No more cocoa leave-io, one two three
One two three, all of this to me, is a mystery
I hear you motherfuckers talk about it
But I stay seein bodies with the motherfuckin chalk around it
And I’m down with the shit too
For the stupid motherfuckers wanna try to use Kung-Fu
- Notorious B.I.G. “Things Done Changed”
Growth hacking. It’s a term that just won’t go away. It’s like a silicon valley zombie that confronts you at every turn. I’ve been on record about this before. I read a blog post from a friend the other night about it and it initiated a mini-tweet storm from me. I’ll borrow a page from the rebranded genius.com and elaborate a bit on that tweet storm here.
Lots of people think growth hacking is marketing 2.0. Go ahead, Google the term growth hacker or hacking and see how many results you get. I’m not going to hide from the fact that uber, airbnb, twilio and others have had success ‘hacking’ growth, but that doesn’t mean they’re not spending money to acquire customers. I’m not saying you can’t be successful growth hacking, but the companies that are tend to be more the exception than the rule.
Uber does an awesome job at refer-a-friend. Airbnb (it’s been alleged) used to SPAM craigslist. Novel ideas, but sustainable? Not really. Doing the basics of marketing, search, display, tv, mail, database segmentation, lead nurturing, drip emails, and content marketing all need to be done to acquire AND retain customers. Sure, it’s hard to compete against bigger companies who have limitless cash reserves, but if you’re continually optimizing and tweaking your messaging and your landing pages, you’ll survive, if not thrive.
The reason why ‘growth hacking’ worked for for Uber is the fact that they have an AMAZING product. They positioned themselves as your own personalized driver. Prior to Uber, your choice of public transportation was a bus, a train, a bicycle, walking or a dirty, stinky cab. The timing was right for Uber to come in and disrupt the marketplace with a new idea. A super clean car, a friendly driver and a frictionless way to pay for your ride was EXACTLY what the public needed and wanted.
This is fairly obvious, but sometimes, you have to point out the obvious. If your product is garbage, you can put ‘FREE’ around it or you can have hot naked celebrities giving it away and it won’t matter; nobody’s going to use it. The first rule in any kind of organization is make sure the product is something people will want.
I’m not saying don’t growth hack. What I’m saying is don’t focus on it, don’t let it consume you. There’s a funny saying I once read that was something along the lines of “David Ogilvy would have left growth hacking to an intern.” That’s absolutely true. Senior level marketers need to focus on the basics. Define the strategy, execute the tactics, move the needle. If you find a way to move product on the cheap (that is scalable), great, test it. If there’s a growth hack that becomes repeatable, just add it to your arsenal.