Growth Hacking: How the Big Boys Do It

Growth Hacking: How the Big Boys Do It

Growth Hacking has quickly become the most popular form of digital marketing. Although, classifying Growth Hacking within this category (digital marketing) might be considered as a major misconception. While this method is definitely one of the most lucrative ways to promote a business online, the difference between this technique and your usual marketing strategies is quite enormous.

Whereas digital marketing strategies focus on particular channels, like Social Media Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, E-mail automation etc. Growth Hacking is more concentrated on data analysis through experimentation.

Companies like Dropbox and Hotmail employed this method and reached multimillion dollar revenues. Through constant testing and automatization, with a focus on user experience and conversions, Growth Hackers are widely recognized as the silent heroes of the industry. According to Neil Patel, in this particular vocation, an engineer can be as good as a marketer. The trick is to be focused solely on one metric – growth.

Here with us is Mike Maddox from the state of Texas, US. Mike is a blogger, a digital marketing director, and a growth hacker with a history in web development. In his own words – growing customer base is something that simply comes naturally to him. He recently invested in his own blog, FistsofHeaven, which covers indie game developers and artists within this particular industry. Up from recently, Mike and the crew started streaming games online via YouTube and as well, and Fists of Heaven became quite a community really fast. With more than 2000 followers generated in less than two months’ time, Mike is probably the best person to talk to about Growth Hacking.

So let’s find out more about his blog and hopefully Mike will share his tactics and opinion with our readers as well.

Q: So, you have a lot of experience in running profitable e-commerce websites. Today, you are also running a blog within a certain micro-niche and you’ve managed to become an authority within this niche in a record amount of time. What inspired you to start Fists of Heaven?

I started Fists of Heaven for a couple of reasons. I love Homeworld (the famous RTS game) and after attending PAX Melbourne 2013 I wanted to have a reason to talk to the guys working on Homeworld. Space games had also begun to make a resurgence after over a decade of virtual silence, and I was having a blast playing Strike Suit Zero. Then the idea for the lore behind the Fists of Heaven squadron (along with the name) came to me on a walk back to my Air BnB, and I knew I had to make the site. I began working on it right after I got back, and Julian Schlottman (visual artist and a designer) and I finished the logo and colors and other design elements early 2014. I also wanted to help bring awareness to the incredibly talented people that make the ‘playable art’ that is space games!

Q: What makes Fists of Heaven unique? Why is this blog different from all other similar gaming oriented websites?

We’re unique in more than one way, actually. Firstly, we’re the only site that focuses entirely on indie space games. Secondly, our content is presented in a really unique and artistic way – our featured articles look much more like reading a magazine like Game Informer does rather than ‘wall of text – image – wall of text”. Part of the reason for FoH’s existence is to showcase the beauty that is space games, and I wanted the website to have the same level of effort put in as far as how we portray our content. Thirdly, we tend to focus on interviews, and not just with one person: many games require a team of people, from concept artists to developers to sound designers, etc. In our features, we try to bring in multiple perspectives and interviews, not just one. Finally, we love art: concept art, original paintings, the game screenshots that might as well be art – we love it all. Approximately 1/2 of our content is art coverage and/or interviews!

Q: Can you tell us more about your professional career? Since you are a digital marketing director, your previous experience  certainly helped you with building this blog.

I began digital marketing when I needed to market an aquarium installation company I founded during the ‘great recession’ in 2009. Although I’ve been making websites since ’97, it wasn’t until 2009 that I really started working on the marketing side of the web. I started an aquarium blog to go along with my company, and after a year it had become the 3rd most popular aquarium blog. I got noticed by a company that made aquarium supplies, and they offered me a job. Because my then-girlfriend (now fiancé) travels a lot for her education and because I hate working in an office I loved the fact that I could work from home (or anywhere), so I stuck with it. I’ve been in digital marketing ever since, and am currently an e-commerce director for a Sydney-based company and digital PR manager for a US-based company.

