‘Growth Hacking’ was a job title hugely popular in 2015. Aligned with that 24/7, hustle at all costs mindset, I see it less these days.. A concept that was covered in Campaign last summer. And even more damningly(?) in The Drum.
Growth Hacking has been likened to being like ‘Justin Bieber, while Traditional Marketing is like Barry White”.
I believe the ethos behind Growth Hacking should be central to many Marketing departments, to ensure there’s a focus and a continual drive to move things forward. But Growth Hacking alone does not constitute building your brand for the long term.
The concept of testing, learning and moving things on however doesn’t just belong to Marketing or Growth Hackers. Growing your business with positive ROI should be the common thread throughout every department. Growth Hacking by nature is tactics driven.
It also cannot be the difference between winning and losing, alone.
In a noisy market, you must position yourself in the hearts and minds of your target physically as well as digitally. We’re bombarded with marketing messages constantly, and even more so as brands invest more and more in Digital. So Digital alone is not a silver bullet to drive your brand. Even more so if you’re creating a brand new category.
Many are forecasting that “TV advertising is dead”, and the rate of decline in favour of streaming services is marked. The reality is, broadcast media remains the most effective format for marketing, as outlined in this graph from Thinkbox.
At a recent event, Rory Sutherland, while dissecting the importance of brands discussed the importance of the ‘commitment’, drawing parallels to large displays of commitment in life such as the act of buying an engagement ring - it needs to be expensive enough to hurt, no matter who you are, or how wealthy.
The power of digital marketing
I love digital and all the things you can do with it. The reach, impressions and measurement is incredible.
What is important however if you understand the role of it in the context of your business.
You can ‘hack’ your way to appearing in front of people on many platforms, but why? Are they your potential customers? Also what are you asking them to do?
Increasing fragmentation on a growing number of ways you can get in front of customers means you really need a strong, emotional message to make them stop, take notice and remember you.
This notion of hacking your way to eyeballs without the strategy behind it means that you’re as likely to be forgotten when you do get there.
Many platforms more aggressively clamping down on the ‘scraping’ approaches that many digital marketing experts employed recently.
From auto-follow bots - with recent press coverage exploring the legitimacy of many accounts across Facebook & Instagram, which add numbers but don’t add any engagement) are being removed one by one.
The now outdated SEO approach to build volume of links without the true understanding of the quality of traffic they will drive back to site, and creating pages to “trick” google into thinking your content is unique is fading away.
These and many other types of approaches now seem to be popping up and disappearing just as quickly.
Ensuring consistency across messaging
The challenge when you put growth before brand in your marketing teams is that often you end up with a vastly disparate selection of ways for potential customers to describe you.
The copy that works for the purposes of SEO doesn’t make sense in the context of a highly visual video ad, or billboard.
Not strictly just for your direct response marketing channels, either.
Setting up your brand identity so it’s actionable and example-based will help everyone clearly and simply explain your proposition, in every customer touchpoint, not just for your product marketing, but around sales, customer service, technology, and to your shareholders.
Taking a holistic and longer-term approach to your messaging helps your customers remember who you are and what you stand for.
But print has a place, more so than ever.
In a world where we are now bombarded with advertising messages everywhere. From social media advertising campaigns to email marketing to influencers, and more and more search engine marketing being devoted to paid, digitally it’s easier to experience an advert than to experience a piece of non-paid content.
Enter our old friend, print.
A business that sends a beautiful piece of print to support part of the customer experience, whether that’s lovely packaging, something clever that combines print with augmented reality or a “welcome to” xxxx for a business with a high-value proposition will now stand out more than their digital-only counterparts.
A retention campaign I ran in the past, in a highly competitive space had an 80% redemption rate of a tracked code - for a purely online platform.
If that isn’t a reasonable proof point, I don’t know what is!
Grow fast, but sustainably.
Growth, of course, is non-negotiable, however, the core question to ask is ‘what are we hoping to grow’?
Volume or revenue per customer, having those key metrics in mind should be set before embarking on the growth journey, and in the context of your business.
Having thousands of followers on Instagram is often what people say they are aiming for. If you own a business which is niche (or very local) do you want to have people following you that aren’t ever going to become customers? Or likely to know people who might become your customers?
If you have an aspirational brand, then, of course, the exchange is that really very few will become customers and may follow you just for the inspiration - because everyone loves to nose at a little bit of luxury. But carefully consider how you can interact and engage with them.
Likewise, the concept of buying lists - thankfully less prevalent than it was thanks to GDPR regulations, but even those that have GDPR clearance, if you engage right away in direct response marketing to a ‘sort of’ good fit audience, the response rates will be remarkably low. Many investors and business analysts treat email list sizes as a signal of your business health, but realistically, does having a huge newsletter database with a poor open rate signal your business' health? I’d argue not!
The debate point here is whether ‘Growth’ alone is something your marketing function should be accountable for. Whether or not you decide to hire a Head of Growth or a CMO, or have your marketing function report in to your COO, the way you structure your team will set the tone for how marketing is positioned in your business.
Of course, data-driven marketing should be central to any organisation, but I think marketers should also learn to fall back in love with some of the ambiguity and qualitative feedback you can experience around a campaign in addition to the hard numbers.
The over-analysis from some digital gurus also can lead to an uncoupling between the ‘numbers’ and the ‘audience’.
What makes a good PPC campaign on the face of it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve captured the essence in your brand for the hearts of the target audience.
A good CTR and poor conversion rate are probably where the data has misled the humans wrangling it.
What does this mean?
I hope to see more joined-up thinking in 2019 and beyond, and hopefully with some of the recent changes in the approach to Influencer accountability, and ultimately a bit of a wake-up call, a move to a more sustainable way of working going forward.
In short, if we’re saying Justin Bieber and Barry White are the opposite ends of the skill set spectrum, I believe a happy medium can be struck with the best of both.