GUEST BLOG: Growth Hacking with Vince Warnock - Lightning Lab

GUEST BLOG: Growth Hacking with Vince Warnock

Learning how to grow your business requires learning how to reach the right audience. There are many ways to do this, but how do you know which ones are worthwhile? Vince Warnock, CMO at Cigna Insurance came to chat with this year’s Kiwi FinTech Accelerator cohort about how to growth hack their businesses. In this guest blog, Vince shares his top tips for maximising reach with a minimal budget. 


You will either love or hate the term Growth Hacking, but it does serve a purpose. From what I can tell, the term was first used by Sean Ellis way back in 2010. It basically means a marketer, usually in the digital space, with a growth mind-set. Think of it as a hybrid mashup of a sales-person, marketer and mad scientist. The idea is to find smart ways to reach as many potential customers as possible with little to no budget. 

Growth hacking is especially important when you are a new startup. Traditional marketing methods take both time and money. These tend to be in short supply when you’re an entrepreneur. Having a growth hacking mind-set encourages you to try many different channels and methods to accelerate your sales and marketing results.


The evolution of Growth Hacking and its impact on business

The market in general is getting over-crowded. By over-crowded, I am not necessarily referring to the rapid growth in small businesses and startups. I am more referring to the accessibility of data and tools that allow us all to play on the same level.  This is both a blessing and a curse. We have a wealth of opportunity to get a deep understanding of our consumers. It has never been easier to get in front of the right target audience through digital channels. On the other hand, all of this accessibility has meant that we are all getting lost in the white noise. Consumers and businesses alike have an incredible ability to tune out our well thought out, beautifully crafted messages.

This overload of messages forces us to get creative in our approach. We need to rapidly adapt and test new methods and styles to cut through all of the clutter. This is where the mad scientist aspect of growth hacking comes in. Now more than ever we need to put experimentation at the core of our sales and marketing. Experimentation gives us a framework to both rapidly adapt our approach and to have a clear way to gather insights about our target market.


Big shifts, Big trends

There are a lot of converging trends and technologies that are having a huge impact on digital marketing. Artificial intelligence is one example, allowing small businesses and startups to have access to data science that was previously the domain of mega-enterprise level companies (looking at you Amazon).

Another shifting trend is in the way we interact with our devices. Look at the adoption rates of smart speakers and hubs. I know that my wife thinks I have gone completely mad when she walks into our living room and sees me sitting in front of our TV trying to get it to turn on by yelling “on!” “turn on!” (I really need to hook my Google home up to my TV). These are the trends that will influence how we use digital channels to engage our audiences.

There is also an increasing challenge in how much we can or should know about our customers. Consumers have an expectation that we should understand them, yet are increasingly, and rightfully, uncomfortable with us collecting the data we need to be able to understand and predict their needs. We have to find a balance where we are responsible and ethical with consumer data. We should aim to create a value exchange where audiences are willing to provide information to help us meet their needs.


Listen, listen, listen

The first thing you should do is talk to your potential customers. Get in front of them as much as possible and listen, listen, listen. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to get quality customer feedback. In a lot of cases it is as simple as asking or buying them a coffee. The key is to learn how to ask the right questions and extract actionable insights from the answers.

As individuals, we are a data point of one. One of the biggest mistakes a startup can make is projecting their own behaviours or beliefs onto their customers. The best way to avoid this is to keep the voice of your customers at the centre of everything you do. Learn to listen and your growth with take care of itself. 


Act, act, act

The other thing I would say is just start. Momentum is created one step at a time. The key thing is to take those steps and keep pressing forward. Treat every interaction, every experiment, and every campaign as an opportunity to gain insights. Back yourself and get really good at telling stories. That is where the gold, and the hacks, are found.

I love the compound interest approach to growth hacking. I love that every test, every experiment builds on all of the previous ones. Before you know it, you are gaining more and more momentum. I also love the thrill when you gain a nugget of insight from a test. Listen, act, test, repeat. That’s really all it takes to hack your growth strategy. 


Vince Warnock is Chief marketing officer at Cigna Insurance. He has a background in electronics, radio and marketing, and has a passion for understanding people. Having co-founded Common Ledger, Vince gained a wealth of knowledge whilst taking an experimental approach to his work. From this he created his own framework called the CHASER method, making him a growth hacking extraordinaire. You can purchase Vince’s book Chasing Insights here.

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