What is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking is a buzz word term that is linked to the promotion of a product or service. To me, growth hacking is marketing but by uncommon methods. They seek to find tactics that disregard rules and think outside of the box. This trait isn’t always a bad trait to have but can sometimes cause dire consequences.

Often growth hacking marketers will seek to force a rise in the quantity of promotion or consummation attained. They are focused heavily on quantity metrics. Unfortunately, this force may achieve the desired goal of a rise in quantity but will cause a large drop in the quality of promotion achieved.

Pitfall 1: Transparency

Unfortunately, in many cases of free products or services, there will be a catch. It is crucial to make it clear to the user what the catch will be. A great example of growth hacking done wrong was pointed out in ‘Let me tell you why I’m mad at growth hacking. Again.’ by Baratunde, where Baratunde pointed out the major pitfalls that the popular service Unroll.me used.

He was under the assumption that due to the popular conversations he had found on Twitter, the service provided by Unroll.me would be a perfect answer for clearing up his Junk emails. However, after they had removed the first five email senders, he was met with a pop-up that required him to act when he wasn’t expecting it.

Make sure you specify what is going to happen before it happens. As Paul Boag lists as one of his ‘8 worst things you can do to try and convince somebody’, do not surprise the user. Surprises when using a product or service are not welcome with open arms, it upsets the flow of the user experience and negatively disrupts the user’s emotion related to your product like a grey rain cloud on a warm day at the beach. If you have a cost for your service, specify it.

Pitfall 2: Requiring Action

One common growth hack used for startups involves requiring action. The action may be in the form of a newsletter that they want users to sign up for, to create a bridge between the service and consumer.

As most of you are reading this will have experienced, some websites become overly aggressive with their newsletter promotion. When landing on a news article page, you are greeted with a full-screen popup asking you to join a newsletter with an impossible to find close button.

Forbes

Growth hacking example, Pop-up message asking for consumers of Forbes webpage article to disable ad block

Growth hacking example. Instructional video in the form of a GIF that shows consumers how to display Ad Block for Forbes websites

Some websites may even take action one step further and prevent you from reading a web page until you have logged in or disabling ad block. Take ‘Forbes’ for example, they not only require action but show a guided animation on how to perform the action.

Independent

Growth hacking example, Pop-up message asking for consumers of independent newspaper webpage article to disable ad block

Other article publishers, such as the ‘Independent’ newspaper will ask that a user disables their AdBlock, with an explanation as to why the ask the user to perform the action. The main difference is that they will allow consumers to read the article regardless on if they disable the AdBlock or not.

Pitfall 3: Manipulation

Manipulation is more of a general pitfall when it comes to digital marketing, let alone growth hacking strategies. It is important that you don’t manipulate the user of your product. If the consumer feels that they are being forced or deceived into doing something it leaves a bitter taste in their mouth.

If you make it clear what is to be expected of a product, and give the user transparent options, then the overall customer experience will benefit, and they are more likely to return.

You see, by using the common growth hacking tactics and strategies you will increase the amount of interaction a product has with the consumer. The downfall is that the consumer will likely –

Conclusion

Sometimes the hard way is the best way. When you first start up a company or product you will find yourself tempted by growth hacking tools, growth hacking guides and growth hacker marketing.

It should be clear to anyone reading this article that a product will grow because the consumer has trust in the product and will want to share the value the product brings to them.

Expect a post to follow from the topics discussed in this post, where I will talk about why a product grows organically, and why hacking your engagement isn’t advisable.