The term "growth hacker" was first used in 2010 by Sean Ellis, the founder of Qualaroo's feedback collection and analysis service in the article Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup. "After creating a PMF (product-market fit, or a product that meets the needs of a particular market. DeCenter) and an effective conversion process, the next important step is to find scalable, replicable, and sustainable ways of business development. If you cannot do it, everything else does not matter. Therefore, instead of hiring a vice president for marketing, I would advise you to hire a growth hacker," Ellis wrote.
Growth hacking is a marketing strategy that involves dropping everything that has no direct impact on the growth of the project and on increasing the recognition of the product. In fact, growth hacking is skillful, lightning-fast juggling with the same tools that are used in traditional marketing. "Growth is the decisive factor for startups: either you grow at the necessary speed or you die . . . Successful growth hackers share this approach," notes Genson Glier, a growth hacker and founder of the BlockToken platform for conducting and marketing ICOs.
At the same time, "classical education" in the field of marketing is far from being the main characteristic of a successful growth hacker. Ellis says that he met excellent growth hackers both with a development background and with experience in sales. "They have never read Kotler, but they can quickly fix codes, and this skill was unexpectedly more in demand," as Denis Saveliev, the CEO of the Internet marketing agency TexTerra, outlined the priorities for a growth hacker.
Andrew Chen also stressed the need for such a mix of abilities, as he is the general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, and previously headed the growth department at Uber, and also "advised and invested in dozens of startups in the San Francisco Bay area,” as that is where the accelerators of the Y Combinator startups, 500 Startups, and Stanford StartX are located. Back in 2012, Chen argued that growth hacking would turn the entire marketing industry upside down, as vice presidents for marketing, who are accounted for by marketers without a technical background, will be replaced by growth hackers. "Developers who head development teams . . . are working to ensure that the product sells itself.”
It was after Chen's article The Growth Hacker Is the New Vice President of Marketing, published in 2012, that the term "growth hacker" was widely spread. In the article, Chen notes that "the name of the new position of a "growth hacker" is part of the culture of the Silicon Valley." In his view, this shows that "programming and technical features have become an integral part of the [skills] of an excellent marketer," and the growth hacker in Chen's definition is "a hybrid of a marketer and a programmer, one who answers the traditional question of how to attract customers to a product in the following methods: A/B tests, landing pages, viral factors, email marketing, and [protocol] Open Graph." Above this, the growth hacker "imposes" direct marketing tools "with an emphasis on quantitative measurement, modeling of scenarios through tables, and a variety of database queries."
Another principle that has moved to growth hacking from programming is the fail fast. In the development environment, a system using the fail fast model immediately sends an error report and stops the operation when a potential error is detected (in contrast to systems that in this case will continue to work and try to minimize risks). Denis Saveliev notes that, with respect to growth hacking, "the principle of a quick and cheap failure allows avoiding failures that are long and expensive, and therefore fatal ones.” A simple example of applying this principle in practice is the rapid "curtailment" of work with an unproductive channel.
At the same time, Ellis reiterates that regardless of the tools, the only guideline for the growth hacker is growth: "Everything they do is thoroughly investigated in terms of the potential impact on the scaling of growth. The positioning of the product is important only if there is a reason to believe that it is important for maintaining sustainable growth." And if Ellis talked about growth hacking methods in relation to the PMF stage, then Chen believes that the growth hacker will also be useful at the pre-PMF stage when the product has not yet gained value in the eyes of the target audience: "If the startup is at the pre-PMF stage, growth hackers will help make sure that virality is embedded in the heart of the product."
What Does This Have to Do with ICOs?
Experts note that the changing nature of the market dictates the need for changes in the strategies for promoting ICOs. "In June through July 2017, when blockchain was at the peak of popularity, you could "pour" money on some problem in terms of promotion. For example, to purchase advertising from top bloggers or high-end sites. But when everyone started doing it, the effectiveness of this approach fell sharply," as Gleb, a digital marketing strategist in the BitClave project, told DeCenter. The situation is changing very quickly, so working by an algorithm will not do. You have to look for new approaches. And there is always something that works in terms of originality, and this is not only connected with ICOs, but also with any project. When you start doing some non-standard things, it usually works out."
