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Article, which includes interviews with leading growth people such as Andy Johns, chronicles the rise of growth hacking and where it has failed to deliver on expectations for startups.  The key observation of the article is that without product market fit, startups will not succeed with growth hacking.  And even with product market fit, it requires time and strict discipline.  It also works best for sites that already have a lot of growth.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 4 years ago #

    This is a good, well-researched article from @mjb_sf . I completely agree that product market fit is a perquisite for growth hacking in most businesses (see caveat below). It's also a prerequisite for any scaling activities such as sales and advertising. It's something that I emphasized in my original post on growth hacking "After product-market fit and an efficient conversion process, the next critical step is finding scalable, repeatable and sustainable ways to grow the business."

    For example, at GrowthHackers our Canvas product is still in private beta and I believe it's pre-product market fit. While my sales team is chomping at the bit to start selling Canvas, I have not let them pitch it to a single customer. All of our demos and customer development are done by our VP product or our CEO (me). It's extremely inefficient but a very important part of getting to product market fit. We also have over 50 growth ideas in our backlog for Canvas, but we haven't started testing any of them yet. Everything we are doing is about figuring out a product formula that will scale when we are ready.

    One of the observations in the article that I found pretty interesting was about the fall of Facebook as a free customer acquisition channel. We had a discussion on GH about this a few months ago, but I don't think anyone narrowed it down to the Feb '14 news feed update https://growthhackers.com/questions/ask-gh-is-facebook-dead-as-a-free-customer-acquisition-channel/ . I think the risk of a single channel dependency is the key reason why growth hacking is becoming increasingly important. You need to be able to test and discover new growth opportunities faster than the old ones stop working. Personally I prefer product driven growth initiatives because they are less vulnerable than external channels. And paid channels are just as likely to get saturated and stop working as free channels because more and more dollars are chasing each unit of online attention.

    Finally, one group of companies that might want to consider growth hacking before product market fit are network effect businesses. These businesses require critical mass in order to achieve product market fit. In fact, all of the early pioneers in growth hacking were network effect businesses (FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Uber, Pinterest...) For them, growth hacking was likely a necessity because they wouldn't have been able to attract much investment capital without some traction. So they needed to be creative about building critical mass on very low budgets. Once they could afford to spend on advertising, they realized that their growth engine didn't need it.

    • ND

      Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

      over 4 years ago #

      "All of our demos and customer development are done by our VP product or our CEO (me). It’s extremely inefficient but a very important part of getting to product market fit."

      Was just reading one of Steve Blank's books and he also talked about the importance of the CEO being deeply involved in the core of Customer Development.

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 4 years ago #

        Thanks Nikki for mentioning Steve Blank. Everything I've learned about Customer Development I learned from him.

    • MB

      Melinda Byerley

      over 4 years ago #

      Lots of important nuance here. I definitely want to include -and flesh out-the angle on not being channel dependent in part two. Andy Johns has graciously allowed me to reuse his killer framework, and Mat johns had some great stuff too. There were like 12 hours of interviews that got boiled into that 1500 word piece....

  • CC

    Chris Conrey

    over 4 years ago #

    The line in this article that nails it for me:

    "Growth hacking is best as fuel on an already burning fire"

    • KE

      Kristin Eberth

      over 4 years ago #

      Agreed, I really believe that the secret to success in marketing is a combination of growth hacking and traditional marketing. Both of these rely completely on product-market-fit and a rock solid business across departments. Particularly once a company reaches a certain size, things like PR, brand identity, advertising, event marketing, speaking engagements and collateral are all incredibly important. This is traditional marketing and while it's maybe not as innovative or sexy as 'growth hacking,' it still matters a lot. Many marketers have incredible skills in these areas and can be huge contributors to the success of a company.

      That said, the unavoidable truth nowadays is that if you ignore 'growth hacking' and the competencies it requires of your marketing team, you'll probably be left in the dust. Marketers ignore this at their peril... I can't imagine trying to build a career in this field now without developing technical/analytical skills too. It'd be like fighting with one hand tied behind your back.

  • SQ

    Simon Quick

    over 4 years ago #

    Interesting that so many people are now writing off Facebook as a channel.

    If your page has highly targeted likes from users who are mega-relevant to your brand/product then they will engage with your posts and your reach will dramatically improve.

    You can have all the likes in the world but if the vast majority of those likers are irrelevant to your page then your reach is more likely to flatline.

    Morale of the story - spend time removing likers from your page if they aren't relevant and don't ever go after likes from users who aren't interested in your brand.

    Interested to hear others thought on this :-)

    • SQ

      Simon Quick

      over 4 years ago #

      Really enjoed the post btw, looking forward to part 2!

    • AA

      Andrew Allsop

      over 4 years ago #

      Especially when they used Dropbox as an example of Facebook working - a strategy that relied on people using their own personal profiles to distribute referral links - and Facebook's decision to reduce the reach of organic company posts as an example of Facebook no longer being useful for distribution.

      If you've got people talking about your product from their personal profiles you will get reach. Has anyone ever actually built a business from a Facebook company page?

  • PJ

    Paul Jacobson

    over 4 years ago #

    I really don't like the term or even the idea of "hacking" growth. It just seems like a cheat that will unravel in time.

    • SQ

      Simon Quick

      over 4 years ago #

      I guess people are trying to get to the point where it doesn't matter if the cheat unravels because the hack has worked so well, that they're predominantly acquiring users from other channels.

    • SP

      Steven Pesavento

      over 4 years ago #

      I think the word is misunderstood by most people. When I think of a hacker I prefer this definition, but think that some people have given the word a bad name.

      "(A) Hacker is sometimes used to refer to someone who is clever, original, or inventive. They will use whatever is at their disposal to create a solution that might have been overlooked by others."

      It tends to better represent the mindset, and doesn't fuel this false idealism that "growth hackers" is a quick fix or solution or encourages spammy tactics.

      From Niel Patel - http://bit.ly/1mnMdjF

  • TU

    Thomas Unise

    over 4 years ago #

    Growth hacking fails everybody because the concept is driven by a bunch of amateurs who think there’s a big difference between that and regular marketing.

    It has become a hyped up area of marketing imho.

  • CL

    Casey LaRue

    over 4 years ago #

    Absolutely - focus on product-market fit before growth hacking or marketing. This is a core tenant.

  • LC

    Lindsay Casale

    over 4 years ago #

    This is a good read with well supported ideas and insights. Awesome research. One cannot deny it! Thanks for sharing these interesting thoughts!

  • MB

    Melinda Byerley

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi all, just wanted you to know part two was live here: http://venturebeat.com/2015/08/11/growth-hacking-has-two-phases-and-using-the-wrong-one-can-sink-you/

    If it resonates, I'd be grateful for the upvote on its growthhackers.com page, and of course your feedback is the most important and valuable as I try and refine this framework. thank you for checking it out!

  • KC

    Kelvin Claveria

    over 4 years ago #

    This is my favorite part:
    "Tech companies rarely fail due to poor marketing. They fail because no one wanted the product, or because of poor executive leadership."

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