The term “Growth Marketing” is definitely not new, but it certainly didn’t have the same traction as it’s popular brother “growth hacking”. I’ve seen it mentioned a couple of times but nobody really committed to it.
I feel that now it’s a well-rounded word that defines a new stage in the evolution of Marketing. A name that describes the Marketer of today and of the immediate future.
I’ve seen the rise and popularity of the online environment, redefining the Who, How and Where of Marketing. After that, growth hacking came along and gave it another spin.
I don’t think Marketing is changing, I think it just builds on top of the knowledge we already know. I still have the foundation cemented in college, built with the knowledge of Philip Kotler and Naresh Malhotra.
Growth Marketing is feeding of all adjacent areas of business and grows alongside them. Especially in SaaS, it was influenced a lot by product management and software development. Growth Marketing feeds off new technologies and evolves alongside demand and supply.
Growth Hackers – All that plus a bag of chips
I always furthered myself from the concept of “growth hacking”. I feel that I don’t wanna associate myself with anything that over promises and sounds really hyped. While I am focused on growth, I’ve never been a fan of this phrasing. Since the early beginning, there was always a niche of Marketers that created unrealistic expectations.
People always like the promise of quick over-delivery over the long-term strategies. In the online world, first it was SEO where everybody wanted to rank for #1, and then it was “viral marketing” with millions of free outreach and now it’s growth marketing.
Growth Hackers develop into T-shaped specialists – meaning they go in-depth on a certain skill-set while having cross-disciplinary competencies. And that makes people think that anyone that calls himself a Growth Hacker can be a 3 in 1 expert ( which is not the case ). And like Andrew Chen said it, they are the new VPs of Marketing ( I’ve seen a lot of Growth Marketers with 2-3 years of experience ).
The truth is that what I do has nothing to do with hacking or programming but I do require the assistance of a developer from time to time. But every Marketer out there knows the struggle of looking at an endless number of charts and metrics. Not to mention dealing with the moody beast that is Google in terms of SEO/PPC.
Not saying that the “growth hacker” achievement is impossible to unlock, but unfortunately you can’t growth hack years of experience and knowledge. I remember how SEO changed throughout time and ended up requiring you to be aware of all other areas like CRO/Content writing/HTML/Analytics/Website Architecture ( and most importantly how they may affect ranking ).
The Straw That Broke The Growth Marketer’s Back
Since its inception in 2010, the term “growth hacking” became very popular and very loosely thrown around. Sean Ellis describes the growth hacker as “a person whose true north is growth” and Andrew Chen updated the definition with “are a hybrid of marketer and coder”. Since then, people kept piling on skills and areas of expertise that a growth hacker must possess.
Even though Growth Marketers and Growth Hackers preoccupy themselves with scalable growth, I never warmed up to the latter phrasing. In a desperate need for a new identity, many marketers have been “pushed” towards growth hacking even though they do not identify as such.
We have to know PPC/Online Ads, SEO, Copywriting, User Experience, CRO, Analytics and many more. Nothing that revolves around coding or hacking. Who thinks a Growth Marketer’s job ends when we leave the office is gravely mistaken.
A Strong Shift Towards Data-Driven Storytelling
We have to look at an increasing number of data. SaaS tools that are revolving around Marketing and Analytics are in no short supply. We even abuse the good old excel sheet that seems to be the swiss army knife when everything fails to help.
We can follow through the visitor through all the steps of the funnel. It’s extraordinaire to see how you can see data for pretty much anything. But the ability here is to write an easily digestible story that all stakeholders in the company.
A Growth Marketer needs to possess the ability to know where to look and how to interpret the data that the company collects, but he also needs to know how to present it, how to make it take form and become alive. You need to be able to easily explain it to everybody, regardless of their skills and knowledge.
You may know what SERPS, LSA, RLSA, and SKAG may mean but your bosses may not – and they might not care! They just want to know if it’s profitable or not, if it’s growing or not. So it’s imperative that you not only learn how to find and read the data but also to translate it for everybody else.
“Growth” is a Visual Word
It became very popular in the last few years this concept. It’s used in UI to reduce the visual overload and to simplify the interface. Designers use cognitive patterns to simplify the meaning of things. For example, when we see a little square with a number next to an icon, we know it’s a message for us. A habit from years and years of being exposed to the Facebook interface.
When I think of copy that packages a lot of meaning, I always go back to Hemingway. The story tells that one time he made a bet that he can craft a story with just 6 words. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The dark story became very popular through the years for being simple and emotional loaded at the same time.
If used properly, copy can convey a lot of meaning if used properly and can simplify the message. You may not need the visual reinforcement from other visual cues. In that way, the word growth is very visual and adds context – in our case, it gives Marketing a direction
Sadly, everyone wants to believe that “growth hacking” is the answer to all their problems because it was packaged to look promising. It looks like an easy to swallow pill that will take your headaches away. Even though I am a strong fan of the Airbnb growth story, I do know that it is a tailor-made success method created by people with years of experience. Sadly, people are capitalizing on selling Growth Hacking the same way they capitalized on Viral Marketing in 2007.
I’m in no way trying to chip away the skill-set or devalue the merits of true Growth Hackers. This article is meant for all specialists out there that haven’t reached that level yet. Growth Hackers are the new VP’s of Marketing. But the majority of us – the Managers, Executives, and Specialists – who also work on growth, need a name. And that is Growth Marketer!