The old equation that sees business growth as directly related to the size of the marketing budget used is nowadays obsolete. The traditional marketing techniques, as described in marketing manuals and courses, integrating long runs of brand awareness campaigns with short runs of paid advertising, look ineffective in the face of new techniques that could bring better results in less time and at almost no cost. This new way to deliver growth – a new approach not yet properly described – it utilizes a limited budget and minimizes the chances of being wrong. It appeared to everyone like a “shortcut” compare to the traditional marketing activities, giving more freedom to be innovative, to experiment and to try out new things. This “new marketing” – coined as “growth hacking” in 2010 – is an effective measure to revisit a brand’s purpose, promise, positioning and tactics employed to draw in a larger audience.
Growth hacking is a type of marketing with a unique goal: to grow a target audience in record fashion on a limited budget. Limited budgets make startups look for alternative ways to run their campaigns; these lead to changes from the common way people see businesses grow. Growth hackers use a data-driven approach that is shared through low-cost channels in order to achieve measurable jumps in metrics with the product serving as the distribution channel.
The grown popularity of growth hacking is leading many to think of this as a secret power that will bring growth into any organization. Although without a doubt, growth hacking gives quick wins, you cannot build long-term success based on these experiments. We tend to overestimate growth hacking because it’s easier to see. Social media and blogs provide lots of stories about companies scaling up very fast through growth hacks because that’s what people love to read. We all continuously hear great stories of the growth hacks that have brought companies such as Dropbox, Airbnb, Hotmail, Uber, etc. from small, unknown startups to billion-dollar companies and we think that growth hacking is really the only engine a business needs for growth. However, you haven’t heard about other startups that did great hacks but never seemed to take off. From those success stories, you might have concluded that growth hacking is really the key to success; however, by merely looking at the success of those companies, you miss the fact that many similar hacks were also done by other companies and they have never reached full scalability.
Immediately after the well-known Craigslist platform integration performed by Airbnb in 2010 – that allowed the company to get a large amount of traction – the company bent to more traditional marketing approaches in order to expand its customer base. It emphasized building relationships and value to its housing hosts. The company created relevant content about the area by collaborating with the local hosts. That also included collaborating with Google and investing in Google Search Ads (that helped Airbnb increase its listings from less than 10,000 to 80,000), as well as leveraging users’ social graphs via Facebook Connect. That, together with content management strategies like ‘blog.airbnb.com,’ an information repository for travelers, video contests and referrals were all traditional digital marketing strategies.
The Craigslist platform’s integration was largely advertised by the media but was soon combined with a more traditional digital marketing approach that brought the newly formed startup to its success. Would Airbnb be the company we know nowadays (with is identity, brand, mission, etc.) or just “the company that could hack Craigslist” if their growth hacking effort wasn’t placed into a long-term marketing plan? Could Uber’s huge success (which can be summarized as Launch>Make buzz>Make it big>Sustain>Grow) have happened without their Rider Zero Social Media Campaigns?
Increasing brand awareness, promoting company products/services and converting prospects into sales are essential elements for the success of a growth hacking campaign. There is no essential need for growth hacking to be separate from traditional marketing as the objectives of both are the same. The growth mindset is a combined approach organized into a process where you can win in the long-term and ‘hack’ continuously. The growth mindset uses hacks for the small wins, but its ultimate goal is not implementing hacks; the goal is building the right product for the right audience and delivering it in the right time and place. “Digital Marketing is an approach that emphasizes things as a whole, for the big wins in the long run. But with growth hacking techniques applied along the way, small wins are achieved. However, the big wins are the annual, semi-annual, and quarterly milestones that each brand is aiming for. Doubling your user-base, reaching a certain number of subscribers on your email list, or a certain revenue goal could be the reason for these milestones. Given the long wait of these things, it also requires you to attain the trust of each of your personas and keep their engaged selves at hand. These small wins are but short-term spikes that juice up your numbers. Samples of these are adding 8,000 fans to your Facebook page or gaining 300 new leads.” (source)
This book aims to bring growth into an organization by combining traditional marketing and growth hacking, rather than choosing one approach versus the other. This to be used in a structured and organized process: the P.I.B growth framework, a practical step-by-step guide to achieving growth.