My previous experience definitely helped – I have a lot of WordPress experience from all of my positions, and design/UX experience from my e-commerce background. People have asked me lots of times “how do you have thousands of subscribers on your newsletter so fast?!” or “your twitter is blowing up, how do you do it?” but these things come naturally to me now. They’re what I do for a living!

Q: So you’ve managed to get the best out of your professional experience and to apply it to your own passion. Can you give us an advice on how to keep readers engaged?

Reader engagement can be very difficult. Engagement has a great deal to do with your target audience: is your target audience very tech savvy and opinionated? If that’s the case, you’ll have a lot less problems getting engagement (comments, social media traction) than you would if your audience was middle-aged women in Australia (trust me, I know from first-hand experience).

I’ll be honest and say that my blog doesn’t have the level of engagement I wish it did, and I think that’s partly because we have a lot of content featuring art and interviews, which doesn’t lend itself to commenting. We do get a lot of love from indie developers though, and we get decent traction on social media because we post a lot of eye candy!

My advice for keeping readers engaged is to provide quality, unique content that appeals to your target audience, and be honest about your goals and intentions for your medium. At FoH, I’m pretty straightforward about it being a labor of love.

Q: What are the three marketing tools that you use on the regular?

For my blog – that’d be an email automation platform of some sort (just finished transitioning from Mailchimp to Mautic), Buffer, and Addshoppers analytics.

Q: What makes content valuable? In general, and from your experience, which elements are crucial for a post to have in order to draw attention and support actions?

Honestly, I write what I want to write at FoH, and I encourage my authors to do the same. For myself, I of course want to write what I want to write – why have a labor of love if you don’t love it? For my authors, I expect that they’ll feel the same way I feel, and that their best work will be done when they’re writing about something they’re passionate about. Since all of us are writing about Space art and games because we love it (and our readers come to us for the same reason) I’ve never felt that we’ve had to worry about whether or not our content is valuable because the niche is so narrow. From a post layout perspective, it needs to look CLEAN. Things need to be aligned correctly, and I want it to “wow” the (desktop) reader visually. As I said earlier, we’re more about looking like an online magazine than a website: myself, my fiancé, and the site co-manager George put a lot of work into designing visually appealing posts. I’m of the mindset that relevant content displayed in an impressive manner will draw engagement, and so far I’ve been right.

Q: What are your predictions for the world of digital marketing? In your opinion, what does it take for someone to thrive within this extremely competitive industry today and what should we focus on if we want to generate revenue from a website?

Display advertising on websites is on its way out. Everyone uses adblock (and rightly so). In tandem with this trend, we’re starting to see the beginning of the end of free content. Forbes no longer lets you view their site with adblock, and Wired gives you the option to either turn adblock off or pay $1/week for access. This is a trend I’m very okay with: people need to understand that this content doesn’t just appear magically. It takes a massive amount of time and effort to run any website worth visiting, and the return has been steadily shrinking. Most major gaming sites have fired half of their staff over the last few years, and the only way any of these sites are still making money is due to video advertisement (which is either much more difficult to block or is embedded directly in the video).

Alternatively, many sites are saying “hey, we need your support!” and accepting donations or turning to donation platforms like Patreon (which I’m a big fan of). People have been spoiled with ‘free’ (ad-sponsored and tracked) content for far too long, and that’s definitely changing. As far as thriving, it’s a great time to be a digital marketer, especially if you have 5+ years’ experience, as there’s a huge shortage for people that can do legitimate marketing for legitimate companies. There’s practically no room anymore for scammy or automated tactics, and that’s a good thing.

Q: Which strategies would you recommend for a one-man marketing team?

This completely depends on what you’re marketing. Content marketing is often the foundation, because that provides you with something to use on your social media channels and email marketing. Sometimes you can make killer ROI just using pay-per-click ads, though. It just depends on what you’re selling and who your target audience is – do your research!

Q: What are the main three things that a decent blog should have in order to grow?

It needs to look good (modern), load quickly, and have regular quality content updates at the very least.


Sarah Green

Sarah Green explores the latest web trends and covers stories related to technology, startups and digital life in general. Writing professionally since 2012, she has developed a sixth sense for trending topics in these fields.

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