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Startups pioneered growth hacking because of their resource-constrained desperation.  Breaking through the noise is just too difficult when well-entrenched companies have the resources to dominate traditional marketing channels.  For meaningful growth, startups must completely change the rules of traditional channels or innovate outside of those growth channels.

Author includes a personal example of how desperation trying to compete against led one of his early teams to invent the viral embeddable widget.  And how it helped them dethrone Sony as the leader in online games.

Author suggests all smart marketers (at big companies and small) should embrace growth hacking.  Trying to play by the rules in established channels leads to incremental growth at best.


Related Post: Video: How Resource Constraints Lead to Innovation

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 7 years ago #

    This is my first blog post on Startup-Marketing in a long time largely inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's latest book "David and Goliath." This video I posted earlier today is an interview with Malcolm Gladwell where he explains how resource constrained desperation leads to innovation and a necessity to change the rules. http://www.growthhackers.com/videos/video-how-resource-constraints-leads-to-innovation/

  • AC

    Alex Cook

    over 7 years ago #

    Great post Sean. Been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Do you think growth teams can be built at large organizations from within? Or is it better for large organizations to hire new talent?

  • UE

    Ugo Eze

    over 7 years ago #

    Great article! There is a difference between traditional marketing and growth-hacking that still to this day many people in the c-suite do not see.

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 7 years ago #

      Thanks, I often think that the non-marketing executives (CEO, CFO, head of sales...) want growth hacking before traditional marketing executives want it. That's why many work so hard to discredit it before it gets forced on them by the CEO.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 7 years ago #

    Hey Sean,

    Great post. I totally agree that a lack of resources is what drives innovative approaches to growth. Call it growth hacking, blue ocean strategy, whatever, it is an approach not leveraged by traditional marketers who are too focused on optimizing existing channels.

    I think that large companies should embrace growth hacking, to help new products gain traction. There will be challenges though, especially as misinformation about 'growth hacking' persists in the press. If every wayward business idea gets labeled a growth hack, businesses will be leery of taking on perceived risks.

    We need more education and awareness of what this scrappy quest for growth really looks like, as opposed to shoddy SEO and other bad tactics which get labeled growth hacking by those without a real understanding of the approach.

    I think we've seen a few large companies embrace these ideas—Google and Twitter are a couple that come to mind who have recently leveraged existing distribution to push new products. And hopefully we'll see more who allow small teams to try new integrations, platform hacks, referral loops, and all of the things yet to be thought of to drive growth.

    As these small teams find success, organizations will embrace a more creative and complete approach to growth across the business.

  • BH

    ben hoffman

    over 7 years ago #

    pleasant surprise to see a post on startup-marketing on my RSS feed. its been sometime!

    how does a growth hacker at an early stage startup convince his/her dev team and CEO that a certain hack is worth the effort/resources without actually having the data to show that the hack could work. for example, at Uproar, how did you convince the team to put resources behind the widget development?

    a truly scrappy startup won't have the resources to A/B test everything and you will have to make sacrifices and decisions on the fly. sometimes the best justification we have is, 'try this hack… it worked for twitter, it worked for dropbox.'

    how does a marketer / growth hacker overcome this problem?

  • JB

    Jim Burke

    over 7 years ago #

    I find traditional or social media marketers' reaction to growth hacking ironic. When a new platform emerges they are hyping the heck out of it and scaring people with articles like '50 reasons why your dental practice needs to be on Instragram NOW!'. Resources like this site provide straight forward education without the hype.

  • SG

    Sajad Ghanizada

    over 6 years ago #

    Nice artical @sean

    One of the things I've noticed in SF and on the east coast is that traditional marketing for mid-large sized organizations usually involves a team, a large budget, or an agency.

    One of the things I always tell marketers when they ask why the term "Growth Hacking" exists is to help differentiate between the marketers who work with teams and large budgets vs the marketers in the who have small to no budgets, technical skills, and no large team. The latter is your growth hacker.

  • II

    iGoStartup iGoStartup

    over 7 years ago #

    Very good and useful post!!!

  • AM

    Augusto Marolla

    over 5 years ago #

    I come from this more traditional background.. I believe large companies don't have either the mindset nor the processes to think as innovatively. And large companies are about processes. These can be eventually disrupted, but it takes a lot of effort. Another key is the metrics... large monsters like this usually get lost in their own internal measures, and lose sight of customer acquisition, staying comfortable with "broad awareness" difusely tracked