Growth Hacking is a Fallacy

Arjun Patel
Dec 27, 2017 · 2 min read

You’ve probably heard of the term “growth hacking” before, the term has become so saturated on job postings on Angel List and entrepreneur forums to the point where it means completely different things to each person.

For almost 8 years now, people in the industry have been using the word “growth hacker” or “growth hacking”. And this can be frustrating to hear sometimes because it’s often misused and misinterpreted as a form of marketing that is highly tactic-driven instead of data-driven.

I wanted to write this article to clear the air on what growth really means.

Growth Hacking —

“Growth Hacking” was coined by Sean Ellis in his early days at Dropbox. He was looking for candidates who had a certain type of ideology that revolved around a singular goal: moving 1 metric; the single metric that best captures the core value that a product delivers to its customers.

Throughout the years, “growth hacking” has been used by the top 1% of growth professionals as a way of communicating the nuance of what growth is. It’s been effective at helping people in the industry (and even outside of the industry) understand that it differentiates from marketing in a considerable way.

As the term became more mainstream, ironically, it became more associated with conventional marketing thus making the phrase “growth hacking” meaningless. The traditional sense of marketing is very linear and heavily focused on broad adjustments in terms of top of the line funnel metrics. Marketing primarily focuses on awareness and acquisition of users/clients and not necessarily the bottom of the funnel metrics (activiation, retention, revenue, referral).

Being a “growth hacker” is more closely related to being a product manager than a marketer. Growth is not just a series of tactics, it’s a continuous process and methodology of discovering information. It’s a data-driven adjustment to customer touchpoints that drive the north star metrics of a business. In growth there are still individual tactics, but those tactics are justified experiments proved by correlations in data, which will (hopefully) influence the bottom line.

This is not meant to be a rant, but an explanation that hacking growth isn’t just finding the best “hacks”. It is about establishing a process to figure out what levers to pull that will create the most impact to the business.

If you have a different opinion let me know, would love to hear your thoughts!

Arjun Patel

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