In 2011, Treehouse, an online educational platform for web design, web dev, and entrepreneurship, exploded onto the scene and, within a single week, increased its revenue by 38%, and number of paying members by 46%. Just two years later, the company reported making $1.7 million in revenue from 49,000 users. And that’s just one of hundreds of jaw-dropping growth hacking success stories. It’s no wonder businesses of all sizes want in on this. From the outside, it looks like there must be some magician or techie wunderkind behind the scenes. Nope, it’s just us. Growth marketers.

Growth marketing does have the power to transform small and mid-sized businesses into scalable enterprises, but it’s not mysterious. Growth Hackers leverage creativity, data, analytical thinking and metrics to develop low-cost marketing techniques that are more relevant and more effective than traditional means.

But, amazing stories aside, be warned: If you’re looking for “growth marketing quick wins,” you’ll either be disappointed, or you’ll be sold a bill of goods by someone looking to make you their “quick win.”

While growth marketing will help you grow faster, it’s more about finding better, smarter, data-driven ways of reaching and converting your target audience and retaining them. It’s about figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and iterating from there as efficiently as possible.

Treehouse experienced a 38% growth in revenues in a single week, thanks to its growth hacking efforts

Treehouse experienced a 38% growth in revenue in a single week, thanks to its growth hacking efforts

The Growth Marketer’s toolbox

Growth marketing combines marketing, product development, and engineering with aggressive growth tactics, an understanding of how to optimize user lifecycles, an obsession with finding new growth channels, a commitment to data, and a fundamental frugality. But, really, it’s about learning. Growth Marketers have an insatiable desire to learn how to do things better through research, testing, online communities, and reading books and articles. It’s how we stay up to date with where growth is going, not just where it is now.

It may sound complicated, but it’s not hard to tap into the benefits of growth marketing – here’s how to start.

First, let’s assume your product solves a real problem for your customers. If we don’t have that in place, you don’t need a growth marketer, you need a drawing board to go back to!

1. Learn more about your customer

Before you can grow effectively, you must first identify your ideal customer and figure out where they spend their time. Use qualitative data to gather insights on where they live, their favorite chain restaurants, their favorite beers, where they go clubbing, what books they read, what shows they watch, what spiritual views they hold, which non-profits they support, what causes they care about, their favorite celebrities and decision influencers, and much more. Then, use these facts to create a well-rounded buyer persona to use as the target for your growth marketing efforts.

By digging deep into who your buyer personas are and what they value most, you can begin to think far outside of the box with your marketing campaigns, which is another growth marketing must.

Resources to get started with Customer Development and Qualitative Data:

Articles:

Books:

Tools:

  • ClickTale – Takes the guesswork out of website optimization, conversion analysis and usability research. Knowing how visitors use your website will enable you better target specific audiences, improve customer satisfaction and increase conversion. Use ClickTale to analyze the performance of your online forms, keep visitors engaged in page content, and lead them through the conversion process.
  • CrazyEgg – The original heat mapping technology.
  • CubeYou – Social media data-mining tool that gives great demographic and psychographic insights for buyer persona building and marketing campaign inspiration.
  • FiveSecondTest – Helps you fine-tune your landing pages and calls to action by analyzing the most prominent elements of your design.
  • Hot Jar – All-in-one analytics and feedback.
  • Inspectlet – Analyze user behavior instantly with eye-tracking heat maps, screen capture (record and playback actual visitor sessions), and user-interaction analytics.
  • Intercom – Customer communication made simple.
  • Olark – Experience the easiest way to boost your sales, help solve issues and understand your customers with Olark live chat.
  • Qualaroo – Analytics tell you what people are doing on your website. Qualaroo tells you why. Qualaroo insights lead to smarter tests and faster improvements in your website’s performance.
  • SessionCam – Session replay, heatmaps, and conversion funnels.
  • Silverback – Guerrilla usability testing software for designers and developers.
  • Survey.io – Create an initial customer development survey.
  • Survey Monkey – SurveyMonkey is the world’s most popular online survey software.
  • UserTesting – Get videos of real people speaking their thoughts as they use your website or mobile app.

2. Get your analytics in order

When a growth marketer approaches a new project, the first thing she or he wants to see are the current analytics – and if analytics aren’t already set up, capturing them is the first task. You can’t know how to improve your marketing, messaging, reach and relevancy unless you understand how your current processes are performing.

Your assignment: organize and understand the analytics for your website (including landing pages, content and calls to action), and your advertising (from adwords to the ROI of traditional media).

