Growth hacking sucks, and 99.9% of people who claim they’re a growth hacker don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.
When I first got into startup marketing, the phrase “Growth Hacker” was being thrown around by everyone, from massive corporations to the smallest startups. People seemed to think that a growth hacker was synonymous with a magician who could help people to achieve early-stage Uber growth, without the Uber budget.
I remember starting with a well-known London-based startup that told me that the marketing budget that had been promised mysteriously disappeared during my first month.
That was the first of many red flags.
When I asked them where the ad budget had gone, they told me not to worry about it and to just ‘growth hack it’. Cool, cool, cool.
Initially coined by Sean Ellis, Head of Marketing for LogMeIn and the first marketer for Dropbox, a “growth hacker” was defined as “a person whose true north is growth. Its potential impact on scalable growth scrutinizes everything they do.”
Later, Andrew Chen (previously Uber, now a16z) published a viral blog post titled, “Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing”, in which he defined the term and gave the example of how Airbnb used Craigslist to grow as an example.
He wrote that 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.”
In the book “Growth Hacking”, Chad Riddersen and Raymond Fong define a Growth Hacker as “a highly resourceful and creative marketer singularly focused on high leverage growth”.
One of my prouder “Growth Hacks” was with a London-based SaaS platform competing with a colossal, well-established company. The competitor was spending millions on paid advertising a month and dominated all relevant search terms, so I had to do something more inventive.
By understanding the customer, I created a system that automatically reviewed the names of companies registered in the UK’s Companies House. If there was a keyword or phrase match, we automatically sent them a handwritten letter selling our services using an API.
It was a great success and helped us cut through the noise.
While I love the origin of the word “Growth Hacker”, it’s evolved into one of those dumb job titles along with Ninja, Guru, etc.
Whilst the future of marketing will continue to evolve as the industry moves and develop, some fundamentals probably won’t change –understanding who your customer is and what problem you’re solving for them.
The future of growth lies in developing better ways to increase personalized touchpoints with your customers, using conventional and unconventional methods.
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