Skills and Tools of an Accomplished Growth Hacker
Experienced and young professionals transitioning into a growth hacking career all face the same question: what skills and tools do I need to acquire to become successful? A growth hacker is a part marketer, part coder, and part data analyst. Considering the skills one might need in this domain, a growth hacker can be compared to a Swiss army knife – versatile and quick. However, unlike a Swiss knife, besides being good at a number of tasks, a growth hacker must excel in at least one or several areas, a skillset known as “T-shaped” model.
According to Neil Patel, the horizontal bar of capital letter T stands for several disciplines and competencies, such as user psychology, viral loops, email campaigns etc., a growth hacker must be acquainted with. The vertical bar represents a set of skills a growth hacker should master.
On which skills a growth hacker needs to go in depth depends on his or her experience, interests, and ambitions, as well as on the immediate requirements of the job. That being considered, here are the five skills you must possess as a successful growth hacker.
It goes without saying that programming is a vital skill you should focus on developing. If you wish to be a valuable addition to any company, or you want to have your own start-up, you must learn how to code. When it comes to a start-up, the responsibility of a growth hacker is to come up with innovative product features that will lead to an increase in traffic and conversions.
Of course, at a large company, a growth hacker is usually a part of a growth team, and there are programmers in his/her team. At the same time, engineering is often the most significant resource constraint in a large organization. Thus, although there isn’t any pressure for you to become a programmer, you should, at the very least, know the essentials of coding. That will enable you to create things by yourself, such as A/B tests, while facilitating effective communication with the company’s engineering team.
Not to mention that your perspective regarding your experiments will be broadened. For example, you’ll be able to effectively prioritize growth initiatives based on a thorough understanding of how complicated each project is and the amount of effort it requires. Having a knowledge of programming will also aid you in adjusting product features and marketing campaigns in real time.
In addition to the mastery of programming languages, knowledge of SQL and API integration comes in handy for tasks such as customer analytics and integration with services like Google Analytics and MixPanel. And last, but not least, acquaintance with lean software development methodologies will make you an invaluable resource in any startup or a large company striving to improve efficiency and time to market.
- WordPress: What started out as a blogging platform has grown into the most popular content management system that powers more websites on the internet today than any other platform. WordPress is powerful enough to build “real” web apps.
- Notepad++: A powerful, feature-packed free source code editor which supports most programming languages running under the MS Windows environment.
- Chrome Developer Tools: DevTools for short, these are a set of web authoring and debugging tools built into Google Chrome. They provide web developers deep access into the internals of the browser and their web application.
- GitHub: A web-based Git repository hosting service. It offers all of the distributed version control and source code management functionality of Git as well as adding its own features.
- Twitter Bootstrap: Acknowledged as the most popular CSS, HTML, and JS framework for creating mobile-first projects on the Internet.
Design is a crucial skill for communicating effectively on the web. How many times did you look at a web page, and the first thing that you noticed was the way in which the information was displayed? Clearly, superior design skills provide a significant advantage in this competitive industry. Normally, you don’t need to become a designer yourself. Nonetheless, you must comprehend the way in which design is related to marketing, and the importance it carries in this equation. No excuses here!
However, if you’re eager to create compelling landing pages or any other web property yourself, you have to focus on developing this fundamental skill. Similar to foreign language skills, excellent design skills will enable you to communicate better with your customer. You will be able to replace large sections of words with responsive, attractive visuals that will deliver a clear message while growing the number of conversions.
The most important design skill you need to develop is the capability to understand user psychology and translate this understanding into effective user experience. Thus, understanding Conversion Centered Design principles is a must. After all, if customers are unable to access and navigate a website easily because of the user interface (UI/UX) issues, your other efforts go down to nothing.
- WordPress: The most popular content management system provides an integrated development environment for web design tasks of any level of complexity.
- Balsamiq: An excellent wireframing and mock up tool with a high focus on usability, Balsamiq allows you to come up with functional mockups and easily share them with your team.
