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“Growth Hacking” is a hot term these days, because growth is something that all startups need. However, despite the allure of this term, there is no magic “hack” that can universally drive growth, because each company is unique. In practice, growth hacking is simply the process of religiously integrating data analysis, optimization, and automation into your day-to-day marketing.

In order to provide some clarity on growth hacking, I’ve analyzed the written experiences of some people who have “hacked”, or more accurately, enabled, staggering growth for their startups. They include:

  • Glamour Sales (a Japanese flash sales fashion site which grew to 500K users in 1.5 years)

  • Roommates (an app by ApartmentList whose marketing campaign received approximately 250K views in less than a week)

  • Groove (A CRM tool that is growing its revenue by about 10% each month, and is nearing the $100K monthly mark)

I’ve been able to find many similarities in their strategies and lessons learned. In the step-by-step outline below, you can see the techniques they used, and learn how to apply their tactics to your company to drive explosive growth.

Laser Target Your Content to Maximize Viral Potential 

Though it seems counterintuitive, you don’t need to go broad and wide in order to go viral with your marketing campaigns. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: to maximize your chances of going viral, you must target a very narrow and specific audience that will relate to your content and be more likely to share it.

For example, when designing marketing campaigns for the Roommates app, Sam Parr micro-targeted hip city-dwellers by creating and distributing infographics across strategic markets like San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles and New York. These infographics were laser-targeted to different neighborhoods in each market, to be sure they struck a chord.

Sam calls this a “niches make riches” strategy, and it helped him get media articles across TechCrunch and the Huffington Post, along with his first 250K viewers.

Follow his strategy by laser targeting your audience, and then creating “sticky content” for them that can be easily shared. Some content types that have plenty of potential when published to a specific audience are:

  • Infographics

  • Video

  • Ebook

  • Cheat Sheets

  • How to articles

  • Newsletters

  • Lists

  • Pictures

  • Slideshows 

Once you’ve created your targeted content, now it is time to distribute it in order to meet your traffic goals.

Distribute by Building Relationships

To get maximum exposure for your content, creating mutually beneficial relationships with influencers in your niche is essential. They have the power to send you a large amount of free targeted traffic. To do this, you need to get in touch with them and offer them something of value before asking them to help you.

When creating a marketing strategy for Groove, Alex Turnbull discovered that when contacting popular journalists and bloggers, it was important to make sure that they would relate to what he was writing and to make them feel as if it would be useful to their readers. He refined this into a system of targeting influencers in his niche, engaging with their blog, sending them an introductory email, then asking if he could share his content with them.

This is what got him an 83% positive response rate from influencers, and enabled his newsletter to get 1,000 subscribers in only 24 hours and 4,000 additional subscribers over the next few weeks. He was able to maintain this network of influencers, of course, for future promotions.

Follow Alex’s system by reaching out to important people in your niche, and relating to them prior to asking them to share your content. These 4 steps are a basic roadmap on creating impactful relationships:

  1. Target – Make a list of prospects, their blogs, social profiles and websites. This list of targeted people should comprise of people specific to your niche, including:

·      Journalists

·      Independent bloggers

·      Brand bloggers

·      People with large social followings

·      Large newsletter owners 

  1. Engage – Follow them on twitter, tweet at them, and comment and share their blog. If you thought that a blog post of theirs was good, write a response to it on your blog and notify them in their blog comments.

  1. Email – Send an email to them without a link to your blog. Explain the relevant content that you are writing about and ask if you can share it with them. Remember that they are bloggers too, and are constantly on the lookout for new topics to write about. If you’ve completed the engagement step properly, they will remember your name and hopefully interact with you.

  1. Ask – After building a relationship with the individual, ask them to help you out by featuring you on their blog, social media account or newsletter. Whatever your request is, you will have a much higher success rate by going through these steps.

Knowing that you have very limited time, once you have a working strategy that is driving you traffic, it is time to refine your process and increase your potential. 

Test, Focus and Automate

Once you obtain results, you should test your tactics so you can focus on what works, and automate anything you can. Going through this process is what is going to increase your efficiency, and allow you to constantly improve your results.

To achieve this, start with a base strategy and constantly refine your process as you gain insight. Discontinue practices that are not working, and focus on practices that are.

This is how Jon Yongfook, started with his marketing campaigns for the companies he has grown, especially Glamour Sales. As he teaches the the fundamentals of growth hacking he says that one of the most important questions to ask is “How can we automate this?”

Follow this process constantly as it will enable to you to significantly improve as you continue to market:

  1. Test

By this point in the process, you should have some results that you can analyze. Begin testing methods and analyzing your results so you can: 

·      Gain insight on your marketing methods and how they have performed in getting a high volume of visitors

·      See how your landing pages have worked in converting visitors into users

·      Ascertain how long users remain active, or revisit your site

·      Discover which distribution channels have worked best, and which have not worked

·      Determine which specific techniques to your venture are working

  1. Focus

In this stage, you will use your data that you have gained through testing and focus your efforts on processes that are working best. Remember that growth hackers manage their resources in the most efficient ways, and time is your most precious resource. Spend your time on the marketing practices that are working best for your venture.

This means that you will likely end up discontinuing practices that are not performing and optimizing the higher performing ones.

  1. Automate

The final step is automating and creating processes for tasks that you constantly carry out. It is now time to enhance your focused tasks by automating what you can. To automate tasks for your company, try some of the following:

·      Generate content ideas by creating feeds of interesting blogs and sites

·      Go viral by incentivizing users to share your content

·      Use apps like PitchPigeon to notify journalists about your news

·      Create a process for sharing your content using a tools like Buffer or Hootsuite

·      Split test emails using A/B testing tools built into popular autoresponders

·      Split test your landing pages using Google Analytics or tools like Optimizely

Too often do marketers think that when companies grow very quickly that it is just luck, or being in the right place at the right time. The truth is, in most cases you do not have to leave it up to chance, and can create and follow a strategy that will position you for quick growth. In the situation of Groove, Glamour Sales, and Roommates, they all had smart marketers behind them, which set them up for success in a timely manner.

By using their tactics as an outline, or even just simply as inspiration you should be able to replicate their success.

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