Last week I talked about growth hacking and the evolution of the marketer. Sure it’s the new, shiny buzz word around the proverbial marketing water cooler, but it’s also a relevant, meaningful and trendsetting concept that’s been deconstructed and misunderstood by startups and established companies alike. What it doesn’t mean is free marketing and meteoric results. What it does mean is rethinking and questioning the norm, as well as tapping into inventive ways of thinking, versatile talent and a wholly consumer- and data-driven approach to implementation.
Think like a startup
There’s no reason a large, well-established company can’t get in on the growth hacking game—but it’s essential to abandon what could be age-old thinking and expectations. Can you tell your digital marketers to get back to basics and start thinking about what will connect buyer with seller? And do they have the right resources in place?This includes access to testing and optimization tools, tacit knowledge and collaborators to be effective and access to cross-platform outreach, including mobile and social to test and implement these tactics.
Growth hacking is all about gaining momentum and getting to results quickly and steadily. It’s not a one-and-done and, likewise, it’s not a “slow and steady wins the race” SEO campaign either. And it’s definitely not about taking the Field of Dreams approach: just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come.
Love the data
A/B testing is essential to growth hacking. Even the most cash-strapped startup can implement some level of digital testing, and leverage those results going forward. Growth hackers love numbers. They love diving in and understanding what matters and what doesn’t, and using that information to make data-driven decisions. For them, it’s not about what worked and what didn’t, it’s about pushing harder, farther and making it even better on the next go-around. The ceiling’s high and they’ve got a roadmap right in front of them, in the form of data and analytics. It worked, but it could work better. This really worked, and it could work harder. This didn’t. Why? Hypothesize, test, review, improve, implement.
Look to the engineers
Although there’s some debate as to whether successful growth hackers should be one part coder/engineer and one part marketer, at the end of the day it’s integration of the technical and creative sides that can keep companies both systematic and in-the-know when promotional intuition isn’t enough.
Regardless of their formal scientific training and expertise, today’s marketers are more in it, technically speaking, than their professional forefathers. They’re more hands on, more in the numbers and more apt to understand that left brain/right brain way of thinking—as well as what would be cool and what can be done. These versatile marketers or teams should constantly be asking how routine tasks can be automated, and how the envelope can be pushed a bit more for clear-cut financial gain.
Get down to the nitty gritty
When push comes to shove, there are a few core growth hacking tactics that large organizations can apply. Viral acquisition and integration, naturally, is at the top of that list and likely the lowest hanging fruit because your company is probably already engaged at some level. Same goes for content marketing and email outreach—you’re probably already in that space, so it could be the best place to start. But no matter where the journey begins, it’s got to be about turning tradition on its head. Don’t abandon existing metrics or success stories, but growth hacking is fast and furious and anything but commonplace. Lots is permissible, so be ready to open your mind and your marketing channels to the sometimes messy process. Look to those marketers and technical minds who are curious, creative and leaning in pretty far—they’re often just below the surface or, in many cases, could be right in front of you, waiting to be inspired to step back and rethink the possibilities.
At the end of the day, growth hackers are innovators with unrivaled creative toolboxes. But growth hacking is a way of thinking, not a well-aligned, well-structured method like its traditional marketing and advertising cohorts. When that creativity intersects with the inquisitive and meets head-on with the technical know-to to set the wheels in motion, growth hacking happens.
Remember, it’s a trend—but a trend that’s been around forever
Growth hacking in name is just a few years old. But growth hacking in practice has been around forever. Now is a great time to give it a look, when it’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue including, perhaps, the executive stakeholders and decision-makers in your organization. Strike while the growth hacking iron is hot!
But, on the flip side, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking a hip startup rolled into town and now everything’s different. As long as there have been inventive, sky’s-the-limit marketers who don’t know the meaning of “relative resources” there have been growth hackers. Yes, growth hacking has a deep foundational basis in new business practices and, yes, that’s mostly because these startups didn’t have the resources or funding to follow a traditional marketing trajectory. But keep in mind that there is a diminishing growth reality—the initial burst of the gates isn’t sustainable, though that’s not to say ROI won’t stay positive over a more extended period. Make sure you’re moving towards something more sustainable, and not simply being shot from a cannon and expecting to remain sky-high after the first few seconds.
But done right, this is what tomorrow’s marketing—and tomorrow’s marketers—look like. And the good news is, there’s an army of them waiting in the wings, armed with the insight and clarity to know their customers, know where their digital footprints lead and know how to engage them in a meaningful, action-driven way. Although these growth hackers may come with the tacit knowledge and understanding of how to clear the cobwebs off stale marketing tactics, within large organizations they still need the tools to succeed—namely, the ability for corporate stakeholders to embrace this change.