Growth hacking. Such a buzz word, right? But it seems like no one can come to an agreement on what it really is. Some say it’s when marketing meets product development. Others say it’s all about analytics and experimentation. And then, there are some that call growth hacker marketing just…bullshit.
So, what is it then? Let’s take a look at some of the most cited examples:
WATCH: What is Growth Hacker Marketing?
Growth Hacking Pioneers: Dropbox & AirBnB
Dropbox uses the “refer-a-friend for free space” campaign to help increase their growth to twenty-eight percent per month. What made this so clever was that Dropbox realized that rather than paying Google Adwords 350 dollars per customer, they could simply leverage the cheap cost of storage space. Giving out free space was cheap, and everyone referred everyone for it.
Another great example is Airbnb who, after some clever reverse-engineering, allowed their users to auto-post their ads onto Craigslist without the approval of Craigslist. This was ingenious! Airbnb knew that a huge portion of their target market gathered on Craigslist, and tapping into it skyrocketed their growth.
Is Growth Hacking for Startups ONLY?
Now because of examples like these, growth hacking seems to be associated firmly with startups. But I don’t really agree with that notion. Let’s break down the term: Growth – Hacking.
Growth: “The process of increasing in physical size.”
Now, in regards to “hacking”, you’re probably thinking “software hacking”. I understand why, but I’d like to subscribe to something different:
Hacker: “Someone who is willing to skirt or break the rules to achieve a singular goal.”
Put these two terms together and we have:
Growth Hacker: “Someone who’s willing to do pretty much whatever it takes to grow.”
There’s nothing in there about startups. In fact, growth hacking can even involve large corporations:
Case Study: The 1970 FIFA World Cup
Let’s go back to 1970 – The FIFA World Cup in Mexico. Adidas and Puma were fighting each other tooth and nail to win over as many athlete endorsements as possible. But this was beginning to get expensive. To avoid further financial bleeding, they agreed on what’s come to be known as the Pele Pact. The legendary player was off-limits for either company to use for promotional or advertising purposes.
But this is where Puma employed their growth hack. Just before the Grand World Cup Final, a Puma representative secretly approached Pele and made what turned out to be a very cost-effective deal.
The match was about to begin. The world was watching. And just as the referee was about to blow the whistle, Pele asked for a moment to tie his shoelaces! The camera zoomed in, and the entire world watched as Pele laced up his brand-new Pumas. The world’s greatest football player was now publicly affiliated with Puma.
Product/Market Fit First – Growth Hacking Second!
Now looking back at these examples, you’ll notice that all of these products have something crucial in common—all of them had already found product/market-fit before they implemented their hacks.
You see, growth hacking isn’t really possible if your product hasn’t picked up stride yet. Think of it as throwing gasoline onto a fire. The fire is your product. The gasoline is your growth hack. If there aren’t any flames, throwing fuel on it isn’t really going to do much, is it? So before anything else, validate your product and find a market fit. Once you do, you can go out there and find your gasoline.