The term ‘growth hacking’ has been circling around the startup and small business space for more than a decade. Despite the way it sounds, growth hacking isn’t about sketchy practices to ‘hack’ startup growth, nor has it got anything to do with computer hackers. Instead, growth hacking refers to creative, low-cost marketing strategies that focus solely on growth. For some, growth hacking is a mindset.
While there is an abundance of information on growth hacking – we’ve discussed growth hacking strategies, ideas and inspiration in a previous blog – without a process in place whereby you can effectively implement and test those strategies, it’s hard to scale a business. In fact, growth hacking is more about the process, and the lessons learned, than the tactics.
A growth hacking framework is like a map for trialing different strategies – and it’s important for startups and scaleups to move quickly. By trying, failing and trying again, you will compile a list of learnings and find the growth strategies that work for your business.
In this blog, we will outline a growth hacking framework that will springboard your marketing strategies.
7-step growth hacking framework
In the pursuit of hyper-growth, there is no overnight quick-fix. You need the process in place before you can go full steam ahead. Below is an iteration of a commonly used framework.
1. Define your goal
What is your growth stretch goal?
A growth stretch goal is high effort and high risk to attract high rewards and opportunities. The idea is to aim high to inspire growth – not so much about achieving 100% (although that’s ideal).
An example of a growth stretch goal could be to increase customers in the US by 20%. It’s an ambitious target, but it will certainly get your team moving.
Once you have defined your goal, you’ll be able to consider all marketing efforts in terms of that metric and track the variables that influence it.
2. Brainstorm ideas
This step is all about ideas — after all, growth hacking is a creative pursuit. Create a Miro board with your team – or dig out a whiteboard and pens if you’re feeling retro – and brainstorm all the low-cost ways you can drive acquisition and retention. Think cross-channel, think monetization, think referral programs, etc.
Identify and visualize your user’s pain points and step into their shoes to find solutions. Always ask yourself “why” you’re doing something. And remember: you’re trying to achieve your growth stretch goal.
We’ve written comprehensively about growth hacking strategies in a previous post, but below are a few ideas to spark inspiration:
Build integrations: Ensure your product integrates with with well-known products to attract more users. Create a landing page to house your integrations and make new integration announcements. Check out Ortto’s integrations here.
Compare products: When looking for best-fit tools, it’s normal to type in ‘[product] vs. [product]’ into Google. But the search results don’t usually distill the direct comparison of two products in a neat cheat sheet. But you should. Create side-by-side comparison landing pages to highlight what your product offers vs. what your competitors offer.
Use activity-based marketing to boost referrals: Use a referral program where the existing user – and in some cases the referee – receives a discount or offer. A referral program turns users into brand ambassadors. Ortto customers can automate a referral incentive to customers using activity-based marketing. So, when the user sees the value in your product, they are thanked and prompted to refer a friend.
Gamify sticky parts of customer acquisition and retention: If you’re struggling to retain users, identity at what parts of the process they are bouncing, and then gamify that part. For example, if a lot of new users are dropping off at the onboarding stage, consider how you can make onboarding more engaging. For instance, you might send tailored emails or show encouraging prompts in the form of pop-ups to remind users to keep exploring the value of your product.
It also helps to look at what your competitors are doing and how they’re leveraging marketing tactics to grow. But remember that what works for one business may not work for you. There are multiple factors that contribute to different business needs - business model, audience, industry, customer journey, etc. – so it may take time to find your own rhythm.
Once you’ve defined some growth hacking ideas, decide which ones you’ll focus on first.
It can be hard to figure out which ideas to run with first, so ask the following question for each idea you’ve identified to determine which is likely to work best:
What is the hypothesis? (If successful, [variable] will increase by [impact], because [assumptions].)
What is the probability it will be successful in achieving growth stretch goal?
What is the potential impact? Will its impact be long-lasting or short-lived? How can it be sustained?
What will the resource spend be? Consider the teams, time, money required.
Tip: It’s great to acquire new customers quickly – but you want to keep those new customers around to create sustainable growth overall. Therefore, before you spend resources on acquisition, you may focus first on retention and user satisfaction initiatives to reduce churn.
4. Test, and test again
Growth hacking goes something like this: Test, fail, measure, optimize, test, fail, measure, optimize, and so on. You must get used to – and expect – failure, because the quicker you fail, the quicker you can cut your losses and move onto the next test. Soon enough, you’ll find a winning strategy and that stretch goal will fall into your lap.
This acceptance is key, because small businesses and startups operate lean and there aren’t spare resources to waste on approaches that won’t deliver results. With growth hacking, you’re learning from low-cost strategies to find out what works. Once you find what performs for your brand, you can start to invest.
Execute your experiment for anywhere between 30 and 90 days. This is long enough to properly test it, but not so long that you’re wasting time waiting.
Also, don’t just sit back and put your feet up until the 90 days is up. Within this period of time, you should be optimizing and experimenting on things like search keywords, content and different creative to get the most out of your tests.
Be sure to measure and record the results on a regular basis (perhaps weekly) using a collaborative platform like Google Docs.
6. Analyze results
Once you’ve experimented with a strategy, you should analyze its impact. Consider the quantitative impact (e.g. customer data, conversion rate metrics) and qualitative impact (e.g. customer feedback, surveys, user testing).
Ask yourself these questions:
What were the results of the experiment?
Did this experiment reach the goal?
What was the resource cost?
How much time was spent?
How accurate was the hypothesis?
Were there any surprises in the results?
7. Record and document
Be sure to document your processes and consolidate all data and learnings. The documentation should include includes the hypotheses, timeframe, results, number of tests, resource spend, results, failures, and a summary.
You may also build a Playbook so that whoever reads it can repeat the process and scale it without a hitch.
Growth hacking tips for long-term growth
Growth hacking is about rapid growth using creative, low-cost strategies to get people into the funnel, but the modern iteration of growth hacking also focuses on bringing the right leads into your funnel.
So, instead of measuring acquisition metrics alone, consider strategies than can improve sustainable growth. Below are three examples:
Build buyer personas based on what you know about your best customers, and narrow in on strategies that target them. The best buyer personas make complex, rich data – from demographic, behavioral, and firmographic customer data, to customer surveys and market research – simple and tangible. Once we can walk in the shoes of our buyers, we can create product experiences that shorten the journey from browse to buy.
Focus on customer lifetime value (CLV) and continue to track after the test ends. For example, let’s say you perform two tests: one gets 500 signups and the other gets 200 signups. You conclude that the first test was more successful. But two years on, those 200 signups have two times the CLV of the 500 signups. You’ve actually brought in more revenue from the second test and if you had stopped tracking the results when the tests ended, you’d never realize that the second test was actually more effective in the long term. Find out how to calculate the CLV here.
Take customer feedback and customer satisfaction into account. Can you use Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to retain and expand existing customers? Can you create a product extension that your customers have been asking for? Can you identify a common problem to solve for your customers? Listen to what your customers are saying and find creative ways to serve their needs. After all, your customers are a real-world, tangible represetation of your buyer persona.
Creative strategies like the three above ensure that you’re future-proofing your growth. Rather than focusing on acquisition alone, putting in processes that offer long term learnings is the key to sustainable growth.
The final word
Whatever type of growth hacking strategies you’re experimenting with, having a single source of truth in a growth hacking framework will help you to identify opportunities, map out ideas, implement and analyze tests, and make approaches scalable – and sustainable. Sign up to Ortto today to get the most out of your growth hacking efforts.