Startup Marketing: A Guide To Growth Hacking

Growth Hacker is a term first coined by Sean Ellis in 2010 in his blog post "Find a Growth Hacker for your startup", since then the term has become increasingly more popular and even an actual job title.

But what is a Growth Hacker?
A Growth Hacker is in its essence a Marketeer. Marketing is about acquiring new customers, but it is also about retaining customers. A great growth hacker knows this and leverages metrics, product, creativity, tools and distribution channels to do reach goals.

To be a succesful Growth Hacker or Growth Hacking Team you need to be able to combine the following skills effectively:

  • Data Analysis: good understanding of the numbers.
  • Technical: can read the code.
  • UX: knows the product and its core value proposition.
  • Creative: can come up with great new ideas.
  • Rational: data wins over opinions.

Every Growth Hacker must also know that there is a framework/model to follow. Some use different words to describe the same step, but in the end they are all about: Acquisition, Activation and Retention.

Some examples also have Referral and/or Revenue (Example: http://500hats.typepad.com/500blogs/2011/08/blogging-hiatus.html ), but the most important steps are Acquisition, Activation and Retention.

  1. Acquisition: is about getting them to and through the front door. 
    Use Inbound and Outbound Marketing to get them to your site. Optimize landing pages to maximize conversion.
    "What is this? Let's try it out!"
  2. Activation: getting them to the AHA moment as quickly as possible. 
    Time matters in the Activation Funnel. 
    "This is cool, I can and should use this!"
  3. Retention: keeping them engaged by delivering core product value early and often.
    Create a Core Value Delivery Machine. First, know what your core product value is. Then calibrate internal and external messaging to optimize the delivery flow of your core product value and maximize must-have experience.
    "The more I use it the more value I get in return!"

    Both referral and revenue can only achieve true optimization, if these three are optimized first. Trying to optimize referral and revenue before acquisition, activation and retention are optimized could even end up backfiring, something you don't want.
     
  4. Referral: leveraging your customer network to get even more customers.
    Give active users the possibilty to easily share their experience with their network.
    "This is great, I need to share it with my friend! He should use it too!"
  5. Revenue: $$$!
    "I like this and don't mind paying for those extra features!"

Below is a graphical representation of the framework.

Growth Hacking Framework

 

In this framework there are three crucial elements that combined give a good growth hacker everything he needs to create growth. These three elements are: Distribution, Tools & Goals.

 

Distribution:

The first element is distribution. Distribution is how you communicate with your users and try to get them to the next step of the framework. Creativity plays an important role in distribution, because in order to discover what works and what doesn't, you need try out many different things. Those that work the best are often the result of creative thinking.

Acquisition:

  • Inbound Marketing:

Type

Objective

Predictability

Timeframe

Tools

Examples

SEO

Generate Traffic

Medium

Long Term

Google Analytics, SEOmoz, QuantcastMeasure, Custom Solution

Accurate and unique titles, meta-tags, load times, responsive design, eliminate broken links and duplicate pages, ...

Blog

Thought leadership & Brand Exposure

Low

Long Term

Google Analytics, Quantcast Measure, Custom Solution

Customer Studies, Market Studies, Company Insights, ...

White paper

Thought Leadership & Brand Exposure

Low

Long Term

Google Analytics, Quantcast Measure, Custom Solution

Backgrounder, Numbered List, & Problem/Solution White Paper

Webinar

Thought Leadership & Brand Exposure

Low

Long Term

Google Analytics, Quantcast Measure, Custom Solution

Learning-focussed, Marketing-focussed, & Sales-focussed Webinars

PR

Generate Traffic & Brand Exposure

Medium

Short Term

Google Analytics, Quantcast Measure, Custom Solution

Media Relations, Media Tours, Newsletters, Special Events, Speaking Engagements, Sponsorships, Employee Relations, & Community Relations and Philanthropy

Email

Brand Exposure

High

Instant

Google Analytics, Quantcast Measure, Custom Solution

Newsletters, Referral, & Reactivation mail

Social Media

Generate Traffic & Brand Exposure

Medium

Instant

Google Analytics, Quantcast Measure, Custom Solution

Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest Sharing

Contest

Generate Traffic

Medium

Short Term

Google Analytics, Quantcast Measure, Custom Solution

Refer friends and win a price!

Visual Content

Thought leadership & Brand Exposure

Low

Long Term

Google Analytics, Quantcast Measure, Custom Solution

Comics, Memes, Infographics, Photos, Videos, & Visual Note-taking

  • Outbound Marketing

Type

Objective

Predictability

Timeframe

Examples

SEM

Generate Traffic

High

Instant

Google Adwords, Bing Ads

Display Ads

Generate Traffic

High

Instant

Quantcast Ads, Adroll, isocket, Premium Publishers

Video Ads

Generate Traffic

High

Instant

Google Adwords for Video, Hulu Advertising, Premium Publishers

Affiliate

Generate Traffic

High

Instant

Content-based, Coupon-based, & Price Comparison Affiliate Websites

Sponsorship

Brand Exposure

High

Short Term

TechCrunch Disrupt, SXSW Interactive, The Next Web Amsterdam, LeWeb Paris

 

Activation:

Type

Objective

Predictability

Timeframe

Examples

Email

Reach AHA moment

Medium

Short Term

Getting Started Email, Follow-up Email, ...