- Adobe Photoshop: The top tool for digital imaging. It is used all over the world for design, photography and even video editing.
- Sketch: A vector design tool entirely focused on user interface design. It’s easy to pick up and costs a fraction of the price of Photoshop. Because of its simplicity, anyone with little to no training can learn Sketch.
- Unbounce: Lets marketers build, publish, and test landing pages without IT and software. A/B testing and lead generation make it a powerful marketing tool.
Whether you’re working as a solopreneur in a startup or in a large enterprise, possessing digital marketing skills is of fundamental importance. You can’t get out of it. And since each business is different, you must use distinct marketing tactics for each scenario. Therefore, there’s no magic recipe that applies to all businesses, regardless of your expertise. For instance, social media, ads, and emails are highly recommended for visual businesses, such as health and fitness.
On the other hand, high-quality content production, SEO, and inbound marketing strategies are in order when it comes to SaaS. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that you must be proficient in many facets of digital marketing, such as digital ads, SEO, social media and email marketing. If you wish to be a successful growth hacker, you need to at least comprehend the strengths and weaknesses of each strategy.
Content Marketing Skills
A popular sentiment is that content marketing has largely replaced search engine marketing as the primary marketing tool on the web, making it a highly valuable skill that each growth hacker should have. Although content marketing has initially emerged as a profession centered on writing only, the term now encompasses all forms of content creation.
So what are the competencies that describe an experienced content marketer? In general terms, a proficient content marketer will have the attitude and mentality of a marketer, while possessing the skills of a journalist.
While you may not be required to write eBooks, comprehensive guides, detailed articles and catchy blog posts, you must be able to write a compelling landing page script or attractive email subject lines. At the same time, intimate understanding of the needs and interests of your target audience is a must. This way, you will be able to deliver the type of content that converts.
Content Marketing Tools
- BuzzSumo: This tool enables you to search popular content related to your topic. This way, you can see which posts have been well-received on social media and select content topics that will resonate with your audience.
- Feedly: The world’s most popular RSS and blog reader, Feedly compiles news feeds from a variety of online sources. For a growth hacker, it can be the best place to easily read all the news you rely on to develop your content.
- Google Keyword Planner: You can use this tool to determine the popularity of various keywords on Google in order to develop content around specific keywords.
- HubSpot: This is a comprehensive inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.
- ClearVoice: The premier content marketing software and marketplace, ClearVoice connects teams for efficiency. Plan, hire, manage, and distribute all from one place.
SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING (SEM)
Although, like SEO, it has ceded ground to content marketing in recent years, SEM, or paid search engine marketing, is still an important tool in a growth hacker’s arsenal. Marketers still use it to target potential customers with precision in order to bring them to their platform.
With lots of money (especially by startup standards) at stake, SEM can be either your company’s curse or blessing. It all depends on your capability to comprehend the way in which SEM works with its many nuances. As a growth hacker, it’s your responsibility to manage this tool well in order to maximize ROI.
- AdWords Keyword Tool: Also known as Keyword Planner, it is a free AdWords tool that helps you build search network campaigns by finding keyword ideas and estimating how they may perform.
- Google Analytics: Lets you measure your advertising ROI as well as track your Flash, video, and social networking sites and applications.
- Bing Ads Campaign Planner: This is a marketplace insight tool in Bing Ads which shows top-down view of performance data at the vertical, product, and keyword levels.
- SEMrush: A powerful and versatile competitive intelligence suite for online marketing, from SEO and PPC to social media and video advertising research.
- SimilarWeb: Advanced traffic estimator tool. See any website’s traffic sources and uncover their online marketing strategies.
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
Social Media Marketing Skills
No less than one-third of the global population is currently using a social media platform. That is the reason enough why you, as a growth hacker, should have a thorough understanding of social media marketing. While many people consider themselves social media pros, a growth hacker’s social media skills shouldn’t be restricted to maintaining accounts on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter but must extend to practical tactics and strategies that drive traffic.
