5 Essential Steps to Becoming a Growth Hacker
With growth hacking here to stay and becoming the new way of marketing, it seems like everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. Before you do that, you need to understand what it takes and what the journey entails. We have previously discussed the skills and qualities of a successful growth hacker, and now is the time to dive into the process.
Growth hacking is usually thought of as a self-taught type of skill and mentality. As a result, we often hear the following advice on becoming a growth hacker: “The only way to get it is to grow something, so start now“ or “Just read a few things and start experimenting”.
Such “ready, fire, aim” approach appeals to many because it offers an easy way to start, which is often the hardest part.
However, with the absence of clearly defined career paths in the field and vast amounts of free and paid resources, self-study and improvisation offer a free fall of both good and bad learning and career experiences.
Some resources provide complete product development, digital marketing, and analytics courses; others offer titbits of growth hacking wisdom. Where do you start? What do you learn? How should you study?
Before trying to answer those questions, it is necessary to understand that growth is as important to a company’s success as engineering, product design, or customer service and requires as much thought and preparation as the other disciplines.
The main reason people are struggling with becoming growth hackers is that they are going against the natural order of things.
What common off-hand advice to “just start trying” ignores is that it is more important to clearly understand the goals you want to achieve by becoming a growth hacker, the alternative pathways that exist, and how to select the path that will work for you. In other words, you need a roadmap.
Becoming a growth hacker does not have to be a struggle. It is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals. You can save yourself a lot of time, money, and effort by leaving your ego out of it.
This post details a strategy that can truly make or break your growth hacking career and get you moving toward growth hacking stardom. Here are the steps.
1. Understand the Big Picture
Before you delve into the specifics, you have to take in the big picture. How is this beneficial to your becoming a growth hacker? Simple. The stronger your understanding of growth hacking fundamentals and latest trends, the faster you can progress and the more you can achieve.
We suggest starting by reading Neil Patel’s The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking. While this kind of knowledge is still fresh and dynamic, there are a few other good books an aspiring growth hacker should read. We particularly recommend Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday.
Once you’ve spent time getting the hang of growth hacking fundamentals, get up to date on what is happening in this fast-changing field. An article by Writtent 30 Must-Read Growth Hacking Resources provides an excellent overview of go-to resources for both aspiring and accomplished growth hackers.
There’s a lot of information about growth hacking online, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to learn everything at once. Start small and then branch out into other areas when you’re comfortable.
Also, there may be a tendency to take your newfound knowledge and put it into action. Don’t give into this temptation just yet! Succeeding is not the key at this stage, learning is. Get inspired. Seek out everything that makes sense for you. Follow the people you like. Learn as much as you can.
2. Define Your Goals
Once you have a good grasp of growth hacking fundamentals and understand what’s possible to achieve with growth hacking, it’s time to set your goals. Ask yourself: What do I want to achieve and why?
Of course, the answer depends on your starting point. If you have no credentials and no experience, your goals will probably be different from someone who has already achieved success in a related area, such as product management or growth marketing, and can build on the base of capabilities he or she already has.
So, keeping your initial situation in mind, think where you want to be in one, three, and five years, and how growth hacking can help you get there.
Set SMART goals to bring structure and trackability into your growth hacking journey.
As a business owner, you might have a goal in mind for launching your new product by a specific date. Or perhaps you would like to see your website attract more than 100,000 visitors in a single month.
Attempting to achieve that goal in and of itself is daunting. By breaking things down into sub-goals and making them SMART you maximize your chances of staying on track and continually moving toward reaching your ultimate goal.
3. Develop Your Action Plan
With your goals clearly defined, you are ready to develop your strategy towards growth hacking mastery.
The first step is to come up with several alternative courses of action or options that will serve as a basis for selecting your own path. For example, depending on your goals, you may want to start by joining a small startup as an entry-level marketer and develop your skills and credentials as a growth hacker there.
