It is essential we grow our business by constantly finding new clients. Because if we do not, it could shrink and even disappear. All businesses bleed clients through a process called attrition no matter how hard we try. In this article, we explore two strategies for bringing more leads.

These tactics are growth hacking and inbound marketing respectively.

What is Behind the Terms Inbound Marketing and Hacking?

Perhaps I should start by saying the concepts are so different there is hardly any overlap. Although we could probably do both, if we separated client streams. Inbound marketing is a bit like tickling trout. Not heard about that yet? Trout Tickling is a way of catching the delicious fish by tickling their bellies until they fall into a rapturous trance

Thus, inbound marketing is a gentle, subtle art.

Using another analogy, we could compare it to nudging a giant cruise liner into port at one of those romantic places bloggers may never afford. The process rolls out like a carefully choreographed ballet. The same as we hope all our leads will slide through the funnel and be clay in our hands.

Read: 10 Best Lead Nurturing Strategies to Increase Sales Revenue

Hacking is ‘cutting with rough or heavy blows’. My Merriam-Webster suggests a hacker is one or some of the following:

  • One that hacks to cut and sever with crude, and ruthless strokes 
  • A person who is inexperienced or unskilled at a particular activity
  • An expert at programming and solving problems with a computer
  • A person who illegally gains access and tampers in a computer system

So hackers are not nice people at all, it seems. There’s no seduction whatsoever. Throw a lead over your shoulder, caveperson style, and take them off to your cave.

No, not all: In marketing, hacking means going directly to your goal and achieving it. However, that still does not mean hacking is subtle.

More About Growth Hacking in Practice

growth hacking vs inbound marketing

Quick Sprout defines it as using low-cost channels in order to achieve quick, measurable growth. The method uses distribution and product knowledge to “find ingenious, technology-based, avenues for growth that sometimes push the bounds of what is expected or advised.” Thus, we are using fast and unconventional marketing ways to grow our business rapidly, perhaps with the intention of selling it as a successful startup.

If you have experienced any of the following recently, then someone may be hacking you for the sake of their growth.

  • You get repeated invitations of social media to join a particular business network group, or play a mindless computer game
  • Someone starts bombarding you with unwanted messages, email or tweets after you formed a new social media contact

 Unlike Inbound Marketing (I will get to this later), it has neither the time nor the interest for content marketing or helpful advice. It is also more likely to use a baseball bat on a trout. But don’t get me wrong. Growth Hacking is just different from what marketers did until 2010. That was when visionary marketer Sean Ellis coined the term, literally.

Ellis saw a growth hacker as a rebel “Whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth”. This was a huge departure from gradual, organic growth, corporate style. He went on to describe the hybrid marketer as “One who looks at the traditional question of ‘How do I get customers for my product?’ and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and open graph.”

Before you Jump to a Conclusion, Consider This

The method really only suits businesses with the following characteristics:

  • They are, or employ people that are product generalists, but hacking technology experts. They know a bit about most things, but are smart at hacking quick solutions. Data drives their decisions, not emotions or values.
  • These companies are on a mission to sell lots of something that sells itself. They are not on a drive to improve peoples’ lives or advance a cause. They want to earn a large amount quickly, to upscale their acquisition value.
  • They use their clients to do their marketing by rewarding them with more product in exchange for leads. The cloud is full of promises to award extra airtime, or an up-scaled feature previously only available as premium.
  • The lead funnel and conversion process is exceptionally simple. They hack through to a lead’s consciousness and sell them something that delivers annuity income. Then they set to turning them into their missionaries.

However – and this is the discriminator – GH (as we affectionally call it) is like bungee jumping. It’s crude, but exhilarating and could be the ultimate marketing rush. But it is a short-lived experience. Because it we want to growth hack or bungee elsewhere, we have to climb the mountain and start all over again. Did I hear a drum-roll for Inbound Marketing? Come on in: It’s your turn.

Read: How to Promote Your Brand Through Inbound Marketing

More About Inbound Marketing in Practice

growth hacking vs inbound marketing

Firesnap writes that Inbound Marketing is “primarily geared toward more holistic, long term growth with a strong focus on organic SEO by way of content marketing.” So thus more like tickling trout, and very different from caveperson games with your significant other. Inbound marketing is in for the long haul, as opposed to the ‘quick kill’. It is patient, and slow to frustration, because it knows that a combination of good SEO and quality content will get it to its goal. Here we are speaking about a far more gradual process that could bring more income in the end.

You have an inbound marketer relentlessly hoping for your attention if:

  • They regularly pop up on your searches with intriguing descriptions
  • They deliver quality content about the technology, not their brand

We are getting closer to where I started when I wrote, “Perhaps I should start by saying the concepts are so different there is hardly any overlap.” You will have gathered by now that I am an inbound-marketing type myself. In the rest of this article I am going to show you why I titled this ‘Growth Hacking or Inbound Marketing to Generate More Leads?’

Read: 10 Inbound Tactics that Will Boost Your Lead Generation

Since 2006, marketers have increasingly understood that the internet is not the right place to mug customers. They are far too smart for that, and besides they can learn about the technology elsewhere if we do not provide it. Inbound Marketing sells by drawing leads through the funnel as it steadily grows its credibility. When they make their purchasing decision, it is as logical as a cruise liner gently nudging the wharf.

Before you Jump to a Conclusion, Consider This

You only belong to Inbound Marketing if you seek long-term, sustainable growth. You have the patience to wait for the annuity income that will follow, if your customer, product, and marketing mixes are right. You want to be the true professional that people seek out for advice. You don’t want missionaries, you want genuine fans.

But I should hasten to add that this has little to do with ethics. It is simply business sense, assuming you meet these criteria:

  • You are, or employ creative people with patience to find sustainable growth avenues. They make insightful decisions although they also listen to data.
  • You have an established product or service. The technology is reliable. You just need to make more people aware of your offer and buy it.
  • You are keen to use ‘white hat’ marketing methods that intrude less on others’ privacy. You are willing to pay for advertising on social and other media.
  • You don’t have a rigid marketing funnel. However you do believe quite strongly in using social media, SEO, and blogs to attract and convert.

It’s Crunch Time: Which Marketing Method is For You?

As you read this article, you were probably already formulating your decision. Perhaps you leaped into the arms of Quick Marketing because you are an instant gratification type. Maybe you are increasingly favoring inbound marketing because it suits your personal style and brand. Firesnap comes to the party a second time with these useful criteria to consider:

  • What is the life cycle of your product? Perhaps it is a one-off event like a stand at an expo or a contemporary Christmas special. Alternatively, you may have something that will be around for a long time.
  • What does ‘adequate lead generation and growth’ mean to you personally? Quantify your requirements and timelines before you begin your journey.
  • What human resources do you have at your disposal to launch your marketing program? If your answer is ‘few’ you are a natural for Growth Hacking.
  • How much money do you have to fund the program? Technology is cheap. People cost money and they can be high maintenance.
  • Finally, are you, personally, into high-end marketing technology? Do you spend your nights dreaming of market automation, or tickling trout?

I hope you enjoyed reading my article and found it valuable. There could be times when we need a blend of both approaches. I sometimes wonder whether New Coke might have gone better if Coca-Cola hacked it more aggressively. Or, if Bill Gates would have made it if IBM went head to head.

growth hacking vs inbound marketing