There are only two ways to go in business: up or down. You might think there’s a third option in doing neither, but that will eventually lead downward as your competition takes advantage of your complacency. Up or down. That’s it. A brand that isn’t actively pursuing growth is a slowly dying business. According to TD Bank’s annual survey, 46% of American SMBs planned to grow in 2017, and 9% planned to add staff. Those figures rose to 53% and 22%, respectively, in 2018. Grow or shrink. Flourish or perish. Succeed or fail. And while the old adage that ‘slow and steady wins the race’ is generally true, the trend amongst start-ups and small businesses is to kick growth into overdrive. We’re in the growth marketing age, and if you’re not playing the game, you’re going to quickly be left behind.

What is Growth Marketing?

At its simplest, growth marketing is a focus on the entire sales funnel, whereas traditional marketing limits itself primarily to just the top of it (the acquisition stage). It recognizes that retaining existing customers while acquiring new ones not only accelerates true growth, but also saves you money. Image Source Gain five new users while losing three existing ones, and you’ve only grown by two. Gain those same five while losing none? You’ve grown by five. That might sound like an oversimplification, but if retention doesn’t factor into your marketing, you’re cutting your acquisition efforts off at the knees. Growth marketers aren’t afraid to experiment and get creative. They use concrete data and frequent A/B or split testing to optimize everything at every level and touch point. They track, monitor, and improve. They provide for and exceed consumer expectations to build rabid fans and advocates, not ‘just’ customers. They are 100% about customer acquisition, customer retention, and increasing profit. Sounds good, right? And best of all, growth marketing is perfect for companies of any size, but it’s especially well-suited to new businesses with limited budgets and resources. “For meaningful growth, startups must completely change the rules of traditional channels or innovate outside of those growth channels. They are too desperate and disadvantaged to adapt to the old rules of marketing. They have to dig deep creatively, and relentlessly test new ideas. If they don’t figure out quickly, they will go out of business.” ~Sean Ellis, Founder and CEO, GrowthHackers.com

Be More Pirate

To achieve this, growth marketers focus on five key metrics to measure their success:
  1. Acquisition
  2. Activation
  3. Retention
  4. Revenue
  5. Referral
These guiding pillars of growth have been dubbed the ‘pirate metrics’ because they create the acronym AARRR. Image Source You may also see AAARRR from the addition of awareness as the first step. Either way, the sentiment remains the same: acquire, retain, earn more. Ask yourself the questions. Hypothesize and test ways to improve each stage. If you identify issues, fix them. Grow, grow, grow. Looking to accelerate your growth in 2019? Try these 8 growth hacks.

1. Be ACTIVE on Social Media

This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are still people and businesses out there not taking advantage of social media beyond just having a Facebook page or Instagram profile. That’s not enough. An active presence on the platforms that matter to your audience is a surefire way to jumpstart growth, and there is perhaps no faster or more affordable way to spread awareness of your brand and products. To grow you need people, and social media has them by the billions. Facebook? 2.23 billion. Instagram? One billion. YouTube? 1.9 billion. No matter who your ideal buyers are, they’re on social, guaranteed. Every demographic is represented, from Gen Z to Baby Boomers and beyond. Image Source The worldwide number of social users is expected to grow from about 2.62 billion in 2018 to 3.02 billion by 2021. So get active. Follow the major personalities and brands in your industry. Engage with them and their followers. Share your best content. Comment on relevant posts from others. Thank people for a follow back. An often-overlooked hack is to answer relevant questions on Quora. It’s a thriving community of roughly 300 million monthly users looking for information from experts and peers like you. Build your brand, enhance your reputation, and generate traffic to your blog or website with a link in your answers. You can’t just ‘be’ on social media. You’ve got to be active. Use appropriate hashtags to be found more easily. Connect, engage, and grow.

2. The Eyes Have It

As a species, we’re hardwired for visuals. Our brains process visual information up to 60,000x faster than text. Charts, graphs, illustrations, photos, pre-recorded videos, gifs, live streaming, and infographics resonate with us more than words alone. Your marketing – content or otherwise – should lean heavily on high-quality visual components. The general consensus is that we remember 10% of what we hear and 20% of what we read, but 80% of what we see. Social media posts with visual elements get more engagement, likes, shares, and comments. In one study, Facebook posts with photos garnered 87% of all interactions, and tweets with an image generate 150% more retweets than those without one. Live videos on Facebook have a 4.3% engagement rate (but only 2.2% for recorded ones). Instagram – the photo and video sharing app – is the fastest-growing social media platform. Subject lines that include the word ‘video’ increase open rates by 19% and click-through rates by 200-300%. Video in the main message is also a proven winner. For a bit of variety, try using gifs or cinemagraphs in both email and social media. There’s a science-backed reason we say a picture is worth a thousand words: because it is.

3. Focus on the CX

This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: focus on customer experience (CX). CX is poised to become the main differentiator by 2020 if it’s not already. It’ll be more important than the price and the product. Are you ready? Consumers want personalization, ease, and speed. They want options. Actively work to improve their experience at every stage and touchpoint. Improve response times. Diversify your channels. Ask for feedback, and use what feedback you receive.

4. One Word: Contests

Everyone loves something for free. Use that to gain exposure, generate leads, and create positive sentiment via contests. Setting up a contest on social media is a breeze with services like WooBox, Shortstack, and Heyo. People are more than happy to provide you with their name and email address, as well as share your contest announcement with their network, if it means they may win something. A $50 gift card might generate thousands in new sales from the leads you collect. Contest, sweepstakes, or giveaway – it doesn’t matter what you call it. The results are the same: more names, bigger list.

5. Exit Intent Popup

Ever start moving your cursor towards the back or close button, only to have a pop-up stop you? You’ve just witnessed exit intent in action. Create an exit intent popup with a valuable, high-quality lead magnet for your website. It’s a last-ditch attempt to collect contact details before a prospect disappears forever, and they’re very effective. Wisepop customers, for example, report an average 300% increase in their email list efforts. Offer a downloadable resource (ebook, pdf, template, case study, white paper, report, or how-to guide), coupon, or special discount in exchange for their name and email address. As with contests, most consumers are willing – even excited – to trade those details if it means they get something useful back. Image Source Get the details. Build and harness your email list. Growth starts there.

6. Remember the Six Weapons of Influence

Human beings are complex creatures, but we’re also remarkably similar in a lot of ways. The more you know about how people think, feel, and make decisions, the better you’ll be able to gently nudge them towards a decision you want them to make. Enter Robert Cialdini and his weapons of influence:
  1. Social proof
  2. Scarcity
  3. Liking
  4. Reciprocity
  5. Authority
  6. Consistency
Want to convert more (i.e. grow)? Use a mix of those six principles of persuasion in your marketing. Use them in sales. Use them in email. Just use them.

7. Promote MORE Than You Create

It’s 10x easier to get more eyes on something you’ve already created than it is to create something new. Stick to an 80/20 promotion-to-creation ratio, and you’ll be amazed at the traffic and leads you generate.

8. Get Trendy

Monitor and participate in relevant trending topics and hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other platforms you use, to be seen and heard. Look to a service like Hastagify to find the hashtags that have people talking on Twitter and Instagram. Jump into those conversations that are relevant to you, your brand, and your products. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. There will always be someone else innovating, entering the marketplace, and expanding – or, in other words, growing – so you can’t be complacent about your position in your niche. Ever. These growth hacks should be stage one of your growth marketing strategy heading into the new year. Then try some other ones. And then try different hacks after that. Make growth a priority, and you’ll grow. It doesn’t get any easier than that. What’s your best growth hack? Leave your comments below: