When it comes to differentiating traditional marketing from growth hacking, the matter is quickly solved by stating that traditional marketing is the marketing of established companies and growth hacking is the marketing of startups and small companies. Eric Ries, in describing the lean startup framework – that integrates extremely well with the idea of innovation and growth hacking – says, “Lean start-up practices aren’t just for young tech ventures. Large companies, such as GE and Intuit, have begun to implement them.”
The number of established companies that use the growth hacking approach has been dramatically underestimated. This is because people often are used to reading stories of startups doing great hacks while large companies that have launched a new product getting traction through a “hack” normally pass under the radar because it would be just considered “normal.” Would you be more likely to get impressed and share an article talking about a group of 4 friends that in 3 months came up with a new software now used by thousands of people, or an article saying the exact same thing except for replacing the group of friends as the creator with Microsoft? I would go for the first one and I’m sure you would do the same.
To get a real grasp of this matter, I have classified all the companies in LinkedIn Jobs posting for “Growth Hacker” dividing these by size and industry. For making this research relevant or, at least, somehow statistically significant, I had to deal with the fact that companies posting on LinkedIn (or any other job portal) are likely to be big companies rather than small ones. This is because big companies have a larger number of recruitment openings compare to small companies; thus, they tend to appear in search results more frequently. Also, small companies are often referring to other sources for hiring (referrals, direct messaging to strategic people, etc.), rather than posting jobs online.
Since large companies post more jobs compare to small companies, I weighed them on the same scale, thus as both would have an equal a number of job openings related to marketing. On this analysis, taken into account the limitation of LinkedIn filters, we define a company as “big” if this has more than 200 employees, and “small” a company with a number of employees lower than 200.
The chart below summarizes the company sizes for all the job postings with the keyword “Growth Hacker” in their title in the US (we got 94 results), weighed as described above.
Interesting enough, large companies – not just small companies – are actively looking for a Growth Hacker for their organizations. The jobs with the keyword “growth hacker” in their description report a fairly interesting trend. The number of large companies looking for a marketing resource with growth hacker skills is higher than the number of small companies doing the same thing.
In short, it looks like large companies experience more difficulties in introducing growth hacking and innovation into their processes. However, large companies also have started to recognize the importance of it, and even though most of them are not primarily focusing on hiring a dedicated person for Growth Hacking as small companies do, they are more likely to look into growth hacking skills from other positions.
in the next paragraph, I felt like giving a better understanding of what a growth hacker actually does and how this differs from traditional marketing. I have divided the main areas of differences into environment, skills, approach, and goals.