Most businesses are looking for exponential growth. The challenge is knowing how to get it.
This has become the purview of Growth Hacking, a new genre of digital marketing. This new flavor of online marketing adds extra doses of intensity, curiosity, radical and rapid testing, quantitative analysis, and engineering. At first glance, it appears intimidating, but at the most fundamental level it’s simply the scientific testing of human behavior.
But, that’s just the ‘How’. The real power in Growth Hacking is in the ‘Why’, the objective–identifying the desires of users then creating multiple frictionless paths. If you’re successful in doing this you’ll get the exponential growth you so desperately want, and maybe even require in the case of VC-backed startups.
Okay, so let’s break this down into very simple and executable pieces.
Viral growth online is a three-legged stool: traffic, product, user intent. None of these are more important than the other, and none really operates as a starting point. Often, where you start when creating an aggressive growth plan depends on which of these three things you do well or understand the best.
To support this general discussion on growth hacking, I’ll start with the Web traffic.
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How Much Web Traffic Do I Need?
I often begin with Web traffic to size up the growth challenge I’m tackling. It also helps to frame the conversation with the client on the magnitude of their growth request and expectations.
Here’s my simple traffic model. Feel free to copy and use it.
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This model is driven by revenue goals. In my experience, I like to start with revenue expectations and figure out how to get the client there quickly–when successful, it generates amazing excitement around the cutting of my retainer check 🙂
The focus might be slightly different if you’re an early stage startup (i.e., Angel, A or B round of funding). In this case, your goal is probably simple user acquisition. In that case, use this slightly modified model:
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Briefly, this model simply represents your desired marketing funnel, overlaid with your current and goal performance levels.
With only 3-4 assumptions you can quickly size-up your challenge. Starting with your target revenue or user acquisition goal, simply move backward up through the marketing funnel:
- What is your current, then goal, conversion rate on sign-ups (leads) to customers (actual paying users or active beta testers)?
- What is your current, then goal, conversion rate on Web visitors (traffic) to sign-ups (leads)?
Obviously, you can get terribly complex with this model, but in this initial exercise I am simply trying to quantify the scale of the challenge. This simple modeling offers a quick and powerful, often eye-opening, experience for our clients.
Try the model for yourself. I would venture to predict that you will be shocked by the amount of Web traffic your current online marketing process will require to hit your goals.
This points to the next benefit of doing this simple exercise–you can see the weaknesses in your online customer acquisition model. If you need an inordinate amount of Web traffic, one of a few things are going on that will make your goal harder, or even unachievable:
- Your lead acquisition–often a user registration or signup process–is too hard
- Your customer acquisition–the buying process–is too hard
- Your product isn’t compelling!
I put the exclamation point on the last one because, more often than not, that’s the problem.
Do I Have a Wow Product?
Honestly? Probably not.
The fact of the matter is that the bar for “Wow” online experiences has been lifted significantly in the last two to three years. Users are increasingly intolerant of friction in signups and product performance. And if you haven’t already begun to acquire a significant growth in users, you just don’t have enough user experiences to know if your product is good or bad.
I run into a lot of scenarios where I almost immediately recommend a product pivot. Don’t forget this critical option in your growth hacking strategies. Don’t fall in love with any iteration of your product, at the risk of missing the creation of what your customers really want.
In the new world of rapid prototyping and APIs, kicking out a product pivot test is a three day sprint.
How do you know if you have a Wow product? The simplest indicators, for me, are in the retention and virality of the product. This, of course, assumes you’ve built some mechanism for promoting this behavior. Hint: You always should.
If you’re not getting a high percentage of retention and no one is recommending the product to their friends, family, and followers–then it’s time to tweak the product.
What Do My Users/Customers Really Want?
If you came looking for a secret tip, this is your moment.
Understanding the desires and intentions of your prospective customer is the secret to achieving viral growth. What makes this such a valuable secret is that few people take this step and, as a result, they undermine their growth potential.
The hard part is efficiently learning these desires and intentions. In my experience, the best way to gain this data is a smart blend of observation and inquiry. This requires an intense curiosity and nearly daily testing, optimizing, and iterating–not just the marketing, but also the sales process and the product.
Doing Growth Hacking
Getting explosive growth is important to any business.
Don’t debate me here.
Even if you don’t think you need growth or you’re satisfied with your current revenue level, let me encourage you to rethink your growth goals–for the sake of your customers.
Every product and business has a natural decay rate. The rate at which the needs and desires of your market and consumers change; constantly deteriorating your product-to-market fit.
Without significant sustainable growth, your product and ultimately your business will become less relevant and eventually stall out. This is why I urge you to adopt a growth attitude, learn growth hacking, and add it to your marketing plan and culture.