Last night I was in San Diego speaking about growth hacking at San Diego Startup Week. One of the questions I got was "Is growth hacking sustainable?"
That question is a polite way of asking "Is growth hacking nothing more than short lived tricks that don't create lasting value?" Which is a fair question.
My answer was essentially this:
If you think of growth hacking as tricks or short cuts to take advantage of a channel or behavior, then yes, it is unsustainable. Tricks, by definition, stop working when people catch on to them.
More broadly however, most distribution channels are in a state of constant flux. New channels gain prominence and other channels fade away. This means that channels can never be counted on to be sustainable. User's move from MySpace to Facebook, from desktop to mobile, from Facebook to Snapchat, paid search gets more expensive every year--you get the point.
The most important thing about growth is the process, not the tactics.
As members of this forum, you know that.
When you commit to a process of growth, you build a sustainable way to learn and grow, regardless of anyone channel or hack. That is the key. Applying that process is what enables you to validate growth levers within your product and marketing to find new growth.
It struck me just how hungry new entrepreneurs are for that one thing that will help them. They are looking for the silver bullet.
The secret is, the silver bullet is not a channel or tactic. The silver bullet is the process.
If you still feel like you're flailing a bit to get growth going, commit to the process. It may feel like you're slowing down, but that is only because you're eliminating distraction of doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff.
Slow down, learn about your customers and what they do already, ensure you solve a pain for them, and then ideate, prioritize experiments, test and learn.
That's the silver bullet -- that's the sustainable part of growth.
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