Growth hacking at ad agencies

Why should growth hacking be limited to start-ups and entrepreneurs? If the purpose of ad agencies is to increase sales, grow the business and deliver ROI for their clients’ brands, isn’t it time they hired a couple of growth hackers?
Before I scare off the agency CEOs with the term ‘hackers’ let’s look at what hacking really means. A hack is a short cut. It is an innovative and inventive way of getting something done. A hacker is more concerned about the end than the means, and the term has has a bad rap because sometimes a hacker has been caught using ‘innovative’ to include unethical. In lay terms, a hacker is someone who is known to find a way to get unauthorized access to a computer system – usually via code. The real meaning of a growth hacker today is someone who can exponentially help increase growth by unusual, clever, outside-the-box means. Which means we need a couple at every ad agency. Really.

Growth is a marketing function.

Actually it is the very essence of marketing – to create channels of advertising, communicating and convincing a would-be customer to buy a product or service – therefore resulting in growth for the business. Every brand relentlessly pursues this. But what if, growth could be achieved with inventiveness? What if growth could be achieved without marketing – developing must-have products, incredible service standards, viral-ready ideas? That is the possibility of growth hacking. A growth hacker can work across multiple departments and agendas to produce results – results that are beyond the realms of marketing. Simple example: Like using social media for customer service – isn’t that a rather simple, basic hack?
Today, in some form or another every agency needs a growth hacker. Someone with an unique set of skills and a mentality, a way of thinking, trying, testing, leading that sits outside the typical client service / planner / creative box. Someone who is instinctively tuned into the brand and the consumer – and who to connect them to increase sales, awareness, ROI.
I’ve been told that the ideal growth hacker is a ‘creative technologist’
– someone who uses both creativity and technology to achieve results. I beg to differ, because an ad agency growth hacker is not tied down to online only. Innovation can happen anywhere, anytime, and not just in the digital space. Growing a business is not about code. It is about new ways of thinking. In today’s digital centric world, knowing how to use data, how to code, how to harness technology is a must-have. So, in that sense, it does involve code. So, we are talking about a great marketing mind with a binary heart.
Growth hacking in the ad agency world would be about the short cut. The cut-to-the-chase. Except that it involves scale – increasingly perpetuating scale. Growth hackers live the 80 / 20 rule. They get 80% done by managing to input 20%. Growth hackers optimize. They look every one else look good, or stupid sometimes – depending on from where you are looking. Growth hackers at ad agencies can be the alchemists – ones who combine traditional advertising with social, online with PR, mobile with outdoor and at the end of that experiment, without fear of failure, deliver unprecedented results.
So we are talking about big ideas, ideas that can ripple, ideas that can snow ball, ideas that can reach the ends of the world. To infinity and beyond. But isn’t that the very reason ad agencies exist? Bring on the growth hacker then. Embrace him, hire him, promote her.