Genson Glier also notes that although the ICO fever of 2017 has faded, "running ICOs is still like trying to outshine the cacophony of voices demanding that thousands of new companies who are trying to break into the scene simultaneously hear them." Glier writes that even the most revolutionary ideas "can get lost in this noise, so startups that want to survive need a clear strategy and strong voice that can break through this shit." Growth hacking, according to Glier, is designed to speed up the marketing process "by several explosive techniques that will send your startup high up into the stratosphere until it spills on the masses as nuclear hail.”
And, although virtuoso growth hacking does not have a recipe, this is a mystery, and therefore the personality of the growth hacker himself is so important along with his way of thinking, and Glier offers a list of "key issues" and "key values" that can be relied upon as the "skeleton" of growth hacking strategies.
How will we collect data during the course of the marketing process?
Make sure that you have a "growth stack,” or a set of tools that will be used to track the behavior of potential investors, to establish automated communications, and preserve all of the data obtained during the campaign in the central CRM system. "Analysis of this data will allow you to understand exactly what works and what does not," Glier writes.
Which channel brings the most traffic?
Glier notes that many channels will be used at the beginning of a marketing campaign, and "it's extremely important to experiment, but not all of them will be successful."
"You are likely to test at least six channels of communication, but once you determine the channel with the highest performance, you can concentrate on it," Glier said.
Which channel has the lowest customer acquisition cost (CAC)?
To assess this indicator, you will again need a stack for conducting tests on various channels: "You can see where you get the most benefit, that is [pay] the lowest price for an attracted customer."
Glier believes that successful growth hackers have a similar mindset, which combines creativity, curiosity, and the desire to learn. Hence follows his list of key values, or key aspects of the attitude, which ideally should be particular to the growth hacker:
The Beginner's Mind
"One of the central ideas of Buddhism is to have a newcomer's mind, and this can help "crack the growth" of both your business and your level of enlightenment," Glier writes. According to Glier, this attitude will help the growth hacker look at the tasks with fresh eyes: "A sense of openness, zeal, and lack of prejudice leave you open to new opportunities. This does not allow you to skip the easy ways of improvement, for example, not to miss comments from users or obvious solutions that you might not see if you are so wrapped up in your automated strategies," Glier writes.
Distancing as the ability to remain objective and always follow the picture as a whole is another Buddhist idea that Glier advises growth hackers to adopt. "Distancing does not allow your ego to interfere with the objective interpretation of the data. Growth hacking calls for decisions based on available data, and this can be difficult when you have a tough stance on how you need to work," notes Glier, also pointing out that the lack of objectivity can be an enemy for founding startups, as they are "often overly attached and passionate about their business."
A Few Simple Strategies
In February, VQ LABS founder Adrian Barwicki predicted that 2018 would show even more impressive results from ICO fundraising than 2017. "As the ICO sector becomes busier, startups have to fight for the attention of investors," warned Barwicki. And his predictions came true, as the first quarter of 2018 already broke the record of $5.3 billion attracted for the whole of last year. According to Coindesk, from January to the end of March 2018, the projects attracted $6.3 billion (including a $1.7 billion ICO from Telegram) under the ICO scheme, and on June 1, EOS ended its 340-day ICO, which collected $4.2 billion.
Barwicki notes the regularly increasing price of services of marketing agencies while noting that "no matter how much you pay, [the product] will not get wide acceptance unless it is properly promoted using growth hacking strategies." He singles out a few "additional growth hacking strategies" that do not require a lot of technical equipment, but they still need attention along with traditional marketing tools:
Get the Community Talking about Your Project
The strategy is based on the fact that the holders of tokens have an obvious incentive to promote the project and make it successful. "The community grabs the promotion of content as soon as a certain threshold of "virality" or "spread" is reached, as Barwicki writes. "Forming a community should be your priority." Having started, this machine will take your word to Telegram, Reddit, and other social networks at zero expenses of the budget. It is this tactic of "shifting one's word to the mouth of the community" described in the article, "The Art of the Media War. Why Pavel Durov Is a Brilliant PR Man."
