Growth Hacking. The Natural Outgrowth of Big Data.

imagesMake no mistake, we feel that the best way to build advocacy is through positive buzz. Yet there is a way to short-circuit the process at times through ” growth hacking” which we practice ourselves. It pays to understand how it works even if it does not apply to you.

The most brilliant marketers today aren’t really hatching new ideas as much as they are hitching rides on ideas, audiences, and product advantages that already exist.  The question for a cutting edge CMO therefore is to consider whether they will build from scratch or steal more cleverly than their competitors. This the promise and ethical challenge of growth hacking.

Big Data & the New Metrics

Big data is the tool that helps Growth Hackers find the fissures and loopholes in an online ecosystem to exploit. Today advanced metrics programs offer companies a myriad of ways to analyze the behavior of “people, not page views.” Growth Hackers hope this data will yield that killer insight, or what they call the “aha moment” that leads to a product breakthrough.

A classic application of the new metrics is how Twitter created “follower” functionality through the painstaking analysis of user behavior, not just page views. StumbleUpon was created by analyzing the sharing behavior of a billion bloggers in bite sized chunks. The use of data and statistics to improve processes and increase output is not new however. The difference between Growth Hacking and “continuous improvement” is the Growth Hacker’s obsession with the one or two metrics that will uncover the ideal “product market” fit.

The “Product Market Fit” and Viral Lift  

Aaron Ginn, a growth hacker for StumbleUpon, explains that growth hacking has marketing goals “driven by product instincts.” He goes on to say that the goal is to find great, necessary and unique solutions to problems; and therefore, that the product should largely market itself.

While online products can’t always “sell themselves,” they can be designed to promote themselves. The difference between spreading a headache and a hit is to design “good stuff” that is engineered to be easily—but not obtrusively—shared.

Growth Hacker Ivan Kirigin says, “if your product involves sharing at its core, you should focus on optimizing and encouraging it.” DropBox grew by giving away free storage to users who shared their service. HotMail and others achieved growth along similar lines.

Customer Experience. Cheaper To Market.

Getting your first million users, however is useless unless they stick around. The Growth Hacker will therefore focus on retaining users by optimizing the customer experience. Many times they will intone that “retention is more important than acquisition,” mainly due to a dislike of marketing.

In words of Arhcie Abrams, director of growth at Udemy,: “It’s better to have 500,000 users, each spending $20 than it is to have 10 million users each spending $0.05. Companies that win find a channel like email, Facebook notifications or push notifications that can sustainably drive users back to their product.” Of course, if you think this sounds like online marketing, you are not alone.

The tools in a “growth hackers toolbox” are common to online marketing—A|B testing, landing pages, direct email, DRIP campaigns, content marketing and etc. Add to this more expensive tactics like paid search, and, pray tell, even an great spot video, and soon you are back to spending real money. This is because growth hacking does not obviate marketing but instead complements it on broader scale.

This is why many Fortune 500 firms have invested in internal “Skunk-works” departments to try and marry growth hacking with traditional marketing.

Lean Methodologies & Bite Sized Hacking.

The brightest minds within big companies realize that size tends to work against innovation. They also worry about spending big money on the next Edsel, Aztek or Google Wave. To combat this, many have created “Corporate Incubators” to grow bigger, better ideas from within.

It is no wonder, therefore, that such “Innovation Centers” embrace growth hacking.

Like growth hackers, they rigidly pursue data and metrics to produce ideas—both online and offline—that fulfill a potential market need. Like growth hackers, they carefully construct viral loops and feedback mechanisms reveal product flaws and establish KPIs—or Key Performance Indicators.

The T-Shaped Skill Set

Unlike the best “growth hacking” teams, however, many corporations still persist in hiring internal talent to staff their incubators. While there is nothing wrong with this practice, it does not tend to build a vibrant “Cocoon.” This is mainly due to the fact that an individual that has spent their career within one or two large corporate confines may lack exposure the often brutal marketplace of broader ideas.

This is why Ideo—one of the world’s most successful idea incubators—looks for individuals that have both a broad knowledge base and a deep talent in one or two fields–or what they call a “T-Shaped Skill Set.”

Put another way, Growth Hackers tend to be polymaths with a particular talent. Whether they know how to code, write copy or craft marketing unusually well, what they all share is a talent for stealing things that already exist deep within the web and the world beyond it.

