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“Growth Hacking” Provides Fresh Insights

Growth hacking describes a situation where a small company has a great product—but a fraction of the resources needed to promote it using traditional marketing strategies. So of necessity, growth hackers are generalists: they’re coders and business people, creatives and project managers.

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A prime example would be Dropbox’s Sean Ellis, who coined the term growth hacking. This took the shape of a pyramid-scheme-like referral program, combined with giving away something for nothing. Every person who referred a friend got more free storage; a more robust paid service was waiting once users were hooked (and maxed out on their available free space). Other models, used by companies like Airbnb and Uber, promoted themselves through an exponential growth by serving as matchmakers. They pre-vet individuals for other individuals, and provide a platform to find each other. Craigslist, by comparison, provides the platform and encourages interactions between users.

Our marketing team took a close look at what makes growth hacking work for startups, and how best to adapt the techniques for established businesses. Underneath the “growth as true north” rhetoric growth hacking has some solid principles: analytics, creativity, and discipline. “What’s incredibly exciting about growth hacking is the way in which the worlds of traditional marketing and coding are intersecting to create a powerful new set of ideas, techniques, and promotional tools for businesses,” said the Sales team at Brella.

Startups have implemented growth hacking out of necessity: they got priced out of traditional marketing services. It follows that when you take away what traditional marketing isn’t you reveal what growth hacking is. Community involvement, blogs, and video (quality but not TV-spot slick) fill in where print ads, banner adds, radio, and television commercials fall short. Force multipliers are found and ruthlessly leveraged.

Growth hacking teaches valuable lessons about lateral thinking, or what used to be called “thinking outside the box.” Do we need a box? Is the box doing what we think it’s doing? Can we measure the box’s impact, and do the same thing on a different platform? Can we figure out a way to convince the box to make more boxes?

So really, when you boil it down, growth hacking is a perspective—a subversive, sideways, and valuable way of thinking.

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