/ product development

When Growth Hacking can slow you down

Growth hacking is straightforward: run experiments to make your product more successful. But if not done right, it can also be a very effective way to mess up your business.

The Growth Hacking promise is that it'll boost your funnel and increase performance. But that's only if you were running in the right direction in first place. Make sure that you're rightfully prepared before you decide to accelerate things.

Know your customers

There's no way you'll be able to understand if you've increased engagement if you do not know how people are using your products today. You'll need to add analytics if not yet in place, and you'll have to let things run for a few weeks to understand your baselines. Seasonality is real, so be careful not to rush your conclusions when you see results for the first time.

Change your culture to support growth

Being able to A/B test things while the dev team keeps on releasing improvements can be tricky. It's rather easy nowadays to integrate an A/B testing solution but it's only part of the problem. The real difficulty is to manage your backlog to both build features and test them. It's often easier to have developers focused on experiments, embedded in the Growth team.

It also means having a culture that readily accepts failure. A lot of the things you'll try will fail - and that should be okay. If you put too much pressure to get early positive results, then you're missing the point of doing experiments. Some things will pay off but it will take time to learn what works and you begin with a streak of wrong hypotheses. The core question is how fast can you learn.

Think hard about your incentives

The exponent.fm podcast does a great job of dissecting what motivates strategies. The way you design your business model, pricing, or even compensation can have a significant impact on your outcome. The same thinking can be applied to Growth Hacking. If you give the wrong incentives to your team, you'll risk hurting your business.

For instance, if you set a goal of getting more users, rather than active users you'll quickly reward experiments that result in signing up people that are a bad fit (example: signup and get a $25 Amazon voucher!). You need to define carefully what you call success, or you might be enabling your team to run really fast into a wall.