If you intend to differentiate yourself from the crowd and become a top growth hacker, it goes without saying that you must master every major social media platform. You also have to expand your comprehension of copywriting, analytics, and visual marketing (to attract the viewers).
Social Media Marketing Tools
- BuzzSumo: The tool allows you to quickly identify what content is working well in an industry and who the major influencers are.
- Buffer: With this tool, you can easily share any page you are reading or your own content with any social network. Keep your Buffer topped up and it automatically shares the content for you throughout the day.
- Hootsuite: The tool lets you schedule and organize your posts on multiple social media platforms such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and so on, all from a single app.
- AgoraPulse: This simple and affordable social media management tool lets you manage all social media messages in one place, schedule and publish content and get stunning reports.
- Facebook’s paid advertising platform: Assists your business in reaching 1 billion users by using information such as age, gender, location, and so on.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO)
With content marketing taking center stage, SEO seems to have receded into background as a marketing tool of choice. Nevertheless, today, SEO is as important as ever since its tactics, such as keyword research and link building, are critically important to the success of content marketing as well as other strategies.
A growth hacker should have an integrated view of digital marketing and how SEO fits with other marketing tactics. There are five must-have SEO skills: technical SEO, social media marketing, link building, usability & information architecture, and content marketing. Create an action plan around these skills and start working on them today.
- Google Analytics: Showcases how organic search brings revenue and profits to the business, allowing you to measure and optimize the effectiveness of your SEO efforts.
- Google Search Console: A free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results.
- Google PageSpeed Insights: This tool tests the loading time and performance for desktop and for mobile, plus helps identify opportunities to improve.
- Google Webmaster Tools: Help you determine what Google thinks of your website.
- Open Site Explorer: The free version of this tool gives you a quick look at full range of link analytics.
Email Marketing Skills
Arguably, email marketing is the tactic bringing the highest ROI compared to the others discussed in this article. With conversion and retention rates dwarfing those of social media, the importance of email marketing is hard to overestimate. If you wish to master the skills of email marketing, you have to juggle a mix of talents, including audience segmentation, list building, writing effective email copy, social media integration, analytics, and automation.
Email Marketing Tools
- MailChimp: #1 all-in-one email marketing automation tool. It lets you manage subscribers, send emails, and track results.
- ActiveCampaign: It’s easy to use, and easily the most feature-packed email marketing/marketing automation tool for small to medium-sized businesses.
- iContact: This tool makes it easy to manage subscribers and create attractive marketing campaigns. You can send surveys, engage with customers, and grow your business.
- AWeber: Despite being considered a bit outdated, AWeber is a set of affordable and easy to use email marketing and autoresponder tools.
- ConstantContact: With Constant Contact, you can create effective email marketing and other online marketing campaigns to meet your business goals.
Marketing Automation Skills
As a growth hacker, you must grasp the most efficient ways to automate email, content marketing, and social media while taking into consideration the company’s budget. To excel at marketing automation you need to have both an intimate understanding of the company’s marketing processes and the knowledge of various automation platforms. Creativity and analytical mindset are required for that.
Marketing automation is so much more than sending emails on a regular basis. Your purpose is to craft an effective automation strategy that accomplishes your business’ goals. To do this effectively, you need to interpret the data and apply the insights to create future automation initiatives.
Marketing Automation Tools
- IFTT: This is a free, web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “recipes”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services.
- Zapier: Excellent online service that lets you create automated actions connecting disparate business apps and services, all without requiring any coding.
- HubSpot: In addition to being #1 inbound marketing tool, HubSpot is also one of the most well -known marketing automation platforms out there.
- GetResponse: A marketing automation tool popular for its email automation feature.
- ActiveCampaign: A comprehensive tool that encompasses Marketing Automation, Email Marketing, Sales & CRM.