App

Reach AHA moment

Medium

Short Term

Integrated Tutorial, Personalized Demo, ...

 

Retention:

Type

Objective

Predictability

Timeframe

Examples

Email

Deliver Core Product Value

Medium

Long Term

Weekly Updates, ...

App

Deliver Core Product Value

Medium

Long Term

User Activity Stream, Dashboard, ...

 

Referral:

Type

Objective

Predictability

Timeframe

Examples

Email

Leverage Network

Medium

Instant

Email Invitations

Social Media

Leverage Network

Medium

Instant

Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest Sharing

 

Tools:

The second element are the tools. For a growth hacker metrics are the holy grail, it tells him which distribution is working and which isn't. The tools are where he gets those metrics from.

Name

Type

Features

Website

Pricing

Google Analytics

Traffic and Traffic Source Analytics

Content, Social, Mobile, Conversion, & Advertising Analytics

http://www.google.com/analytics/

Free

Quantcast Measure

Traffic and Traffic source Analytics

Traffic, Demographics, Geographic, Affinities, & Business Analytics

https://www.quantcast.com/measurement/

Free

Google Analytics Premium

Traffic and Traffic Source Analytics

Standard Google Analytics + personalized support, better data processing and higher limits

http://www.google.com/analytics/premium/

http://www.google.com/analytics/premium/contact.html

SEOmoz Pro 

SEO Optimisation

SEO Platform, SEO Tools, Resources, Training, & Tips

http://www.seomoz.org/

http://www.seomoz.org/plans

Woorank

SEO Optimisation

SEO Review, SEO Monitoring, SEO Marketing Plan

http://www.woorank.com/

http://www.woorank.com/#pricing

Optimizely

A/B testing for Landing Pages

WYSIWYG, Unlimited experiments and goal tracking, multi-variate, geo-targeting, funnel testing, ...

https://www.optimizely.com/

https://www.optimizely.com/pricing

Visual Website Optimizer

A/B testing for Landing Pages

WYSIWYG, Unlimited experiments and goal tracking, multi-variate, geo-targeting, heatmap, ...

http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/

https://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/signup.php

CrazyEgg

Visual user behavior tracking

Heatmap, scrollmap, overlay and confetti tool

http://www.crazyegg.com/

https://www.crazyegg.com/pricing

Mixpanel

Action based tracking

Segmentation, funnels, retention, people analysis & notifications

https://mixpanel.com/

https://mixpanel.com/pricing/

KISSmetrics

Action based tracking

Segmentation, funnels, retention & people analysis

https://www.kissmetrics.com/

https://www.kissmetrics.com/pricing

Adobe SiteCatalyst

Action based tracking

Segmentation, funnels, cross-device identification, click map & advanced reporting

http://www.adobe.com/products/sitecatalyst.html

http://www.adobe.com/products/sitecatalyst.html

 

Goals:

Then the third and final element are the goals. These goals will define when a step in the framework is completed and provide a benchmark to compare the metrics against. True optimization is only achieved when the metrics confirm that there is a maximum output of the goals reached.

Goals identify when a step in the framework is completed, so they need to be established for each step.

Examples:  (These examples come from my experience at dotCloud. The numbers are not a true representation.)

  • Acquisition: 5000 monthly signups (absolute goal)
  • Acquisition: +12% monthly signups (relative goal)
  • Activation: 70% of registration launch an app (absolute goal)
  • Activation: +4% of registration launch an app  (relative goal)
  • Retention: 50% of active users push new code within a week / 50% D7 retention (absolute goal)
  • Retention: +6% of active users push new code within a week / +6% D7 retention  (relative goal)
  • Referral: 1500 monthly user invites (absolute goal)
  • Referral: +10% monthly user invites (relative goal)

 

Landing Pages:

Optimizing landing pages is a crucial aspect of every website. Inbound and outbound marketing allows you to get people to the front door, but then you need to maximize the amount of users that actually step through the door. That's what optimizing landing pages is all about and with products like Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer this has never been easier. 

Optimizing a landing page is an ongoing process that consists of making both big changes and small changes.

  • Big changes: doing complete redesign of a page.
  • Small changes: changing the color of a button and changing text.

Typically you start with big changes to figure out which design of a page works best.
The next step is optimization to even further improve the results gained by that design by making small changes.

 

Resources:

Blog:

Sean Ellis: Find a Growth Hacker for your Startup

Aaron Ginn: What is a Growth Hacker?

Andrew Chen: Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing

 

Slideshare:

Mattan Griffel: Growth Hacking

Dave McClure: Startup Metrics for Pirates

Jon Cockle: Growth Hacking 101

21 Actionable Growth Hacking Tactics

 

Conference:

Growth Hackers Conference

 

Other:

Quora: Growth Hackers

Udemy: Introduction to Growth Hackers

Udemy: Growth Hacking: Lean Marketing for Startups

Growth Hacker TV