The Traditional Way of Marketing Is Dead

Growth Hacking?

“The new marketing mindset begins not a few weeks before launch but, in fact, during the development and design phase.”

Ryan Holiday


When one thinks about the word “marketing”, what normally comes to mind is an image of Don Draper sitting in his office and wearing a fancy suit, or one would think about TV commercials, about billboard ads that frankly, no one really cares about.

No one really buys from ads. The reason you buy a product is almost always because someone close to you or someone whose opinions you respect told you that it’s worth buying.

The old ways of marketing say : launch a new product and only then you do whatever it takes to promote it. Over many decades, this old model has proven to be ineffective.

It’s not about working with what you’ve got. It’s about working on and improving what you’ve got.

The effective way, the new model, is to build the marketing in the product itself. The product is the marketing machine. It attracts customers because it’s just so darn interesting, because it satisfies the needs of the right people, because it’s remarkable.

“Growth hacker marketing” is a fairly new term, mostly popular in the start-up world. What growth-hacking means is to find out what really grows your business, and expanding all of your efforts on improving and optimizing that factor.

Growth hacking requires that you step outside of your own head and listen to what your customers really love about your product, instead of what you love.

Starting off with a Seth Godin quote in his book Purple Cow, “Stop advertising and start innovating.”

The new marketing mindset is something like this :


Know What People Want

“Make something people want.”

Paul Graham


Start with a minimum viable product (mvp) —  An idea that’s malleable, a prototype, a tester.

Find out what people really, really love about it, as opposed to what most of us do, which is to try to launch publicly with what we think is our final, perfected product.

One of the coolest mvp stories is how Instagram started out as a location-based social network called Burbn with an optional photo feature. The founders soon realized that it was the photos and filters feature that their fans were flocking to, and so they tailored the app to become Instagram as we know it — An app for posting photos with filters. Within a week of relaunching, they gained 100,000 users. Within 18 months, the founders sold Instagram for $1 billion.

The critical questions here are : Who is this for? Why would they use it? Why would I use it?

Isolate who your customers are, figure out their needs, and design a product to match their needs. Consider how Amazon encourages product managers to think like Oprah — That is, would she rapturously shout about this product if she were giving it away to her fans as a gift?



“(Aaron Swartz) had previously believed that if you came with a great idea people would use it. But he realized now that you couldn’t expect people to come to you; you had to pull them in.”

Larissa MacFarquhar


It’s a crowded marketplace. We as consumers have way too many choices and too little time to try each and every one of them out. So the simple thing we do is to ignore a lot of products, except the ones that are worth talking about.

In Purple Cow, Seth Godin shared an interesting Japanese term called “otaku” — Implied for people who would drive across Tokyo just to try a new ramen noodle place, because that’s what they’re obsessed with.

You can’t tell everybody about your product because not everybody cares. It’s about telling people who desperately care about what you have to say. Talk to the people who have an otaku for your kind of product — They have a craze for new things, they’re early adopters. Talk to them, and make it easy for them to tell their friends.

Not everyone wants a $112 yo-yo that can sleep for 12 minutes, but there are some who do. Not everyone cares about a giant car stereo, but then again, some people do. So talk to them.

As Ryan Holiday adviced, if the answer to the question “Where do I find the right people?” isn’t immediately obvious to you, then you don’t know your industry well enough to consider launching a product yet.


Going Viral

“Virality isn’t luck. It’s not magic. And it’s not random. There’s a science behind why people talk and share. A recipe. A formula, even.”

Jonah Berger


It’s the tiny e-mail footers saying “Sent from an iPhone”, “Sent from a Blackberry”, or “Create a free e-mail account with Hotmail.”

It’s Spotify getting “free marketing” because of its integration with the already massively popular Facebook.

It’s Evernote producing stickers saying “I’m not being rude. I’m just typing notes on Evernote” so that bosses won’t be annoyed by people using laptops during office meetings.

Even better, it’s Grab or Uber giving rewards for using their service. It’s Dropbox giving you extra storage space for hitting the share button. It’s an author giving you free bonus content in exchange for your subscription to her newsletter.

Get word-of-mouth by doing something meaningful — Giving free excerpts from your book, giving away free cool stuff, doing plenty of clever things so that your customers tell their friends how happy they are about using your product or service.

Give plenty of free-tastes of your product. People wouldn’t want to spend lots of money just to know if your product is any good.

The goal isn’t to spread your work, but to get people to use your product now. These kind of things do more for your marketing than any expensive commercial and football sponsoring could do.


Retention and Optimization

“Even the best growth hacker cannot grow a broken product.”

Ryan Holiday


If your product isn’t any good, no amount of marketing can fix it. But then, if your product is good and you do nothing to improve it, there isn’t much use either.

What happened to Myspace? It was hot when it launched, but simply said, it just stopped improving. Facebook’s relentless pursuit of perfection and user experience stole Myspace’s customers. Moral of the story : Don’t be like Myspace.

Conventional wisdom says that if your business is lacking growth, you should invest more in sales and marketing. Instead you should focus on refining your business until your customers are so happy they can’t stop using your service, and they recommend it to their friends.

You’re better off spending all of your marketing budget on improving your product rather than coming up with annoying commercials on Youtube that everyone skips.

You’re also better off making your current customers as happy as possible, educating them to use your product rather than chasing some new person who doesn’t care.

Creating a new “revised and expanded” edition of your book with more interesting content and more case studies and so on.

Heartwarming service at an airline, at a restaurant — These things are considered marketing too — They keep customers coming back for more. — Anything could be considered as marketing as long as it grows the business.

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