There’s no denying the importance of marketing. As an online
marketer, it’s at the core of my business.
However, running a successful business requires much more than
just marketing. Marketing serves a greater purpose. Marketing
is not the end game in business.
It’s not that marketing isn’t important. Instead, it’s that
marketing shouldn’t be your focus. Marketing is just one
component of your overall growth strategy, which is what your
business should be focusing on.
Marketing and Growth Are Inextricably Linked
It’s important not to totally separate growth and marketing,
however, The two are linked, as I’ll show in this example from
The taxi industry makes $10 billion in revenue every year. With
so many taxis available in every city, you would have to be
crazy to think you can compete. Yet Uber managed to grow into a
nearly $50 billion company in the course of only seven years.
Uber didn’t grow this large by purchasing expensive billboards,
radio spots, and television commercials. This type of marketing
strategy would probably have doomed the company. Consumer
demand would have outpaced available supply, and the brand’s
reputation may have suffered.
SEO strategies would have had limited effect as well. Even
today if you were to perform a Google search for the term
“taxi,” the only place you’re going to see Uber show up is in
Instead, Uber focused on scaling its simple app into new
markets by first hiring an Operations Manager. Then they
approached black car services, offering a way for drivers to
earn extra money in their idle time. Only once an
infrastructure was built would the company consider marketing
to consumers, and even this was done quite cheaply.
At this point, Uber already receives a significant amount of
media attention in any given market, as the company’s
ride-sharing business model always attracts political
opposition. By undercutting local taxi companies, existing
businesses debate the legality of Uber’s services, which
attracts media coverage.
By the time Uber has to actually market, all it really has to
do is announce the city it’s opening in, hold a few events to
raise awareness, and keep hiring drivers. Focusing on growth
becomes its own marketing strategy when executed correctly.
As of April 2016, Uber operates in 404 cities in 60 countries
and you’ll rarely see or hear a commercial for the brand. This
strategy is known as growth hacking.
Is it marketing? Sure, but it’s marketing with a new
perspective and a fresh angle.
Growth Hacking Replaces Marketing
Growth hacking is a relatively new term that describes people
whose only focus is growth. Growing a customer base is
important and is increasingly difficult in a crowded
marketplace. Whereas marketers worry about conversion rates,
budgets, and a host of other metrics, growth hackers have but
one metric: growth.
While marketing metrics are important for large, established
companies like Starbucks or Facebook, startups don’t need to
concern themselves with this. Startups live or die by their
Investors look at growth. When a startup experiences losses or
flatline, it’s a sign that company is a risky investment. If
you’re pitching to investors, you want your growth charts to be
pointing up to show your company is likely to increase revenue.
Growth also attracts media attention. Every brand wants to be
mentioned in the media – it’s free advertising. Raising media
awareness puts your brand in front of a large pool of people,
increasing the likelihood they’ll become customers.
Since startups often have limited resources available, a focus
on growth hacking is preferable to marketing. But the question
remains – how do you implement growth hacking in your business?
5 Simple Growth Hack Strategies
In the interest of brevity, I’ll provide a few quick tips. If
you’re interested in learning more, check out the definitive
guide to growth hacking.
1. Create Value – A product or service that
resolves a real problem is more likely to attract customers.
Services like Uber and AirBnB succeeded because they relieved
consumer pain points. Do your research and make market testing
a priority before pouring money into development.
2. Solicit Customer Referrals – There’s no
better advocate of your brand than your customers. These are
the people who will write positive review, tell their friends,
and help grow your company. Dropbox and PayPal succeeded
because they incentivized customers to refer friends to the
service. Offer discounts, free products, or other incentives to
motivate your existing customers to refer new customers.
3. Analyze the Data – You can’t please all the
people all the time. Snapchat is mostly used by teenagers who
want to keep their conversations private from parents and
school administrators. Understanding your user base allows you
to focus marketing efforts on specific demographics to maximize
4. Refine Your Product – Nobody’s perfect, and
it’s crucial to understand what features can add value to your
customers. Twitter discovered users who follow at least 30
people are more likely to use the service perpetually. Since
that discovery, the company implemented features to import
contacts and suggest people to follow. Listen to your customers
and tweak your product to keep them happy.
5. Go Viral – The Internet loves great visual
content. From memes to YouTube videos, innovative visual
content can quickly grab the attention of the masses. Dollar
Shave Club built an online following through innovative YouTube commercials that cost far less
than traditional television commercials.
Although marketing is essential for any business, startups
looking to compete with these titans of industry need to take
more innovative steps.
They need to focus on growth. Specifically, startups should
leverage their resources towards growth hacking.
Growth hacking is becoming popular for a reason. By focusing on
growing your business instead of just “marketing,” you’re
setting up your business for true long term success.
What growth strategies have been successful for your business?