4 Growth Hacking Strategies to Help You Up Your PR Game
Today, it seems that everyone and his brother are entrepreneurs. Every industry, from hospitality to telecoms, is flooded with new, attention-grabbing products and services. It’s difficult for any new business to stand out. Or is it? The likes of Uber, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Airbnb have all proved it’s possible. And they did it using an innovative marketing strategy known as growth hacking.
What is growth hacking?
Growth hacking is about combining innovative, unorthodox marketing strategies to drive traffic, skyrocket your social media presence, rapidly build a customer base, and increase revenues. In short, growth hacking is about getting crazily creative to get real results.
One of the earliest examples of growth hacking came from email service provider Hotmail back in 1996. The brand added a single line to every Hotmail user’s outgoing emails, saying ‘P.S: I love you, get your free email at Hotmail.’ When recipients clicked on the blue ‘Hotmail’ link, they were redirected to a registration page where they could create a free email account. Free email wasn’t standard at the time.
This one tiny hack grew their user base from 0 to 1 million in 6 months, boosted brand awareness, and caught the attention of the global media. That’s a PR win.
To attain this kind of rapid growth, you need to look outside of run-of-the-mill marketing strategies like paid advertising and think creatively about how to engage users and spread the word about your brand without forking out a fortune. To help you get inspired, I’ve listed four of the best examples of growth hacking from businesses that have used this low-cost marketing technique to drive incredible growth and attract global media attention.
LinkedIn: Discoverable profiles in search engines
Professional social network LinkedIn grew from 2 million to 200 million users by implementing another very simple growth hack: they gave users the option to create public profiles. This was a clever move as it ensured user profiles showed up organically in search engine results.
When you google a person’s name, company or title, one of the first results you’ll see is their LinkedIn profile. Before LinkedIn, searching for a name or company usually meant digging through a number of other search results before finding a page that was even vaguely relevant. But LinkedIn changed the whole game. If you want to be found online, be it by journalists or job hunters, you have to have a LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn found a niche and used it to growth hack their way to success.
Udemy: Piggybacking on established networks
Another growth hacking success story is Udemy. With over 30,000+ educational videos and 7 million students worldwide, Udemy is one of the world’s largest online educational platforms. But success didn’t come immediately for them. The start-up struggled during their growth stage. They couldn’t find teachers to upload videos and therefore couldn’t attract students to watch.
How did they go about overcoming this hurdle? They scraped thousands of educational videos from YouTube and hosted them on their website. Visitors got drawn in by this, which motivated teachers to begin uploading their own videos on Udemy. This is how their journey turned into a growth hacking success story. Udemy’s CEO Gagan Biyani explains how they did it in this video.
The hack here was using YouTube’s substantial network to build their own.
Dropbox: Referral Scheme
When online storage brand Dropbox started out, it experimented with paid ads, but found that the cost to acquire a new customer was much higher than the average customer lifetime value, which was a sure-fire way to run out of money before reaching profitability. It chose to look elsewhere for growth, designing an easy-to-use referral scheme that awarded 500MB of free Dropbox storage space to the referrer and referred party pending sign up.
Not only was this 1GB of space far cheaper than paid advertising, but referrals from friends are much more trustworthy than anonymous ads, so it was a win-win. The low-cost, high-impact growth hack accomplished the difficult task of making a file storage system seem like an exciting and exclusive club, increasing Dropbox sign ups dramatically. In a 15-month period, the company went from 100,000 to 4 million users.
Groupon: Fear of missing out
Urgency is a strong motivator when it comes to buying a product or service. Countdown timers and limited-edition deals drive more customers than regular products. Take e-commerce marketplace Groupon, for example. The company uses growth thinking throughout their brand experience. The site offers discounted deals for a limited period, so customers feel a sense of urgency. They have to make a purchase before it expires, or they’ll lose out. This tactic helped Groupon gain millions of users in just a few short years.