For many, Nguyen Duc Thinh Tri is often recognized as the boyfriend of YouTuber Giang Oi. Recently, the two have moved in together, giving their audiences a clearer glimpse into the more personal aspects of his life. In his video “25 Facts about Myself”, Tri introduced his other roles as a YouTube content producer and a growth hacker.
Before becoming a growth hacker, Tri Nguyen explored many other interests. Receiving an undergraduate degree in Business Administration, he then spent quite a bit of time working in different agencies and brands. With these experiences, he was able to cultivate his passion for marketing and ultimately decided to pursue a Masters Degree in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing, abroad. Returning to Vietnam, Tri joined the XPATH.CO tourism startup, established and overseen by Dragon Capital Investment Fund and FPT. It was there that he had the opportunity to familiarize himself with growth hacking.
In our interview with Tri, it was important to him to share his experiences with various career paths with other Vietnamese millennials figuring out their next career paths.
Can you define “growth hacker” for those who are unfamiliar?
A “growth hacker” is a position commonly found in technology startups. The job can be best understood as identifying the fastest way to “hack” the growth rate with the lowest cost possible. The “growth rate” can vary based on the needs of the business, but in most cases the growth rate is defined as the number of users.
To successfully do that, a growth hacker must have a deep knowledge of operations, marketing, and technology. With the the goal of achieving the highest traffic and revenue possible, growth hackers then apply that knowledge to test products on a technology platform.
The growth hacking process is trial and error. First, the programming team will create a draft product from an original idea. The growth hacker then brings the product into the market to test and collect user feedback. After, the growth hacker will implement corrections and marketing techniques addressing user feedback.
If we were to compare this process to the process of baking a cake, technology products come to the growth hackers like a freshly-baked cake. After receiving the “cake”, the growth hackers will experiment with different decorations and sales approaches to ensure that the cake is attractive to consumers.
Is it okay to consider a growth hacker as a marketer in a startup?
The thing about technology startups is that their products are new and require constant testing and modifications until they are accepted into the market. The growth hacker is the individual tasked with the responsibility of adjusting product features to current market trends and needs. Growth hackers operate primarily on the platform of digital marketing because this way it’s easier to measure the costs and collect data, share the product, and quickly integrate design changes into the product.
In that light, growth hackers have a bit more responsibilities when compared to marketers. In addition to working with the marketing team to bring products to target customers, the growth hacker also works with the development team to optimize interface and user experience. While balancing these responsibilities through the product delivery phase, growth hackers also have to oversee and direct the operations team to ensure that users receive quality service and that the appropriate message is being promoted for the product.
Can you tell us more about the workflow?
Take the example of an app that is designed to help interested travelers book tour services. In terms of products, the growth hacker will work with the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) to produce a raw product that doesn’t have a smooth interface but is usable. Then we would bring the product out to test and then modify it according to feedback. This approach makes the product more user-friendly and reduces unnecessary time spent on making changes to the final product. During testing, I often divide consumers into small groups and then test different interfaces with each group. I then compare data in order to choose the most suitable interface and set of features that received the most interaction. This is called A / B testing.
Next, I will find ways to reach users through a variety of platforms and channels. I will access these users through partners like tour guides, hotel owners, and travel blogs. Then, I will come up with operations and marketing plans to attract users. For hotel owners, I would work on providing a separate channel for them to easily track profits, give gifts, and offer promotions to travelers; the promotions would be active for customers who submitted app feedback or used the service to book tours.
Who was your mentor you when you first started?
Previous internships and work experience gave me the necessary knowledge to find success in the field. Interacting with more experienced seniors in startups helped me better understand the operation. Working with a strong technology director gave me experience in programming. In addition, I also read and learned from different companies, such as the operations of Dropbox and Airbnb.
In Vietnam, the experience of Ms. Van Dinh Hong Vu – founder of ELSA Speak, provides a model for those interested in growth hacking. ELSA solved user problems by collaborating with influencers who teach English and share tips on social media. These influencers help share special discount codes where users can receive discounts on courses when registering with the code. This is a revenue sharing model, and also a growth hacking model for users.
Does this job have a deadline?
In the marketing department, there will often be campaigns for special occasions, at which point the growth target must be achieved. The mission of a growth hacker is to organize and divide tasks for other departments. For example, when executing the campaign for the Mid-Autumn Festival, I was responsible for assigning tasks to the teams. The marketing team was in charge of the strategy, the technology team was in charge of the new interface, and the operations team was in charge of gifting cake gifts and distributing Mid-Autumn Festival uniforms to the tour guide.
What difficulties do you encounter at work?
The startup environment requires the ability to experience and accept constant failure. It also requires making changes to products until it fits the market. Sometimes testing doesn’t go the way I anticipate and this results in a decrease in interaction and engagement from the consumer. So this job will inevitably be slightly frustrating. However, the benefit of failing so many times is that I am no longer afraid of failure.
Another difficulty is making definitive decisions after each test. Since the data that the startups get is often very small and not substantially different, it is sometimes necessary to choose based on personal feelings.
The growth hacker is the one who manages ideas when departments do not understand each other’s thought processes and connects the parties so they can work together. To do this, you need to have knowledge of all three areas.
If a person wants to enter a growth hacking career, where do they start?
Growth hackers could be a person with a technology background who intends to do marketing. They could even be a person who specializes in operations and has an understanding of technology. For any interested individuals, it is essential that you have a sharp eye as well as solid knowledge and a rich experience in digital marketing.
I think there are two ways to get started. You can set up a team of two people, a technology manager and a person in charge of operations and marketing. Then, you can learn more about growth hacking once you start working and building experience.
Alternatively, you can begin to learn learn about digital marketing and then find a business or startup. This will often be more difficult because you have to convince the business owner to trust and allow you to make changes to the operation and technology, components of the business which are strongly connected to the company’s performance.
Is this a job that requires a lot of time investment? Why did you choose to freelance instead of working full-time?
I chose a freelance job because it would allow me to choose the client with which I work. You can only promote well when you truly believe in the product! I did not want to sacrifice that aspect of my work. If you are greedy about getting as many customers as possible without achieving daily progress on each of your products, you could potentially lose your current and future customers. Besides, freelance work also helps me learn to be careful with words and actions.
Who are your clients?
I often work with small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In Vietnam, these types of companies account for more than 90% of the market. It is possible that these are expanding family businesses that have been around for many years and are seeking to exploit the market on a technology basis. They may need digital marketing but they are not large enough to work with agencies.
What does the future look like for growth hacking in Vietnam?
Technology startups are flourishing in Vietnam. I think there will be more growth hackers, but the growth rate is slow because this work requires quite a lot of knowledge and experience. To prepare for the future, I think we should begin learning and working to accumulate experience right now.
Do you want to work as a growth hacker for the rest of your life?
I see myself as someone who to trying to be a growth hacker and I do not dare to call myself an actual growth hacker. But no matter what field I work in, I will always have a “growth hacker” spirit because of how effective it is. For example, I am currently stepping into content creation and am excited to experiment with the growth of my newly created YouTube channel.