Business development experts Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown explain how adopting a “growth hacking” methodology – including cross-functional teams and quick testing and iteration – allows organizations to create products customers love and to grow their market share.
As GrowthHackers.com CEO Sean Ellis and Facebook growth product manager Morgan Brown well know, businesses today can have fast-paced success before seeing growth suddenly grind to a halt. The pair, who began their careers at start-ups, have seen firsthand how even companies with a great product can struggle to grow their market-share long-term. With the Ellis-coined term, “growth hacking” as their guiding light, the authors came together to launch an online community for growth-focused marketers.
With their book, Hacking Growth, Ellis and Brown offer readers expert guidance in how to create a strong team, get customers and develop experiment-focused processes that generate rapid growth. In a market where disruption has become less the exception than the rule, this smart, practical playbook explains how small businesses can become major players by embracing a growth hacking mind-set. As Josh Elman of Greylock Partners notes, “Hacking Growth will teach you how to think like a marketer of tomorrow.”
Breaking Through the Silos Hindering Growth
Ellis and Brown begin their explanation of growth hacking with a perhaps surprising word of warning: It is not a one-and-done strategy, nor is it just a way of attracting new customers or users. Growth hacking is a mind-set. It’s a fast-paced, rigorous, team-based approach to experimentation and problem-solving, which creates the conditions for sustainable breakout growth.
We believe that growth hacking is so much more than a business strategy, or even an ongoing process. It’s a philosophy, a way of thinking, and it’s one that can be adopted in any team or company, big or small.Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
Embracing a growth hacking mind-set requires that companies abandon traditional departmental silos, which, the authors argue, are one of the biggest barriers to growth. McKinsey found that collaboration across departments was more crucial for companies hoping to foster innovation than workers’ individual talent levels. Moreover, when departments don’t collaborate well, they often fail to keep marketing and product development focused on customer needs.
Creating Products People Actually Want
Companies that demonstrate fast, sustainable growth have one thing in common, Ellis and Brown write: They know how to create a product that people love. If you try to push a product people don’t actually want, you might find some success, initially, before growth halts suddenly. To sustain growth, your product should create a meaningful solution, one that customers can’t resist. When you discover how your product will do this, you’re having an “aha moment.” Uber’s “aha moment,” for example, is the idea of pushing a button to instantly call a car to pick you up.
An aha experience is a necessary ingredient of sustainable growth because it is one that is simply too remarkable not to value, to return to often, and to share.Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
The authors suggest conducting a survey to determine whether your product will deliver an “aha moment”: Find out how disappointed people would be if the product didn’t exist. If 40% or more of respondents would be “very disappointed,” then you’ve demonstrated sufficient customer interest to develop your idea further. Next, test how many people continue to regularly use your product, discovering your retention rate, and compare it to sustainable benchmark rates in your industry.
It’s crucial that you strategically harness the growth levers that will help you achieve the results you desire before you start rapidly testing your ideas. Ellis and Brown suggest that you identify your growth metrics and figure out which one most represents the value your product delivers. For example, WhatsApp gives customers the opportunity to send unlimited, free messages anywhere in the world, so their core metric is the number of messages users send. Let your strategy evolve and reorient your growth metrics when needed. Make use of customer and product data, but remember that you must still talk to customers to fully understand their motivations.
Ellis and Brown point to rapid experimentation as the means to discover effective, affordable ways to engage customers. For example, your marketing team can craft two different messages, such as campaign headlines, and test them on different groups to discover which message resonates most. Look for experiment ideas in your analysis of customer behavior, and in user surveys. Invite team members to share proposals and choose ideas to test based on metrics such as expected impact and ease of implementation.
One of the great things about growth hacking is that even failed experiments can lead to significant learning over an incredibly short time frame.Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
You can contact consumers via word of mouth and viral channels such as Facebook or friend referrals; organic channels, such as SEO optimization or articles; and paid channels, such as influencer and advertising campaigns. Test a few different channels to see which ones help you connect most effectively with your target audience, then narrow your focus and optimize your use and reach of one or two channels.
A Low Churn Rate
Just boosting your customer retention rate can increase your profit margin between 25% and 95%. Retention occurs in three phases. In the initial phase, new users decide whether to continue using your product or stop after testing it a few times. Focus on improving the users’ experience during this phase and ensure they find value in your product. In the middle phase, focus on making using your product a satisfying, habitual experience. Use triggers, such as in-app prompts, to convince users of the ongoing rewards they’ll reap if they use your product regularly. In the long-term, Ellis and Brown suggest that you focus on continuously enhancing your product, but avoid obscuring value by overloading your offering.
A Constant Process
Throughout their text, Ellis and Brown underscore that hacking growth is a constant process – a point which might frustrate those looking for a one-and-done tactic for success, but whose accuracy the authors prove in the many examples they highlight. A number of their more general claims, such as the need to avoid becoming complacent and to evolve with the shifting market don’t break any new ground. But Ellis and Brown’s straightforward, step-by-step guidance for designing rapid experiments, identifying growth levers and otherwise building a long-term growth machine will prove invaluable to anyone, in any industry, who is responsible for their company’s growth.