Success story: The art of growth-hacking a bestseller

115k Reactions How do you get your product to grow ridiculously big, ridiculously fast? You get a growth hacker to market it, using unconventional — but highly effective — stratagems. Book publishing is about as old-school as it gets. The industry has a playbook that is obviously responsible for a lot of successful books, but often the whole thing looks more like gambling and cargo cult science and less like a multibillion-dollar market strategy. It goes something like this: Editors have hunches and make big bets on proposals. In fact, publishers regularly give six-figure, even seven-figure advances based simply on 10–20 page sketches of a book, with little to no market research or validation of an idea. As you can imagine, most books do not earn back that money. Part of the reason is that it can take 12–18 months for a product to see the light of day, and even then, the marketing plan will be: Let’s hope this sells. Like the film industry, you don’t know in advance whether you’ve got a financial goldmine like Avatar or big-budget bomb like Waterworld . It’s why William Goldman used to say: “Nobody knows anything.” What if there was a better way? The tools of the internet and social media have made it possible to test, iterate, track and improve product development and marketing to the point where these enormous gambles are not only unnecessary, but insanely counterproductive. The ideas developed by growth hackers in Silicon Valley show us a different way. Let me explain how I applied their thoughts to the publishing industry with the launch of my book, Growth Hacker Marketing . In 2012, I wrote an article for Fast Company called “Everything is Marketing: How Growth Hackers Redefine The Game.” It was just something I’d been thinking about and thought would be cool to publish. I had no idea that it would do well. The article discusses how scrappy hybrid coder-marketers known as “growth hackers” have become the secret weapon behind many of the fastest-growing brands in history from Facebook to Twitter to Dropbox. This phenomenon began because startups have fewer resources and were forced to exploit the system to acquire their first users. In their approach, anything — no matter how unusual — that gets customers is marketing. Regardless of the industry, companies are following their lead and breaking out of the shackles of antiquated notions of what is or isn’t marketing. The article generated a lot of interest and I soon received this email from my editor at Penguin: would I like to sell it as an e-single? In other words, what became Growth Hacker Marketing didn’t start as a book. It started as a “minimum viable product” (MVP). The article was my MVP. Now armed, with a very small book deal (less than what I would get for a single one-hour speech) and a three-month deadline, I went out and did research interviewing some of the best and most influential growth hackers in the […]

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