Myth #1: Growth hacking is marketing done cheap
It’s no surprise that growth hacking is very much alike marketing especially when you consider it was put out there by a legendary marketer (Sean Ellis). But the very reason why it’s not the same thing is explained by the man himself:
“After product-market fit and an efficient conversion process, the next critical step is finding scalable, repeatable and sustainable ways to grow the business. If you can’t do this, nothing else really matters. So rather than hiring a VP Marketing with all of the previously mentioned prerequisites, I recommend hiring or appointing a growth hacker.” — Sean Ellis
Okay, this is not a “let’s put up a quote about the topic and try to convince readers that it is valid” kind of post. So, if you are not sharing his thoughts or don’t believe it proves anything; keep reading.
The truth is the ‘concept’ of Growth Hacking did not take off by what Sean said. Yes, the guy who invented the term was and is great at what he does and by being the ‘father’ of the term he started all this buzz. But the real acceptance started after that. Early adopters of the industry started talking about this concept. Then it sky-rocketed when Andrew Chan helped us clarify Sean’s perspective. Which followed a wave of professionals leaning towards the idea of ‘Hey, this is a whole new collection of existing skills and process which creates a system’. I believe that is how we got to have this explanation of the term on Wikipedia:
“Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing funnel, product development, sales segments, and other areas of the business to identify the most efficient ways to grow a business.” - Wikipedia
So, in short, yes it includes marketing skills and tasks even requires it in most cases. But you need more than that. You need a product mindset, a business management mindset, a technical perspective that can save time and money. You need to be able to understand the full AARRR metrics and thrive on more than one of them. The acquisition part doesn’t cut it. Of course, -like any new term- Growth Hacking got its fair share of “ this is Facebook/Google/Instagram/etc. marketing because well that’s what I’m doing” spin off’s. This happened to SEO when it came out as people thought it was ‘buying links’ because that’s what they were used to. Now, it’s a standalone discipline with tons of practices without a doubt. I believe this is what’s going to happen to Growth Hacking. Slowly but steadily the ‘industry’ will understand that Growth Hacking is a system, it’s a way of doing things with a clear set of targets. Rather than a bag of tricks or updating your bids on AdWords (not that these cover what marketing is.). At least it’s a thousand percent more than that. It’s a mindset.
So what does this ‘mindset’ do: well I believe anything and everything that will add to the growth of the product/service. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the marketing channel of choice. For over 5 years, I’ve had the chance of providing my input to over 30 start-ups as a mentor. For a lot of them, it was the product that needed the works, not the marketing. More than often, startups rush into building the product from what they believe should be. They don’t really understand who their target audience is. it was incredibly shocking to see how little they knew about their persona’s, their desires, and pain points. The usual first question is; how can I get more users? and my answer is always the same; where do your customers live? Right after my answer I often get that minute of ‘silent uncertainty’. Then I begin to clarify; Where do they spend their time most? what is the level of tone in their communication? What do they expect? What do they say they need and how does that match with they actually need? to be more concise; how much time did you really spend on understanding your target audience and product/market fit? This might sound very basic for you but you can’t believe how frequently we forget about them and they matter the most.
A simple example; before I went on a mentoring session I’d always check the web and mobile web presence of the startup. Roughly, more than half would have major problems on their website, if they even had any! and we are talking about promoting this product/service. Your product can have flaws but not the homepage of your website where you will be trying to get people to see your shop front. You will be wasting money and effort. At this point let me be clear for those of you asking the question of; “I have a mobile app product, do I still need to have a website?” yes buddy, you do. Unless you have the power and cash of taking a piece of that market with ASO, AppStore ads, or tv adverts. That I would really want to see and learn from.
Another pattern of questions in the sessions I’ve had was ‘i’ve tried Facebook and AdWords but it didn’t take off’ Well those are very important and powerful platforms but how do you know they are the right channel for you? Even if they are, how do you position yourself within those platforms to reach your audience? it again goes back to understanding your prospective customers. There is also the point of understanding how these platforms work as well. I always say and believe these platforms don’t make money from people who can run campaigns properly, they make it from the ones who can’t! I will get into details of this in a later post. But to get back on the core of the example, you may need to be growing your base in a completely different place. You may even need to start offline and bring your customers back to your online presence! As said, anything and everything for growth.
I have news for you; you will spend money no matter what your channel is. One way or the other. The whole notion of this discipline is to optimise that spending and create a growth machine that can bring you that WoW growth. You just need to path and gears to create that machine. Whatever they may be for your business.
Do you agree with this vision of Growth Hacking? or Don’t you? Leave a comment and let’s discuss further.