Growth Hacking for Startups

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Growth Hacking for Startups

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To an entrepreneur there is probably nothing sweeter than hearing that their startup is growing. You could have just started your business in a garage or already have built a team of 20 members, but no matter the scenario, growth is the number one priority for startups. Growth is an indicator of a sustainable startup, something that points towards substantial profits in the future. In this growth-crazed startup world, ‘growth hacking’ as a methodology has gained fame in the last five years. Some dismiss it as just another fad, while other thought-leaders have hailed it as the next big thing. Growth hacking is basically marketing for startups. It is the amalgamation of marketing techniques with new-age technology. Growth hacking leverages startups’ technological prowess to give them unconventional ways to grow their businesses rapidly. Growth hacking has become a highly sought discipline for startups that they must master very early on if they wish to gain a competitive edge. Here is how you can get into the game. 

Growth hacking leverages startups’ technological prowess to give them unconventional ways to grow their businesses rapidly.

  

Define actionable goals

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Achieving growth is one of those deceivingly simple concepts that is extremely problematic to define. Unfortunately, there is no hack for this step, and the entrepreneur must delve into what growth means for their startup. Is it having more customers visit your webpage? Is it having them buy your product? Or is it having the current customers refer your product to others? Once you have defined your ‘growth’, you need to dig deeper and list out actionable goals. These goals must be something that you can work towards to achieve the growth you want. When defining your goals, try to go as narrow as possible, by making a checklist of sorts where you can check off something as completed once and for all.

 

Find ways to track your goal

 

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Once you’ve defined specific sets of goals for your startup, it’s time to move on to thinking about how to measure them. Without any metrics your goals are just empty. A well-defined measure will help inform, refine and shape the goals. If you cannot track when a goal has been met, it either means your goal is too vague or you do not have the necessary tools to measure the goals. You will have only wasted your startup’s limited resources if you are pursuing a goal without thinking about how to measure them. For instance, PayPal in its early days saw the problem that they needed to attract a large customer base to make their startup viable. The market was not trusting of a new online payment system, but the company had an innovative solution—of paying $10 cash to each new customer and $10 to the customer who referred them. They were able to use referrals to measure their increasing customer base. 

Without any metrics your goals are just empty. A well-defined measure will help inform, refine and shape the goals. If you cannot track when a goal has been met, it either means your goal is too vague or you do not have the necessary tools to measure the goals. You will have only wasted your startup’s limited resources if you are pursuing a goal without thinking about how to measure them.

  

Leverage your existing strengths

 

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 Every startup has inherent strengths or assets that can be used as leverage. When there is something at your disposal that requires little energy, but can produce big results, you have found your lever. If you align your goals with your inherent strengths, you will have created a more efficient plan of attack. An inherent strength can be anything from an efficient algorithm to the networking strength of your team members. Take LinkedIn for example: One of the ways they were able to achieve high growth early on was because they were able to leverage the networks of their founders to get the most influential and popular people on board their platform. This created a sense of exclusivity and credibility, which helped them gain hundreds of thousands of users in the first few weeks of their launch. 

When there is something at your disposal that requires little energy, but can produce big results, you have found your lever. If you align your goals with your inherent strengths, you will have created a more efficient plan of attack.

 

Experiment

 

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 Experimentation is programmed into all things startup, so it should come as no surprise that hacking growth actually requires that you experiment with different assumptions. If your goal was to have more customers visit your website by giving them an incentive through emails, then it’s time to send those emails. However, experimentation without an initial hypothesis makes for wasted effort. Your hypothesis could be that the number of visitors sourced through email will be higher than ones who organically discover your website. A hypothesis will keep you honest, and lead the conversation into why the assumptions were wrong. You might come to realise that your customers mostly tend to ignore the email, but that in a week’s time they visit the website by themselves. There is no such thing as bad publicity, and there is no such thing as bad data. Even if an experiment fails, you will have undoubtedly gathered a lot of information about your product and your users, which can be used in future experiments.

 

Tweak and repeat

 

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Experiments are meant to be optimised. Experiments are fluid. You learn new things about your customers or your product, develop a new hypothesis and test it. One of the best examples of this is what Airbnb learned about their market through experimentations. They initially launched their idea of providing lodging space for everyone in the San Francisco area; however, they quickly realised that their service was mostly requested by people who came for conferences and needed short-term cheap lodging. So they set up a simple website where people could list vacant rooms in their property, and the company found a way to post the listings on Craigslist. Airbnb knew through both experimentation and their own experience that Craigslist was the place where people who wanted offerings other than the standard hotel experience looked for listings. Growth hacking can take distinct forms, depending on how startups define growth. However, the process through which you can growth hack will remain the same no matter the strategy. It is therefore important that a startup becomes adept at how to growth hack before formulating its own strategies. 

Growth hacking can take distinct forms, depending on how startups define growth. However, the process through which you can growth hack will remain the same no matter the strategy.

 

  *First published in M&S VMAG

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