Out of all the questions you could ask a growth hacker, there is one that will always make them take an extra deep breath before answering.
“Well, what is it exactly that you do?”
Ask any growth hacker, they will all agree on this one. It’s a simple question. It could come up at a job interview or at Christmas with your family. Either way, answering “I work for a growth hacking agency” will not make the cut, and chances are no one will grasp the difference between traditional marketing and growth hacking straight away. In this post you’ll read about what differences there are between the two and, though it won’t be easy for us growth hacking supporters, we will try to be impartial and give you an objective judgment of the differences between traditional marketing and growth hacking.
Main differences between growth hacking and traditional marketing
Marketing funnelGrowth hacking means going full-funnel while traditional marketers tend to be focused mainly on its top part. You might have heard about the AIDA funnel (awareness, interest, desire action) traditional marketers use. Growth Hackers believe the sales funnel is a little more complicated than just these 4 steps. We use the Pirate Funnel to realise growth for businesses.
Growth hacking goes beyond just marketingA well-known definition of marketing is: “Placing the right product at the right price in front of the right people at just the right time.”. The thing is, in traditional marketing, there is not often looked at the product and what value it brings to the customer. Growth hackers critically look at the product they are trying to grow, and they look at how changing certain aspects of that product might benefit the customer more or in order to allow for different marketing angels in hopes of a better response from consumers.
MindsetData mindset is another growth hacking feature that does not really belong to traditional marketing. Using testable, trackable, and scalable marketing is what makes growth hackers stand out. They don’t make assumptions but hypotheses backed up with scientific evidence based on user behaviour analyses.
BudgetTraditional marketers usually work with greater budgets and more established businesses through traditional media channels. Growth hacking was born in new, young startups, its ability to work with smaller budgets is rooted in its DNA. This startup mentality, however, is also scalable to bigger heights in combination with bigger budgets.
ExperimentsIn traditional marketing, growth is realized through a pre-planned marketing strategy, a slow and time-consuming process. Growth Hackers perform calculated low-cost experiments rapidly without endless thought processes and reasoning. There is no one ‘ultimate’ hack that works out for every case. You test and based on the data the test delivers, you make informed decisions.
TargetingGrowth hacking is not about the biggest audience, but the right one. Your audience can be as big as you want, but if you are delivering your message to people who have no interest in receiving it, you are doing nothing but wasting money. Growth hackers put effort into narrowly defining an audience, this way receiving the most conversions, leads, or whatever your desired event is at the lowest price possible.
ROICalculating the Return On Investment of traditional marketing is extremely difficult, is beyond doubt that it raises awareness but metrics like reach (the number of people who have seen your content) just don’t cut it. Growth hacking uses specific metrics to evaluate experiments and their impact is clearly trackable in terms of ROI. And it does not stop there. By including retention and referral we are focusing on total client value.
Growth hacking vs traditional marketing in practice
Let’s talk about Airbnb. In the early stages of Airbnb, the founders of the company Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk, were nothing but a team of broke guys based in San Francisco with a billion dollar idea in the making. They did try with traditional marketing at first, using a traditional promotion strategy that combined word of mouth and PR coverage to gain exposure. They reached out to their target audience by attending tech events where there was likely to be a shortage of housing, getting their first wave of early adopters.
However, it was when they started growth hacking that Airbnb success skyrocketed. They came up with the Craigslist API reverse engineering hack. This strike of genius allowed users of Airbnb to automatically post their listings on Craigslist, giving them access to the huge, already existing, user base of the platform.
As covered before, growth hacking is all about experimenting with growth tactics. No experiment works the same for different cases or businesses, so it’s important to be innovative and to think outside of the box. Only then will your business realise true growth. If you are a growth hacker, we hope we were able to provide you with some material to work with for explaining your profession, and if you aren’t a growth hacker, we hope we were able to inform you more about the main differences as to why growth hacking is not the same as ‘just marketing’.
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