‘Growth hacking‘ has come to take on a not so positive meaning. Many see it as a hyped-up buzzword that indicates a cheap temporary solution — but I couldn’t disagree more. What it’s really about is finding small and effective actions you can execute with the resources you’ve already got.
So to drive you to start looking for the opportunities that are already present at your own startup, I’d like to give you a full rundown of a recent growth hacking process my team did.
Now let’s start by setting the scene the almost all of us are familiar with:
Back in the days where traditional software engineering models were popular — before agile became the ruling and dominant mindset that almost every company shares — the relationship between a developer and a client was one where the client would give the developer a bunch of requirements (negotiated at the start), and the developer dutifully carried them out one by one.
This led to a ton of problems that you’ve probably heard of before (unable to respond to changing requirements, less user involvement in the process, large time gap between writing requirements and delivery, etc.).
Collaboration between developers and clients
In modern software engineering, we software development firms try to work alongside the clients from the bottom up, and in every phase of the project. The immediately apparent consequence of this is that the now continuous process of requirement specification becomes collaborative, and better decisions tend to be made because the client and the technical team are aligned.
Less obvious is the fact that when the developer is so intimately involved in all aspects of a project, the situation becomes a fertile land for the growth of innovative ideas.
If the development firm is encouraged to give insight pertaining to domains that are not exclusively related to the development cycle — such as Marketing, R&D, Human Resources, Production, etc. — they might come up with strategies or solutions that arise from a very different, more tech-oriented perspective. They might end up having an enormous impact, or even be the key to the project’s ultimate success.
Here at Light-it, we’ve recently had one of these wonderful moments where our marketing team had an idea that ended up delivering tremendous value to one of our clients.
The client in question was job-search startup MjobO. The MjobO platform works in the following manner:
- Talented individuals in search of a job upload their resumé to the platform.
- Businesses upload job offers to the platform, with a focus on transparency; they need to specify the starting salary, the working hours, and job responsibilities.
- Based on a position’s required qualifications, each job offer gets matched with the potential applicants.
We built their platform here at Light-it. In keeping with the philosophy I wrote about in the first section, as we worked on the project, we sought to learn as much as possible about the entire MjobO enterprise.
The reasoning behind this was that valuable insights only arise when a team fully grasps a project in its complete length and breadth. It needs to understand every area of a project; hyper-focusing on development would make it hard to come up with insights that involve other areas of the project.
The eureka moment
The eureka moment came as the development team was working on the functionality to upload resumés. When a job searcher fills out the form with all of their qualifications, MjobO automatically generates a consistent, clean looking resumé. Businesses use these to determine the best applicant for the job.
While this functionality was being implemented, the marketing team pitched another use for these generated resumés. The thinking was that applicants might — after filling out and generating a clean looking resumé — want to share it elsewhere other than on MjobO. If it were possible to harness this impulse, an opportunity for viral marketing could arise.
So here’s what we did. In the screen shown after an applicant’s resumé is generated, the developers added a big, eye-catching button that reads “Share on LinkedIn.”
Most applicants are very eager to share their newfangled, updated resumé on their LinkedIn feed. So they do. It looks like this.
The shared post starts off by mentioning that the resumé comes from MjobO. As you can see, the LinkedIn feed only shows a small snippet of the resumé, and you need to click to see the full version. If you do click, you get redirected to the MjobO website.
This simple idea was massively successful. People who are browsing their LinkedIn feed are almost invariably either people who are looking for a new job, or people that are looking to hire new employees.
In either case, these people are instantly interested when they find out about MjobO, a job-search platform. That’s why, upon seeing the shared resumé on their feed, LinkedIn users usually click on the snippet and do end up learning more about MjobO.
So what were the results in terms of new users? That’s our metric of success. And fortunately, in this case, they were staggering.
Out of 22,000 applicants, 2,500 shared their resumé on LinkedIn. We were able to see in real-time how all the shared posts in LinkedIn were driving traffic towards the MjobO website, and how that new traffic reliably converted into new applicants. This was a viral cycle, because new applicants would then create their own resumés and would share them themselves, which allowed the platform to grow exponentially.
After all was said and done, in just one week after launch, MjobO gained over 20 THOUSAND NEW USERS. This was massive for a new company in a niche market.
The whole affair was an example of the technique referred to as ‘growth hacking.’ This term is an umbrella term for strategies focused solely on growth. These are usually used by startups such as MjobO, which during their early stages don’t have giant marketing budgets. The basic gist of growth hacking is figuring out creative, low-cost strategies to generate as much growth as possible, without spending a lot of money.
That’s precisely what we achieved with MjobO. Without spending a dime, we were able to take advantage of LinkedIn’s scale in order to reach people that fit exactly with MjobO’s target demographic (i.e people looking for jobs or people looking for employees). And we managed to do that by being creative and thinking in terms of what drives MjobO’s growth, and how we could optimize it.
- AirBnb took advantage of CraigList’s scale. They started to automatically post their listings on CraigList, allowing them to reach a lot more users than they initially had, and redirecting them to their website.
- Hotmail appended a line at the end of each e-mail encouraging people to sign-up.
- DropBox used to offer more storage space to people who referred other users to the website.
The purpose of this post is to inspire you to get started with growth hacking yourself. Start thinking exclusively in terms of growth: what creative way can you think of to grow your product or service in an unexpected way?
I advise you to write down any strategies you can come up with, and start trying them out; you never know which one could actually stick. The key part is to always focus on strategies that allow you to have a measurable understanding of how much growth they are actually driving. Metrics are our bread and butter, use them wisely.
It might also be useful to read more about the subject, and about past examples of successful strategies. I recommend The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking as a very comprehensive resource.
Now go make it happen!