Growth Hacking – Another Sign that Marketing is Mutating

Yes, I said mutating.

Initially I thought I’d use the term “evolving,” but the slow growth that the term implies is ill-fitted to explain the changes in the marketing world (or at least a small population of it).  Mutation can happen rapidly.  One of these recent mutations is growth hacking.

growth hacker

The core of a growth hacker is versatility and critical thinking.  Although the term itself is fairly new, I think that growth hackers have been around forever.  I think a growth hacker is a certain type of person who likes to understand processes (always asking “why?”), has a DIY attitude, and acts intentionally.

A growth hacker is a marketer, a creative and a developer.  They use marketing, UX, and analytics and they use it well. This sounds like a person who is similar to the “technical marketer” I talked about in an earlier post.  Maybe it’s because to be successful is to be well rounded.

Let’s get more specific

Read this snippet from Andrew Chen:

“The new job title of “Growth Hacker” is integrating itself into Silicon Valley’s culture, emphasizing that coding and technical chops are now an essential part of being a great marketer. Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph. On top of this, they layer the discipline of direct marketing, with its emphasis on quantitative measurement, scenario modeling via spreadsheets, and a lot of database queries. If a startup is pre-product/market fit, growth hackers can make sure virality is embedded at the core of a product. After product/market fit, they can help run up the score on what’s already working.”

Give the people what they want, how they want it and where they want it.

Growth hacking is not about pushing product; it is about having consumers pull a product.  A growth hacker finds out what people want and then serves it to them on a customized platter.  This is why the word “viral” is always floating around when growth hacking comes up.  In order to have growth hacking, you need something that people want to share with others because of it’s sheer awesomeness.

In simple terms, be market-oriented.

“Growth hacking recognizes that when you focus on understanding your users and how they discover and adopt your products, you can build features that help you acquire and retain more users, rather than just spending marketing dollars.”  -Josh Elman

Obviously anyone who has taken an intro marketing course can recognize that this is the idea of being market oriented (as opposed to product oriented), which makes growth hacking different from tradition or inbound marketing.

So what is the secret formula?

This Mashable article has this to say:

There is very little commonality between strategies. The essential mindset? “Forget press releases or advertisements. Let’s figure out something that’s never been done before and is specifically designed to leverage the strengths of our product.”

AirBNB, “a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world,” has become the cliche example of growth hacking, but for a good reason.  To grow their user base, they came up with the idea (all on their own!) of piggybacking off of Craigslist (which has tens of millions of users)  and then filled a need that people had (which they maybe didn’t even know existed) which made those people want to share it with their friends.  The AirBNB growth hack was revolutionary because they didn’t wait for Craigslist to come out and invite companies to partner with them. Craigslist didn’t offer a public API (aka software building blocks) for AirBNB to create their program off of – AirBNB had to engineer it themselves.

In the end – I honestly don’t like the term “growth hacker” because of the negative connotation some may attach to hacking. The idea of growth hacking (hopefully soon-to-be simply called “good marketing practices”) can drive innovation and deliver valuable products to consumers. As the QuickSprout Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking puts it,  “worlds are colliding.”  It’s like a nuclear bomb went off and the radiation caused some of us marketers to grow an extra arm – which is a good mutation to have considering we have so much to keep track of now and so many roles we need to fulfil.


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