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If you're a business owner and you don't consider yourself a growth hacker, you may need to rethink things.

Growth hacking is not a new idea and yet for many business owners it's still a foreign concept. Despite being applied by some of the most innovative companies in the world – including Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Hootsuite and PlentyOfFish – many companies are still unaware of what growth hacking is and how it works.

Now, an idea that once seemed relevant to only technology startups has unleashed a world of opportunity for small and medium businesses across virtually every industry. Indeed, growth hacking helped me and my business partner grow our agency from two to more than 50 employees in just four years. How? By informing our decision to focus on scalable growth and long-term success rather than immediate impact.

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Quite simply, growth hacking is about focusing your energy in the right areas, being creative and using a combination of analytical thinking, social metrics and long-term thinking to power low-cost innovation.

I recently spoke with Lloyed Lobo, co-founder of Boast Capital and co-chair of Traction on June 18 in Vancouver, a conference aimed at helping startups develop their growth hacking chops. Mr. Lobo told me that Canadian organizations often have the talent to succeed on the global scale, but we need to increase our focus on growth.

"The most successful businesses are always trying to find scalable and repeatable methods for growth, and their marketing strategies and tactics are rooted in data and technology," he said.

"While Canada has amazing talent, I feel our startups are more focused on building amazing product versus getting traction and growth."

So, where do you get started with growth hacking?

Shift your focus to the long-term

Whether we're talking about Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, none of these companies grew to become leaders in the social media game overnight. Each one got there fast as a result of their ability to focus on long-term growth and sustainability.

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Your product or service can evolve over time – you can improve and perfect it – but you need to have a customer base first. Otherwise, for whom exactly are you perfecting the service?

A quick examination of any of these platforms reveals how much their products and services have evolved since first making their mark. Twitter has gone from 140 characters to a multi-media platform. Instagram went being a simple photo sharing service to building an empire of video enhancing apps. Facebook has reinvented its look and feel more times than I can count. But the only reason they were able to enhance their offerings was because they had consumers to do it for.

Use data analytics Markus Frind, CEO of PlentyOfFish and a speaker at Traction Conf, describes growth hacking for him as "applying data to marketing to achieve growth, via virality."

Mr. Frind started his company in 2003 and grew it into one of the largest online dating sites in the world. With more than 100 million users and $100-million in revenue, he knows what he's talking about. And luckily, Google Analytics is available to everyone.

For Mr. Frind, growth hacking boils down to a combination of "SEO, split-testing and understanding the virality of the users." He believes understanding that made it "easy to see what was working and what wasn't."

By understanding where traffic is coming from and why people are seeking you out, you have a stronger understanding of your consumer – and you're incredibly short-sighted if you don't think your consumer defines your brand. This is a significant piece of the puzzle for growing a business.

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Don't waste your energy

We've all heard this saying before, but it has special meaning for anyone running a startup and working with limited resources. When my business partner and I founded our company four years ago, we did so out of my kitchen. Our focus wasn't on a shiny new office, or landing a glossy spread in a magazine, it was on getting our first client. This is the stage where you need to maximize your time and energy because you literally can't afford to waste it.

Everything you do should have a direct impact on the growth of your company. Otherwise, you're spinning your wheels.

Growth hacking can be applied as formally or informally as you like to your business. It may not always be possible to hire a growth hacker, but luckily we often wear many hats in a startup.

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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