GROWTH is the new marketing – for non-tech readers

Recently I’ve spoken to an audience of hardware manufacturers. Having bestowed the topic of “the new trend of digital media marketing”, I’ve decided to introduce the growth hacking mindset into this presentation. A lot of you would have read the classic reading, “Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing” by Andrew Chen. If you’re part of a startup team, regardless what role you’re in, product, design, or business, you need to read it. But this chapter isn’t about discussing the holy grail of API, my presentation is about convincing people to embrace the spirit of growth hacking. If you’re a small tech team, good, you can already plan a 3-month roll out. But if you’re part of a digital marketing or an innovation team in a bigger company, be prepared to do a lot of lobbying. The process of pushing “growth” isn’t easy but it’s certainly rewarding.

Chief Marketing Officer Becoming Growth Specialist

If you’re hiring a marketing person, think twice what your are looking for? Are you looking for someone good at PR, organizing events, writing media plan, or a community manager on Facebook? Whatever the case, you may know you need someone eloquent in the digital media space, but that alone is not enough now. You should be looking for one that ingrains a growth mindset, who knows how to take one dollar from the company and use it directly into user growth, hence a growth specialist.

Marketing is no longer a glamorous job.

Trust Mad Men no more. Because being a marketer, you no longer have the privilege to BS talk creativity with the agency exec all day, throw big budget on media spending and celebrities endorsement, definitely not when you have the pressure to achieve double-digit growth; you no longer have the “branding” or “brand exposure” shield to hide behind, exactly because we all need to work with digital media now, meaning everything can be trackable and measurable, putting marketers under the ROIs scrutiny.

Marketer ROI Scrutiny

Increasingly we’re finding ourselves scratching our head, getting puzzled by how to grow more “likes” on the FB fan page, more “comments”, “more traffic”, “more downloads”, more “clicks” to the check-out button or sign-up button.

Some of our clients would have even suggested buying downloads or app store ranking or social seeders to fake comments. But at the end of the day, if you’re requested to report how many sales or leads you’ve generated, you know you’re just like the sales rep sitting next to you, being put at the frontline and are directly responsible for the company’s revenue growth.

Nurturing Growth Mindset

Startup Teams

Good news is, you can learn the tricks from the companies that are constantly challenged to attain thousands, if not millions of growth every year. And they have a name – startups.

“ Growth hacking are skills that are invaluable and can change the trajectory of a new product. For the first time ever, it’s possible for new products to go from zero to 10s of millions users in just a few years. Great examples include Pinterest, Zynga, Groupon, Instagram, Dropbox.” – Andrew Chen

TalkBox User Growth Traction
Take a startup we built as an example. We grew our user base to 1 million in 3 months and 10 million in less than a year. Whether we have ended up being commercially successful? That’s another story. But what if each of our users is giving us $1? You get the idea.

Think Like Growth Hacker
That is why I urge every marketer, from companies big or small, to learn about the #growthmindset.

At first sight, the word “hacking” may sound intimidating but basically it is similar to the witty Seth Godin’s “Guerrilla marketing” we loved to talk about. Just to imagine now you have engineers to create robots to do the part-time students’ job. The essence is the same, figuring out where a lot of your customers go, find a way to be there, wow them with a Ron Popeil kitchenware demo, shove enough handbills in their hands, come up with smartass copy and design so that they are convinced and converted to take money out and buy whatever you’re offering. Bottomline is your product has to be good, so good that your customers will keep coming back and don’t mind brining a few friends along the way.

Growth hacking is commonly distilled into 3 golden rules:

Growth Hacking 3 rules

Again, I am over-simplifying here. A full picture of growth hacking requires a hybrid of marketing, engineering and data analysis.

Growth Hacker 3 identities

But no one should stop you from initiating a growth hack brainstorming session in your company just because you don’t have an in-house app developer and a data scientist. As long as you put your business development people and your product development people together, peach them to be number-driven and growth-driven, you’ve got a team there. Point is, you as a business owner, a CEO, or a decision-maker, you need to be committed, champion it and pull all your resources on one unified plan to achieve this goal.

Some Daily Life Growth Hacking Examples

Rule Number 1

Your product is always your best marketing engine. Click To Tweet

Your goal is to develop a product that not only are customers willing to pay but they’re so into it that they’d even share it to help you grow.

Coca Cola’s “Share a coke” is one such example. Through the local slang and personalized bottle labels, a commodity beverage, that used to be pushed to customers by million-dollar ad campaigns, is now turned into a product that spreads and sells itself.

I particularly enjoy this making-of video because it illustrates how a growth strategy is being beautifully executed and engineered by a change of manufacturing process. Buying that coke may seem easy to customers but just appreciate the intricate coordination and alteration of business processes and logistics in order to make it happen.

Share a coke

As I said it’s all worth it because it generates increase in revenue, not just sales volume but the product’s perceived value.

For a regular HK$8 coke, we are now willing to pay close to ten times more for a personalized edition. What’s more, it is now a perfect gift idea. We don’t just collect one for ourselves but buying multiple bottles and give our friends and families like Hallmark cards.

