Growth hacking is such an interesting term. When I first heard of it, either at one of the meetings organized by 500 Startups or on the Jason Calacanis’s show, it made a lot of sense to me. Growth is vital for startups, and hacking is all about finding clever solutions (which are usually temporary but efficient).
When I became a growth hacking team lead at DocuSign, I started reading more about growth hacking. Soon I found out that there’s a ton of confusion on the Internet around the meaning of this phrase.
Some folks, especially ones who’s been doing new media and online marketing for a long time, think that it’s just a fancy trend for good old tools and techniques like:
- A/B testing
- Email marketing
- Referral marketing
- Social media marketing
- Viral marketing
- Content and SEO
It’s true that these kinds of online marketing have been around for the last 5—15 years! What these adepts usually miss is the difference in how growth hacking approaches product by directly influencing and oftentimes even developing it!
Note: Being a programmer hacker is not required to be a growth hacker.
On the contrary, there is little to no input from marketers on product decisions in traditional marketing. For example, imagine, there are a car manufacturer and its marketing department. Most likely, the marketers will have little to no input into the car’s engineering and design.
Another example, a pure marketer might organize an email campaign, but because the funnel hasn’t been optimized, the conversion rate turns out to be dismal. On the other hand, a typical growth hacker will first test the funnel, and only after optimizing it, they launch full-blown campaigns reaping better conversion rates!
In software, and info products (and maybe in services?), the relative low cost of prototyping — vs. increasing cost of advertising and other traditional strategies — lead to the emergence of a hybrid: growth hacking. The distinct boundaries between marketing and product departments become blurred.
The best growth hacking will involve some sort of product engineering, user experience and design work, gathering and analyzing of metrics and events.
Usually there are only two tactics for growth hacking:
Push tactics often involve finding temporary “loopholes” and getting a competitive advantage by using them. These are examples we often hear/read about: AirBnB posting on Craigslist, Dropbox using free space for referrals, etc.
That’s all good, but as in our example with an email campaign, if the product is not selling itself — that’s where the most ROI is for a growth hacker: pull tactics. They involve working on a funnel, and making product better to use / easier to know about expired CCs, etc. In the next post, I’ll show how my team and I growth hacked The New DocuSign Experience.
To sum it all up, there is a good quote from TNW post by GAGAN BIYANI:
Growth hackers focus on low-cost and innovative alternatives to traditional marketing, i.e., utilizing social media and viral marketing instead of buying advertising through more traditional media such as radio, newspaper, and television.
PS: I absolutely positively recommend this amazing free ebook The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking by Neil Patel and Bronson Taylor.