Why growth hacking is not only a startup thing, but also for corporates

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You’ve probably already heard people in your network talk about growth hacking, and following from this how it’s synonymous with startups. It’s true that growth hacking is used principally by startups. But in fact, and let us just get it straight from the beginning, every organisation, whether large or small, can improve by using growth hacking techniques.

In fact, some of the most innovative and fast-growing organisations in the world, such as Facebook, Uber and AirBnB grew by means of growth hacking, and these organisations still have some of the best growth hacking practices embedded into how they work.

Already eager to know how you can apply similar techniques to boost your company’s growth? First step: become familiar with growth hacking and some of the fundamentals. Don’t panic, you don’t have to take yet another diploma, because here is the best part of it all: anyone can learn growth hacking. There are lots of resources out there such as online courses, or even better, you can hire a growth hacker to help you. That is, for instance, one of the services we offer at Trigger as well.

Though the term growth hacking may come with certain connotations, it’s not a dark art, a secret tool or platform that is only available to a selected few. It’s actually rooted in scientific processes. Still a bit unsure what the term exactly cover? Let’s take five to give a quick overview.

GROWTH HACKING IN SHORT

Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to determine the best practices for growing a business. Principally, growth hacking works best when experiments can provide rapid feedback, for instance, testing marketing messages, watching how people react to new products or prototypes. So, while it’s not exclusive to, it’s most suited in digital businesses.

In other words, if you want to increase the number of people responding to an ad, to stay longer on your website, to pick up an item in a store, to buy more, to choose the more expensive item, to refer people in their network — yes basically everything and anything that will ignite growth, growth hacking is valuable.

GROWTH HACKING IS A MINDSET, NOT ONLY A SET OF TOOLS AND TACTICS

Following from the recap of growth hacking, many would probably look at it as a A/B testing and say, “that has been around for donkey’s years”, and in fact they would be right. However, the critical thing to understand is that growth hacking is a mindset rather than a set of tools and tactics. Check out our previous post explaining growth hacking in 12 simple steps for a more in-depth guide.  Basically, growth hacking relies on a different way of thinking, a mindset that, ‘we know nothing until we have seen the data’ and in here lies a big challenge for corporates.

For instance, this is a significantly easier position to take for an entrepreneur in a startup than it is for a marketing executive with a 6-figure salary based on 30 years of experience of knowing what works (or what always seemed to work). But let’s reminisce for a second about what Tony Robbins said,

“A belief is a poor substitute for experience”

In its simplest form, growth hacking is a process that starts with a hypothesis. For instance, if we do X, we will get more of Y. Then you design and run several experiments to test this hypothesis. After the experiments, you review the data and make changes (because the experiment proved the hypothesis) or you design another experiment (because it didn’t work, or it gave inconclusive results).

But what’s the fuzz actually about and why is growth hacking a ‘thing’? The answer is simple: because it works and can, if done right, reward organisations with a competitive advantage. It fuels disruption by helping agile startups to grow really quickly by discovering new value from new customer segments, and that’s why many corporates are fighting back by adopting a similar mindset.

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However, for corporates to maximise the benefits of growth hacking, there are certain fundamentals they need to adopt. We present some of them here.

CULTURE IS ESSENTIAL

The competitive advantage that agile startups have over large corporates is not rooted in the tools they use. Recalling from previously, growth hacking tools are available to everyone. So what is it then? It’s the culture that is paramount. The startup world is obsessed with optimising by means of experimentation, and large organisations need to adopt a similar mindset. For some it might even seem like a fanatical mindset.

EMBRACING FAILURE

When we run an experiment to test a hypothesis, we aim for a positive outcome. However, if the hypothesis proves wrong, we know we have learned something, and we have obtained some new data will assist us in the next round of experiments. Actually, up to 80% of experiments are likely to fail. Groundbreaking or not, this is a fact that we need to acknowledge, especially corporates, which are facing a significant cultural challenge here.

Not embracing failure is a curse to many corporates, and sadly this is when the competitive advantages disappear right under their nose and fall right back into the arms of startups that have replaced ‘failure is not an option’ with ‘if you’re going to fail, fail fast’.

SPEED OF ACTION

For any growth hacker, speed of action is critical, and this is where most corporates fall short as they spend far too long planning, designing, building and perfecting their strategies. This is how they have always worked and it’s probably the way they are going to work irrespective of whether it still works.

Startups are in a different situation. They can move quickly. For instance, in the time a corporate spends on designing a product, the startup will already have launched several MVPs (minimum viable products), pivoted, relaunched, experimented, collected real customer data, relaunched again and shipped the product.

DISMANTLE (OR HIVE OFF) THE SILOS

Commonly, corporates are organised in silos (figuratively speaking). There is the product development team developing the product, the production team that makes it, then the marketing team whose task is to create demand for it, the sales team that sells it, while the logistics team ships it, and finally the finance team counts the money.

Growth hacking disrupts this, often well-oiled, machine. However, in most cases where corporates successfully have implemented growth hacking practices, they have deliberately picked out a small team to minimise disruption, but primarily to be able to achieve the maximum agility that comes from having small, cross-functional teams.

So, time to wrap it up and get right to the point (this post is already longer than initially planned). Why is growth hacking relevant for corporates?

KEY TAKE AWAYS

First of all, let’s start in the marketing departments of corporates. Surprise or not, this is where immediate action needs to be taken. Often marketers of large organisations are stuck in their current jobs, continuously falling back into a traditional way of doing marketing where the use of saturated marketing channels prevails. Leaving this sort of vicious circle might be hard, especially without the ability to forecast what will happen when a traditional marketing practice is replaced with a new, different and, for some, unknown approach such as growth hacking. To alleviate the uncertainties of such a transition, hire a growth hacker to help you.

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If you’re not yet convinced about implementing growth hacking practices in your organisation, let’s conclude this post with four things only a growth hacker can do (things a traditional marketer never will have the skills and guts to do):

  • Reverse engineer your competitor’s website traffic

like AirBNB did when they leveraged Craigslist to grow their user base considerably. For instance, when people were asked to complete the form for listing their bedrooms on AirBNB, they were given the possibility to post the listing to Craigslist as well. This way it would show on Craigslist while creating inbound links for the AirBNB platform.

  • Be 20% evil

like Uber when its employees ordered and cancelled more than 5,000 rides from their all-time competitor Lyft. This act reduced the availability of Lyft drivers and threatened the income that drivers relied on. The Uber employees who didn’t cancel their ride, got in the Lyft car and intentionally drove to the headquarters of Uber.

  • Have the technical skills to create an efficient referral campaign

like Dropbox when they found a remarkable way to increase sign ups via referrals. First of all, they made it easy for existing users to share referral links with friends and second, they did this by also offering users an incentive such as 16GB extra disk space the moment the other person would they had referred signed up.

  • Be creative, analytic, and technical to do side project marketing

like one of our growth hackers when he made an online tool for one of our clients, Cartamundi. Get a glance of it later and see for yourself how much it cost to make a board game. It’s a pretty cool tool!

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Comments (3)

[…] Sometimes those kid gloves got to come off. Only 20% of the time though, as you need to stay within the borders of what’s ethically right of course. However, don’t let this be a barrier. Who said you can’t work close to the edge or even on it, like Uber did when messing around with the availability of Lyft drivers. […]

[…] we posted another article on growth hacking for corporates. This one is going to be quite different, as it will give you a unique behind-the-scene view into a […]

[…] blog posts to this topic, and now we also invited a speaker to the Summit to talk about it: growth hacking for corporates. Gunter Blanckaert, global head of digital platforms at Philips Lighting was the first keynote […]

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