Get the Media to Talk about You
Barwicki advises giving reporters a unique and interesting story about your ICO: "This serves the purpose of building trust and has a greater impact on an audience that usually does not follow the ICO sector."
Content Strategy and E-Mail Marketing
Referring to the 2015 report, Barwicki notes that with every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $38. "Automating email marketing allows you to reach vacillating investors or inactive subscribers," thus implementing a win-back strategy for the audience.
Go Out and Meet Potential Investors
"Participate in meetups, conferences. and seminars throughout the country. By visiting these events, you will tell about yourself, acquire the most valuable supporters and, most importantly, win trust," says Barwicki, noting the importance of contact with the target market and the understanding of his client and investor.
Proof of Care, a Viral Marketing Tactic for Tokens
Proof of Care is the principle of whitelisting transferred to the ICO sector. A whitelist in marketing is a list of sites, the links from which give the greatest effect on SEO optimization. In the context of ICOs, sites are replaced by a system of referrals, the most valuable of which are the "founding fathers" of the community, or the first investors of the project. Barwicki proposes to organize such a structure of the community at the stage of the presale, allowing only a limited number of investors onto the whitelist. The terms of the project are left to each project at its own discretion. It can be either the writing of a blog post by a participant or the invitation of a certain number of new participants. According to Barwicki, it is effective and, at zero cost, replaces the practice of stimulating the community through bounty and airdrop campaigns, which involve the free distribution of tokens.
Mikhail Karpushin, the CMO of the GetBlogger platform, answered the remaining questions about growth hacking.
How does traditional marketing, which in general is successfully used in the promotion of blockchain projects and ICOs, correlate with the growth hacking strategies? Are they competing or complementary tools?
These are always complementary things. Growth hacking is about how a marketer finds the opportunity to attract as much attention from the target audience as possible with minimal monetary and time costs.
There is an opinion that growth hackers may not have experience in traditional marketing at all, but instead have an experimental background. Is it true that "growth hackers" are "marketing developers,” and what skills are more important here—marketing or development skills?
Yes, growth hacking is how an expert can find opportunities for rapid growth without necessarily reading hundreds of marketing books or even being able to cite any specific strategy. The main thing is to be able to react quickly to what is happening around you, to correctly interpret what happens to the product being promoted, to know thoroughly the tools you work with, and to feel the pain of the target audience by addressing it in one language. There is a minimum of tools that every growth hacker should be able to work with, and development skills are not imperative here. It is more important that he can quickly find and organize a coder and designer to accomplish the task.
Most important is the ability to feel the audience, to confirm this feeling by numbers and to be in a state of constant testing of both new approaches to the audience, and new opportunities for the tools with which you work. The faster you implement these opportunities, the faster the product grows relative to its competitors.
Is it true that the main goal of the growth hacker is to choose the least resource-consuming and most successful channel from the point of view of attracting the audience? That is, not to immediately use all the sites (Bitcointalk, Reddit, Telegram, and Twitter), how traditional markers do, and instead choose one or two of the most powerful channels?
In part, yes, the main thing is to test all possible means, even the boldest channels relative to the ROI that it brings to your product, to choose the most effective, and to scale them. At the same time, one should not forget that marketing is always complex, and you need to leave time to test all channels. You cannot focus only on performance, because complex PR, community work, and reputation also significantly affect the conversion of all indicators.
And the final question is related to the previous one: is the principle of fail fast fundamental in growth hacking? What other tools, principles, and strategies are important in growth hacking?
As I said, it is important not just to test all available channels and choose the most converting ones, but also to keep seeking new opportunities. An option is the use of chatboxes in Facebook to work with the community and attract new leads. The one who introduced this mechanic first reduced the CPO (cost per order. DeCenter.) by several times.
The growth hacker should be maximally diversified so as not to miss "windows of opportunity" that open every day. For example, marketing professionals almost do not notice the bans on advertising of crypto projects on Facebook, Google, and Twitter, because they know how to easily circumvent them. Growth hacking is just about that. At a time when all players see obstacles, the growth hacker finds a simple way to get around them. This is about a permanent search for opportunities, where they may not be seen at first glance.