If you’ve ever started a business from scratch, you know the multiple challenges startups face. No matter the sector you plan on working in, startups face a difficult first few years in most cases.
Your business starts with zero user base, no history of content marketing or other tactics, and your traditional marketing strategy is untried and untested. That creates real challenges especially for tech companies who may also have to be carrying out ad-hoc software testing all the while.
Your business model will most likely reflect your lack of any history and those first few customers are all new customers who may become your benchmark in many ways. There are also a lot of new businesses growing up every year. In March of 2020 alone, there were 804,398 businesses in the US that were less than one year old, the highest figure in the last 27 years.
One of your primary aims (beyond survival) is of course, growth. Scaling your business up is crucial to long term plans, but equally, is not something you want to rush. A startup will often look to growth hacking to support any scalability plans.
What is startup growth hacking and how does it fit into your strategies and growth marketing tactics? Let’s find out.
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What is growth hacking?
Put simply, growth hacking techniques refers to any tactics you employ that focus solely on securing the best growth of your business. It is a strategy many startups, which need swift scalability in order to succeed and survive, will employ.
Growth hacking is an umbrella term for strategies focused solely on growth. It’s usually used in relation to early-stage startups who need effective growth in a short time on small budgets. The term was first used by Sean Ellis in 2010 and he is the founder of the company, GrowthHackers.
You could define the philosophy of growth hacking with the old saying, “more bang for your buck”, as the idea is to build a customer base as quickly as possible for the least possible investment. It employs low-cost strategies to acquire new customers (and ideally retain them too) in the shortest possible timeframe.
It should be noted that a growth hacker can be any team member involved in your organization; they don’t need to be a marketer. Two primary qualities of a good growth hacker is an analytical mind and a strong creative streak. These are qualities that are important as they’ll often be formulating and implementing innovative strategies to achieve goals.
First, you need to define your goals
So, you want your startup to grow, but what defines that growth? Is it the number of customers you attract? The value of sales and/or signups? Or do you look at more specific metrics such as AOV (average order value) or CR (conversion rate). Defining your growth hacking goals is the first step in making decisions.
You should always try to adhere to the best practices established in your industry, as they act as a benchmark for much of what you do. That can cover anything from virtual training best practices to ethical marketing.
One thing you should be considering is how to integrate the idea of SMART goals into any strategies and plans.
- S. Your goals should be SPECIFIC. There is little point in just saying “you want more customers”. That goes without saying. You need to clearly define what it is that you’re trying to achieve. For example, you may specify that you want to reach $500,000 total revenue. Having a target to aim for makes other parts of your plan easier.
- M. Goals need to be MEASURABLE. If you cannot track how well you’re performing in achieving a goal, then you have no yardstick for success. If you have set that specific goal of $500,000 in total revenue, then you need to be able to measure it on an ongoing basis to see how your growth strategy is working.
- A. Any goal should be ACHIEVABLE. Do not set goals too high or you’re only setting yourself up to fail. Can you achieve that $500,000 in revenue? What have you based that goal on? It is better to set a lower target and to surpass it than to set up an unrealistic one and to fall short.
- R. Goals should always be REALISTIC. This ties in closely with goals being achievable. Realistic goals are ones you know that can be achieved by doing certain things or by changing how you currently do things. For example, if you improve your SEO (and thus have better positioning on SERPs, you know that you can reach $500,000 in revenue).
- T. If you are setting any goals for growth, then they need a defined TIMEFRAME. Having goals with no clear time frame is relatively pointless. How can you measure actual success if you do not set when the goals should be achieved by? Saying you want to reach that $500,000 in revenue in a set timeframe gives you a realistic target to work towards.
Now let’s look at three more specific types of goals:
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1. Process goals
Process goals are the identified tactics you have in order to meet your product goals. If you have set that $500,000 revenue as your product goal, then what process goals do you need to set in order to achieve it? As per SMART goals, you have set yourself a timeframe to achieve that product goal. Process goals help you meet your product goal in that timeframe.