A Growth Hacker’s Guide. (To Getting Started)

1. The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking – The book covers all aspects of growth hacking, including analytics. Chapter 4 talks about the growth hacking funnel, and Chapter 10 deals with analytics terminology and the various tools available. (These are the only Chapters that matter.)
2. Video: Lean Analytics: One Metric That Matters (OMTM) – Alistair Croll (author of Lean Analytics) explains with a YouTube video how: “By measuring and analyzing as you grow, you can validate whether a problem is real, find the right customers, decide what to build, and how to monetize it. Although you will need patience to monetize everything, this will help you count what hurts and helps.”
3. A Guide To Mastering Growth Hacking Analytics – This article explains how to pick your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and calculate essential metrics like LTV (Customer Lifetime Value) and other critical metrics.
4. The Beginner’s Guide to Startup Analytics – “Metrics are what ground startups in facts and logic.” Shanelle Mullin of Onboardly explains how analytics fit into early and mid-stage startups and when to incorporate growth analytics into your marketing.
5. Analytics for Viral Growth – Part 2 of The Growth Hacker’s Playbook – This article provides a more advanced overview of how a growth hacker should approach analytics and explains how key concepts come into play, such as cohorts and calculating the lifetime value of a customer and other critical variables that can spell success or failure in the long-run.
6. How to calculate cost-per-acquisition for startups relying on freemium, subscription, or virtual items biz models – Andrew Chen, a growth hacking “expert”, explains how to calculate cost-per-acquisition (CPA) for various traffic and customer sources across the web.
7. What factors influence DAU/MAU? Nature versus nurture – Chen explains how your product’s category influences what to expect from your daily active user (DAU) and monthly active user (MAU) metrics.
8. Zero to Product/Market Fit (Presentation) – In this presentation Chen explains what product/market fit looks like from a numbers standpoint.
9. Startup Metrics for Pirates – Dave McClure originally coined the term Pirate Metrics in this famous presentation, which outlines the AARRR framework for effective startup analytics. The slideshare is useful for both new companies getting started with analytics and more established companies looking to streamline how/what they measure.
10. Growth Hacking Like A Pirate, A Beginner’s Guide To Pirate Metrics – This article from is a great compliment to the Pirate Metrics presentation linked to above. It will help anyone new to the AARRR concept hit the ground running as they apply the AARRR framework to their business.
images11. Customer Analytics for Growth Hacking – Woopra, a customer intelligence tool, takes you through key analyses growth marketers can focus on to understand customer behavior within their saas platform.
12. How To Build And Optimize An Onboarding Funnel – This blog post from Woopra compliments the post above by showing how to build and optimize your onboarding funnel.
13. Ask GH: If you could only execute using one metric for the next 6 months, which metric would you use? – In this interesting question/answer thread on the website GrowthHackers various growth experts weigh in on what growth metric they think is most important. The answers will give you a sense of which metrics are relevant to certain industries, stages of growth and overall business/company goals.
14. Viral Growth and Analytics – While the Viral Growth and Analytics feed on Quora leans more towards discussions about growth strategy than analytics, there are a few analytics-focused questions mixed in, and it could be a great place to post any questions you have about analytics and growth.
15. Master Google Analytics For Growth Hackers From A-Z In Less Than 6 Hours– Google Analytics is essential to any Growth Hacker’s arsenal of tools, but becoming an expert can be overwhelming given how robust it is. This article compiles five resources that will make you a Google Analytics expert in less than six hours.
16. 7+ Under-Utilized Google Analytics Reports for Conversion Insights – This roundup of lesser-known Google Analytics reports is useful for any growth marketer looking to improve their conversion tracking.
17. The Google Analytics Conversion Funnel Survival Guide – Want to learn how to create and utilize conversion funnels so that you know exactly where people are dropping off within your sales funnel? This is your guide.
18. 14 CRO Gurus Share Favorite Optimization Tools – This is a great overview of tools recommended by the top marketers working on conversion optimization. In addition to an explanation from each expert about why they like particular tools, the post includes a tally of all tools mentioned, ordered according to popularity.
19. 35 Growth Hacking Tools for Marketers Who Don’t Code – And you don’t need to, as we’ll talk about this later in future emails.
20. Growth Hacker Bundle – This bundle of apps includes some of the best tools for growth analytics available.
21. 5 Crucial Weapons for Your Growth Hacking Arsenal – The folks at Speek say that having a mix of great tools at their disposal played no small part in their rapid growth. In this blog post they review the five main tools they use in order to nurture growth.

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