Why Growth Hacking Is Key to Brand’s Digital Future

Why Growth Hacking Is Key to Brand’s Digital Future

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Growth hacking is critical to the success of individual digital initiatives but also to the broader digital transformation agenda.

Many competencies such as rapid prototyping, agile work methodologies or data driven decision making are (highly) presented as being critical for brands’ digital future. Our experience with clients this year points to another, often overlooked, competency that we believe every brand should develop internally: growth hacking.

Growth Hacking: Art and Science

The term “Growth hacking” covers a varied mix of disciplines but is broadly defined as the practice of engineering the rapid growth of a digital business or product. When successful, growth hacking results in a coordinated rise in reach (measured as visits, sign ups, unique users etc.) and engagement (measured as frequency of usage, session time, number of interactions etc.). Growth hacking is characterised by a number of features that set it apart:

  • Cross disciplinary: growth hacking achieves its objectives by operating a wide variety of levers that can be grouped in 3 categories:
     

    • Paid reach: influencer marketing, online paid media, offline marketing activities etc.
    • ​Organic reach: content marketing, user referrals, marketing partnerships etc.
    • UX: this category refers to design tweaks geared towards facilitating on-boarding and encouraging early interactions and can include a re-design of the sign-up flow or the development of new features to maximize stickiness  

It is through the well orchestrated usage of each lever that growth hacking operates and delivers results. As such practitioners of growth hacking are inherently polymath in their approach.
 

  • Fast: growth hacking was pioneered by startups who had to ramp up key metrics within a short time frame in order to prove product momentum and raise money from investors. Growth hacking operates in short cycles with well defined objectives that must be attained on a monthly or even weekly basis.
     
  • Iterative: growth hacking is a process of on-going experimentation and fine tuning. It requires a mix of strong intuition to formulate hypothesis and solid data to test these hypothesis quickly, fine tuning or discarding them on a continuous basis.
     
  • Sustainable: growth hacking often gets a bad name for peddling vanity metrics with no long term business value. The reality is quite different. Organizations with strong growth hacking capabilities ensure that their metrics combine breadth of reach with depth of engagement.

Growth Hacking Reflects the Transition from Digital Marketing to Digital Product Management

Growth hacking was formerly the domain of tech companies such as Facebook, Airbnb or Alibaba who operated complex digital products. Today however, it is an established fact that digital products are no longer the domain of pure tech companies. More and more incumbent brands are launching new digital products. These products complement their core business (e.g.: MADJOR is currently supporting a large mobility client with the design and launch of a new loyalty program) or constitute completely new ventures (e.g.: MADJOR recently assisted a large B2B brand with the design of a new line of connected products for the B2C market).

Whatever the industry we look at, we find our clients having to manage increasingly complex digital assets. Moreover these assets are no longer simply serving a marketing purpose but constitute a critical part of the brand’s value proposition and revenue model. As such, they call for dedicated teams, resources and approaches derived from product management instead of just marketing and communications.

Growth Hacking Ensures That Bold Digital Initiatives Get Traction Early On

For years, brands were stuck because of their lack of a clear, compelling, transformative digital vision. Today however we see a swing in the pendulum: most brands have developed ambitious 5-10 year visions, outlining their role in a future of AI, blockchain and connected objects. To match this vision, they develop ambitious digital products that make perfect strategic sense but are sometimes not matched by any clear plan for go-to market and growth. The result: initiatives that fall flat and hinder the broader digital transformation agenda. To avoid this tap, we at MADJOR have identified 4 easy principles to follow:
 

  • Laser focus on key features: over-engineering is the surest way to kill a new product upon arrival. It delays go-to market and constitutes an obstacle to fast user adoption.  Any new digital product must be known for one or a very limited set of key features that set it apart and encapsulate its value proposition. As users become more familiar with it and build habits around it, the product can grow to encompass new use cases but at the start, simplicity is key.
     
  • Identify early adopters: it is common for brands to confuse potential users with early adopters. Early adopters are a limited subset of the potential user base. They are those that are easiest to reach with limited resources and for whom the product solves the most pressing need. MADJOR is currently working on the launch of a new e-commerce platform for a luxury brand and has identified existing VIP customers as the key primary early adopters, building the platform V1 and promotion plan around this specific audience.
     
  • Define and promote the key use case: products can have many features but every product needs a single, compelling use case that gets people to start using the product and build it into their habits. When building an e-commerce storefront for a luxury retailer, MADJOR identified early on gifting as the critical use case to get users on board and emphasized gifting features in the platform design and communication strategy. 
     
  • Build organizational support: a key part of growth hacking is about resource identification and utilization. This is especially important for traditional brands for whom new digital products require significant cultural and organizational changes. Unfortunately it is often that new digital products are launched with little internal buy-in and limited support. The new product is not well integrated into core work processes and incentive structures of different functional teams. For a recent project, MADJOR identified retail teams as the primary agents of early stage product growth and worked with the client-side retail manager to obtain buy in and integrate the new product into sales staff’s work processes.

By following these 4 principles, brands can more efficiently bridge the gap between their digital vision and their status quo.  

Growth Hacking: Substance and Symbol

Growth hacking is critical not only to the success of individual digital initiatives but also to the broader digital transformation agenda. Digital transformation is indeed most often more about changing minds and culture than about technology adoption. Mastery of growth hacking allows brands to bypass skepticism and inertia by demonstrating results early on to the entire organization. It allows them to make their digital vision tangible, thereby building momentum for more initiatives and triggering a positive chain reaction.