How To Achieve Rapid Marketing Success

Technology and advancement have completely changed the face of marketing today. While marketers are jumping on to the latest bandwagon of new marketing strategies such as big data, social media, and virality, most seem to have forgotten the crux of marketing – that is to expand their customer base and keep the incoming of new customers rolling! 

Moreover, while these companies have understood the ‘need to have an Internet presence and go viral’, they still resort to traditional, old-school marketing strategies and concepts, without realizing that to really keep up with the new market and its trends, they have to revamp not only marketing strategies but their entire company itself.

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday shows marketers the way forward, combining relevant strategies of smart product design and user data to effectively tap into consumer markets. With examples from successes like Instagram, Dropbox, Groupon, and Twitter, it charts out a path for companies to effectively and economically use the concept of growth-hacker marketing to pool in more customers.

Rapid Growth At A Low Budget

Today, Twitter and Dropbox have become household names. Within lesser than a decade, these companies have seen exponential growth in users. 

While these companies have been asking the same traditional marketing questions to get answers, what has made their marketing strategies different?

They found their answers in growth-hacker marketing, a concept that uses technology to find answers to the same questions that traditional marketing asks. They relied on tracking user behaviour to tweak products to align with what customers want. This has led them to essentially blur the lines between their product development and marketing divisions, thus redefining marketing altogether.

The emergence of small start-ups has made gunning for big budgets virtually redundant. Instead, smaller start-ups focus on becoming the ‘next big thing’ within a small budget. Relying on a small budget means that massive media marketing campaigns are often out of reach, and getting that big customer base needs creativity.

While traditional marketing strategies focus on creating a ‘buzz’ before the product is launched, growth-hacker marketing aims at rapid growth by constantly introducing improvements in their products after the products are already out in the markets. This strategy required marketers to measure statistics based on user data – right from Facebook ‘likes’ to website click rates – and then applying their learning to improving products and aiming to optimize them over time.

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

What People Want 

Traditionally, marketers’ weren’t fixated on creating customer-centric products. They relied on clever campaigns to sell an existing product.

However, the growth-hacker technique focuses on a product-market fit – meaning, creating a product that fits to satisfy the needs of the consumer. This technique bypasses the need for heavy, expensive advertising tools by converting users into evangelists for their products, thus advertising the product for free!

Instagram for example, was at first a social networking platform where users had photo options. They later realized that their users were exclusively interested in their enhanced filter options. In order to achieve the product-market fit, they focused on this filter-enhanced feature, propelling their business to success.

They used relevant questions such as, ‘How does the product fulfill consumer needs? Do they find it useful? Does it add value to the lives of the customers?’ in order to determine their product-market fit.

While the concept of finding a product-market fit seems elusive, it is easy as long as the marketing strategy focuses on the customers. For example, some authors use blogs to gain an understanding of what their readers are interested in. Additionally, they even ask readers for online feedback for titles and covers, to be able to deliver exactly what readers want.

Targeting The Right Customers

Ensuring that the product reaches the right customers is one of the most vital requirements for growth hacking to be successful. Even the best product in the market won’t be a success if consumers don’t know it exists!

Before Aaron Swartz co-founded Reddit, he had founded 2 websites, a collaborative encyclopedia, much like Wikipedia, and similar to However, due to a lack of user attention, neither of the websites worked.

While both, traditional and growth hackers focus on reaching customers, growth hackers get a little more creative. For example, when Dropbox launched, it was an ‘invite-only membership. This exclusivity led customers to flock waiting lists that grew from 5000 to 75000. While anyone can get Dropbox today, this creativity has led to a whopping 300-million customer base.

Additionally, rather than simply targeting everyone, they chose to target a select few, essentially the right customers, thus avoiding a waste of time, money, and resources. 

This ‘just right ‘ customer base is often found in the early adopters or customers who are willing to try out new trends and technologies. Once these early adopters become fans, they eventually become loyal spokespersons, recommending the products to friends and family. Such organic referrals are the key to growth.

Uber gave free rides during the South by Southwest event in 2013, with the aim of reaching early adopters. They resorted to conventional advertising almost a year later.

Achieving Virality

Every marketer is talking about virality these days. However, unlike everyone else, growth hackers understand the fact that achieving virality isn’t an arbitrary phenomenon, nor is it magic. They know that in order to achieve virality that has to, once again, ask the right questions.

Is my product worth talking about? Why would customers share this? Would it be easy to share?

These are just a few questions that lead to the answer – customers will share, refer and recommend a product only if it is really worth sharing. Making one’s product share-worthy is a simple two-step process. 

Firstly, focus on making the product share-worthy, and second encourage sharing! For example, Groupon devised a ‘refer a friend’ campaign, where they credited users with $10 when their referral made their first purchase. Thus they rewarded customers for sharing.

Marketers can use publicity to encourage sharing too. According to John Berger, the virality specialist, ideas and products become popular, and thus viral when they are noticed. Spotify, for example, used the massive user base of Facebook when they integrated. Once users saw that their friends were using Spotify, everyone wanted to jump on the popular wagon!

Similarly, when Apple manufactured their iPod cables in white rather than the usual black color, they made their cables stand out in the crowd, thus ensuring that their customers become free, walking advertisements for their product.

Improving Products to Retain Customers

Many marketers get simply satisfied once they have got their customers and stop paying attention to existing customers. However, the ball doesn’t stop rolling there. Growth hacking places importance on being attentive to the needs of the customers even after they have purchased the product to retain them.

Thus, to execute this, growth hackers employ the right metric to measure the performance of their product. There are many tools available to marketers to measure conversion rates. In order to figure out and improve conversion rate, marketers have to first understand how to define their conversion rate, which essentially differs for each business.

Twitter, for example, hired growth hackers who realized that conversion rates improved when users had the option to manually select 10 accounts to follow, as opposed to their earlier list of 20 default accounts available to users. By finding a way to improve their service with this small tweak, they were able to convert inactive users.

Ensuring that customers stick around ensures maximization of return on investments, because it is cheaper to retain customers with product improvements than to attract new ones altogether. Market Metrics, the research firm, places profits from existing customer sales at 60-70%, as opposed to the 20% profits marketers get from new customers.

How Growth-Hacker Marketing Actually Works

Ryan Holiday actually practiced what he preaches. He used the concept of growth-hacker marketing to launch and market this book – Growth-Hacker Marketing!

He began his ‘testing’ by writing an article about growth-hacker marketing for Fast Company, the business magazine. Soon Penguin Books showed interest in the article and created a short eBook based on the article. This move was cheaper and allowed them to understand the audience’s response. Once Holiday saw a positive response to the eBook, he expanded it and launched it as a paperback.

His next growth-hacker move was to reach the right audience. To do this, he converted lessons from the book into articles, published them on sites such as The Huffington Post, MarketWatch, etc. for free to reach his audience.

He connected with and rewarded the existing fans by giving them an opportunity to sign-up for free for his newsletter. With about 10% of his readership signing up, he was able to build an email list to notify them that his extended, hard-copy version of the book was available for purchase.

Holiday actually reaped benefits from his employ of growth-hacker marketing technique. A simple, low-cost technique that can enable marketers anywhere to achieve truly rapid marketing success!