Why Growth Hacking is the most important tool for a growing startup
What makes a good growth hacker isn’t necessarily their degree
Most people have probably heard the term growth hacking, and how it’s the future marketing in a technology-obsessed world. For startups, growth hacking isn’t the future – it’s the present. There’s no exact definition of growth hacking — it’s defined as the use of multiple platforms and leveraging different disciplines to pull in users and identify how to market and sustain growth for a product based on user data. Because of the inherently nebulous definition of growth hacking – there’s no set practice or guidelines for a growth hacker either. Marketing majors may think that they’ve been trained for exactly this: creating a platform for a product whilst drawing interest to their product, often through paid advertising and tried and true advertising methods.
However, traditional marketing oversees a vast scope, growth hacking takes a narrow focus on one specific part of business: the growth aspect alone. Traditional marketing majors may have been educated to have a wide breadth of focus. Growth hackers can be a subset of the marketing teams; their focus is to increase the visibility of a company through a few specific techniques – to maximize their wide appeal while spending the least amount of money possible.
AirBnB: Golden Child of Growth Hacking
An excellent example of the successes of growth hacking is AirBnB. The company’s growth hackers originally paired the company with Craigslist by offering a direct connection tab on their website. The multi-platform usage increased their possible clientele infinitely, and made them one of the most successful start-ups to employ growth hacking as a tactic to retain more users. What was most innovative about AirBnB’s technique was that it was outside of the box: no company of their genre before had attempted to broaden their user database by pairing platforms with another real estate firm. By utilizing the API loophole in the system, growth hackers for AirBnB were able to temporarily connect themselves with Craigslist. An API is an application programming interface, and is essentially a way for programmers to connect with a certain application; we all know what applications are, from society’s smartphone obsession.
In this way, AirBnB demonstrated a key consideration of growth hacking: innovation. With no distinct guideline for what makes a business grow, growth hacking is tailored specifically to each client and business. Furthermore, they applied more techniques that were somewhat unheard of. Many programmers and traditional marketers appeal to the idea of “indefinite scaling” – that is to create a platform that you can continually use to grow and develop. AirBnB originally perused this technique, but noticed that there wasn’t much interest. On a whim, their development team went out, spent 10,000 on camera equipment, and flew themselves to New York to take pictures of the spaces they wished to rent out personally. The results? over a 1,000% increase in traffic in the first month. It’s these type of outside the box techniques that are the growth hackers dream.
Growth Hacking is a Science unto its own
What makes growth hacking unique is it’s a science of trial and error. At the moment, while there are numerous techniques that are well known in the community, there isn’t a definable guide or process for that matter for successful growth hacking. Growth hackers don’t have to be programmers or marketing majors — they simply have to be analytical and creative, with a narrow scope of focus and the ability to adapt. Most importantly, growth hackers need a wide array of knowledge about a variety of subjects, but are masters in a select few, and utilize that particular knowledge to create a successful business marketing platform to increase growth. Unlike typical advertising or marketing, growth hacking targets behavioral pulls and values; along with psychological targeting, growth hacking crosses disciplines to pull users into framework which increases growth in the company.
Essentially, growth hackers have to understand what exactly they’re attempting to do, and to narrow the focus to figure out a way to do that to increase growth at an exponential rate. It doesn’t require specific knowledge, per se, because it’s unique to the company and target audience. No marketing degree or programming background can exactly prepare someone for work as a growth hacker – it comes from understanding who you are as a company, where your user base is, and how to connect the two in a meaningful, effective manner.