else’s growth hacks won’t make you a growth hacker.

If you want to become a true growth hacker, then you’ve got to do the dirty work.  

You have to think like a scientist and act like a scientist.

This is why analytics is part of the field of data science and why it plays a central role in growth hacking.

However, you also need to have the makeup of a marketer, because growth is all about marketing, but the right kind!

Ultimately, growth hacking is a mix of product development, marketing, data science, resourcefulness, and ingenuity to maximize your conversion rates of your target customers.

 

How to Growth Hack Using the Lean Startup Model

this lean startup methodology helps you learn how to growth hack your startup

The lean startup model is about finding what’s scientifically proven to work with a SaaS (software as a service) startup or any startup which utilizes the internet to generate revenue for its business.

Step 1: Create a Hypothesis

You start with an idea and you create a hypothesis so you can test whether the hypothesis is true or false. Just like in science class from grade-school. Pick your key performance indicators (KPIs) of what you want to measure and learn.

Step 2: Build

As shown in the picture of the above model, you code or build the product or feature you want to test and make a duplicate with one variation so you can A/B test it (also known as a split test). 

The “A” version is your control and your “B” version is your variation.

With the “B” test, you only change ONE thing.

There are more advanced ways to test, such as multivariate testing, but A/B testing is the most common. 

In other sections below, you can learn more about analytics, how to get trained in it, and find out info about other analytics software solutions besides Google Analytics.

Step 3: Measure with Analytics

Insert your analytics tracking codes into the objects you’re testing so you can measure their performance and get data to find out if your hypothesis is true or false.

The goal is to see what version resonates with your target audience more.

In other words — what performs better?

Step 4: Drive Traffic to Your Experiment

Drive traffic to your experiment by marketing it through your marketing channels or through click funnels/sales funnels within your SaaS. 

You want to reach a statistically significant conclusion, so it’s better to have larger sample sizes of traffic going to each variation (A/B).

You definitely want at least 150 interactions with each side of the experiment.

This way, you learn if your control or your variable of your growth hacking experiment worked better.

Step 5: Analyze and Learn

Analyze your results using your analytics software and through event tracking.

Find out if your control or your variable converted better.

The data is helpful to see raw conversion rates, but you don’t necessarily know why people acted the way they did unless you ask them.

You can form a hypothesis as to why the result was the way it was.

Additionally, you can use surveys to help with this process. You can use free surveys through Hotjar.

Step 6: Repeat the Process

Repeat the process by then using the former control or variation (whichever one tested better), and form a new hypothesis to test out.

 

How to Growth Hack Anything with these 7 Steps

We just explored how to growth hack SaaS products.

Now, we will explore how to growth hack your marketing experiments such as pages on your website, ads that you’re running, email subject lines, content in emails, or just about anything else that can be tested.

How to growth hack in 7 steps. Create the material that you want to measure and make your hypothesis for your experiment Set up tracking on your website or app to the measure results of that specific material (this URL builder will help you with tracking campaigns via Google Analytics).  Most of the tracking is done by either doing split testing (otherwise known as A/B testing), multivariate testing, event tracking, or basic page tracking. A/B testing is when you have two choices (variables) that are shown to a segmented user-base/traffic. Half of the user-base/traffic will see one option (option A), and the other half of the user-base/traffic will see the other option (option B). Multivariate testing is when you have more than two variables to test.  You'd divide those options up equally with your user-base/traffic divided between each variable. Event tracking is when you track specific user actions, such as downloads, video plays, or clicks on a button. Basic page tracking is done by easily installing a Google Analytics tracking code into the HTML file of each page (if using WordPress, there are WordPress apps that do this for you).  Then by using the Google Analytics software suite, you can analyze your findings such as time on page, bounce rate, pages per session, devices used, user-flow from page to page, interests, and more. Run the testing.  You will want to have a good sample size of at least a few hundred results before you halt the test.  The size of your data set means more than time passed. Stop the test and analyze the key performance indicators in your results to learn about how your campaign performed. Pick the best variable with the highest conversion rate if doing A/B or multivariate tests.  If all variables performed badly, then keep the least bad one as the control for the study. Then create additional variables & restart the experiment. If using event tracking or basic page tracking, figure out what had the worst statistics/best statistics and learn how to improve your content to achieve better results. Record your results & record any changes. A spreadsheet is usually the best method for record-keeping. Step 1 in growth hacking your startup

Keep Track of Your Experiments

Keep track of your experiments using a spreadsheet. Include what the experiment is, the hypothesis, the variations used, date, sample size of the experiment, and results of the experiment.

