What is Growth Hacking, Really?

Explore how shifting definitions have blurred the meaning of growth marketing and how it can actually work for your business.

plant under a lampYou’ve probably heard that term “growth hacking” buzzing around like buzzwords tend to do. You’ve read about the case studies detailing how Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Hotmail, and Dropbox growth hacked their way to global success.
Viral growth hacks, as mirrored in those case studies, have made a slow shift in marketing priorities from strategy and long-term growth to a simplistic acknowledgement that growth hacking was a quick-fix to “grow stuff” or “get users.”
But is growth hacking even a set of skills or a stock of knowledge? Both a blessing and a curse, the term draws attention to the hidden marketing potential within products while suggesting that a single move can skyrocket a site to success, but that’s not necessarily how the term began.  

The Rise of “Growth Hacking”

2010 – Sean Ellis, previous founder and CEO of Qualaroo, coined the term “‘growth hacker’ as, “[…] a person whose true north is growth.”
2012 – Andrew Chen, leader of the Rider Growth teams at Uber, described growth hackers as a cross between marketers and coders. He later elaborated that growth hacking meant boosting an already positive growth curve into something even bigger.
2012 – Aaron Ginn, who does growth at Everlane, clearly separated product-focused growth hackers from inbound and outbound marketers.
2013 – Gagn Biyani, CEO of Sprig, made the distinction that startups do growth hacking and larger companies do marketing.

Traditional Marketing vs. Growth Hacking

While startup-related marketing is primarily lumped into the term “growth hacking,” somewhere along the line strategies like email drip campaigns, platform engagement techniques, blogs, incentive programs, and social media became synonymous.
Perhaps the line has been blurred even further as growth marketers use different types of digital marketing strategies such as viral acquisition, customer service and sales strategies, content marketing, email marketing, SEO and A/B testing to achieve a desired growth target.
But let’s look at a hypothetical referral marketing example: When a normal marketing team initiates a referral campaign, it’s typically based on intuitive strategies and experience. Results would be tracked and optimized at a later date. A growth hacker, on the other hand, may list out six separate referral incentives, testing each individually through rapid emails to a part of the user base or through a product in order to bypass time spent on development.
Speed and efficiency are the only way to outrun the fact that 80% of your ideas will probably fail.
Growth teams should be focused on developing and fine-tuning an objective, scalable, repeatable growth process that may look something like this:

the growth process

While the growth process doesn’t look all that different from typical marketing, it’s working to create a repeatable system. Instead of banking on 10 tactics and hoping one pulls through, you’re strategically and systematically working through each one in order to gain insights and learn from trial and error.

How to Begin a Growth Hacking Process

Since growth best occurs in teams, it’s helpful to prepare an initial brief in order to establish a unified vision. Here’s a universal template to supplement and expand every element of the brief:
Project Template Checklist
With the expectations and basics in place, refining product development is the first step. Validating your product-market fit means seeing profitable results. Explore your ideas and key metrics at every stage of the funnel, beginning with traffic acquisition and ending in retention. And analyze the results of your testing in order to finally optimize, learning from your execution and improving future and existing ideas.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Throw out the list of supposedly viral growth hacks you’ve found online. Instead, create a repeatable process grounded in creativity and confidence in your product. While the goals of traditional marketing overlap in prioritizing growth, it’s the analytical skills and technical understanding of a growth hacker that creates new solutions.
At RLC Media, we have the ability to cross-translate sales and product development into digital marketing strategy and data analysis. Contact us here to learn how you can confidently drive long-term growth for your business.


Insta is Sexy, but Email Pays the Bills – Fix Your Email Marketing Campaign

Just five years ago, the ringing cry from alarmist articles claimed that the death of email was on the horizon from rising social media platforms and mobile technologies, yet email is far from dead. If anything, it’s just harder to do well. Find Out What You can Do To Improve Your Email Marketing Campaign.

Typically viewed as social media’s ineffective, old-fashioned, and out-of-date counterpart, email marketing is in fact one of the oldest digital marketing channels and the likely impetus for the creation of the internet marketing revolution. Yet as with all good marketing trends, your email marketing campaign is only as good as your adaptability to the audiences you target.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Harvard Business Review reported that Millenials check email more than any other demographic. Email drives the highest ROI among any other channel for that age group. And you have only to look to your own email monitoring habits to be assured that you can stop worrying about Snapchat and shift to email.
How much time do you give your email strategy? Have you resorted to an autopilot email program? Here are a few points to spark effective change:

1.) Email makes the cash register ring

Contrary to standing misconception, email marketing has an impressive conversion rate, particularly in comparison to social media.The average CTR for a typical Facebook post is around 0.5 to 2 percent, and organic tweets range between 0.11 and 0.55 percent according to a report in Adweek.com.
In comparison, Smart Insights estimates for email marketing campaigns gave a 22.87 percent open rate and a 3.26 percent average click-through rate. This means that a list of 1,000 subscribers can typically produce an average of 33 clicks per message.   
And when the average order value of an email is at least 3X higher than that of social media, you’re looking at generating $38 in ROI for every $1 spent. User behavior is key. The modern email marketing campaign relies on segmented, targeted and triggered campaigns to truly engage consumers. 

2.) Good email considers *basic* user personalization

Research by The Relevancy Group and Onespot found that personalized email outperformed their counterparts not using deep personalization. The study highlighted that marketers tracking and responding to user behavior in real time can drive as much as 17 percent more revenue through their email programs. Average open rates for email marketers also increased to 27 percent from 25 percent, while click-through rates increased to 16 percent from 14 percent.
But’s what’s the catch? How can marketers, even large agencies, keep up with the nature of deep personalization requiring endless research on social media and customized personal opening lines before asking for clicks?

This A/B test from KissFlow asked the same questions and found that while deeply personalized emails with researched content increased click-through rate, the labor required on the back-end outweighed the benefits. Their solution: use simple personalization (i.e. first name addressing) in combination with targeted mass mailing with SaaS software to get the most benefit for your buck.

3.)One-off email campaigns mean nothing

Modern consumers shift across multiple channels on multiple devices in a sporadic, rather than linear, action. That’s why people regularly require 7 to 13+ touches prior to purchase. If email is to remain effective and undergo a full modernization, the solitary email campaign is no longer a viable option. Same goes for single ads or one-time pieces of direct mail.
Instead, persistent and routine email creates a chain-like experience that builds momentum over time. The same principle applies to the concept of personalization. A customized yet isolated email is ineffective, but when applied across channels and devices it increases both targeting, reach and measurement data.
For example, combining Facebook ads and email can increase ROI by 22% and extend your email campaign reach through the use of customer relationship management data. While targeting, messaging, and metrics aren’t typically coordinated across email and advertising, platforms like Facebook’s custom audience targeting can create long-term effective email marketing campaigns.
We’ll leave you with an excellent example of email marketing to spark your own engagement endeavors:

RLC Media specializes in email marketing campaigns that drive sales and boost lead generation. Get in touch or drop us a line here to get more of the business you’re searching for!