The term “growth hacking” brings to mind images of a dude 75 pounds overweight, sitting in dark room with one lamp and surviving off a strict diet of Jolt Cola and Cheetos. Because, let’s be honest, any time you hear the word “hacking,” you’re basically picturing a guy who hasn’t seen daylight since he was 15.
But it’s not your fault, since the most famous incident of growth hacking involves AirBnb cracking Craigslist’s code, linking to their own site, and becoming the go-to for vacation rentals. But “hacking” doesn’t just mean reverse engineering a programming process. The word has a much broader use.
The term “hack” simply means to think of a different, easier, more efficient way of doing things. So, a growth hack is simply thinking of inventive, technological ways to grow.
There are a lot of things you can do to growth hack for your small business. But to paraphrase Sean Ellis – the man who coined the term “Growth Hacking” – you must always have your true north be growth. The term typically applies to Internet-based companies, but there’s no reason your small business can’t utilize some of these methods to grow as well. So here are some ways you can become a growth hacker while still leaving the house and eating normal food.
It’s ok if you know more about Flemish poetry than you do about Search Engine Optimization. You don’t need to be an expert to keep your site relevant; all you have to do is keep creating content so search engines notice your site. This can be anything from a blog post to a video of cats watching “Turn Down For What,” or really anything that keeps your website current. Even if a fraction of your business is done online, it’s still the main way people find you.
This doesn’t mean force visitors to your site to become “that guy” who inundates their friends’ social media with invitations to play Farm Candy Saga. But if you sell a product online – or have an online ordering capability – offer something like free delivery if they share what they purchased via social media.
Even if your business doesn’t have much of an online presence, you can increase your individual presence by reaching out to blogs that serve the same market you do and offer to guest blog. They are always looking for content and if you as a restaurateur are writing about a food trend – for example – it gives you an immediate air of expertise that will drive growth.
If doing actual writing isn’t your thing, it’s definitely the “thing” of the millions of bloggers out there who do it as a hobby. Or even professionally. And these people have massive, niche followings on both social media and their blog. Inviting a large group of fashion bloggers to a cocktail event at your store, or food bloggers to a mixology lesson at your bar, can get you exposure to each of their audiences. An added bonus: Many of those audiences have overlap, meaning people will see your business mentioned repeatedly.
This doesn’t mean spam distance running forums saying stuff like “You know where a great place to carb-load is? Irving’s Pasta Shack!” It means contribute to those forums and casually mention what you do, and why you’re an expert. And occasionally drive people to your business when the opportunity arises. This works especially well in fields like real estate and tourism.
You ever wonder why you get Facebook notifications that your great aunt in Yuma “Just listened to ‘Shout at the Devil’ on Spotify?” Or that your morbidly obese former frat brother just ran 1.4 miles somewhere in New Jersey? It’s because Spotify and Nike+ have created applications that automatically notify people of activity using their products. Third parties can catch on to this quickly and stop you, but it’s a quick hack that can create a spurt of growth before it’s gone.
In 2014 people’s attentions spans are only slightly longer than that of your average fruit fly. So your best shot a viral success? Something people can read and digest in less than a minute. If your company can create a catchy infographic or industry-related Top 10 list that will get people sharing it, you’ve now let the Internet do the growing for you. Great example: Low-cost clothier Everlane produced an infographic showing the gross markups in the production of designer T-shirts, irking many in the high-end retail sector and making themselves an almost-household name.
If your business has a website, and especially if you’re selling your product online as well as in your store, keep track of how many people are visiting, signing up, and actually buying things. Just getting visitors isn’t enough, look and see when in the visitation process people are leaving your site, try to figure out why, and fix it.
Will one single growth hack make you the next AirBnb? Probably not. Yeah you might strike gold once in a while, but it’s much more likely that a bunch of mildly effective little ideas are going to grow your business rather than one giant one. And, you will fail at some. But you’re a small business owner, and if you were afraid of failure you wouldn’t be reading this blog. So go ahead and be a growth hacker; it’s way cooler than what you’d had pictured.
Image courtesy of pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net