March 26, 2019 12:30 PM
Grow your customer base by experimenting with new marketing campaigns and measuring their success. (Photo: Sammby/Shutterstock)
by Meg C. Hall
As a small business owner, you’re always on the lookout for ways to grow your customer base. But are you going beyond the standard marketing playbook and “growth hacking” your way to success?
Growth hacking and marketing are similar in that both help grow leads and sales, said Kenn Costales, digital strategy lead for GrowthHackerKit.com. The difference is in the mindset. A growth hacker — often the owner of the startup — isn’t focused on marketing per se but on finding ways to grow the business pronto using fast-track experimentation with marketing tactics, product development and more. He or she is always trying new things, analyzing what works and what doesn’t and moving on.
If you want to grow your business faster, here’s how to get “hacking.”
To be a growth hacker, you need to look at your business holistically. For instance, while a marketer focuses on bringing potential customers into the sales funnel, growth hackers don’t stop there.
According to marketing guru Neil Patel in The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking, a growth hacker lures visitors to the sales funnel but then courts them as a suitor would, all the way from blind date (the first website visit) to relationship (landing a new customer) to marriage (landing a loyal customer for life). The hacker is the suitor, the officiant who seals the deal and also the counselor who helps make sure the relationship continues “happily ever after.”
Growth hackers laser-focus on measuring outcomes against benchmarks to know which tactics are working and which aren’t.
There are plenty of sources of metrics to turn to. As one example, free tools like Google Analytics can help you connect the dots between who visits your website, who fills out a form, who looks at your product pages and who ultimately makes a purchase.
Matt Ham, owner of repair shop chain Computer Repair Doctor, said every interaction with customers is an opportunity to focus on growth, even if you simply ask each customer how they heard about the business and record their answers.
Growth hacking means a lot of experimentation, said GrowthHackerKit.com’s Costales. “Test a new campaign, product feature or design every week and measure what it does to your leads and sales.”
If a marketing campaign isn’t delivering the results you want, try something different. Said Ham, “By experimenting with a variety of marketing techniques and measuring the results, we’re continuously learning and improving our marketing methods.”
Tune into relevant conversations that your customers are having and find a way to get involved in the discussion. (Photo: Maria Ocha/Shutterstock)
Tapping into what consumers are talking about on social media and taking part in the conversation can boost brand awareness and drive engagement. So can newsjacking current events.
Ham said his company has used news stories about smartphone hacking and new product releases to get attention. “When Apple was releasing their new iPhone, our company brought coffee, snacks and a phone charging station to several AT&T locations where people were camping out — and we made ABC News,” he said. “Find a theme that’s trending in your industry and get involved.”
Another way to growth-hack is to partner with online influencers and give them an incentive (such as money) to promote your business. In one survey, nearly 40 percent of Twitter users reported making a purchase as a direct result of an influencer’s tweet.
Chances are your brand is all over the right social media channels for your business. But growth hackers think outside the box.
“Sometimes you have to put your brand on the back burner in order to really grow the customer base around it,” said Bryan Caplan, CEO of BJC Branding. Consider building an online community or interest group around a topic or issue relevant to your brand and of interest to your customer base. You can later use the group as a platform for asking questions and driving conversations you can inject your brand into more organically, he said.
Keep in mind that growth hacking is not a substitute for marketing. “In certain situations, like the birth of a startup, growth hacking makes total sense,” said Caplan. And as the owner of a nimble startup, if you’re focused on growth hacking, you may not need a marketing team yet. But down the road, once you’ve figured out how to steer the ship, it may be time to layer in a good old-fashioned marketing plan with the help of marketing experts.