Growth Hacker Marketing – Ryan Holiday

Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising – by Ryan Holiday
Date read: 7/2/17. Recommendation: 9/10.

Flips traditional marketing (and ad agencies) on its head in favor of the growth hacker mindset. Growth hacking still requires pulling customers in but it favors a more innovative, effective, and cheaper method of reaching the target audience. Holiday emphasizes the importance of Product Market Fit and building a product that generates explosive, contagious reactions from those who first see it. Great foundation to have in place before building any product, service or following. Digs into real examples of some of the most successful startups in Silicon Valley (Airbnb, Twitter, Dropbox, etc.) and how they were able to adapt, optimize, and make themselves indispensable in the process. 

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.


My Notes:

"Marketing has always been about the same thing–who your customers are and where they are." -Noah Kagan

Growth hackers believe that products–even whole businesses and business models–can and should be changed until they are primed to generate explosive reactions from the first people who see them.

Airbnb went from a good but fairly impractical idea to an explosive and practical idea.
-Orginally founders put air mattresses on their floor and offered free homemade breakfast to guests.
-Repositioned as a networking alternative for conferences when hotels were booked up.
-Pivoted to the type of traveler who didn't want to crash on couches or in hostels but was looking to avoid hotels.

Instagram started as a location-based social network called Burbn (which had an optional photo feature). Core group of users flocked to one part of the app–photos and filters.

Some companies like Airbnb and Instagram spend a long time trying new iterations until they achieve what growth hackers call Product Market Fit (PMF); others find it right away. The end goal is the same, however, and it's to have the product and its customers in perfect sync with each other.

The books that tend to flop upon release are those where the author goes into a cave for a year to write it, then hands it off to the publisher for release.

On the other hand, I have clients who blog extensively before publishing. They develop their book ideas based on the themes that they naturally gravitate toward but that also get the greatest response from readers...They test the ideas they're writing about in the book on their blog.

The race has changed. The prize and spoils no longer go to the person who make it to market first. They go to the person who makes it to Product Market Fit first.

Use the Socratic method: We must simply and repeatedly question every assumption. Who is this product for? Why would they use it? Why do I use it?

"To be successful and grow your business and revenues, you must match the way you market your products with the way your prospects learn about and shop for your products." -Brian Halligan

Growth hacking still requires pulling your customers in. Except you seek to do it in a cheap, effective, and usually unique and new way.

Knowing the outlets where they [Dropbox] intended to post the video (Digg, Slashdot, and reddit), they filled it with all sorts of jokes, allusions, and references that those communities would eat up.

PR efforts are needed simply to reach out and capture, at the beginning, a group of highly interested, loyal, and fanatical users.

If they are geeks, they are at TechCrunch or Hacker News or reddit or attending a handful of conferences every year. If they are fashionistas, they are regularly checking a handful of fashion blogs like or Hypebeast. If they are ____, like you and your founders are, they are reading and doing the same things you do every day.

The best way to get people to do this enormous favor for you? Make it seem like it isn't a favor. Make it the kind of thing that is worth spreading and, of course, conducive to spreading.

You can't just expect your users to become evangelists of your product–you've got to provide the incentives and the platform for them to do so.

Dedicated and happy users are marketing tools in and of themselves.

-Twitter: Found that users who followed 5-10 accounts on first day, much more likely to stick around.
-Pinterest: Automatically follows a selection of high-quality Pinterest users so they don't have to hope users figure it out on their own.
-Dropbox: Dragging at least one file into your dropbox, not just creating the account.

When your product is actually relevant and designed for a specific audience, bloggers love to write about you.

Lesson: Cheaply test your concept, improve it based on feedback, then launch.

Lesson: Reduce barriers to entry; use targeted media and platforms to bring your first users on board.

Lesson: Build your email list!

Ask yourself: why would anyone sign up for a beta list for a new product or sign up the week it launches? The value proposition has to be overwhelming.

If your product does not do that–even on a small scale for a much smaller audience–you need to go back to the drawing board until it does.

As far as ad agencies go, I don't like their model. Why do you have to pay someone else to make/produce the content that you use to speak directly to your potential customers? It makes no sense to me.

The growth hacker mindset still applies no matter what kind of business you're in: make your service indispensable, find some loophole or underexploited niche, encourage word of mouth, and finally, ruthlessly optimize based on data and feedback.