Recently I had a conversation with a friend regarding the term “growth hacking”. It’s a term that always stirs up strong opinions. Some people say this term is pure BS and growth hacking is basically marketing. Others argue that traditional marketing people suck and good growth hackers know how to code, they have a better understanding of product, and are metrics driven. I’d say neither are wrong. Growth hackers are essentially marketers, but marketers may or may not be growth hackers. Let me start first by defining a classic marketing concept.
Marketing mix: The 4 Ps.
Product: figuring out an item that satisfies what a consumer needs or wants.
Price: How the product is priced. This could tie into branding.
Promotion: How to raise awareness about your product. PR and sales falls into this aspect. I’d say SEM, and social media falls in here as well. SEO probably falls under place, but some things you do for SEO can fall under promotion. There’s an overlap for some stuff.
Place: Channels of distribution. Convenient places for consumers to access your product or service. For the majority of software tech startups this just means the web, Google Play Store, and the Apple App Store. You can count the Windows App Store too if you’re marketing to the 3 people using a Windows phone. I kid. Bill Gates, I love you.
I highlighted product and promotion because in an early stage startup, 2 of the biggest challenges you’ll have will be finding market fit and getting users. We’ll be focused on the latter stage. If you’re attempting to market or “growth hack” you better have a decent product in place, otherwise it won’t help. You can raise awareness for your product, but if it sucks, nobody will use it. In this stage, the biggest issue we have to tackle with promotion is always noise. There’s so many shit out there, how can I get people to check out my website or app? This question is universal to all founders but the answer may be unique and different depending on your startup.
This is where some will argue growth hackers excel over traditional marketers. They’re coders who understand APIs and can leverage existing platforms to promote the product. While trying to promote a tech product, of course having technical knowledge will help. Hacking APIs and building integrations are both ways to get users. Having a solid SEO, SEM strategy, great PR, content, and building communities are other ways. Understanding UX, A/B testing, to make tweaks and convert visitors to users will also help. A good marketer/growth hacker needs to have a strong understanding of product. Do they need to know how to code to do that? No. Would it help? Probably, knowing more will benefit. In my understanding, a growth hacker is pretty much a marketer but in a tech startup, and possibly even more specific to software. They’re also focused solely on the growth aspect while marketing is broader and tied to brand management and various other things. In terms of the argument for growth hackers being superior because they’re more analytical and metrics driven, that’s a false perception of marketers. Good digital marketers are metrics driven and analytical as well.
Sean Ellis defined a Growth Hacker as “a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.“ This is the only definition necessary for me. Growth hacker is a very polarizing title. If you title yourself as a growth hacker and you’re not one of the well-known guys or gals with substantial achievements with growth, be warned that many people may see you as a douche. Besides, have you even acquired any significant traction for your company? Or maybe you are a douche, go fist pump, hate on marketers (even though you are one), and be stuck up somewhere else. If you don’t like the term, then call it marketing. Acknowledge that not everyone who uses the term growth hacking is douche. It’s catchy, and some people are just using it to name a specific type of marketing. Go get laid or drink more. It’ll help with your annoyance.
Let’s not argue over titles and get back on focusing on what’s really important, tackling issues regarding user acquisition and traction. You can call me a marketing growth hacking community PR content social media ninja guru rockstar bitch if you want. I don’t care. I work in an early stage startup where titles don’t matter much. However, execution does. I like marketing, I like growth, and I’ll be focusing on what’s important. That’s doing whatever’s necessary to maximize user adoption of the product at the lowest possible cost.
Here’s Obama riding Nyan Cat. I’m good at Photoshop.