How to become Growth Hacker: interview with Theodore Moulos

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Marketing

How to become a Growth Hacker? Learning from the best. That’s why we interviewed Theodore Moulos, the international host of the sixth edition of the part time Master in Growth Hacking Marketing. Theodore is Group CEO of GrowthRocks, one of the most important Growth Hacking agency in the world (ranking # 1 for the keyword Growth Hacking Agency), and Viral Loops, the best viral Referral Marketing software. He has more than 15 years of experience in software management and development, supports numerous growth startups and he’s speaker at the world’s top conferences. Here’s what he told us.

 

1. What does Growth Mindset mean for you?

Personally, I am a huge believer of what Aaron Ginn pointed out for Growth Hacking: “Growth Hacking is a mindset, not a toolkit”. It’s very much related to seeing opportunities for growth in everything; in new technological trends, monetization models, formats and medium. Also, it’s all about the way you conceive change, and how you adapt to it. But to make it clearer to you, Growth Hacking is Marketing but with a different approach; just like what startups are opposed to established businesses.

A Growth Hacker is likened to a product given from the chemical reaction of two elements; Marketing and Engineering. He is like a super-mutant of the Internet era.

The essential characteristic of a growth hacker is creativity and thoughtfulness. His or her mind is the best tool in their war chest. A growth hacker looks beyond AdWords or SEO for distribution. Traditional marketing channels often mean high cost per acquisition and low life-time value due to high saturation. In an age of social users, the right growth strategy with the right product-market fit will lead to massive scale through viral loops.

 

2. How to develop a Growth Mindset? Which hard and soft skills are crucial to propel business growth?

As a growth hacker, being creative is an essential feature, since it might be your best, but not your only, weapon in the business war. However, a Growth Hacker is also an analytics addict. The best formula is to channel your creativity into data and proof, in order to make decisions.

Consider a Growth Hacker, as a marketing Warlord. In battle, as a warrior needs speed, good reflexes, strength and dexterity to get through the battles in one piece, a Growth Hacker must, absolutely, master his abilities in:

  • Data Analysis
    Statistics, Spreadsheets, R, Pandas
  • Coding
    HTML, CSS, JQuery, JavaScript, Python, APIs
  • Marketing
    Analytics, A/B Testing, Conversion Optimization, Email Marketing
  • Processes & Frameworks
    Growth Loops, High Tempo Testing, Growth Machine

As for soft skills, I would expect a Growth Hacker to have important soft skills such as:

  • Attention to detail
  • Quality in deliverables
  • Addiction to Documentation
  • Presentation skills on how to present the Growth Hacking progress
  • Taking initiatives and coming with ideas
  • Acting well in a Growth team and being team player

 

3. Which of the famous growth case studies are you attached most? Why?

One of my favourite growth case studies is the Harry’s milestone referral campaign. Harry’s is a New York-based grooming brand that manufactures and sells shaving equipment via mail order.

The idea for the campaign was built by Jeff Raider & Andy Katz-Mayfield, Harry’s founders. Their belief that the most powerful and effective way to launch their grooming brand was through a credible referral.

Thus, they focused on building a campaign that helped people to spread the word to their friends and not just spending a ton of money on Google and Facebook. They managed to gather 100,000 emails in a single week.

The key to their success is simplicity. The website of the campaign was something really simple, yet catchy and effective; just 2-page microsite. After signing up via email, people had to invite their friends to get the prizes.

Their clear messaging: “Invite friends to earn product.”, along with the fact that attaining a prize was super doable (who doesn’t have 5 or 10 guys that shave?), skyrocketed the sharing count.

According to Jeff Raider, Co-founder and CEO of Harry’s, the referral mechanics were amazing. 77% of the emails were collected via referral, meaning about 20K people referred about 65K friends.

 

4. What does building one of the biggest growth hacking agencies in the world mean? How hard was it? What about steps you faced?

We started GrowthRocks because we realized marketing has changed. Data Driven Marketing is king compared to aesthetics or assumptions. Marketing is now run by engineers because of the technical skills It requires, and it has sales targets as it acts like another sales channel.

We knew early on that we had to build our own growth based on the principles that we teach, and we have stayed true to this all the way till today. We have in fact spent €0 on Paid Advertising while managing to attract 5-10 leads per day through our website.

We achieved this by becoming one of the top growth hacking resources worldwide. Early on, we invested heavily in content production and distribution, tied to SEO principles and best practices, and the result was GrowthRocks ranking #1 globally for the term “growth hacking agency”.

This became one of our strongest weapons, which allowed us to expand GrowthRocks to over 16 countries, and serve clients from the US to Europe, Singapore and Australia.

