There’s one word that belongs at the top of the priority list for most business owners: growth.
In our survey of self-employed workers, we asked respondents to cite their goals for their businesses. Growth came in as the top objective, with the majority of business owners aiming for a 40-59% increase in the next year.
However, it’s achieving this level of growth that presents a challenge. How can you keep your business heading in the right direction—especially when you don’t have endless time or money to invest in multiple growth strategies?
This is exactly where growth hacking comes into play.
What is growth hacking?
You’ve probably heard this term before—it’s become a bit of a buzzword.
Growth hacking is an umbrella term for different strategies that contribute to rapid growth. Coined by Sean Ellis, Founder, and CEO of GrowthHackers, in 2010, growth hacking is meant for businesses who want to quickly acquire customers at a low cost.
To do so, growth hacking involves coming up with innovative ways to use the resources that are already at your disposal to generate growth without a hefty price tag.
It’s the inexpensive factor that makes the concept of growth hacking so appealing to business owners. 31.47% of the respondents in our own survey cited money as a barrier they face in growing their own businesses.
Is growth hacking right for you?
Growth hacking is a term that’s oft-repeated in startups and tech companies, but that doesn’t mean that it’s only relevant for those types of businesses. Growth is universal.
Our survey revealed that 95% of self-employed workers say that their businesses are growing, and 27% state that their businesses are growing at a rapid rate—with a 31% increase or more in business this year.
While most of these respondents (34%) credit the quality of their products or services for their increase in business, 33% cite their business strategy and another 29% tout their marketing as reasons for their growth.
So, what does that mean for you?
If growth is a goal on your list for 2019, growth hacking strategies are something that you can use too—and they can lead to some big things for your business. Here are a few ideas to try.
Get ready to experiment
Growth hacking is all about experimentation. If you’re going to use it, you need to be willing to test different marketing techniques, sales efforts, and processes to see what works for your business—and what doesn’t.
Fortunately, risk-taking comes naturally to most business owners. More than half (59%) of the ones we surveyed say that they’re comfortable or very comfortable taking risks to grow their businesses.
If you aren’t willing to try different methods and roll with the punches, growth hacking will be more anxiety-inducing than helpful for your business.
Growth hacking strategy #1: Start a customer loyalty or referral program
In our survey, the number one thing that self-employed workers say has had a positive impact on the growth of their businesses is word of mouth. Ranked right after that? Customer referrals.
Word of mouth marketing is huge. Nielsen reports that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from their friends or family over any other type of advertising.
But, how do you encourage people to actually spread the word about your business? Customer loyalty and referral programs are a low-cost and effective place to start.
For example, you can offer a special discount, coupon, or freebie to people who refer other customers your way. Or, institute a punch card where customers are rewarded after they return a certain number of times or make so many purchases.
Strategies like these get new people through your doors, while also ensuring that your best customers keep coming back.
Growth hacking strategy #2: Answer questions on online forums
Search these platforms for questions related to your business that you can confidently answer. In your response, resist the urge to be overly promotional and instead focus on thoroughly addressing the inquiry.
If you have something relevant and valuable to promote—such as a blog post or helpful tool—you can do so. But, dedicate the majority of your response to providing a helpful answer to the question.
What does this accomplish for you? You gain authority while also building trust with users—who can quickly turn into new customers.
Growth hacking strategy #3: Get involved in your community
Online isn’t the only place you can gain customers for your business. Particularly if you have a brick and mortar location, getting out and active in your local community is a great way to attract new business.
Is there a farmer’s market you could be a vendor in? A charity event you could sponsor? A conference or seminar you could speak at? A career fair you could participate in? A cause that you could donate to or volunteer with? A trade show where you could set up a booth?
There’s no shortage of opportunities in your own area. And, they are often a relatively inexpensive method to make connections and gain more exposure for your business.
Growth hacking strategy #4: Revise your social media efforts
You’ve heard everybody talk about how important social media is. 64.67% of the business owners we surveyed say that Facebook has had a positive impact on their business growth, while another 44.75% say the same thing about Instagram.
But, if your strategy involves haphazardly pushing out posts just to meet a weekly quota, it’s time to revamp your efforts for maximum effectiveness.
Social media can feel overwhelming, particularly if you’re trying to be active on each and every platform. A smarter strategy is to get to know your target audience and then adapt your efforts to reach them where they already are.
If your audience skews older, for example, you’re more likely to reach them on Facebook than on Instagram. So, you know where to focus your efforts.
Additionally, your social media posts shouldn’t be purely promotional. The word “social” appears in the name for a reason—it’s about interaction.
Dedicate some time each week to respond to comments and proactively reach out to customers, influencers, or partners on social media. Doing so will generate an increase in your followers, and as a result, your customers.
Growth hacking strategy #5: Implement more calls to action
You draft and publish a blog post because you feel like you have to. You sporadically post to Facebook because everybody says you should. Yet, you’re becoming increasingly frustrated by the fact that those efforts don’t appear to be leading anywhere.
What’s the problem? You aren’t ever calling people to action.
When customers land on your new blog post, what do you want them to do—besides read it? Are you aiming to have them click through to learn more about your products? Subscribe to your email list? Leave a review for your business?
Your customers won’t take action unless you explicitly direct them to, and clear calls to action can be powerful. Emails with a single call to action increased clicks by 371% and sales by 1617%. And, adding calls to action to your Facebook page can increase your click-through rate by 285%.
Take a walk through your customer journey from numerous different starting points—like social media, your website, and your marketing newsletters—to ensure that you’re clearly stating the next step you want visitors to take.
Growth hacking strategy #6: Use retargeting
There’s nothing more frustrating than people leaving your site without making a purchase, particularly if you run an e-commerce business. Believe it or not, out of every 100 people that visit your website, 99 of them leave without buying.
How do you get those people back and inspire them to actually purchase? By retargeting them.
Retargeting is a form of online advertising that’s, well, highly targeted. You place a pixel on your site (it’s completely unobtrusive to you and your visitors), and that invisible piece of code drops an anonymous browser cookie when somebody new visits your site. When they leave, that cookie tracks what other sites they visit on the web, so you can place your advertisements in those places.
It sounds a little creepy, but rest assured that it’s legal and highly effective, because you’re advertising specifically to people who have visited your site before—meaning you already know they’re interested in what you offer.
Growth hack Your business in 2019
Is this a comprehensive list of growth hacking strategies? Absolutely not. There are tons of other tactics you could try to contribute to rapid growth for your business.
But, these will get you started. Give one (or even all!) of them a try, and prepare to expand your customer base in the coming year.