How did you get into growth hacking?
After my bachelor’s I started a Master’s in Marketing at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. But in the meantime I was also freelancing, so I did a bit of study and a bit of work. But when I progressed in the Masters I kept on thinking: this is not the kind of marketing I was keen to learn more about.
I wanted to learn more about a contemporary, data-driven approach to marketing. As this didn’t happen in the Masters, I dropped out, and continued freelancing. I wanted to keep on developing myself. So I started looking for courses that could help me to reach my goals. I looked for traineeships and short degrees, as I didn’t want to do another Masters. And then I found out about growth hacking and the traineeship at The Talent Institute.
What appealed to me was growth hacking in itself. Back in 2016 it was a bit more of a hype than it is nowadays, but back then it really was known as ‘the next big thing’. The TTI traineeship focussed on this, and I thought this was much better than the dull curriculum in the Masters. I also noticed the level at TTI was very high, fellow trainees also had working experience and had completed their degrees.
Can you tell us a little more about you & your career?
So before I started the growth hacking traineeship at TTI, I was already a freelancer. I worked in the creative and cultural scene for festivals and events, as an online marketeer. During the traineeship I got matched to a clothing brand called Colourful Rebel, which was a very good match! After the traineeship they offered me a job, so I kept working for Colourful Rebel as a growth marketer for 2 years.
But then a recruiter approached me and asked if I was interested in a position at Filling Pieces. Filling Pieces is also a clothing- and shoe brand, also based in Amsterdam. So the transition was pretty easy, even though Filling Pieces was way more internationally focused than Colourful Rebel.
I started off as an online marketer with a focus on paid media. The online marketing team at Filling Pieces was pretty small, so it was an interesting time to get involved. I started looking for ways to prove myself and work my way up, and 3 years later I still work at Filling Pieces. But now as an online marketing manager.
I basically manage the ecommerce and the online marketing teams. You can also see it as a ‘Head of Digital’ role. We’re hiring a lot of specialized marketeers at the moment. We’re still relatively small but I think we’re making good efforts.
3 years at Filling Pieces already! What makes it so fun?
Interesting question! When I started I saw a lot of potential. Filling Pieces grew rapidly, basically because of one ‘hyped product’. This was similar to what I had experienced at Colourful Rebel, but Filling Pieces really made the step from being a ‘brand’ instead of being just ‘a product’.
I also saw a lot of international potential for Filling Pieces. They already were gaining a lot of ground in the States, UK and Germany. But they didn’t really have the manpower to expand globally and their digital marketing channels weren’t fully set up yet. When I started I really enjoyed contributing to this, there were a lot of things that weren’t covered yet. Think of CRO, email marketing. I could add a lot of value to this and immediately see great results. And that’s basically the dream of every growth marketer.
What makes this work so exciting is that Filling Pieces is very innovative. They still sell a lot of shoes, but they now sell everything fashion related: clothing, sunglasses, a wide range of shoes from sneakers to boots and loafers. Innovation is important for the products and the company as a whole. For me this is interesting because I get to think about how we can market these new products, what campaigns we can build and how we can present it within ecommerce.
Filling Pieces also stands for diversity, and this really appeals to me. I mean, a lot of companies want to be diverse and inclusive, but it’s part of Filling Pieces’ identity. There’s a lot of different people from different cultures working together and there is little to no hierarchy. I mean, there is hierarchy, but you could be working with the founder or creative director on projects, too. This open culture makes it a very nice working environment.
Recent graduates sometimes don’t really know what ‘growth hacking’ is, what does growth hacking mean according to you?
Well, I haven’t used the term ‘growth hacking’ in a while now. Maybe it has become a bit ‘standard’. Growth hacking means Digital Marketing to me. And in particular, growth hacking is data-driven digital marketing.
I also think you can use growth hacking in other parts of your life, not just in digital marketing.
"As an online marketer you should be able to market anything, even toilets"
What’s the difference between digital marketing and growth hacking? Or is there even a real difference?
I think, terminologically speaking, there is a difference. But in practice, I think there’s not really a difference anymore. The growth hacking approach is something you can’t ignore within digital marketing. All aspects of a growth marketer are needed if you’re an online marketer.
What skills should someone have in order to be successful in this field?
Firstly, I think you should be good at critical and analytical thinking. A major part of growth hacking is analysis. To be able to analyze where the opportunities are to grow. You should also be confident enough to ask: Why? Sometimes this is easier said than done. People too often blindly follow others, or keep on doing what a company has done for years. But it’s important to ask yourself the question: Why am I doing this? What’s the goal, am I adding value and does it lead to the right results? Sometimes there are things a company has been doing for years, but those things don’t necessarily lead to success. Critical and analytical thinking is important in this.
Secondly, I think you should be creative. Solution-oriented. If there’s a problem or an opportunity; how are you going to solve that? Certain frameworks can help you out, sure, but you also have to be a little inventive.
And for me personally, I think a certain feeling for the product or service is important. As an online marketer you should be able to market anything, even toilets. But I think if you feel a little more for the product you work with or the service you offer, it certainly helps in understanding your target group and which channels you should use. If you have a personal feeling towards the product or service you work for, that will really help you in marketing it.
Do you have any advice for talents who are at the start of a career?
Above all: in the beginning of your career, you just have to do it. I think sometimes there is too much pressure on choosing the right job. But I think that if you start with some projects here and there while you are studying, you’ll gradually find out what’s the right career for you.
Don’t put too much pressure on your very first job, but see it as an opportunity to learn and take that with you to the next job. And try to be more aware of that at the end of your studies.
I think that’s also an advantage of the traineeship: you get to work together with like-minded people who also end up in similar positions at other companies. And this is very valuable for your network. You might not get a job right away, but you might get an even better job after you’ve expanded your network. Try to expand your network and seize opportunities, you’ll learn something for the next step nonetheless. Your first job doesn’t have to be your dream job.
What would you like to say to someone who is hesitant to do a GH traineeship?
The traineeship will really kickstart your career. You’ll get a lot of hands-on practice and you’ll build a network of like-minded people who will also start working at interesting companies.
For some degrees, an internship was not part of the curriculum, so a traineeship is a good alternative to gain working experience. It can be difficult to land a first job if you didn’t do an internship or if you don’t have any practical experience. So the traineeship is the perfect way to do so.
Even if you don’t stay at the company where you’ll do the traineeship, you’ll still have valuable experience which will give you an advantage over other job candidates who have no practical experience.
I also hire people now at Filling Pieces and I notice that people who have done traineeships have an advantage over students who have just finished their degree. The companies TTI works with are also always top-notch. Even if you don’t keep on working for the traineeship company, it is probably a well known name within the growth- and online marketing field. Having hands-on experience is only going to help you later on in your career.
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