Armin ZadakBar is the founder and CEO of The Armin Bar, a company specialized in Digital Business Transformation and Growth Hacking in between the US and Italy. Armin is also one of the Business Coaches selected by the European Commission for the funding program for research and innovation Horizon 2020  and has been actively involved with various programs/courses at Bologna Business School since 2012 such as the Executive Master in Digital Business where he had a lecture on Growth Hacking. But what is Growth Hacking? How does it work? And how can you apply it to your business? Armin will answer these during the Heroes event in Maratea, but for now we asked him to give us an overview of the subject matter in the below interview

Can you give us a definition for “growth hacking”?

The formal answer would be that Growth Hacking is the use of out of the box thinking, technology and marketing experiments to achieve massive growth in a short (most optimum) period of time.

But the new technologies are ‘tools’ and the concept of marketing/sales stays and will stay the same.

I my opinion you have to get to know your current/potential customers, show up where their attention is, then tell them what they want to hear in order for them to do what you want them to do.  Let’s break that down:

  • If you don’t know your customers, you may not answer their problem/pain. Using big data is a great ‘tool’ for this
  • If you want tell a story/message to someone you have to first have their attention. For example, if the attention of the customer has shifted from print media to social media then that’s where you have to be to tell your story to them.
  • And finally you don’t have to communicate to your customers about what you’re excited to talk about (your product), but rather what they are interested to hear about (their problem/pain).

Following the above steps, will help you to build trust with your customers by being a good listener or better to say ‘the last to talk’!

What is the meaning of the verb to hack in the concept of “growth hacking”?

Hack in “Growth Hacking” means the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming limitations so in other words you hack the growth of a business.

What are the main skills of a growth hacker and what kind of education is needed for such a role?

A Growth Hacker is a visionary marketer who reverse engineers the process and tries to find the break through via testable and scalable methodology.

The main skill of a successful Growth Hacker is to be able to see the big picture and not to be romantic about the tactics. There’s no formula that is going to work for all the projects! And if a certain tactic works for a project today, there’s no guarantee that it will work tomorrow! It’s all about testing and adjusting as you go.

Another very important factor is the ability to story tell and transfer your message in an entertaining and engaging way. There’s a big fight over everyone’s attention on the internet so you have to convince the customer in less than a few seconds that your message worth listening/reading/watching! Bear in mind that to catch the attention of the target customer on the internet, you’re not only competing with your competitors, but also other companies and media outlets who are trying to have his/her eyeballs!! Even those funny cat videos!! Long story short you have to give so much value upfront so the he/she considers to spend time on your content rather than any other available option.

I believe that the current education systems fail to keep up with the constant change of the technologies and tactics, but as mentioned above the core concept of marketing/sales remain the same. Therefore, to be a successful growth hacker you need to learn the basics of marketing/sales then practice and practice and practice the different tactics.

Airbnb is one of the most spectacular examples of growth hacking, could you give us another example of more recent years?

There are many:

  • Dropbox: using referral marketing and rewarding both parties with free storage space.
  • Paypal: Similar to Dropbox using referral marketing and $10 free credit for both parties.
  • Facebook: using email notifications to notify you that a person you know had ‘tagged’ you in a photo (click-through rates of ~75%)!
  • Hotmail: In the late 90’s, the emails being sent by Hotmail from any user contained a tagline at the end which was linked back to the homepage of Hotmail.
  • Apple: Similar to Hotmail email signature, when you sent an email from an iPhone you automatically had a line at the end which read ‘Sent from my iPhone’.

What are the advantages of growth hacking for startups in Italy?

Similar to what I mentioned about the skill sets a growth hacker needs, I believe those are the skills that any entrepreneurs regardless of their industry need to have!

If you look at the data in the last decade almost all the fortune 500 companies lost market share to smaller companies! And the new giants have started to rise; Facebook, Amazon, Salesforce, etc. Technology doesn’t care about your history in the market and internet removes almost all the entry barriers which were under direct control of handful of corporations.

Today and because of the ‘internet’, you have the ability to reach to the global market and if you’re good enough, the market will accept you.

My advice to the startups (in Italy or elsewhere) is to adapt the growth hacking mentality and focus on two things: your North Star, your purpose aka the big picture (why) and your daily hustle and routines (what). And don’t be romantic about and don’t get caught up in: The tactics or how it should be done (how).