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You’re familiar with the term “growth hacking”, right? You’ve likely read about how Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Hotmail, Dropbox, etc. growth hacked their way to mega success. Those case studies resulted in a widespread shift in thinking. Many marketers became more concerned with 10x growth hacks they read about online than strategy and growth process. Is growth hacking useless? Absolutely not. Is the way it’s commonly talked about useless? Undeniably.

  • DA

    David Arnoux

    over 3 years ago #

    Oops, seems I posted this under a new profile by accident. Is it possible to have it linked to my real gh.com profile? username: david@twoodo.com

  • SM

    Shanelle Mullin

    over 3 years ago #

    Thanks for sharing this, David. And thanks for sharing your thoughts in the article. I really appreciate it.

    I'm curious to know how everyone else defines "growth hacking"...?

    • JC

      Janet Choi

      over 3 years ago #

      I just read this description of growth hacking, which I liked a lot — "Growth hacking means making human time scalable." (from https://medium.com/@francoisdefitte/how-to-hack-your-analytics-with-segment-io-500acfc32254#.wkituk3d8).

      I see growth hacking as figuring out how to scale meaningfully.

      That all aligns with what @Nichole says in your article about how you need to build and work on a foundation so you have something to grow and optimize from in the first place — and what @sujanpatel says about nothing being a blanket growth trick.

      • SM

        Shanelle Mullin

        over 3 years ago #

        I like that definition a lot, actually.

        What are your thoughts re: growth processes? Do you have one on your team?

  • GB

    Gennady Barsky

    over 3 years ago #

    Thanks for sharing this. Good read.

  • AO

    Aaron Orendorff

    over 3 years ago #

    Thorough piece, especially how GH has become synonymous with what is basically just inbound and outbound marketing.

    Best definition?

    Morgan Brown:

    “I would say instead that growth hacking is experiment driven marketing focused primarily on how the product is used to create growth both from the distribution and retention side. The key differentiator being the product-level focus vs. the channel-level focus of traditional marketing effort."

    YES: growth hack primarily focuses on how to use the product itself ... to spread the product via the user.

    I also have a tendency to define GH in terms of technologically advanced methods (but that's probably just because I want to sound smart).

    • SM

      Shanelle Mullin

      over 3 years ago #

      Hah! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Aaron.

      So, what about people claiming they're "growth hacking" when they employ a tactic to get lots of visitors to their site?

  • JM

    Jacob McMillen

    over 3 years ago #

    I think the difference between an inbound marketer and a growth hacker is simply a matter of time.

    A good inbound marketer is focused on a long-term audience building strategy whereas a growth hacker is primarily concerned with innovative short-term strategies for quick growth centered around a handful of key metrics.

    I think growth hacking strategies are more powerful for younger companies or business models with a high lifetime customer value, whereas long-term inbound marketing direction will be far more effective for more established companies.

    • SM

      Shanelle Mullin

      over 3 years ago #

      Do you mean that growth marketers shouldn't be concerned with retention? Or just that growth marketers are expected to / are able to get acquisition results faster?

      • JM

        Jacob McMillen

        over 3 years ago #

        I wouldn't say "shouldn't", but I also don't think that's a growth hacker's primary objective. You hire growth hackers to help you get mass exposure and quick traction. Retention is baked into that, but growth hackers aren't typically playing the long game, so much as looking for efficient, innovative ways to get attention on your brand and users on your site. I could be off here, but I tend to associate the growth hacking mentality with that of startup founder looking to have their company bought-out on the early side. It's more about traction and quick growth rather than retention or even longterm viability.

  • RK

    Richard Kuwahara

    over 3 years ago #

    I think eventually the "hacking" part is just going to be dropped. Growth marketing seems to encompass the the tie between product/marketing/sales and how true growth is a team game that is not tied up in a funnel.

    Current technologies allow for faster iteration, the trendiness of flat-organization allows for better inter-departmental workflow, and the flashiness of unicorns have brought startups more front of mind.

    But in the end, even the idea of testing/iteration/scientific method itself isn't new to marketing. It's been around for years with direct mail and other direct response tactics. But the application has just moved to new digital channels which allow for better data and faster testing.

    One thing that seems to get lost in the shuffle is that offline marketing channels are still good and should still be explored, especially in smaller niches and geographies.

    • SM

      Shanelle Mullin

      over 3 years ago #

      I agree with you re: offline channels.

      Interesting point re: growth being a team game. So, growth marketers team up with sales, product, customer service, etc. people for the best results then?

      • RK

        Richard Kuwahara

        over 3 years ago #

        Definitely, it's a term I love from the first time I heard it here. Growth can come from too many levers (acquisition, monetization, operations, product, retention, etc.) to relegate it to one silo.

  • MC

    Mathew Carpenter

    over 3 years ago #

    Glad I found this. Great article.

  • GB

    Giselle Bisson

    over 3 years ago #

    Excellent read. Thanks for sharing!

  • AB

    Allen Burt

    over 3 years ago #

    Thanks for this post - loved seeing the different definitions / evolutions of this term as it gets thrown around a lot and there are many opinions on what it "truly" means...

    • SM

      Shanelle Mullin

      over 3 years ago #

      Thanks for the kind words about the article! I'm curious... how would you define it?

      • AB

        Allen Burt

        over 3 years ago #

        I agree that, in my opinion, it has a lot to do with data. However, the quote/definition you have from Ryan Holiday also holds pretty true...

  • OK

    Ondrej Kubala

    over 3 years ago #

    Good stuff. What I agree the most is this statement:
    “The most costly myth is believing that you can expect the same results as growth hacking examples you read about online. Nothing you read will work the same or provide the same results for your business. It needs to be prioritized, weighed against other initiatives and tested for yourself. Everything you read about is meant to help with ideation and inspire you to take action.”

    I couldn't say it better :)

  • SJ

    Stephen Jeske

    over 3 years ago #

    Great share David and wonderful article Shanelle. The last issue of my newsletter Growth Hackers Digest focused on the importance of having a growth process. In fact, I called it "The One Growth Hack To Rule Them All!" Without a process, you're just hoping to get lucky, and that's no way to run a business.

    On a related note, sometimes I feel that those get-rich-quick internet marketing schmucks have invaded the growth hacking arena.

    Or is it just me?

    • SM

      Shanelle Mullin

      over 3 years ago #

      Thanks Stephen. "Without a process, you're just hoping to get lucky, and that's no way to run a business." Wise words.

      Also, it's not just you!

  • CL

    Craig Lively

    over 3 years ago #

    The timing of this article for me couldn't have been better. I'm creating a backpack and I'm currently coming up with my marketing strategy. I will definitely be using these insights!

  • DA

    Davis Abrams

    over 3 years ago #

    Great post. Thanks!

  • RT

    Roman Temkin

    over 3 years ago #

    I agree with this article.

  • JQ

    Jason Quey

    over 3 years ago #

    I think there are genuine "hacks" that cause growth, but I agree that it needs to be a mindset because what worked for Dropbox, Hotmail, and Uber, may not work for another startup for a number of reasons.

    • SM

      Shanelle Mullin

      over 3 years ago #

      What do you think re: tactics vs. process? I know you do growth work. Do you have a process or is it more tactic-based?

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