Are you interested in Growth Hacking? Never stop learning. Interview with Gilles De Clerck

Gilles De Clerck

I had the pleasure to know Gilles De Clerk thanks to Growth Hacking Secrets an amazing facebook group, Gilles is a Belgian growth hacker from Antwerp (with good Italian knowledge) 4 degrees and a great passion for web marketing and automation.So without further talk we propose to jump and read his answers.

When and how did you discover Growth Hacking?

Back in December I was hired by Salesflare for a marketing role.

At that point, the team had spent almost two years building the product and figuring out product-market fit. They had just released the trial and, as every startup, needed one thing and one thing only: growth.

That’s how I rolled into growth hacking.

In its essence, growth hacking is not very different from traditional marketing. It’s still about winning over the customer’s mind at every stage of the funnel.

You don’t need to build a marketing team, you don’t need to manage outside vendors and you don’t need to come up with a strategic marketing plan to achieve long-term corporate objectives. Growth is the one and only objective and so you look for ways to get there as fast as possible.

That’s what growth hacking is about. Figuring the fastest way to your startup’s growth formula startup by means of data analysis and continuous experimentation.

Did you have any previous experience as “traditional marketer”? If yes, which kind of previous experience?

This is my first job and first experience as a marketer all-round.

I have four university degrees.

All of them had to do with marketing one way or another: Applied Linguistics, Multilingual Professional Communication, Business Administration and Entrepreneurship.

None of them really taught me what marketing is about. Which is telling for why I kept on studying: I didn’t learn anything.

Here’s how they teach marketing in school: some random guy/lady who never seriously practised marketing in their lives hits you in the face with one million frameworks you instantly forget about. I hated marketing in school.

That’s why I love growth hacking: there’s no frameworks, only learning by doing (failing). It’s about bringing as much value as possible to the right people by trying to thoroughly understand their behavior.

The reason I spent so many time in school is two-fold: I didn’t know what to do with my life and I never had the feeling I was learning.

My advice to aspiring marketers and growth hackers: start practising today. Want to growth hack your life? Stop thinking and do. Try stuff, fall flat on your face and try again. It’s the fastest way to grow. In marketing, in life, in anything.

 

Tell us more about your current roles within Salesflare?

My job is to get as much people as possible to start a Salesflare trial. From there on, it’s about maximizing the conversion from trial to paying customers.

It helps that our product is proving to be one of the finest in the CRM space but we’re also working hard on improving the onboarding process and making the UX as smooth as possible.

My magic formula? Giving value. I help target customers reach their goals. Whatever those goals are. I create content that is of value to them and give it out wherever they hang out on the internet. This makes people reach out to you and gives you an opportunity to build meaningful relations.

I’m a strong believer of the know, like and trust factor: if people feel that you’re in it to help them, they’ll trust you and they’ll buy from you.

In your opinion, which are the best tools or books for growth hacking?

Before you start talking, you need to listen.

As a growth hacker, you need to learn about the people you’re targeting and figure out what makes them tick. Where do they hang out? What problems do they face? What matters to them?

Your number one tool: social media.

Social media is the growth hacker’s gift from heaven for its ability to give you live insights in what your target customers are thinking and feeling at any time. Figure out where they hang out and give them what they need to reach their goals. This can be content, free tools, product features or anything else. It’s all about value.

Google Analytics will tell which experiments are working and which ones are not. There are better data tools out there, but Google Analytics is free and will do for the start.

I like to use tools to automate my reach. Dux-Soup is a Chrome extension that allows you to auto-visit LinkedIn profiles. It’s powerful in combination with LinkedIn Sales Navigator. You can set search parameters to target your ideal customers and have Dux-Soup visit all of them. All of those people will see that you visited them and a good amount will visit you back. Dux-Soup will also scrape their data. You can use that data to find their emails and connect on social media. Read this and this to find out more about what, how and why.

Mixmax is the best email automation platform.

Jooicer is a Twitter automation tool. I use it to auto-follow profiles based on keywords and other accounts. If they don’t follow me back within 5 days, Jooicer will automatically unfollow them.

This will grow your Twitter account but bear in mind that your goal should never be to have the most connections. It should be to have the most meaningful connections. This is why I also use Jooicer to send new followers auto-messages.

The idea of such an opening message is to spark a conversation. Don’t start off talking about yourself, your business or about all the ‘awesome’ content you’ve written and which they can read for free (if they give you your email address). People hate that and rightly so.

When trying to build relations, remember that it’s not about you. It’s about them. My opening messages are low-threshold questions that set the tone for an easy conversation. Currently it’s set at: ‘What’s your favourite pizza flavour?’

You can automate opening messages to scale reach but once people reply, it has to be all you. Automation is great to accelerate growth, but you can’t use it to build relations. This goes for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, email and whatever else.

Use automation to focus your time and energy on creating value and building meaningful relations.

This is the exact idea that sprouted Salesflare. It’s a smart CRM that thinks and works for you instead of the other way around. It fills out your address book for you and automatically keeps track of interactions with leads and customers (emails, email opens, link clicks, phone calls, meetings, website visits). It’s a treasure of data on leads that keeps itself up-to-date.

Last but not least: Zapier. It’s the holy grail of SaaS tools because it can make them all autonomously work together. You can pick your favourite tool for any job within your business and use Zapier to streamline them in a unified app flow that is perfectly aligned to your needs and resources. Workflow automation done right.

Books?

The only book you need to read on Growth Hacking is Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown. It calls growth hacking by its name: a process and not a magic trick. People often ask me to share my best growth hacks with them. They’re missing the point. Growth hacking is a mindset. A process where you figure out the fastest way to grow in terms of acquisition, activation, retention, revenue and referral through data analysis, creativity and high-paced testing. Different products have different users and thus require different growth hacks. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you.

Other than that, if you want to become a growth hacker: stop reading and start hustling.

Which is your view on growth hacking, is it true that it can only work with SMES and startups and not with large companies?

It’s easy to see why growth hacking first emerged in startups: without scalable growth processes they die. Fast.

In theory, there’s no reason whatsoever why growth hacking couldn’t be practised in bigger companies.

But it will be painful.

Growth hacking requires teams with skills ranging from marketing to data analysis, design and engineering. You need people that think out-of-the-box and learn fast.

None of this rhymes with typical big companies. They separate skills in departments that don’t talk to each other and tend to have employees that work from 9-to-5 and mind their own business. This is the opposite of startup hustlers working day and night to hit the sweet spot.

To board the growth hacking train, big companies need to breach their organisational silos and form cross-functional growth teams with minimum accountability. Give them the freedom to act fast and independently. It’s all about maximizing velocity of execution and embracing the front lines of experimentation.

If anything, growth hacking is a huge opportunity for big companies to invest in.

Start the change today and you’ll take competitors by storm in no-time.

Do you think growth hacking will catch on also in Italy as it did already in Belgium and UK?

I don’t think Italy is behind on Belgium. Growth hacking is a buzzword. A lot of people talk about it, but few actually do it. That is very true in Belgium.

But it will catch on everywhere eventually.

In a way, growth hacking is just data-driven marketing. Marketing has always been about finding out what works and what doesn’t. Today you can just get there faster. As with anything in business: if you don’t keep up with the waves, you’ll drown.

 

Are you interested in Growth Hacking? Never stop learning. Interview with Gilles De Clerck
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