Chances are, you read marketing blogs regularly, you’ll have heard the term “growth hacking” before.
Growth hacking is one of those big buzzwords that floats around fairly regularly, but not a lot of people seem to fully understand what it means or strategies to utilize it well.
Growth hacking isn’t just for startups or new businesses trying to build a following and customer base; it’s also for established businesses looking to, well, grow.
Everyone can benefit from growth hacks. Just make sure that you’re ready to scale before jumping in.
Are you ready to grow your business at a breakneck speed? Are you sure?
In this post, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about growth hacking, and take a close look at seven growth hacks specifically for B2B or SaaS businesses that you can tackle in two hours or less.
What is Growth Hacking?
If you ever set out to hire marketers or a marketing agency, you might notice that there are different labels they use to describe themselves. Just as some might say “full-service marketing agency” or “PPC experts,” you’ll also see some individuals and agencies label themselves distinctively as “growth hackers.”
Growth hacking is a specialized portion of marketing, where marketers and businesses use specific strategies to increase growth rapidly.
That’s all they focus on. They put all their time and energy only into growth of their customer bases.
The concept of growth hacking was born in 2010, created by Sean Ellis who used it to describe strategies to accomplish accelerated growth.
A lot of creativity, innovation, industry knowledge, and originality go into growth hacking strategies. One thing that growth hacking doesn’t need: a lot of money.
While having a larger marketing budget never hurts, a lot of growth hacks are designed to help small businesses accelerate quickly even if they don’t have thousands to burn on Facebook Ads every week.
What’s the Difference Between Growth Hacking and Regular Marketing?
I’ll admit that I’m the first to roll my eyes at about 90% of the so-called “growth hacking strategies” I’ve seen written about online.
That’s because most of these strategies rely on luck, or timing, or aren’t really growth hacking strategies—they’re regular marketing strategies designed to increase followers.
Things like “build great products” or “offer discounts” are not growth hack strategies, no matter what blog tells you that they are. That’s common sense.
Growth hacking is meant to be rapid. It can help achieve skyrocketing growth. It’s exciting and it looks darn good in reports and on graphs, but it may or may not be sustainable (depending on the hack and how it’s being used). Growth hacking is obsessively focused on growth—nothing else. It’s a lot like having tunnel vision.
And honestly, your growth will show that. Your charts may look something like Uber’s early reports:
Growth hacking can be an essential part of building your business, but it does not—and should not—dominate your marketing strategy. It doesn’t account for other essential aspects of marketing campaigns, including nurturing relationships and maintaining high client retention rates.
Growth hacking focuses more on getting customers than on keeping them. Obviously, long term, neglecting other areas of marketing will hurt you.
It’s worth mentioning that not every growth hacking strategy will work for every business.
In fact, it won’t.
If it did, we’d be running around with a million other Facebooks and Ubers and Air BNBs making serious bank. You need to customize the strategy for your business and your individual audience, and test it out to see what actually works best for you.
Also worth mentioning, which we touched on above, is that growth hacking is not—and will never be—a substitute for all other areas of marketing.
You need well-rounded campaigns in order to grow your business successfully, and maintain that success. Remember that, and don’t neglect it.
That’s one of the nice things about the growth hacks we’re about to go over—each one can be done in two hours or less, so you won’t risk getting distracted and it won’t take away from your other marketing efforts
Leverage Scarcity to Create Discussion
We know about how you should leverage urgency to get more sales, but one thing that people forget to talk about is leveraging scarcity.
This is about creating a supply and demand ratio that works in your favor. Instead of jacking up the prices, however, you use the scarcity to get a surge of new subscribers or customers.
This is referred to as “the emergency sales technique.”
Google used this growth hack several years ago when they were first getting started. They had limited server space, which could have backfired on them. Instead, they used it as a marketing strategy, leveraging the scarcity to get people to talk and to sign up.
Pinterest also did this when they first rolled out. You had to join a waiting list to be able to get a profile; some people waited as long as four months.
When a current user invited a friend, that friend was bumped up on the waiting list. I remember telling friends “there’s a waiting list though, so even if you aren’t sure just sign up now!” It worked.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a real psychological phenomenon.
Mention that your supply is limited in the promotions you create, which you can do in under an hour; make it a central theme, and leverage both the scarcity and resulting exclusivity to get people to subscribe or purchase.
Get specific—you only have 1,000 free trials available, or 10 slots for personal coaching per year. Add “waiting list sign-up” to your landing page if relevant.
Take Conversation to the Customers
I call this “guerilla marketing,” and it’s a growth hacking strategy that you can use without spending a penny. You want to take your products to your customers. The only way to do that is to go where they are.
Netflix used this growth hacking strategy, and a number of other small businesses do, too. They’ll post in the forums and online groups that potential customers are most likely to be lurking in.
They might reach out to offer free trials to certain people, or post about their product or link to relevant blog posts that are designed to be part of the sales funnel.
Just don’t be spammy and obsessive, or else you’ll annoy people or get banned.
