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Are Digital Marketers Becoming “Growth Hackers”?

Published: April 18, 2014

Author: Sean McEntee

These past few years, it seems the only thing being introduced at a faster rate than new technology for us adopt are the buzzwords that come with it. Anyone looking to enter the tech sector should be prepared to adopt an entirely new lexicon, seriously.
The term computer science itself was at one point a buzzword. It combined two words that were seemingly unrelated, yet over time made sense and have now become a universally recognized term and practice. More recently big data, analytics, and data science have all graduated from “buzzword status” and are now legitimate practices and fields of study.

tech talk

… And if you thought job titles were safe from “buzzwordification,” you were wrong. Elementary school career days are going to be a lot more complicated now thanks to tech.
Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Data Scientist

2. Growth Hacker

3. Tech Czar

4. Digital Prophet

5. Genius

6. Chief Evangelist

7. Chief Happiness Officer

8. Hacker-in-Residence

9. Full Stack Developer

10. Ninja/Guru/Rockstar

Some of these titles are just creative ways to label a position that has already existed (i.e. Data Scientist is a glorified Business Analyst); some of these are what happens when you let a 20-year-old structure a multi-million dollar startup. Yet some actually do define a new role that lacked its own title.
As a digital marketer, I’ve become especially fond of the term “growth hacker” in the past year or so, and for good reason. Check out how the interest over time on the term has skyrocketed since being introduced.

growth hacking

What is a growth hacker?

The definitions are all over the place depending on whom you talk to, but they all come back to one thing: growth hackers focus on low-cost and innovative alternatives to traditional marketing.
They were born out of necessity. A startup behaves differently than a corporation. Startups typically lack a marketing budget with room for error and likely don’t have a large specialized marketing team. They look to obtain customers in the cheapest and most repeatable way possible.

Are all Digital Marketers “Growth Hackers”?

Startups thrive with a “marketer” who understands UX, UI, SEO, PPC, Analytics, A/B Testing, Web Development, and Product Management — all in one package. Larger companies have the luxury of compartmentalizing these jobs (though I think you could argue whether doing so is efficient). Think of growth hackers as an engineer/marketer hybrid, someone who is able to completely eliminate the disconnect that often exists between an agency and their client’s development team.
Growth hackers don’t miss opportunities to make use of data. If a company is paying to obtain traffic, there is no reason they shouldn’t take the time to set up multiple A/B tests before letting the traffic come to their page. Calls-to-action, landing page messaging, button placement, images, and colors are all things that can make a huge difference down the road in terms of how efficiently you are able to acquire customers. If you have someone at your company or agency who can develop the landing pages themselves, plus traffic and analyze the data that comes to the pages, and finally make changes to the product based on that analysis, you have an extremely valuable team member who, in my opinion, does not fit the job description of a “marketer.”
Whether you label them unicorn marketers, full-stack, marketers or growth hackers, it doesn’t matter. Digital marketers are a dime a dozen these days, and companies who are hungry for growth are going to be looking to get a growth hacker – not just a marketer – on their payroll.
Don’t believe the hype? Ask executives at Airbnb, Dropbox, Pinterest, Craigslist, Groupon, and Twitter how they finally achieved that hockey stick growth chart that all startups hope to see one day!
Interested in learning more about growth hacking? Check out growthhackers.com, a collaborative community for marketers hungry for growth, created by the man who first coined the term back in 2010, Sean Ellis. You could also just check out this extremely helpful guide on growth hacking. And if you’re way more advanced than that, we’ll be on the lookout for your new buzzword any day now.

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