Archives For Growth Hacking

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Every morning, I get an email from a site called betali.st that pitches 3 or 4 new web-based startups: You get a name, a snapshot of their home page and roughly 50-100 word description – their elevator pitch. It’s like witnessing the finals of a startup competition every day, over coffee.

There are a few things that make this email absolutely fascinating.

1. Absolutely everybody has a startup now

Or at least it seems that way. This email (and I’m sure there are others) is relentless. 7 days a week they serve up a series of mini ads for new startups and the demand appears to be so high, their revenue model is based partly on offering an ‘expedited listing service’. The startup communities are growing to the point that they are fragmenting and splintering, dividing not just by location, but also by specialist roles within startups – witness Sean Ellis’ burgeoning Growth Hackers community.

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startup, apps, media

The web is currently exploding with startups.

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2. All these people are spending a shitload of time & money

When you consider that Jeremey Rappaport recently put the true cost of developing an app at somewhere in the vicinity of $120k and 10 weeks, the cumulative investment in developing all these new apps is staggering. Even if you halve that, betali.st offers direct evidence of over a million and half dollars and 3 years of work spent developing new apps, every goddamned week. Note too, that this figure is only for development. These costs, ballpark though they are, are net of marketing, support and legals. Ker-ching.

3. In the quest for differentiation, these apps are getting seriously niche.

The language of these startup pitches is incredibly variable and probably warrants a post on its own (hint: from a copywriting perspective, it aint always pretty) but what is common is how specialised they are becoming in terms of the services they offer and, therefore, the audiences they are targetting.

In recent weeks, the email has pitched apps for rugby fans, fitness enthusiasts, disorganised photographers, semi-competitive cyclists, parents of kids with allergies… you get the picture.

There are also a lot of copycats: men’s fashion, restaurant reviews, holiday planning, stock trading and group deals are about to get even more crowded, if that’s possible.

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media, apps, fragmentation, audience

What happens when everyone’s living in their own app bubble.

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A lot of the startups are offering infrastructure services for other startups (hosting, customer service, social media monitoring, budget tracking, market research) and now there’s a raft of ‘startup in a box’ startups, such as CrateJoy, that provides everything you need to launch your own ‘subscription service’ startup. Presumably these startups will also appear on betali.st in the near future.

Once you work out what it is that a particular startup is planning to do (as it’s name suggests, most of the services on betali.st don’t technically exist yet), some of the value propositions are, frankly, outrageous: “build an ecommerce site in 20 seconds” was a recent favourite.

Obviously, not all of these startups are going to survive. In fact, almost none of them will. But, statistically, that still leaves an extraordinary number of successful apps, all doing things very, very well for small, tightly-focussed audiences.

Where did all the people go?

The media ‘fragmentation’ we witnessed with the rise of the web will become complete ‘atomisation’ as we all start disappearing into niche apps, spending time with the functionality and communities that exist only within the interface of
these ‘appified’ services.

The implications for brands are significant. Just as the strategies we used to rely on in the multi-channel world became ineffective in the post-broadcast world, we’re going to have to reinvent the role of the brand again in the post-site world.

Coke is getting a lot of attention for their wholesale abandonment of ‘the corporate webpage’ and I think that this gives as an indication of how brands are going to have to re-cast their role in this world of apps and the atomised audience it will engender.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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A couple of years ago, agencies went bananas* for Creative Technologists. Everybody started hiring them (except W+K, apparently) and so lots of people started adding that title to their LinkedIn profiles.

More recently, agencies have been creating Customer Experience roles. These are often based on more traditional UX skillsets, blown out to encompass more of the real-world touchpoints where customers meet and experience the brand, including call centres, retail environments, live chat, user groups, social networks and so on. Again, lots of people with related skills are recasting themselves with this title.

Here’s a prediction: Agencies will spend 2014 hiring ‘Growth Hackers’

This job title is emerging with warp velocity from start-up land, where it was originally coined by Sean Ellis in a post on his Startup Marketing blog. Growth Hacking originally described the low-to-no budget art and science of attracting new users to a brand new web-based start-up. Ellis describes a Growth Hacker as “someone whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.”
Now the term is stretching and morphing to describe the pursuit of customer growth, to the exclusion of all other business-related pursuits.

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Growth Hack, agency, strategist,

Growth Hackers don’t wait for permission to launch.

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They’re part marketer, part coder, part strategist and all do-er. Growth hackers don’t learn to do, they learn by doing. They embrace that ‘fail fast, fail cheaply’ attitude to in-market experimentation. Instead of talking a lot about agile / scrum / lean / bootstrapping methodologies, Growth Hackers just fire up a browser, whip out the credit card and code together some existing services to create a new mini-machine for growth – one that can be switched off as soon as it stops firing.

