7 September 2021 Reading time: 4 min

Million dollar growth even for free? How growth hacks promote growth a book review

Rafał Dziuryk

Growth Hacker Marketing, Rayan Holiday’s book was added to my stack some time ago and it waited for the right moment. I bought the book after listening to one of the marketing podcasts about the viral spread of content. This topic interested me very much, so I decided to take a look at it.

A revolution in marketing – this is how the book Growth Hacker Marketing can be summarized, because it completely undermines the sense of investing in previously known channels or methods of promotion, such as advertising on TV, radio, billboards, paid campaigns on the Internet (Google Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). But if there is no sense to invest in these traditional channels, where we should invest? This is where the term “Growth Hacker” comes in.

Who is this “Growth Hacker”? The word “hacker” may sound like something not legal, but nothing could be more wrong. Hacker in this term means a person, who is looking for unconventional, innovative ways to promote and develop a product with an additional difficulty – the really low advertising budget (sometimes also with no budget). I’m afraid that it sounds too incomprehensible, so now I will present some examples that should explain everything.

My favorite example that I read in the book, and which shows the potential of this innovative approach, is the example with Hotmail. Hotmail wanted to promote one of its first free e-mail services. Instead of an expensive advertising campaign, they decided to add a simple text at the bottom of every message, with a link that informs about the possibility of creating for free a Hotmail e-mail account. Thanks to this really simple move, each message was a discreet advertisement of the service. Brilliant and extremely simple, right? This procedure, practically for free (not counting a few hours of the developers’ work), allowed to reach the level of a million users in just 6 months, and finally lead to the great success of the entire service. Because it cannot be denied that selling the brand for $ 400 million in just 30 months after launch can certainly be called a huge success.

Another clever trick that helped Dropbox (Dropbox is the cloud that allows storing data) to gain a lot of new users and strengthen the relationship with active users, was the integration with social networks. A user who connects an account with Facebook or Twitter received an additional 150 MB of disk space for free. Based on this, Dropbox was able to show information on these services that a given user is using Dropbox and gained free advertising on a recommendation basis. Evaluate for yourself how would the information that one of your friends uses is a service that is unknown to you or known, but you didn’t have the opportunity to try out. I am sure that this information would arouse your interest.

Today, both of the above-mentioned tricks are commonly used in various services, they are no longer innovative solutions, but they are a set of good practices how to promote the product. However, can these solutions bring similar benefits as I described in examples in every situation? It would certainly have been very good then.

In the traditional approach, the main task of the “marketer” is to promote the product, regardless of what the product is, for whom it was created, and what features it has. However, in the case of growth hackers, it all starts with matching the product to the market, and “the best marketing decision is to create a product or service that meets the real and pressing need of a clearly defined target group.” A real growth hacker first makes sure that there is a group of users who are looking for this type of product, exactly as it is, with these functionalities. If this statement doesn’t match, it is necessary to go back to the design stage and change something, improve, adjust, and verify again whether this condition match this time. Otherwise, promoting the product and actively acquiring new users will not make sense because the product will not be able to keep them. We will interest people who will interact with our product but will abandon it after a short time – disappointed that the product has not met their expectations.

It allows not only to learn about different and interesting approaches to development along with ready-made, proven practices but also explains different user behaviors, thanks to which it will be easier for us, the creators, to prepare the product in such a way that it meets the following quote:

“Forget the conventional wisdom that says if a company lacksgrowth, it should invest morein sales and marketing. Instead, it should invest inrefining and improving theservice itself until users areso happy that they can’t stopusing the service (and theirfriends come along withthem).”

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