The term growth hacking has been thrown around for a while now. Well, pretty much since 2010 when it was coined by Sean Ellis at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference. Despite having been around for five years now though, it seems that there is still a lot of confusion around exactly what a growth hacker is.
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Simply put, a growth hacker is an individual whose sole focus is around growth. Growth at all costs. Every action and every strategic or tactical decision is centred on growth. Growth hackers are not necessarily marketers; nor are they better than marketers (as I have once been told).
At the moment, growth hacking is a term that every business is trying to emulate in one way or another; but the real masters of growth hacking need to be those who are in startup phase.
Not that I used the term “start-up phase” intentionally. This does not mean that it is only applicable to small businesses or entrepreneurs who are beginning a journey. This is applicable to big businesses who are starting something new; a new division or product line. Growth hacking is focussed on expediting growth; no matter the base you are coming off.
The misconception about growth hacking is the term “hacking”. Hacking unfortunately has a very big negative connotation to it. One that stems from the internet hackers we all love to hate. But hacking in this context is about making a quick solution to a problem so that you can move forward.
Growth hacking is arguably the fundamental core of every entrepreneur. The drive to want to make something work; to fix something and bake it better. But what are some growth hacking fundamentals that should be non-negotiable?
Design thinking is incredibly close to growth hacking as a concept. Design thinking comes down to a critical 5 step process:
- Focus on the customer
- Identify and define the problem that needs solving and begin forming solutions around it
- Create many options for the newly defined problem (don’t shoot them down no matter how silly)
- Select and fine-tune a few directions
- Pick a winner and execute
Adopting this culture within the business (which can also be called brainstorming, for those of us born before 1990) is the crux of being a growth hacker. It is the process of being able to think through problems and solutions in a non-linear way. There is a time and a place for thinking through things in a linear way; but often it is easier to solve a problem when looking at it from another direction or (to use consulting speak) by changing the optics!
Culture of growth
While it is paramount that the leader of a division or company needs to be fully immersed in growth hacking for it to truly take hold; the same can be said for any other individual within the organisation. It needs to be a culture thing. It needs to be bought in to and it needs to define how you solve problems. Growth hacking is a decision. A decision that needs to be driven from the top; but embraced at all levels as it is every level that is responsible for growth.
Failure, as any entrepreneur worth their salt will tell you, failure is not the bottomless pit of despair that we have all been taught from childhood that it is. Failure presents an opportunity to learn; to change things; to understand and ultimately (and most importantly) GROW.
Growth hacking is rooted in failure. Sounds weird to say that out loud. But if you are not failing you cannot learn anything new and you cannot necessarily improve. Growth hacking demands failure to stimulate better decision making and a growth focused outcome.
Tradition means squat
This is one of my favourites. While I don’t necessarily have a problem with authority and rules. I have a problem with rules “because we have always had them” thinking. When the answer to a question is “because we have always done it this way” it means one of two things; the first is that the person whom you are speaking to is NOT a growth hacker. The second is that there is a major opportunity for growth hacking.
Fundamental growth hacking
These three do by no means form an all-inclusive list for growth hacking commandments; but they certainly form the fundamental core. Get these things right and you will be well on your way to exploiting growth. The trick is to translate growth hacking into sustainable growth!
What are some of the growth hacking tricks that you have tried?