Utilize a Double-Edged Referral Hack
Dropbox famously used this growth hack, as did Payoneer. We see it all the time in B2C sales on sites like Stitchfix and Thirdlove and Hulu, but it is just as effective in SaaS marketing.
With this growth hack, you’ll run a marketing campaign that incentivizes referrals.
Offer a reward not only to the customer who is referring someone to you, but to the person who is being referred to you. Hulu, for example, currently offers $10 for the referrer, and 30 days free for the referred party if they sign up.
Both parties get an incentive in this scenario. This makes both more likely to take you up on the offer.
Send out an email blast to all of your current customers with a subject line like “Get $15 free!” to grab their attention, and make sure the referral program is listed clearly on your site and promoted on social media.
Side Project Marketing
A lot of small businesses or startups will, at some point, offer new small side services or a new business in a similar field.
TribeBoost has a sister company ThoughtFlame (and now MoSquatch too), for example; TribeBoost can help you get more followers, and ThoughtFlame can help you keep them engaged.
When you use one to promote the other, this is called “side project marketing” and it can be an excellent growth hack.
Chris Gimmer utilized this strategy when building up his current SaaS business, Snappa. Before releasing Snappa, they had launched a smaller side project that offered high quality, free stock photos, knowing people would be searching for free stock photos.
Once Snappa was ready, they started cross-promoting it on StockSnap.io. It was an effective growth hack that worked well.
Of course, this strategy only works if you have multiple businesses or new tools, so it won’t work for everyone. If it is applicable to you, though, it’s a great way to leverage followers for one business to sign up for another.
Automate Your Social Sales Funnel
Automating your social sales funnel doesn’t mean you never check your social media again, it just means that it will keep working even when you aren’t. That’s a good place to be, and it can lead to explosive growth.
I’ve experienced this myself since automating my Twitter account with TribeBoost earlier this year. This one is a multi-step process to set up and it will take about the full two hours from start to finish, but once it’s done, you’re home free.
First, you’ll want to sign up with TribeBoost, which will automatically follow relevant Twitter users. This often encourages them to follow back. My own (chronically neglected) account has seen 500% growth in the six months I’ve been using TribeBoost, so I’m a fan.
Next, automate content as much as possible. I use ThoughtFlame to generate highly sharable inspirational quote images that are relevant to my audience.
Create a lead magnet that you know your audience will love, and promote it on Twitter using relevant hashtags. Post about it several times using different copy, sending them right to the landing page.
Once you have their email addresses, utilize autoresponder software (many mail distributers offer this) to send them a welcome email series, which eventually ends with an email offering a discount or free trial to get them to convert.
Take Advantage of Influencer Marketing
You might have a small business. You may not have a lot of followers. One of the best ways to change this is to hook up with someone who does.
There are several ways you can do this. One is by utilizing paid reviews. This can be expensive—some big B2B names will write paid reviews, but they can cost anywhere from $200 to $800.
Still, if they have a big following and other businesses seem to have gotten a big boost from them, it can be worth it.
Another option is to connect with influencers and offer them free use of your tools. Not everyone you offer this to will be game (I get 10 emails a day asking me to promote someone’s something), but all you need is a few.
You can search based on industry, keyword, and see their social standing at any given point. Connecting with well-respected bloggers and industry leaders (even if they aren’t famous) can do wonders.
Leverage Social Media Ads
Social media ads—particularly Facebook Ads— has so many retargeting options that they seem to have endless potential. If you use them well, you can use Facebook Ads to see some incredible growth very, very quickly. As a note, Facebook Ads costs can add up quickly, so make sure you set a budget for each campaign so you don’t spend more than intended.
There are several different types of audiences that you can target, including:
- Run campaigns retargeting users who have recently visited certain pages of your website but didn’t convert, showing them offers or targeted messaging that can convince them to come back as a subscriber or customers. Showing them a lead magnet or a discount can be all it takes.
- Run campaigns that target your followers and their friends. Your followers may comment on your post or engage with it, giving you social proof, and their friends will take heed of that. Since at least some of their friends probably have similar professions, it’s a great way to sell B2B products and services.
- Run campaigns targeting individuals who have similar interests. While some marketers like to target users who follow Pages of direct competitors, I think the more effective growth-hacking strategy is to target customers who like Pages and have interests complementary to yours. Here at TribeBoost, for example, we might target businesses that follow social media management software like Agorapulse, because we know that these are businesses that value their social media marketing and want to see growth there.
Test different messages with each audience. It will take an hour or two to create these campaigns and their split tests, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor as soon as you have the budget available.
Growth hacking can be immensely beneficial for businesses of all sizes, but especially small businesses and startups that are ready to scale—and fast. It will help you see rapidly accelerated growth in your customer base, even if you don’t have a marketing budget like the big guys you’re competing with.
You can adapt the seven growth hacks we’ve discussed above to fit your business and your audience. Devote a few hours to the strategies listed above, and get ready to see your customer base grow.