It’s fair to say growth hacking has gone mainstream. Digital marketers around the world now accept that rapid, measured experimentation is perhaps the fastest way to grow a business.

This is why companies like Google, GM and Microsoft hire growth hackers; why growth marketing blogs get millions of monthly visits ; why there’s even a subreddit dedicated to the subject.

All this popularity has led to a certain “growth hacking” fatigue. The hype’s getting heavy, just like it did with lean production, scrum coding and crowdfunding in the past… And that’s not good thing.

For starters, the concept of growth hacking is getting distorted. Second, we’re seeing old, well-known frameworks get misrepresented as revolutionary insights. All of this is frustrating – and damaging to growth hacking as a movement.

The question is, will growth hacking still hold the crown as the fastest way to develop a business this time next year?

We think so – because once you look past the hype, it’s hard to argue that some remarkable things are about to happen in the field.

Learning and internalizing these changes before they happen will help you beat the market and acquire customers at an outrageously fast clip – and our research-backed report on the top 10 growth hacking trends for 2017 will help you do just that.

Let’s start with trend #1…


1. Even More (Long-Tail) Content

In 1996, Bill Gates wrote an essay called “Content is King”. In it, he predicted that content would become the internet’s main profit driver. 20 years on, the prediction has been proven right.

Just consider that…

  • 70% of B2B and 73% of B2C marketers expect to produce more content in 2017.
  • The Washington Post produces 1,200 articles daily – a strategy that helped them beat the N.Y. Post in daily visits for a 3 month period in 2015.
  • The average B2B marketer allocates 28% of their budget to content – with top performers allocating a significantly higher 42%.

All of this points to content growing in volume and importance next year. This is driven by a rise in demand and new technologies like Wordsmith: an artificial intelligence that writes articles.

What apps like Wordsmith do is drive down the price of writing. This makes it viable to produce personalized, long-tail content that was too expensive in the past.

For example: by using robots to cover the 2016 Olympics, the Washington Post freed up resources to write niche articles like this bit about Logan Dooley: an American olympian who finished 11th in Men’s Trampoline.

Content like this isn’t very popular – but it’s so cheap that engagement barely matters.

What does matter is getting long-tail content like this to the right audience. A study of 380 CMOs found that personalized web experiences deliver double digit marketing returns. This means we’ll see more targeted, long-tail content – some of it written by robots – in 2017.

What’s that? You don’t have a robot that can write for you? Don’t worry; you’ll have plenty of free time next year, thanks to…


2. Every-Growing Offering of Tools & Training Make Growth Hacking Accessible

2016 brought hundreds of new tools for inbound marketing, data analysis and conversion optimization. You’ll find the best tools of them below:

These tools will help growth hacking become more widely used in 2017, destroying the stereotype that growth marketing is “too fancy” for solopreneurs and bootstrapped start-ups.

Another factor that’ll make growth marketing more accessible is the growing number of courses and academies dedicated to the subject.

In 2016, we’ve seen services like Trigger, The Growth Tribe and Rockboost become attractive development options for entrepreneurs and marketers; in 2017, we’ll seen these courses, and others, release a growing number of skilled professionals into the field.

As tools and growth hacking specific courses gain steam, don’t be surprised to see…


3. More Emphasis on Customer Acquisition Funnels

In the past, a customer’s online journey was unstructured. They visited a company’s website; they bought its product (or didn’t); sometimes, they’d leave their e-mail address on your lead list.

During 2014-2016 the funnel process – a structured approach to segment the different measurable stages in a customer journey – has become all the rage. Already described by Dave McCLure way back in 2007, the “Pirate Funnel” (or AARRR) has developed into the most popular visualization of the funnel process.

One market leader that’s used a funnel to drive sales is Apple, which makes users register on iTunes to get the full functionality of their iPhones, iPads and computers. As a result of this tactic, they built an 800-million strong lead list

To which they offered a free Apple Music trial back in 2015. This resulting in a user base of 6.5 million the month the service launched (now 17 million).

