Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

Once in a while a book comes along which ties up a-lot of unanswered questions you’ve been thinking about.

Ryan Holiday’s new book has been just that for me.

If you don’t know Ryan Holiday is the Director of Marketing for American Apparel, and has done work for authors including Tucker Max and Tim Ferriss. He wrote the bestseller Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, where he outlines how he got free national press for his clients.

In his new book Ryan goes about explaining from his experience why traditional marketing is dead, even in his current capacity as Director of Marketing for American Apparel, and what is here to replace it: Growth Hacking.

He then goes on to explain what Growth Hacking is, and how it’s done.

If your reading this I presume you already know what Growth Hacking is, but here’s a Wikipedia entry on it if your still curious.

He cites examples from Dropbox to Hotmail, to his personal experience of launching Tim Ferris’s 4 Hour Chef.

The last story is worth the £1.99 in its own right. The 4 Hour Chef was banned from all boycotted by bookstores nationwide. In 60 days, Ryan using Growth Hacking principles was able to make the book an astounding success on launch, making it on the New York’s Bestseller’s list and being No 1 on the Wall Street Journal’s Bestseller’s List.

Why else is this book awesome?

It’s short. It took me 40 minutes to read.

It’s cheap, Ryan specifically requested Penguin Publishers to price it at the $2.99 price range (£1.99 in the UK).

It’s awesome. Ryan “gets it”. As someone who just wasted 6 weeks of his life doing a marketing internship at a start-up, the 1st lesson of the book strikes home for me. The first stage of Growth Hacking is building a remarkable product (an echo of Seth Godin’s Purple Cow).

Interested? Check out Ryan’s blog post on his new book.

 

 

Everything You Do Is Marketing

I recently started a marketing internship with a London startup called TaskPandas.

Obviously in the days leading up to the internship I boned up on all the articles I’d read on marketing:

I also wanted to get my intrapreneurial muscles ready so I read Seth Godin’s Lynchpin. (Yes I am a reading junkie).

One lesson I took away is that Everything You Do Is Marketing.

How?

Simple.

Before we begin let’s define what marketing is. In my humble opinion marketing is the activity of getting people who don’t know about you to know about you. Converting them into users or customers is the job of selling.

So if we define marketing as letting people know about us, there are a few ways to do this.

We can put up a billboard with a sexy gorgeous woman, with our logo and what we do. This interrupts drivers and passengers and let’s them know about us. This is akin to the kid who screams in the playground about how awesome he is, so that he can make friends.

You don’t want to be that kid. Not in this day and age.

We can buy adverts on Facebook or Google, which comes up on the side of people who we define as really interested in what we do (otherwise called a demographic or a target market. I’m trying to keep this simple ya hear?), they can click through and find out more about us.

This is good. We are reaching people who have a possibility of being interested. The adverts aren’t that interrupting but can be a slight nuisance.

But they’re two problems. If we’re not awesome, or aren’t interesting enough they’ll click away. So we have to be awesome, which we’ll come to later.

Also adverts cost. And they don’t scale linearly. There are better methods which if done right, cost less and have a far higher return. Ads are good to validate your ideas, or for testing. But not as a re-usable channel to get customers. Because at the end of the day an advert is an advert. People trust people more than adverts.

Which brings us to our final option. Get people to talk about you. Yes. It’s common sense. But it’s hard work you say?

Bullshit.

It’s not hard work, you just have to take a risk. You get people to talk about you by….

DOING AWESOME SHIT.

Not PR stunts. But being awesome. I’m going to say this again: Everything You Do Is Marketing.

The packaging of your product, the wording of your email, the phone call between your intern and your customer, the copy of your website, the design of your website. Any single time you are interacting with a customer  is a time to do something so awesome that all they want to do is share it with people.

Now they’re the cliché methods of Facebook competitions and SEO (both valid techniques by the way), but they’re kinda boring. Let’s focus on off the beaten path techniques.

Virgin Trains

Alright alright, Virgin are already a recognised brand, so it doesn’t count. Or does it?

Most companies with the success and established brand of Virgin would get boring, and just lie in the fact they’re now an established name in the public. They would stop being awesome.

Apart from Sears went bust, Lehman Brothers tanked, Blockbusters died, and several book chains have filed for chapter 11.

Being incumbent is never good.

I was browsing Facebook when I came across this in my news feed:

The toilet of broken dreams
The toilet of broken dreams

 

Funny right?

But…do you see what they did?

They just injected a bit of their personality into the copy on a toilet lid.

How much do you think that costs?

Exactly.

All you need is a culture which allows itself to take the risk of just being human.

And it resulted in an unsolicited share on Facebook. If I hadn’t had known who Virgin were or if this was some other train company, I would be intrigued. I find this sort of thing funny and I would have Google’d their name to find out more about the company.

From a simply piece of writing on a toilet seat, they would have converted someone who didn’t know about them into knowing about them.

Dropbox

I remember when I re-installed dropbox on my computer, I came onto their installation comic. I found this pane hilarious:

Your always safe, even if your computer is on fire...right?
Your always safe, even if your computer is on fire…right?

I found it so funny I posted it up on tumblr, and told all my flatmates about it. Now they were students so they already knew about Dropbox, but if someone else had been in the house and they didn’t know who Dropbox were they would have asked a simple question.

*Giggle* “Who’s dropbox?”

