It seems that every entrepreneur these days is talking about growth hacking. For the uninitiated, growth hacking refers to the skillful and quick use of certain online marketing tactics used to boost growth beyond the results usually yielded by conventional growth-oriented strategies. Whether you’re just starting up or wanting to take the next step to growing your business, it seems everyone is looking for that “quick fix” to gain more customers.
Therein lies the problem with the term “growth hacking.” It implies that success is gained through cheating the system. Of course, hacking the system to achieve quick gains is unsustainable, and businesses that seek growth hacking tactics aren’t looking at the big picture. Those trying to hack their way to immediate growth aren’t setting themselves up for growth in one, five or even ten years.
Marketing must be looked at as a system that you implement and install as a part of your business that sets it up for sustained growth. That’s why an obsession with growth hacking is a bit of a shortsighted concept.
Not that there isn’t solid thinking behind growth hacking. It’s not silly to try and use creative tactics and ingenuity to gain attention from your followers. I just think that doing so takes a more strategic approach, one that the term “growth hacking” seemingly leaves out.
Once you add strategic planning to the effective growth-focused tactics of growth hacking, isn’t that really just effective marketing in a nutshell?
Growth vs. Marketing
In the subhead, I set this up like there is some sort of conflict. Why not? Conflict works, and many people believe that there is a clash of mentalities between marketing and growth hacking. It’s old school vs. new school, if you will.
But the truth is that there isn’t really any conflict here. Growth hacking and marketing really aren’t that different. In fact, the best growth hacking tactics really are just effective marketing.
The difference between the two is with respect to mindset. As I mentioned above, I’d never suggest that a business owner implement a tactic without a strategy to guide it. I fear those who are looking to hack their way to growth aren’t thinking strategically.
The Rise of Growth Hacking
The term “growth hacking” was birthed from the tech startups of Silicon Valley, and as such there is a thought that somehow growth hackers are more tech savvy than marketers.
The truth is that in the world we live in today no marketer will survive if they aren’t tech savvy, don’t immerse themselves in every online tool and gain at least an appreciation for back-end and front-end development.
Those who believe in growth hacking probably still see marketers as somewhere between the ad men of the 60’s and the handshake marketers of the 90’s. Now you need a great website to market your business, as everything revolves around it. Even referral marketing strategies these days rely so heavily on the internet that the lines between growth hackers and marketers is becoming thinner.
Marketing Strategy Is Your Foundation
I know what you’re thinking: get to the point already! As an entrepreneur, especially of a young startup company, you have to grow quickly. It is imperative to gain an audience and set the seeds for continued growth before any funding runs out. That’s why you’re interested in growth hacking in the first place.
Well, I have an action item for you: build your marketing strategy before you do anything else. I’d suggest by beginning with these three steps:
- Identify your ideal client. This one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many businesses get started without an ideal client in mind. Even more will realize that they’ve identified the wrong client after some time. For new startups, think of the problem your product is trying to solve, and identify the people that would want it solved. For businesses looking to grow their existing client base, identify your best customers so you can try to attract more just like them. In both cases, try to create personas for each of the groups you identify, and refer to these personas as you market your business.
- Set your goals and objectives. Where do you want to be in one month? Three months? One year? Five years? Plot out your goals and be prepared to throw out any tactics that may help you achieve a short-term goal, but hinder your ability to achieve future goals.
- Create a Company Culture. What kind of business do you want to be? What is your mission statement? Be prepared to answer these questions before employing your tactics.
Why You Must Focus on Both
With these three steps completed, you can now take any growth hacking tactic you may run across and compare it to your strategy. Does this tactic reach your ideal client? Will it help you reach your goals? Does it fit your culture? Then go ahead!
Suddenly you’re no longer growth hacking. Now you’re marketing effectively.