Growth hacking is definitely (becoming) more than a fluffy buzzword used by young marketers to trick their way into a fast-paced career. Every company’s customers, users and targets are changing. So is the way you should do marketing. This noble discipline is evolving into a new kind of technical sword fight. We had a talk with Taylor Ryan, Growth Hacker and Scientific Coordinator at our Growth Hacking Masterclass at Talent Garden Innovation School about growth hacking and how marketers need to adapt to take on the future.
This is the first blog post in a series of interviews with Taylor Ryan about marketing, growth hacking and how it is required by future marketers to acquire new skills and get a new perspective on the art of marketing. The tricks you learned in school are not going to last.
“Why are most organisations, small and large, failing at reaching larger audiences?”
The answer to why most organizations fail to reach larger (and/or the right) audiences may come from their lack of intent focus.
Eventually, somebody will search for your company, product or service. You probably already set up a nice workflow for that across your channels, but a lot of companies seem to misunderstand the intent of the user. You might remember the statement by Harvard Business School professor, Theodore Levitt from your days at the Business School saying: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”.
Trying not to go all academic on you, the point remains valid. The user that just searched for your cleaning service, that Taylor Ryan uses as his example, is not interested in getting to know a lot of cleaning services. She has an intent to find someone that can clean the house.
The intent focused marketer would simply start creating content around “The best cleaning service in Copenhagen, Denmark”, creating YouTube videos, ‘how to’s’ and blog posts that are based on the best prices and services for cleaning services. It is not that hard to do that. All you need is to understand the intent, grab the intention and loop the user into a funnel to help her make the decision to buy the product from you.
While you keep having that same old brand-focused marketing strategy, your users are getting lost in branded materials and company presentations. Your intent-focused competitor, that understands the user, ends up running away with a new client.
“Why is growth hacking important for the marketers of the future?”
The time of ‘one size fits all’ is out (if it was ever really in). Every company is different, so are the customers and the marketing strategy should follow. Marketers must continuously test and iterate everything, running A/B tests on different elements. And the best part is that it never ends.
For example, a referral campaign that might work for a shoe company is not going to work for a FinTech company offering low-interest credit cards.
For some reason, it is easier said than done. Simply because most people are afraid of failure, but according to Taylor Ryan, the only thing that is worse than failing is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Just because it worked before, does not mean that it will work again. Being too comfortable will result in you missing out in the long run. Simple as that.
“Why aren’t universities offering classes in Growth Hacking?”
Unfortunately, agile marketing approaches like growth hacking are not being taught in school. In fact – due to the survey we conducted lately, called Hybrid Humans: Future of Work, 85% feel that their university education did not teach them to do the job they do today.
Maybe that is because most university teachers that are teaching marketing in 2019 are not the ones actually doing it in real life. Not saying, that they are not skilled and able to teach students valuable skills, but in most cases, it’s a fact that you need to get this knowledge elsewhere.
How are you supposed to get good at Excel, Photoshop – or square dance – without practice and experience? The same goes for SEO and paid marketing like SEM, LinkedIn Ads, Facebook Ads, Adwords, now Google ads. The problem is that it takes money to get this experience. You have to pay for the ads, test, iterate, improve and learn along the way. You can’t learn SEM without actually doing the work.
This is a great metaphor for growth hacking in general. The good growth hacker needs to understand what works in other places and be able to manipulate and transform that into something that might work on his own business. That is incredibly difficult to do, but the reality is that you have to try, test, fail and improve along the way.
“You talk about the future marketer being a swiss army knife of an organization, what does that mean?”
Marketing is no longer a matter of solely being able to write stellar content. It’s a good starting point, but on top of that, a good marketer needs to understand the entire sales structure. Not in the sense that you read in Philip Kotler’s good old marketing book (that you for some reason still have on the bookshelf back home).
No, in the sense where you are increasingly pulling from psychology, mathematics and statistics, data aggregation and user experience. A good growth hacker needs all of these skills to build funnels, create content, test, iterate. When people drop out of the funnel, a growth hacker needs to know how to target and hit them again to avoid losing the conversion that she worked so hard to get. It’s a long term process, and your users may not convert in week 1, but in week 20, you finally grab their attention with a great post, ad, ebook or podcast.
In other words, good marketers need to master a broad variety of skills. They are always in beta iterating the content and concepts, and they need to know which tools to use to avoid wasting time on manual work. At the end of the day, growth hacking is all about doing the little things smarter, setting up different integrations. A lesson still to be learned, not in school, but by experience.
“How can you get the skills needed in order to avoid becoming irrelevant within the next 5 years?”
You probably get it by now, we think you should acquire some of these technical growth hacking skills.
With that being said, the skills of a growth hacker or a technical marketer are really tough to get into just out of the box. They don’t teach you in school, and if you don’t have any money to play around with, you are lost. Luckily, that is not the case entirely.
What you can and should do is to start looking at it as the management within your own company. Start asking “Can I try this? – I have a structured approach. It seems like this campaign would work because I have seen something similar over here, can we go for it?” Then do the work. Don’t hire it out. Don’t find somebody else that’s below you to do it. Don’t lose out on the learning. Do the work yourself.
Don’t panic if things don’t pan out right away. In growth hacking, it is supposed to be that way, according to Taylor Ryan:
“I can’t tell you how many countless hours I’ve done running campaigns that don’t work or doing marketing efforts that never panned out, but those that did are the ones that I continued to learn from. Great there is lightning in a bottle over here and those that I obviously couldn’t get off the ground: Cool, I’m not doing that again, but that was a good learning opportunity.”
It’s learning by doing and about never being content with status quo. You have come along way already by doing so, and this mindset alone will – after a few failed runs and a ton of practical experience – set you apart from the traditional marketers that are okay with being hunky-dory and average.
Stay tuned for the next blog post in the series of growth hacking with Taylor Ryan or click here to learn more about our Growth Hacking Masterclass at Talent Garden Innovation School.