Growth Hacking: Not Just for Marketers Anymore


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We recently helped run an un-conference workshop at the IEEE’s Electronic Design Automation Summit in Santa Clara, California. Working with a host of technical engineers, our goal was to engage in a rapid fire session that would identify and seek to resolve gaps, problems and challenges that inhibit the growth of the EDA market.  A lot of great insights and good ideas came out in this session — and our visual notes are above.   This wasn’t your typical engineering summit, and we didn’t have time to get into the weeds on data and analytics — it was creative and inspired — and very well received.

As we approached the EDA Summit, we were challenged by how to label our activities.  As we batted around terms, I recommended calling it a “Growth Hacking” session for the EDA industry.   While the term has been worn thin in my professional circles, it’s not a familiar one to most engineers. So, I took a moment to trace things back for the team.

Over the years, the term “Growth Hacking” has been thrown about by an array of geeklebrities and social media elite and members of the media.  The term “Growth Hacking” is attributed to Qualaroo founder and CEO, Sean Ellis used it in a 2010 presentation, defining a growth hacker as “someone whose true north is growth.”  In 2012, Aaron Giin from Tech Crunch defined a growth hacker as someone with “a mindset of data, creativity and curiosity” among other things. Andrew Chen, who is hailed for making the term popular in 2012 defines a growth hacker as:

…a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph. On top of this, they layer the discipline of direct marketing, with its emphasis on quantitative measurement, scenario modeling via spreadsheets, and a lot of database queries. If a startup is pre-product/market fit, growth hackers can make sure virality is embedded at the core of a product. After product/market fit, they can help run up the score on what’s already working.

Yowzers!  That’s a lot.  So in summary — we use marketing and technologists to focus on getting more customers – using testing, analytics and marketing tactics — leveraging data and facts to optimize things and come up with ways to drive better results.  Okay. Makes sense.

According to Wikipedia:

Growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.

I have often wondered why people were trying to rebrand marketers as growth hackers.  Maybe it just sounds a bit cooler than “Marketer” does? It would be like marketing to take the job and rebrand it, after all.   Regardless, it seems to that growth hacking should be a part of any marketer’s job…  In fact, I’d assert that the call to hack growth should, at some level, apply to everyone’s job.

In today’s competitive economy,  a culture of growth hacking can benefit companies of all sizes.  We need people that are keenly interested in creating better products and services, operating smarter, faster and more responsively creating demand and increasing market share.  Most importantly, we need to embrace the idea that one of the best tactics for hacking growth is serving people in a consistently positive manner.

So while I think growth hacking is a great term — calling it “a technique” — or assigning it to marketing seems way too limited.  To me, a growth hacking a set of techniques.   And a growth hacker is a mindset that can exist in a person regardless of their unique skills or competencies.  We can harness that collaboratively to create a growth hacking culture….  

All this aside, this is how we defined the term for our industry engineers:

“Growth hacking” is a term marketing technique originally developed by technology startups.  Growth hacking techniques leverage individual and group skills, creativity,  social metricsbig data, testing and analytics, to fuel iterative product development, expand reach, and increase market share.

What do you think?  Does the redefinition work for you?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Leigh Durst
Leigh (Duncan) Durst is the principal of Live Path. She is a 19 year veteran in business, operations and customer strategy, ecommerce, digital and social media. As an active consultant, writer, speaker and teacher, she is an advocate for creating remarkable customer experiences that harness digital media and improving business outcomes.


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