3 Nearly Free Growth Hacks

3 Nearly Free Growth Hacks

Author: Mason Pelt / Source: TechCrunch “Growth hacking” is a term that people seem to think means “magically market any product or compa

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“Growth hacking” is a term that people seem to think means “magically market any product or company for free.” I wrote a post called What is growth hacking? to clarify the difference between efficient, effective marketing and mythical marketing pixie dust, yet still people don’t seem to understand.

Before I give you three tips for powerful, nearly free marketing, let me explain why I didn’t title this post “3 Free Marketing Tips.”

Growth hacking isn’t free marketing

A few months ago, I spoke at a startup accelerator that wanted to hear about all the amazing “free marketing” that growth hackers pull off. I was sorry to disappoint, but when I was in the 6th grade, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” was the first thing I learned about economics. Even if you don’t have to pay for lunch, someone has to pay in the cost of goods, in the services provided or both — meaning there is no such thing as a free lunch. The same is true with marketing.

Normally, when someone says, “free,” they mean things like content marketing, public relations or social media. I understand budgets are limited, but amazing content doesn’t simply create itself. (It takes this dyslexic guy an average of about 4.5 hours per blog post I write.) Public relations takes time and research, and the same is true of social media.

So, while I’m sorry there is no such thing as free marketing, you also don’t need a huge budget to do amazing things. Now that we are all on the same page, let’s talk about how to do effective marking on the cheap.

Three nearly free growth hacks

PPC to test for profitability — before you focus on SEO

Let’s face it, SEO is costly. And with researching search volume, creating content, building backlinks and all the technical elements of search engine optimization, like schema, site speed, JavaScript render blocking, proper use of rel=canonical, etc., SEO is also time-consuming.

Pay-per-click may be just as technical and involved to master, but PPC is built for immediate gratification. I understand it may take you a long time to build a quality score of 9 or 10, but, unlike SEO, once ads are running, they are running.

When you do keyword research for SEO, your main metrics are instinct, search volume and competition. You don’t have any information about profitability. I’m not the only person who has wasted time focusing SEO efforts on keywords that brought in traffic, but didn’t make money.

Effectively using a landing page and a small budget for PPC will help you a lot in identifying the keywords on which to focus. This has become much more important since Google removed keyword referral data from analytics. The budget to test will vary based on your industry, but it’s always better to spend a little money than to waste months of time.

Facebook ads for market research

Facebook ads offer some very powerful targeting options, like workplace targeting, custom audiences from email lists, phone number lists, app IDs and website visitors and lookalike audiences. Lookalike audiences, generated from past-buyer custom audiences, just may be the most powerful tool for any paid channel, but saying, “use great targeting” on what is otherwise a normal social PPC campaign is hardly a “nearly free” tip.

What is a free tip is using the amazing ad-targeting options offered by Facebook to mine data and research your target market. I did a blog post and an interview about this tactic for The Starters…