The rise of digital channels ushered in a new era of marketing. Creating exposure to a company and its products was once a complex and expensive endeavor that required large investments in the hopes of reaching a fraction of your potential customers.Today it's possible for startups with shoestring marketing budgets to reach thousands of buyers. But throwing up a webpage isn't enough to ensure success. Strategies and tactics abound, but growth is about more than applying a paint-by-number approach to your marketing efforts.
Real growth requires a curious mindset and a constant drive to try new things. Measuring, testing, changing, and doing it all again are key. These are the elements found in the growth hacker's tool chest.
A growth hacker - a term coined by Sean Ellis in a blog post in 2010 - is someone whose focus is growth. They measure and evaluate each opportunity against the yardstick of both short-term and sustained growth. And digital marketing is a playground of potential for these marketers.
Content: The Natural Tool for Growth Hacking
Growth hacking doesn't focus solely on today's conversions. Growth is a combination of increasing sales today but also laying the groundwork for future customer engagement. It's about sustained growth over time.
The principles of content marketing are symbiotic with growth hacking. The purpose of content is to engage customers across the entire buyer lifecycle, from awareness through conversion and beyond to advocacy. Content creates relationships with customers, builds trust, and shares knowledge. And different pieces of content speak to potential customers at different phases of the buyer lifecycle.
This is a growth hacker's ideal. Content provides something useful to draw customers and carry them through the sales cycle, but also supports them past conversion and turns customers into a part of a company's growth engine through social shares and evangelism.
At the same time, content provides the growth hacker a focus to test and optimize against, creating a greater understanding of what appeals to potential buyers, and at what point in the purchase process.
Content flips all the right switches when it comes to key exposure areas, as well. Various content strategies, from company blogs to social media posts, create opportunities for viral sharing and increased organic SEO, both holy grails for brand awareness.
Leveraging Content for Growth
You don't need to be a seasoned growth hacker to take advantage of content marketing to grow your business. Combining solid content marketing practices with a mindset of testing and optimization will increase exposure to your brand.
Creating a company blog is a standard content marketing practice, but it does more than provide information to your customers. Blogs increase the number of pages indexed by Google by 434%, making you easier to find in a noisy world. Ideally, you'll want to create posts that address areas your customers want to know, but that your competition doesn't spend as much time addressing.
Another way to increase organic SEO is by creating longer posts. Posts with 2,400 or more words rank higher on Google due to the increased value that these in-depth pieces provide to site visitors. Posts that provide deep insights may seem like a chore, but these are great opportunities to engage your team - the ones with expertise in your products and services - in getting involved with content creation.
Testing is a key component of growth hacking, and both content headlines and format are great elements to test. Set up A/B testing on blog headlines to find out what speaks to your audience, then use those insights to optimize headlines going forward.
You can also create multiple pieces of content around the same subject and see which performs better. Take a blog post and make it an infographic and a SlideShare presentation, for instance, and evaluate which creates the most exposure or results in the greatest number of conversions.
Social media is another content area that lends itself to testing, and to involvement by the larger organization. Take a measured and purposeful approach to social media posts. Try different times of day, and different days of the week for posting. This will give you visibility into the times and days when your customers are most likely to be on and most likely to share your content with their own audiences.
Be sure to be mindful of the kinds of content you share at different times as well. A whitepaper may do well on a Tuesday afternoon, while a blog post might gain a greater audience on a Friday morning.
Pull Your Team into Content Sharing
You should also get your teams involved in sharing content. Make sure your employees are aware of new content you are producing and encourage teams to share with their networks as well. Keep your employees aware of the value of their contributions, and recognize those who go above and beyond in increasing brand awareness.
The combination of creating interesting and valuable content and testing and refining that content to reach the largest possible audience isn't outside the reach of any company, especially scrappy startups. With the relationship building inherent in good content marketing practices, growth becomes a long-term part of your organization's plans.