Growth Hacking: A Marketing Method for the Modern Age

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Hacking Growth" by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are traditional marketing methods still effective? How do you make your product/service stand out in modern markets?

In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, old approaches to marketing no longer work. Large-scale, big-budget advertising campaigns are too slow and imprecise for the online world. Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown present the solution to this dilemma—growth hacking marketing.

Keep reading to learn about the growth hacking marketing method.

Hack Your Marketing

According to the authors, the first step in growth hacking marketing is to hack your customer acquisition. This involves two main steps: 

  • Step #1: Find your language and market fit: Craft appealing language in your marketing materials that gets people to try your product.
  • Step #2: Find your channel and product fit: Find the best marketing channel for your product and optimize it for growth. 

(Shortform note: Matt Lerner, CEO of Startup Core Strengths, argues that any company should find its language and market fit before doing anything else. The language you use can have a huge impact on how many prospects become customers, and having a product before language and market fit often means you haven’t yet done the work to understand your target audience. To do this, Lerner recommends appealing to people’s underlying emotions, desires, dreams, and goals. Messaging that speaks to people’s innermost hopes and worries will resonate much more than lists of features and functions.)

Language and Market Fit

The authors explain that users’ attention spans are shorter than ever—down to eight seconds—so you must craft concise, compelling language that immediately gets across how your product will improve the user’s life. (Note that you should already know your target market; this fit is about refining your language to appeal to it.)

According to the authors, doing this is as simple as running A/B tests. An A/B test means creating two different versions of the same component of a page—such as the header of an article—and measuring how users respond to each. This allows you to test for which language, fonts, colors, graphics, and overall page designs are more effective. Run these tests throughout your product and marketing materials to optimize your language/market fit.

(Shortform note: Note that in 2019, a US senator submitted a bill that, if made law, would make it illegal to “to subdivide or segment consumers of online services into groups for the purposes of behavioral or psychological experiments or studies.” This bill, called Deceptive Experiences to Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) would thus prohibit businesses from creating user cohorts in order to split test (try out different ideas on different user groups) different features or marketing. As of 2022, this bill hasn’t been passed into US law.)

Channel and Product Fit

A channel is a way (and place) to market to your customers, such as through Facebook ads, Google search results, business trade shows, or YouTube sponsorships. The authors recommend focusing first on one channel that makes the most sense for your business

To find that channel, consider which channels make sense for your business, then narrow those down to one. For instance, a SaaS company with mainly young, online customers would consider paid Google search ads, Facebook ads, email marketing, and content marketing. In contrast, a B2B (business to business) hardware company might prioritize conferences and trade shows. 

(Shortform note: Serial entrepreneur Brian Balfour argues that while the term is channel-product fit, a product actually needs to mold itself to a channel—not the other way around. You control your product, but you can’t control the channel (whether it’s Google paid ads, Facebook ads, email, or something else). Consequently, your product needs to appeal to the kinds of users that will come through the channel you’re using. For instance, if you use paid Facebook ads, you’ll need to quickly deliver on the value promised by the ad, since users have less patience with paid ads than with organic search.)

Growth Hacking: A Marketing Method for the Modern Age

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown's "Hacking Growth" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Hacking Growth summary:

  • Why the old approaches to marketing no longer work in a high-tech world
  • How to rapidly increase your revenue and grow your business
  • A step-by-step guide on how to use the growth hacking method

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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