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Is Growth Hacking Right For Your Business?

September 15, 2014 - Marketing - , ,
By: Chris Riley

There are few modern marketing practices that have been as revolutionary as growth hacking. With internet marketing constantly being challenged to achieve more, especially at startups with little money and even less marketing experience, growth hacking has quickly become an inexpensive and effective way to increase product engagement. But as more and more chief marketing officers jump on board, it’s important to understand what growth hacking is—and what it isn’t.


What is Growth Hacking?

At the most basic level, the answer is right there in the name: growth. A business that needs to grow quickly, without focusing on the long-term sustainability of the methods used, is well positioned to use growth hacking as a marketing solution. Every strategy, initiative and project a growth hacker undertakes will be uncompromisingly fixated on growth. While growth hacking doesn’t use traditional methods of marketing, it isn’t intended to replace those methods either.

Growth hacking is, by necessity, a complex and subtle type of marketing requiring a deep understanding of the nature of the internet and internet products. While growth hacking certainly requires a huge amount of creativity, it is also generally more heads down and technical than traditional strategies. This means it’s vital that your marketing and engineering groups work together as a team to create solutions. Good growth hackers are analytical and obsessive, examining and re-examining their log analysis platforms and actively responding to what works and what doesn’t. Split testing is essential—as is ruthlessly discarding what doesn’t work before moving on to the next idea.


The Right Business & Product

Generally, growth hacking is most effective for startups who need to develop a good user base quickly and have the type of product best suited for a self-perpetuating, social marketing strategy. It’s not necessarily right for every kind of business and definitely not right for every kind of product.

Growth hacking should be used as the tool it is for the job it’s meant to do. Each experiment should be followed up by concrete analysis of what worked and what didn’t, and then changes should be made to approach and implementation. It’s not a quick-fix scheme; it’s a deliberate process and many companies don’t follow up.

Growth hacking can be a powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal if used correctly. It can take a small startup and bring it to national attention. But it’s also important to remember that if you’re trying to build a smart, sustainable business that will continue to expand and be successful in the long run, growth hacking should be part of a long-term strategy.


Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.

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