6 myths to Growth Hacking

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Myth No. 1: Growth Hacking Is A Cheat Sheet Of Secrets On Growth

Reality: The “secret” is the mindset, not the toolset.

Growth hackers are often viewed as the key part of a secret recipe to create the next Airbnb or Dropbox. Growth is frequently viewed as something like a book of “secrets” on how to find and leverage channels. These “secrets” are locked away in the mind of a growth hacker, but this myth masks growth as magical dust over hard work and prioritization.

The trick of a growth hacker is not a mysterious power but rather a mindset that focuses on distribution of the product. When a growth hacker lends advice, it will most likely jog your memory of features left on the product backburner. With an endless list of possible product roadmaps, growth features tend to be forgotten and under-optimized until it matters most.

Myth No. 2: A Growth Hacker Is A Quick Fix For A Company’s Problems

Reality: Growth hacking is not done overnight and cannot solve systemic product issues. 

Growth does not happen overnight. It is iterative. Viral-type growth is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. It cannot be applied from company to company as an add-on. “Not everything can be made viral,” said Michael Birch, co-founder of Bebo. “A great deal of perseverance is required. There are a huge number of failed experiments before success. There is a fine line between failure and success.”

There are different types of growth — small wins and big wins. Growth hackers look beyond the obvious optimizations into deep product assumptions and usage for a feature that will be a game changer. This means that growth cannot be something that is tacked on easily, especially when understanding the importance of user retention to growth.

Tactically, a good growth strategy is found through testing, not reading a book.

Myth No. 3: Growth Hacking Is A New Thing

Reality: Growth hacking is not an entirely new thing.

Hi5, Slide, Bebo, Facebook, and LinkedIn were some of the first teams to have a strong emphasis on user growth and engagement, long before the phrase “growth hacking” was coined.

While the pursuit of viral growth has been a focus since the dawn of the web, the best product teams have always focused on growth, especially since the Facebook platform was announced in 2008.

Myth No. 4: Growth Hacking Is Marketing

Reality: Growth hacking has marketing goals but different tactics.

Growth comes from a well-executed and data-driven product strategy, not a marketing strategy.  Growth hackers should be involved in anything that touches product — from design to engineering.

Both marketers and growth hackers have common goals; they work closely together on a daily basis to push metrics in different ways. However, growth hackers are looking for growth through product utilization and product iterations instead of a marketers’ outbound- and inbound-based strategies.

Myth No. 5: A Growth Hacker Is A Coder

Reality: Some growth hackers are coders but many are not.

The use of the word “hacker” suggests that coding ability is a requirement to be a growth hacker. But Sean Ellis, founder and CEO of Qualaroo, coined the phrase “growth hacker” with a different intention in mind. “I used the word ‘hacker’ to be an attitude of scrappiness rather than being a coder. In other words, a growth hacker ‘hacks’ a way to move metrics,” said Ellis.

A growth strategy will succeed if it finds an unseen advantage in distribution. Finding this advantage comes from rapid testing. The ‘hacker’ part of growth hacking is communicating you need to be a constant hustler and get things done quickly, not being a coder.

Growth Hacking is creative disruption. Growth hackers do tend to be engineers as it gives them the ability to apply rigor to marketing, but it is not necessary.

Myth No. 6: A Growth Hacker Is Just An Individual

Reality: Growth is not about one person.

Growth comes in different flavors depending on the stage of the company, such as a co-founder to a growth team at a late-stage company. A growth hacker is not a lone ranger but should be a part of a greater team.  Companies should look to build a growth team rather than just an individual; however, different company stages require different types of growth teams.

Growth is holistic and cross-functional, because long-term growth hardly ever resides in one part of a company. Growth is complex and often involves several tests before a winner is found. Without aligning the company around a set of metrics to push, a growth strategy will be hampered by conflicting team priorities and goals.

Adopting a culture of growth will challenge the way a product is traditionally made and prioritized. It is not an easy task because growth typically changes a company’s culture and what it considers important.

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