Why isn't anyone talking about your business? How do you get journalists and influencers to listen? Why does your competitor get the attention?
Here are three timeless rules to growth hack your business. Guiding principles to structure your thinking. I have used them to get 100 pieces of press coverage in 6 months and 50,000 users.
Rule 1) Get rid of the money
Marketing brainstorms usually start with a flip board, post-it notes and pictures for inspiration.
The brief, written on the flip board, is always the same: how do we make this business grow with a budget of £X?
Most people fail to realise they've already made a mistake.
Starting the brainstorm with a budget, "What can we do for £100,000?" you've anchored the conversation in terms of, "What can £100,000 buy us?"
You've automatically ruled out and failed to consider the best marketing ideas of all, the ultimate growth hacks: those that work for free.
Rule 2) If you're not upsetting somebody, you're not going far enough
I once had lunch with a seasoned publicity guru. Looking over his half-rimmed spectacles with a mischievous smile he asked me, "Do you want to know the greatest PR stunt of all time?"
"Before the internet and mobile phones, before even magazines and newspapers as you know them, it was much harder to become famous.
"But you still had to do it. If you wanted fame, you had to find a way. There were two men who were really quite good at it. They had fun with it.
"One of the men made a bet with the other. He said, 'I bet I can make any building you choose the most famous building in the city'. The other agreed.
"Do you want to know what happened next?” he asked me.
"The second man picked the blandest building you can imagine. There was nothing special about it at all. A boring house on a boring street in a boring neighbourhood. You couldn't make this house famous even if you had all the money in the world.
"But the first man wasn't phased. He got a telephone book and called every single number in it. He started at A and ended at Z. He spoke to every accountant, craftsman and plumber.
"He pretended to be the owner of the house and asked for an appointment on a specific day at a specific time.
"When the hour came, thousands of people turned up at the most boring building in the city. A spontaneous crowd, created from nothing!
"And of course, the media were there taking photographs of the horrified homeowner. It was forever known as the house that caused a riot."
Rule 3) Tell a story
How did that man know a spontaneous crowd would get the interest of journalists? That the hoax would pull off and the media would love it?
He knew what makes a good story. And stories are the greatest growth hack of all.
Stories which reinforce themselves spread the most. Where the message encourages you to pass it on.
"Children bring you happiness" is a great example. Believe this story and you'll have children thereby passing the story forward. Believe the opposite, “Children make you miserable, don’t have them” and the story dies with you.
Tough Mudder, the sporting event in which participants challenge themselves to extreme physical feats, is a good business example. Unlike normal running events, Tough Mudder has a story ingrained in its culture. First, all participants wear a matching headband to create a community feel. Second, many of the challenges require teamwork. It's not just a race to the end. Third, whether it's running through hay bales on fire, crawling through mud, or climbing an impossibly high wall - everything is created to make a brilliant and memorable story.
When growth hacking your business consider how you too can make a story.
Putting it into action
I’ve used these rules to grow LatestDeals.co.uk. In its first six months, we had 100+ pieces of press coverage and grew to 50,000 registered users.
First, I told the story of how I lived on reduced-to-clear yellow stickers for 365 days (we’re a money saving community). Second, I leaked discount codes to every Domino's store in the UK. Third, I revealed how it's cheaper to fly in a private plane than a train. (Google to read more)
The point is they were done without a marketing budget, they all upset somebody, and they told a story. Next time you start a marketing brainstorm give it a go.