Is it time to ditch the word “hacking” in the conversation about growth? Thoughts from Romanie Thomas, CEO of Juggle Jobs
What and who are growth hackers?
The term “growth hacking” has become synonymous with the world’s fastest-growing internet companies (Dropbox, Airbnb, Hubspot). Entrepreneur Sean Ellis coined the term in 2010 to describe an individual who is curious, analytical, verging on obsessive to find the “secret sauce” that ensures the product they’re taking to market, grows exponentially. Simply boiled down, a Growth Hacker is someone who tries and tests a multitude of tactics, rather like a chemist in a lab.
The word “hacking” has different meanings, however. Viewed negatively, we think of cybercrime, with our digital lives being robbed through brute force criminality. It also conjures up the impression of a “shortcut” and this is why the word may be damaging when Founders are thinking about growing their business, for it suggests there may be an easy way to achieve exponential growth, when in fact, the opposite is true.
Wins and dangers of "growth hacking"
The winners get to the answer faster, which is why process matters so much when we’re talking about growth; it enables companies to churn through the failed experiments far more quickly. It also explains the startup ecosystem’s obsession with funding, as this allows Founders to get to the answer faster through resource and spend (although it’s important to note that money and growth do not automatically go hand in hand, and some of the best growth tactics emerge through no money at all).
The danger with the word “hacking” being associated with a feeling of a shortcut, is that it unconsciously can move Founders to think this will happen overnight. They will search for the silver bullet, ignore strategy (because that instinctively feels like a longer-term investment), and under-hire into this area, when in fact they need to do the opposite. Very rarely is it a silver bullet that leads to exponential growth. More likely is a series of well thought through tactics, based on solid data and evidence, executed by an experienced person, and often supported if not led by the Founder. In short, the exact opposite of a shortcut.
Urgency and speed do not need to be divorced from a thorough and well-thought-through approach to growing a company; in fact, the opposite is true. Too often startups (and we at Juggle have been guilty of this) will confuse speed and a desire to get things done quickly, with lightening the load on strategy. That isn’t to say that suddenly a Head of Growth needs to produce a perfect 12-month roadmap, of course, that goes against the principles of finding and establishing growth. Instead, it means that thought, process, and consideration have to be the foundation for someone to execute successfully, and the term “growth hacking” doesn’t immediately go hand in hand with those phrases.
Join us on LinkedIn Live!
On Friday, September 24th 2021 at 11am, a group of us will be discussing this topic and many more in the event, Skyrocket Your Subscriptions. Please register, attend and share your thoughts and stories about how you have successfully grown your business. I'd love to hear your experiences...and if applicable you could share a silver bullet example that disproves this argument, or perhaps you disagree and think that “hacking”? I'll look forward to seeing you there!
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