Like most experienced marketers I have met a lot of very average marketers in my time. The sort who’s primary project is themselves and their reputation. Then there are a lot of hard working individuals doing the bulk of the work. Then every now and then you meet game-changers.
Some could argue there isn’t much of a difference between digital marketers and growth hackers. This assumption is valid as often they work within the same marketing parameters and the term growth hacker is massively over used. I would argue the game-changers are the growth hackers.
The difference is focus.
The difficulty digital marketer’s face is keeping their bosses happy. The landscape changes so fast but the C-Suite and management are very rarely across what’s happening. So, if you have to report monthly on what you have been doing it helps if your report contains the same trackable content: website stats, social media stats, ROI, Google and Facebook ads results etc. Budgeting and reporting keeps you locked into this cycle… been there, got the branded t-shirts.
Don’t get me wrong, the remit of the Digital Marketing Manager is more long term and planned, the foundations used by digital marketers often have to follow company policies and rules around the branding of the business. This is very important stuff! But digital marketers aren’t usually allowed to explore or experience things outside of their direct role and department. Therefore digital marketing’s main focus is engaging with its customers while building their brand.
Digital marketing runs to a program. Linear.
Whereas, growth hacking is mindset driven. Growth hackers are game-changers because they work across different departments as they blur the lines between creative marketing, data, automation and innovation. They create fast, cheap experiments often going against the companies’ policies and rules, to test and prove assumptions, to find the best way to generate growth.
Growth hacking runs on experimentation. Exponential.
Finding the perfect growth hacker is like finding someone who can count cards while playing poker, not everyone can do it, not everyone can be taught; however, you can become a good poker player based on hard work and determination.
So, what’s the difference between a hack and a normal digital marketing technique? There is definitely a thin line. A hack is a trick, and like most tricks, if everyone starts doing it it’s just not that tricky anymore. Loyalty programs, refer-a-friend, click-magnets, give-aways, incentives, freemium versions, gamification etc. were hacks once but all have become so ubiquitous they are all now more marketing techniques than ways to hack the system.
So, although the two are alike in many ways, Growth Hackers have the ability to dive deeper into customer-centricity and innovation. They are always scaling and growing and aren’t afraid of risks. This is due to the transparency with the company on what the role should encompass. Yet, Digital Marketers aren’t able to explore and dive deeper due to their role being in a restrictive space.
So, Growth hacking isn’t so much a fad or a buzz word, it’s a by-product of the digital age.
Written by Adam Lea,
Head of The Talent Institute