Book Review: Growth Hacker Marketing

Last night, I finished reading Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising* by Ryan Holiday. I think it is essential reading for small business owners and nonprofit organizations. It looks at marketing with fresh eyes.

This book came out originally in 2013 and was rereleased in 2014. It is a short book. You could finish it in one sitting as it weighs in at 111 pages. Holiday began the book with an introduction to growth hacking and expanded his thoughts over four main sections or steps. In the last half of the book, he included sections on putting lessons into practice, a glossary, FAQs, and next steps.

As Holiday explained in his book, a lack of a marketing budget forces companies and organizations to look at marketing in a different way. How can you effectively market when you do not have any money? Throughout the book, Holiday provided ample examples of how companies like Dropbox, Twitter, Pinterest, Evernote, Google Mail, Instagram, etc. were able to rapidly expand their share of consumers with unconventional methods. As he noted, marketing and product development worked hand in hand.

In the examples Holiday included, he described how companies used growth hacker marketing tactics as part of product development and release. For example, at one time, you could only use Google mail if you received an invitation and Hotmail included a message about Hotmail at the end of every email. Growth hackers are targeting an audience who is interested in the product by leveraging like-minded people. They use metrics to help tweak how they are getting the word out.

According to Holiday, growth hacker marketing has four steps:

Step 1 – It begins with Product Market Fit

Start with creating a product that people actually want.

“Growth hackers believe that products—even whole businesses and business models—can and should be changed until they are primed to generate explosive reactions from the first people who see them.” (Holiday, 2014, p.1)

Find out what your customers want and develop a product for them. Everyone in a business should be working towards this goal. Holiday added examples from companies who apply this approach for product development. Customers should be part of the development process.

Step 2 – Finding your growth hack

Holiday pointed out that you do not need to market to everyone with a large expensive campaign, you only need to market to your target audience with methods that work. Much of a campaign can be done in house. Naturally, you should test each of your methods to measure the results. There were lots of ideas in this section for growth hacker marketing.

“It doesn’t matter how many people know about you or how they find out about you. It matters how many sign up.” (Holiday, 2014, p. 26)

Step 3 – Turn 1 into 2 and 2 into 4—going viral

Holiday stressed you must make it easy for customers to access your product and spread the word about your product. Focus on developing a product that people want to share.

“You should not just encourage sharing but create powerful incentives to do so.” (Holiday, 2014, p. 34)

Find ways for your customers to publicize your product for free, e.g., stickers, pins, Facebook posts, etc. (Tweet this)

Step 4 – Close the loop: Retention and optimization

In this last section, Holiday stressed finding the metrics that mean something to your company. With this knowledge, keep improving your product and processes to improve customer retention. We should be continuously increasing email list subscribers. We can only do this by delivering a great product.

All in all, I found Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising to be an enjoyable and informative book. As soon as I post this, I will be rushing my copy over to the VP of marketing. If you are a small business owner or a non-profit leader, I would recommend reading this book. It will cause you to take pause and think about marketing differently.


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