As a loyal customer I would then have evangelised and tried to sell Dropbox to this customer. That’s the power of having a True Fan.

Do you see what I’m getting at? Do you see what I mean by Everything You Do Is Marketing? Do you understand why you have to take a risk on having some personality in your product? Why would I want to talk about a generic startup, company or brand that focuses on x to my friends? What’s the story behind it?

Let’s look at one more example…

Facebook Superhero Competition.

We all know about Facebook competitions. We all know about the blatant social sharing behaviour they’re trying to exploit. But Vermont’s Barre Army Navy decided to go a bit further in their competition. They made a buzz about their buzzing competition.

As KissMetrics says:

There were a certain number of entry slots available, and it was on a first-come, first-served basis. Contestants entered by posting their “superhero name” and abilities to the page’s wall. Entrants were then pitted one-on-one against each other in a series of ten minute heats. During each heat, the entrant who got the highest number of “likes” on their status moved on to the next round. The catch here was that only people who are fans of the page can like the updates.

Of course, what this did was inspire entrants to get their friends to like the page and then like the status update for their entry. The contest ran over a few days, with the final heat running twenty minutes. The prize was some camouflage netting, something that normally costs over $100.

A number of factors came together to make this contest a success:

  • It was something different. Many companies run simple sweepstakes or contests where the first to answer a question correctly gets a small prize, but this was intense and much more of a game.
  • It got people involved. Entrants needed votes, so they recruited their friends.
  • It was active. This wasn’t just a contest where you submitted an entry form and waited. You actually had to do something to have any chance of winning.
  • It gave away a valuable prize. Nobody’s going to put that much effort into it for a $10 prize.
  • It was drawn out. The fact that the contest ran over multiple days offered more opportunities for people to get involved with the contest and recruit others.
  • It was fun. This might be the most important point here. The contest was not only fun, but it got downright hilarious at times.

In exchange for roughly $100 worth of product and a few days time, this page gained hundreds of new fans. That means all those new fans are now getting the updates they post every day. Most people won’t bother un-liking a page after they’ve gone to the trouble to like it, unless you do something they perceive as very negative (like clog up their news feed or spam them).

They just focused on doing an awesome Facebook competition and BOOM! Everybody is talking about them. People who didn’t know about them, now knew about them. And that my friends is what we defined marketing as earlier.

In conclusion, the point I’m trying to make is you have to inject personality if you want to survive. This awesome post by Fake Grimlock summarises it effectively. You do not pet a rock. You pet a dog. Why? Because the dog has personality.

So do I swallow my own medicine you ask? Well I try when I can. When I entered TaskPandas on my 3rd day I changed the welcome email to new Pandas (people who sign up to our site to complete tasks that customers post) from this

Thank-you for joining and welcome to the TaskPandas community!

We have now activated your account. So login using
your email address and the password you chose at registration and start
posting your tasks today.

To increase your chances of winning your first task we strongly suggest
you upload a profile picture - this will give customers more confidence
when looking at your bids.

We also need you to go through our guidebook containing our marketplace
rules. To view the TaskPandas Guidebook click here:
http://www.taskpandas.com/guidebook/TaskPandasGuide.pdf

Please let me know if you have any questions, and happy bidding!

 

to this

Hi XXXX,

You have been personally approved by our quiet team of meditative Panda monks in Tibet.

By fast carrier pidgeon they have given us the following haiku to pass on to you:

To login gently
Email and password you wrote
To be used today

We’re not great at haiku’s but we do kindly ask that you click “Login” in the top right hand corner and login using the email address and password you registered with here:

http://taskpandas.com/

If you wish to post a task, there shall be a parade in our office.

Two final messages

Elder Panda says:

“Uploading profile photo you must, to increase chances of winning tasks. Customers look for human face, to trust with their tasks”

Finally, we have a guidebook, to gently guide you through the TaskPanda process to enlightenment. It can be found here:

http://www.taskpandas.com/guidebook/TaskPandasGuide.pdf

If you have any questions, please personally get in touch.

David @ TaskPandas Support
XXX-XXXX-XXX

PS If this doesn’t make sense, please email me. Your emails are awesome.

 

I got told it was too intense, and they’re possibly right. So I dialled back to this:

Yaaay! You’ve been approved!

Here in our office we donned our Panda costumes and celebrated this glorious event.

So… who are TaskPandas?

Here at TaskPandas we find awesome gigs and oddjobs in your local area that you can help out with. We follow up every job just to make sure everything runs along smoothly. We protect our Pandas.

I’m afraid we’re going to have to ask for a favour though.

🙁

(But it’ll be real quick I promise!)

First it would be awesome to quickly glance through our guidebook. It’s written for your benefit as we’ll like to foster a community which has awesome people like you: http://www.taskpandas.com/guidebook/TaskPandasGuide.pdf

Finally we would like to ask you to upload a profile photo to your page. We’ve found it helps you win more tasks, as customers trust a human face versus a grey avatar.

Happy Bidding,

 

David @ TaskPandas Support

XXX-XXXX-XXXX

 

Inject some personality into your startup in everything you do. As Alfred says to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. “Who knows, Master Wayne? You start pretending to have fun, you might even have a little by accident.”

P.S Regarding my Learning To Draw In 30 Days Challenge, don’t worry I’ve still been keeping up with it. I’ll publish my progress this weekend.