From traditional marketing to Growth Hacking

Darika Lunardon
18 June 2018


The term Growth Hacking was first mentioned by Sean Ellis in his blog in 2010.
We actually have a very specific date – July 26, 2010 – when the great entrepreneur, startup advisor and business angel published a post entitled “Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup”.
We want to remember that Sean Ellis is the author of DropBox great success. And at the time he was also the advisor for several Silicon Valley startups.
But why did he think to specify this new process with the term Growth Hacking?
The need arose when he was interviewing marketing experts. In fact, once he started a growth hacking process, he was looking for a possible replacement. The people examined had the necessary training, but they were missing the mindset for this new process. It was at this point that he decided to better express his ideas in his blog.
“When a startup is ready to begin its climb, the biggest challenge is often to hire someone who can lead this growth. A marketing expert with certain skills and the right approach can certainly bring great results once the Product-Market Fit and an efficient conversion/ witnessing process have been tested.
In addition to talking about Product Market Fit, he also focused on the User Experience. In fact, these were the basic concepts to exactly define Growth Hacking. Fabio Morelli said that “Growth Hacking is configured as the perfect mix between product, User Experience and marketing”.


Il Growth Hacking: cos’è

Processo, sperimentazione, efficienza e crescita sono le parole chiave.

Growth Hacking is an experimental approach. It can best be defined as a mindset, a real way of thinking, because unlike the tools that stop being used with time, it lasts forever.

On Wikipedia we read that “Growth Hacking is a process of rapid experimentation on product and marketing channels to find the most efficient way to grow a business”.

The keywords are therefore in order “process”, “experimentation”, “efficient” and “growth”. And make sure that none of these are missing.

We talk about process because it is not a strategy to be used when you want to. The fundamental thing is that Growth Hacking is born with the product and follows it in all its phases. It is a rapid and continuous process, in which a series of experiments are carried out until the winning one is identified.

Experiments are therefore fundamental and are carried out continuously: they must be measurable (thanks to a metric), scalable (if it was carried out with 1, I must be able to do it with 10 and also with 100, if necessary) and repeatable (to obtain the same results by repeating the experiment). They are first chosen, then realized and finally compared. The only objective is the growth of the product.

We talk about efficiency because it is necessary to minimize expenses and obtain the maximum result. It is possible to optimize the budget, which is still substantial. But it is impossible to implement a Growth Hacking process at no cost.

One question arises spontaneously: what is the literal meaning of Growth Hacking? Well it would be “hacking growth”, but it doesn’t make the concept behind this innovative process any better. It is better to think of something that has development as its goal, that is Growth. And that exploits a method outside the canonical schemes, just to make the term Hacking better. One must look for unexplored paths. Experimentation as we have seen is a pivotal point!

So, if we want to describe this process well, we can think of an approach that tries to reach the perfection of the product we want to launch on the market. Its objective is in fact the Product Market Fit, PMF. It also tries to fully satisfy the customer’s needs, providing a unique experience. It is in fact a mindset where creativity, madness and genius merge and where there is a constant study of data to make the right decisions.


Product Market Fit. Il prodotto deve diventare una necessità.

The product must become a necessity.
Let’s be clearer: it must be made sure that the product is able to meet the specific needs of the user, and that the user can no longer give it up. An example: the smartphone in today’s society. How can you tell if this goal has been achieved? Just check if the 40% rule is respected, that is if at least 40% of users feel the need to own it.


