Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

1996 was an interesting year. The Washington Post launched their very first website, asking the nation to “.com and get it”. Friends was just in it’s third season, and a stressed Ross desperately tries to get the rest of the gang ready for a black tie event at the museum.

But something else even more interesting was happening on the west coast, in legendary Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper’s office.

Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith were sitting across from Draper, explaining their idea for a new product – the first free web mail service. Draper loved the idea, but wondered how they would get people to use the service. Bhatia, thinking like a traditional marketer, suggested that they would use billboards. This wasn’t Draper’s first rodeo, so he knew that buying space on billboards to advertise a free product wasn’t going to fly.

Then, at exactly 4:53 pm (I made that time up to make this story sound more legitimate), out of Draper’s mouth came the words that accidentally birthed growth-hacker marketing:

“Could you put a message at the bottom of everyone’s screen?”

And with that seemingly insignificant question, millions of people received messages over the next year that had the following at the bottom of the screen:

“P.S.: I love you. Get your free Hotmail”

So what the heck is a growth hacker anyways?

Hotmail had created the world’s first “growth hack”. That simple strategy of placing a signature in every single email sent through Hotmail.com generated 8.5 million subscribers for the company by the end of 1997. That in turn netting them a cool $400 million from Bill Gates and the gang at Microsoft.

Just imagine your company going from a dead stop to 8.5 million subscribers in one year. Go ahead, actually imagine it. Now imagine what it would take to get there.

You won’t get there by buying advertising, and you certainly won’t find the answers in a marketing text book at your local university.

As Ryan Holiday tells us in his book Growth Hacker Marketing, growth hackers are helping to build companies that reach a scale that until recently were unimaginable, without any of the skills and resources that traditional marketers have long considered essential.

As you might have gathered from the Hotmail example, a growth hacker doesn’t see marketing as something that you do, but something that gets built into the product itself.