What is Growth Hacking?

To the uninitiated, it’s another buzzword for traditional marketing. Before long you’ll have every digital marketing agency buzzing about it, like when ‘inbound marketing’ became the new phrase for SEO and PPC. But as ever, these catchy titles are built on sound marketing concepts, and one reason we like growth hacking is how it pulls some exciting new concepts under the traditional marketing banner.

To the uninitiated, it’s another buzzword for traditional marketing. Before long you’ll have every digital marketing agency buzzing about it, like when ‘inbound marketing’ became the new phrase for SEO and PPC. But as ever, these catchy titles are built on sound marketing concepts, and one reason we like growth hacking is how it pulls some exciting new concepts under the traditional marketing banner.

So in short, what is growth hacking? It’s the art of developing a scalable product to be ultra-marketable from the offset, and following it with a zen-like focus on tracking data, testing conversion rates and finding ways for the product to self-propagate via customers who sing its praises.

A digital marketing agency like Rooster already does this, but for many the alternative has been to take any old product and force-feed it to the public with a traditional marketing campaign. And while that can still find a market and work, it’s not ideal compared to working with great products which have a bigger potential market and then essentially sell themselves.

The Definition of Growth Hacking

Ryan Holiday who wrote the new Growth Hacking bible ‘Growth Hacker Marketing‘ puts it like this in his growth hacking definition on Medium: “Growth hacking threw out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaced it with only what is testable, trackable, and scalable. Its tools are emails, pay-per-click ads, blogs, and platform APIs instead of commercials, publicity, and money.”

Andy Johns, Growth Hacker

The concept has been born from Silicon Valley’s biggest social websites like Facebook and Twitter whose relentless ambitions for growth and large user bases helped them optimise every corner of their websites. Andy Johns is one of the best known, having been credited with the stratospheric growth of both those sites as well as LinkedIn and Quora.

One thing Andy Johns did to help Facebook growth hack its way to its first 200 million users, according to Forbes, was to give users an embeddable profile widget for their blogs. These acted like free banner ads which ended up serving billions of impressions per month at the height of blogging’s popularity.

Facebook Growth Hacking techniques

Describing Facebook’s overall growth hacker tactics in a post on Quora, Johns says he would ask himself four questions to lead Facebook’s growth strategy:

  1. How do I increase get more signups?
  2. What can I do to activate as many users as quickly as possible in their first few days?
  3. What are the levers for engagement and retention, and how can I pull them?
  4. How do I bring churned users back into the system to “resurrect” them from the dead?

Lessons we can Apply from Growth Hacking

We could continue down the growth hacking rabbit hole. For now, let’s review the lessons a digital marketing agency can learn while looking at what is growth hacking:

– The product has to be user tested and scalable
– Data collection is crucial for analysis and testing
– You have to find and retain users who will spread the word

What is your view on growth hacking? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Posted by Kat Lucock on 19 Nov 2013