5 Marketing 'Growth Hacks' To Implement Right Now

Pushing For Growth

If there's one thing every CEO today is looking for, it's growth, said Sandy Carter, general manager of developer ecosystem and startups at IBM. "One of the things I'm passionate about, particularly for women, is showcasing to [your] companies how you can help them grow," Carter said Monday during a keynote address at The Channel Company's Women of the Channel West 2016 conference in Napa, Calif. Drawing on her experience at IBM working with thousands of startups, venture capital firms and accelerators, Carter offered five "growth hacks" -- small-scale marketing activities that can have a big impact -- that, while proven at IBM, can be replicated at companies of all sizes across the channel.

1. Experiment, And Be Prepared To Fail

Carter said projects don't have to be large in scope to garner big results. Using A/B testing to see how different versions of your marketing messages play to small groups within your target audience can quickly uncover what resonates with customers. Carter cited one example in which tweaking minor aspects (such as wording and logo placement) of a marketing campaign around the launch of a developer program for IBM BlueMix yielded a 15-times increase in response rate. But Carter warned that this kind of testing can only be successful in a corporate culture in which it's okay to fail. "If the culture says you can't fail, you'll never be good at experimenting."

2. Offer Training For Free

High-quality training is hard to come by, which makes it a resource in demand. There's no better way to entice customers to utilize your product or service than to offer free training for it online. (But that doesn't mean you can't charge for certification, she added.) "In the channel, free training can be a powerful, simple way to get people excited and make your portfolio sticky," she said.

3. Leverage Outside Influencers

Identifying top digital influencers on a given topic and getting them to evangelize your business can open the door to a slew of customers you wouldn't normally touch, Carter said. For example, inviting one of these influencers to your corporate events and educating them on your business and strategy can help you get exposure to their networks if they write about their experience with your company online and on social media.

4. Tap Into New Social Media Platforms, Especially For Video

Video is the most trusted media because it allows the viewer to experience the body language of the presenter, Carter said. Snapchat has now moved beyond a consumer social tool for sharing video and is now being utilized by businesses, she said, pointing to Chocolate Johnny, an Australian candy maker that has grown a global customer base after becoming a Snapchat sensation.

5. Speaking of Video, Going Viral Is Even Better

When it comes to creating corporate videos that go viral, it's rarely a matter of luck, Carter said. Rather, it's a matter of engineering that goes into the design principles of the project, she said. "You're thinking about what customers will love," she said. "Can you design something that leads them to share your idea?" Carter also cautioned that growth hacks aren't "set it and forget it" tactics. Businesses need to constantly re-evaluate the growth hacks they are focusing on. "What works today may not work tomorrow," she said. She put it another way: "Today's growth hack equals tomorrow's spam."