11 growth hacks - and 3 tips to avoid

Times remain tough for startups. Any opportunity to strengthen the business and to grow is a vital metric to compete on in a challenging economic environment.

Small businesses, especially recently started concerns, must quickly become experts across a range of tactics to ensure they deliver on their ambitions. It’s always wise to learn the lessons without having to go through a trial yourself. One author, Jim Mattis, a retired US four-star general and former secretary of defence put it quite strongly: “If you haven't read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren't broad enough to sustain you.” That’s a forceful push to learn from the advice of those who have done and helped others grow their businesses.

Here are 11 quick best practices to hack growth and avoid the pitfalls of the volatile economic situation of 2023.

  • Re-Invest in digitalisation: Firms that can use digital tools to optimise their workflows, such as marketing and sales, and better align with customers’ needs, will grow. Plan investments strategically to synchronise budget availability with business need.
  • Define target audiences and measure performance: Track many measures of performance to best understand how to improve. Startups should focus on their sales process. How many leads were added? How many deals closed? How long did it take? The right software like CRM makes the process of keeping track, reporting, and improvement much easier than spreadsheets.
  • Look to role models: Look at peers or more mature firms. What are the factors behind their success?
  • Public relations helps spread the word: Small businesses tend to neglect the power of PR. It can be notoriously hard to measure its effectiveness, and so it's easy to overlook its value. It’s often believed that it costs lots, too. But ‘free’, internally delivered PR can create a visibility boost no matter the size of a business.
  • Always a challenger: One of the best qualities of startups is their challenger mind-set. They are flexible and can adapt their strategy and tactics with ease. This advantage requires to constantly securitising whether the current strategy still matches the targeted outcomes 
  • Fish for financing: Some look at external capital as a negative. But business debt is not like personal debt. There are many options, and capital can help propel a startups growth at a crucial time. Options include debt financing, venture, and revenue-based financing. And it’s not all about the pennies. Providers might also offer network access or industry expertise as part of the deal.
  • Partnering provides scaling benefits: A small business, and especially a startup is likely focussed on a specific core expertise rather than the entire value chain. Tap into the expertise of the firms around you in that chain. Partnering, and, for example, building API interfaces between products, allows firms to boost everyone’s visibility and improve their capabilities. But bear in mind that this will require careful consideration, and therefore time, for due diligence.
  • Run counter to the cycle: Studies, including Pipedrive’s State of Sales and Marketing, offer evidence that in times of crisis it is important to maintain visibility to prospects. Marketing shouldn’t be turned off but streamlined to what’s the most beneficial to customers at the time. For example, conversational commerce, or educational content?
  • Corporate Social Responsibility: Studies suggest that even smaller companies can and should put emphasis on CSR. Consumers respect and follow firms with serious initiatives. These need not cost much, like supporting local charities with time and expertise. And once underway, these should become part of the marketing mix.
  • Understand your customer first: Build product second: A product that is in line with what the customer demands ultimately has the best chance of success. Gather as much information as possible on product use and potential features. Use platform data, customer conversations, surveys, and feedback forms to help build a customer-centric product. Ask how the product is used, what for, missing functionalities, what features are used most, etc.
  • Put your people first: Studies prove that companies with above average employee involvement increase their outcomes, from a satisfaction and a productivity point of view.

Avoid growth pitfalls!

Whilst some growth opportunities must be carefully sought out and nurtured, other actions are very much to be avoided. Here are three of the latter type.

  • Cashflow negativity: The better startups structure their financial planning, the less likely they get into financially turbulent times. Stay positive is not advice for your mindset - make sure outgoings do not outpace incomings.
  • Keeping your head down: Don’t focus exclusively on the business. Startups must ensure they are up to speed on the latest trends and events in business, technology, regulation, and customer demand. You must be ready to adapt your strategy, messaging, and your offering etc. when necessary.
  • Value money more than people: Skilled staff are your most valuable asset. Spend money on their care and education. Only a talented team can deliver on growth goals. Invest in your workforce and be a great place to work - give them something worth being loyal to.