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Some hard questions about growth hacking.

  • SH

    Samuel Hulick

    almost 6 years ago #

    I loved everything about this article, except its premise. :)

    If it stripped out all the "anti-growth-hacking" polemic, it would actually be one of my favorite articles FOR growth hacking, ironically enough. I guess it just depends on what you define it as to begin with, and it didn't seem very clear where Ben was coming from in that regard.

    I commented in more depth on the post itself: http://insideintercom.io/growth-hacking-is-bullshit/

    • MS

      Maxime Salomon

      almost 6 years ago #

      Agree. The article could actually be used to define what growth hacking really is I guess.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    almost 6 years ago #

    It's a really good article with an upworthy title. Nice growth hack to drive traffic from a community of growth-oriented marketers. :)

    Few would read it if it said "Product engineering and positioning remain core to successful startup growth"

    • JS

      Jared Smith

      almost 6 years ago #

      Dylan and I changed the title of the post back to the original article title last night, since 15 others posted this article as duplicates. The original title was "its time to rethink growth hacking" As soon as we changed it back it shot up 14 more votes over night. Guess there is something to having a title that is total "Link Bait".

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    almost 6 years ago #

    Silver bullet marketing is bullshit. Agree.

  • OT

    Oliver Trunkett

    almost 6 years ago #

    "Growth Hacking is the continual promise of silver bullets: red buttons increase signups 80%, headlines with font sizes of “33px” increase revenue 30%, cutting prices decreases churn 27%."

    Not sure I've read anyone anywhere espousing that kind of thought process on growth hacking. If you read anything about the subject, you'll see that most people are against these kind of practices. In reference to button color sign up, it's pretty well known "small" tests like that only work on sites with a huge amount of traffic, and most split testers know that if you have lower traffic, you need to make tests with big changes to move the needle. Plus, split testing is a scientific process, you gather data from quantitative and qualitative sources, create hypotheses, test them vs a control, and analyze the results.

    So in all, I think this article creates a false definition for what growth hacking is, then goes on to saying "this is what growth hacking REALLY is" and defines what growth hacking already is.

  • AS

    Andrew Skotzko

    almost 6 years ago #

    There are no silver bullets. Just the cumulative impact of many, many small, "ordinary" bullets.

  • AM

    Al Mukmin

    almost 6 years ago #

    TOMATO TOMATA, who cares. Growth is growth and troll-bait title is good marketing technique. ;)

    Consider me growth-hack'ed by Intercom.

  • JG

    Jim Gray

    almost 6 years ago #

    For another take on the subject, with links to two more at the end:


    • JG

      Jim Gray

      almost 6 years ago #

      And as an aside, I strongly prefer terms like "growth marketing" and "marketing engineer."

      There's a whole "let the language fit the audience" problem, if you're in a professional context then you probably want to avoid "hacker" anything regardless of the specifics of the role. Unless SEO, or e.g. applying for a job where the employer uses it first. Communicating across a semantic gap means thinking about how the other person or audience will interpret it, you can be right and still be wrong.

      GH is used here largely because brandability, and other sites chose terms like "marketing technologist" for similar reasons. Both are good choices in the context of running said sites, but you should think about your own context before choosing what terminology to use or reuse for yourself.

  • ND

    Nate Desmond

    almost 6 years ago #

    Aside from the misunderstanding of "growth hacking", I love the lead vs silver bullet analogy.

    Far too many startups spend their time chasing the next AirBnB/Craigslist integration while forgetting the boring but critical growth levers like product-market fit.

    • JP

      Joseph Putnam

      almost 6 years ago #

      Comments like this have convinced me to actually read the article, something I didn't do the first time around when I just skimmed.

  • FC

    Felipe Cardoso Barbosa

    almost 6 years ago #

    Every time I read something about Growth Hacking I wonder: "Why people still relate Marketing with a narrow definition meaning Promotion".

