If you’re an Agile Marketer, you need to understand Growth Hacking. Growth Hacking applies to both business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) marketers. It applies to businesses whose growth and success is dependent on network effects, as well as more traditional businesses with linear growth patterns. You need to understand growth hacking whether you’re a front line practitioner of marketing or a CMO.
What is Growth Hacking?
Sean Ellis coined the term “Growth Hacker” in mid-2010 in his blog post Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup. He described a growth hacker as “someone whose true north is growth”. Andrew Chen wrote an article earlier this year titled Growth Hacker is the New VP of Marketing. He described a growth hacker as “a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph.” While Andrew argued that the growth hacker generally has a strong technical background and bent, others like Aaron Ginn argue that some of the best growth hackers (Hiten Shah, Noah Kagan, and Sean Ellis) were not developers.
What these definitions have in common:
- Radically focused on growth
- Drive growth through innovative experiments with very specific measurements of success (new customer acquisition, customer engagement, conversions)
- Rule breakers
Examples of Growth Hacking
Adam L. Penenberg, in his book Viral Loop, tells the story of how Timothy Draper, Hotmail’s VC, had the idea to add the phrase “PS:I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail” on the bottom of every mail sent through Hotmail. This phrase led to a viral adoption of Hotmail, where a single email sent by one of the founders to a friend in India resulted in 300,000 users within 3 weeks. By the time Microsoft acquired Hotmail, they had 12 million users at a time when there were only about 70 million users on the Internet.
Facebook is a master of growth hacking – everything from the graphic of the like button to sending you an email when someone adds a new comment to a thread to sending you an email when you’re “tagged” in a picture is designed to bring you back to Facebook. As Andy Johns, one of the early members of the 30-40 person growth team at Facebook relates, the growth team drove “decisions around tactics, decisions around strategy, decisions around hiring, and decisions around priorities and culture.”
Some of the most famous and effective examples of growth hacking contributed to Dropbox’s success. Dropbox made it incredibly easy for users to refer friends, and providing extra storage to people anytime someone they referred signed up for a Dropbox account. To learn more, read this excellent article from Kissmetrics about The 7 Ways Dropbox Hacked Growth.
Growth hacking isn’t limited to consumer facing businesses. Companies like Box and Yammer have also used growth hacking to grow their businesses selling to organizations.
Yammer did several things to drive viral growth. Probably most evident was their “freemium” strategy, which allowed anyone to easily try the product. But like Facebook in the early days, they also made it very easy to invite anyone who had the same domain (harvard.edu for Facebook, whatever for Yammer). They also encouraged users to create communities (external private groups) with partners and suppliers, further driving their viral growth.
By the way, if you don’t like the term “Growth Hacker”, you might enjoy this article “Growth Hacking” is BS…It’s All Just Marketing.
What Does This Have to Do With Agile Marketing?
Like Growth Hackers, Agile Marketers believe in driving growth through experiments with very specific measurements of success. We also believe in empowering individual marketers, which will sometimes result in “rule breaking”. Agile Marketers can learn a lot by thinking through some of the methods practiced by growth hackers.
Whether you like the term or not, you can’t ignore their success, and you can learn a lot from their methods.
Where to Learn More
I’ve already linked to some of the seminal articles from Sean Ellis and Andrew Chen. Here is a list of a few other articles that I’ve found useful. I’m also taking a Udemy course on Growth Hacking. I’m only about 15% of the way through the course, so I can’t yet recommend it, but it’s certainly worth checking out.
What about it? Anyone else run into this concept? What do you think?