Growth Hacking: the Good, the Bad, and the Potential Security Risks

Four pitfalls to consider before you try to take a shortcut

Greg Poirier
Apr 27, 2017 · 4 min read

Editor’s note: This article was submitted by Greg Poirier, President of CloudKettle. Poirier brings over a decade of experience working at SaaS startups (including Radian6, acquired by Salesforce in 2011) to the Inside the Salesforce Ecosystem blog.

Growth hacking is the process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business. With growth hacking (like every marketing trend) there’s the good, and then there’s the bull$hit. There is a lot of noise around growth hacking, so let’s start by separating the good from the bad.

There are growth hacking teams all over the world doing incredible work testing scalable marketing tactics. Industry experts like Sean Ellis have a depth of experience and knowledge most growth hackers don’t. Unfortunately, for every legitimate growth hacker, there are three people masquerading as experts.

Growth hacking promises a cheat code for scaling, but once the code expires, your company still sucks at the game. If you’re a startup, the promise of quick wins and immediate results seems amazing. SaaS startups, in particular, are under a lot of pressure and they find shortcuts very appealing. Having worked at multiple SaaS startups I can vouch for this, but ultimately, shortcuts don’t pay off in the long run.

The Top 4 Pitfalls of Growth Hacking

1. Growth hackers are individual contributors, not team players.

2. Growth hacking tactics measure outputs not outcomes.

  • “The quick and easy way to increase your social media following by XX%”
  • “How to 100X your something in two months.”

Most growth hacking tactics measure outputs instead of outcomes. Say you run a campaign to gain free trial signups for your SaaS product. What are you going to do with 100 new free trial signups? How many of those 100 become paying customers? How do those free signups drive revenue? Growth hacking articles focus on how you 20X, 40X or 100X something, without explaining how it adds value.

Marketing goals should always align with revenue goals. Growth hacks rarely consider outputs in terms of generating revenue for your company in the long term.

3. Growth hacking tends to require gray-area tools.

Furthermore, Facebook and Google are smarter than you. Since most growth hacks are essentially exploits, it’s only a matter of time before the platform you’re exploiting cuts you off. Whatever vulnerability the tool uncovers through Twitter, Facebook, or Google will be fixed in a matter of minutes or days. Fortune 100 companies have teams of engineers dedicated to fixing these problems.

4. Growth hacking promises quick wins.

Wrap Up: Marketing’s Role in Growth

Often, people forget to factor in employee time when they calculate the overall cost of a growth hacking tactic. If you decide the tactic you’ve chosen will take 10 hours, consider what else you could achieve in ten hours. What would be the comparative value if you phoned potential clients for 10 hours? It’s likely more worthwhile than a bunch of web views or Twitter followers.

A Salesforce partner, CloudKettle is a boutique consultancy that helps B2B SaaS companies scale Sales and Marketing. Learn more here.

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Greg Poirier

Written by

Greg Poirier is president of CloudKettle, a Salesforce consultancy that specializes in scaling Sales, Marketing & Customer Success for B2B SaaS Companies.

AppExchange and the Salesforce Ecosystem

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