Marketers love rebranding. Even if they are using new terms for old business techniques, marketing people are great at spinning information to make it seem fresh and exciting. This is the case with growth hacking. Technically, growth hacking is defined as a marketing method created by tech startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.

One of the earliest definitions of marketing dates back to 1935 when the National Association of Marketing Teachers defined it as the performance of business activities that direct the flow of goods and services from producers to consumers.

If we assume that creativity has always been a part of the marketing standard then newness of growth hacking comes from the Internet’s ability to analytically measure consumer interaction.

Marketing Metrics, New And Old

Data collection is as old as advertising. Knowing whether your billboard actually makes people pick up their phones and dial your number or if you are just wasting money is a logical question for any business owner to pursue. In the old days, a simple metric was to counted coupons that were redeemed. Even intangible concepts like brand loyalty was measured using novel approaches like Blue Chip stamps. But these constructs were often unwieldy and expensive. Now, in the age of Internet interaction nodal analysis, every communication in your salesforce can be aggregated and analyzed against outcomes.

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Marketing metrics have changed in scope from interpreting any and all data to defining only the data you need to sell a product. One of the common methods of growth hacking is A/B testing. In A/B testing you propose a new design to a group of users and compare them to a control group. This is a particularly useful testing tool for measuring sales probability on an ecommerce website. In its simplest form, A/B testing requires you to roll out a new website design to a limited consumer base, ask target sales and brand recognition questions and compare these answers to the old site’s statistics.

Growth Hacks That Work

Email receipts are often touted as a missed growth hacking opportunity. For purchases online and in many brick and mortar stores, the sales receipt is delivered via email. Originally they were intended to give a paper trail in an environmentally conscious manner. Most stores have a functional email receipt, with the sales information, but are lacking anything more. Embrace growth hacking and add things like coupons or discounts to your receipt. Keep the conversation and transaction open with your customer.

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Creating a blog that is associated with your business is another growth hack that is showing promise. This needs to be created with care because a blog or Facebook page is not a coupon center. The blog needs to have original content about the service industry without sounding spammy or advertorial. Your goal is to have shareable content that will establish you as an industry expert. Remember that all growth hacks need to be testable, so monitor the hit count, time on site, and interactions on your blog or Facebook page and make changes accordingly.

…And Ones That Can Go Wrong

The word spammy is hitting the SEO lexicon as a growth hack that has gone bad. An unoriginal, unrequested piece of advertising is a great way to get a prospective customer to remember you as sleazy and unprofessional. Some social messaging apps have been found to be guilty of adding ad messages to the message thread. Take a look through large Twitter feeds and identify the ad content. At best, these ads are ignored. At worst, users identify them as unethical practitioners, aligned with the dark side of marketing.

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Another hack method that can go wrong is when the message is not testable or the data is artificially inflated. There are people that will sell you “likes” or “follows” at a very reasonable rate. The data will show that you have a large number of followers but the reality is that the return on readership is not there. Good growth hacking means that you are retaining and testing your interactions over the long hall.