Every start-up is using digital marketing in one form or another, but we’re quickly reaching the point of saturation. Display ads – those annoying banners you see on every website – are blocked on almost every web browser, while content marketing is getting lost in the mix of millions of blog posts and YouTube videos that are being produced daily. So how is a startup expected to stand out? What you need to be thinking about is unique ways to target your audience. Growth hacking – a buzzword in digital marketing – is when you come up with creative and innovative ways to help drive business growth.
The idea is to generate huge traction with minimal to no spend, and for startups, where every dollar counts, this form of digital marketing is (literally) invaluable.
There are a couple of well-known examples that demonstrate how this can be used.
To drive user growth in Dropbox’s early phases, it started a referral campaign where it awarded both existing users and friends they referred to the service with 500MB of additional free storage. Dropbox identified what its users wanted (storage) and offered them a way to get it for free that would also quickly drive the startup’s growth.
This campaign increased Dropbox signups by 60 per cent, and catapulted them into the position of market leader.
Airbnb also implemented a well-known growth hack when it first came to market. Identifying that Craigslist was where most of its target users were advertising spare rooms, the startup created a “hack” that enabled users to post their Airbnb listings to Craiglist with a single click.
By making it as easy as possible for users to cross-post their properties on both platforms – a hack that Airbnb was able to pull off by reverse engineering Craigslist’s programming – it was able to seamlessly transition users over from the more popular platform with little perceived risk to the end user, while also introducing them to the Airbnb’s superior functionality.
HashChing ran a growth hacking event not long after we launched to market in the second half of 2015. One of the growth hackers we worked with was 16-year-old Tamir Vigder, who produced a parody video of The Big Short that focused on the big four banks in Australia.
Generating half a million views on YouTube within 24 hours, this simple video dramatically boosted HashChing’s profile and resulted in $70 million worth of home loan applications – $7 million of which converted to loan settlements.
But growth hacking can also be accomplished with minimal investment. I implemented a growth hack for our company recently that took advantage of the popular OzBargain online community.
Recognising that the bargain-obsessed users of this site were perfect for the company, I offered a free property report that would tell users how much a property cost in a specific suburb, along with other related stats and figures.
This was a very basic growth hack that didn’t cost us anything, but the traffic spike was remarkable. Within a few hours, we received more than 300 property report requests, substantially increasing our email database. We actually had to delete the deal off OzBargain to stop receiving requests.
Growth hacking isn’t difficult, but it can be incredibly powerful for early stage startups looking to accelerate growth with as little spend as possible. If you can think laterally and are familiar enough with the unique characteristics of different online mediums and platforms, you’ll be able to leverage this new form of marketing to have users knocking down your digital doors faster than you can close a pop-up window.
Atul Narang, Co-Founder and CIO, HashChing