If you’re still looking for the perfect “growth hack” or trying to find that elusive growth hacking strategy that will propel your business into the stratosphere, I’d encourage you to think again.
“Growth hacking” is talked about everywhere – especially if you’re a technology business. It’s seen as the holy grail, the secret to untold growth, and something that all the cool kids are doing.
I must admit, it all sounds very appealing – low-cost, underground, guerilla-style and exciting! However, my experience has shown that “growth hacking” is a misleading concept that will likely divert your attention from what really matters.
I’m certainly not against growth, or trying innovative strategies, or limiting your marketing options to low-cost strategies, or doing things that don’t scale. However, I’ve come to believe that anything that sounds too good to be true usually is, and that real growth comes from solid, sustainable marketing principles.
So if you’re not spending your days hacking LinkedIn contacts, writing cold emails, putting up another landing page spamming your friends for upvotes on ProductHunt, what should you do instead?
Old-Fashioned Marketing Strategies Work…
You don’t need to use old-fashioned channels, but the fundamentals of marketing are the levers that will drive results.
It’s not rocket-science though. In my mind, these are simply…
- Understand your customers
Depending on your stage of business, spend time talking to customers, running surveys, listening to support calls, or doing what it takes to really know what’s going through your customers’ heads so that your messaging truly speaks to them.
- Get in front of potential customers
Find a few channels that allow you to reach your target market and double-down on those. Spend time refining what works and increase your exposure. Often this will be some form of advertising but it might also be partnerships, distribution channels, physical signage or other channels.
- Present yourself well
Otherwise known as branding. Take a fresh look at how potential customers would see you. Does your website inspire confidence and trust? Is it presenting your personality or the image you want to project? Do you need to add more substance? Are all the other touch-points sending the right messages about your business?
- Remove friction
Address objections, make it easy to buy, and maybe add a reason to go-ahead now.
- Keep in touch
Build an email list and regularly send value-packed emails or other content to customers and non-customers alike.
- Encourage word-of-mouth
Leverage your growing client base to influence more people through community building, reviews, referrals and more.
Of course, it goes without saying that before any of this, you need a great product that solves a real customer problem too!
As a marketer, our job is to continually improve each of these marketing levers – perhaps starting each at a basic level, and cycling through making improvements to each as you go.
Unfortunately, Marketing Also Needs Time
Yes, we all want results yesterday, but the truth is that most marketing takes time. Even strategies that are short-term in nature will have a much greater, compounding impact when given more time, and especially when combined with other strategies.
The two SaaS businesses I started working with just on 2 years ago both already had great products, but there was very minimal marketing in place. We’ve cycled through the marketing levers above several times now (and will continue to do so), and bit by bit, the top line numbers have improved. Although this has seemed like slow growth at the time, one company has grown MRR by 14x and the more established one has grown MRR by more than 150%.
I don’t, however, have any impressive stories to tell about ‘how this one hack brought in 2000 customers’ for these businesses because it’s all been incremental.
Are more customers buying because we have better branding, more information on our features pages, because they saw our 5 star reviews, or because they’ve been seeing us in their industry association newsletter for the last year? It’s really impossible to isolate these things. The reality is, everything works together and feeds off each other to drive results.
In my own view…
Growth hacking is like a fad diet or a plan for getting six-pack abs in 30 days. It’s not sustainable and won’t get the best results in the long-run.
Go back to the basics of marketing and be patient.