You’re not a Growth Hacker! You’re a Marketer!

- September 23, 2013 3 MIN READ

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words “growth hacking” last week, I would have about $35.00 (i probably had 45 conversations last week)

Growth Hacking has become a word that a lot of startups are using, but I would estimate around 60% of the conversations I have had with people have resulted in it being very clear that they have absolutely no understanding of what the term means. Likewise, just like the good old “social media” experts that have flooded the market place we are beginning to see a group of individuals that are starting to promote themselves as growth hackers to a space that to be brutally honest don’t quite get the term or what it means.

There are many words / phrases I dislike in the startup space:

mumpreneur (you are an entrepreneur, the fact you are a mother is irrelevant)

teenpreneur (again you are just a young entrepreneur)

pivot (can’t you just say, that was a shit idea let’s change direction)

We are kind of like _________ for __________ (just tell people what problem you’re fixing and how)

Thought Leadership (wank!)

And before we get all “we’ve seen you comment on mum and teenpreneur stories in the media before” yes I have and I have also relayed my thoughts around the stupidity of the terms to those media outlets, they were just not packaged together in the stories.

Like most startups in Australia right now that have passed the build and testing stages of their business, I have personally been concentrating lately on growth in two areas:

  1. Readers and Subscribers of our publications
  2. Customers and Revenue Partners

Naturally being surrounded by people that we interview daily on the site who are all building fast growth, scalable businesses – I have geared towards focusing on the same marketing techniques that they employ to replicate similar results they are getting when it comes to attracting more readers to visit our sites and engage with our content.

Growth Hacking no matter what way you look at it fits under the umbrella of Marketing. It is a particular practice where a marketer combines their skill set with tech knowledge (in most cases) in order to produce a flow of new acquisitions into a business. This type of marketing whilst seen more in startup companies, can and has been used for many years in a variety of different companies both online and offline.

I’m still confused

Don’t worry, so am I – faux growth hackers would have you believe that what they do is something that needs to be studied by those of the highest intellect. In reality anyone can be a growth hacker, in it’s rawest form, the term “growth hacking” simply means: finding a new way to solve an issue | thinking outside the box to experience viral growth.

When explaining what I mean by this to people, I use the memory of the earliest offline growth hack I remember as a kid. Smiths Chips. Do you remember Tazo’s?

In 1995 Smith’s released a limited amount of 100 designs of Looney Tunes characters, which over the next year increased as they added another few collections to their kit. Looking back there was nothing special about Tazo’s at all, they were a plastic / cardboard circle or hexagon, but with the help of their PR company Smith’s totally growth hacked the public by making it seem as though the very cheap to make, worthless product, was worth a lot when someone had an entire collection.

I remember very clearly seeing news reports where people were selling their full collections of Tazo’s for ten’s of thousands of dollars. Daily Acquisitions of chip products went through the roof as adults competed for a slice of the action. Smiths rode the back of that fad for nearly 10 years, whilst it only really worked for them in the first couple, it was a brilliant example on how to get people engaged in your brand on a daily basis.

Back then, this was just called clever marketing strategy – and that is exactly what growth hacking is.

All marketers should be growth hackers!

The whole point of marketing is to help a company build their customer base and leads. The marketing industry seem to be way to obsessed with labels; online marketing, offline marketing, social marketing – but at the end of the day isn’t it all just marketing? You are just using different mediums to do the SAME thing to reach the SAME goal – Growth for your company.

As the way in which we conduct business changes, so will the way we “growth hack” for or “market” companies. It is obvious that the term is here to stay and will be hanging around for quite a while, but I throw caution to those of you that are approached by a “growth hacker” offering you the world on a silver platter. Make sure they understand the basic’s of marketing first.


Here are some great reads on Growth Hacking:

How Paypal and Reddit faked their way to Traction

Matt Ho discusses Growth Hacking on Google Hangout

How to Identify your products Bottleneck

Growth Hacker TV

How BrandYourself unexpectedly got 60K users 60 hours