Marketers LOVE to coin terms. Don’t be ashamed if you come across something like “growth hacking” and wonder, what is that and should I be doing it?
You might think of growth hacking as something similar to digital marketing, lead generation and/or revenue marketing.
(Don’t worry; we’ll have another name for it by 2015.)
There’s been a bit of controversy around the term. Here are a few definitions, collected from around the web:
Growth hacking is just MARKETING!!
– Angry people on Twitter
Growth hacking is what everyone at a startup does.
Growth hacking is “taking responsibility for growth with an entrepreneurial drive”
– Sean Ellis, startup-marketing.com (Ellis coined the term “growth hacker” in 2010)
Growth hacking is “when growth is one of your marketing objectives and someone is solely assigned to that objective.”
– Muhammad Saleem, MarketingLand.com
I like term growth hacking for a startup or small business because it focuses on the outcome of the effort: growth. It is the part of marketing that’s focused on scale, on raw number of customers, on tangible progress, and on trajectory.
Growth is a noble objective. And it’s measurable. You can point to it on a chart.
Hacking happens when you combine technique with creativity. Hacking is by definition is a DIY path. There is no hacking instruction manual.
How do I become a growth hacker?
In programming, hackers must learn to code first. In marketing, you can study the basics and riff from there.
Classic growth hacking success stories (see Airbnb, for example) usually involve a convergence of marketing and IT/development skills, which more and more startups have on their founding team—sometimes all in the same person.
In theory, a growth hacker would not be concerned with branding or operations. But in reality, growth hacking is usually not a marketer’s only job.
Are there rules to growth hacking?
No hard and fast rules exist for growth hacking. But if I set the guardrails, they’d be:
1. Measure with discipline.
The trend lines say more than the raw number. (Note the difference between growth and scalable growth.)
Figure out what works, and do more of that.
2. Be aware of black-hat vs. white-hat tactics.
The first email spammer was a growth hacker.
There are borderline tactics and outright shady methods that may have worked when they were invented (e.g. keyword stuffing or link building to game search engines), which now work against you.
Stay aware of the changing environment, be ethical, pay attention to social norms and the terms + conditions of any platforms you leverage.
Marketers have to be concerned with their brand reputation as well as near-term growth.
What do you think of growth hacking? Love it or hate it?