Nadim Hossain: If there’s code written, it’s probably growth hacking

This interview is with Nadim Hossain, Co-Founder and CEO of BrightFunnel, a Marketing Intelligence company. He will be speaking at the next Uncharted Minds event titled, From Growth Hacking to Growth Marketing Featuring Slack, AdRoll, Hired, BrightFunnel and YesGraph on July 27th. Click here to get 20% off tickets.

Q. Please introduce yourself and tell us about your background.

A. I’m Nadim Hossain, Co-Founder and CEO of BrightFunnel, a Marketing Intelligence company. I started the company three and half years ago to solve a personal pain point that I had as the VP Marketing of a 100-person, Series C company. I struggled to prove the value of my team’s efforts. I wanted to be data-driven in my marketing but I couldn’t. This was hard because it was at odds with how I view myself. I’m very analytical — I’m a marketer who came up through the product side and have a quant background. This ‘identity crisis’ led me to discover a gap in the market — a massive chasm between CRM and marketing automation systems — to deliver actionable insights to marketing teams.

Q. How would you define Growth Hacking or Growth Marketing? Are they just terms popularized by trendy firms in Silicon Valley? Or do they represent a new approach marketing and lead generation?

A. Growth hacking is the use of engineering approaches to drive user or revenue growth. If there’s code written, it’s probably growth hacking. If you’re not writing code (do you have a Github account?), sorry, you’re probably not “hacking” anything. If you’re a non-engineer who is stringing together tracking scripts and HTML, it’s getting into the hacky territory, so you get partial credit. But, if you’re generally just helping your company grow by generating awareness and consideration… uhh, there’s already a word for that — ‘marketing.’

As to ‘Growth Marketing,’ I have no idea what that is. It sounds like a great way to add an extra word that adds zero meaning if that’s what you’re into (I’d also be happy to sell you a few seats of my online course, 7 Tips for Marketing That Shrinks Your Company).

Q. Can you provide an example?

A. Sure — if within your product, you create a workflow to invite new users, get referrals, add new modules — that’s in the intersection of generating new revenue through product and engineering, that I’d call growth hacking. Generally, growth hacking tends to be used by companies that look like early Dropbox. And plain old enterprise marketing is what Dropbox is probably trying to figure out today.

Q. How is this different from what was traditionally viewed as marketing?

A. Traditional marketing was for pre-Internet products. Back then it wasn’t as easy to link the product to the marketing of the product (though I’m sure we’d have fun coming up with some examples!).

Q. Is there a place still for the softer and less data-driven disciplines like public relations and brand building? Are Growth Hacking and Growth Marketing only for startups?

A. Absolutely. Forget growth and hacking for a second. What the new era of marketing is really about is being data driven — applying that data to be more intelligent about marketing. But the mistake most people make is to think of marketing as deterministic — like sending Juno to Jupiter using advanced Calculus. Marketing is probabilistic — you’re playing the odds. And you have to be comfortable with uncertainty. Sure, if you’re an e-commerce marketer or a transactional SaaS marketer, you can be a little more deterministic. But most B2B marketers will need to be comfortable with going from making decisions with no data to making more timely decisions, made with the amount of confidence and data that’s appropriate.

With that said — ultimately, a brand is what we all strive for. Startups can’t invest in their brand in the traditional, Madison Avenue sense, but they must absolutely have a point of view and identity, have a great product, generate word of mouth — be consistent and high quality in their interactions. All that is a brand. And there are ways to measure the impact of your brand.

As a startup CEO, I’ve seen our sales conversations getting easier every year. We get fewer objections upfront; we already own space in the prospect’s mind. That’s brand. Part of it is company-specific, part of it category-oriented. But either is fine.

PR can also be incredibly helpful. The point of view and story should be amplified through influencers, whether that’s press, analysts, or just prominent bloggers and smart people. It’s not always easy for a startup, but it can be very valuable. Lastly, I don’t think growth hacking is just for startups, but I do think it is specific to web-based products.

Q. For teams or individuals who are looking to build a career in marketing, what skills would you recommend that they invest in learning?

A. I would recommend these three things:

  1. Story-telling
  2. Analytics / Making decisions with data
  3. Applying technology to marketing