Growth hacking: The inexpensive way to make your brand go viral

Growth hackers have always been around, in some of the most innovative and now-mainstream organizations. They’re the upstarts and the visionaries, nimble and growth-focused 24/7. Great examples of growth hackers? Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, AirBnB, Spotify. In their startup modes these booming brands, embedded strategic (and low- or no-cost) marketing tactics in everything they did. The goal was simple: get more people consuming their brands.

Growth hacking redefined the very nature of marketing, oddly bringing it back to its roots. Isn’t anything that builds buzz, drives eyeballs, and converts consumers marketing, after all? One of the most recognizable examples is Hotmail, which first inserted a now-ubiquitous signature into all messages, alerting recipients of its origin and driving them to sign up. More than a friendly reminder, every email became a personal endorsement from the friend, relative, or colleague sending it—they use Hotmail. Or take virtually anything Facebook does, even now. You opted in for a deal, it goes to your newsfeed. You listen to a playlist, it goes to your news feed. You like a page, it goes to your news feed. The virality of it all is some of the best of the best of growth hacking.

Although there’s no question now that these methods were groundbreaking, one of the differentiators behind growth hacking has always been its beginnings within a company. Generally speaking, a growth hack-focused organization lacks the funds to support traditional advertising and often lacks that same “traditional” marketing and promotional experience. They’re forced to innovate, forced to reinvent and forced to work with what they have—A/B testing, digital optimization, viral extensions, email and a ton of creativity and curiosity—to connect customers with their product.

So that’s the foundation of the term—the phenomenon, more aptly—that was only coined about four years ago. Great for the startups engaged in growth hacking, even better for the success stories emerging from its earliest days. But here’s what’s got everyone scratching their heads: major corporations are spending tens of millions of dollars on “state-of-the-art” marketing and advertising outreach with far less ROI. Where’s the disconnect? If growth hacking can make those essential connections, why aren’t these organizations aligning with more enterprising tactics? And, very simply, can growth hackers exist within a more traditional corporate structure?

The short answer: yes. If you’re committed to optimizing against your business goals, being highly creative in the conversion sandbox, and dedicated to both data and to using it to challenge the HIPPO—the highest paid person’s opinion—you’re halfway there. Now take it the rest of the way with the approach, the personnel, the thought processes and the commitment to data-driven decisions that, likely, you’ve already implemented to some extent. I’ve got a roundup of five ways to get started—or kick it  up a notch—for next week. And trust me, it’s not as tough, as costly or as resource-heavy as you might think. 

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