Growth Hacking, as the name implies, is a methodology that gives you a launching ramp to grow your business. It’s a relatively new marketing approach focused on startups’ growth, preferably in the shortest time possible, while spending as little as possible. Personally, I will refer to the phenomena both as the “growth hacking” and “Hacking Growth”, in Sean Ellis’ honour, who wrote the definite playbook on it.
Now, let’s go back to our definition. On short, Hacking Growth is a methodology that works like this: a manager gathers representatives from a business’s several departments, and together they work to consolidate a smart strategy to reach a well-defined target – called “North Star”. As I mentioned prior, this is used by startups that can’t dispose of an enormous budget, yet lately, it’s also used by industry titans, such as Facebook, Airbnb, Twitter, LinkedIn.
Going beyond the buzzword – How Growth Hacking Works
Start by setting your “North Star”, or in other words, your final goal. It needs to be clear and quantifiable to work – for instance, a goal could be increasing the revenue by some percentage. These are the steps that need to be followed:
- Identify levers and define the experience
- Define success indicators and set KPIs
- Build and run experience
- Analyze results and evaluate success compared to the initial KPIs
- Deploy at a larger scale or discard
To make sure this methodology is successful, the company has to offer full liberty to test several ideas, in spite of the results. Sometimes, they will fail. But, this is what makes the whole process interesting – you DON’T have to be afraid when applying the experiments. Both failure or success represents nothing more than a lesson learned.
Why and how we use growth hacking at Pentalog
In short, we use growth hacking methodology to:
- Increase the customer’s sales and/or revenues
- Optimize ROIs – to create larger ones while using as little resources as possible
- Find patterns on user flow and behaviour, to optimize any digital product in the future
- Find smart solutions for certain problems
- Having several experts on different zones can provide tremendous ideas
- The competition is using it already, so why shouldn’t we
- Since the world is constantly changing, we need to keep up with the trends.
After Coravin, a successful e-commerce startup (and our client) had a resounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we realized that there’s still place for growing. Yet, to do this, we had to find out the best e-commerce practices.
Together with the VP of IT of Coravin Francois Silvain, we contemplated over several methods, obscure or well-known on how to. After plenty of research, we stumbled upon a copy of Sean Ellis’ Hacking Growth book (the one I mentioned above) and started researching.
The idea of doing more with as little as possible sounded incredibly appealing to us, especially since Coravin is a startup, even if it is a successful one. Therefore, we chose to implement it.
Pentalog has been working with Coravin for the past three years. They have this marvellous portable wine device, that lets you enjoy a glass without uncorking the bottle, thus preserving it for a longer time. You can find more about Coravin and their ingenious idea here.
How we growth hacked Coravin in 7 steps
Step 1: Defining your North Star
You can’t start your hacking growth process without defining the main reason why you want to apply it – your purpose. As I mentioned prior, it’s called the North Star. To make sure you can achieve it, the scope needs to be easy to measure. For instance, your North Star could be to increase the number of active users on Facebook by 13% compared to the prior year.
Step 2: Assigning the team
The second step you need to take is to create the team. For us, this process was highly dynamic and challenging, yet we embrace it fearlessly.
To make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible, the idea is to find representatives from each department of your company, who will audit their area and then present it to the whole team, to discuss.
However, there were some challenges we encountered when assigning, such as:
- Align the team on the same idea
- Generate ideas with a clear and quantifiable hypothesis
- Deciding if the idea worked or didn’t
- Learning what to do when the proposed idea didn’t work out
Step 3: Generate ideas
After each representative presented their stance, we started brainstorming, to generate ideas. Then, we worked to pick the ones we considered relevant and test-worthy. Here was the moment when we found ourselves with a thick list of things we had to test. Yet, the challenge just began. To make sure we can have an overview of all the things we need to apply, we started using Sean Ellis’ tool.
What I realized during this process is that in order to have a successful outcome from this methodology, what you need is an excited, determined and quality-focused team, who is open to challenges and experiments.