One of the issues that we faced early on, is keeping up with the demand and increasing our team’s size fast enough. This might be a “nice to have” kind of problem, it is, however, a problem.

That’s why we value Growth Hacking education so much and made it a core part of our process. Being able to train skilled Digital Marketers and turn them into holistic Growth ninjas.

This is also why I’m so excited to be one of Talent Garden’s main instructors. Education, when done right, can be a powerful asset, and right now the world is eagerly waiting for more Growth Marketers to join.

 

5. You also founded one of the most famous viral & referral tool on the market. What are the key points to launch and develop a product from scratch? How crucial is referral for growth?

We officially launched Viral Loops in 2017. Our mission is making virality easy for everyone. With Viral Loops you can run template-based referral (we like to call them viral) campaigns and unlock your viral growth.

Working the last years on growth, we decided to follow a different approach to building the team of Viral Loops. That was, what people like Paul Graham and Gabriel Weinberg talk about. So we started putting growth into our product’s and team’s DNA. I think that this is the first step that all startups should take no matter if they are bootstrapped or raised $1 million of seed funding.

In order to build our own model we started with a basic equation:

Top of Funnel (traffic, conversions) x Magic Moment (emotional response) x Core Product Value (solve real problems) = Sustainable Growth

  1. Top Of Funnel: In our case, the conversion at this step are Trial Signups. Regarding traffic, we need to find ways to bring new and qualified leads to our website.
  2. Magic Moment: Viral Loops is a viral and referral marketing platform, that helps you launch referral programs, sweepstakes, competitions and pre-launch campaigns. While we have some strong competitors, we took another approach to differentiate ourselves and WOW our customers.
  3. Core Product Value: Our core value is that we consider Viral Loops, more than a platform. We build a new acquisition channel for our customers. So, when they use it, we need to make sure that they get more customers, leads, revenue and growth. If this doesn’t happen constantly and in an increasing way, then we fail.

To give you a hint on the importance of referral marketing as related to a company’s growth, I invite you to just take a look around. Every now and then someone shares with you their experience with a product or a company. Chances are that they share something they liked, something valuable that also makes sense to you.

People are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend and 83% of consumers are willing to refer but only 29% actually do.

Why? Because most businesses don’t ask. This is a big opportunity for businesses of all kind and size, as has been proven by the likes of Uber, AirBnb, Facebook and Dropbox, who started as your average startup before growing into giants.

 

6. What are your favourite marketing tools? Which is the one you can’t live without?

Your “war chest” as a Growth Hacker contains different types of equipment. “Armor” type tools to defend against your competitors and “ranged/melee” weapons to unleash your growth hacking attacks. Typically, a Growth Hacker’s tools are considered to be everything that comes in use, depending on the occasion, but here is a sample of the best choices out there, with most of them I couldn’t live without. But remember, it’s not about tools but the way you use and integrate them that counts.

1. Analytics Platforms (Albacross, Google Analytics, KISSMetrics, Mixpanel)

2. Event based tools (Segment, Zapier, TagManager)

3. Product & Project Management (Trello, Asana, Jira),

4. A/B Testing Platforms (Google Experiments, Optimizely, VWO, Taplytics),

5. Landing Page Platforms (WordPress, Unbounce, LeadPages, Instapage),

6. Email Marketing (Mailchimp, Intercom, Drift, mailshake),

7. Social Media (Buffer, Static, Social Sprout, SumAll)

8. Social Engagement Widgets (appocalypsis, usefomo, provesource,beeketing)

9. Chatting and support (supporthero, manychat, intercom)

One of my favourite tools is Segment, a platform that allows you to gather data from your product or platform, then send it to some 3rd party applications for further actions.

For example, if someone reads a blogpost on your blog or clicks on a certain call to action, segment might send this information to Mixpanel, Drift or Intercom so you can push the right message to this particular user, or just enhance your statistical depth.

 

7. It’s time to go back to growth: what’s the best advice you could give to people interested in Growth Hacking and Marketing?

The end goal of every growth hacker is to build a self-perpetuating marketing machine that reaches millions by itself. However, growth hacking is a process, and not a secret book of ideas. Growth strategies cannot be easily copied and pasted from product to product. Growth is never instantaneous. It is never overnight. It is the unique way you approach different problems at different times.

My advice to you is practice! Growth hacking is a skill set that can be learned, but reading about it, is a totally different thing than doing it. Go out and find a small project to work on. Besides, there’s no better way to obtain knowledge than learning from your own living; your personal wins and defeats. We always need to keep in mind that: the first growth hacker of a startup should be his founder!