‘The patience triangle’ and why the startup ecosystem needs growth hacking
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference."
- Robert Frost
2016 is almost over. The ideological war between established businesses and new age entrepreneurs is not. But still, the half-a-decade-long flame war between the stalwarts of traditional marketing and the connoisseurs of digital marketing has finally shown some signs of receding. Every day, we see more and more people from the traditional marketing camp defecting to the digital marketing bunkers, or at least proposing ceasefires in the no man's land with reasonable middle-ground solutions backed with corny terms like 'tradigital marketing'. Resisting the urge to make bad puns on the myriad new terms, we can agree that most marketers have made their peace with the symbiotic relevance of both forms of marketing. All is good? Fortunately not.
There are two core differences between businesses and startups — patience and budget. Businesses traditionally are known to take a strategic view of things with no immediate requirement for exponential growth. What they lose in the pace, they make up for by scale. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, do not have that luxury. They have to move fast. Patience is not a virtue when it comes to startups. Acceleration is the key. But, huge budget requirements act as a major roadblock to achieving that. No amalgamation of traditional and digital channels is going to stop that. It's the moral duty of every good marketer to challenge the status quo and relentlessly explore new avenues. The market is changing rapidly. The marketing has to as well. Hence, in early 2016, a small but highly effective force came into the mainstream: growth marketing. And over the months, it has snowballed to a formidable juggernaut. We can no longer ignore the impact of growth marketing, especially when the ecosystem is brimming with startups and SMEs. But, is this formidable new force relevant for everyone? For who does growth marketing make enough sense to invest some time and effort into? This warrants a critical discussion. Hence, the patience triangle.
Let's look at it this way. Traditionalists and new age marketers have always been at loggerheads. The traditionalists have a flair for strategy. The tactical moves are almost entirely directed by strategy. A good move. But a little too safe to be relevant and fast enough for the new age marketers. The results are almost always assured, but the ROI of money and time isn't just enough for many. To an extent, due to the gradual amalgamation of classical and digital marketing, the current marketing focus has become quite homogeneous. It has become a machinery of, "Put some money press some button, generate some revenue". And effective, but definitely not an efficient machinery. This works for larger companies and MNCs who have deep pockets, enviable advertising budgets, and a safety cushion of the option to endure a failed ad campaign. The focus is on long-term optimisation and not immediate results. Rapid growth isn't a priority. Strategic expansion and consolidation are. Optimisation of spend is not the immediate requirement. Optimisation of the already set processes is.
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So, let's say traditional digital marketing is driven by PATIENCE and BIG ADVERTISING BUDGETS, the two things SMEs and startups don't have, which is a blessing in disguise, in my opinion. You can't lose what you don't have: money and patience. But you have a lot to lose in terms of time and opportunity. Smaller companies and startups need to move fast. The need to grow rapidly is an evolutionary requirement. In the absence of time and money, such marketers have to turn to growth marketing.
It seems fuzzy at first, but a slew of growth experiments to figure out the right mix of channels and communication is a must. Startups and MNCs both have the brains, but the former have to milk it in a more effective way to survive and eventually dominate. MNCs can always rely on their set processes. A blitzkrieg approach to growth marketing will require a strong brew of digital marketing, automation, and technology to get things done. cross-channel campaigns, niche channel campaigns and the works have to be leveraged heavily to move fast and break things! Innovation isn't just for technology. We marketers need it as well.
Growth hacking is the new revolution in marketing. With micro-implementations of cost-effective human-centric optimisations, startups and businesses can achieve multi-fold growth. This is the need of the current market and is ever increasing with the advent of upcoming startups and new businesses looking to acquire, retain, and monetise their customers. Companies want to hire growth leaders and technical marketers to achieve scale by implementing growth hacking. Growth requires a very specific skillset which is hard to find in product managers, digital marketers, or other roles. Investors look for growth hackers in a startup and the preference to startups with growth drivers is always increasing.
Traditional education fails to provide skills of the future — schools and colleges are still to catch up with modern skillset requirements. The focus on cost-effective micro-conversions to achieve scale has led to the creation of many methods, practices, and tools used by the new breed called “growth hackers”.