Growth Hacking & Creating Advantages That Leverage Asymmetry in Consumer Markets
Like many new jobs popping up in our economy, the P2P designer is an odd amalgamation of various disciplines. Part interaction designer, part community manager, part analyst, part marketer, part product manager, part hacker. For this reason, I often hear people say, “That’s what an interaction designer is!” Or “You’re just describing a product developer.” Everyone can see a part of their line of work in it. I still argue though, that while the line is blurry, the line is only blurry because we’re at the beginning stages of this discipline. To riff off an often cited McLuhan thought: old media is the content of new media. In other words, every new discipline appropriates the protocols of the previous discipline before it transformatively re-works them. As more dialogue, best practices, jargon, and case studies emerge, the title of P2P designer will draw definitive lines around itself.
That said, there is another emerging discipline with which I’m fascinated. It’s called “growth hacking,” or, as Danielle Morrill prefers, “distribution hacking.” Andrew Chen brought attention to the new title with his blog post, “Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing.” He writes:
“Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph. On top of this, they layer the discipline of direct marketing, with its emphasis on quantitative measurement, scenario modeling via spreadsheets, and a lot of database queries. If a startup is pre-product/market fit, growth hackers can make sure virality is embedded at the core of a product. After product/market fit, they can help run up the score on what’s already working.”
He then adds,
“This isn’t just a single role — the entire marketing team is being disrupted. Rather than a VP of Marketing with a bunch of non-technical marketers reporting to them, instead growth hackers are engineers leading teams of engineers. The process of integrating and optimizing your product to a big platform requires a blurring of lines between marketing, product, and engineering, so that they work together to make the product market itself. Projects like email deliverability, page-load times, and Facebook sign-in are no longer technical or design decisions — instead they are offensive weapons to win in the market.”
In regards to “Why Growth Hacking?,” Danielle offers an excellent thought that is as relevant to large companies with small marketing budgets as it is to startups:
“Startups need to use unconventional and “hacky” tactics for achieving distribution of their products because the conventional ones are crowded channels being executed on by companies with 100s of times more money, time, and manpower. SEO, SEM, display advertising, PR, even social media are channels any marketing person worth their salt can execute on.”
The reason I’m so enthused about growth hacking is because I see common interests and complimentary skillets between it and P2P design. Not unlike the copywriter and art director union from advertising’s golden age, the P2P designer and the growth hacker can be catalyzing partners. One erects the infrastructure of collaboration. The other drives the scaling of the P2P platform. Together, they the create, as Danielle so brilliantly says,
“systematic unfair advantages that leverage asymmetry in markets for the company’s benefit.”
(See my previous post on the Law of Asymmetrical Competition as to why I like Danielle’s thinking so much.)
Regardless of how you feel about P2P design, growth hacking, or distribution hacking, there is a undeniable truth to which these titles point: the previously silted disciplines of product, marketing, and business model is blurring. In a networked world, product and marketing are often times one in the same thing. The talent market must respond.