In 2017, it would’t seem unlikely that – after its massive success with startups – the funnel approach as well as its implications for measuring each step within the customer journey, will be adopted by a much larger audience including high-growth scale-ups and large corporations. Especially since services like Mixpanel, Kissmetrics, and Heap Analytics make the job really easy.

Talking about easy. We expect funnels and customer journeys to be enabled by…


4. Marketing Automation For Everyone

Modern analytics help pinpoint and target audiences with surgical precision. This increases the number of marketing processes required to market – especially in growth hacking’s experimental context.

Given the growing number of available tools and their applications, keeping your eye on the most relevant metrics at right time requires focus and manpower.

In 2016, we saw seen a move towards resource optimization with services like Zapier and IFTTT (If This, Then That), which brought advanced (marketing) data automation functionality to the masses.

But what’s relevant for 2017 is that these services are actively developing. At the time of writing, both Zapier and IFTTT have connected over 400 different tools and data sources to their platform, with thousands of ready-to-use recipes/zaps and a nearly infinite number of custom actions.

With their multi-step automation functionalities you can now link almost anything in under 5 minutes.

In 2017, these services will gain traction and bring deep marketing automation to the masses with an ever growing database of integrations and options at a low price point. Marketers will be able to increase the complexity of what they’re doing while reducing the number of people-hours required.

And with marketers enjoying more free time, expect them to make more…


5. More Habit-Forming Products

Watching your product go viral is a marketer’s dream – but what if you could go beyond being viral?

Here’s what we mean.

When you need to know something, you Google it.

When you need to talk to someone, you WhatsApp them.

When you need to be somewhere, you call an Uber.

And odds are, you do these things automatically. People don’t think before using Facebook, WhatsApp or Google – right?

Right!

That’s because these apps aren’t just viral products; they’re habits. This gives them an edge against the competition – and causing growth hackers to develop an interest in building “sticky”, habit-forming products.

To get an idea of how you can do this in your own business in 2017, check out this video, narrated by behavioral designer Nir Eyal.

And keep your mind open to the possibility of…


6. Retooling Products to Make Them a Perfect Market Fit

Vine is shutting down just 4 years after Twitter bought it for $30 million. Another app, Meerkat – a live streaming service that got $14 miillion in startup funding just last year – closed months ago.

What’s remarkable is that neither Vine nor Meerkat are “bad”. Both had potential – and Vine had a stable user base.

But the truth is that the social media world is cutthroat. You’re either a perfect fit for the market’s needs, or you’re out – and neither Vine nor Meerkat were perfect fits. Once Twitter decided to focus on Periscope and Facebook launched FB Live, they had to go.

Now, these examples come from an extremely competitive industry. They’re not illustrative of business as a whole.

Still, they reflect an increasing emphasis on giving users the perfect solutions to their needs. This means that product design and improvement will be a major part of the marketing mix in 2017.

This means three things.

First, make sure your product is a natural fit for your target audience before you roll it out. Consumers are averse to changes and steep learning curves; if they can’t figure out how something makes their lives better in a matter of minutes, they’re moving on to something else.

Second, use analytics and consumer feedback to modify – or even replace – your offer over time. It’s what Meerkat’s team did, stealth-building a new app that currently has over 1 million users in the U.S.

Finally, take advantage of data and new technologies to offer highly personalized products. For instance – most people don’t know that there’s a difference between organic, cold-pressed juice and regular fresh-squeezed juice…

But Doug Evans did – and when his team made a cold-press juicer, priced at $700, they secured $120 million in funding from Google, Campbell’s Soup and others.

That’s the power of personalized products for you!

Fortunately, creating a better fit doesn’t always mean drastically changing your product. Sometimes, it simply means…


7. Growth Hacking Via Acquisition

You can build your Facebook group to 500,000+ likes organically… Or buy a 500k group with a 100,000+ monthly reach for $3,000. Which is going to grow your business faster?

Buying, of course – and it’s not even close.

As websites, social media pages and mail lists become commoditized, growing through acquisition is becoming a viable strategy. Using it can instantly boost your:

1. Reach
2. Content
3. Brand
4. Toolset
5. Market fit

And, most importantly, buying can save you time – which is of the essence in growth hacking.

