In the first week of my growth hacking traineeship, I uploaded a post on LinkedIn which included the following description: “the traineeship is an intensive, 6‑month program where I equip myself with the skills, tools & mindset to become a full-stack growth hacker (data-driven marketer)”. Now, two months later, I actually doubt if “data-driven marketer” really describes a growth hacker that is trained by The Talent Institute.
Ryan Holiday’s definition of a growth hacker is a good starting point to discuss the difference between a data-driven marketer and a growth hacker. He defines a growth hacker as “someone who has thrown out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaced it with only what is testable, trackable, and scalable. Their tools are e‑mails, pay-per-click ads, blogs, and platform APIs instead of commercials, publicity, and money. While their marketing brethren chase vague notions like “branding” and “mind share,” growth hackers relentlessly pursue users and growth — and when they do it right, those users beget more users, who beget more users. They are the inventors, operators, and mechanics of their own self-sustaining and self-propagating growth machine that can take a start-up from nothing to something.”
Let’s have a look at the first part: “someone who has thrown out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaced it with only what is testable, trackable, and scalable”.
The talent institute indeed teaches us that we should not make any assumptions, but that we, as growth hackers, should be focused on testing and tracking. When someone says: “That event was a great success!” a growth hacker will ask: “Why? What was your goal? Did you reach that goal?” Growth hacking is metric and ROI driven. When, for example, a button doesn’t look great, but the data says it works, a Growth Hacker will use the not so great looking button. A marketer may be more focused on the brand, emotions and storytelling and might not use the button that doesn’t look that great because it doesn’t suit the brand image.
Growth hackers not only focus on testing, tracking and scaling in the marketing area, like a traditional marketer would, but also concentrate on other areas of the business, such as engineering and product development. Therefore, a growth hacker has, next to marketing knowledge, an understanding of data analysis and product development. We, for example, need to be able to build landing pages and understand HTML coding, so we can iterate with speed and are not dependent on developers.
“Their tools are e‑mails, pay-per-click ads, blogs, and platform APIs instead of commercials, publicity, and money”.
This part of Ryan Holidays definition is more focused on the difference between offline marketing and Growth Hacking. Digital marketers also use e‑mails, pay-per-click ads, blogs and platform APIs. In terms of the channels that both use, there is thus not a noticeable difference. However, the channels are used in a different way and for a different purpose. Digital marketers usually use these channels to create awareness among consumers and to acquire and activate them. Growth hackers use these channels in all the phases of a customer funnel: we also focus on retention and referral.
While their marketing brethren chase vague notions like “branding” and “mind share,” growth hackers relentlessly pursue users and growth — and when they do it right, those users beget more users, who beget more users. They are the inventors, operators, and mechanics of their own self-sustaining and self-propagating growth machine that can take a start-up from nothing to something.
The creation of a self-sustaining marketing machine is only possible when there is product-market fit. Therefore, growth hackers combine marketing with product development to find a match between a product and a customer. When they find product-market fit, Growth Hackers focus on using existing customers to beget more users via referral marketing. In this way, the existing customers become the marketing machine of the company. This is a low-cost strategy and can create long term growth success.
Looking at job descriptions for a growth hacker or digital marketer, you will find that there is little difference. Both strive to achieve growth of the company. However, from the above discussion, it becomes clear that a growth hacker and data-driven marketer take a different approach in achieving growth and therefore need a different focus and skill set. Therefore, I believe that digital marketers and growth hackers should collaborate to achieve exponential growth. Marketing skills, such as copywriting, behavioural psychology and branding could be combined with A/B testing and funnel experience to be able to create the best possible product and content for the right consumer. Nonetheless, the phase that a company is in likely determines which skills are most needed. Growth hackers are mostly focused on growing the company fast, with low costs. A start-up needs growth to survive and can therefore probably benefit more from a growth hacker’s skills then a marketer’s.
From the above discussion, I can conclude that a growth hacker is not just another word for a data-driven marketer. While a growth hacker is definitely data-driven, there is a clear difference in mindset, focus and skills. I guess I will now have to go to my LinkedIn page to delete ‘data-driven marketer’ from the description of my growth hacking traineeship at The Talent Institute.