Over the course of building Songkick, and seeing it grow to over 9 million fans/month, I’ve had the pleasure to learn from and work with some exceptional thinkers on growth. I’ve learned the most from Dan Rogers who has lead our quantitative growth efforts since 2010, Sean Ellis and Andrew Hunter who was an early advisor to Songkick and Dan’s mentor. I love learning about marketing and have at various points in Songkick’s past tried to make sense of various types of distribution, primarily:
- quantitative growth channels e.g. viral loops, email marketing, widgets, SEO, SEM
- partnership or narrative driven growth channels e.g. BD partnerships, PR
Quantitative growth channels are now what’s termed ‘growth hacking’.
It’s a mix of creativity (finding novel channels to drive growth that competitors have not yet discovered) and technical/analytical skill (scalably exploiting those channels). The lifecycle is:
1. find a channel that works before your competitors (and if the channel is broad enough this may include all consumer apps)
2. exploit that first mover advantage
4. get creative & go find another novel channel. Return to step 1.
Another way of looking at this is that new marketing channels have a limited amount of new users they can supply, and there is infinite demand from start-ups who want more users. It’s a zero sum game, where the overall value of winning the game also usually declines over time.
So the best growth hackers shut the fuck up about what’s working & hope that they can keep the channel to themselves for as long as possible. Usually the only way you learn really novel marketing approaches is by spending time in person with a trusted peer, sharing your respective secrets & hoping the novel things you learn from them balance out the information leakage.
This is at odds with what’s going on in start-up land at the moment where there’s now even a forum dedicated to 'growth hacking’. I’m really skeptical you can learn anything there beyond what’s worked in the past (which is no longer relevant) and how to apply a quantitative approach to marketing. I have a theory that the growth hackers forum is actually just an elaborate growth hack by Sean Ellis to market Qualaroo!
So if you’re a start-up looking to grow, get creative, find your unique approach to growth and then keep it to yourself.