Hack Your Growth, But Don’t Hack Your Marketing
There has been write-ups about how marketing is changing, and some have implied these changes to be quite fundamental. I disagree because much of marketing is about how company perceptions interact with our brains before we even touch the products. And as long as our brains are functioning the same, the fundamentals are not changing.
What is changing are some methods, priorities, tactics, channels and tools. But not the fundamentals. Fundamentals rarely change, no matter what the rhetoric says.
The Whole Marketing System
To gain some perspective and see the forest from the trees, I made up this diagram to depict the “whole marketing system”, and start from the top down gradually, so you can appreciate the hierarchy of cascading effects from one stage to another, and the objectives inside each phase.
Sometimes the path from Exposure to Advocacy takes 2 minutes, and sometimes it takes weeks or months. It depends on your product and the type of market you’re in.
And there’s an interesting closed-loop effect that happens. As your customers become advocates, they will in turn give you free awareness, so your marketing becomes self-perpetuating. As an example, every time you display your Twitter handle at the bottom of your email, or in your marketing material, you are also giving Twitter free advertising.
Everything in marketing is usually part of something else.
There are things that replace others, but it’s always within the context of what marketing does. So, every time you hear of something new in marketing, whether it’s a tool, a tactic or a new buzz word, first attempt to slot it where it fits in the Whole Marketing Hierarchy, because it will typically fit somewhere in the Awareness –> Demand –> Experience –> Support continuum.
Digital Marketing is a Child of Marketing
If you live in the startup world, two marketing topics may have recently overtaken your mind share: Growth Hacking and Inbound Marketing. They are important, but don’t let them overtake your share of marketing activity.
You can certainly hack your growth (and you should),
but don’t hack your marketing.
More customers are online, therefore we can do more online with them, but digital marketing doesn’t live in a vacuum. It’s a child of marketing.
And why are we giving technical reference terms to marketing, like “full-stack” marketing and growth “hacking”?
Marketing is not a stack. So, let’s not talk about full-stack marketing.
Marketing doesn’t get hacked. So, let’s confine growth hacking to what it is: an activity of marketing to drive demand.
Let’s step back now to see the forest from the trees.
You need to drive Awareness for your product, by increasing its exposure, making it easily discoverable, and establishing a positive image in the minds of your prospects. Your goal is to change the customer’s perception about you. (Inbound marketing starts here)
Here, you need to work on generating demand for your product by making a compelling case for a trial or evaluation, increased usage, and ultimately a preference for it. You are pulling the market towards your product. (Growth hacking fits here)
Here, you’ve got a customer or user. Now you need to make sure they fully experience the value of your product, not just initially, but throughout the lifecycle of their usage, and every time they use it. The more value they receive, the more retention power you have over them, and the stronger the relationship becomes.
Loyalty is the ultimate reward of a satisfied customer that has benefited from your product. And the best manifestation of that loyalty is when they refer your product to others (via a self-initiated viral action, or as requested by you), and when they become your advocates. This, in turn will increase your products’ awareness in the marketplace, because consumers and business users alike follow the recommendations of their friends and peers.
Everything is Part of Something
The simple narrative of marketing is that you need to move your product from generating Awareness for it, to driving Demand, to delivering the best customer Experience, and Supporting your users so they will refer you to others.
No matter how you want to slice it, every single thing you will do in marketing is part of something else. That “something else” is either a) driving Awareness, b) generating Demand, c) enhancing the Experience of your customers, or d) earning their Loyalty.
You are already developing a great product. Why not pair it with great marketing?
Not everybody needs to know marketing,
but everybody needs to understand what marketing does.
If you wait for your product to be done before you start thinking about how to connect with your market, you are stacking the deck against you.
The more you separate marketing and market thinking from user value and product connection, the worse your odds at success.
All that being said, and I agree with the direction of your post William I need to nudge you that while certainly the social web or worse, social media is not marketing, the customer and customer behaviors have indeed evolved. It doesn’t mean that the medium is the method but without a doubt consuming culture and behavior have evolved.
Marketing has never been more essential, more rich in tools, yet more poorly understood or certainly put into practice.
I’m with you Arnold. “Social” gets folded and is part of marketing. It doesn’t lead marketing.
Nicely put William.
Great idea to have the “discuss on blog” link at the end. I’m going to incorporate that into my mailchimp newsletter.
I’m doing it manually, but if you use the RSS to mail feature, I believe it does that automatically.
William, Great post. Good timing for me too.
I’m going to complain a bit on your graphic though. While the point gets across, it’s very cluttered and unprioritized visually. Edward Tufte would give you a chartjunk violation. Perhaps I can offer some suggestions to up your graphics. They should be the same level as your message.
Yup, guilty as charged. Email me 🙂
Good to know. Thx.
Thanks William for another way of looking at this. I agree completely that as long as we sell to humans we’ll need marketers.
Thanks for the great post, just shared it with my team with my thoughts. I’m not a marketer by trade and this is certainly helpful as I’m coming up the learning curve. We’ve definitely been throwing around inbound and growth hacking a lot the past few weeks as we focus on distribution (w/o a large marketing budget). This has helped me step back and see the forest from the trees. FWIW, thinking in terms of awareness and how we go about generating it is easier to grasp than “inbound marketing”. I feel that without being able to do that, the rest is moot anyways.
yes, Awareness/Discovery is the first objective of inbound marketing. If it’s done really well, prospects will convert to trying your product.
But you are right to observe that this isn’t done in a vacuum. You need to be in control of the whole process, and apply the right activities for each phase.
Love it– back to the basics of human psychology and marketing– that digital is the child of general marketing principles! People get so enamored in tools and techniques that they often forget about creating amazing advocates– and that their feedback/applause is what truly drives sales.
Too bad you can’t just hire a vendor or buy software to do that, right?
The closest is to work with an Advocate Marketing platform like Influitive for e.g.
I am so late to the conversation that it’s probably pointless to comment but here goes. Great post – could not agree more. Also as a technical/marketing person I find that if your doing web/digital marketing – you need to have or be comfortable learning basic front end programming/scripting skills and not have to call a developer every time you need to change the text on the site.
Good points Kamil. Agreed.