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The term growth hacking was initially used by Sean Ellis back in 2010, when he was hiring for his replacement.  He received many marketing resumes and although, they were all legit somehow he felt the key area such as: ‘growth’ was largely missing.  For a startup, he definitely was looking for someone who an fuel the growth of his company. He then started using the phrase ‘growth hacker’ in his advertisement instead of ‘marketing’ to explain the profile he’s looking for.  The phrase has since been broadly used in the technology startup world and it’s perceived as a new phenomenon to promote and sell products.

I came from a start-up (TopTier) that got acquired by SAP about 13 1/2 years ago and we loved the concept of growth hacking to test ideas with customers and partners.  I loved that our CEO (Shai Agassi) from TopTier had two of the leading developers sitting on each side of his office and we would get involved in special projects with both of these guys to test new product innovations.  We were a close knit family between Marketing and development to test the basic ingredients of bring marketing and product development together.

If we looked closely, the basic ingredients of growth hacking we essentially base it on a set of strong disciplines which uses testing and analysis to scale not just marketing promotion, but also product development.  Companies like Twitter, Facebook, Airbnb, YouTube, and LinkedIn have all linked their success to hacking strategies. Those who understand growth hacking will have a competitive advantage that is hard to overstate.  Professional social network site i.e. LinkedIn grew from 2 million to more than 200 million users by simply implementing a growth hacking technique by allowing the user profiles to show up in search engine ranking page.  What a phenomenal success!

What we can learn from above is that the idea of growth hacking is not limited to just small companies or start-up. There are certain characteristics that we can adopt in scaling the business.  At SAP, many of our customers from small-midsize enterprises have benefited from our cloud technology in fueling their business growth.  Many of their ideas started with a simple desire to test, optimize and improve.Let’s take a look at some of the important traits that we recognized from those companies:

  • Adopt growth hacker mindset of continuous testing and improvement
  • Integrative growth: make your idea shareable, accessible and addicting for users
  • Push the boundaries: find ingenious, technology based avenues for growth. In my last blog, Living in a Connected World, is breaking down traditional industry boundaries. Think of all the possibilities that can intersect and bring interconnectivity between people, machine and channels.
  • Drive creativity & sustainability:  growth hackers do not see the disciplines as simply a tactic.  The techniques are addictive and continuous.

If growth hacking can work without resources, imagine what it can accomplish with resources.  I believe the key to sustainable growth and innovation is to cultivate creativity by allowing people to experiment and learn.  Generally, people need to believe in transformative power of their imagination and the imagination of others.  That’s how creativity is born. Do you agree?

Weight in here or share your opinion @dvubroady

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  1. Reuven Gorsht

    You’re spot on Denise. 

    Some really great examples of small bets that had huge impact.  The right culture that empowers experimentation and encourages people to try new things and fail fast is at the heart of growth hacking.  Coupled with a mindset shift that is taking place across larger organizations (which we are seeing in full force at SAP), moving away from big, high-risk, long-term bets to smaller sprints/experiments that can potentially yield tremendous success.

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