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Startup Saturday: Why growth hacking is guerilla marketing for social media

‘Growth’ and ‘hacking’ might seem mutually exclusive, but when used together it is a creative, intelligent, cost-effective way for a startup to reach its TA

pune Updated: Feb 03, 2018 14:59 IST
Namita Shibad
Using data, creativity and analysis to focus on a single goal of achieving growth. Growth hackers combine lean methodologies, agile and offbeat marketing, channel personas and technology to get results for businesses faster than other marketing and growth methodologies.
Using data, creativity and analysis to focus on a single goal of achieving growth. Growth hackers combine lean methodologies, agile and offbeat marketing, channel personas and technology to get results for businesses faster than other marketing and growth methodologies.(HT REPRESENTATIVE PHOTO)

Though in India growth hacking has yet to catch up, some popular examples of startups that have used this are Airbnb, PayPal, Hotmail, LinkedIn and Facebook, among others.

MappLinks based out of Bengaluru is one of the first growth hacking firms in India. Rishabh Dev, its founder, was in Pune to do a workshop for TiE members recently. Here he talks about what this new marketing tool is and how it works.

“Start ups have no budget or patience” says Rishabh Dev, founder MappLinks a company that provides growth hacking services. “Unlike traditional companies, they cannot afford the marketing budget, nor do they have the time to wait till they get clients. For them growth hacking is the answer.”

And growth hacking is...? “It is a cross between marketing and technology functions. Using data, creativity and analysis to focus on a single goal of achieving growth. Growth hackers combine lean methodologies, agile and offbeat marketing, channel personas and technology to get results for businesses faster than other marketing and growth methodologies,” is Rishabh’s simple explanation.

To explain further, he gives the example of a food delivery app that provided ‘ghar ka khana’ to people in Bengaluru. “When they used social media marketing they realised that they were hitting the same target audience on FB. This was not helping their business grow. Growth hacking is about finding the right channels, based on your consumer personas and then using it creatively to leverage the power of the channel or network,” he explains.

This is what Rishabh did for the app.

This channel was not FB, but Tinder. “The profiles of their target audience was north Indians living in Bangalore, single and working. This we found Tinder is where we could get matches depending on age, gender, location.”

The next step in attracting this target group was to make them an offer they find hard to refuse. Says Rishabh, “We felt giving a free meal would work wonders. The cost was Rs 35 which was the cost of acquisition. Compare this with other forms of marketing. In addition to this we gave them a 50 per cent discount coupon (a meal cost Rs 60) for giving a referral. Using creativity with this channel helped this company get 450 customers in a short span of time. In fact, they had to stop their marketing efforts because their kitchen could not handle more business.”

Social media marketing is considered “traditional marketing” by growth hackers. This is because growth hacking is much faster, scalable and works beyond typical channels such as FB, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Says Rishabh, “Rarely are social media campaigns executed beyond this set or Google Adwords and the like. In comparison, growth hacker thinks beyond the default marketing channels to get better results, in less time and with less money.”

Then there are the channel personas.

Despite its promise, there are a few limitations to growth hacking. “It is difficult to scale growth hacking campaigns without tech. Hence, it cannot be considered as a stand-alone marketing function. It needs a cross functional team with marketers, techies and analysts. Once we max out on a channel, our growth hacks may stop working and that’s also the fun of the creative process - to come up with new growth hacks. This is only an implementation limitation which is even worse with digital marketing as digital marketers are heavily dependent on the same set of channels for the long term,” is Rishabh’s view.

Growth hacking is best done in teams. It needs a growth lead who is usually also the one with the best ideas, a marketer for execution, an analyst for ensuring we’re working in the right direction to achieve our OMTMs, and a developer to help scale the successful growth campaigns using technology. In most startups, fewer people can play multiple roles to get this done.

Channelling the right persona

Channel personas are sets of definitions of the “kinds of channels” which growth experiments would benefit the most from. It requires much more thinking to come up with specific target audience-focused channels to run growth hacking experiments on.

To find such channels a growth hacker will ask questions such as:

Q1. What kind of problem would the channel solve for a similar target audience as mine?

Q2. What are the other interests of my target audience? Where do people with similar interests hang out online?

Q3. What are some of the other brands, products or tools my TA follows on social media?

Q4. Where does the same age group hang out other than the standard social media channels?

Q5. What are the new channels which have been trending on Google Play or the App Store for the past few weeks?

Q6. What are the new communities or networks on ProductHunt or BetaList?

Q7. Which tools or networks are review bloggers in my network also writing about?

Q8. Which channels are my early users coming from?

Q9. What channels are my competitors or brands with similar TA running growth hacking experiments on?

Airbnb’s answer to Q9, for instance, was Craigslist. Not any of the usual social media or advertising platforms.

7 steps to growth hacking

After finding the right channel, it’s time to run the experiment. Says Rishabh, “There are seven steps in the growth hacking process.

Step 1: Identify one single goal which is defined using the One Metric That Matters or North Star Metric

Step 2: Create user personas

Step 3: Create cannel personas

Step 4: Use data and gut feeling to brainstorm creative growth experiments

Step 5: Prioritise experiments based on their ICE Score and other prioritisation frameworks

Step 6: Execute on selected, often offbeat channels, and analyse OMTM

Step 7: Scale the successful experiments to growth hacks

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