Review: "Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising"

Ryan Holiday, a partner at StoryArk, a creative marketing company, and author of the bestselling “Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator” has had his recent book, “Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising,” reprinted by Portfolio/Penguin.

And with good reason — “Growth Hacker” supplies user-friendly, pragmatic strategies to help propel businesses.

For those traditional old-school Mad Men who haven’t heard of “growth hacking,” it’s a marketing technique adopted form Silicon Valley start-ups. The premise uses a great deal of analytical thinking and incorporates selling properties into the product/service itself.

Among the companies benefiting from growth hacking are Dropbox, Zynga, Groupon, Instagram, Pinterest and Gmail. None were built with the resources and skills available to the traditional marketers, let alone agencies responsible for their success. 



Product development and marketing — once two distinct and separate parts — are used as two sides of the growth-hacking process, building a self-perpetuating mechanism that reaches millions of customers.

Holiday illustrates this point with Hotmail’s example of going viral, which was simple. At the bottom of each email, it added ‘P.S.: I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail.’

Recognizing that “enormous services can be launched from tiny but incredibly explosive ideas,” is the single most powerful premise claimed in "Growth Hacker Marketing" (Portfolio/Penguin). It notes best practices of traditional marketing are being replaced by with what’s testable, trackable, and scalable.

Most of today’s growth hackers are data scientists meets design friends meets marketers. Their innovative approach to growth was due, Holiday explains, to their coming from start-ups, which typically meant limited money and experience. Therefore, the tools they use are e-mails, PPC ads, and blogs instead of commercials and publicity.

Instead of going to market with the product nobody wants, and wondering why strategies fail and cost so much, growth hackers believe that products — and even businesses — can and should be constantly altered until they generate explosive reaction from consumers.

In a perfect world, a product or business fulfills real need for a defined group of consumer, regardless of how much modification and refining it takes.

According to Holiday, growth hacking is more of a mind-set than a tool kit. Tactics can vary from viral features to product optimization, to email marketing, using platforms and APIs to reach the audience.

But here are some key aspects of growth hacking:

Product Market Fit (PMF) occurs as a result of defining the customers, finding out their needs and designing a product they’ll actually love. These are not just product development and design decisions; they are also marketing decisions based on measurable data. It is no longer about reaching the market first, but rather reaching to PMF first. From that point on, all marketing efforts are amplified.

Optimization ensures product it will be well received both by customers and influencers. This is where marketers bring the producers and the consumers in alignment. 

Virality, as Holiday describes it, is “asking someone to spend their social capital recommending or liking or posting about you for free.” And the best way to get them do this is to make the product inherently worth sharing and conducive to spreading, by design.

The book is built on Holiday’s own experience, as well as interviews with “dozens of growth hackers.” In a world where the line between marketers and entrepreneurs is increasingly blurred, “Growth Hacker Marketing” provides a much-need reality check.



3 comments about "Review: "Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising"".
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  1. Tom Goodwin from Tomorrow, October 30, 2014 at 9:49 a.m.

    If growth hacking were a thing, we'd have more than 2 examples of it ever occurring.

  2. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, October 30, 2014 at 10:25 a.m.

    I agree with Tom: looks more like a pitch to buy the book...

  3. M A from MediaPost, October 30, 2014 at 5:49 p.m.

    The book illustrates number of examples (Instagram, Dropbox, Twitter, Airbnb, Uber, Pinterest etc.)

    'Growth Hacking' is an amalgamous term, which makes it hard to categorize or say definitively whether it is A thing. I'd say it's rather a mindset.

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