Resources to get started with Quantitative Data:

  • Clicky – Real-time analytics.
  • Google Analytics – An ad click here, a page view there, a video watched on a tablet before bed… but which one clinched the sale? Google Analytics has the latest in full-credit measurement, so you see all the stops people take on the road to action. The result: a measurable way to improve campaigns and reach new audiences as they go through their days.
  • KISSMetrics – Google Analytics tells you what’s happening. KISSmetrics tell you who’s doing it.
  • Mixpanel – Mixpanel lets you measure what customers do in your app by reporting actions, not page views.
  • Omniture / Adobe Marketing Cloud – Analytics, social, media optimization, targeting, web experience management — and now cross-channel campaign management with Adobe Campaign — Adobe Marketing Cloud does it all.
  • Woopra – No more guessing what customers did on your site or app. Know how engaged each customer is, and exactly what actions they performed — all in real-time.

3. Double-down on what works

Often, companies spread out their marketing spend in an attempt to be everywhere, when their customers really only come to them from a few, select places. Redirect the time and money spent on less profitable avenues to those that have proven themselves (yes, even if somebody told you that you HAVE TO be on a certain site). You can revisit expanding your marketing streams later.

4. Paid acquisition

Use paid acquisition tools like Google Adwords, Facebook ads and digital ads to draw attention to your product or service – but be careful with these. A growth marketer will go through and ensure every message is optimized by checking the ad against its landing page, looking for any inconsistency. If your image or message don’t match your ads, no one will trust your landing page. It’s one of the key conversion-killers (and it’s so easy to prevent!)

Facebook ad campaigns have huge potential - if you can get them right!

Facebook ad campaigns have huge potential – if you can get them right!

5. Viral acquisition

This is where growth marketing gains its claims to fame. Finding ways to incentivize your customers to spread the word about your product or service, turning them into brand advocates, is the growth marketing gift that keeps on giving. But it requires much more than attaching a reward for shares or likes.

Viral acquisition begins at the first touch point between you and a new prospect, continues through the buy-cycle, and continues on even after purchase through customer service and customer success.

Of those, customer success is the real secret behind going viral. It means giving your clients what they need to successfully use and enjoy your product. This may include tutorials, blog posts and eBooks, or a 24-7 customer chat window. The most important question is: Do you know what success looks like or your customers?

6. Leverage content for customer success

When you publish content that has real value to your customer base, and that helps them use your product more effectively while aiding them in pursuing their larger goals, they will share it. And sharing is how your content, and your company, expands its reach exponentially.

Every business has a blog, but very few leverage their content effectively. They produce lackluster blog posts that are, essentially, mashups of other lackluster blog posts, and their eBooks make readers feel like they’ve wasted an hour of their lives! Quality is all-important when producing content, and when you invest in quality, your customers will invest in you.

 

7. Catch ’em before they fall

Another aspect of customer success, and why it’s so important to growth marketing, is that by keeping in closer contact with your users, you’ll be alerted well before they quit your service or stop purchasing your product. This gives you a chance to solve their problem and win them back, and retention is more important to growth than acquisition. It’s much more expensive to win a new client than it is to keep your current following loyal.

8. Keep adding value

The companies that grow the fastest not only have a great product, but add value along the way. Amazon, for example, did well as an online marketplace. It took care of its customers and shipped things on time, becoming a reliable source for nearly every product on the planet. But it didn’t stop there – Amazon found ways to add value with faster shipping to its Amazon Prime members. You can use exclusive content, community forums, tools, webinars, interviews and AMAs with industry experts, or even Meetup groups to add value for your users.

In Prime, Amazon hit upon a way to add extra value to its customers

In Prime, Amazon hit upon a way to add extra value to its customers

9. Follow up

Email marketing can be a huge opportunity for growth marketing and should be used with analytics and A/B testing so that every email marketing campaign is more effective than the last.

However, if you have to start somewhere, make it the follow-up email. This is the email that pops into your user’s inbox when they’ve downloaded a piece of your content, entered their information on a contact form, abandoned their shopping cart, or otherwise interacted with you. These emails should be optimized, personalized, and automated (because you aren’t made of time!), and above all: valuable. Every interaction counts, and when you train your customers to expect something of value every time they open your emails, your open rates will skyrocket.

10. Test hypotheses

Testing hypotheses is at the foundation of a solid growth marketing strategy. No idea is so brilliant that it can’t benefit from testing it against variations – that is the path to true optimization for websites and marketing strategies.

It’s also cost effective and high-impact, ideal for lean business models. Start testing the elements on your website that have the highest potential or impact, like page headlines, CTA button placement, and layout (clutter is the enemy!). Keep in mind that optimization is a tool, not the end-goal; whereas Growth Marketing means growing by any and all means necessary.

These tips are the foundation of growth marketing, but there’s a lot more to learn! Follow me on Twitter where I share my favorite articles and best insights on customer success and SaaS marketing strategies.