Last week a customer - a startup company exploring digital marketing - asked me “Bart, what is growth hacking? And should we be doing this?”
I hesitated answering the question. Yes, I believe I know what growth hacking means, but I struggled to come with a clear definition, relevant for my customer. Especially because I am not the biggest fan of bullshit terms that 9 out of 10 times are old wine in new bottles. Something we are so fond of in digital marketing.
My mind started rattling.
Growth hacking, it is the best!
Growth hacking is a way of working. Or even better, a mindset. An attitude of learning by doing. Experimenting. Using the data available to identify growth opportunities. Big and small. A continuous flow of testing, challenging the status quo and learning from the results to grow your business. And this can be in your marketing channels and campaigns, your UX, the products and prices that you're offering, your service elements or even your business processes. It is all about accelerating growth.
Growth hacking, bullshit!
But looking up definitions of growth hacking, every marketeer will find himself pulling his hair out. More than once I could hear or read people say: "growth hacking is more than marketing." Bullshit!
Growth hacking more than marketing? Bullshit!
In these particular cases, ‘traditional marketing’ was referred to as ‘driving traffic to your website…’ Basically the same as defining accountancy as ‘communicating financial figures.’ Or human resources as ‘paying the salaries.’
In other words. Yes, it is part of it. But there is kind of more to it…
Let’s talk good old Philip Kotler
Did we forget about the four P’s of marketing?
Or even better; the six P’s. Adding Process and People. Pretty relevant to all e-commerce companies.
Have a look at the American Marketing Association definition of marketing. In short, marketing is about added value. The key of marketing is to deliver customer added value. Based on a clear strategy and distinguished market positioning, valued by your target group.
The key of marketing is to deliver customer added value.
This is the fundament for your growth. Next? Making sure that you translate this to your marketing instruments. Making it happen and deliver! And that is where growth hacking comes in.
Growth hacking? I love it!
Yes, I love the concept since it focuses on growth. Based on a solid, pragmatic, hands-on, data-driven and holistic way of working. It is all about doing, trying, failing and improving. As fast as possible or suitable for your company. Driving growth.
Acting less on gut feeling. But having the guts to act.
Growth hacking? I hate it!
I hate it! The term 'growth hacking' makes it sound very easy but at the same time something only the special ones master. Little effort and shortcuts resulting in exponential growth. Hire a growth hacker and look: there’s your hockey stick…
Hire a growth hacker and look: there’s your hockey stick…
Defining it as being more than marketing demolishes the credibility. Actually, when looking at the business area’s (or marketing instruments) touched, the skills and knowledge needed, you can say: growth hacking ís marketing. Or better, a tactical part of marketing.
Regrettably, this is what we tend to do in (digital) marketing. Creating new hypes or terms. Big promises, leaning on examples of successful global brands, without being able to deliver accordingly. Too much bullshit. Too much focus on short term results.
And yes, it starts with small steps and short-term results. But those will vanish in the blink of an eye when lacking a solid marketing strategy and value proposition to start from.
It is all about marketing
So, coming back to where it all started. After his question, I answered my customer:
"We are already growth hacking. We just call it marketing."
"In your digital marketing channels, we are finding new ways to attract customers, reach the target group, build the brand and grow leads. You are constantly improving service and developing the product. In the future, we will do more and more. Testing, learning, optimizing and growing. With a non-stop focus on the customer needs and creating added value."
He understood and smiled :-).
So, what’s my point?
Please don’t let the fancy terms trick or confuse you. Keep a common sense. You hear something new and you don’t understand it? Then it is most likely bullshit.
There are no tricks or shortcuts to sustainable growth. To achieve this, you first of all need to know your customer. Your target group. Have a clear view of how and where you create value for them. Ensure a great product, brand or service. Start with a clear strategy, positioning and value proposition. Go for sustainable long-term growth.
Combine this with the mindset and attitude of ‘growth hacker’ and you are ready to thrive in the digital era!
Combine a sustainable value proposition with the mindset and attitude of ‘growth hacker’ and you are ready to thrive in the digital era!