The following is a summary of lessons learned from thousands of hours of coaching and collected via a series of surverys with the GloCoach Growth-Hack Coaching team.
By Rob Abbanat
“Today’s growth-hacker is tomorrow’s CMO.”
Growth-hacking is no longer a buzzword. It is how companies will succeed in a business environment increasingly dominated by open access to data and social networking.
This guide is for anyone looking to expand their corporate customer base, though many of the techniques will apply to consumers as well. While it is specifically designed for smaller companies, it is equally relevant for large organizations that are launching new products looking to expand their market share.
The objective of growth-hacking is to create a rapid incoming stream of leads that have a high rate of conversion to sales. Note that this doesn't necessarily mean new sales, and should also include leads from existing customers. According to Bain & Company, a 5 percent increase in customer retention can mean a 30 percent increase in profitability for the company. Retention trumps Acquisition!
6 Steps to Growth Hack to the Top of Your Industry
1. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
Be very specific. If you target everyone, then you target no one. To do this, start with a profile of your target customer. How old? Years experience? Role? What do they like? What are they struggling with? Then choose the specific criteria you will use to identify them. For my business, I typically use the following:
Company size (headcount) • Specific companies • Specific industries • Seniority level • Function • Title
2. BUILD YOUR CONTACT DATABASE
There are several ways to build your contact database, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. For the lazy, you can buy lists. I personally don't like this method because it is expensive and unreliable. Further, in today's day and age of job-hopping, a professional my hold 11 or more jobs during their career. This means that even if your list is 100% accurate today, it will become less accurate with each passing day as the contacts migrate to their next gig. For this reason, I strongly recommend finding a sustainable strategy to continuously generate contacts internally.
The best tool I've found for identifying corporate contacts is LinkedIn, upgraded with a premium account such as Sales Navigator. Here you can search millions of contacts via a variety of criteria. Note that this is not perfect either, since LinkedIn's daily engagement rate is relatively low (compared to, say, Facebook), and hence job and contact info might be out of date. Additionally, I have learned that the quality of LinkedIn user data varies greatly from country to country, and even among different markets within the same country. For example, in China, expat's data is far more likely to be up-to-date than locals', although there are obviously far fewer of them.
Once you have searched and identified contacts on LinkedIn, you can invite your contacts to connect with you, preferably using one of the value propositions you are testing (see below). Be prepared, however, to wait for reply. As noted above, LinkedIn suffers from a low daily engagement rate. As such, it may be days or even weeks before your contact will respond to you, if at all.
To short-circuit the long wait, there are tools available for "scraping" contacts from LinkedIn, such as Linked Helper and Anyleads. These tools have the advantage that they can automate the process of inviting contacts to connect, or simply scrape their contact info straight away. If you are opting to scrape, there are two caveats to beware. First, you will usually only have access to the contact's email, not phone and, as noted above, there is some chance that it will be out of date. Secondly, these people have not "opted in" to your marketing campaigns, and thus may be unhappy to receive what could be considered spam mail.
Of course, there are many other ways to collect contact information, including more traditional methods, such as distributing fliers at an event. My experience has been that, unless you have a great partner with a huge database that you can get immediate access to, these methods are too slow to support the rapid iteration required by good growth hacking.
Once you have collected your contacts, you will need to export them (in .xls or .csv format) for the next step.
3. CHOOSE YOUR CRM/EDM TOOL
In most cases, the tool you use to collect your contacts will not be the same tool you use to manage and market to the database as it grows. In fact, you probably will want to try to reach them via various channels, such as EDM (electronic direct mail), LinkedIn, and, if you are in China, WeChat.
Your contact database is a living, dynamic thing that changes daily. As noted above, people frequently change roles and leave jobs. As such, you constantly need to be editing their profile, or eliminating it if the contact info is wrong (and can't be updated). For this, you need some kind of CRM, such as HubSpot, SalesForce or Zoho.
In addition to simply managing the database, you need a tool to manage your marketing campaigns. For this, I am familiar with (and can highly recommend) HubSpot. It has excellent features for designing and managing EDM campaigns and also allows non-techies to build very attractive web pages that can be linked from other channels. For example, in HubSpot, you can design a landing page with a form to collect the contact info from someone who is requesting more information about your product or service. This landing page can be accessed from an EDM that was sent via HubSpot, as well as a link in a LinkedIn post on your company's LinkedIn page, or via a QR code in a WeChat post. HubSpot will automatically manage and integrate any new contacts to your database, no matter where they came from.