2. A #growthmindset demo video at every touchpoint to get early adopters

If you want examples of product demo videos, turn to Apple. They always manage to wow the world by worshiping their own products in front of the camera. It takes the most ingenious copywriting and art direction to incorporate one product’s “Features-Advantages-Benefits” into 30 second to 1 minute. The demo video is one promotion material I would definitely spend some serious budget on.

But again, don’t let the dollar sign scare you away. Just need to bear in mind your objective is to demo your product wherever and whenever your customer drops by. So max out your two most handy shop windows – your website and social presence.

Facebook Cover

Applying growth mindset even if you’re only in charge of the company’s Facebook page. Seize the cover photo to show off your product and analyze your audience responses. See how Tiffany intelligently places its diamonds and how Red Bull carefully reproduces its X-factor for their visitors.

Mailchimp is another product that I love a lot and their homepage is smartly designed to tell you right into your face how easy it is to create a newsletter using them, and how you can replace your 6-figure agency budget with just a few drag and drop.

Mailchimp Landing Page

They don’t waste space to list out all their powerful features or client testimonial. They conclude and condense all these into one sentence and a “sign up FREE” button. It’s a no brainer. You see what you like and they let you try it out right away. Isn’t that just as fun as having a go with a Dyson vacuum cleaner in the department store?


When talking about growth hacking, we can easily write one whole chapter to describe the various tactics Airbnb has used – both technical and editorial. But for this presentation, I would only show those content examples.

There is nothing new about Airbnb’s product or business model. Essentially they’re a rental listing directory. What’s innovative is how full fetched they go to beautify their offers, i.e. the holiday home, and how they used hardcore hacking (some may even argue it’s close to spamming) to recruit listing, i.e. the supply side of their business.

Picture is worth a thousand words.

Airbnb Pic 1 Airbnb Pic 3 Airbnb Pic 4 Airbnb Pic 5

The way Airbnb created and curated their “product demo” was very manual and labor-intensive. Since they know the only option to entice travellers, i.e. the demand side of their business, to make a booking, is to show them how good their “products”, or indeed the product photos are; and since the only way to ensure that is to produce the show flat photos themselves, they went out around the world to contract many freelance photographers from their destination locations, and selected some star holiday home to feature. The result is a magazine-like platform showcasing many eye-candy, which users are so drawn to just browsing the gust houses even if they’re not planning on any trips, hence boosting active usage of the platform. Another platform using the same tactic, I suspect, is Houzz.

Like many content-driven startups, the Airbnb team is leveraging on a big remote workforce, following the “hire them without needing to employ them” approach. Technology now enables effective management of productivity and outputs from your own global troop, as advocated by 4-hour work week.

Needless to say, Airbnb’s website is stunning and full of videos. But if you think it’s just videos after videos of show flats, then guess again. The platform has elevated from product-sell to experience-sell.

You will see that the videos they’re featuring now are examples of experience, ambiance, and interviews of how friendships are created around the world. This following video is the epitome of them all.

Demo videos have proven to be so crucial in their growth strategy that they now invest heavily in #content marketing.

3. A #growthmindset viral hook that encourages existing users to evangelise

Viral Hook

A viral hook embedded in the product is the reason why something as boring as cloud storage, like Dropbox, could grow into a US$4billion company in just a few years.

DropBox Scheme

The viral scheme works and Dropbox users are begging their friends to use Dropbox as well because the early adopters will get more storage, meaning no need to pay for it, if they get more people on board – “Dropbox is better for me if you have it too.”

Please note that we are not talking about giving coupons or discount the users don’t need. We’re talking about real benefits that the users really want.

DropBox Search Result

The “Dropbox user-get-user scheme” is already a huge marketing machine in its own right. If you search on Google, there are over 1mil results on this topic, with bloggers and online media ravishingly sharing tips to hack more storage space. The beauty of this is, no Techcrunch coverage or in-house blogposts can help Dropbox attain such wonderful SEO result and taking advantage of the competitive search term “cloud storage”.

Growth Hack NOW!

Growth Hack Now

The message is clear. Companies need to adopt a new mindset to market their products and that involves organizational changes and breaking down the departmentalization walls.

We are entering an era when marketers need to equip themselves with product design knowledge so they can be involved right at the product development stage. Long gone are the days when marketing students are brainwashed to believe that if they’re good, they can sell trash to customers.

Same applies to product designers and engineers, and CTOs. They need to equip themselves and think like marketers. Since day one, they need to picture how a product is going to be distributed online, shared on Facebook, how customers will take picture of their products and share them on Instagram, only then will they know how to strategically make the logo light up or have an iconic feature that users just have to share.

Hong Kong Movie

The seating plan of Hong Kong Movie is designed with green and red to show occupancy rate. They are like score card that film producers and actors love to share and brag about their full house.

What’s Next

Tip 1

Read the introductory book by Ryan Holiday. He’s not the first person to talk about growth hacking but as someone coming from the apparel industry, he gave insights on how other non-tech companies can be benefited from a growth mindset. A short and easy read.

Tip 2

Involve your CEO.

All departments have to be on board, as in the case of Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” to make this happen. The CEO needs to give his blessing to pull all parties together.

Tip 1

Draw some flow and start to make a plan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.