Step 4: Defining the KPIs
Next step in the process was to define the key performance indicators (KPIs). If you can’t define your idea’s result, your effort is in vain. Therefore, we worked on assigning the most relevant KPIs for all the generated ideas.
To make sure we were choosing the right KPIs before we defined them, we tried to find answers to the following questions:
- What do we measure?
- How do we measure it?
- What do we compare it to? (Past, current state, benchmark)
- How does success look like?
Although this step is time-consuming, a good KPI will help you decide if an idea is worthy of the effort or if it’ll be a failure. This way, you make sure you manage your resources smartly.
Step 5: Prioritization
Having a long list filled with possible experiments can create total chaos. This is why you have to prioritize it, by choosing the first experiments to be tested. However, this is not an easy task, since everyone will have different opinions on what they consider as important.
To ease our choices, chose three levels to measure them:
- The certainty that the idea will change something
- The idea’s impact and the
- The level of difficulty when it comes to implementation.
Additionally, we added grades, that went from 1 to 10, where 1 means “tough, small impact, uncertain if it’ll have an impact”, and 10 means “easy to implement, high impact, certainty about working”.
In the end, we made an average between them and we managed to put together our priority list.
Step 6: Test and analyze
After we finished listing the experiments, we picked the ones with the highest grades, since they were considered fast victories. Unfortunately, the first experiment was a failure, which kind of threw us off our tracks. But we didn’t give up.
On the other hand, the second experiment was a success – not a resounding one, but enough to motivate us to continue. Honestly, I was the happiest man on the planet when I noticed that a hypothesis was validated with actual, real data.
Analyzing the experiment is highly important as well, especially to conclude if it is a success or a failure, based on the provided KPIs. There is also the possibility to declare it inconclusive – when it’s not helping, yet doesn’t do any harm either. During this phase, you decide if the experiment will be scaled-up or forgotten.
And the process keeps going on and on and on. It’s not tough to do it, but as a team, you need discipline – to generate ideas, set KPIs, test experiments.
Step 7: Repeat the process
As you probably realized, this whole process is not something you do “once in a blue moon”. On the contrary, you need to keep brainstorming, defining KPIs and testing. You might have that one million dollar idea in the first tryout or you might have it in the 100th. The idea is to be persuasive about it.
For instance, with Coravin, aside from our weekly meetings, we continue organizing growth hacking workshops monthly.
What I feel that I should mention is that when we are creating our growth strategy, we constantly keep in mind two aspects:
- Coravin is indeed a successful startup
- Our plan is to obtain more with less.
Thus, we have to adapt the methodology daily.
You’re probably wondering – but does it really work? Undoubtedly, yes. Still, we are aware it didn’t reach its peak in our case, yet. But, we until now, we had some great results.
- Adding a quiz on the category page, to see what system fits you best
- Improve the quiz, by redirecting you to a product/family page instead of a landing page
- Adding a video on the product page, titled “How does Coravin work”
- Creating a pre-purchase page
- E-mail approach
- Newsletter integration
- Continuous A/B testing
What didn’t work
- Adding a Moments app banner on a product page
- Add capsules link on systems’ product page
- Adding a “free shipping over $50” banner
In the upcoming future, we plan to integrate more ideas, such as customer service. Until now, most of the generated ideas were implemented, and I strongly believe that the first step was the toughest.
So, should you apply Growth Hacking methodology?
I can’t say that I’m an expert when it comes to growth hacking, therefore I can’t certainly proclaim that you should or shouldn’t. What I can say, though is that you shouldn’t be afraid to get out of the comfort zone and try it out.
I can’t promise it will stream flawlessly, but what I can say is that if you set your KPIs, measure and evaluate every idea, you won’t fail. And if you take into account that everything is a lesson, even a failure, it will certainly work out in the end.
If you plan to grow your business, don’t look only for solutions – look for smart solutions.