Two key conclusions I took from @AndrewChen’s post Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing. And it’s true — at The New Agency, the best marketers we see today have a technical understanding of how online technologies fit together, because that helps them find new way to grow awareness and engagement with customers before their competitors do.
‘Growth hackers’ know that to reach tens of millions of potential customers affordably you shouldn’t be using TV, radio or print anymore, you should be using app stores, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and push messaging. And you shouldn’t be paying to market on these services, you should be tying your product/service deeply into the platform itself via an API. Great API integration between your product and another adds customer utility to both products, and customers stick, talk about you, and recruit their social graph.
Luke Watson at DashLuxe and Mick Liubinskas at Pollenizer were both growth hackers before they became startup founders. And of course, at The New Agency, we hack a bit of growth for our clients too, and we’re learning how to do it better.
Which is what growth hacking is all about: ideation, testing, measurement, analysis and learning all the time about how to do it better.
How do you tell whether someone is a growth hacker and not just a marketer? Give them a third of the budget and half the time they need, and forbid them from using offline media, top-tier ad networks and AdWords. If they curl up in a defensive ball, they’re a marketer. If they rush to the whiteboard and start sketching out ideas, they might be a growth hacker.
Marketers learn a skill, then do it. Growth hackers learn the skill by doing it. Marketers say, “first I need to understand the problem and then I’ll design a solution.” Growth hackers say, “by trying different solutions, I can begin to understand the problem”.
How do you motivate a growth hacker? By giving them permission to try something completely outside the box, that nobody has tried before. Extra points for risk, outsourced or volunteer production teams and double points for API integration as a customer acquisition tool. Triple points by inviting them to be part of the product/service design process, 4x for ongoing product/service changes past launch, and 10x for allowing them to try selling the product/service before you feel it’s really ready for launch.
How do you de-motivate a growth hacker? In sooo many ways, but start by telling them you have a few good ideas/people you’d like them to try, that you’re pretty sure you know who your customers are, what the product/service is, and why customers are going to buy it. Bonus demerits for asking them to try and make it go viral. Extra bonus points for requiring them to present their ideas for approval before executing anything.
How do you recruit a growth hacker? That’s a hard one: most growth hackers don’t yet know what they are — still exercising perhaps half their brain in a narrow marketing, product management or engineering role. Most of the self-aware growth hackers are already working their butts off in risky, poorly-paid, lousy-hours for small, struggling, ill-defined startups, and loving every click-through of it.
So you don’t motivate them with quality of the work environment, great pay and opportunities for advancement; instead it’s more like hiring great engineers — you need to explain that there’s no money or time but no other constraints on their creativity, to talk about the interesting problems that need to be explored, the blank expanse of whiteboard where the business plan should be, about the niggling feeling you’ve had since the beginning that maybe, if you can get just a few things right, This Could Be Huge.
One final word of caution: in the future, all great CEOs will be growth hackers. If you hire one, pay close attention and learn from them, or the board may one day decide you’ve hired your replacement.
Go read Andrew Chen’s blog post if you didn’t already.