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Growth hacking an expansive opportunity for CIOs

Growth hacking an expansive opportunity for CIOs

Written by Mark Chillingworth


Growth hacking is a new twist on some skills already within your teams and organisation, says growth hacker and former CIO Rorie Devine in the latest Horizon Business Innovation Live podcast.

Devine’s business technology leadership career has included traditional companies like pre-internet information directory Yell, or Yellow Pages to those of us of a certain vintage, disruptors that are now titans of the internet – Betfair and startups as CTO of cab App Hailo that is took on Uber. Since leaving Hailo Devine has been leading Interim Team, a business of interim business technology leaders and growth hackers.

Growth hacking is: “A singular focus on growth.” Devine told this title’s Innovation Leadership Summit. “Why are we hacking? Because we want something to grow”.

“We focus on one thing, be it revenue, registrations and we hack it,” he says. The difference between growth hacking and a typical business project is the speed and low cost Devine says.

“It comes from start-ups as they have no money and little time. Advertising is not a hack, but it is that type of impact without budget,” Devine says of the new ways versus the old, adding that growth hacking is edgy and cheap.

“You attack a single area using methods in a cross functional way, using marketing, social media, sales, product, technology and digital methods,”

“It is edgy as it sometimes doesn’t work well,” he admits. Growth hacking is a term that was coined by  Sean Ellis the technology marketing leader who was the first marketing member of staff to join DropBox the cloud storage and collaboration platform. Ellis is now a startup advisor on growth hacking.

Devine says the growth model of DropBox is a typical example of growth hacking for its rapidity and low cost.  DropBox used a referral model whereby if an existing customer recruited a new customer the existing customer gained an increase in service from DropBox, usually in the shape of increased storage. DropBox entered the market at a time when a number of similar tools entered the market such as Box and SkyDrive; DropBox has secured itself a dominant position in the market and Devine’s presentation to CTO and CIO peers outlines on this podcast.

“You attack a single area using methods in a cross functional way, using marketing, social media, sales, product, technology and digital methods,” Devine says. As a former CTO Devine understands the difference of culture that exists in both a large enterprise and a start up.

“In a startup this is easy as you everyone does everything. If you need to collaborate you shout across the desk. In a big company it is hard to bring these people together as they don’t know each other well or understand their roles,” Devine says. In a startup everyone in the business addresses the entire customer life cycle, that is not the case for enterprise employees.

“In a big company we are much more specialised and very few of us are responsible for everything,” Devine goes on to explain a growth hacking funnel that incorporates the entire organisation and how it can filter down to the focused outcome. “There is a whole set of people all the way down to a registered user or customer,” he says.

Typical growth hacking tactics rely on tried and tested methods, as Devine hinted, using methods such as competitions, email, search engine optimisation (SEO) and marketing, Devine says the “art is deciding where to spend your time”.

“There are 30-50 things to do, the art is to pick some and focus,” he says, adding that regular quality content is key and that includes the oft under-rated email.

“A well written email can get you a 10% open rate,” Devine says, adding that referral systems, as used by DropBox, but also by luxury electric car maker Tesla.  On the subject of the automotive industry, Devine points out that the software cheat for diesel Volkswagen cars could be seen as growth hacking, one that though initially successful, it back-fired on the German manufacturing giant.

“It was a great hack until you get found out, it can be effective but there has to be a control frame work around it. With a startup you have less to lose. A big firm has lots to lose,” Devine says.

Devine finishes the Horizon Live podcast by telling CTOs and CIOs that one of the key attributes a growth hack needs to be successful is authenticity.

You can contact Rorie Devine to learn more about growth hacking here.


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