    What a Growth Hacker does is nothing more, nothing less, than what a good marketer would do. People tend to forget that the definition of Marketing is:

    Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (Approved July 2013)" (from AMA)

    So, whenever you say that you don't need to worry about marketing but about product development... well, I have news for you: you're talking about marketing. Anyone that reads any basic book about marketing will learn the 4 Ps: Product, Price, Place, Promotion.

    So, if you do something like Airbnb hacking Craiglist, we're talking about place, about strategies to spread the product/service. This is marketing.

    Ok, if we're considering that Growth Hacking is all about technology and that's the difference between a Marketer and a Growth Hacker, it's such an unimportant thing that it makes the term "Growth Hacking" only good enough for people that want to surf the wave of meaningful trends.

    Your product or service will only grow if it add some value to people's life. It needs to solve a problem. And what's the activity that relies on adding value? MARKETING.

    I think the best part of this Growth Hacking talk is that the mindset of deep analysis of metrics and revenue and tracking leads to see how they are behaving is something many marketers lost along the way. But it's not that all marketers only think about soft metrics, the job they perform grew too much for its own sake.

    Growth Hacking is BS when there are lots and lots of people calling themselves "growth hackers" without making things grow in a sustainable way.

    If you call yourself a growth hacker and is adding value to a product or a service, thinking about places to distribute this product and service, tracking clients to understand things like churn/acquisition/revenue and creating things to be spread... well, you are a great marketer after all.

    • AJ

      Ali Jetha

      almost 6 years ago #

      Whenever you label something, you lose some of its essence. While I agree marketing englobes growth hacking, there is a negative stigma about "marketing" and "marketers". That's mainly because like Gary Vaynerchuk says, marketers ruin everything. Growth hacking is simply a term to differentiate with the traditional way of doing marketing. (pushing products versus pushing the experience)
      Anyway, IMO it's a buzzword with a lot of misconceptions, and negative stigmas due to the "hacker" word. Maybe marketing engineer might be a better term.

      • FC

        Felipe Cardoso Barbosa

        almost 6 years ago #

        Well, I agree with you. But the reason that "Marketing" and "Marketers" have this negative stigma is because many professionals confused it with "Promotion". I know we made that mistake in the past, when people think of marketing they think of "selling" and "advertising" and "pushing a product".

        It's the way marketers worked for a long time when trying to reach a mass market.

        But, some authors like Al Ries with Positioning and recent ones like Seth Godin with Permission Marketing and the guys at HubSpot with Inbound Marketing, brought back the idea of generating value. When a marketer have this in mind the efforts will be developing a better product, retaining customers, thinking about growth, better distribution strategy... generating revenue with all the efficiency needed.

        The digital world came to make marketers go back to the core of the activity because the interaction with the customers got personal again.

        I think "Growth Hacking" will become a buzzword pretty soon with people disliking it more than liking it because of what I said: lots and lots of startup guys are trying to differentiate themselves and being proud of "not investing in marketing" without understanding what marketing really is and without making their business grow in a sustainable way.

        Sometime ago I read this text here (http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/22/the-real-engines-of-growth-on-the-internet/) and I think explains what I'm trying to say.

  • NL

    Noya Lizor

    almost 6 years ago #

    My problem isn’t with the term “growth hacking” which is essentially a tactic or “approach” used particularly by startups that need to achieve significant growth quickly.

    My problem is with the implication that “growth hackers” and “marketers” are two separate breeds, and I’m frankly irked by the notion that “growth hackers” are considered somehow more relevant and valuable in the startup world than those who still call themselves “marketers” (like me).

    I have been a marketer for many years and throughout my career I have developed my skills and adapted my strategies and tactics so that they are most relevant and effective based on the available media channels of the day and how audiences interact with them.

    Just as marketers a few decades ago approached their work a certain way and were considered “savvy” for successfully promoting brands and growing customer bases using the media (and associated “tactics”) available to them at the time, today’s marketers are also considered savvy if they know how to achieve the typical marketing goals of our era using current media channels, devices and an understanding of what motivates today’s audiences in order to achieve brand awareness, boost sales, acquire, engage and retain customers, and yes – achieve “growth”.

