How to Leverage the Growth Hacking Mindset

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Marketing, like many industries, has more than its share of buzzwords. Growth Hacking is one that has gained a ton of momentum over the past few years. While this marketing mindset has been confused for a “magic bullet”, it can be extremely powerful when understood and practiced correctly. In this video, I’ll go a little deeper into how anyone can leverage Growth Hacking.

In this video I reference “Growth Hacker Marketing” by Ryan Holiday. It’s a short, but very helpful read and I highly recommend it.

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday book cover

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So we’re going to be talking about growth hacking and this is really a buzz word for a lot of businesses but it’s more than just that. It’s really a mindset that today’s marketers and today’s effective marketers need to have. Growth hacking isn’t some weird job that only can be found in Silicon Valley, it’s actually an essential part of today’s marketing tool kit. It’s being able to think differently.

Now back in the day when you wanted to sell a product you hired a guy that went door to door, house to house, he had a briefcase and he began to pitch these products, these tools, these vacuum cleaners or combs or scrub brushes or whatever it was to the people in mind. These were very smart salespeople, these were salespeople who could read people very quickly and they could understand whether or not they were going to make a sale or they had to bounce and move to another house. Today’s marketers, we do everything behind a computer, we don’t have to do a lot of that face to face interaction and I think because of that we miss some of those unique opportunities to learn more about people. So you might be asking yourself what does all this have to do with growth hacking? Well growth hacking comes down to two things, who are you customers and where are they?

Those are the two questions that we need to be constantly asking ourselves and finding out really who is our product for and how do we get it in front of those people to have an intelligent conversation, to show them proof of concept this is really valuable and then to begin to have that conversation that leads them to engagement and it all starts with having a good product.

There are a lot of products out there that just aren’t very good and they’re not going to sell to anybody but there are other products that are really good but they’re trying to reach too broad of a market. This happens all the time in conversations we have where we meet with a client and I ask who are your customers and they say everybody and I say that’s impossible. If everybody’s your customer, nobody’s your customer. You need to narrow your target down and understand who it is that’s going to really enjoy your product because those are the people who are going to help make that product viral.

We hear this all the time, “Oh, I just wanna go viral,” “I want a viral video,” “I want my stuff to go viral on Instagram.” The reality is that most viral concepts are really one-hit wonders. You don’t want virality in the sense of, “Hey, I got 10 million likes on my dog photo, I’m popular now,” that doesn’t really turn into much for a business. What you want to do in the sense of viral is actually consider how a virus spreads, right?

A virus spreads from one person touching another touching another touching another and now people are consumed by it. It’s wrapped around them. Products that do this are the products that last a lifetime or at least last for a really long time in a sense. There used to be this social media platform called MySpace and people loved MySpace, in fact they flocked away from a tool called Friendster into MySpace because they could do much more with their space. They could customize it, they could put cool backgrounds, honestly that’s how I started learning HTML code back in the day was coding MySpace pages.

But something happened, MySpace stopped worrying about the customer and who the product was for and they started worrying about ad revenue and they started showing a lot more ads in places and it really kind of gummed up the whole system, made it harder for a user to interact with that product. Another product came out a couple years after MySpace hit its peak, it was only used on college campuses and it was for a very specific segment of the population. In fact it started with just one school, Harvard, and then moved into other Ivy League schools and then slowly moved out from there. But for a long time this tool called Facebook was only available to college kids and allowed them to connect with other friends and hangout with people online and stay in contact with the people that they left at high school. And what happened is Facebook spread like a virus through college campuses and today it’s at the backend of the technology adoption lifecycle because my grandma is on Facebook.

So as you see what Facebook did is they understood that they had a good product and then they understood who the product would be best for and then they put all their chips into that basket. You know what college kids don’t have? A lot of money. You know who Facebook focused on? College kids and college kids helped this technology spread into billions of people’s lives. Now Facebook has made some issues and had some problems over the last couple of years and really the last year in particular, but the reality is what they’ve built as a product is still true today. And we’ve seen this happen with companies like Dropbox who understood that people want free space online. So their referral program was an extremely powerful way to find a niche set of people who wanted to store things online and had friends that were like them and they were able to tell their friends.

So what growth hackers do is they look for who their potential customers are then they look for where they are online. They narrow their focus in order to hit a very clear target which results in awesome momentum for their product.

If you get this right, you’ve got a good product and you’ve found the right people and you’ve been able to talk with them on the plane that they’re at and you’ve built that relationship, you can begin to have customers that market for you. Instead of trying out to go get leads and leads and leads, because that’s what we focus on as marketers, right? More leads equals more sales opportunities. The traditional sales funnel says, let’s buy a giant list, let’s blast 10,000 people with an email and the people that come back to us, we’re going to try to close those deals. While this can work this option is extremely costly and you end up pissing a lot of people off because you just spammed them with stuff, right?

I can’t tell you how many emails I get with total junk in my inbox, it absolutely provides zero value to my life but because they got my name somehow they assume that they have the authority or the ability now spam me whenever they want. But a growth hacker takes an opposite approach, by investing in the customer, by providing an extreme amount of value, by supporting the customer through the early processes of your product all the way through to when your product is fully adopted you begin to build fans for life. And you know a number of these brands that have done this, Apple is one of the early companies that did this, there are a number of them online today like Dropbox, Hotmail did this by giving free email to the world and then it was also followed up by a company called Google with their Gmail product.

So this has happened time and time again and when these companies have invested into the user interface and the experience of the user and continue to provide value throughout the process, even when their product was free, it allowed them to build their community.

Another great story is Airbnb, all this is in that book, it’s called Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday, highly recommend it if you want to check out this book, it’s going to be actionable invites. But Airbnb, first they hacked Craigslist in a really cool way, they found a growth hack using Craigslist, but then they wanted to make sure that the homes that they have really stood out. So what did they do? When you would sign up they would send free professional photographers to your house to photograph your house for you so you could get your listings up. That turned into a huge amount of people signing up for homes because they looked awesome. Now Airbnb is worth more money than Hilton, that’s insane, you know why? Because they own zero rooms around the world, they own zero properties, all they do is facilitate relationships.

Know your product, build something that’s outstanding that solves a real problem. Find your customers where they are. Narrow it down, find a core group that can get behind your product, help you innovate it, help you test it, help you make it better and then begin to promote it on the channels where they’re at the most.

Growth hacking is a powerful method, it’s not just a buzzword. A lot of people talk about it, very few people actually do it. Invest in knowing those three things, your product, your customer, and where they are and you’re going to see amazing returns with your marketing strategies. If you have any questions please comment below and please check out that book, it’s an awesome book.

I don’t work for Ryan Holiday, I just think he’s an amazing writer, but it’s called Growth Hacker Marketing and it’s by Ryan Holiday. Highly, highly recommend that book. Till next time, Happy Marketing.

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