Leave a comment

It's really like there are two article here:

The first is a bash of growth hacking based on clearly misunderstanding it.  Author is being inflammatory when he writes "Among real growth experts — the ones who have worked on growth at high-growth Internet companies — “growth hacking” is a loaded term. Loaded with hype. Loaded with bad ideas about how Internet companies actually grow: Empty at best, misleading at worst."

Second is a series of  interviews that are loaded with good stuff on growth by Andy Johns, Josh Elman, and Stan Chudnovsky.  Skip the first and read the 2nd unless you enjoy rubbernecking.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    about 5 years ago #

    Here we go again... This is the response I just posted on TechCrunch:

    I'm huge fans of the people he interviewed. But ironically I've heard all of them tell these stories before at the GrowthHackers Conference. I 100% agree that a great product is critical and in fact often emphasize that product/market fit is the pre-requisite for growth hacking.

    I understand why Andy and Josh emphasize growth teams. A lot of their experience was at network effect businesses that had traction and could afford to build big growth teams. But in the very early days, companies like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn required some very creative experiments to kickstart their growth. They didn't have big growth teams at that point.

    Most of my experience has been in the very early days of companies. I was the first marketer at two companies from customer zero and continued to lead growth until IPO filings. I was also the first marketer at Dropbox starting the week they launched at TC50 (worth $10B today) and Lookout (50 million Android devices protected today). So my coining of the term growth hacker was based on real world experience of what works in those early days. Accomplished marketers in bigger companies also see the importance of growth hacking, including this praise by the Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP in a Forbes article earlier this month "Growth hacking is about getting new customers in an efficient, scalable and sustainable way. Growth hacking, my friends is marketing. The future of marketing. Or what marketing always should have been." http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2014/03/05/what-is-growth-hacking-and-how-software-is-eating-the-world/

    The main purpose of creating the term was to re-segment marketing so there was a marketing discipline with a singular focus on growth and understanding what truly impacts it. I used a classic "blue ocean strategy" to define the part of marketing that I believe matters most - particularly for early stage companies that don't have the luxury to focus on the less impactful parts of marketing. In coining the term I never claimed that growth hackers needed to know how to code. I just mentioned that many of the most qualified people have engineering backgrounds (I don't). My inspiration for the term was actually life hacker. The "hacking" part is really about hacking into the forces of growth and really understanding the science behind it. But I also emphasize hacking as "doing" rather than "strategizing" or outsourcing to vendors. If you review the growth studies that we've done on GrowthHackers.com, you'll find that they almost all emphasize the same thing that Josh Elman emphasizes - word of mouth is a huge factor http://www.growthhackers.com/companies . I personally think our Snapchat article is much better researched than the author's Snapchat example. It is a lot less about sexting than he thinks. But that's a different discussion.

    Finally, I would understand if the author was against labels, but it seems by his Twitter profile that he's latched onto "full stack marketer." Maybe he's just upset because there doesn't seem to be as much demand for this generalist role. This article from a self proclaimed "full stack marketer" called "Curse of the Full Stack Marketer" prompted a rich discussion on GrowthHackers.com http://growthhackers.com/the-curse-of-the-full-stack-marketer/ .

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      about 5 years ago #

      For the record - Stan just pinged me on FB to say he never told author GH is BS.

    • EM

      Elia Morling

      about 5 years ago #

      Always happy to read about startups using blue ocean strategy. Curious if you also use that model to guide the definition of your brand? Eg letting one of the value innovations in the blue ocean strategy become the focal point. The one thing you want people in your market to associate with your brand.

    • AL

      Alfred Lua

      about 5 years ago #

      I guess many people take the term "hack" negatively, thus the debate about it. I supposed you meant it to be unconventional but not unsustainable?

      Anyway, Sean, I'm quite curious, as the first marketer in the companies, what were the things you were involved in? The scope of startup marketing seems to be so broad. I just started out in startup marketing and would love to learn more. I'm sure many people would like to learn too. Thanks!

  • ND

    Nate Desmond

    about 5 years ago #

    “You can’t sustainably grow something that sucks.”

    Great line - I think it speaks to one of the most common points of misunderstanding I see when people talk about growth hacking.