Doing this will keep you on top of your testing and keep you focused on improving your startup scientifically.

 

Building Your Product Towards Product-Market Fit

All of this experimentation is awesome and it has a purpose.

The purpose is to achieve product-market fit with your startup.

The creator of growth hacking ideology, Sean Ellis, says that (paraphrasing) “you know when you’ve achieved product-market fit when 40% of your users cannot live without your product.”

You can test and tweak your marketing campaigns and tweak your product or service until you reach it. 

The lean startup model is all about fine-tuning your product and marketing strategies.

It takes time to build a solid user base and to achieve a product-market fit with a low or negative churn rate.  

According to Investopedia, churn rate is also known as the rate of users declining to sign up again.

It’s the percentage of subscribers to a service who discontinue their subscriptions to that service within a given time period.

When getting your users for your startup, there are several ways to find out if visitors are interested in your product or service.

You can survey your users, ask them personally, monitor your sales page conversion rate, A/B test your sales page, use heatmapping, and more.

Most businesses will not achieve product-market fit overnight.

Instead, it’s a long grind of both finding out exactly what your target customers want and the formulas of what works best for your target audience.

Just make sure you listen to your customers and their feedback.

They’re crucial to your survival.

 

Finding Out What Your Customers Want

Some ways to find out what your customers want is to:

  • Build an email list and get feedback from your subscribers through surveys
  • Exit-intent popups
  • Using analytics, track your users’ behaviors and view their affinities.
  • There are also multiple beta-testing services & new product feedback services.  You can find many of them in our Startup Resources & Tools Center in the idea development section.

 

Attracting Your Target Customers

One of the very best ways to attract your target customers is through blogging and content marketing. 

What is Content Marketing and Why Should You Use It?

Content marketing is when you market content on the web to get people to come back to your site to read, watch, or listen to it. 

Some examples of content is a blog post, a video post, podcast, infographic, bundle, great lists, etc.

When you do it right, content marketing attracts your target users back to your website and you’re displaying yourself as an authority on the subject. 

When that occurs, your site visitors are going to be more likely to sign up to your email list.

And, they’ll be more likely to purchase your product, especially if you are solving a problem of theirs.

Content marketing is one of the best methods of growth hacking.

Why?

Because it’s a great way to increase your domain authority by consistently building a presence on the web. Some call it equity on the web.

Moreover, content marketing is a solid way to skyrocket your traffic, social media shares, and increase search engine rankings of your content.

Oh yeah, did I mention that content marketing, when effectively paired with lead magnets, are an awesome way to generate leads?

Check out this guide I wrote called The Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing. It has lots of great tips and useful info to help you with your content development.

SEO and Content Marketing in Growth Hacking

It’s important to formulate a plan for your content before you write your post with your long tail keyword strategy.

Having a proper keyword strategy is based on the target user’s search intent on the topics they want to learn about.

Just blindly writing blog posts without an SEO keyword strategy will lower your ability to rank well on Google and Bing/Yahoo.  

And it will make it harder for you to gradually increase your domain authority.

Furthermore, you should focus more on long tail keywords (four to seven words) rather than shorter keywords.

Using long tail keywords allows you to focus more on the individual at a specific phase in the customer’s journey.

Blogging, if done right, is a significant aspect of content marketing and definitely can be a great growth hack your startup.

 

Understanding Analytics is Key

Understanding analytics is key in learning how to growth hack your startupUnderstanding and leveraging your data is the key to expanding your business’ full potential by growth hacking. 

There are so many data points you can see by harnessing analytics.

Creating a measurement plan for the key performance indicators in your analytics is the first step.

It’s important understand how to use the analytics suite because otherwise you won’t know what to do.

But in order for you to make a measurement plan, you have to know how to use the analytics suite you choose first.

Before you get started, see what many of your key performance indicators are by checking out this awesome infographic created by Anna Vital.

The reason for looking at this infographic now is just so you can get an idea of what you’re going to be measuring.

