By now, we are all too familiar with the Growth Hacker movement that has taken the startup world by storm. But why hasn’t anyone considered the role of a Growth Hustler?
Okay, I’ll admit, I’m the last person who wants to inject another platitude into the technology startup ecosystem. However, as I unpack this entity you’ll see that this term is more than just a buzzword. In fact you probably already know some Growth Hustlers—the thing is, they are often disguised under various different job titles.
Let’s take a step back for a second. If you were to Google “Growth Hacker” right now, you will find a myriad of job postings, articles, companies and experts on the topic of Growth Hacking. The term has become synonymous with someone who is the hybrid of a developer and marketer while the success criteria is focused on product retention and company revenue.
But what about the Growth Hustler? Before we introduce this character, let’s take a look at how this role has Frankensteined it’s way to life. Last year, while I was attending the Mirren New Business Conference in New York City, Rei Inamoto the Chief Creative Officer of AKQA mentioned that every startup today needs three key people, a Hacker, a Hipster and a Hustler.
The Hacker is often the member fascinated with learning new programming languages and writing lines of code, the Hipster is the creative or design genius, while the Hustler brings it all together and is responsible for managing business activity such as sales. Perhaps a clever evolutionary twist on Michael Gerber’s technician, manager and entrepreneur from his popular book The E-Myth Revisited, this newly defined combination arguably sets a solid foundation for any company looking to build a business in the digital channel.
Now that we have become better acquainted with the aforementioned Hacker focused on Growth, I think it’s time to introduce the newest member of your team, the Growth Hustler. An often misunderstood and elusive beast, mostly because he puts monetization and questions like, “but how will we make money?” at the core of every strategic team meeting.
Let’s stop and clear the air before we go any further in order to address the stigma that is often associated with the term Hustler. When we hear the word Hustler, it often triggers negative emotions such as dishonesty, shadiness or illegal activity that is more or less linked to receiving money or making it rain, as eloquently stated by rapper Lil Wayne.
However, if we strip down the meaning of a Growth Hustler and look at the definition of Hustle at its core, we can see that it represents movement or activity especially within a specific direction. It’s noun, Hustler is nothing more than someone who is hard working and determined to succeed. In other words a Hustler is someone who is continuously making stuff happen in a focused and disciplined manner. When you throw Growth into the mix, this is where the magic starts to happen.
The Growth Hustler is not just your traditional money hungry sales or business development rep focused on satisfying his commission addiction. Sure, the economic output of any business matters, but what’s equally as important is helping to build sustainable businesses for both parties involved. This begins with his commitment to recognize both what is already known in the clients world to solve relevant problems as well as taking what is unknown to discover new possibilities for unimagined growth or innovation. Therefore, the main ingredients that make up The Growth Hustler contain both Business Development and Innovation Strategy.
Why is this so important right now? Because distribution and sales is the number one problem facing any product startup today.
If you look around the market, you can see many companies who have developed desirable solutions for the market, built on feasible technology that do not have an economically viable business model. Venture Capitalists are also concerned with this trend as David Skok of Matrix Partners mentions in his article Why Startups Fail: “one of the most common causes of failure in the startup world is that entrepreneurs are too optimistic about how easy it will be to acquire customers.”
Instead of relying on zero touch models or serendipitous word of mouth or referral-based growth both Growth Hustlers and Growth Hackers look for scalable and repeatable solutions. The main difference is that while the Growth Hacker is driven by product management, marketing and data the Growth Hustler is driven by the human element, thinking differently and insights.
As products and services in our market become more complex, customers will always have a continuous need for valuable human connections that challenge their current mode of operation. Especially when purchase decisions increasingly require input and commitment from multiple stakeholders within the customer organization. At the end of the day, you don't have to love the term but you must respect the role if you want to build long lasting, sustainable businesses.
If you’re interested in learning more about Growth Hustling and what it means for your business, I’ll be co-hosting an interactive workshop on Wednesday March 20 at The Bedford Academy in Toronto.