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How do companies come out of nowhere to suddenly dominate their sector? Think Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and you know that these household brands once languished in obscurity, but something happened and that something has been termed ‘growth hacking’.

Growth hacking in a nutshell

Sean Ellis who coined the term, defined a growth hacker as “a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.” This obsession with growth is the key indicator of success in growth hacking. Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, is said to have had this growth focus whilst developing Facebook. But this doesn’t tell us too much about what growth hacking actually constitutes.

‘PS I love you: Get your free email at…Hotmail’

For some of us Hotmail is a name that changed our lives, being one of the first webmail systems. However, its launch was far from spectacular. The strategy for growth was using traditional advertising routes such as billboards and radio slots until one investor had a simple idea: Place the line ‘PS I love you: Get your free email at Hotmail’ at the bottom of each email.

This simple idea led to a rapid change in growth – it took 6 months for the first million users and only 5 weeks for the second million. When it was sold 1.5 years after it was launched Hotmail had 15 million users, which may not seem like much today, but at the time there were only 70 million internet users!

The loop of awareness

The reason Hotmail and so many other startups have succeeded is to ensure that a viral loop exists within the DNA of their onboarding process. The loop in Hotmail’s case was their clever Call To Action, which increased brand awareness, built referrals and encouraged a high number of users. Another example is how Dropbox utilised growth hacking to develop a rapid and powerful referral strategy. By offering free storage space via referral Dropbox increased its signups by 60%.

 

Data and the art of state change

The art of growth hacking is heavily focused on the loop and data is key to ensuring that every stage of conversion data is analysed to ensure that the loop continues to grow exponentially. To do this the growth hacker’s job is to establish how to move a user from each to state: Awareness to Acquisition, Acquisition to Retention and Retention to Referral.

Could your business use this strategy?

Many new businesses find themselves facing the same problem as Hotmail did all those years ago. You’ve got a great product but now that it’s launched how do you get it seen? Growth hacking could be the perfect fit for your product as it clearly can provide incredible results if carried out correctly, but there is some risk associated with this strategy and getting sound/expert advice before you begin is essential.

 

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