You can see:

  • Demographics
  • Geographic sources
  • Traffic sources
  • Social interests
  • The technology used
  • And more

When using analytics, you’ll be able to see what your strong points were and where your shortfalls came.

Moreover, you’ll be able to measure your marketing efforts and focus on growth.

  

Introduction to Analytics

If you’re new to using analytics, then don’t worry.  

Everybody starts from the beginning with any new skill set they learn. So don’t be intimidated because it’s something you can learn too, even if you claim to not be “good with numbers.”  

Google Analytics, an important piece for growth hacking your startupGoogle Analytics is free to use and Google is constantly improving the suite to make it even more user-friendly.

In fact, they just added a new reporting feature for their mobile app.

It breaks down how your website is performing in different areas so they can make it simpler for you.

One of the best parts about Google Analytics is that you can take multiple awesome free courses to learn how to use their analytics suite.  

I wanted to learn how to be a true growth hacker, so I took Google’s courses. And I turned analytics from being one of my weakest skill sets to one of my strongest.

You can also earn a Google Analytics Certification while you’re at it.  

However, you don’t need to earn the certification to learn the material and the final exam is purely optional.  

The courses are packed with:

  • Instructional videos
  • Text transcripts
  • Practice quizzes
  • Additional help sections
  • And no limits on how many times you repeat each section

What’s so wonderful about that final bit is you can take your time and learn at your own pace.

 

New Google Analytics Courses from Google

Google Analytics for Beginners

Google just released this brand new course: Google Analytics for Beginners.

It takes place of its former course, Google Analytics Fundamentals.

There, you will learn 17 lessons split into four units:

  1. Introducing Google Analytics
  2. The Google Analytics Layout
  3. Basic Reporting
  4. Basic Campaign and Conversion Tracking

Google Analytics for Beginners Course Overview

Google Analytics for Beginners shows you how to create an account, implement tracking code, and set up data filters.

You’ll learn how to navigate the its interface and reports, and set up dashboards and shortcuts.

The course will also demonstrate how to analyze basic Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior reports, set up goals, and campaign tracking.

Learning Advanced Analytics

If you want to go the next step further, Google Analytics just released another course called: Advanced Google Analytics.

This course takes place of the previous course, Platform Principles.

You will learn from 18 lessons split into four units.

  • Data Collection and Processing
  • Setting Up Data Collection and Configuration
  • Advanced Analysis Tools and Techniques
  • Advanced Marketing Tools

Google Analytics Advanced Course Overview

Advanced Google Analytics walks you through how data gets collected and processed into readable reports.

You’ll learn how to use configurations like Custom Dimensions, Custom Metrics, and Event Tracking to collect data that’s specific to your business.

The course will also demonstrate more advanced analysis techniques using:

  • Segmentation
  • Channel reports
  • Audience reports
  • Custom reports
  • Marketing strategies like remarketing and Dynamic Remarketing that show ads to customers who have visited your website.

 

Alternatives to Google Analytics

Kissmetrics

kissmetrics analyticsKissmetrics helps to track and analyze customer behavior to identify and remove roadblocks to increase conversions and drive retention.

With Kissmetrics, you can create popups with calls to action at key conversion points and optimize every interaction on your website based on triggers you set.

However, it doesn’t come with such extensive free education on using their software, and it isn’t free.

Moreover, they have specialized partners that will help you with its implementation which will cost you $1500.

They do have some nice features that Google doesn’t yet have, but they’re going to cost you.  Their starter service also starts at $220 per month.

Hotjar

hotjar analytics logoHotjar is a new and easy way to understand your web and mobile site visitors.

With Hotjar, you can use heat maps, mouse-movement recordings, analyze and test conversion funnels.

Additionally, you can do form analysis, perform feedback polls, surveys, and recruit user testers.

They have a forever free plan that limits you to 2,000 page views per day, 3 months of data storage, and limited reports.  Their next plan starts at $29 per month.  

There are more plans that scale up in price the more you need.

Heap

Heap analytics logo

Heap automatically captures every user action in your web or mobile app and lets you analyze it all retroactively.

It helps define analytics events and plot changes in key metrics to provide useful insights.

You’re no longer limited by events you remember to log up-front, such as clicks, taps, swipes, form submissions, or page views.  

You can define events and organize the building blocks of your analysis in a point-and-click interface.

