Digital media specialist Tomer Garzberg blogs about growth hacking, perception hacking and lifestyle hacking. That’s a lot of hacking. But what does it really mean? According to Garzberg, growth hacking is basically “hacking the uptake of the product rather than leaving it to its natural growth”. It is most traditionally used with entrepreneurial startup companies.
What I gathered from talking with Garzberg is that the technique uses data-driven processes to monitor how an audience is responding to an online product, testing different settings, and ultimately adapting their product to suit the audience’s needs. It is all about learning through failure.
“So if you have an idea and you execute it and you leave it out in the market you leave it to its own chances… [but] with growth hacking we can build this one little thing and test it rather than investing millions of dollars into building the whole project,” he explains.
Considering Garzberg’s background in journalism, it’s fitting his approach is based on content.
“I was kind of refining words and that led to a positive or negative effect,” he says.
“It was a Eureka moment when I realized how powerful words are.”
Garzberg works in three stages – ideation, pre-launch and post-launch.
“When I’m working with a start up we’re proving that the job is never complete, we don’t know what people want and we have to keep iterating and modifying and communicating in a new way till we find exactly who our audience is and how they use our product,” he explains.
Some could argue that growth hacking is yet another marketing buzz word that will be replaced in a few years. However, Garzberg is confident that growth hacking will replace traditional marketing.
“Traditional marketing strategies are really big and bloated, they have million dollar budgets with TV and radio and newspapers…[They’re] throwing money at mediums where people aren’t paying attention anymore. Or if they are it’s a shotgun approach and you’re spraying bullets everywhere rather than hitting the right audience with a sniper riffle,” he says.
So instead of companies investing huge amounts of money in advertising campaigns, Garzberg would promote an approach based on data. With growth hacking, companies watch the data to observe the effectiveness of their marketing approaches.
Perhaps the true difference between traditional marketing and growth hacking is that the latter focuses on failures as taking a step closer to success. Garzberg consistently explains that a lot of the process is about failing, about making mistakes and learning from them and in a sense being ruthless about what stays and what goes.
“With growth hackers what we look at is if it doesn’t contribute to the growth of a business in terms of profit or users, than it’s not worth doing,” he says
Particularly when considering start ups, Garzberg and other growth hackers have no relationship to the product, unlike its’ founders. This is where they have the power to take risks and change the balance of power.
“Data never lies, so you’re not really guessing anymore,” he says.
“You can look at how many followers you have and everything but that’s all vanity that doesn’t prove anything. That doesn’t prove anything about the finances coming into the business. When you remove the convolutedness, when you’re only trajectory is the growth of that business you start to threaten a lot of people, or you empower them.”
Garzberg explains that it is this ‘license to experiment’ with a product, with a company, with a website, that gives growth hackers both their cut throat attitude, acceptance of failure and ultimate success.
From journalism undergraduate to growth hacking entrepreneur
Garzberg completed a Bachelor of Journalism at QUT before spending another year completing honours, where he did everything journalism had taught him not to do – delve into the world of marketing and propaganda.
For his exegesis honours year, Garzberg created a fictitious, female character to market. The only people that knew this famous woman wasn’t actually real was Garzberg and his supervisors. After some time creating a brand image for his fictitious character he tested how well recognised she had become… and she had, even more so than real people!
When Garzberg entered the workforce, he explains, “blogging was new, Facebook was still kind of grappling with Myspace at the time [and] something went off in my head – I realised I could be in the business of content”.
After a few years in the workforce, where Garzberg learnt everything from design to advertising, he eventually decided to follow his heart and start his own business.
“I kind of pre-empted the movement here of supplying content at a reduced rate and then a lot of other people and businesses caught on about four or five years ago and the market started to plummet because everyone’s competing on price,” he says.
It was at this moment that he developed his own business through outsourcing and other areas of growth. He believes the highlight of his career is now, because the momentum of certain successes has snowballed and the opportunities have grown.
On reflecting about his own career path, Garzberg says, “I think sometimes your career finds you and you have to be willing to embrace it and change. I look back at my journalism days and it feels so long ago but what I picked up there was language, I picked up the impact language has, I just didn’t know where I would be happy with it fitting in”.
So even though it seems that Garzberg has come a long way from journalism into the realms of digital marketing, he is still clearly in the business of words.