According to Andrew Chen, one of the first marketers to talk about growth hacking, a growth hacker is a hybrid between a marketer and a coder — someone who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers it using website analytics, A/B tests, search engine optimization (SEO), and content marketing. Everything a growth hacker does is for the sole purpose of generating more growth, and they use low-cost, innovative website design solutions to do so.
The term was coined several years ago as web designers and marketers started to dive deeper into the analytics of their websites, looking for insights they could use to optimize performance. In everyday terms, growth hacking is a fancy way of saying "conversion optimization," but it really became popular around the same time "life hacks" starting going viral — hence the name.
What are some examples of growth hacking?
If you’re still a little confused about what growth hacking actually is, here’s a basic example:
Acme Corp. is a specialty manufacturer of conveyor belt systems. To increase their exposure and capture more leads, Acme Corp. built a modern website and loaded it with tons of product information, pictures and informative articles. The site looked great and seemingly had all the information a potential customer could ever want, but somehow they weren’t getting great results.
One area where they were really having a lot of friction was their Product Information pages. Here, visitors could click on a particular conveyor belt system type and get more information about that system, look at pictures and request a quote. Despite these being some of their most popular pages on the website, only 4% of visitors were clicking the “Request a Quote” call-to-action at the bottom of each page, with a click-to-submission rate of only 30%.
Rather than create an entire marketing campaign around the idea of getting more quote requests, Acme Corp. decided to try some growth hacking techniques. Here’s what they did:
Replaced low-res product images with professional, high-quality images
Embedded a video of the conveyor belt system "above the fold," to ensure visitors didn't have to scroll to see it
Made the call-to-action (CTA) button larger and changed the text to “Request a free quote!” (replacing "Get Pricing Information")
After improving image quality, giving visitors actual footage of the conveyor belt system in action and making the free quote more noticeable, Acme Corp. saw their click-through rates increase from 4% to 8% and click-to-submission rates increase from 30% to more than 50%! By implementing these simple “hacks” on their website, Acme was able to improve how visitors digested product information, which led to more quote requests and leads.
How do I know if growth hacking will work for me?
To answer this question bluntly: you won’t — every industry and audience is different, and what works for one industrial manufacturer’s niche might not work for your industry. Unless you have a crystal ball that tells you how your audience will react to your changes before they happen, you can never be sure whether a hack will work or not. In fact, you could try 5 different A/B tests on your page and ultimately find that none of them work — but that’s okay.
The greatest thing about growth hacking is that no matter what the results of your A/B tests are, every test should give you deeper insights into how visitors interact with your pageand digest its information. Knowing what doesn’t work is almost as valuable as knowing what does, and can change how you run tests in the future. As all content marketers will tell you: there’s no such as thing as too much A/B testing (in other words, you’re never really done testing).
How do I get started?
Before you start searching for different growth hacks to try, you need to determine what website issues need to be addressed. As I mentioned above, a growth hacker’s only goal is to improve growth, and they rely on specific website metrics and KPIs to do so — not only to measure whether they’re successful, but also to discover what needs to be fixed.
For example, if a CTA has a high click-through rate but low click-to-submission rate, growth hackers know that visitors must have a problem with the landing page. If you don’t track and analyze your website’s metrics, just like if a manufacturer doesn’t track data on its production lines, you won’t even know what to fix — or if it’s working once you make the fix! As a result, it’s important to get your analytic tools set up as soon as possible.
Google Analytics is great to track the general website behavior of visitors to your website. Google Search Console will tell you how your website and domain are being crawled by Google. HotJar is a tool that generates heat maps and visitor recordings. It’s like a thermal imaging camera, but for your website! It can give you great insight into what specific parts of pages are being visited, what buttons are being clicked and where landing page conversions are falling off. In addition, if you’re using HubSpot, you can start creating A/B variants on your web pages and compare the performance.
Many marketing strategies now include a form of "growth hacking" in their long-term initiatives. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) and Growth-Driven Design (GDD) both revolve around constantly testing and improving your website using the data and insights gathered from your analytic tools. When done correctly, not only can your hacking have a major, quantifiable impact on your lead growth, but it also helps you understand your audience on a deeper level.