4. A/B Testing
Conversion rate is the metric that has a direct correlation with your marketing ROI. In order to boost conversion rates of your website, there is one thing you should religiously focus on, and that is A/B testing. Doing that enables you to grasp the way your site generates user traffic and revenue and how changes in design or content affect those metrics. Those insights, in turn, allow you to find the shortest route to accomplishing your goals.
Done right, A/B testing can contribute to substantial improvements in site usability and sales conversions. Continual changes and enhancements can raise your conversion and sales metrics to a new level.
A/B Testing Skills
Day to day, growth hackers drive A/B and multivariate testing programs to continually improve ad copy and creative, landing pages, bidding strategies, etc. Thus, a growth hacker should be somewhat technical and be able to code up and push A/B tests to a subset of users. However, the true power of A/B testing rests in being able to conduct not just two or three tests but run an organized series of tests. This means that a mature growth hacker should be able to understand testing tools and infrastructure, accurately plan, understand metrics, test interference and attribution, determine confidence levels, and so on.
A/B Testing Tools
- Optimizely: Touted as the world’s leading experimentation platform, Optimizely helps brands conduct A/B tests and optimize their websites both online and on mobile devices.
- Unbounce: Helps you run powerful A/B tests without IT or software to determine whether your pages resonate with potential customers.
- Google Analytics: The suite offers a feature called “Content Experiments,” which allows users to split-test page variants within the program.
- Visual Website Optimizer: This tool allows website owners to gather a lot of data on website visits in order to perform A/B testing and landing page testing easily.
- KISSmetrics: This popular testing tool focuses on the human side of data. Reports and testing data are connected to real people, who are tracked across their interactions with your website.
In order to be a truly great growth hacker, you’ll need to not only implement strong inbound and outbound digital strategies, but also analyze them regularly and use those insights to constantly improve. Analytics keep growth hackers honest and make success repeatable. The times when one couldn’t test the efficacy of a campaign are long gone. Currently, it is both possible and necessary to determine the effectiveness of each marketing strategy with the assistance of metrics and analytics software.
Growth hackers have a keen understanding of data and how the numbers work. Much of the effectiveness of growth hacking comes from its data-driven approach to marketing. As such, a basic knowledge of statistics will help any growth marketer become more effective. You need to understand enough statistics to be able to explore deeper analytics insights.
According to Ina Herlihy, Growth Hacker at Zumper,
You need to be comfortable with numbers for tracking metrics and SEO positions, analyzing trends, setting paid ad bids, and calculating ROI — just to name a few examples.
Modelling is another required skill to be successful at analytics. A growth hacker should be able to come up with a model for how your site grows, build data-driven cross-channel value attribution models and generate insights and draw conclusions from the real data. You will also need some good data visualization skills. The popular saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is 100% applicable to analytics. This is why you should make sure you learn how to present data visually in a meaningful way.
- Google Analytics: The #1 analytics suite providing the data you need to make intelligent marketing and business decisions.
- MS Excel: No matter how many analytics tools you have within a company, you will always resort to Excel at some point to analyze data. It is also the best tool out there for modeling.
- KISSmetrics: The most powerful analytics tool to understand customer behavior and drive growth.
- Mixpanel: Analytics platform for the mobile and web, supporting businesses to study consumer behavior.
- CrazyEgg: The tool offers a lot of visual ways to see and analyze how people are navigating on your site.
There are some growth hackers who possess expert level ability in all of the above areas, and perhaps more. They are rare and extremely valuable. If you have the ability and drive to become one of these, then great – you are going to be hot property. But if not, remember: you can specialize in certain areas of growth hacking, and quite often, good teams are comprised of growth hackers with different specialties.
All of the above components of a growth hacker skillset are rapidly evolving knowledge areas, with hot topics and technologies changing on a yearly or even monthly basis. But if you can become a T-shaped growth hacker and keep up with the latest developments in your chosen areas, you’ll set yourself apart from the herd of other digital marketers. This will all but guarantee high-paying jobs for years to come.
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