This is false, as you disprove a few paragraphs later:
"The goal of a marketer is to grow a customer base. That’s what these growth hackers are doing, they’re just doing it in a more technically advanced way via data confirmation and split testing."
That is the entire point of using a different term for it. Precise language is a useful tool. A job title that says "we're looking for technically advanced marketers" in a concise way will get you a better signal to noise ratio.
I don't understand why this offends you.
I do agree that maybe we need some kind of concise way for referring to these marketers with software development skills, but using "growth hacker" is in the same league as using the words "ninja", "rockstar" and "guru". For me it's nauseating, while telling me something about the spoiled brats I'll end up working with.
What's wrong with "marketing engineer"?
You may as well argue over aluminum vs. aluminium.
Marketing at big companies has involved intense data analysis for many years now. We don't need a new name for that.
I've been called a growth hacker before. Whatever. Couldn't care less either way. Lawyers get paid for caring about the precise boundaries between similar-sounding words. I'm certainly not a lawyer.
The word "hacker" may resonate well with the SV culture but outside that you might get a response saying "let us not get that extreme, we just need a good developer"
Let's say my startup hustles like crazy and carves out a deal with a major coffee chain (like Square did with Starbucks IIRC).
Suddenly we have access to a whole lot more users. We grew the user base drastically, yet it wasn't exactly a result of marketing but rather one of strategic dealmaking.
To me, that is the quintessence of growth hacking.
This post doesn't go very far in furthering the discussion. The answers come not from anti-[job title] posts, but something more positive, like describing how things get done at Facebook, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Zynga, and other orgs that are good at shipping product.
I talk to a lot of companies, and it is pretty easy for them to think they want to focus on growth. The interesting problems appear when (as always) there is more to do than you have the resources to get done. How as an organization do you deal with that? Driving towards growth is pretty simple, but doing it in parallel to building and selling a compelling product is harder.
By the way, Dropbox had a referral program before I got there. I just helped turn the dial up a bit, in addition to separate product changes.
To the self-proclaimed and aggrandized 'growth hackers' - the OP is right: You're a marketer who took (and absorbed) a stats class. Stop being so fucking pretentious. Joining facebook (or whatever) after the inflection point and claiming responsibility for its growth is like joining apple four years ago and claiming responsibility for tripling the share price.
Data-driven marketing (DDM) is a huge thing now because it reliably magnifies revenue streams. However, the skill set to execute on such strategies is a bit non-traditional for marketing. If you want to hire someone to help build your DDM team, you don't necessarily want a business grad or a top salesman. What you want is an math or engineering transplant, someone with the statistical and technical skills necessary but who knows or is interested in learning the business and marketing aspects.
"Growth hacker" moonlights as a buzzword, but it's actually a great way to spin a job opening to appeal to the audience you need to attract: tech-to-business transplants. Ergo, it can also be effective self-branding if you're a tech-to-business transplant looking to make $$$ for helping to create well-documented X% to XX% revenue improvements.
Companies like Zynga thrived because they found cheap ways of getting users: early un-managed FB platform, and app referrals. Same with AirBnB and their craigslist post automation.
Growth hacking isn't going to make your product better, but more people will be aware of it.
or a marketer who learns how to code?
To pick up some marketing ideas that will start moving the needle on your startup, read a small book. You'd probably already know enough to start iterating on 3 or more techniques.
To get a marketer to pick up the most basic coding skills, start with flow control and variables. It could be a month before you're useful, in one language only. Then understand HTML, SQL, the server-side language, maybe jQuery, plus maybe security so you don't start adding lots of useful but dangerous code. Understand performance, so you don't kill the server with a loop in customer-facing code. Not just be able to click a "add new test" button, but integrate ABingo without hassling the rest of the team (if that's the best tool for the job). The point is: whatever it takes. You need to know enough technical concepts to be fast and loose with whatever will move the needle best. You're making few marketing decisions, but many technical ones.
So: fully agreed with your other comment. Marketers will be well-served by getting into some of the code, because it'll enable them greatly. But if I were hiring a marketer->coder, I'd be a lot more wary.
Up until today, I've disliked the growth hacker "thing". But these posts have clarified it for me. I'm generally irritated at the non-bschool vibe around here, but on this issue I'll lean heavily on the coder side.
The thing is? being a good marketer has more to do with who you know (and who knows you) than what you know. (just like being a good Engineer has more to do with how well you can figure things out than with how many languages you know.)
knowing people that can get you press is super important for marketing people (and, of course, the ability to get people to like you.)
That would make for a much better article, IMO.
Here's a thread where I attempt to justify the term: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4309570
A good growth hacker can conceptualize and code the AirBnB/Craiglist integration; most of the people listing marketing on LinkedIn can't do that, skilled as they may be in other respects.
Growth hacking might be a buzzword. But to me, it means coming up with a unique and viral way of attracting users to your product. There is a lot of unchartered new territory in marketing - social media being a big one. (turntable.fm had an interesting user acquisition route, I'd call that growth hacking)
Personally, I'm excited to see the new and innovative ways in which marketers will leverage these new technologies to reduce the cost and increase the speed of user acquisition.
Doing due diligence (i.e, a proper interview) for a hire means figuring out the truth behind the bullshit. If you don't actually have enough knowledge to differentiate between a bullshit $TITLE and a good candidate who happens to call themselves $TITLE, then you don't have enough information to make a good hire anyway.
Hell, the titles are helpful sometimes. Candidates non-ironically self-identifying as a trendy title can help you filter out idiots. They're doing you a favor.
You summed it up nicely.. growth hacking is marketing using technical skills. I think that summary is very attractive to technically minded people, and makes it unique compared to traditional one way marketing.
If growth hacking is introducing marketing to a technical crowd and enable them to grow customers in a tech centric industry (startup), why the frustration? Is there some underlying issue with non-tech marketers not being able to connect with results in tech startups as well?
Having a foot in the technical and business world for the last decade has shown me that techs tend to learn more about business than vice versa. Capable people are everywhere though, maybe we need Growth Hacking 101 for marketers?
And this helps answer another popular theme of 2012: should people learn to code? YES.
This is a great example of what other professionals (non-coders) can do if they learn new tools, if they learn how to work with code.
I should go to bed.
I would say there is a big difference between the typical marketer and someone that's able to execute something like the airbnb/craigslist integration (and by execute I don't mean code every line).
Or someone that's able to take a product from 0 to 500k users.
I do agree though in terms of online, not knowing about any of this stuff makes you a much less effective "marketer".