There’s no need to push code.  By decoupling your schema from the raw auto-tracked data, Heap makes “data sanity easy.”

With their free plan, you get access to every analysis feature, up to 5,000 sessions per month, email support, and 3 months of data retention.  

Their next plan has more features but requires you to inquire for a pricing quote.

Clicky

Clicky web analytics logoClicky helps you monitor, analyze, and react to the visitor traffic in real time.

The data is extremely detailed and one can analyze individual visitors, their actions, and creates heatmaps based on their actions.

It blocks malicious bots and referrer spam – a very nice feature.  Clicky has heat mapping, a customizable dashboard, API access, widgets, and more.

Although not all of those features are available for free.

Their free option limits you to 3000 total daily page views, which isn’t bad for small businesses bringing in less than 1,000 users per month.

Clicky’s next paid option starts at a very modest price of $9.99 a month and scales up in price based on your traffic and feature needs. 

 

A Measurement Plan for Your Startup

Google Analytics Measurement PlanCreating a measurement plan is one of the first things you’ll learn through Google’s training while on your journey to becoming a growth hacker.

This measurement plan can be used for other analytics suites, as well. 

A measurement plan is very important to have if you want to growth hack your startup or business. This is because it keeps you focused on data, not emotions.

Getting good data begins with designing a measurement plan that identifies:

  • The company’s business objectives
  • The strategies and tactics that support the objective(s)
  • The key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success
  • The segments of your audience so that you can better understand what drives your success
  • Identifies targets for each metric to understand if the business is reaching its goals

(Source: Google Analytics Academy)

 

Growth Hacking Tools

We now have more tools and resources at our disposal to help us grow our startups quicker.  

Most of these are SaaS products such as OptinMonster, Sumo, Hello Bar, Drift, and Content Upgrades.

Additionally, on Product Hunt, I (Carl Potak) created a collection of lead generation tools.

These can help you streamline your lead generation process.

 

20 Examples of How to Growth Hack Your Marketing

  1. Content upgrades – increases email subscriber conversion rates up to 500%.
  2. Guest blogging – an easy way to build up your authority and drive traffic back to your site. And it can also linking to content on your site.
  3. One click webinar registration – increases your signup rates.
  4. Leverage human errors like “oops! I forgot the link” for emails for high conversions on the 2nd email.
  5. Exit intent popups – increases time on page and gets the user more interested in your site or more likely to buy via a sales promotion in the popup.
  6. Browser notification popups – sends visitors a notification when new content comes out & increases returning visitors.
  7. Automated webinars – Gives you more time for you to focus on other growth-based activities.
  8. Send emails from real person rather than generic – increases email open rates.
  9. Automate your social media – saves you loads of time.
  10. Mention people in twitter posts – increases engagement and thus visitors to your site.
  11. Use Twitter lists to organize your favorite influencers. Interacting with them on Twitter. gets you noticed more because of their audience size and audience engagement.
  12. Do white hat SEO techniques like commenting on Quora, LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, and in other communities. This gives you more direct and referral traffic, which also increases your domain authority.
  13. Automate your emails – planning in advance saves you loads of time, makes you more consistent. And it keeps your audience more engaged and thus interested in what you can offer them.
  14. Use 30% scroll popups for blog articles – increases subscriber signup rates.
  15. Adjust colors in ads to represent the tone of your ad – increases clicks
  16. Use a headline tester – maximizes your headlines for the best click-through rates.
  17. Landing page testimonials – increases trust, social proof, signups, and purchases.
  18. Send segmented traffic to specific landing pages – increases signups because it’s targeted to specific audiences.
  19. Use segments in your email lists to engage different audiences – higher conversion/open rates.
  20. Sales email drip campaigns – saves you loads of time and automates your sales email process to increase signups.

 

Conclusion

Growth hacking has become a smart and cheaper alternative to blowing money on traditional marketing campaigns that don’t show much insight into how well they perform.

You can drive your marketing forward without having to spend as much on paid ads.

When you do a combination of content marketing, SEO, social media, and email, you can have a smaller marketing budget if necessary.

With a growth hacker on your team or by becoming one yourself, you can harness growth on a whole different level with a scientific approach.  

Once you find what works you can scale it up and achieve growth like you have never experienced.

This is the draw of growth hacking.  And that’s what makes it so special.

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