I don’t live in Silicon Valley, but I would have nothing against working for a company based there. As I have perused jobs of interest to me in the product marketing field, I have come across multiple positions (mainly at startups) for something called a “growth hacker.” I’m sure a lot of you are much hipper than I am and already know all about growth hacking, but let me introduce it for those who aren’t as familiar.

I found several excellent pieces of content about what growth hacking is and what a growth hacker does from Ryan Holliday, Josh Elman and Aaron Ginn, and I’m sure there’s a lot more out there. Sean Ellis is credited with coining the term, and Andrew Chen with popularizing it.

I like this quote, from Josh Elman. He defines growth hacking as:

 a new process for acquiring and engaging users combining traditional marketing and analytical skills with product development skills

Holliday, who also has a book out that I’ll likely pick up, described many differences between growth hacking and traditional marketing, which I have summarized as follows:

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True growth hackers rely on metrics to measure their impact. They may focus on moving specific metrics through an iterative process. This focus on measurement, along with a heavy creative streak and a strong sense of curiosity, is what makes a growth hacker successful. Growth hacking is not the next fad, however. Josh Elman warns:

I worry sometimes that this feels like a fad and people think“ooh, I will grow much faster if I can just find a magical unicorn growth hacker” or start to believe that you really can hack sustainable growth in any way.

growthhackerGrowth hacking was a significant part of the growth of such companies as Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, Zynga, Dropbox, AirbnB, and many more.

Although I did not know it at the time, I have been growth hacking my way through the last several years. I am sure that I am not alone in this. There are many who have been doing the same thing, with the same mindset. My mantra has always been that our first priority is to understand the needs of the market.

From there, it was about ensuring we are reaching a very targeted prospect set, and doing it through “lean” methods. I tried to never do anything without having a process for measurement in place. If we couldn’t measure it, it didn’t happen! Overall, it was about using creativity and curiosity to determine where our prospects were, how they consumed media, and the channels that we could best use to reach them and tell our story. And for bonus point, to get them to tell our story to others.

As I’ve been doing my research, it’s become clear that there aren’t many people who like the term “growth hacker” but they can’t find anything better to call it.

Call it what you want, and feel free to debate whether or not it is the “future of marketing” or whether or not it even is marketing, but growth hacking is another word for how all tech companies should be marketing these days. It is not a strategy, it is a shift in the marketing mindset that will become the hallmark of successful marketers and profitable, growing companies.


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