‘Growth hacking’, the new marketing trend in startups
By Vishal Kapadia, MMK Student
Having recently completed the MSc in Marketing and Creativity at ESCP Business School, I have been exposed to many industries and marketing best (and worst) practices across many different companies.
The models, frameworks and approaches of the programme are no doubt valuable for integrating marketing with strategy in many industries, ranging from hi-tech, to cultural and fashion-forward organisations.
For me, however, the most interesting area to which to apply these frameworks is the exciting world of internet startups. There is a great buzz around the world, from Tel Aviv to London, with everywhere aspiring and claiming to be the “next Silicon Valley”, with ecosystems of hustlers, designers and coders gelling with incoming venture capital.
Many, many products come out of these various ecosystems, with a new startup a day announced on http://techcrunch.com, many with series A or series B funding in the millions of dollars. However, despite all the funding and much of the hype, many of these products do not end up catching the market share they had hoped to.
A variety of factors contribute to the success or failure of these internet products, with successes by the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, Roxio and Pinterest flanked by thousands of failures in the same marketplaces by ideas that didn’t quite catch the market’s interest in the same way.
In large corporates, especially FMCGs, you often see the role of a product manager, who manages a specific product or brand, connecting the voice of the consumer, the manufacturer and the corporate board to ultimately deliver maximum value for and by that product in the marketplace. Increasingly, within startups we are beginning to see a similar trend, as companies strive to bring their product closer to a market need to give a better chance of success in nascent markets.
There are two roles, which are being created in many startups, beyond the old ‘customer evangelists’ or CMO monikers. These roles are that of the startup ‘product manager’, who has an understanding of the technical product and looks to engineer greater links between the product and customer base; and secondly the role of the ‘growth hacker’, who attempts to gain maximum growth for products via online channels and the rich social media and online PR infrastructures available today.
Both of these roles have the ability to make technical products more human and more relevant to a mass consumer audience. Internet products are becoming more user friendly and people expect a more holistic user experience beyond simple utility. A great example of this is to compare a giant of the ‘old internet’ – Lycos’ geeky technical interface – vs. a growing company like Pinterest, which utilises pictures, integrated sharing and ‘pins’ to make a very fluid and human experience in the iPhone/iPad age.
The increase in demand for these roles demonstrates a new opportunity for the next generation of marketers both in startups and in the wider corporate world. Consumers are evolving as information flows, media and increasing convergence change the choices that consumers can make on a daily basis. In the startup world, nascent companies are responding to these changes by bringing in specialists to bridge the ambiguity. Perhaps it’s time for the larger corporates to do the same as more of their operations, marketing or otherwise, move online, before they lose market share to incumbents who bridge the emerging market gaps more efficiently.