When we were starting to grow my last business, CANDDi, ‘growth hacking’ was still a very new term. This much-hyped idea covers a raft of techniques that start-ups use to drive growth, blending agile methods (also known as rapidly learning from your mistakes), creativity and data analysis.
Strip away the hype and you can argue this is what marketing should be: taking advantage of the increased customer insight and reduced creative friction that technology offers, to add more science to the marketing mix. Testing, learning and homing in on what works.
The challenge for start-ups is getting enough data to be able to learn from. Where do you get those first few thousand interactions to learn from? How do you avoid making such a terrible impression on your first outing that you put off all those you touch, or worse, create a campaign that goes viral for all the wrong reasons?
Established businesses don’t have this issue. They might have tens of thousands, even millions of customers that they interact with frequently. Large companies have a different problem: it’s not an audience they lack, it’s knowing which questions to ask.
Six honest serving men
Growth-hacking for start-ups is largely a series of ‘what’ questions, starting with ‘what drives the greatest engagement?’ Any foothold you can get at this stage is valuable, so you probably spend less time asking why people do what they do, and just pursue the path that yields the greatest results.
Large companies can afford to be a little more circumspect and try to understand why people behave the way they do. After all, they’re not looking to radically change the behaviour of most of their customers. They want to know how to make other people think like their customers, or change the mindset of the low spenders to be like the high spenders.
A new labs partner
Asking the ‘why’ questions is at the heart of growth hacking for grown-up companies and it’s an approach being pioneered by the second addition to my ‘labs’ network, Soul.
An early subscriber to The Applied Futurist’s Toolkit, Soul is now working with partners with expertise in psychology, personalisation and digital marketing to provide ‘Customer Mindset Mapping’ — an approach to understanding why customers buy for a variety of purposes: helping companies to grow, reduce churn, or jump into new markets. With years of expertise working with one of the largest holders of customer data — Avios — Soul is already attracting attention for this approach from a range of brands.
‘What’s the future angle on this?’, you might ask. For me it’s about Acceleration and Performance, two of the five vectors of technology-driven change.
Acceleration is about the increased rate of strategic change required from established companies to keep up with high frequency shifts in competition across all its dimensions. The better attuned to your customers you are, the more likely you are to be able to bring them with you as you necessarily change direction.
Performance is about a more rapid operational response. Understanding customers better means you go one better than reacting: you can predict, surprising and delighting customers by fulfilling their needs before they even ask. We know (ask me if you want evidence for this) that low friction and deep personalisation is what customers want, and this understanding is a great way to enable that.
Put simply, being better tuned into customers and your market is one of the critical components of being future-ready.