Growth hacking, or marketing adapted for the Web

08 September 2015 by National Bank
Dices on a keyboard

The expression "growth hacking" was coined in Silicon Valley in 2010 and has since taken off like wildfire. Both small business and startup owners could benefit from learning about this approach, which is considered more of a mindset than a marketing technique and can used by any type of business looking to maximize its growth and revenue, regardless of whether it has a transaction website.

The key objective of growth hackers is to achieve significant online growth for their business. They ask themselves questions, such as: "If I have 10,000 current website users, what do I need to do to reach 100,000?" They use innovative methods aimed not only at attracting visitors to their website, but at turning visitors into clients who encourage others to become clients as well.

Beyond marketing

Isn't this essentially the principle behind marketing? According to Sylvain Carle, General Manager of FounderFuel, a startup accelerator, and Venture Partner at Real Ventures, a private investment fund, the main difference between growth hacking and traditional marketing is the behaviour analysis of consumers in real time, or as close to real time as possible. Once you have those results, you can quickly make adjustments and adopt more effective strategies, rather than having to wait until the end of a marketing campaign to evaluate their scope. "Everything must be orchestrated and measurable. Every offer must come with a link for visitors to click on and you have to be able to know whether they do so. You can then make continual adjustments in order to consistently boost the number of visitors. Entrepreneurs must eventually understand how their website convinces consumers to buy their product." To help them do this, Mr. Carle recommends reading Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster, written by Montrealers Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz.

Although he agrees with the processes, tips and innovations that entrepreneurs can use to automate the accelerated growth of their business, Sylvain Carle has reservations about the term "growth hacking." "It's lost its meaning in the small, specialized world of startups. The intention behind the concept is to accelerate growth, but if a company has not sufficiently ensured that their product has a potential market, which is the basic principle of the lean startup approach, it's pointless to accelerate it."

A mindset and a culture of knowledge sharing

Jean-Luc Brisebois is an avid believer in growth hacking and isn't afraid to show it. "Every day, I adopt a growth-focused mentality. In fact, that's part of the culture for the entire team at Sharegate. It's really a mindset. I've read extensively about the concept, and I've tested out and applied all sorts of techniques. Regardless of whether the results are positive or negative, there's always a lesson to be learned before trying another approach. Daring to be innovative leads to profitable solutions."

Growth hackers belong to a community that is focused on knowledge sharing, particularly in the US. Just type the expression into a search engine and you'll see an endless list of sites where gurus have shared the results of their latest experiments. Growth hackers don't believe in trade secrets. "They're happy to talk about how successful replacing a blue button with a red button was in convincing visitors to make a purchase and grow their sales," said Mr. Brisebois. "The community is transparent because what works for one person will not necessarily yield the same results for someone else. That's why it's important to always test your product and check your results before making any decisions." As the concept of growth hacking is still new to Quebec, he recommends subscribing to newsletters or following blogs by reputable growth hackers, such as Neil Patel, to learn more about it.

A few handy tips

Are there any rules of thumb when it comes to growth hacking? "You have to learn what will have the greatest impact on growth for your own business, and that's rarely one of the first ideas that comes to mind," explained Sylvain Carle. That's why you need to take the necessary steps to gather and analyze data. This will enable you to see how visitors use your website and to look for ways to improve it so that they become customers.

What would you do if you were a growth hacker for an e-commerce website? "I would find a way to ask visitors for their email address as soon as possible," replied Jean-Luc Brisebois. "If a visitor didn't purchase anything, I would send an email the next day asking why. That's a good technique for converting new clients." Of course, you need to do this tactfully and comply with laws, such as the Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation, which came into effect on July 1, 2014.

Is there a magic formula for accelerating the growth of a company? "No, but if you do the necessary work, you will see results," concluded Sylvain Carle.

Advice from growth hackers

  • Equip yourself with measurement tools that will enable you to gather quantitative and qualitative data on the number of visitors, the time they spend on each page, the documents they download, etc. Then study this data in order to determine ways to keep visitors on your site for a longer time.
  • Identify when visitors leave your site and think about ways to encourage them to stay longer.
  • Analyze the elements that help turn visitors into clients.
  • Use other platforms to attract visitors. For example, build a presence on social media.
  • Integrate a visual hook to improve the experience of visitors, thereby encouraging them to stay on the site and purchase more products.
  • Be sure to quickly ask your visitors to provide their email address.
  • Encourage clients to refer others to the site when they have completed their transaction.
  • Propose a short survey, which will enable you to collect relevant data on your visitors.
  • Start a newsletter or blog and invite visitors to subscribe to it.
  • Optimize your website to improve your search engine ranking.
  • Research the term "growth hacking" online. Growth hackers enjoy sharing their tips and advice.

Find out how our services, products and advice can drive your business performance.

Visit the Small Business section of our website >

Legal disclaimer

Any reproduction, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the prior written consent of National Bank of Canada.

The articles and information on this website are protected by the copyright laws in effect in Canada or other countries, as applicable. The copyrights on the articles and information belong to the National Bank of Canada or other persons. Any reproduction, redistribution, electronic communication, including indirectly via a hyperlink, in whole or in part, of these articles and information and any other use thereof that is not explicitly authorized is prohibited without the prior written consent of the copyright owner.

The contents of this website must not be interpreted, considered or used as if it were financial, legal, fiscal, or other advice. National Bank and its partners in contents will not be liable for any damages that you may incur from such use.

This article is provided by National Bank, its subsidiaries and group entities for information purposes only, and creates no legal or contractual obligation for National Bank, its subsidiaries and group entities. The details of this service offering and the conditions herein are subject to change.

The hyperlinks in this article may redirect to external websites not administered by National Bank. The Bank cannot be held liable for the content of external websites or any damages caused by their use.

Views expressed in this article are those of the person being interviewed. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of National Bank or its subsidiaries. For financial or business advice, please consult your National Bank advisor, financial planner or an industry professional (e.g., accountant, tax specialist or lawyer).