If you have more than one product goal, then you need a process goal for each of them. You may have added X number of customers to your revenue target, so you need to look at how you will achieve both. In fact, you may have more than one process goal for each of your product goals, depending on what they are and how you see the route to achieving them.
Looking at your $500,000 revenue target again, what process goals could you set in order to achieve it? You know that you need more customers and more sales, but how do you get to those points? In this case, some process goals could include:
- Increase the reach of your email marketing.
- Boost SEO to improve search engine rankings.
- Use A/B testing to make your homepage and landing pages more engaging.
- Expand your work on social media platforms and look at having influencers act as brand ambassadors.
2. Performance goals
Once you’ve set any process goals, you need to set performance goals for each of them. This covers the M, A, and R parts of your SMART goals in particular. These are the standards you are setting as you try to achieve your ideal outcome (product goal). For the most part, you have an element of control over these as your efforts will dictate results.
Looking back at the process goals we used as an example, how you could translate those to performance goals may look like this:
- Email marketing reach: You could set a set number of subscribers to achieve or even a more detailed metric such as an increase in CTRs (click through rates).
- SEO boost: You may want to set a target of where you want to appear in SERPs.
- A/B testing: The ultimate aim is to have potential customers engage more with your site, so you could set targets such as lower bounce rate or increased page views per session.
- Social media: Your performance goals could include factors such as increased engagement, especially with things like post shares.
3. Outcome goals
As the name suggests, these are what you hope to see as the outcome at the end of your growth hacking cycle. It’s covered as part of your SMART goals as the specific outcome you want to achieve. Whether you achieve these goals is down to how well you implement tactics to achieve process and performance goals.
If your outcome goal is $500,000 revenue and you have set a timeframe of one year to reach it, you can also look at breaking that down into smaller timeframes in order to gauge how well your strategies are working. That doesn’t necessarily mean equal division. You may decide to set a lower target such as $100,000 for your first quarter and then increasing goals for the later quarters.
Growth hacking strategies you should follow
1. Create a pre-launch email List
Building an email list before you even launch your startup can be a great strategy. Even if you’re not operating as a business yet, you can generate interest through social media or by contributing guest blogs to a relevant site (or having an established blogger feature your brand). Consider giveaways where appropriate or offer ebooks or white papers. This can increase your brand awareness and build a subscribers list.
2. Launch on product hunt or similar platforms
Spread the word by utilizing sites such as product hunt or similar. In fact, you should be looking at any site or platform where people discuss your particular industry or startups in general. This can even include looking for relevant questions on platforms such as Quora and including your product/brand details in any answer.
3. Capitalizing on SEO strategies
Although it can take months for your SEO strategy to show tangible results, that doesn’t mean you should neglect it at the start. It may seem contradictory to include something that offers long term results in what is essentially a short term strategy, but SEO is integral to your growth as you move forward and will drive visitors to your site from content created early on.
4. Leverage referral marketing
Don’t be afraid to seek referrals as these can provide a major boost to startups in the initial stages of growth.
A referral program involving your friends and family can offer strong leads that can be closed, and you should also seek referrals from influencers within your particular sector. It’s also worth remembering that CACs (customer acquisition costs) are lower with referred customers and that there is higher potential for retention.
5. Make brand partnerships
Going it alone makes it harder to succeed. Partnership programs not only extend your reach, they can generate as much as 28% of your total revenue. Implementing good PRM (partnership relationship management) can help make partnerships more efficient and can be a great way to grow your startup in the first year.
6. Leverage adjacent markets
This can be a great growth hack if done correctly. By targeting markets that are similar to what you do or offer, you can reach a whole new group of potential customers. It’s not necessarily about promoting your products but instead your expertise and knowledge. Evaluate any market first, and be aware of factors such as competition and legal obstacles to onboarding customers from those markets.
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7. Build a community around your brand through social media
The importance of social media to your business cannot be overstated, especially when you’re trying to establish a new brand. Not only are the various platforms great for raising brand awareness, they’re a useful way to receive feedback and for happy customers to share reviews and experiences.
