Growth hacking is just marketing.

Today’s gripe comes from everyone’s favourite buzzword du jourgrowth hacking.

As defined by the wizards at Wikipedia:

Growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure

Now, you might think, that sounds quite a lot like marketing? A good marketer uses creativity and analytics to sell products and gain exposure. “Social metrics” after all are analytics, but we can accept that the Wikipedia article was probably written by a growth hacker who wanted to add the buzzword of yesteryear “social” into the mix. Indeed, the Wikipedia link goes to “performance metrics”, also known as “analytics”.

Wikipedia goes on…

It can be seen as part of the online marketing ecosystem, as in many cases growth hackers are using techniques such as search engine optimization, website analytics, content marketing andA/B testing. Growth hackers focus on low-cost and innovative alternatives to traditional marketing, e.g. utilizing social media and viral marketing instead of buying advertising through more traditional media such as radio, newspaper, and television.

Okay, so it’s online related, according to Wikipedia (growth hackers everywhere probably hate that, and would probably say you could just as easily growth hack a local café with a good flashmob). And those techniques? They’re part of every modern marketer’s toolkit. Search engines, website analytics, content marketing (also a BS term – marketing has always been about producing good content, even if the nature of the content has changed) and A/B testing are all excellent marketing tools, and you would be silly not to use them in a modern campaign involving the internet.

Ignore other offline channels (and public relations) at your peril. While they aren’t necessarily cheap (and too broad-audience for a local café for example), they do produce results. The old John Wannamaker adage “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half” holds true for online and offline channels.

And low-cost and innovative alternatives? Here is where the growth hacker gets excited. The key is that they don’t waste all that money on traditional marketing, like all those traditional marketers. They use the social medias! And the virals! Modern marketers definitely don’t use them.

Well, that’s also rubbish. Any marketer who says that they prefer high-cost and traditional alternatives which produce no results is frankly an idiot.

Yes, you can do marketing cheaply and you can do it expensively. Startups don’t have a budget to do double-page spreads in every national newspaper. Choosing something within your budget is also part of marketing. Some brands spend a lot on marketing, because they see results. If they aren’t measuring results, good for them and I will happily sit with you and watch them burn. Some startups do have the money to do traditional ads, because they work. Do you really think that Xero would be doing billboard ads if they didn’t ever see any registrations? Billboards can reach the kinds of people who don’t hang around on Product Hunt or Twitter – and there are many, many of them.

So let’s stop calling stuff growth hacking, let’s call it marketing.

And just like anything there is “good” marketing (the stuff that works – sells more stuff) and “bad” marketing (where you burn money with no result) – the same applies to growth hacking. Evaluating your channels effectively (which a good marketer does) is the key – unless you know what works, you’ll readily get sold into the latest fad (“growth hacking” perhaps) rather than use the channels that produce the results you want.

Your mileage may vary.

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