By Gerry Carr
One inarguable fact about growth-hacking is that it has been very successful at hacking the growth of itself as a concept. From a creative job title at Dropbox thanks to Sean Ellis in 2010 through to today it has transformed the role of marketing especially in the start-up space hugely. Many companies like Intercom.io and Whatsapp boast of building their business without any marketing function as if having large numbers of people focused on growing the conusmer base is not, in some way, marketing.
So in this land of growth-hacking he or she who writes code or at least is extremely technically proficient is king (or queen). AirBnB for instance credits its initial real success to being able to cross-post to Craiglist despite the fact that there is no open API. They had to reverse-engineer the way the forms work to do it. The conclusion is that without the technical chops to realise that this is even possible it would never have been done. The implication is that with a marketeer with traditional skills on board the guys at AirBnB would still be renting out their loft in San Francisco for a few dollars a night. For more on this and other classic hacking stories there is a great guide here.
This is interesting to us at Nickelled Towers because we sit between two stools here. We are a young company that is trying to expand its user base. We don’t have a traditional marketing function, we are very tech-savvy and we do try to apply many of the growth lessons that we learn from peers and from example in how we grow our business. Classic growth hackers right?
Well sure, except we also work with people every day, prospects and customers, who are smart people whose focus is to improve the accessibility of their product, to improve the conversion of their website, to enhance the experience of different sets of users in engaging with their online and mobile products.
Weirdly though they often don’t work for start-ups and never have and some of them are tech-savvy and some of them are decidedly not. And whether they are techy or not they do not want to invest those technical resources either personal or corporate into building the kind of interactive guides that Nickelled produces. Are they growth hackers? I can’t see why not.
I guess this is where I feel uncomfortable with growth hacker as a label. It feels like it is trying to grab the monopoly on growth and restrict it to a technical elite. Not deliberately I should say, as this discussion highlights, the traits of growth hackers most value are curiosity and focus - something not unique to any skill set. But the hero examples that that the growth hackers point to do mythologise fairly deep and somewhat obscure integration, onboarding or product feature tweaks.
This technical bias does not sit well with me I think because it runs counter to the philosophy that we have at Nickelled. The whole point was to build an interactive guide platform that was open to anyone, without any technical requirement beyond the basic ability to point, click and type. We wanted people’s knowledge and expertise of their own product or service to be unleashed through giving them easy-to-use tools, easy-to-consume analytics and provide a service that is incredibly easy for the user to take advantage of. I doubt many of our customers would see what they are doing as growth-hacking but in reality it is, it really is. I like to think it is growth-hacking demystified.
The goal of Nickelled here will always be to make the tools available to everyone whatever their technical background. And the reason will always be that we want to empower everyone whatever their role to grow towards their goal of more users, better service or whatever it is that Nickelled can help with. Love to hear your thoughts.