"A growth hacker is someone who has thrown out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaced it with only what is testable, trackable, and scalable"
If you want to truly understand what “growth hacking” is then dive into Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday. In this book, one that reads more like a series of blog posts, Holiday breaks down what growth hacking really is, what it looks like via real world applications and explains how it sets itself apart from traditional Marketing and PR.
The approach of this book is to show you that growth hacking is a mindset. It is a specific way of seeing and thinking about business and products/services. Growth hacking is not a set of skills or tactics you can learn and then repeat over and over again to create successful campaigns. It’s about seeing opportunity in the smallest of things and then sharing it with people that can and will get really excited about it.
The great part of this book is how Holiday uses real life examples across multiple types of companies to illustrate what a growth hacking mindset looks like in action. It’s through these examples that you truly come to understand what constitutes growth hacking and how you may be able to shift your thinking to become a growth hacker yourself.
The Big Idea
Growth Hacking is a Mindset Not a Tactic
"Growth hacking at its core means putting aside the notion that marketing is a self-contained act that begins toward the end of a company’s or a product’s development life cycle. It is instead, a way of thinking and looking at your business."
To be a true growth hacker you must think more holistically and less about the nuts and bolts of performing your everyday tasks. While at the end of the day it’s all about increasing revenue, the initial impetus that spurs that growth comes from the desire to help make life easier.
The growth hacker knows their core audience—often times because they are a member of that audience. They understand the pain points, and they understand what the group will get excited about. The hard part is matching how to improve the product/service to further help their core audience. The easy part is “selling” it to them. For you Marketers out there, isn’t that a twist?
Growth Hacking = Product Development
"You are, in effect, the translator who helps bridge the producers and the consumers so they are in alignment."
The new way of doing business is to break down the silos many large and small companies have built up over the years. If you look at how and why the startup craze is still thriving—it’s in part because these companies are so agile. They understand everyone in the company is a part of the Marketing team and therefore improving the product to address the needs of the customer becomes the number one priority.
“Product Market Fit is a feeling backed with data and information,” writs Holiday.
It’s no longer about creating products/services in a laboratory bubble. It’s about everyone in the company communicating about the customers’ needs and then solving them. Growth Hacking is the term that encompasses this concept, that everyone is invested in making the customer as happy as possible, and then helps evangelize the superiority of this product/service to those that care most about it.
The new wave of Marketing isn’t about throwing out the understanding of how and why customers behave the way they do, but applying a much more analytical and engineering mindset to the practice by helping to create the best product possible from the onset. In doing that it inherently becomes easier to market to the community that cares the most about it.
This shift in mindset from “I can sell anything” to “How can this product be improved?” is fundamentally mind-blowing.
How do you start? Some places to start would be:
- Check your onsite search to see what questions people have when they come to your site.
- Check with your Customer Support team and see what items are repeatedly pain points or requests from customers.
- Call or email some loyal customers, aka super users, and ask them for some very pointed feedback about what changes you could make that would make their lives easier, things they wish your product or service could do that it currently doesn’t, etc.
- Ask your development colleagues what changes they think would improve the user experience—both in small and large ways.
Retaining Customers = Higher ROI
"What growth hackers have mastered is the ability to grow and expand their businesses without having to chase down new customers."
It’s a well known fact that you make more money with retaining current customers than trying to acquire new ones. Customer loyalty will automatically get you new customers because your current customers will evangelize your product/service to their friends, who will be much more likely to purchase a product/service based upon a friend’s recommendation than through any ad you would ever run.
“According to Bain & Company,” writes Holiday, “a 5 percent increase in customer retention can mean a 30% increase in profitability for the company. And according to Market Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent, while to a new prospect it’s just 5 to 20 percent.”
Growth hacking is about maximizing ROI by spending your time, effort and resources only on things that are the most effective. The most effective method to creating a better product is by simply using the Socratic method repeatedly:
- Who’s the product for?
- Why would they use it?
- Why do I use it?
Successful growth hackers then take it one step further and apply this method to their customers and ask:
- Why did you start using this product?
- What would you change about this product?
- Is there something you wish this product had?
Granted the book uses mainly product-based companies, and mostly online software product companies as examples, but it’s pretty easy to see how this would work for service based industries as well.
Overall this is a great introduction into understanding Growth Hacking regardless of your profession. For marketers, I think it’s a great book to get your creative juices flowing. It’s not a tactical book, but one that uses real life examples of how companies we all know were able to achieve great things using and trusting the data they had about their customers’ needs.
Personally, as a small business owner, Growth Hacker Marketing empowered me to refocus my efforts on only those things that will provide me with the biggest gains, and to leave the traditional methods at the door. It’s always about finding the best solution for the customer, so it’s imperative to stay focused on that.
Why is it so scary to ask the customer what your product/service can do better?