    True growth hacking isn't some sort of magic pixel dust that makes anything grow; true growth hacking begins in the earliest product design decisions.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    about 5 years ago #

    THIS >

    The main purpose of creating the term was to re-segment marketing so there was a marketing discipline with a singular focus on growth and understanding what truly impacts it. I used a classic “blue ocean strategy” to define the part of marketing that I believe matters most – particularly for early stage companies that don’t have the luxury to focus on the less impactful parts of marketing. In coining the term I never claimed that growth hackers needed to know how to code. I just mentioned that many of the most qualified people have engineering backgrounds (I don’t). My inspiration for the term was actually life hacker. The “hacking” part is really about hacking into the forces of growth and really understanding the science behind it.

  • CB

    Cody Boyte

    about 5 years ago #

    The funny thing about the article to me is that it is attempting to say that you can't hack a company to success. In many ways that's true, but there are counter examples. I work at one.

    We're a high growth startup that is both a B2B network and a SaaS product. The thing about networks is that they become more valuable to everyone over time. So, for a very long time, our product has been rather unsatisfactory to most of our clients. We knew this would be the case - so we had to hack our way to success. Through sales and marketing hacks, we've built an incredibly valuable company.

    Would our job be tremendously easier if we had an amazing product that everyone wanted? Definitely. But is it impossible to grow without a perfect product. Not always.

    • AL

      Alfred Lua

      about 5 years ago #

      Curious, did your product improve through your sales and marketing hacks? Just wondering if it is sustainable if your clients still find your product unsatisfactory.

      • CB

        Cody Boyte

        about 5 years ago #

        Yes.

        There's a lot of talk about product/market fit here, but not a lot of talk about how to scale a company after you've found fit and before your product is fully baked. In our case, our engineering team turned over during the course of 18 months. If we'd waited for our product to make sales and retain customers for us, we wouldn't have a business.

        Instead we built a tremendous accounts team that has ended up manually ensuring success for our members. We've built out an events team that connects many of our members in person. And we've built some of the best content in the industry. Our sales team has gotten much better - moving from 95 day sales cycles to 18 day cycles, bringing on tons more members. As with any network, half of the value is in the sheer size of the network. In the end most of our members are happy.

        • AL

          Alfred Lua

          about 5 years ago #

          Another example to remind us not to scale prematurely. Thanks for sharing so elaborately!

          I think the takeaway from your experience is to find the fit first ("manually ensuring success") before scaling ("bringing on tons more members").

  • EM

    Elia Morling

    about 5 years ago #

    There are obviously systems in place that affect growth, such as the psychology of the mind (eg needs, desires, motives, behaviors) and the culture of groups (eg shared stories, beliefs, values, rituals, symbols). Saying there is "nothing to hack" is just wrong.

    The hacking is about altering those systems to achieve growth. Tinkering with your product is one way to do it. You can also work wonders with messaging.

    Curious what other's think about this? Do you agree?

  • TO

    Trevor Owens

    about 5 years ago #

    When a buzz word catches on it's a real challenge (if not impossible) to prevent misunderstanding. People still think Lean Startup means having a small team without much funding.

    Interesting to know if the community has any ideas on this.

    • TO

      Trevor Owens

      about 5 years ago #

      Interested*

    • EM

      Elia Morling

      about 5 years ago #

      I think it would be great if more people shared their definition of "growth hacking" via their owned channels, for example via a blog post, status update, or video. It's easy to sit back and say "there are already tons of posts about what growth hacking is", but that misses the boat. People trust recommendations, and for the people that follow you, it makes all the difference that the words are coming out of your mouth.

    • AL

      Alfred Lua

      about 5 years ago #

      To me, lean startup is about helping a team get from a raw idea to a validated idea in the shortest amount of time, without wasting unnecessary resources.

      I do think that there is a misconception about not much funding needed, which has to be corrected. If I'm not wrong, Eric's first lean startup spent quite some money to validate their idea right? People should know that it's more about the speed than money. We need to correct the misconception, otherwise people will be using lean startup wrongly.

      If I got that wrong, please correct me.

