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This whitepaper discusses the how growth hackers develop and use their strategies, and how the kings and queens of the growth hacking industry have gained an edge over traditional marketing by redefining what marketing is through startup growth strategies.

The Traditional Marketing “Oops” that Gave Rise to Growth Hacking

Startups need to grow to survive just as much as established businesses need to grow to survive – if not more so. Without growth, startups stall and die – just established businesses stall and die without growth.

To combat stalled growth, traditional marketers utilize tried and true techniques to help secure new growth avenues while focusing on what the business needs in order to survive and expand.

However, those tried and true techniques usually only focus on a single – or maybe two or three marketing techniques – and focuses on what is known to work for every startup, while not always adapting to what works for individual startups. While this used to work with traditional businesses, e-commerce is entirely different, and requires a different thought process.

With the way that Aaron Ginn, the Head of Growth for StumbleUpon, talked about growth, he said:

“There are different types of growth — small wins and big wins. Growth hackers look beyond the obvious optimizations into deep product assumptions and usage for a feature that will be a game changer.” – Aaron Ginn, StumbleUpon’s Head of Growth 

It makes one wonder whether traditional marketers simply gave up on certain aspects of the industry, because Ginn’s statement is truer than even he realizes where growth hacking is concerned.

Noting the Differences Between Traditional Marketing and Growth Hacking

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary  defines the term “marketing” as either:

  • The act or process one uses to sell or purchase within a market, or
  • The process or technique one uses to sell or distribute a product or service.

Many a traditional marketer – those who handle the obvious optimizations of which Ginn was writing – loathes distribution so much that they, oftentimes, conveniently forget that distribution is crucial to coaxing growth. Neither a startup nor an established business can expect to sustain growth without having adequate distribution strategies in place.

Having these strategies in place help the business cover the products and services new consumers need and want – the basic principle of supply and demand.  Many a traditional marketer leaves the distribution to others, which is unfortunate.

Forgetting about the distribution aspect of growth not only leaves every startup completely vulnerable to the competitors that did not forget, but it also leaves an opening for another marketer to pick up the slack.

Because traditional marketers frequently overlook this crucial aspect of startup growth, they essentially handed it off to the growth hackers who have since stepped in and mastered this and every other aspect of the growth pattern, in any phase of operation, with ease.

Traditional marketing has changed so much over the years by retreating from the accepted definition of what a marketer can and should so that doing so inadvertently gave rise to the growth hacking industry.

How Growth Hackers Develop Their Strategies

The phrase “single marketing strategy” is not one that is in any true growth hacker’s dictionary. This is because growth hacking in itself is not a single strategy, or even a combination of two, or three strategies, per se. That would be what traditional marketing is, and this is anything but traditional.

On the other hand, in today’s business climate, it is more about finding fresh ways to look at growth and find patterns, while making them work in different marketing settings than simply understanding the target consumer. Catering to that consumer isn’t enough, and leaves too much to chance.

Growth hackers leave nothing to chance, and try everything at least once, an admirable aspect that makes them the game changers.  Hacking growth focuses on not only the marketing aspects of business, but also focuses on incorporating a little something of every strategy type into a technique or growth product that is adaptable for every business. They master everything growth and marketing that every business needs so that they can survive during their own growth crisis, while helping the businesses meet and exceed product or service distribution goals consistently. 

In fact, Gagan Biyani of The Young Entrepreneur Council, in a piece for VentureBeat, said it perfectly:

“With all of our obsession over quantitative (“performance”) marketing, we’ve forgotten one of the core ideas of building brands. Brands are built by understanding the customer. The better you understand the customer, the better you are at everything growth hacking.” - Gagan Biyani, VentureBeat

Understanding Clientele and Their Core Needs

This is something else that traditional marketers have forgotten – how to understand the customer and, in this case, the customer is the startup business.

While traditional marketers understand how the business needs him or her to promote the core product or service, he or she may not understand what else a business needs.

Understanding every aspect of a business’ core philosophy, core advertising and marketing needs, and core products, and not focusing on any one aspect, is the only true way to develop growth strategies that work now and in the future.

It’s Not Only About Understanding

Growth hacking is not just about finding new ways of reaching current core audiences – that’s the traditional way of doing things, as shown above. No, the growth hacker can find new ways to reach new audiences without alienating current core audiences – and they can keep both audiences coming back for more.

Having the ability to hack growth patterns helps growth hackers to jumpstart startups, which allows them to reach their marketing and sales goals faster, which means they might have a chance at surviving the current economic climate.

Secrets to Hacking Growth Strategies

Hacking growth patterns combines a technique that is so far out of reach of the traditional marketer’s comfort zone, growth hacking is not a strategy any marketer with traditional training would be willing to adopt, let alone attempt to crack in his or her marketing campaigns, for fear of failure.

No, the growth hacker is something entirely different. 

In fact, the kings and queens of growth hacking hold the secrets to the universe – the marketing and startup universe, that is.

The secret to the growth hacking methodology does not lie in the things the growth hacker does, per se, but rather, it lie in the way he or she thinks. This thought process allows the growth hacker to set him or herself apart from the rest of the marketing world by pushing himself or herself a step further in the trial and error phase.

Encompassing the marketing aspects of industries such as marketing, developing, programming, advertising, customer service, management, and social media marketing, allows growth hackers to string together a variety of techniques, all of which are cherry picked from the different industries. They pick these techniques because they are tested, and found viable now – not 1 year or 10 years from now.

Successful growth hackers duct tape the viable techniques together and produce a workable, scalable strategy that is, more importantly, a sustainable solution for providing growth where none might have been possible using traditional methods. Trial and error allows growth hackers to expand on the concept of traditional marketing, which allows them to succeed in an arena where traditional marketers wouldn’t otherwise touch.

Some brands that have utilized traditional marketing which still survive – thrive – to date, such as JC Penny, Sears, and Wal-Mart, among others, and they use traditional marketing to their advantage. Though they continue to do so, even these brands are moving away from traditional marketing, and into another stratum, one that includes the growth hacker. This allows them to successfully create new ways for startups to attain the viral growth they need now, and in the future.

In the End

Because one cannot define growth hacking in any single way, mastering growth pattern hacking is not simple, and it is not something that one can learn quickly. It can, however, be learned over time with trial and error, and this type of immersive learning is something in which growth hackers specialize.

The kings and queens of growth hacking have figured out how to keep their consumer base happy without sacrificing or alienating their core audiences. They have been pushing the limits of traditional marketing for years, and have created a successful industry all their own.