Technical Marketing, or Growth Hacking, or Whatever…The Mindset Comes First
Last month, a post went up on the SEOMoz blog discussing what it takes to be a great technical marketer, or growth hacker, or whatever you want to call the kind of person who does customer acquisition via design, testing and data. There was a lot I liked about that post, including an excellent list of resources. But, its main argument that “a great technical marketer can devise, develop, launch, and analyze their marketing campaigns with little or no assistance” is something I take issue with.
My beef with that statement is that I don’t think it’s the ability to fly solo from end to end on a campaign that makes a great technical marketer. That’s certainly a plus (especially at an early-stage startup), but it’s not a requirement. Technical marketing, or growth hacking, or whatever, isn’t a specific skill set, it’s a mindset. It’s a relentless focus on testing and iteration, it’s the conviction that the path to growth can be found in data, and it’s the knowledge that listening to users and targeting interactions is better than broadcasting interruptions.
A great technical marketer doesn’t need to be a pro designer or write SQL queries (don’t get me wrong, both big pluses). But, he or she absolutely needs to understand enough about the plumbing and scaffolding of the web to know what’s possible and to communicate with both technical specialists and the rest of the business. They know how to explain to the CEO why the website can’t do that cool thing that Facebook does (or, at least, not by tomorrow), and why it doesn’t matter anyway because the users are looking for something completely different. They know how to speak developer and work collaboratively to prioritize the right projects (per the data), and they know how to take input from developers and make decisions on the 80/20 rule:
“Changing the button text and color takes 20 minutes, but moving the button takes 3 hours because we have to redo the entire template? Give me the color and text now, queue the button relocation for next week. Any other template changes while we’re at it (as long as they don’t screw up the split test I’m planning)?”
What’s harder to find, someone who knows code, or someone who can instill a culture of growth? If you’re looking for a technical marketer or growth hacker for your team, by all means, look for someone with design, coding, and direct marketing skills. If you happen to find a unicorn, hire them and don’t let them go. But, you should be giving real consideration to any smart person who has the right mindset–everything else can be learned or supplemented by others.