Assume Nothing. Test Everything.

“No plan survives contact with the enemy”.


Historically in marketing, when you’re swinging for the fences, it’s acceptable to get struck out.


But the baseball days of marketing are over. It’s time to play Moneyball. Moneyball is a book by Michael Lewis. It describes baseball’s transformation from relying on the subjective opinions of talent scouts and coaches, to relying on statistical insights and advice from statisticians. Baseball moved from subjectivity to objectivity.

Marketing is moving in the same way. Scratch that. Marketing is already there. Marketing has had its enlightenment. Successful campaigns rely on objective research not subjective opinions. Successful campaigns look at what customers are already interested in. Data informs decisions.


The movement towards objectivity is captured by Ryan Holiday in his book Growth Hacker Marketing. Here’s Ryan Holiday’s definition of Growth Hacking; “Growth hacking is a business strategy that throws out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaces it with customer acquisition techniques that are testable, trackable, and scalable. Its tools are e-mails, pay-per-click ads, blogs, and platform APIs instead of commercials, publicity, and money. While traditional marketing chases vague notions like ‘branding’ and ‘mind share’, growth hackers relentlessly pursue users and growth—and when they do it right, those users beget more users, who beget more users. They are the inventors, operators, and mechanics of their own self-sustaining and self-propagating growth machine that can take a start-up from nothing to something.


Before Growth Hacker Marketing was a book, it was an article for Fast Company. Its popularity gained interest from Holiday’s publisher, Penguin. The interest from readers, not a dazzling book proposal, sparked Penguin’s interest.


The article’s concept was tested further with an eBook, which was also popular. The idea was growing in popularity, but it wasn’t growing alone. Holiday was receiving feedback on the idea of Growth Hacking. That feedback would help him refine his thinking and hone the idea for his book.


If Holiday had written a book immediately, he would have missed this opportunity. His book wouldn’t have been as good. His article and eBook were ways to test his ideas before releasing a physical book.


Holidays approach exemplifies the mindset we must hold towards growth hacking. This is the key: we don’t want to copy Holiday’s method, we want to copy the thinking that created the method. We try something and then determine our next action based on feedback.


Twitter is now one of the most popular social media sites on the planet. Yet initially they struggled to keep users once they signed up. To identify the cause of the problem they ran tests. The tests revealed people didn’t keep using Twitter because the new users weren’t following many people. To identify a solution that worked, once again, Twitter ran tests. The data showed that by encouraging users to add followers during the sign-up process they would keep using Twitter. And they’ve been tweeting ever since.


More and more, consumers reactions, ideas and responses are dictating marketing departments action. Consumers, as they should be, are driving the market.


Moving from subjectivity to objectivity mirrors the physics credo of First Principles. First Principles has been popularised by SpaceX, Tesla and PayPal founder Elon Musk. Here’s Musk describing the concept; “First principles is a kind of physics way of looking at the world. You boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say, ‘What are we sure is true?’ and then reason up from there.” Marketing is moving away from what we think is true and moving towards what we can prove is true.


So listen to the feedback, review the analytics and boil problems down to their first principles. Assume nothing. Test everything.