    I see “growth hacking” as part of the arsenal of tactics already used by modern-day marketers, so if today’s modern-day marketers aren’t already employing growth hacking principles as part of their overall marketing efforts (as I do, for example), then they simply aren’t savvy by today’s standards. But in my opinion it’s wrong to dismiss those who still call themselves mere “marketers” as less valuable or effective than those who call themselves “growth hackers”.

    I too believe – as someone else in this discussion already suggested – that the term “growth hacking” and the function of “growth hackers” are probably temporary, because as our world continues to change and it becomes necessary to conceive of new ways to reach audiences and market stuff, new tactics will most likely be developed, and new trendy terms may even be coined for them. But whatever they are and whatever they're called, they’ll most likely still be executed by savvy MARKETERS of the day.

  • JB

    Joseph Bentzel

    almost 6 years ago #

    There's a lot of white space to build on the author's point of view, specifically around the convergence (for good or ill) of the discipline of growth hacking with the trend commonly referred to as 'neuromarketing'.

    Things the author is describing as 'silver bullets', e.g. colors, fonts, pricing (that triggers an impulse buy) are often advocated by neuromarketers in the context of 'rewiring' the customer's engagement patterns in favor of the neuromarketer's offer.

    There is clearly a larger discussion underway in the digital marketing profession as a whole about both the ethics of, and effectiveness of, these kinds of techniques which I personally think of negatively as 'skinner box marketing'. The 'Facebook Experiment' being one notable example of a skinner box marketing exercise focused on capturing customer behavioral data without explicit market permission.

    I would suggest that the author, by focusing on product value, clear customer-centric product benefits messaging, and the continuous drive for feedback driven improvement (his lead bullets metaphor) is drawing the beginnings of a clear line between 'ethical' growth hacking and large parts of the neuromarketing value prop.

    As a marketer who has been around the block a few decades, I see legitimate growth hacking as the healthy natural evolution of strategic marketing in the age of the on-demand product model.

    But I see 'neuromarketing' as a potentially dangerous fork in the road of 'marketing code' simply because it seems focused on dis-empowering vs. empowering customers.

  • JQ

    jesse quist

    almost 6 years ago #

    well done, now I know about intercom and may be suggesting it to a client

  • GB

    George Bullock

    almost 6 years ago #

    Aside from the straw man attack on the author's self-described definition of growth hacking (GH), he does makes some excellent points.

    I particularly like the idea of explicitly pairing metrics for analysis. I think good analysts tend to do this indirectly as they frame the available evidence into a conclusion. However, by explicitly pairing metrics, you make the analysis more systematic. Systematic analyses is typically faster, results in more consistent quality, and is easier to teach to new analysts.

    Regarding the claim that GH is bullshit, I disagree. However, I can empathize with the author to an extent. GH is often exemplified by a few now famous examples of very successful companies that engineered hacks that resulted in enormous growth. Therefore, despite a handful of growth practitioners discussing GH as being about process, perseverance, and small wins compounding, I believe that message is largely drowned out by people reading stuff like this -- http://bit.ly/1nbmoiR ... no discussion of process, no discussion of perseverance, no discussion of product/market fit, no discussion of what happen before, no discussion of what happen after. Without any additional context, the post kind of reduces GH to the equivalent of engineering unicorns (or at least makes it easier to come to that conclusion), which is of course bullshit.

  • RS

    Rob Sobers

    almost 6 years ago #

    This is overall a really good post and I agree with the overall premise that there is no silver bullet for growth.

    However, the author overlooks one of the most important facets of marketing (or growth hacking) which is driving traffic and building interest.

    Often times this has nothing to do with the remarkability of your product or product marketing or product engineering or button colors, or A/B tests, but rather your audience-building skills (case in point: Buffer and their blog).

  • GL

    Guy Lepage

    almost 5 years ago #

    I wish every "Growth Hacker" was a great designer. Then they could measure things like a single button sign up vs. a captivating way to design sign up that can convert even better. These metrics companies are not even decent at design. Until they start measuring the best designs against other of the top designs, these old statements should not be made.