Most importantly ‘Growth Hacking’ is the coolest newest skillset to emerge from startup land. Like most cool new things born of startup land, Ad Agencies will soon want some of that action.

Another prediction: Agencies will spend 2014 trying to figure out how to charge brands for ‘Hacking Growth’.

This will be the tricky bit. A lot of brands will probably sit in the Agency boardroom and listen to the Growth Hacker pitch, take a long, deliberate pause and then ask, in varying degrees of politeness: “Then what the fuck have I been paying for all this time?”

The other problem will be that true Growth Hacking is characterised by its lack of budget. Many claim that this lack of working dollars are precisely the precursor chemicals required for the bootstrapped, agile, bare knuckles marketing innovation (the ‘hacks’) that are the most valuable product of Growth hacking. Agencies are generally unfamiliar, if not downright uncomfortable, recommending their clients don’t give them wads of cash.

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marketing, funnel, growth hacking, agencies

Agencies and Growth Hackers already have this in common: funnel obsession.

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Hacking your growth to spite your agency model

Growth Hacking is lashed irrevocably to the mast of performance – everything is obsessively tracked and relentlessly analysed. When Growth Hacking starts emerging as a practice in large, established agencies, some parts of the business are going to be very familiar with this level of accountability (media, social) and some less so (creative, strategy). By contrast, newer, smaller agencies constructed of a small, senior team supported by an Agency Operating System will be, by definition, Growth Hacker agencies.

Another potential hiccup is individual agency, with a small ‘a’. Agency-side Growth Hackers will need authority to act and access to the tools that allow them to do so. Can they speak or act on behalf of the brand? Can they download a new app without needing IT to unlock their machine? Do they need Finance to pre-approve a subscription or software purchase? This procedural stuff is not trivial.

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Growth Hack, Agency, speed

Growth hackers don’t care whose ball it is.

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Speed is critical for Growth Hacking to be effective – under-exploited APIs have a limited lifespan as viable hacks. If you’ve got to make a pretty powerpoint and wade through rounds of meetings with the Vice President of No, the opportunity you want to hack might have already evaporated. By way of example, Airbnb famously ‘hacked’ Craigslist to get to build its own critical mass, now that hack has been shut down.

Prepare for the Growth Hack hype-o-thon

One of the clear indicators that Growth Hacking is not quite ready for big-brand prime time is the dearth of method and repeatability. This will be a fine line: too much process will kill the creativity at the heart of Growth Hacking but, like Social before it, some commonly accepted tools and best practices will have to emerge before it moves out of the garage.
Agencies are very familiar with creating processes and methodologies and frameworks, then packaging them to create perceived value. I have no doubt this will happen. I have no doubt it will also inspire the Growth Hacking backlash.

How agencies might get it right

Leaving cynical re-branding aside for a moment, I definitely see a place for Growth Hacking thinking, services, teams and talent, delivered within a traditional agency structure and applied to specific projects for established brands.

Think: new product launches; land-grab new market entries; activation campaigns; aggressive, short-term competitive plays.

Neil Patel is a leading educator in the Growth Hacking scene and he doesn’t see the role staying in startup-land for long, either:

“One more note on the future. For now growth hacking is relegated to startups, but eventually, growth hacking will be a part of fortune 500 companies. Startups generally lack resources, and the established relationships, that would allow them to be effective with the tactics of a traditional marketer, so they are somewhat forced to growth hack. However, there is nothing about growth hacking that cannot be applied to larger corporations. If growth hacking can work without resources, imagine what it can accomplish with resources.”

The part that makes me, on balance, optimistic about the rise of the role of ‘Growth Hacker’ is that it could offer a valid hybrid role for people who don’t fall into rigid definitions and job descriptions, yet still enjoy working alongside talented specialists on big brands to create things with genuine commercial impact. Agencies still have a chance at remaining one of the best places to do that from.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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* I really dislike bananas, by the way.

 

Then this happened:

A few days after I wrote the the post, Sean Ellis (quoted earlier in the post as the ‘coiner’ of the term) was kind enough to tweet this:

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Sean Ellis, Growth Hacking, twitter

 

 

The discussion has since moved over to Sean’s excellent new community at GrowthHackers.com where several people are saying they’ve already been approached by ad agencies for consulting gigs and roles in the last month or so. Which is a bummer for me, as it kind of screws with my prediction.

If only those agencies had waited till January 😉