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Inbound Marketing Vs. Growth Hacking; Choosing the Right Strategy

December 13, 2017

Reading time: 5 refreshing minutes

The terms “Growth Hacking” and “Inbound Marketing” have become an inherent part of marketing jargon, and yet the confusion about the concepts persists. Marketers often feel that they are  faced with exclusive choice between two very different techniques, KPIs and channels to choose from. That is not the case.

In fact, inbound marketing and growth hacking are not just fancy buzzwords to throw around. In many ways, inbound marketing and growth hacking complement and amplify each other. Confused? No worries, we're here to help.

Both growth hacking and inbound marketing are data driven and are based on analyzing the behaviors and actions of your prospects. However, that’s where the similarities end.

Where growth hacking focuses on rapid short-term growth, inbound marketing centers on sustainable long-term growth. As such, many marketers fall in the trap and believe that these two strategies should be kept firmly separate from each other.

We disagree. Growth hacks can be highly-efficient tools when used to complement the big picture and are a great way to boost ROI and support your company’s long-term inbound marketing strategy.

“The principles of growth hacking can and should work hand-in-hand with solid inbound marketing to create a killer strategy for impressive results.” Justin Lambert for SPROUT Content

What Is Growth Hacking? (A Refresher)

As defined in our previous article, growth hacking is “the process of acquiring and engaging users, combining traditional marketing and analytical skills with product development skills.”

Another definition calls it “a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business.”
In simple terms, it’s the process of finding the right ‘hack’ or “quick win” strategy that will accelerate a company’s growth and bring an immediate short-term spike in leads.
Since most growth hacks don’t require any long-term planning, they can be very appealing to startups and small companies with limited resources.

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Key Factors of Growth Hacking

At its core, growth hacking is all about experimentation and approaching problems creatively. While growth hacks are not a long-term marketing strategy- they are a great tool to support your long-term marketing goals. Done right, it can be an important tool to complement and push forward strategic objectives of your campaigns.

 There are a few key factors you need to understand in implementing growth hacking:

  • Traditional marketing channels are expensive and saturated - Many marketers tend to stick to the most common and popular marketing channels (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram). Growth hackers, however, need to focus on thinking above and beyond the traditional, default channels and come up with innovative ways to get better results with less time and money.
  • Most projects focus heavily on the product, but the real challenge is with distribution - According to Dave McClure, “Startups focus too much on building product with limited attention to customer interaction, usability, and marketing. This is also a big fail.” The traditional thinking is that “great products will sell themselves”, but nothing could be further from the truth. No matter how amazing your product is, you still need to get it out to people.
  • Acquisition is easy, retention is hard - Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of focusing the majority of their time on the acquisition. While that is an important part of your funnel, if retention is low, then all of the ingenious growth hacks that you apply to your product are basically useless. Focus instead on retaining your customers, or you may stand to lose most of your high-quality leads once they reach the end of your funnel.
  • Highly-competitive markets may not have opportunities for small players (startups) - There’s fierce competition out there for market share these days, making it difficult for startups and small companies to thrive and survive. Growth hacks may help your startup gain traction, get off the ground and become more profitable.
  • Growth hacking does not allow targeting - inbound marketing pulls people to learn about your product or services by aligning quality content with your audience’s interests. Growth hacks, on the other hand, cater to a much smaller target audience: the minority of people who will get the maximum benefit from your product. This helps inspire growth jumps in customer acquisition - but your target audience may not be part of that growth.

“Growth hacking promises a cheat code for scaling. And once that cheat code expires, you still suck at the game” Justin Lambert for SPROUT Content

Drawbacks of Growth Hacking

 While it’s good to try different growth hacking methods and apply them as part of your inbound marketing for your startup, it’s also important to keep in mind that growth hacking does not qualify as a long-term marketing strategy. Instead, they are tactics (or “hacktics”) that are focused on measuring outputs instead of outcomes and are better-suited for the short-term.

 Don’t make the mistake of obsessing over shortcuts to the point that you forget to look at the big picture: your long-term marketing plan. Keep both your long and short-term goals in mind moving forward, and balance out the things you are trying to achieve.

 “Growth hacks is playing checkers while most of you want to be playing chess.” - Greg Poirier of CloudKettle

Avoid Vanity Metrics

 It’s easy for marketers to fall victim to vanity metrics: micro-metrics and numbers which get us excited, but which have no immediate connection to driving ROI and are useless as far as monetization goes. Some examples of such metrics would be like: “100% increase in followers” or “50% increase in sign-ups or traffic”.
Instead, the focus should be on macro-metrics that actually boost your business’ bottom line and which help to move your followers through the conversion funnel.

 For every micro-metric you’re using, you need to have an appropriate counter-metric in place to avoid optimizing against something that won’t improve your revenue generation in the long-run. For example, if your micro-metric is an increase in the number of sign-ups, then your counter-metric could be how many people continued on to download the eBook as well.

Growth Hacking and Inbound Marketing: The Dream Team

At the end of the day, there’s no reason why growth hacking can’t work together with inbound marketing for your B2B startup, helping you position yourself as a trusted and credible player in the industry while promoting quick growth and new customer acquisitions.

 The key to success? Make sure that your growth hacking tactics are fully-aligned with your long-term inbound marketing strategy. Focus on generating higher-quality, qualified leads.

Interested in learning more about inbound-based growth hacking?Book Your Free Consultation with a B2B Expert!

About the Author
Amit Lavi

Amit Lavi

CEO and Co-founder of Marketing Envy - A B2B tech and startup focused marketing agency based in Tel Aviv. Mentor at Google Campus and Microsoft Accelerator. Facebook and Google Alumni. Part of Google Experts Network

Inbound Marketing Growth Hacking

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