I'll add on that the point of Traction (the book) and of growth hacking (in general) is to leave bias behind and be open-minded towards channels that might not seem viable prior to testing them.
If you want great examples of connecting content to growth (rather than just doing more content as marketing) then I recommend looking at what Noah Kagan, Brian Dean, Neil Patel and others do with content vs. most of the typical content marketing you see.
What are realistic expectations for growth hacking? How do you set goals?
If you agree that growth hacking = experiment driven marketing than the best way to set expectations is in the context of an experimental approach.
If there is anything we can probably all agree on is that most growth efforts fail.
Hey guys... finally here. You have to be clear on what "growth" you're hacking... more users, customers, revenue, profitable revenue, something in the next 30 days, you want to get to 100 customers in 30 days, etc. Once you know the situation you're solving for - and who the people are in this situation (your Ideal Customers, perhaps), then you can start to apply tactics. You can't just set goals and decide on tactics randomly.
But as for actionable ways to set expectations, the best place to start is doing the math.
What are the KPIs we're trying to improve?
How many people does this impact or reach?
What's the likely outcome or conversion for each?
Net/Net what's the likely outcome of the test?
You can pretty quickly get a rough sense of what is going to move the needle vs. what isn't.
I think one of the main concepts of Growth Hacking is that it's experiment-driven. Which means, especially beyond startups, there has to be a culture that's accepting of experimentation (and the"failure" that comes with it)
Standing behind someone using your site or app and observing without speaking is crucial no matter what stage.
Re: business type, growth experiments work for all types of businesses and sizes of businesses. Even if you only have a few transactions a year you can still collect data, test hypotheses and learn. The data you should collect is different, and how you collect it is different, but you should always be getting those insights and using them to inform your efforts.
Re: funny... I think the "how to sell 10 things" question was a stumper... responses slowed way down! That doesn't require Growth Hacking thinking... just good, ol' fashioned marketing.... Product, Price, Promotion, Place (Distribution) ... make sure you really understand your customers, the WIIFT (What's In It For Them), and you're speaking their language, getting in front of them, have a product that resonates (through CustDev work), etc. No "growth hacking" required.
How did each of you get started in growth hacking? What courses did you take? What did you read? Who were your mentors?
So I used the term "ol' fashioned marketing" which I think is still critical as the baseline. You can start running tests from there. Yes, you can test your positioning, copy, price, etc. But without good, solid foundation your tests will be much less useful and/or will take you longer to get to the result you desire.
I learned quite a bit from Sarah Hodges. She runs Intelligent.ly (an educational events series in Boston) and leads marketing at Smarterer. She was the first person to really show me how all of the pieces of a startup work together. She’s also been a fantastic connector and pushed me into the deep-end of the Boston tech swimming pool early on. Anyone who wants to push you forward beyond your comfort zone is immensely valuable.
I gravitated to "Growth Hacking" as a catch-all for what I'd already been doing. I've helped SaaS vendors take advantage of Network Effects, add viral expansion to their products (yes, even boring B2B solutions), leverage lesser-known or under-utilized distribution methods for a very long time. My background is Supply Chain Management so I really understood how networks can drive expansion. And I learned marketing on my own so I didn't have a structured pedigree to get in my way.
Quite a question Stephen. I think what has helped me is the following:
Learning from smart people
Acquiring skills to execute on ideas
Being continuously curious
I also spent a lot of time in the "Internet Marketing" world where people are always coming up with new distribution methods, ways of selling products, etc. Some not so above-board, but you can still learn from those. And then figure out how to apply that thinking in an ethical, yet effective, way.
I got started when I was studying music business in Boston and randomly connected with two data scientists at MIT who had no business experience but what sounded like a good idea. Luckily for me they gave me full-reign and I got to cut my teeth doing customer discovery and finding early users at companies like Staples and TicketFly. The company didn't pan out but I got to be in front of that fire hose for a bit!
The people I've learned from are too many to list, but there are great foundational books on psychology and marketing that are essential. There are skills like analytics, code, copywriting, etc. that are essential. And then there's willing to take a risk and be creative.
I just did a giveaway of 66 business books... marketing, copywriting, lean startups, UX, CRO, psychology (Cialdini!), Internet Marketing, etc. Those books were my "growth hacking" education.
@Lincoln & @growthaddict - Yes! The IM guys are beast level marketers most people don't like to talk about. They didn't say "I'm going to be a growth hacker" -- they said "I'm going to make a lot of money!" OR "I'm going to grow a huge email list" then found ways to execute.
So much to learn from them.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known previously?
Things I wish I had known earlier:
1) How to code. The best growth channels are accessed through APIs, not ad buys. When you can build and run the tests you want to run, you don't need to wait for anyone.
2) That growth and marketing are different. You can do a lot of marketing without any of it moving the needle.
3) How to take what I've learned, step back, and apply it differently than everyone else.
4) Growth is engineered momentum. When you have momentum don't let up.
Eventually I taught myself some code, some SQL, some excel scripting, I found work arounds and people to help, but if I could start at the beginning again I would've made code a much bigger part of my education.
Who is doing growth hacking really well? What separates their efforts from the pack?