If you are a marketing professional, chances are that you have been inundated with content marketing and growth hacking tips to achieve marketing nirvana over the past year. But beyond the buzz, what exactly are they? On the surface it appears both are about bringing in more traffic and putting more users at the top of the conversion funnel. What if we could get them to work together?
Growth hacking has been the name of the game for the last few years, credited for the exponential success start-ups like AirBnB, Tinder, Groupon and Dropbox have enjoyed. However, it still suffers from ambiguity surrounding ethics (how can hacking be ethical?) and its perceived niche application for startups (an abstract concept that only BIG companies can use).
Content marketing has slowly become the mainstay of marketing strategy, with nearly 91% of B2B marketers and 86% of B2C marketers using it as their main acquisition channel, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 report on benchmarks and trends. Though questions about its continued relevance today abound in the face of the digital content avalanche, with millions of social posts and video uploads every minute.
Experts today pronounce that content marketing will continue to rule in 2018, while digital gurus espouse growth hacking as the route to exponential growth. However, a new trend is also on the rise—content hacking combining growth hacking strategies to enable a more targeted content marketing approach.
What are growth hacking and content marketing and how are they different?
While on the surface both concepts appear to have similar goals of bringing in traffic and attracting more users into the conversion funnel, there are some intrinsic differences at their core.
“Growth hacking, first and foremost, is a change in mindset”, says Praveen Kumar, Growth Hacker and Marketing Strategist at Gemini Group, a conglomerate invested in several industry verticals. “[It] is making data-driven moves, through low-cost channels, using effective marketing tactics that are light on resources, in order to achieve quick, measurable jumps in your metrics.” Content marketing on the other hand is all about information.
Akanksha Goel, digital marketing pioneer and founder of Socialize, the Middle East’s first dedicated social media agency, believes that where growth hacking is a mindset, content marketing is an approach. “Growth hacking is harnessing the power of digital platforms and real-time data to convert online social engagement into offline brand actions. Content marketing on the other hand is about developing truly shareable and memorable content that has the power to capture attention in today’s always-on, mobile world”.
While content marketing is tactical and gradual, with a long-term objective, growth hacking is more focused on delivering results in the short-term. Where content marketers focus on building meaningful relationships, growth hackers chase “instant, measurable, scalable growth”.
However, despite the perception of immediate results, the process of developing effective growth hacking strategies is a planned one, that involves intelligence and insights as well as complete market analysis to understand a product-market fit, gaps, goals and capital investments.
Can they deliver better marketing results in isolation or collectively?
Madhumita Kalauny, founder & CEO of marketing agency, Duologue, believes both are intrinsically linked to each other and work best in tandem. “Growth marketing is really the overarching activity to content marketing, which is more of a subset.” Content marketing might have completely disrupted traditional selling models, using engaging, high-quality content as its key attraction with storytelling and relevance embedded at its core, but growth hacking is the strategy that can make your content and its targeting more effective.
Businesses have evolved from pushing people to buy products through strategically placed ads, to using content as their key magnet to pull customers in. This leads to greater trust, improved brand recognition and association as well as improved search rankings.
So, can they exist without each other? Not really. “Growth marketing has no existence without content. Without content you can’t communicate with your target audience,” says Jay, CEO of digital marketing agency, Redberries. “Content marketing can have an individual existence. For example, an email or a social post is an example of content. Once we successfully deliver this content, technically, that is content marketing. When combined with growth hacking, the content undergoes testing, measurement and analysis until it brings in exponential results.”
It is the balance of the art of content creation and the science of growth hacking that has the power to transform businesses and brands. Together they are more powerful, delivering both a brand and business advantage through a data-driven content approach that has the power to captivate, convince and convert. “In a region that has moved to mobile at record speed, content hacking is the only way for brands to win on a competitive and cluttered mobile newsfeed,” says Akanksha.
In terms of applicability, content marketing is a long-term game that established brands must invest in, whereas growth hacking is a game that startups/SMEs can’t afford to not play. Innovative content lies at the core of growth hacking, which is driving its popularity with start-ups. For startups, growth hacking is instrumental for their success.
Could content hacking be the path to marketing nirvana?
In effect, growth hacking your content marketing is as simple as using data to find the strategies, channels, tools or tactics that are most effective at engaging your target audience. Using inductive reasoning rather than deductive reasoning, a content hacker goes beyond theories to quickly identify what works and how one can replicate those results.
While this could mean several trials and errors to identify the magic formula for growth, embracing content hacking means test, measure, repeat and rinse to continually adapt your content and your growth strategies to changing customer trends.