- Marketing tactics that create busy work instead of saving time or providing shortcuts to a growth goal.
- Blend word from Hectic and Hack, i.e., Hactic: Hectic with Marketing Hacks.
Everyone loves a shortcut—but as you know from sitting in the back seat while people refuse to use a map—they don’t always lead you to where you thought they would. It’s easy to get busy with lots of tasks that others have used, or that have been suggested to us as shortcuts for growth. When you begin to dabble in marketing, you can start to get a dozen emails a week with “marketing hacks” (read that as quick shortcuts) with each one promising to address every challenge you are facing.
Marketing hacks have become popular as a way to take shortcuts, save time, and reach your goals by skipping all the necessary steps. They aren’t illegal intrusions by “hackers”, they are supposed to be clever workarounds to get you an advantage in marketing.
Here’s an important distinction. Growth hacking is actually an intentional practice that is tied to the business startup world. It involves a series of rapid and focused marketing experiments and adaptations to help a startup company find its best channels for rapid growth. It takes time, involves multiple technologies and lots of hands-on investment in various elements of the marketing process. It’s only time-saving because it can speed up the business growth process by identifying the best strategies for a particular product. In the short run, it is very time intensive and requires significant marketing skills.
Hactics Pretending to be Growth Marketing
Sometimes what masquerades as a “Marketing Hack” (or shortcut) is a DIY version of sophisticated or best practice marketing, and it is often presented by someone who wants to sell us something—a secret formula, their book, some coaching, or a software product.
And this is not only coming from crafty entrepreneurs, it’s coming from businesses you may know or have used. Many hactics are based on the idea of sliding past the intent of a platform or software using strategies that are identified and shut down just about the time you learn them.
Is the Facebook Boost a Hactic?
Yes, the “boost button” on Facebook is a Hactic. It’s a promised shortcut—“thousands of people will see your post, if you just click here.” It’s an offer to bypass the sophisticated, media-intensive social ad market, and the principles of social connection. It’s actually a ploy to get you to purchase Facebook’s most expensive ads without doing the work of actually creating media, testing it, and then serving it to the right audiences.
Many questionable SEO strategies are hactics too—they promise to bypass the search engine algorithm with some kind of technical magic, if you will just pay the fee or join the group.
There are whole companies that are built to sell you hactics. They call and offer to jump your search results to the head of the line (for a monthly fee on a long contract), without telling you that they will send people to their own landing pages instead of your website. They are taking the work out of the marketing by delivering something that actually results in your search listings coming up lower on the search page and damaging your marketing for the long term.
The Hactical Disadvantage
Here is the real challenge with hactics: they can make us a slave to busy work that isn’t connected to any kind of plan (i.e., a strategy). Effective marketing is always going to require multiple approaches tied together in a strategy. You can craft a strategy when you understand just how many other people are trying to get your future customers’ attention—and the money and talent they are going to invest to reach them. Taken together, they’re delivering up to 5,000 media impressions per day to your prospects.
A good strategy is actually the ultimate hack because it leads to efficiency and effectiveness. It’s like a script for your marketing, and you can always refer to it.
An entire pile of hactics can’t take the place of a well-conceived strategy that fits your brand and meets your goals. Tactics without strategy are the noise before defeat (Sun Tzu, The Art of War).
You should only be using a growth hacking approach if you have a seasoned technology entrepreneur who is volunteering full time. Otherwise, you will need to use an integrated strategy. If you are working a strategy, you won't get addicted to hacks.
The Hactic Quiz: Are You Relying on Hactics?
- You don’t really spend time annually building a marketing plan or strategy.
- You haven’t defined your branded story to guide all marketing.
- Your various marketing activities aren’t trackable as a whole.
- You don’t tie all of your marketing together in a CRM (customer relationship management software).
- You don’t know which of your marketing efforts are working (and which ones are not).
- Your marketing expenses are mostly a list of unrelated costs.
- You aren’t building lists of people (e.g., leads, contacts, brand advocates) that are organized by their interests.