Just remember – nothing you buy can replace an…


8. Organization-Wide Growth Hacking Culture

Remember Sean Ellis? The individual who coined the “growth hacking” term?

Earlier this year, he poignantly stated that “at some point, a lone growth marketer or even a growth team simply isn’t enough, and that’s where the culture of experimentation takes a startup to the stratosphere.”

We agree.

See, the core idea of growth hacking is to experiment with marketing – and in marketing, your product is just as important as your promotional efforts.

And if you want to turn your product into a habit (point 2) or make it a perfect fit your market (point 3), you’ll need more than a handful of growth marketers on your team.

You’ll need your entire organization to support and allow for experimentation.

That’s why we’re going to see a move towards growth-hacking organization cultures in 2017, with R&D, customer service, sales and other departments working together to create super-growth.

An unfortunate side-effect of this is that leaders will hype the term ‘growth hacking’ like they did with Kaizen and JIT in manufacturing or Agile and Scrum in coding.

This will probably dilute and harm the term as some (or most…) people will misinterpret its meaning, but at least we will have an exponentially larger crowd talking about it.

That might sound dramatic – but don’t worry. The next growing trend is a lot easier to understand and implement!


9. Pop-Ups are Back and Less Annoying

Believe it or not, pop-ups are making a comeback in a big way… And not how you’d imagine.

The old pop-ups opened in a new window or tab. They also tended to be scammy, trying to sell you one awful product or another.

Modern pop-ups (i.e. modals) are completely different, opening on the page you opened and guiding you to actions highly relevant to your experience.

For example; when you try to view a LinkedIn profile without signing in, you get an on-page pop-up inviting you to register.

It’s relevant; it increases conversions; it doesn’t jolt you out of your user experience.

Modals have been around for quite some time, but now that accessible and easy-to-use tooling makes them easy to integrate, expect to see more of them in 2017.

A lot will be sign-up/registration calls to action, while others will inform you of products and events that relevant to your browsing history.

Smart, right?

And speaking of web features coming back from the dead…


10. Chatbots Go Mainstream

An on-site live chat tab can generate 4-8x more leads for your business.

The problem is, a live chat feature requires staff to operate. Most companies can’t afford to have someone on live chat full-time – so they pick their poison with…

  1. Hiring a less expensive, less qualified freelancer
  2. Running a Live Chat that isn’t exactly “live”
  3. Using a low-tech ChatBot that can frighten prospects away

If you haven’t heard of ChatBots before, they’re computer apps designed to simulate intelligent, realistic human conversation. In the past, most of them were so bad that ChatBots still have a bad reputation to this day.

This is unfortunate – because today, powered by AI and neurolinguistics, ChatBots are becoming advanced enough to take taxi orders, book flights and even making bank transfers for us. When talking to one of them, you may need a guide to know you’re not interacting with a person.

As a result, 2017 will see a massive influx of websites that use Chatbots to operate Live Chats. And that’s not hyperbole, with a whopping 25 Chatbot companies being highlighted as “the ones you should know” by Venture Radar.

If you want to 4-8x your leads, it may be a good idea to validate the applicability of Chatbots for your business. Check out this app store for (chat) bots!


To summarize, the top 10 growth hacking trends you can expect to see more of in 2017:
1. Even More (Long-Tail) Content
2. Ever-Growing Offering of Tools & Training Make Growth Hacking Accessible
3. More Emphasis on Customer Acquisition Funnels
4. Marketing Automation For Everyone
5. More Habit-Forming Products
6. Retooling Products to Make Them a Perfect Market Fit
7. Growth Hacking Via Acquisition
8. Organization-Wide Growth Hacking Culture
9. Pop-ups Are Back and Less Annoying
10. Chatbots Go Mainstream

Some of these are new; some are old concepts re-imagined; a few will change the landscape of marketing for good in the years to come.

One thing we know for sure; there’s still a lot of juice left in Growth Hacking, and it’d be a mistake to walk away from the field now.

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