Growth Hacking Promotes Rapid Development—But Can You Sustain It?
Growth hacking strategies can provide rapid results, but if your company can’t carry that momentum, all your efforts will be for naught.
You can’t employ growth hacking techniques if you don’t know how they’ll work in the long run. The entire point is to increase a measurable growth target—not to grow as much as possible and sort out the details later. If you don’t know your objectives, your strategy won’t create the results you desire.
A solid growth hacking plan is essential: It’s the only way to drive both immediate impact and long-term success. Your first step should be your strategic alignment, which occurs when you select the right key performance indicators in your acquisition funnel. The tactics to meet that goal come next.
This is where growth hacking really shines. It’s all about experiment-driven strategy, blending concrete goals and forward-looking tactics to create a sustainable, effective, and long-term growth hacking plan.
What Is Growth Hacking?
The origin of growth hacking was born at Dropbox when the company’s acquisition strategy was failing. The company wasn’t growing quickly enough (or raising enough money), and it was about to go out of business.
Rather than continuously throw out strategies that weren’t driving growth, Dropbox invented growth hacks. The first hacks were basically just referral strategies, but they set the stage for more complex, effective tactics down the road.
Dropbox only discovered that its original strategies were failing because it took a transparent, scientific approach to measurement. The company knew its strategy had failed because it saw major drop-off points in its acquisition funnel. When Dropbox leaders looked at the economics, they realized that no matter how much they optimized, their current course would not lead them where they wanted to go.
That’s all growth hacking is: a framework to launch high-impact, sometimes creative tactics that get you what you want—improved funnel metrics that drive commercial growth. A true growth hacker can build a strategy that leverages data-driven experiments and scalable processes to demonstrate how to meet the company’s goals over time—not just in the moment.
How to Design an Effective Growth Hacking Plan
Growth hacking strategies look different for every company. You first need to find a winning combination of market, analysis, testing, and automation that fits your unique needs. Once you identify the marketing technique that fits your company, you can turn to growth hacking to amplify its power.
Strategy Leads the Way
First, double down on the strategy. Take strategic assumptions and tactics you tested successfully and transform your tests into your control group. Now, your original targets are no longer your goals, but the baseline expectations from which your growth hacking tactics will arise.
Fortunately, growth hacking offers plenty of options for improvement. You could go after retention, using marketing techniques to create repeat customers; SEO, optimizing your web content to boost inbound traffic from search engines; or advertising, eliminating channels with poor performance and pouring more money into effective media. You could also focus on sales, viral marketing, conversions, public relations—anything that increases your KPIs is subject to growth hacking.
The key lesson is: Always continue testing. If something works, make it work better. If something falters, cut the wasted effort and direct it somewhere more productive.
Measurement as a Decision-Maker
Throughout this process, prioritize measurement. You can’t test something if you don’t know how to gauge when it works. Look to the past to gather historical performance numbers, and start asking questions. Why did one KPI grow while another faltered? Which data segmentations generated the best results? Which marketing channels were effective, and which didn’t live up to the hype?
With a firm grasp on history, move to the future. Identify the goals you want to achieve, discern how far away you are from hitting them, and determine what needs to happen to reach your ideal KPIs.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, but growth hacking strategies are designed to be flexible. As you go, ask yourself why parts of the process aren’t working as intended. Maybe you struggle to implement new strategies quickly, so you need to learn to deal with analysis paralysis. Maybe clients keep stalling on approval of creative assets—could you provide better guidelines?
When you find the winning combo, double down on it. Manage it, keep it in the market, scale it, and keep testing. Growth isn’t stagnant; it’s dynamic. As you scale, you’ll eventually hit points of diminishing returns. Before your efficiency and ROI start dropping as spend increases, start looking for the wins of tomorrow by testing frequently and adjusting as needed.
Great growth hacking plans operate in a system. When you don’t know what to do, the set of growth hacking rules you establish ahead of time can guide your decisions. Set guidelines to focus on the best opportunities (and metrics to know what those opportunities are). Establish measurements to tell you when a tactic becomes intolerably ineffective. The more you measure and plan, the better you’ll respond to changes.
Execute & Experiment
The final piece of the puzzle is execution, where you take all your analysis and strategy and put your growth hacking plan into action. Only you know what that looks like, but if you set a firm plan and measurement strategy, you’ll know when it’s right. Then, you can do it all over again, continuously experimenting and refining your way toward scalable growth.
Growth hacking might not be as attractive a phrase as it once was, but don’t let the social media scammers fool you. Growth hacking remains an effective and efficient strategy for businesses that desire rapid expansion. With the right combination of strategy, analysis, and tactics, you can accelerate your growth today without sacrificing your ability to manage that growth tomorrow.