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Growth Hacking: New buzz word or the future of marketing?

The Singleton Consultancy
By Sean Singleton  //  Mon 7th October 2013
A new discipline has recently emerged from Silicon Valley’s start-up culture called Growth Hacking. Yes we love a new buzz word in marketing - But what is Growth Hacking?

Essentially, it is a way of generating significant growth, however not focused on the traditional process of marketing, but on what will achieve the quickest and best growth results for a product or service. The idea is to take a holistic view across a business from product to acquisition to conversion to retention to advocacy.

A number of digital brands such as Facebook, Google, Instagram, Amazon and Netflix gained great success, without spending a huge amount of money on TV, media, etc.  Instead they all shared some common themes. Most of them began life as a cash strapped start up without any traditional marketing resources. So with limitation being the mother of all creation, they had to find new, creative ways to achieve growth. 

Recently I was speaking with one of the UK’s few Growth Hackers, Liam Reynolds of True Up. He highlighted 3 key insights that drive growth for business such as Facebook, Groupon and Dropbox. 

 1. The internet enabled inexpensive access to millions and millions of people: This may be through social media or the increasing openness of platforms & APIs or a whole host of other options.  It just requires skilful navigation to reach critical success.

 2. The route to success isn’t a linear one. These companies realised that the best way of understanding what customers really want and determining the direction of their business was through test and learn.  In doing so, validating all ideas, hypothesis and gut instinct before making hard decisions.  This usually takes companies in a different direction than the one they originally intended.  For instance, half of Amazon’s success came from them evolving from a shop to a platform, allowing other business’s to sell their wares through the website.

3. Marketing alone isn’t the route to growth. At the core of growth hacking is the acute understanding of customer behaviour and what is it about the brand that makes people consume it. These can be defined as the brands “core brand values”, typically two or three words that best describe why customers use your service, for example: value, convenience, effectiveness, usability, functionality.

Companies such as Facebook realised that serving their “core product values” to consumers as quickly and as frequently as possible was what drove growth. It’s the “core product values” that drives marketing, messaging and communications as much as it does the product. So boundaries between product and marketing becomes blurred, converging on the same thing – the core product values.  It's worth noting that these “core product values” are often quite different to what the marketing team think the brand is all about.

Growth Hacking came about when turning these insights around technology, data and consumer behaviour into action.  Action that was tested repeatedly until significant growth was achieved.  

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