Wu-wei, Growth Hacking, and The Rise of Marketing-less Marketing

Last week I wrote about wu-wei and the perfect presentation. Now let’s go the whole hog and consider profound non-doing/effortless-doing/natural-doing and marketing as a whole.  What’s better than Marketing?  No Marketing!

And I joke not. Gazillion dollar start-ups such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, AirBnB and Dropbox grew without marketing budgets worth mentioning. I saw some linkbait today about getting 10,000 hits a day without marketing.  Growth hacking (well it does come from California lol) is all the rage.  What can we learn from it?

growth hacking

This article in Fast Company from Dec 2012 is a good place to start if you want to read up about it per se. The term itself only dates back to 2010. Such is the pace of change right now that potentially you could have been to a conference on the subject or not have heard of it at all.  There is a great podcast by Mitch Joel interviewing the author of that article (who is all of about 26 :-)).  Mind you it is called “The Rise of Growth Hacker Marketer” whereas it is much more anti-marketing than marketing … however Mitch does run a digital marketing agency so might have an interest in marketing not entirely disappearing 😉

One angle is necessity – it is especially important for tech start-ups who generally don’t have budgets big enough to “buy” prestige attention.  However the spirit of the thing is not to bother with “traditional” advertising/PR based approaches to “getting attention” (my definition of marketing).  Instead – like Dropbox – you might offer users free storage for getting a friend to sign up.  Or like Twitter you might analyse your Big Data and find out that folks who sign-up but don’t follow many friends don’t use the service for long.  So you add in a “suggested friends” – they follow a few buddies and then stick around.  In the first case we are cultivating virality – the age old “best method” of getting your customers to be your best salesmen. In the second we are improving the product so it becomes “better”.

There are growth hacking techniques along the whole value chain which you can read about all over the net.  From a Tao perspective the philosophy behind this development is fascinating and instructive.

When we are young we are soft and flexible.  When old, hard and rigid.  As are companies.  So old companies have departments and the whole thing becomes silo-ed.  In extremis product folks create something.  The marketing guys then “make a fuss” in the outside world “hey look at this…”. Then the sales guys follow through with converting “attention” to “closes”.  But this disintegration does not serve the company well – each department has silo-ed targets .  I might get lots of low-quality attention for you guys in sales.  I get a good bonus and you all get the sack! So silo-isation is a problem.  But no-one questions it openly … we ossify into ossified tribes in a stable company. Which gets old and vulnerable to the young and fleet of foot.

Instagram took 2yrs and a dozen staff to go from zero to selling itself for a billion dollars.  No silos there. No ossification.

The most important point though is that the way to create lasting real value is not to distinguish between product creation and marketing and sales.  You will only achieve the best product if the same folks that create have one eye on getting attention and the other eye on getting and keeping clients.  Mind you that would leave no eyes for doing their day job 🙂

It’s my contention that the 20thC ended up with some mega companies that don’t produce “valuable value” … just cheap burgers, coffee, sugary drinks sold around the world using lots of manipulative techniques.  And of course most of us can be programmed most of the time so there are billions of dollars of profit in that model.

But this is a tough model to keep going in the 21stC.  And more importantly do you want to be in a business selling overpriced rubbish coffee?  Or would you rather be in one that sells great coffee and makes people happy?  So in this case 21stC BizDev is very very centred around creating great product.  You can only do that if you are intimate with your audience and their problems, fears, desires and needs.

What’s the take-away for you from this? Which of the above principles can you see as being of relevance to yourself personally, the company you are in and your future plans?  Let me know 🙂


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