      I think the more worrying issue of such misunderstanding is that people use the concept differently from what was intended than the buzzword having a bad reputation. It's not that bad if people think negatively about the buzzword. But it is an issue if people tries to catch on to the trend and do the wrong thing. Eg. trying to join the growth hacking fever now but mistakenly carry out only unsustainable tricks to boost growth.

  • JB

    Joseph Bentzel

    about 5 years ago #

    Kaplan's TechCrunch piece is an ad hominem attack on both Sean Ellis and the larger growth hacking community. Not only does it set up a 'growth hacker of 1' straw man argument vs a full spectrum marketing team---but the 'interviews' segment described above as 'Part 2' plays fast and loose with the facts relative to how 'growth' was achieved at the example companies. Let's review.

    PayPal: PayPal's founders saw a payment services gap for eBay's auction environment relative to Visa/Mastercard. Their primary driver of adoption was an upstream 'market hack' of the eBay user base via a partnership with eBay. Their primary engine of growth was in no way reliance on downstream customer 'market of one' engagement. It became quickly clear to eBay that PayPal was an 'ingredient' in their growth formula, hence the M&A event.

    Twitter: Twitter's exponential growth was also NOT based on downstream marketing to individual users. Twitter's growth was driven by their web services API and the elegant 'embedding' of Twitter inside other sites. Tweeting from within another site---which today represents the overwhelming volume of tweets---is a clone of Google's original strategy which was to embed their 'search box' inside popular portals of the day, e.g. Yahoo, AOL, Lycos etc.

    Facebook: Facebook's 'growth strategy' was clearly to establish symbiotic relationships with in-place university ecosystems to which end they RESTRICTED USE only to students. You even needed a 'Dot Edu' email address to sign up. By the time they went horizontal full-market use, they already had a user base of students that joined basically to do the Match.com thing...only for free and on campus.

    In other words, these 3 examples can in now way be used to refute the core value proposition of growth hacking. Rather, they are examples of what I described in my 2006 book as 'Asymmetric Marketing', i.e. the symbiotic attachment of your product to pre-existing centers of market gravity----i.e. eBay for Paypal, major content websites embedding the Twitter API, and universities.

    I'm continuously astounded at how publications like TechCrunch---which are set up to report on INNOVATION---float pieces like this that attack attempts by digital marketers to INNOVATE!

    Sharing inbound/outbound digital marketing best practices---i.e. open source digital marketing---is clearly what the 'growth hacking' community at large is focused on---and Sean Ellis should be congratulated, not attacked, for giving it a name that differentiates it.

    I suspect the TechCrunch piece will have a major blowback effect and more people, not less, will sign up to participate in an open source digital marketing community.......... i.e. growthhackers.com.

  • BH

    ben hoffman

    about 5 years ago #

    To further my TC comment:

    I'm disappointed the author chose to ride the growthhacking-bashing bandwagon only to have it overshadow the most valuable parts of his article.

    It's obvious the author needed a eyeball-worthy headline to get TC coverage. Nevertheless, at what expense?

    I wonder if he would have still received as much coverage if he changed the title to something more appropriate:

    > Growth Hacking is Nothing More Than Product Hacking

    > Growth Hacking is Just a Fancy Word for Retention & Referral

    Both would have furthered the author's thesis while still maintaining TC-worthy headline.

    • AL

      Alfred Lua

      about 5 years ago #

      Yeah, I agree with you. It is quite sad that because of the first part, the valuable knowledge in the second part seems to be ignored. So, instead of continuing to debate about the buzzword, I think we should share this article with emphasis on the second part because I think there are lots of valuable and useful content there.

  • TD

    Tiffany Dasilva

    about 5 years ago #

    What i found most interesting about this post was that it was less a post about why growth hacking is a horrible name, and more on how to use psychology/persuasion to grow your company. A lot of the theories presented reminded me of the book Contagious by Jonah Berger. How psychological techniques like manufacturing social currency, using triggers, how emotions play into growth were all subjects he talked about. The article is actually a great one if you didn't have to dig so deep behind the "growth hacking is all hype" main message.

Join over 70,000 growth pros from companies like Uber, Pinterest & Twitter

Get Weekly Top Posts
High five! You’re in.
SHARE
25
25