If your target market is in China, having tighter integration with WeChat is critical. WeChat, however, has gone to great lengths to keep marketing programs like HubSpot from directly accessing users, and thus protects them from spam. That said, I have been told that Zoho has features for tighter integration with WeChat, and HubSpot has similar features on the drawing board.
4. DESIGN & EXECUTE YOUR GROWH-HACK CAMPAIGNS
This is where the rubber meets the road. Now that you have a (growing) contact database and a tool for managing various campaigns, you have to test the different messages to see what generates the highest conversion rates.
If you are a startup, you may in fact be searching for the right Product-Market Fit (PMF). Finding the right PMF is the only goal that really matters for any startup. As Brian Rothenberg, who grew Eventbrite describes it: “There are only two phases in a company’s life, pre-product-market fit and post-product-market fit.” As such, each campaign should be testing the core value proposition of your company to see if the market really wants it.
For larger or more established companies that already have PMF, you may be testing either the PMF for a new product, or simply testing the right packaging of your product to best attract your target customers.
The value proposition of your company (or new product) should be a simple, pithy statement that captures: what the customer wants, when they want it, and with expected objections addressed. My favorite example is that of Domino’s Pizza: "Fresh hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes, or it’s free." It is about the customer and their needs, not about your product or what you think is cool.
At its heart, the value proposition encapsulates why you have a market-beating product or service. And this is precisely why the most senior people in your company (i.e. the founders if you are a startup) should be involved in the growth-hacking process.
5. BE CONTENT (VALUE)-DRIVEN
Although you are testing your value proposition, I recommend that you shift your mindset from selling something ("it's all about you") to offering something of value ("it's all about your customer"). This means that you find a way to offer content that is valuable from your customers' perspective. Of course, the content should be relevant to your product or service, but the idea is to offer value before you try to sell something. Or put more accurately, offer value as the path to selling something.
Once your customers have received and appreciated whatever it is that you have offered of value, they are far more likely to pay attention to your value proposition and act on any "call to action" that you have attached to it.
Consider, for example, the fitness company that pushes an EDM campaign saying “Our gyms are clean and modern, sign up now!” vs. the fitness company that pushes an EDM campaign titled “The Best Exercise Routine for Working Professionals”. Which are you more likely to open and read? For me, certainly the latter and I’m far more likely to sign up for a trial if it is offered just after reading that content.
6. MEASURE, REPEAT, MEASURE SOME MORE
Measuring and analyzing the results of your campaigns is absolutely essential for growth-hacking success. You must be able to identify which campaigns are working and which aren’t.
Growth-hacking is an iterative process whereby you aim to learn something with each campaign. Each is a mini experiment that offers incremental learning as to what works and what doesn't. If you didn't learn anything about your perceived value proposition, than it was simply a waste of time. In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I would say that learning is THE objective of growth hacking campaigns. For as long as you are learning, you are always moving towards a model that will take you to the top of your industry.
In the case of EDM campaigns, this will likely follow a simple funnel: Deliveries ==> Opens ==> Clicks ===> Lead. At each step in this process, you want to measure the conversion rate to the next step. Once you have secured a lead (someone who has expressed interest in your product/service, with the means and authority to buy or influence the buying process), you can then track the next phase of the sales process: Lead ==> Meeting ==> Proposal ==> Sale.
It is only by rigorously measuring the conversion rates at each step of the process that you can steer your campaigns towards success, and your company towards the top of your industry.
After each experiment, and based on the facts before you, repeat the process, developing a new campaign to test its appeal within your market. For the team that wants to make it to the top, the cycle time should be measured in days, not weeks. One experiment per week is what I typically shoot for.
WHAT TO EXPECT
This process is iterative, and takes time. It benefits from experience, and requires a team of people with different skill sets, from creative to analytical, from programming to copy-writing. For most, it will take several months to build up your database and test various value propositions before you begin to see results.
GloCoach has assembled a team of coaches, each of whom has experience in one or more aspects of the growth-hacking process. Check out our team and feel free to reach out for a consultation. We'll take a look at where you are, where you want to go, and help to point you in the right direction!