The term ‘growth hacker’ has recently gained popularity in Silicon Valley circles with many people blogging about it online. It represents a shift from traditional marketing to a more empirical data-driven approach in the online business world.
Although I usually do strategy or digital transformation projects for bigger companies and rarely startups, i absolutely find the term growth hacker portraying how I try to realize growth for clients through market research, analytics, financial modeling, strategy development and implementation road maps. Using an empirical approach which I feel is often lacking in the advertising or creative space where ‘oh lets build a fun app’ can still be seen happening too often. It’s my previous experience in digital marketing and the necessary level of knowledge about SEO, analytics, usability, e-commerce, platforms and technology (also for a big part because of blogging) that help me to understand platform strategies and how big established companies can realize growth by designing or improving their digital initiatives.
“The rise of the Growth Hacker“
The new job title of “Growth Hacker” is integrating itself into Silicon Valley’s culture, emphasizing that coding and technical chops are now an essential part of being a great marketer. Growth hackers are 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.
This isn’t just a single role – the entire marketing team is being disrupted. Rather than a VP of Marketing with a bunch of non-technical marketers reporting to them, instead growth hackers are engineers leading teams of engineers. The process of integrating and optimizing your product to a big platform requires a blurring of lines between marketing, product, and engineering, so that they work together to make the product market itself. Projects like email deliverability, page-load times, and Facebook sign-in are no longer technical or design decisions – instead they are offensive weapons to win in the market.
While others are more critical of the term, I think it’s part of a larger trend as we shift to big data or even small data; the need for analytical data-driven analysts and marketeers. As portrayed by this NYTimes article:
“Good with numbers? Fascinated by data? The sound you hear is opportunity knocking.”
A report last year by the McKinsey Global Institute, projected that the United States needs 140,000 to 190,000 more workers with “deep analytical” expertise and 1.5 million more data-literate managers, whether retrained or hired.
In my small hub of Amsterdam I already see this trend taking shape. Every few months I have someone asking if i know any analytical students or juniors that are good with numbers and would be interested in an analytical job often combining finance and web analytics. There seems to be a bright and interesting future ahead especially for those who love numbers and marketing.