Dropbox, Facebook, AirBnb, Twitter. Hotmail. A new generation of multibillion dollar brands built without spending a dime on “traditional marketing.” No press releases, no PR firms, and no billboards in Times Square. It wasn’t luck that took them from tiny start-ups to millions of users and massive valuations. They have a new strategy, called Growth Hacking. And it works. In this e-special, bestselling author Ryan Holiday shows how the marketing game has changed forever. He explains the growth hacker mindset and provides a new set of rules—critical information whether you’re an aspiring marketer, an entrepreneur, or a Fortune 500 executive.
Marketing is clearly changed as digital eats away into consumers’ attention. But there’s more than erosion of attention. The opportunities afforded to consumers through digital, the empowerment of choice, has also eroded the effectiveness of traditional marketing techniques: talking “at” consumers. If you want to get their attention, you have to do something interesting, compelling, emotionally connecting. Which means that growing a business is no longer about just throwing money at advertising.
Enter growth hacking.
The idea is simple: engineer uptake and virality by aligning PMF (product-market fit) with consumer needs and expectations. This very quick read does a great job of providing a primer on growth hacking using some very salient examples: Hotmail, DropBox, and Groupon. Of course, these are all digital businesses which is my one gripe about the book as I feel that growth hacking has applicability to physical products. Still, if you are a marketer living in the past, this book is an eye opener about how you can create buzz and generate interest without spending a ton of money. Although it’s not in the book, a great example of this was River Pools Pools and Spas. You’ve probably never heard of this small pool company in Warsaw, Virgina but they turned their entire business around just by being helpful. In 2009, the economy was in a depression. People weren’t spending money on luxury items like building custom pools. And like many other pool builders, Marcus Sheridan, the co-owner of River Pools and Spas, was circling the drain. So he tried something different—he wrote down the answers to all the questions customers had ever asked him about pools and started publishing them on his website. The results? In 2009, their website was 20 pages. In 2013, it’s close to 850. In 2007, when the economy was high, they spent about $250,000 in advertising to achieve roughly $4 million in sales. In 2011, when luxury spending was in the dumps, they spent $20,000 in advertising to generate $4.5 million in sales.
I highly recommend this book (which can be read in an hour) to anyone looking for ways to grow businesses (or lines of business) without spending crazy marketing budgets. I also challenge those with crazy marketing budgets to see if they can get the same results (let’s face it, anything is better than 1-2% ad awareness) by engineering virality and hacking the growth of their business.