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Is Growth Hacking for You?

Marketing Podcast with Sean Ellis
Podcast Transcript

Sean Ellis

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “growth hacking?”

Few trendy terms have been more misused and abused by ‘marketers is what I think.

I wrote this piece about growth hacking if you want my take.

For some perspective I turned to someone that I think does understand and correctly apply growth hacking tactics to marketing. In the end, all marketers growth hack a bit, even if all that means is trying new things to engage new customers.

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Sean Ellis, the CEO and co-founder of and co-author of Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success. He and I discuss why growth hacking isn’t just for startup SaaS companies anymore.

Ellis coined the term “growth hacking” in 2010, after using it to ignite growth for Dropbox, Eventbrite, LogMeIn and Lookout – each now worth billions of dollars. He regularly speaks to startups and Fortune 100s and has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, WIRED, Fast Company,, and TechCrunch.

Questions I ask Sean Ellis:

  • What exactly is growth hacking?
  • Isn’t growth hacking really just good marketing?
  • Is growth hacking for everyone?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How to bring the growth hacking mindset into traditional businesses
  • What you need to implement growth hacking effectively
  • How to find your North Star Metric?

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Ryan Dochuk:

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Are you an independent marketing consultant or an agency owner? If so, you may want to check out the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. It is a growing group of independent marketing consultants and agencies that are partnering and collaborating using the Duct Tape Marketing tools, and really scaling their businesses. Check it out at

Channel Leverage Is the Key to Growth

channel leverage

I’ve been writing a lot about growth lately as I believe it’s the one area of marketing that’s changed the most in recent years.

How you create awareness, build trust, invite trial, convert leads, generate repeat sales and ultimately turn customers into raving fans has changed at a rate that invites a whole new way of thinking about growth.

When I started this blog back in 2003, there were perhaps six marketing channels available to businesses. Online marketing was just becoming a thing, and few realized that this device called a blog would become the foundation of a new channel itself called content marketing.

Today’s marketer has at least sixteen channels to choose from and most feel the pressure to participate in all. For a complete list of my take on marketing channels check out this post – The Single Most Potent Marketing Tactic of All

Just say no

In my mind, the scattered and fractured nature of new and evolving channels is the root cause of a great deal of stalled growth for many businesses.

Trying to jump into every new channel just leads to frustration – particularly when many of these channels show little promise for the unique objectives of most businesses.

A far better path is to set a goal of finding your primary channel and go to work on amplifying that path.

For example, by default, many organizations generate a significant portion of their business via sales efforts. It’s simply the nature of most small businesses as the owner/founder is the chief sales, hustler.

As these organizations gain some traction, they ultimately hit a plateau and start to branch out into other marketing channels in search of more leads.

In some cases, this simply leads to more growth, but experience tells me it often leads to more frustration.

When you view a new channel as just another way to grow you run the risk of muting the success you’ve already created.

You keep at your sales efforts, but now you’re scattered a bit trying to figure out how to generate leads with content marketing or through influencer outreach.

Then add channel leverage

A far better approach is to build on your success.

What if you looked at content marketing as a way to make your sales efforts more effective.? What if you armed your sales team with customer videos and research data in the form infographics?

What if you found places your sales team members could contribute content? What if you jumped into the speaking channel by finding places your sales team could present or set up online webinars conducted with existing clients, prospective clients, and sales team members?

The point is that instead of looking ways to get into more channels, find ways to blend new channels into what already works.

This strategy of confluence allows you to see immediate gains in something that is already a proven winner.

I believe this mindset shift has the power to change the currently scattered and fractured thinking so prevalent today in marketing circles.

Optimize for profit

When you adopt a channel leverage approach, you’ll spend far less time trying to figure new channels and opportunities out and far more time working in ways to support your goals and objectives.

When it comes to growth – less is much more.

Eventually, you’ll start to test and hypothesize inside of new channels in ways that are not simply focused on growth, but on profit.

You’ll begin to obsess not over new shiny objects, but on things like conversion rate optimization and its very close cousin – profit.

This is a call to find your primary channel, perfect your growth there, and then simply experiment with ways to leverage that success through the convergence of other channels.

10 Growth Hacking is Just Effective Marketing

The term “growth hacking” is all the rage these days, and in my mind it’s a bit of a silly concept. (There are even several books dedicated to the topic)

Growth Hacking

photo credit: fabola via photopin cc

It’s not that I think focus on growth is silly and I certainly don’t think using creativity and ingenuity to gain attention and build a user base is silly either – it’s just that there’s nothing really new about it.

Effective marketers have always been “growth hackers” at heart.

The new generation of growth hackers types want you to believe that they are almost anti-marketing when, in fact, all they are is anti wasteful marketing – but that’s something that everyone should be able to agree upon.

So called growth hackers might argue that they look at product and service features as a means to an end of real growth, but this is just another form of distribution powered by the growth of online networks and participation.

Most of the attention given this term is coming out of Silicon Valley and the tech startups mushrooming in that space. Therefore there’s a great deal of emphasis on the need for growth hacking marketers to be tech savvy or even coders. The truth is that in the world we live in today no marketer will survive if they aren’t tech savvy, don’t immerse themselves in every online tool and gain at least an appreciation for back end and front end development.

The one challenge I do have with the growth hacker vs. marketers conversation is the arm of hackers who seem to believe that growth at any expense can be rationalized. That stunts aimed at tricking members of the media or diverting traffic from someone else’s community are okay if done in the name of growth.

For every growth hacked success case study of a Dropbox or AirBnB there are dozens of growth hacked startups attempting to do things that cross the line in terms of activities that could ever sustain a brand long-term.

Effective marketing is focused on growth – long-term, sustainable growth. The only way to get that is to figure out ways to build an audience, move some portion of that audience to become advocates, users and customers and then focus on getting as many of the folks in that group to remain loyal.

You do this by creating a tremendous amount of awareness as inexpensively as possible. You do this by building trust, gaining trial, creating an incredible experience and doing something that almost forces people to talk about you and your products.

But most importantly – you do this by measuring every single event along that journey and looking long and hard at what works and what doesn’t. Then you go to work on coming up with more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Effective marketing, no matter what you call it, is not a single tactic or event, it’s a process that lives and dies by your ability to test and measure and adapt. Success by any other means it mostly an accident.

If you’re not using a guided process, similar to what I call the Marketing Hourglass and you’re not equipping that process or journey with a total focus on analytics using tools like Google Universal Analytics, Mixpanel or Kiss Metrics you are simply gambling with your marketing or hacking or whatever term you choose to apply to your efforts today.