Differenze tra Growth Hacking e Marketing tradizionale

Il Growth Hacker: il mestiere del futuro

Marketing, in its traditional conception, was born at the beginning of the 20th century with the growth of industrialization. Then it was influenced by the encounter with psychoanalysis in the 1930s and was further transformed in recent decades with the advent of the new digital era.
Throughout its development it has maintained a linear approach, which allows it to create an effective bond with its clients, while maintaining a role of superiorità. The client is bombarded by advertising and cannot respond. But in this type of marketing, there is no reliable data on its target customers.
In traditional marketing, the focus is on branding and the acquisition of new customers. Development plans are designed and advertising campaigns are launched. You have marketing knowledge, but often ignore the latest technologies. There is no overview and each compartment is independent. In general, you tend to work on a solid marketing plan and use products that have already been tested. In other words, you have a number of certainties, including growth rates of around 5-15% per year.
On the contrary, Growth Hacking focuses not only on the brand, but on the complete life cycle of the customer and, many times, there are no certainties.
The product validation process is not a priority, while growth is the key objective. The goal is to achieve a 10-20% increase per month. In addition, the overall vision is prioritized: the Growth Hackers work together with the product or marketing department, so that we have a global picture and know immediately where to intervene. They are super informed about all the technologies of the moment and uses them to differentiate itself from others. They must be able to exploit all the possibilities offered by the various tools available. It is important for them to know the various applications to extract and analyze data. And they must know how to use social networks and, perhaps, how to program. For this reason they are some of the most sought-after and paid professional figures, because this role requires a lot of skills and knowledge.
It is clear at this point the difference between traditional marketing, which stops at the beginning of the funnel, and Growth Marketing, which goes all the way.


Funnel. Significato e varie fasi.

Funnel? Well, you’re probably wondering what that means. We can call it a kind of funnel where you enter as “users” and exit as “customers”.
Traditional marketing is all about awareness and acquisition. That is, it aims to make your product known through the various promotional channels and to acquire new customers.
Growth Hacking goes much further. First of all, it creates awareness and notoriety only towards the people of interest. Then it acquires customers through interaction with them.
But there are many other funnel moments to which it pays attention.
First there is the activation, during which the client tries the product for the first time. For example, when customers have the opportunity to test the trial version of a product, it is crucial to focus on the user experience and customer success. This is followed by the retention moment, the goal of which is for users to return and thus be satisfied with their experience. To achieve satisfaction you need to activate a personalized dialogue and show promotions and offers. Let’s think about Amazon or Groupon and all the emails sent every day to entice the consumer. In the revenue phase the user becomes an actual customer and that’s when you work to bring the customer back to buy again. Because it is easier to retain customers than to acquire new ones.
Last but not least is the referral moment. A satisfied user will gladly leave a good review and word of mouth is still the best advertising today.
But many others are the support methods and frameworks that have been added over the years to help the various phases of Growth Hacking, such as the Business Model Canvas, the Hooked Model and many others.


Trovare la metrica di riferimento

For each business you need to find your own reference metrics, focusing on the key activities that link the product to the user.
User retention and engagement, in addition to the number of registrations, can help you find KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) useful for the growth of your business. The key is to focus on a few metrics, essential to success and then test solutions and channels in order to ensure rapid growth.


Casi di successo

Airbnb: an emblematic example

The creators used an already existing and well known platform (Craiglist) to get theirs off the ground. They had the same catchment area: people looking for a home. This allowed them to increase brand awareness by publishing their services on Craigslist and generating a direct link to Airbnb. When the other platform realized this, it tried to stop the process, but by then word of mouth had been triggered.


All it took for Hotmail was one catchy sentence to close the emails – “PP.S I love you. Get you free email at Hotmail” – to generate a chain reaction and start the acquisition of millions of new customers. So the strategy of Sabeer Batia and Jack Smith, the co-founders, proved successful. They went against traditional marketing which suggested buying advertising space in traditional media and won.

In both cases it was an approach that made users grow like wildfire, with a few simple and effective moves.


Piccoli chiarimenti.

Il Growth Hacking è un processo continuo e in costante divenire.

Growth Hacking is a continuous, rapid and efficient process that revolves around three key moments: knowing, building and measuring. Where experimentation is the fulcrum around which the entire gear moves.

However It should be reiterated that Growth Hacking must be viewed above all as a forma mentis, so the real objectives are enhancing the product and making it something indispensable for the customer. Because it is a marketing process that is born with the product and grows with it!