Are you Musk material? Or Muskoka material?

Either way, growth can help you reach your definition of success.

Elon Musk is worth $20 billion. He is building new companies in technology, transportation and energy that will change the fate of humanity. He works 80 hours a day. I’m only slightly exaggerating.

Muskoka Mia (she’s never heard of you either) is financially comfortable, spends summers at the cottage with her family and has a thriving practice that covers her expenses even though she works an average 20 hour week.

Who is richer?

Elon can make billion dollar decisions and wields the economic might of a small nation.

Mia has time and money for yoga class, travel and coffee with friends. She can choose jobs that fascinate her and reflect her best talents, and work with clients she loves collaborating with.

They weren’t handed these circumstances, they had to earn them. They had to grow their businesses to create the freedom they now enjoy.

Yes, Mia was content to grow a smaller business, but she had to hustle to get the point she is now. In the beginning she had to take almost any work that came, building her reputation and client list over time.

Growth hacking isn’t just about becoming a billionaire

It can be about growing a business that you run, instead of a business that runs you. Growth hacking can accelerate your business past hand-to-mouth work and sleepless nights wondering if you can cover the bills.

Growth isn’t just about making a bigger company. It’s about making a bigger life.

Map out your business

If I had a machine that you could put in $5 and out pops $10 you’d round up all the fives you had. You’d probably even borrow some.

Business is meant to be like that, but you know that reality is way more complicated. Where do you put in the resources? What will pop out? What connects to what? With growth hacking you can map out your business to create a reliable money-making machine.

Growth hacking is data driven

Marketers often will labour to get a company attention in ways that return on investment cannot be measured. The pitches Don Draper made were more convincing in the boardroom (and the bedroom) than on the billboard.

Nineteenth century Philadelphia retailer John Wanamaker is often quoted as saying, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Growth hackers don’t accept this uncertainty. Growth hackers will try a change and measure the results.

Growth hacking is holistic

Growth hackers don’t stop at just getting the word out – they want every part of the organization to contribute to – and be geared to – growth.

As Sean Ellis said in his 2010 blog post where he first described growth hacking, “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.”

Why argue when we can google it?

Have you ever had a conversation like this?

“Arnold Schwarzenegger is older than Sylvester Stallone.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s the other way round.”
“I’m googling.”

We live in an age where we have so much information at our fingertips. For a growth hacker, this data means never having to guess. At each step of the sales funnel (more on the funnel later), you can measure your success and the impact of steps you take.

Growth hacking and its use of data takes the guesswork out of marketing and product development. Growth hacking is about identifying a theory and testing it, instead of arguing about it.

Is the ad you wrote better than the ad your coworker wrote? Why argue? Just run them both and see which gets better response.

This is called A/B testing, or split testing, and it is done in countless ways by countless companies. The classic example from the online world is making changes to a website like the colour, size or positioning of the buy button and seeing which converts better.

There are examples from providers of physical products and services as well. In 2007 Jeep introduced two models, the Patriot and the Compass, which were just differently styled versions of the same platform. This approach lets car companies test which model will sell best without investing in entirely new platforms.

Gotta Get That

In 2007, Dave McClure coined the term Pirate Metrics to describe the various growth levers available to companies: Attention, Acquisition, Retention, Revenue, Referrals.

Together, these levers spell AARRR. Like a pirate, get it?

Get their attention – Acquisition

How do users find you? Before we explored the world through a web browser, getting people’s attention involved setting up shop in a location with lots of traffic, posting billboards, sending out flyers, or running print, television and radio ads.

Today acquisition is often a matter of getting somebody to visit your website. How do we get people to visit our site?

The techniques of web acquisition include search engine optimization (making your site and its pages useful to people who search through Google or Bing), using social networks, blogs, and affiliates.

Hacking acquisition

Acquisition is a focal point for many businesses, especially when they are starting out. Hacking is experimentation. Your goal is to find out who your potential users are and how to best target them.

You may have assumptions about what demographic to target and find the ads you run are expensive because you are off the market. Make a thesis and test it. Test your ads against different ages, locations, professions. Which convert better?

Test different approaches to target them. Split test different ad copy, graphics.

Get them inside – Activation

They’ve locked eyes with you across a crowded internet, and walked up to you. You need to make your case clearly and quickly. What service do you provide? Does it appeal to them?

Can you hold their attention, or do they bounce? The key metrics here are how many seconds (yes, it can be that fleeting) do they stay on your page? Do they follow the links on your page, indicating interest? Do they visit a key page, e.g. your contact page, or a newsletter sign up?

To optimize your activation, do lots of landing page split tests. Where does the information need to sit to hold their interest? What colours and pictures do you use? What copy?

Your goal is to go from being a lawyer, a bowling alley, a landscaper, to being their lawyer, their bowling alley, their landscaper.

Get them to stay – Retention

Churn, losing customers at a rapid rate, is a killer. Good companies will go to great lengths to keep customers. I recently had some work done on my car and was dismayed to find grease on seats. I let the service manager know and not only did they clean it right away, they offered me a detailing on my next visit. This is a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease (removed from his seats) and the kind of customer service that keeps people coming back.

To increase retention, you not only need to provide excellent service, you need to keep the conversation going. Offer them new material on a timed basis through an email newsletter. Alert them to offers or events you hold. Post content that will lure them back.

Many consider retention to be the most important growth lever. You can’t grow if you are losing more customers than you attract. Furthermore, it takes time for a customer to break even, to pay more than it cost for you to attract them in the first place.

Get them to pay – Revenue

It’s been fun, but now you are asking to make things official. Do they see what you have to offer as having enough value to pay for?

It’s not a single event. This ties to retention – focus some of your energy on finding new value for existing customers, not devoting all your attention to new customers.

Get them to refer – Referrals

Some products are naturally viral. Facebook is a perfect example. If people want to see your posts, they need to sign up, and they in turn post, which attracts their friends.

Not all products can go viral this easily, but good service and value can cause your customers to spread the word. You can also encourage this with simple calls to action on your site or emails (e.g. If you value our service, please let your friends know) or with contests or rewards (e.g. one referral in a thousand wins a free trip, every referral upgrades your service).

Your call to action

You have to get get get get get. But before you do, make sure you have metrics in place. Know the statistics, e.g. the ratio of people you acquire vs activate. What you measure, you can improve.

Growth hacking is about the process of producing hypotheses, guesses, about what will improve the metrics that contribute to growth. Will a contest improve your referral rate?

Why speculate when you can run a small experiment? Why rest on your laurels when you could be growing your company?

Download a free printable guide to Growth Hacking

Click here to get your free downloadable guide to Growth Hacking.

Photo credit

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