The term "growth hacking" is somewhat ethereal. To anyone outside the world of digital marketing, the word "hacking" implies some level of black magic, a twisting of the curtain resembling a magic trick that turns nothing into something. But for those who devote their lives to understanding the art of marketing, specifically the concept of leverage, growth hacking is really nothing more than compounding your successes through efficiencies--and that's exactly what this team of ambitious marketers.

Their story has been floating around the Internet, so I reached out because I wanted to learn from them directly. As K&J founders (their agency), Jonathan Maxim and Kale Panoho told it, they took an idea to open a local gym and turned a measly $200 marketing budget into over $202,000 in annual revenue--in just 14 days. As a "growth hacker" myself, and someone who is fascinated by finding oddball ways of doing things, I had to know how they did it.

Here's their recipe for success, step by step:

1. Calculate your "success" cost, and then work backwards to see if it is realistic.

The first thing these guys did was determine product-market fit. This is one of those marketing phrases that gets thrown around a lot, but when push comes to shove a lot of people pay close to no mind as to whether or not they've truly found something that has customers waiting to purchase.

"My cousin make to Alex and I with an idea for a new community gym, in an area that already had two existing fitness facilities. Their idea was to build a 24-hour facility, with that being really the only differentiator. So before we could really consider the idea a viable one, we had to know whether or not the demand was there--and specifically what the demand was for," said Panoho.

So what this tag-team did was they went and found an open space where the gym could potentially live, and started calculating costs: opening costs, overhead, equipment, etc. Once they knew their operating costs ($121,000 of annual income), they worked backwards to determine membership costs--while keeping a close eye on competitors' pricing and how many customers they would need assuming they priced their gym competitively.

But just knowing your numbers doesn't necessarily mean the market will want whatever it is you are providing--and these guys knew that. So what did they do? They started brainstorming an event they could hold to not only get people interested, but to make them feel part of the process.

"We wanted this to be a community project. But more than that, we needed to gather feedback about what the community actually wanted in a new gym--or if they even wanted one at all," said Panoho.

Their idea was to host an event inside the empty facility where people could grab a sheet of paper and write down a piece of equipment they would want to use, or maybe a class they would want to take, and then hang it somewhere inside the facility. In a sense, they were helping to create the idea of the gym.

"Doing it this way, you can save yourself so much time and money not building something people don't actually want. We wanted what they wanted--so we gave them that opportunity."

2. Shape the story into something people would want to talk about.

It's amazing how willing people are to help when you just ask.

"People love to know the 'Why' behind your business. So that's what we spent a good amount of time deciding. We shaped our story around building this gym with the help and feedback from the community, and then we reached out to all sorts of different community members, radio stations, media channels, etc., and asked for their involvement in the community," said Panoho.

Well, it certainly worked out in their favor. In just a few short days, they were able to capture the attention of local news networks, PR agencies, social media influencers, and more--all based around this idea of being part of a community gym--by the community, for the community.

"One of the biggest things we did--and learned along the way--is the importance of leveraging credibility," said Panoho. "We reached out to a few people in our network, and then asked them to introduce us to someone else, and then after talking to that person, asked them to introduce us to someone else, until we had climbed the ladder and gotten the attention we wanted for this project," he said.

This is something I talk about a lot, especially in the world of digital marketing. It's all about climbing the ladder, and using yesterday's win as leverage for tomorrow's home run.

3. Build a team of social media influencers.

I pride myself on spending very little money on digital advertising and doing everything organically. The guys at K&J share my sentiment.

"The truth is, we didn't have the luxury to run a ton of Facebook ads or anything like that, so we had to get creative with it. We built a simple website using Weebly, then made a Facebook business page so people could find us, created a Facebook event for our big day with the community, and then spent a lot of time reaching out to local influencers, relevant businesses, etc., using their audiences as leverage," said Panoho.

7 days out from their event, and they received 200 page likes, 25 confirmed attendees and 60 people interested.

4 days out, and after asking their network to share their message again, and they were up to 30 attendees and 78 people interested.

3 days out, and now 40 people were attending, with 104 people interested--this slow rise in attention being the result of asking other people to share and promote, instead of simply relying on building their own audience base.

By the time their event went live, they were up to 51 people attending and 135 interested--along with regional and national news articles touching on this story of community (not an easy thing to accomplish, especially for a gym).

What was the final conclusion? At the end of their first event day, they had 72 people sign up. At the end of the second day, they had 113 confirmed memberships and $110,000 in anticipated annual revenue. And then after the event, they moved their follow-ups to Facebook, where they eventually reached a grand total of 205 members--before their gym had even been built.

This all, of course, led to immediate interest from investors, giving the green light to go ahead and build out the business.

If you're interested, you can read their story in its entirety, along with all the little nuances of their growth hacking campaign, here.

Published on: Jan 26, 2017
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