A recruiter looking for a Growth Hacker contacted me recently and my immediate reaction was “I wonder what that position was called two-months ago.”
That seemingly innocent LinkedIn message from a recruiter just trying to do their job, combined with the facts that any marketing tactic is now considered a “Growth Hack” and anyone with any involvement with Marketing – at any level and in any function – calls themselves a Growth Hacker – has made me question everything.
I originally liked the term Growth Hacking because I thought it most accurately defined what I do for my SaaS clients; I help them grow – rapidly and sustainably – by taking full advantage of the SaaS Business Model and unique distribution methods.
From in-app Conversion Optimization and Retention strategies, to viral expansion in the most staid B2B product categories, Growth Hacking finally encapsulated what I do.
But I didn’t gravitate to the term Growth Hacker on my own. In fact, it wasn’t until Bronson Taylor interviewed me for Growthhacker.tv that I realized this term fit. BTW, that was WAY back in July 2013.
In the months since, however, I feel like the term Growth Hacker has started to lose it’s meaning… that it’s been bastardized and co-opted by anyone and everyone.
Growth Hacking – the term – is now just linkbait people use to get traffic while they rehash the Hotmail and AirBnB “hacks” or talk about SEO or Copywriting or [any generic marketing tactic] and tag it #growthhacking.
Cut to the end of December 2013 and I’m lost.
I’m not usually one that needs definitions, rules, structure,… but I’m not concerned about me.
If Growth Hacking is to mean anything to anybody – and if true Growth Hackers are to stand out from the crowd – then I think it might be time for some parameters around the term.
Otherwise it’s nothing more than a nerdy term of self-endearment we stick in our Twitter bio like ninja or rock star. Who cares.
So once again, I turn to Bronson from Growthhacker.tv. My sage… my sherpa… my guiding light in this time of darkness.
I emailed Bronson, told him what’s going on in my mind and asked him to comment on the current state of the Growth Hacker movement… he said this was just the catalyst for his Growth Hacker Manifesto, and I’m excited for him to share it with us.
I’ll let Bronson take over…
Growth Hacker Manifesto
After creating the primary destination online to learn about growth hacking (www.growthhacker.tv), where I have conducted over 100 interviews with the internet’s most successful growth experts, I have finally reduced growth hacking to its necessary and sufficient conditions.
The following manifesto sums up growth hacking in a way that is understandable, and in a way that shows the uniqueness of what a growth hacker brings to a startup.
After reading this I hope you still think that growth hacking is just a buzzword. That’s one less startup for everyone else to compete with 🙂
1. Growth hackers have an obsessive focus on user growth
The most important aspect of a growth hacker is their relentless focus on the bottom line growth of a startup. If their activities don’t ultimately increase the overall retained user base then they are not growth hacking.
2. Growth hackers combine the disciplines of marketing, product, and engineering
A growth hacker has multiple disciplines to pull from. An understanding of marketing allows them to utilize inbound, SEO, PPC, landing pages, copywriting, etc. An understanding of product allows them to utilize product-market fit, registration flows, onboarding, UI/UX, email, roadmap decisions, etc. An understanding of engineering allows them to utilize event tracking/triggers, APIs, automated systems, code heavy growth tactics, etc.
3. Growth hackers scientifically test new tactics
A growth hacker approaches new tactics like a scientist, with each experiment consisting of a question, hypothesis, prediction, testing, and analysis.
4. Growth hackers are concerned with the entire lifecycle of a user
Acquisition is only the first step. A growth hacker has to find ways to effectively activate a new visitor and eventually turn them into a retained customer. Top of funnel growth alone isn’t relevant. A growth hacker will use CRO (conversion rate optimization), cohort analysis, and other tools to effectively plan the entire funnel.
5. Growth hackers are data-driven
A growth hacker doesn’t rely on gut decisions or intuition. They are data driven. The numbers don’t always tell a growth hacker exactly what to do next, but they serve as a guide and a clear scoreboard for every growth attempt.
6. Growth hackers exploit new growth channels extremely early
A growth hacker is on the cutting edge of what is working. Growth channels are most valuable when they are large enough to have impact but new enough that everyone is not using them.
7. Growth hackers use their creativity to create new growth opportunities
A growth hacker doesn’t simply adopt growth tactics as they appear on the radar. Rather, growth hackers actively create opportunities for growth through creativity. There are ways to create massive user growth right now, in every industry, that are waiting to be discovered.
8. Growth hackers exhaust free growth first
A growth hacker finds the low hanging fruit first. Low-cost or free growth is usually available to those that have the skill sets we’ve already listed, and these opportunities will be exhausted before moving on to paid channels.
9. Growth hackers only spend money if there is a positive ROI
A growth hacker is not against spending money as long as the free options have been explored, and as long as there is a positive ROI. Growth hackers don’t spend money to raise awareness. They spend money to grow.
About Bronson Taylor
Bronson Taylor is a serial entrepreneur, startup advisor, instructor, author, and the host and co-founder of Growth Hacker.TV, where the experts on startup growth reveal their secrets.
Afterword by Lincoln
Lincoln here again…
First, make sure you grab your copy of Growth Robot and take advantage of Bronson’s generosity… I grabbed my copy already and I think you’ll really dig it. Very actionable stuff!
Second, the only thing I have to add to what Bronson said is that there seems to be a lack of emphasis put on the starting point for all scientific testing… the hypothesis.
It’s one thing to be data-driven and to test scientifically, but it’s quite another thing to come up with something to test (outside of copying others).
I think this is the scary part for “data scientists” because it isn’t necessarily data-driven. It might actually come from – ugh – your gut.
To go a bit deeper on that subject, I wrote my 5 Rules for Successful Growth Hacking (not linkbait, I assure you), to give some insights into how I come up with that hypothesis to start from. Your mileage may vary.
To that point, I’ve actually seen this focus on “scientific testing” get in the way of taking initial action. In fact, the other day I witnessed a discussion about my “Autoresponders are Dead” post where someone said “Lincoln is correct, but the problem is that his way is hard to test, while Autoresponders are easy to test.” #facepalm
So we should keep doing what we acknowledge is the wrong thing simply because we can more easily test it? You can figure out how to test something – and a real Growth Hacker will – but to keep doing what isn’t working just because it’s easier to test doesn’t sound like Growth Hacking – or good sense – to me.
I also said the following on Twitter – and I stand by it – so now that you’ve read Bronson’s manifesto, go make stuff happen:
While you're out trying to define and defend #growthhacking your competition just stole your market share
— Lincoln Murphy (@lincolnmurphy) November 25, 2013
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say…
Let’s Grow Your SaaS Company
For immediate consultation and advice on effective growth strategies and tactics for your SaaS company, schedule a 60-minute meeting with me via Clarity. If you feel a more involved engagement is required for me to help you, email me with the specifics of your situation (as much detail as you’re comfortable giving) and we’ll setup a meeting to work through the particulars.