The Myth of Startup Growth Hacking

Growth hacking indeed is a fascinating term for each and every new entrepreneur. Thanks to Sean Ellis, since 2010, the term has helped companies around the globe to grow exponentially through rapid experimentation of various marketing channels and product development.

From stories of successful growth hacks by booming companies like Hotmail, Paypal, Youtube and Facebook, to new ventures like Uber, Airbnb, Etsy, and Dropbox, there is no doubt that growth hacking is regarded as an effective method to grow businesses rapidly. But how does it work? Apparently, it relies on growth hackers’ creativity in “connecting target market with a must-have solution” by “strictly prioritising ideas, testing and analyze them to seek for the most scalable, repeatable ways to grow the business.”

Growth hacking is practical because it is cost-effective; it focuses on alternative marketing platforms like social media, viral marketing and targeted marketing that makes it very relevant to startups and budding SMEs worldwide.


Startup Growth Hacking Tactics and Myths Around it

How to Market Your Business

Startup growth hacker marketing plan (Image: Growth.Digital)


While the practicality is appealing to scaling startups everywhere, there is an ongoing debate on its fallacy. Before jumping into the hype wagon, it is fundamental to understand growth hacking comprehensively. In April 2012, Andrew Chen (Growth at Uber) presented a case study on how growth hacking became an integral part of Silicon Valley and suggested it as the new ‘VP Marketing’ but later that year he claimed that businesses don’t really need a growth hacker, but to prioritise on a strong product to market first.

Therefore, from the inconsistency above, should entrepreneurs hire a growth hacker to help their startups scale rapidly? Or the only thing they need is actually a great product with an appropriate product-market fit? Aaron Gin, (Growth at Everlane and StumbleUpon) in “Defining a growth hacker” has provided some clarifications on the subject matter where he emphasises on the importance of product distribution, and understanding that growth hacking is not a quick fix for every company.

Additionally, other ineffective growth hacking stories, such as BranchOut, SocialCam and Viddy who have failed to utilise growth hacking in retaining users’ acquisition, adding value in their products and most importantly, validating the right product-market fit at the first place should be studied before hiring any growth hacker. Aside from that, just recently the entrepreneur world has agreed that building mega traffic for free using social media is no longer possible as Facebook 2014 News Feed update has resulted in fumbles of exposure rate.

From these downfalls, you can be certain that growth hacking is not a surefire technique, but are there any ways to market your product rapidly and effectively without spending a fortune? Actually there are. Startups can establish a viable marketing campaign by integrating several other methods such as validating product-market fit in the initial stage, conveying and add product/app value to new users, and establish a sustainable long-term growth in user acquisition.

A part from that, always bear in mind that the ongoing concern for growth hacking is that, method that might work for businesses with strong customer base can be irrelevant for fresh companies without an appropriate product-market fit and vice versa.


Creative Marketing Over Growth Hacking

Creative Marketing Ideas

Creative marketing for startup rapid scale


‘Hacking’ does not necessarily have to be magical in method; it could be as easy as having the most creative and innovative ways in execution. For example, interesting stories of successful creative campaign includes how Eat24 bootstrapped their way to success by advertising on porn sites. Taking advantage of the fact that 30% of all web traffic is dedicated to those sites and CPI costs only 8.82% compared to Google, Facebook, and Twitter, Eat24 described their campaign as a unique way to penetrate into an untapped market.

Aside from using unique methods in advertising and marketing, startups should focus on their core product, through refinement instead of adding more features before mass-marketing their brand to users. We all can learn something valuable from the fastest growing B2B SaaS business, Slack and their dedicated hard work in satisfying their users. 


Successful Startup is All About Hard Work

Above all, whether you are in a constant attempt to replicate Facebook, Tumblr or Instagram’s huge success in growth hacking or trying to come out with a perfect product-market fit for a sustainable long term growth and users’ acquisition, remind yourself that success is about having grit. Experimentations may lead to many points of breakdown, and success may seem farfetched but remember that AirBnB’s Brian Chesky spent years sleeping on air mattresses and eating cereal before he became a billionaire.


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