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Growth Marketing vs. Growth Hacking


Every startup boils down to GROWTH: achieving it, sustaining it, reinventing it. Paul Graham of Y Combinator famously said "A startup is a company designed to grow fast". Your newly founded company is a startup and not just another ordinary small business because it is meant to serve a huge mass by design, and has the potential to scale.

Now that you've got a great idea, a viable product, how do you get people to know it, use it, and remain active on it? That's where Growth Hacking came in to bridge the gap between the product and the market. Growth Hacking, a trending term in the startup scene, focuses on experimentation and out-of-the-box solutions to drive viral growth. In particular, unconventional ways to achieving growth Before Product Market Fit (BPMF).

The term “Growth Hacking” coined by Sean Ellis was born out of desperate need to source marketing talents that aren’t focused on what business schools used to teach you about the 4Ps - product, price, promotion, place - but a new breed of marketers that aren’t afraid to experiment with unconventional tactics to achieve the simple most important thing for startups (you've guessed it, growth). Growth Hackers are not about business-as-usual marketing or sending out press releases to big publishers. They are on a mission to test the Product/Market Fit hypothesis with consumer data/insight they gather with whatever marketing tactics they implement, and constantly tweak the product to suit the newly found consumer pains in order to go to market with a better product to attract more users. Then iterate.

What we’ve taken so granted for now in digital marketing - A/B testing, optimization, viral widgets/apps - was such a revolutionary game changer in marketing. Traditionally, marketing relies on the media mix and advertising campaigns to drive awareness and generate demand. Growth hacking, however, dares to deliver the same result traditional marketing did with limited or even no media spend. It leverages on extremely innovative solutions that would spread itself like a virus on the internet or through word-of-mouth, mostly driven by lack of resources and desperation for growth. Because of this nature, there is not job description for growth hacking. It is a system, a process, and most importantly, a mentality. If traditional marketing blurs the lines between sales/marketing/PR, growth hacking is a blend of marketing/product/engineering/.

Some tactics a growth hacker might focus on to achieve rapid growth include:

● built-in product viralbility, such as how Dropbox used incentive sharing

● platform integration, such as what Airbnb did for posting to Craiglist

● onboarding email deliverability

● landing page A/B tests

● page-load times

● Test, test, test

Now, growth hacking is clearly extremely critical for early stage startups before Product/Market Fit to gain traction with every technique possible. But once the product/market fit is achieved, the need for rapid growth transitions into the need to stay relevant.

This calls for marketing for growth, a hybrid of growth hacking/brand development/marketing that is focused on growing a brand After Product/Market Fit (APMF). Ironically, at this stage, the 4Ps of classic marketing becomes relevant again. How does your product/service/brand stay as a top choice for current customers while continue to acquire new ones? Marketing for growth shares the same mentality as growth hacking, but must understand the practices and nuances of traditional marketing. If growth hacking focuses on finding that low competition, high volume marketing channel, marketing for growth succeed in outsmarting competitors in the high competition, high volume marketing channels, with more cost-efficiency and room for optimization/iteration/growth.

Growth marketing goes back to marketing’s roots of connecting brands with people, but still looks at API and tactics to make adjustments. I found this great article written by Steven Moody that if the technical co-founder is about "make things people want" and business co-founder whose main mission is to "find people who want what you make", the marketer's job is to "make people want what you make". I cannot agree more. At the APMF stage, marketing should be generating mass emotional demand for your product. This might involve doing some of the classical marketing to deliver compelling stories to invoke mass desires for your product, whether through highly creative copy writing, PR, TV commercial, in order to result in a perceptional or behavioral change.

A growth marketer might focus on:

● Brand value proposition and messaging

Story-telling delivered through compelling content

● Customer segmentation and lifetime value

● Convergence media channel planning (paid, owned, earned)

● Conversion rate optimization

● Optimize, optimize, optimize

Which stage of your venture is at and what type of talent do you need for growth? Happy to hear your thoughts at

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