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What is Growth-hacking? What is a Growth-hackathon?

Updated September 19, 2016
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Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

You might be a busy entrepreneur, a C-level executive or just a digital marketing technician of any of the infinite variety – but you know your marketing is important. You’ve googled “what is growth-hacking?” because you want growth. You want more visitors and website traffic and ultimately more customers.

What is Growth-hacking?

Growth-hacking is about growing your website traffic and conversion. I will talk a little bit about the etymology (or evolution) of the word growth-hacking, but I honestly don’t care if you think growth-hacking is cheesy or how you feel about it. Simply put, I think of growth-hacking as bootstrapping your marketing and finding ways to automate, delegate, work within tighter budgets and engineer your marketing for above average effectiveness.

Some of my friends (and even mentors) call this simply– marketing. That’s fine – it’s all semantics to me and I don’t want to get into worrying about arguing about the meaning of words, but for me growth-hacking is heavy on the results and the word represents being extremely efficient, finding tools and tricks, focusing on metrics and being wiley and beating the competition to the punch.


What is a growth-hackathon?

A growth-hackathon is about identifying the most valuable action items you can do for your marketing – and creating a list around them for super easy implementation and knocking them out one by one in a concealed time block.

A growth-hackathon is about practically applying the 80/20 principle for your marketing – setting up as much automation and delegation as possible… For me, as of right this my high value items happen to be high-intensity traffic generation tactics like keyword research, creating landing pages, guest posting on other websites, and finding other ways to get backlinks around the web to my website.

But these things shift, and perhaps for a time it’s about targeting influencers in your niche and reaching out to collaborate, or creating a serious and valuable social media queue to post over the next month. You can have a growth hackathon for any client or any one your doing work for – but I’d be lying to say it’s not easier when you’re extremely passionate and incentivized for that projects growth.

Why does any of this matter to my marketing?

Getting by with the traditional models of marketing doesn’t always work for small to mid-size companies. But without massive action and a really concerted effort some companies will meet an untimely end. Growth-hacking is for the companies and individuals who know they need to be fearless and ferocious with their digital marketing, but don’t have giant budgets. They will automate, delegate, and find loopholes in the system to make their digital marketing as ridiculously effective as they possibly can – whether it’s with a 30 dollar tool or a 3 a.m. blog post. Whatever you call that – I call it growth-hacking. 

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The brief story of a Growth-hacker

When I was 11 or 12 I made my first website at the local library on a free drag and drop platform called Homestead. I made a couple websites for bands before giving it up not too long into it – I was going to be a musician. I struggled at that for a couple years until I found my limits, and then decided to get practical. I took some art classes and then pursued web design with a passion.

I had come out some hard partying – and now threw the extremism into networking, reading about marketing, and trying to help clients who didn’t mind someone who was a little wet behind the ears at being officially in the world of marketing. In the process of promoting my bands though I did work with marketing, design, and social media promotion enough to understand what got clicks and what didn’t. A couple wins I did have in getting the word out about our music was personalizing promotions to the audience and teaming up with other bands to get some co-branding going.


How the hell do I get the word out?

And what I realized now was… I wasn’t the only person that ever had trouble getting the word out about something. And if it was hard to push a message of booze and rock n’ roll occasionally, then it was even harder for small businesses whose offering was financial services, fitness classes, clock repair, or handmade goods. My powers of persuasion and the vehicle for the message had to evolve, change, and get sharpened.

I became obsessed with making websites that got people results. I studied the brightest minds in our industry for what statistically helped people get the most product sales and contact form submissions. I did user testing in coffee shops to determine what we could do better for a website design, and did A/B testing on stores and tracked revenue to see what kind of changes could help the most people make a decision to buy. I saw design changes account for a $5,000 swing in a couple weeks and got a better understanding of why good design matters and really is a great investment. I was sold. Design matters.

But what about getting people to the website? I saw some of the websites I slaved over die on the vine, or just not get very many visitors. It was hard to tell a client that a new website is a great investment when not enough people were finding out about that website. They needed a promotion plan, they need advertising or some kind of search engine optimization. They needed social media presence, but that social media presence needed to be bigger… They needed all of this and quick, or the website I worked on for 100 hours would be less useful. My solution to all of this – some may call ‘Growth – hacking.”


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Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

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