Not Another Tech Hack

Growth hacking in a marketing context

You may have heard of growth hacking by now. It’s the current fashion among start-ups and tech companies. It’s a marketing technique focused on – duh! – growth. While marketing is mostly a tool of mass broadcast, up-and-coming companies of the internet age do not always have the privilege of large budgets, and thus growth hacking was born out of a necessity to quickly scale business forcing start-ups to embed it into the core of their strategy.

What is growth hacking, really? ponders Josh Elman as he delves into a deep explanation based on his experience. Growth hacking is nothing if not marketing. “Welcome to growth hacking. Or better, welcome to actual marketing, where whatever works is marketing”, says Ryan Holiday. In essence, it’s a distribution strategy. At heart, growth hacking is about little tweaks to the product and smart use of available tools to distribute a product efficiently and cheaply. What’s interesting is how it combines functions from different departments, namely product development and marketing, in order to carry out its goal. It builds marketing into the product.

Two iconic (and successful) growth hacks come courtesy of Dropbox and Hotmail. Dropbox first grew its user base by encouraging its existing users to refer the service to friends by rewarding them with free additional storage. Hotmail added its own signature at the bottom of every e-mail sent by its users promoting its own e-mail client. Growth hacking helped these companies keep their marketing spend close to $0. More importantly, growth hacking allowed these companies to use their products to do the work for them.

If you think about it, traditional marketing does all this already – or at least, should. Good marketing is about making products that sell themselves, products that people buy and use over again, then recommend to their friends and families. Growth hacking is, in a way, the techie version of traditional marketing. The traditional marketer used to do things the old way; it’s time to embrace the change and take advantage of the possibilities growth hacking offers.

How can you inject growth into your marketing strategy?

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