Growth hacking: yes, no or maybe? by Jann Sabin


I’ve been reading a lot about growth hacking recently. The concept came to my attention because I’m exploring options for teaming up with a technology partner and I wanted to be sure I knew enough to make an intelligent decision. The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking by Neil Patel & Bronson Taylor is a thorough overview  There were many things about the focus and devotion to creative tactics to accelerate growth that appeal to me although it also raised many questions and thoughts.

For example:

  • The term “hacker” has negative implications, especially outside of the technology world. To most of us, hackers suggest people who break in to things although I guess that’s not bad for an unorthodox growth specialist.
  • The descriptions of many of the tactics sounded a lot like what many years ago might be called guerilla marketing. This just reminded me that very few things are 100% new.
  • I thought of a thought-provoking article regarding scale written by Paul Graham  and wondered if this rushed unfettered  pursuit of growth way could get unmanageable and in some ways end op derailing growth.  To me, in my business at least, I’ve chosen quality over quantity.  I prefer a few big clients to lots of small ones.

Then, I came across this article:  Real Engines of Growth Have Nothing To Do With Growth Hacking by Dan Kaplan published in TechCrunch <>  This extremely well-presented piece covers a lot of what I was thinking when I read the initial descriptions of growth hacking, and more.  If you want to really think about the concept of how to market products in today’s environment, reading these two overviews will have you talking to yourself, and I mean that in a good way.

As someone who has focused on telling a product’s story to customers and employees, and who has never wavered on the importance of having the story be based on truth, I was really inspired by the Kaplan piece. He gives so many strong examples of why nothing takes the place of the right word, and the story.  For instance, Stan Chudnivsky, Pay Pal’s V.P. of Growth who says “…the foundation of real growth is the language you use to describe you product.” And Josh Elman who worked on Twitter says “If your product doesn’t have a compelling story that is easy for people who use it to explain to people who don’t, your growth will stall. As someone who has been working with companies on how to frame their story, this was good news. Story still matters, maybe more than ever.  Users of any product are smart, and to underestimate them is dumb and disrespectful.

Everything is interesting and has its takeaways even if you don’t find the whole theory useful. I loved the thought of zero-day exploits.  It applies to everything in my opinion, not just technology.  Short-term opportunities with huge pay-offs for those who 1) see them and 2) act on them NOW are huge advantages in any industry.

I’d love to know your thinking on what matters most in marketing today.