The Growth Hacker And The Mad Hatter

What makes a growth hacker?

The growth hacker is an interesting (and elusive) creature. As I explained in my previous post, growth hacking is a tool commonly used by engineers in startups in an effort to promote a product while keeping marketing costs down. Today’s marketers are like 17th century hatters (aka mad hatters), who were known to suffer disease from inhaling the fumes of their work until industrial advancements improved their working conditions; we’re still using our old-school tricks. Growth hackers are just a new breed of marketers… whose rise is due to technological advancements. Growth hacking uses the technology available to spread a product via friend referrals, social media, gamification and more.

A growth hacker is someone who employs these techniques; if you don’t have one, you’ve got to find one for your startup – or so says Sean EllisAndrew Chen proclaimed that the growth hacker is the new Marketing VP, but I don’t fully agree with that. I would say that’s the case for the tech sector, at best. Engineers can thrive in such environments which makes them a perfect fit for startups and a number one choice for the position of growth hacker. As Aaron Ginn points out, data, creativity and curiosity are three common characteristics of growth hackers; however, these can just as well be found in marketers. Marketing has always been about curiosity for understanding the consumer and creativity for distributing the product, and today, marketers have learned to use data as well to optimize these methods.

Sure, engineers may be apt for growth hacking. But marketers have a knack for it. Marketers have been figuring out ways to promote products for ages and we always explore new opportunities. In content marketing, we have viral content (the kind people want to share like The Old Spice Guy and Nike’s Winner Stays), and in good ol’ marketing, sales promotions (such as buy one get one deals, discounts, sampling and so on). We use different words but, really, these are all growth hacks – it’s just a question of semantics.

Who’s to say marketers can’t do the job of a growth hacker? We don’t make our own TV spots or brand campaigns either. We have creative agencies and production companies to help us with that. With growth hacking, we need only to turn to our IT department or seek out new partners to collaborate with to transform new technologies into marketing opportunities. What’s stopping non-tech companies from using growth hacking? Just because it’s used mainly by tech startups doesn’t mean corporate companies should be afraid of it. Call it a growth hack or a sales promotion. In the end, it’s a matter of knowing the market, choosing the right tools or partners, and leveraging the product to achieve your goals.

How can you go from mad hatter to growth hacker? 

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