John Wanamaker - Father of modern advertising and a marketing pioneerWhen I studied marketing just a few years ago, John Wanamaker’s famous quote was still widely accepted. An inconvenient truth. I hated that. Maybe because I didn’t trust my own judgment enough to choose between different creative. But mostly because it felt like riding a bicycle blindfolded. Now, with the Big Data-revolution things have changed.

This isn’t a marketing revolution, though. More evolution. Smart marketers have been tracking marketing since the beginning of marketing, through coupons with serial numbers, infomercials with different phone numbers and in lots of other clever ways.

The difference is that we now have tools to simplify all this. And there’s no longer any price or complexity excuse that marketers can pull to explain why they’re not doing it. A lot of people call this growth hacking. I like that term. We’re using tech and we’re nerding away like computer hackers on our way to ever greater growth. So, here are 5 good ways to start growth hacking your marketing. (I’ll follow up with 5 more advanced ways later).

1) Start now
Stop going to Big Data conferences where thought leaders speak with grandeur about how big the Big Data is, and how silly you are to not take advantage of it. It ain’t that big, and what you really should be doing is testing on your own. I’m willing to bet a lot of money that you’ve heard enough fluff about this by now. So first advice: Start testing on your own. And yes, that was actually worth a bullet point of its own.

2) Find something to test.
It doesn’t really matter if you run an analog business or a digital one. There’s always something you can test. I know this can be hard to translate into something meaningful, but it’s really not that advanced. Find a value that resonates with your business goals, and track accordingly. I know that branding is crucial to your business and I’m all for it. But don’t let branding become an excuse to not track your results. ”We didn’t get any sales, but the branding was good”. That’s a way too common statement. So, find a target number and start testing. Didn’t achieve the result you planned for? Tough luck, try again. Here’s pretty basic challenge to illustrate how you can begin testing:

You want more people to stop by your coffee shop, but aren’t sure what kind of marketing works, and you have limited marketing resources.

Create a coupon with some sort of discount or free cookie giveaway. Chances are you’ve already done this. Don’t worry about advanced systems for tracking coupon serial numbers. Make the offer something you can afford giving away, without getting paranoid that people photocopy their coupon or something like that. But do try this: Print out stacks of three different coupons. Shuffle them well, and hand them out at the same place to the same type of crowd. Wait for people to stop by your shop with coupons. Count the coupons. Boom. You just learned which coupon converts the most visits.

Try another round with the winning stack of coupons. This time, print three different numbers in a corner where only you see it. Give out the number 1-coupons in the morning, the number 2-coupons around lunch and the number 3-coupons in the afternoon. Wait for people to come by your shop with coupons. Sort the returned coupons by number, and count at the end of the week. Boom. You probably just learned when you should prioritize handing out the coupons. You just spent a lot of time handing out fliers and printing coupons, but with exciting results, I hope.

Now do the same thing, but digitally. Use your company’s Facebook Page as a test bed. Give your fans coupons at different times, and see which ones gives you any business. This might show you when posting on your Facebook Page is most efficient. Remember, like with all statistics, this is a numbers game, so the more data you get, the safer you can feel about your results.

Take this one step further with Facebook Ads, to ensure a more even distribution of your coupons. Use clicktracking, like FB.ST (part of the Fanbooster system) or, mixed with statistics tools like Google Analytics and Fanbooster Insights (also part of your Fanbooster system). This is going to get you great data that you can use to constantly improve your efforts.

More on this in a later post. Meanwhile, here’s a free statistics tool that you can use:

3) Find proper tools
I’ve already touched upon this, but familiarize yourself with some tools that work for you, and make your life easier. Find a way to work with all the data that’s out there. And start creating your own data, and put it into system.

4) Start building an audience.
You’re smart enough to already have done this, I know, but besides email newsletters and targeted text messages where you should apply the same ideas as described above, put their emails into Facebook’s Audience builder tool, and run ads targeted at them specifically, or at people similar to them. It works wonderfully. I’ll explain this more in-depth in the next post, but start gathering emails and phone numbers. Contact info is worth a lot. A lot!

5) Use what you’ve learned.
Someone smart once said that ”Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know”. Big words, I know. But more tangibly described: You got better results from the ad with the kitten than from the ad with the puppy? Sounds like you should be using more kittens in your ads. Make this a cyclical thing where you do stuff, measure it, then improve what you’re doing, measure some more, and keep improving. Thinking less campaign based and more 24/7/365 marketing may be a clue here. Don’t let campaign dates limit your experiments and your efforts. So if your campaign really works, then keep running it until it doesn’t. Don’t end it just to follow some marketing plan created six months ago.

To us this is mainly a digital landscape. But not entirely. We use these principles at conferences and events, and in PR. Thinking digitally just helps make things easier. No print costs, no handing out fliers, but most of all – more data and easier tracking. Now it’s your turn. Start hacking.

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Throw in a comment if you have other tips for Beginner Growth Hackers out there – would love to hear it!