Having a Facebook Group dedicated to your brand is a fantastic way to engage with customers or to offer exclusivity on special offers.
8. Follow your competitors
There are two things to consider with your competitors. The first is that you want to keep up with or be ahead of them. The second is that you can learn from their successes and mistakes.
Don’t just copy the good things they do, improve on them with better versions of what they do. Analyze everything your closest competitors do, from SEO keywords to marketing campaigns.
9. Create an aggressive content marketing strategy
Content is something else that shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. It should reflect your aims and goals but should also be flexible to how the curated content is received and any customer feedback given.
Make your content as engaging as possible and aim for virality, with written content backed by imagery and videos as much as possible. Your measure of success is people sharing that content.
10. Influencer marketing
Influencers shouldn’t be dismissed as a strong tactic for supporting growth. They can have large groups of loyal followers and may present content across several platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. Bringing influencers on board, and eventually elevating them to brand ambassadors, can help bring a lot of new users to your brand.
11. Invest time researching trends
Trends come and go. What’s popular today may not be in a year’s time. You should be investing time in researching and identifying trends within your sector.
Spotting emerging trends can be a great way to tailor new products and marketing campaigns so that they meet any new consumer demands and needs. If you’re in the SaaS niche, this research can also support any CI efforts. CI stands for continuous integration, and is the process of continually updating and improving your software. Any improvements or upgrades backed by solid research are sure to be more likely to succeed.
12. Send free gifts to your customers and show off
Everyone loves free stuff and adopting this tactic doesn’t need to irreparably damage your budget. Place your brand name and logo on anything from a pen to a golf umbrella. You can choose to send these to people on your email lists or even give them away at trade shows, or you can even utilize a marketing agency to carry out this work for you. It not only makes the receivers happy, but also helps to raise your brand awareness.
13. Feature user stories on your blog
User stories are a useful tactic to draw readers in and see what they can expect from a product or service. They can take different forms to suit the platform or channel you’re presenting them on and what you think customer perceptions may be. Think about what your product offers and what you see as customer expectations, and combine them into a great marketing tool.
14. Make affiliate partners
Partner marketing is a constantly growing market and some 94% of publishers now use multiple affiliate partners. Using a platform such as Affise (note: Migration to Affise is very easy), you can link your brand to relevant partners, thus expanding your reach significantly and offering a great solution when you’re looking for speedy growth for your startup.
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15. Call to action
There’s little point in driving significant traffic to your site unless you nurture those leads and ultimately convert them to paying customers. Without strong, relevant, and targeted CTAs, visitors to your site may never move through your sales funnel. Use A/B testing in this area, too, to ensure that your CTAs are working for your potential customers.
Grow your business today with Affise
Growing your startup is no easy task, especially if you go it alone. Switching to performance marketing and partnering with Affise offers real opportunities to scale your business quickly. Whether you’re working in ecommerce, SaaS, or even offering dating programs, Affise’s solutions can streamline how you work and extend your reach dramatically.
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Partnering with Affise brings you the solutions and experience that can help with rapid scalability, and it’s an ideal solution for startups or smaller businesses. Affise has a proven track record in helping a business increase revenue and access better analytics. It also offers you automated features that will save you both time and money.
Starting a new business is never easy. You may well be operating on a restrictive budget and have only a limited time to scale to the point where revenue is greater than costs. That means you need to acquire customers as quickly as possible and establish a solid and ongoing revenue stream. Working purely alone could be a major hurdle to achieving that.
If you consider the different options for growth hacking, you can find a cost-effective way that will fit perfectly with your business. Any tactic that can add customers to your organization can only be a good thing and should be implemented from day one. A combination of tactics can not only extend the reach and awareness of your brand, it can make a real difference to revenue.
You can gain major advantages for your startup if you look at the various performance marketing options available to you. By partnering with Affise, you open up a whole new world of potential customers, all backed by solid experience in areas such as fraud prevention, marketing, analytics, and automation.
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