After you succeed, you may wish to start your own business, leverage your experience into another opportunity with a larger company, or become a highly paid freelancer.
Whichever approach you choose, you should at least be familiar with what worked for others and look for inspiration in terms what is possible in your situation. We’ve looked at the career paths of the top growth marketers, and here’s what we’ve found.
While many top growth hackers have educational background in computer science, business or marketing, others have been equally successful having previously studied political science, international relations, and even zoology.
Similarly, working for a prominent technology company, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, is not a prerequisite for a success in growth marketing. Many top growth marketers came through the ranks of small and mid-size companies, while some went straight down the entrepreneurial path.
What is common though is that they launched their careers in growth having prior experience in product management, software development, or marketing. Most importantly, nearly all top growth hackers ended up as founders or co-founders of successful startups.
Studying how others have succeeded and then modeling your efforts after them has proven to be a viable approach for many aspiring growth hackers. Reverse engineer the finish line and select the path that works best for you.
Another viable strategy is to find a mentor who has done growth hacking successfully before. The right mentor can help you reach your goal in the most efficient way possible by giving you just the right tools and knowledge that are actionable and directly applicable to your unique situation.
After all, growth hacking has only been around for several years, so getting a mentor may be the best way to learn the secrets of the trade. Again, whether this option is the right one for you depends on your unique circumstances and objectives.
The emergence of growth hacking bootcamps, such as GrowthX Academy and Growth Tribe, provides another possible avenue for future growth hackers. The next few years will reveal how effective they are as their alumni demonstrate the results in the real world and as more schools emerge.
In any case, in order to maximize your chances for success, you may want to start as focused as possible. Don’t spread yourself thin.
Learn everything you possibly can about your niche channel and showcase your expertise. Later you can branch out into other growth channels to become a well-rounded growth hacker.
Regardless of the path you choose, be practical and realistic about your strategy. Think about how a specific action or position within a company will help you in achieving your next goal.
Always ask yourself, “How can I reach my next goal in the most efficient way?” Make quick adjustments and be persistent in the pursuit of your next objective.
4. Take Massive Action
Planning your growth hacking career is a good start, but the real rewards come when you begin taking action. Forget all these people advising you to grow something in your spare time. Don’t dabble. Take massive action.
The people you emulate didn’t get there because they tried to grow their site audience when they had some spare time. They took massive action.
Now that you have a solid understanding of the actions necessary to achieve your goals, start hustling with your knowledge. Develop daily or weekly routines, establish an experimentation framework, and keep track of your progress.
Of course, the saying “no plan survives contact with the enemy” is as true in the case of growth hacking as for any other human endeavor. No matter what you planned for, it’s not quite going to happen like that.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try at all. It means that it’s very important to have a process in place to steer you on course regardless of whether you are winning or failing. As soon as it’s clear you’re heading in a wrong direction with a tactic or a channel, scrap it. Growth hackers are decisive.
Most importantly, take it slow at first, and apply what you learn as you go along. One reason people get discouraged and quit trying to become a growth marketer is because growth marketing is such a broad area. Don’t try to do everything at once. Do your research, try things, pick what works, and make the most of it.
5. Keep Learning
After you’ve had several growth spurts that serve as confidence boosters, you’ll be well on your way to growth hacking success.
But to stay on top of the game, you must also have a curious mind. Become complacent and you’ll quickly become average. True growth hackers understand that they need to keep learning because things move so quickly in the digital world.
Instead of fearing change, embrace it. Be on the lookout for new tools and approaches. See what’s working for others. Stay on top of trends. Keep testing, keep reading, and keep asking questions. Start setting up next moves based on what you learn.
Becoming a successful growth hacker is a challenging undertaking. We have tried to describe a rigorous, detailed, and very human process for becoming a growth hacker in a way that you can understand and implement.
Let the journey begin. I’d love to see your comments and hear about your success.
Looking for a growth hacker job?
Find your growth hacker job or contract position with top companies at Growth Engineers.