Digital marketer to growth hacker: 7 skills to transition

Digital marketer to growth hacker: 7 skills to transition

Tuesday April 12, 2016,

6 min Read

Traditional marketers were trained to market traditional products – products that were tangible. They leveraged distribution channels, like television, radio, and print, to sell these products with their skills spread across branding, distribution, and writing great ad copy. However, with the advent of the digital age, came new products. Products that were intangible, connected individuals globally, and could be marketed ‘online’. This forced traditional marketers to evolve into digital versions. They had to learn about new marketing channels, pick up skills like SEM, email marketing and had to stay current to survive.



However, today we are seeing the digital landscape evolve further. Marketing and product are going more hand-in-hand; the siloes between marketers, designers, and programmers are breaking and small teams/startups are disrupting industries. As a result, the role of marketers are extending to having to leverage design, technology, and analytics to get users to engage with a product. They need to know how to implement analytical tools, analyse data, create designs, run A/B tests, optimise a site, and even run full-fledged 360 degree campaigns. These are your new-age marketers or also known as growth specialists. Startups are hiring these specialists as growth hackers, but larger companies will be looking for these skills soon enough.

If you’re a digital marketer or an entrepreneur, here are six skills to transition into a growth hacker/growth specialist.

  1. Analytics: You need to know how to collect data, analyse numbers that drive decisions and draw actionable insights. With so much data being collected (user demographic, activity, interaction), the new age marketers are implementing tools like MixPanel and Google Analytics, leveraging user data and making smarter decisions about growth. While there are new age tools to do part of their job, larger companies still depend on Excel, SQL to pull out data and run queries. If you want a rockstar marketer or a growth specialist, here are a few resources to pick up these skills.

a) Mixpanel 101, Google Analytics Beginner’s guide and Tutorials, Crazy Egg.

b) Excel Tutorials (Basic & Advanced).

c) Intro to SQL.

  1. Marketing automation: While most marketers have a specialty in one vertical (for example, email marketing, SEM, or content marketing), growth specialists are usually well-versed with each of these components and know how to utilise them effectively. However, marketing isn’t about getting users at the top of the funnel anymore. It now includes keeping them engaged, and then finally converting them into revenue-generating users while trying to automate as much as possible. Growth specialists are adept at setting up lead magnets, behavioural campaigns that get activated based on certain user actions on the platform.

a) Here are some skills to pick up:

i) Set up Drip campaigns using Mailchimp.

ii) What are Lead Magnets? How to set it up on Mailchimp?

iii) Setup triggers using Zapier.

  1. Design: In larger companies, there are dedicated designers usually making creatives. In a startup scenario, marketers should ideally have design chops tool. They needn't necessarily know how to design websites, but should be able to make ad creatives, landing pages, email templates, info graphics, e-books and have an overall design sense. While tools like Canva make it easier, knowing a little bit about CSS and Photoshop go a long way in creating enhanced designs.

a) Tools to learn: Canva, Photoshop.

b) Understand design for conversions, design principles, E-Book.

c) Understanding color theories.


  1. A/B testing: Another skill that most growth hackers are, or should be, quite well versed with is A/B testing. A/B testing is a method where you can test the CONTROL (Original) against a VARIANT (Changed Element) and see how it affects conversions. Usually, marketers compare things like subject lines, branding messages, images, and completion forms by splitting the traffic between the control and variant to see how each of them perform. Tools like Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer allow you to perform A/B testing on the website/app, but these tests can be performed across channels also. To get a holistic understanding of A/B testing, it is important to understand concepts like confidence intervals, statistical significance, multivariate, and split testing.

a) Learn about A/B Testing, Case studies.

  1. Agile methodology [product development]: As teams become more collaborative, marketers need to understand the nuances of agile methodology and product development. How to break down feature sets into smaller stories, how to write stories, how to assign points and how to track progress of development with daily meetings and sprint planning. It's usually the role of a product manager/CTO to lead this process, but marketers who know this will stay current and excel. In most startups, you will see growth hackers being involved in agile meetings, writing good stories, and knowing how to prioritise enhancements based on business impact and technical feasibility.

a) Introduction to product management, Points system

b) How to write stories.

c) Agile Tools.

  1. Copywriting: Right from the times of Don Draper in Mad Men, writing great ad copy has been the difference between standard shelf products and those creating legacies. Coming up with a good copy requires creativity, understanding the core values and brand equity of your company, and knowing your customers. Growth hackers aren't just analytically driven, but know how to create good ad copy that creates emotional triggers. UpWorthy grew from 0 to 6.4 million users in a year because of two reasons – great repurposed content and great copy. The editors would sit together and write 25 headlines before deciding their top headline.

a) 75 copywriting resources, how to write great copy, UpWorthy strategy.

  1. Coding/building websites: Well, you don't need to learn code, but comprehending the basics allows for empathy. Sometimes as entrepreneurs or marketers, we end up making aggressive demands about feature sets that need to be built to draw customers. But knowing technology, to some level, helps you know both side of the coin better. My coding skills are close to non-existent, but sitting creating a simple site on WordPress or Shopify can be a great start to understand themes, plugins, APIs, integrations, and a development environment.

a) Build a site using Shopify, How to make a website.

While digital marketers have been responsible about getting users to the product, growth hackers now been given the responsibility to get them activated, retain them, and convert them into revenue-generating users. As digital marketers, it’s important to pick up these skills to stay ahead while entrepreneurs need this to keep their startups afloat. Overall, these skills make you a better entrepreneur and will help grow your product quickly and more effectively.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)