growth hacking
October 6, 2016

Growth Hacking, should it matter to insight leaders?

By Paul Laughlin

What is Growth Hacking? Is it more than a buzzword & should this matter to Customer Insight leaders?

Continuing our marketing focus, let’s consider how you can use customer insight to achieve rapid business growth.

Informal chats with business leaders, especially of SMEs, have revealed a growing interest in how conversion (not just the classic focus on response) can be improved through insight.

Often times, a public interest is sparked by making up a new word (c.f. Big Data or Wearables). It seems using data/analytics/insight to drive growth is no different. This time the term that is most popular appears to be Growth Hacking.

When I first came across ‘Growth Hacking’, I discounted it as just the latest over-hyped jargon created to sell products. But I’m coming round. A bit like the proverbial ‘gift horse’, it seems it would be foolish to look this in the mouth & walk away. I say that, because the more I have read on Growth Hacking, the more I realise it is also emphasising the need for insight. Have you wondered if articles on growth hacking are relevant for you? If so, this post should help you start exploring the term.

A definition of Growth Hacking

As is often the case, a lot of hyperbole & just plain misunderstanding has proliferated as Growth Hacking became popular. So, there is a lot of dross & confusion out there. To help clear this up, let’s go back to the person who first coined the phrase. Sean Ellis has been a marketer helping a number of startups take grow dramatically (including DropBox, Eventbrite & others). In the context of startups, his focus, he defines growth hacking as:

For meaningful growth, startups must completely change the rules of traditional channels or innovate outside of those growth channels.  They are too desperate and disadvantaged to adapt to the old rules of marketing. They have to dig deep creatively, and relentlessly test new ideas.  If they don’t figure it out quickly, they will go out of business.

Some people would just call this marketing.  I call it growth hacking.  And the best growth hacks take advantage of the unique opportunities available in a connected world where digital experiences can spread rapidly.  Since most growth ideas fail, it becomes critical to test a lot of them.  The faster you can hack together an idea, the sooner you can start testing it for some signs of life.

Growth hackers don’t have time to waste around a white board strategising marketing plans. They are desperately testing trying to find something that works.

Why Growth Hacking matters for Marketing

In this article, Sean goes on to explain why growth hacking principles are not just for start-ups, but marketers everywhere:

Growth Hacking is for Smart Marketers – Not Just Startups

Startups live and die by their ability to drive customer acquisition growth. Of course many startups are doomed to failure and can’t grow because they never reach product/market fit. But even with product/market fit, traction is tough.

For a more in depth exploration, of what Growth Hacking means in practice, this piece from the QuickSprout blog is really helpful. It emphasises the Growth Hacking focus on Data, Design & Distribution as ways of disrupting current models & testing innovative ideas to get products in front of their best target customers. Hopefully through the case studies (like AirBnB in this post), you can see the relevance for Customer Insight leaders:

Why Growth Hacking matters for Customer Insight

If organisations (both start-ups & traditional corporates) begin to embrace the principles of growth hacking, as a way of executing all that talk of disruption, insight needs to be ready. From my perspective, there should be a natural partnership here. Similar to the IT/Statistics fusion happening in Data Science, Growth Hackers tend to have technology savvy, together with a strong interest in data sources and experimentation. Customer Insight leaders who combine the disciplines of data management, analytics & database marketing skills – share a very similar outlook.

Why Growth Hacking matters for Sales

Interestingly, similar to the potential for insight-thinking, growth hacking is also being identified as of relevance beyond marketing. A stronger emphasis on speed to market, use of data & technology opportunities, together with measuring success through experimentation & robust metrics. This piece from the Business 2 Community blog rightly points out that the principles of growth hacking apply equally to sales teams. Setting SMART goals, measuring progress with the right metrics, experimentation, tweaking & repetition to optimise – all these apply to improving sales performance too:

How can you get started?

So, if you’re convinced that Growth Hacking could be of interest to your business & another opportunity to implement insight, what next? Well, I’ve previously seen local meet-up groups work well for increasing understanding of applying Data Science in Scotland. This post suggests that the same has been happening for growth hackers in Paris (plus includes some interesting tips from that meeting):

In summary, I’d suggest finding out about Growth Hacker in your area. Try to keep an open mind beyond any initial spin or over-selling to keen but naive start-ups. Look out for opportunities to learn about how growth hackers are making a commercial difference. It might just be an opportunity to educate your leaders using language that may interest them. A chance to re-raise the importance of data management, market & consumer research, analytics, experimentation & statistically robust metrics (i.e. customer insight).

As growth hackers might say, just do it & see what happens!

Do let us know how you get on…