The Growth Hacking Myth – My desire not to go Viral

The Growth Hacking Myth - My desire not to go Viral

For many (including me)  uninitiated to the Digital Marketing world, the terms Growth Hacking and Going Viral are as directly associated as dairy and milk. Despite the fact that I have had the privilege and opportunity to develop a broad range of skills in my varied career, one skill that has remained under-developed is Marketing. So this has been a key focus of mine over the last couple of months and I think it is beneficial to share what I have learnt with fellow Aspiring Life Entrepreneurs and Problem Solvers.

As regular readers know, I conceived Reaching Aspiration in July this year and I started with the Academy, I wanted to meet the need of the “Why wasn’t I taught this earlier” crowd. The first course I developed was something very close to my heart after watching my grandparents retire poor and in an age without defined benefit schemes and jobs for life, financial literacy is desperately needed non-negotiable life skill, so I developed a Personal Finance Course targeted at people starting out their careers.

My test case for the course found an estimated £50k lost to his pension retirement pot and by taking the course he is able to ensure that he will not miss out again on things like his employer’s matching contribution. The course provided the short cut needed. It solved a problem. I reached out to 100s of people in my network and asked them to share with people who would benefit from the course. The general feedback was “Wow, that is needed, what a great idea”.

Then after several weeks, I was still not getting the traction I expected. So I did what I do well, I reflected and then I read extensively, I listened to Podcasts, I took courses – I began upskilling myself in Digital Marketing. Through this journey the resource that has resonated the most with me is Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday. It really hit home, the lessons may have been lost on me, if I hadn’t already made the mistakes that I had.

It is important to understand that the more traditional product orientated approach to marketing basically works on the premise of sell what is given to you to sell, regardless of whether anyone wants it and so consequentially it usually requires a massive budget to be effective.

The product life cycle in product orientated approach to marketing is – Idea -> Product ready for market -> Launch -> Marketing

Growth hacking or market orientated approach is about building marketing into the process earlier.

The product life cycle in Growth Hacking is – Idea -> Marketing -> Minimum Viable Product -> Feedback -> Next iteration

Moving the “marketing” to earlier in the process focuses the product development and helps improve the chances that the product is something that people want and need, by testing the proposed product through things like creating a “Press Release” or “FAQs” as if the product is already complete. The product can then be tweaked, refined or trashed earlier in the cycle. This is cheaper and more effective than the traditional marketing and allows for more focused growth, or put another way, the product’s growth is hacked.

So I became convinced that I needed to pivot, even though it was early in the enterprise’s evolution. There was good precedence for this (ignoring survivor-ship bias), as Instagram started as location based social media platform, photos were an optional after thought. Google was originally called BackRub. Air BnB doesn’t even make sense, I’ve never been offered breakfast, I guess “Air B” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I had realised my mistake, I created something that people needed, not what they wanted. No matter how effectively the short cut was created, my target market just weren’t ready to commit to the “marriage” of a course. I needed to take them out for a cup of coffee or a drink first. I also knew that that by limiting my message to courses,  I was not going to get the exposure and impact I wanted. Admitting a flaw in the product is something very hard to do when you have put your heart and soul into it, but it is necessary for progress and growth.

So pivot time and I was left with three options:

  1. Create something that people wanted (different to needed)
  2. Convince more people they needed what they needed (very difficult)
  3. Create something that is less of a commitment, but can also funnel towards what is needed

I have gone with option 3. I started the blog.

Now it’s time to grow and I knew enough to know that I needed to build a strong social media presence, do some SEO and go viral. Seemed simple enough, other than I didn’t really know what SEO meant and I didn’t have the capacity to write blog pieces, develop the website, continue to create content and manage my social media presence across multiple platforms. So I reached out to Ben at BaS Marketing to support me in my digital marketing efforts. His message aligned with what I had learnt so far -“While I don’t believe in the “growth hacking” that many business people unfamiliar with digital marketing are looking for, some type of one-stop-shop answer to gain a massive following overnight, I do believe that with the right tactical digital marketing moves, and a solid marketing strategy, we can grow and expand the reach of Reaching Aspirations.”

So we have now created a coherent and consistent social media approach and content calendar, which is constantly being refined and improved.

I have looked at times enviously at those with 30k followers (life must be easy for them), that is until I see something like this:


They had written one tweet in total and that was over a month ago, they had 1,303 followers. If this is going Viral, then this is not what I’m looking for. I sometimes feel like I am at a really noisy night club and everyone is shouting louder and louder to be heard.  We are avoiding what are currently promoted by many as the best tactics. Such as when you click on a website and multiple pop-ups attack you like vendors at a busy market bazaar or even the junk mail of the digital marketing world – getting automated bot messages on Twitter. Finally receiving an excessive volume of emails hoping one will be opened. All this annoys me and I suspect it must or at least in the future will annoy other people. As everyone is shouting louder and louder to be heard over those competing for attention tactics seem to be getting “dirtier”. It is not the approach I want to take. I will not force or fake something going viral.

So what remains, is slowly building on our SEO footprint (Search Engine Optimisation – basically trying to get you on the first page of the Google search, because let’s be honest few people even click to the second page). I know the SEO campaigners see themselves as the plucky group of White Hat rebels who are working valiantly within the constraints of the Google Empire, but are caught in the cross fire of Google thwarting the Black Hat Rebels and this may well be the case. I also know for many it is difficult to distinguish between the two camps. So we will continue to focus on strategically improving, refining and optimising our SEO ranking, but this will be based around long term clear goals, not short term fixes.

But it is not improving SEO that drives me, instead it is hearing things like “I’m a big fan of yours, I don’t think you realise the impact our conversations have had in my life” . This was from Kuni, who has re-prioritised his time with his fiance and friends. This has also counter-intuitively in many ways made him more focused and productive at work, as he is spending less time there. Another example is hearing from Chris, who I help provide the accountability and structure needed to write his book. This is the impact I want to make, I want real engagement from real people. I am looking for Kevin Kelly’s now famous 1,000 true fans or I would even be content with 20 provided that I make a real impact in their lives. These are people who aspire for more, people who are not prepared to live by the hidden scripts and conformity that society expects from them.

We are now constantly refining the messaging and focus of Reaching Aspiration as we are finding our voice and our audience. We are not there yet, but continue to improve, we are moving forward and that is what counts. I am learning everyday and I am eternally grateful for this privilege.


  • For the somewhat interested, watch the video summary of “Growth Hacker Marketing” in 3 minutes
  • For those really interested, read Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday, although I recommend the audiobook (I’m becoming a big fan of books narrated by the author, they tend to come alive more. I am also finding a sweet spot in non-fiction books to be about about 2-3hrs long (200-300 pages), these books tend have the right emphasis and they don’t labour points unnecessarily to justify the price tagFor me the book is more valuable the more succinctly it can get me to the conculsions, my time is more valuable than the price tag of the book.)
  • For quality digital marketing services contact BaS marketing
  • For a quick and insightful view on targeting a sale, I recommend the Brain Audit
  • Complete Digital Marketing Course – Because in the thoughts of Derek Sivers – Although you need to delegate, you cannot abdicate your responsibility. So, I know I need to do my part in marketing Reaching Aspriation and to do this effectively, I will continue to up-skill myself.

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