By Yonatan Stern
With much at stake and little slack, startup owners and other entrepreneurs are finding an ideal solution in growth hacking.
Unlike big-budget, long-term initiatives, this approach involves economical experiments with potential to deliver rapid payoffs and double-digit revenue increases.
Success stories have triggered widespread adoption of the strategy to expand and engage customer bases, boosting revenue and profitability.
Based on experience and observation, I encourage you to join the bandwagon. I know how effective growth hacking can be because I’ve watched other businesses implement it, and companies I’ve led have used it to accelerate their results and those of customers.
You need the right mindset – willingness to accept the possibility of failure, and to quickly employ nimble, creative, measurable tactics. Growth hacking is a game of cat and mouse; you always need to be one step ahead of the competition.
To become a proficient growth hacker, apply these tips:
Use “what if” analysis to leave your comfort zone and create new opportunities.
To kick-start growth, consider changing approaches, audiences and channels to widen awareness.
For example, Airbnb practiced growth hacking to extend its market penetration. With a potential return in sight, it reverse-engineered an application program interface (API) to enable its users to post listings to Craigslist. The plan worked: Because Airbnb’s listings were better than traditional Craigslist ads, Airbnb generated additional traffic to its app at virtually no advertising cost.
Strategically address new market needs – and perhaps define a new market.
Invent a way to help potential customers solve a critical problem. Consider: Will the breakthrough meet a need before your target market recognizes the requirement? Will it appeal to your ideal customer? Will it put your company out in front?
Slack set itself up for phenomenal growth. Shortly before launching, co-founder Stewart Butterfield sent his development team a memo with the title “We don’t sell saddles here.” Butterfield wrote: “Despite the fact that there are a handful of direct competitors and a muddled history of superficially similar tools, we are setting out to define a new market. And that means we can’t limit ourselves to tweaking the product; we need to tweak the market too.”
Describing Slack as a means for “organizational transformation,” he added: “We’re selling a reduction in information overload, relief from stress, and a new ability to extract the enormous value of hitherto useless corporate archives. We’re selling better organizations, better teams. That’s a good thing for people to buy and it is a much better thing for us to sell in the long run.”
Make your top customers your research laboratory.
Overhaul your growth engine by relying on your best customers. Study their traits to understand why they selected your company and why they buy your products. Scale your success by targeting similar accounts, and use your learnings to develop new products and services.
For example, based on user behavior, rapidly-growing B2B market intelligence provider ZoomInfo last year broadened the functionality, value and profitability of its ReachOut growth-hacking solution. Originally, the downloadable Chrome extension enabled sales and recruiting professionals to access ZoomInfo’s company and contact database while browsing LinkedIn profiles. Last year, enhancements were added to also allow Salesforce users to tap relevant data immediately and, in a breakthrough, transform any corporate website into an instant prospecting tool.
Among success stories, sales intelligence startup ExecVision has used ReachOut to engineer a 20% jump in sales productivity.
Such results demonstrate how powerful growth hacking can be if you have an open, agile mindset and you’re willing to take small, educated risks in exchange for likely big rewards.
To learn more about how to drive business growth, attend ZoomInfo’s 2017 Growth Acceleration Summit, Sept. 13-14 in Boston, where more than 25 sales and marketing experts will provide actionable insights.
Yonatan Stern is founder, CEO and chief scientist of ZoomInfo, an Inc. 5000 company whose Growth Acceleration Platform combines the most comprehensive and actionable B2B database with integrated tools to help companies optimize sales and marketing effectiveness, jump-start growth and maximize profitability. A serial entrepreneur and growth hacker for more than 30 years, he also founded Bizo (acquired by LinkedIn), CardScan and Rosh Intelligent System. Stern is a three-time finalist for EY Entrepreneur of the Year.