It doesn’t take long for predictions to become predictable: The rise and rise of Facebook; advancements in analytics; the normalisation of chatbots; personalisation, programmatic, automation, authenticity… The prediction that’s missing from these lists is that in 2017 we will witness a resurgence of values-based marketing.
Growth hacking - which uses rapid experimentation and new tools and techniques to engage and grow a business's customer base - is popular with not only the startup community, where it was born, but with big companies recognising its promise and appeal in building their overall customer base.
CMO spoke with a number of brands about the definition of growth hacking, why and how brands are seeing its value, and whether it is challenging traditional marketing.
Campaign Monitor director of marketing, Maura Riveria, said stepping away from the normal way of doing things always helps bring attention to a brand, whether it be with potential or existing customers.
“By being on the front foot with experimentation, brands give customers something fresh to engage with, and as a result have a better chance of attaining or retaining their custom,” she said. “Although risky, most brands that opt for experimenting with new marketing tools and techniques have success in building the company’s overall customer base.”
The main reason why growth hacking is generating a buzz is that customers are becoming more and more sophisticated with the way they interact with businesses.
“They’re aware of the value they bring to a brand, and so companies are having to step up their marketing game in order to retain customer attention and build brand ambassadors,” Riveria said. “Savvy customers are after personalisation, and they want to be taken on a journey that caters to their desires in order to engage with a brand and ultimately purchase goods or services.”
While the initial goal of growth hacking is to attract new customers, Campaign Monitor sees the main benefit as the ability to retain existing customers.
“Thanks to the evolution of the Internet, businesses big and small are forced to compete with brands around the world, meaning customers no longer have to settle for interactions that are deemed ‘average’,” she said. “Growth hacking techniques, such as the use of emojis in your email subject header, or even a note to say happy birthday, give the customer something to be excited about, because they’re personalised and different.”
An example of a successful campaign is being used by Virgin Experience Days, which is ramping up its email marketing efforts around the holidays because experiences make great gifts. “An example of one of their successful campaigns is their Mother’s Day Campaign, which included a roundup of fun gifts for the mom in your life.”
According to Riveria, growth hacking techniques are challenging traditional marketing techniques because they help brands gain the attention of both prospective and outstanding customers, without a heavy investment.
“It is, however, important to note that a brand’s offering will impact the way in which they engage with their customers and the different growth hacking techniques they undertake.”
Shoes of Prey
Shoes of Prey co-founder and chief creative officer, Jodie Fox, said growth hacking, at its core, is about experimentation.
“The marketing space is constantly evolving, in line with industry trends and consumer preferences, so brands need to continually stay ahead of the curve and find innovative ways to grow the business,” she said. “It is about testing new concepts, measuring results and implementing changes that take the business to the next level in the most efficient way possible.
With everything moving at an incredibly fast pace, with no sign of slowing down, growth hacking is a way for businesses to keep up, and even ahead, of trends by testing out new ways to reach their customers. Asked for the main benefits, Fox said the ultimate one is growth.
“Growth hacking can be tailored to any budget and can be scaled up and down in line with the business’s resources. It is an acceleration tool that can be used in times where heightened growth is required,” she said. “It doesn’t take up an extensive amount of resources to gain a wide reach and is a way of testing new initiatives and ideas on a small scale before building up to bigger marketing initiatives.”
Shoes of Prey’s highly engaged community of shoe-lovers has grown organically and as an online business, testing out a variety of marketing techniques is essential.
“We’ve worked with influencers to reach new audiences who might not know, but might be interested in, what we offer and demonstrate how Shoes of Prey empowers you to express your unique style and individuality by allowing you to design your own shoes,” she continued. “In the same way that we’ve built our following from the ground up, so have influencers, and as a result they have a loyal audience who share similar interests.”
Fox added that in today’s world, there can be no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to marketing.
“Growth hacking is challenging the notion that marketing needs to follow a specific path — it can pivot based on what is most relevant and beneficial at a specific point in time and this is different for every business,” she said. “The ‘spray and pray’ approach isn’t always the most effective or efficient use of resources; marketing tactics need to be continually assessed and revised. Ultimately, there is a time and place for all forms of marketing and it comes back to determining what is right for your business at each stage of its growth.”
Dropbox head of marketing, APAC, Deeps De Silva, sees growth hacking as the process of using ‘big data’ to form genuine and valuable customer insights.
“The concept of data-driven marketing used to be reserved only for large corporates, as it would traditionally entail investment in expensive data capture and analysis software; a burden on the tight budgets of many small to mid-sized companies,” he explained. “These days, big data is becoming more accessible and affordable, enabling nimble bootstrapped startups to leverage information in their organisations and turn it into rapid growth.”
Asked the main benefits of growth hacking, De Silva said the major one is the creation of high-quality, engaging content such as blog posts, videos and podcasts.
“For example, fintech startup, PocketBook, has been able to attract new users through to its site by using its customer data to comment on trending Australian topics like the rise of Netflix in the country,” he said. “Startups like this are able to scale their business faster and customers’ needs are being met quicker and more closely – it’s a win-win situation.”
Hipages CMO, Tracy Richardson, described growth hacking as using analytical thinking, data insight, product engineering and creativity to drive core growth metrics for a business.
“Like any idea, it takes time to go from early adopter to mass,” she said. “The success a number of startups have seen using growth hacking, coupled with the fact that a number of these startups are now well-known brands, has helped build awareness.”
Growth hacking can also be extremely effective at building up specific campaigns or areas that a business would like to focus on, Richardson said. Her checklist of benefits includes: Low-cost alternative to drive growth; speed of learning; speed to market; capability for optimisation (once a test has proven to drive growth the company can continue to evolve and iterate and further improve performance); ensure focus is on areas of impact (through data-led decision making rather than gut feel); and measurable results.
Growth hacking also ensures an egalitarian approach, she explained. “Everyone in the team gets to have input into ideas to be tested and generally all the ideas get tested and sometimes results surprise everyone and challenge preconceived notions.”
There are a number of principles the company has defined to support its growth hacking goals, such as collaboration, and agile approach and data-driven approach to marketing, and a focus on a specific goal and metric.
“At hipages, we take an agile approach to marketing, which means for us that we apply rigorous testing of our ideas and then monitor performance and optimise accordingly,” Richardson said. “We also take a MVP [minimal viable product] approach to growth initiatives, which means we can fail fast and learn quickly. This is supported by continuous delivery to optimise our MVP product at speed.”