Growth Hacks – Don’t Bother

How about doing the right things right?

Growth Hacks being written in code on screen of a MacBook dollar bills floating around screen. Illusion of growth hack making instant money

The Fable Of Growth Hacks

I’m a bit worn out by articles promising me the next great growth hack. Worse still, a list of them. It’s a plague. I’m not even sure what a growth hack is. Type it in your favourite search engine and see how many answers you get.

My top hit was funny, as it was “let me tell you the definitive definition of a growth hacking in my view.” Definitive, according to one person. Some were quite rational and included descriptions of rapid experimentation and discarding concepts in the search for rapid growth. I understand the process described, but I’m not sure how it’s a hack.

I understand it’s a term which came to prominence in the online world, focused on the actions of generating traffic, databases and improved conversion on e-commerce and social media platforms. It has spread to just about any field of commerce. If you are a waitress, you can growth hack your tips 23% by returning to the table with a second set of mints. It has spread beyond commerce, you can now growth hack yourself, your body, your mind.

Far too many growth hacks are descriptions of dubious actions or lazy actions. Write a bit of code which will result in any first time clicks getting spammed incessantly. Purchase this software and your database will grow at astonishing rates. Copy the philosophy of a well-known entrepreneur. Get up at 5am and meditate while drinking Bulletproof Coffee (which will hack your body, while you hack your business). Listen to Tim Ferriss, he says “hack” a lot.

Some things change, some things stay the same. Things that stay the same are variations of the “Get Rich Quickly” style of books. Now it’s “Growth Hack Your Way To Riches”. It’s exactly the same BS, but with contemporary terminology.

There Is No Short Cut

You guessed it. A good plan, discipline and the ability to keep working hard. Showing up each day and doing the work. Pushing again when the competition doesn’t roll over. Understanding your customer better when they don’t pick up the product when you would like. Getting the new offering out of the door on time. Convincing your seed investor to give you a little bit of flex.

Keeping the spirits of your team up, motivating them, leading by example. Explaining the vision to them again. Supporting them, coaching and mentoring your people. Persuading a great new talent to come on board. Selling to your suppliers, convincing them why you’re a growth story worth backing. Influencing industry media or consumer press, making your business worth writing about.

Reminding yourself why you’re doing this. Climbing out of bed each day and doing it all over again. Not worrying about nine to five, just working until it’s done. Not worrying if it’s Monday, Wednesday or Saturday, just working until it’s right. But being a good father, wife, partner or friend; understanding that on one hand, it’s about you driving relentlessly, but also that other people make space for you to do it. Don’t neglect your support network. You can’t do this alone. You might think you’re alone, but you’re not.

Forget About The Growth Hack

If you think a neat trick is out there, ready to propel you past the competition, you’re making a mistake. You’re also doing a disservice to the entrepreneurs who have travelled the hard road. I would guess you’re even doing a disservice to yourself. Come back to the basics again and again. Look at the data one more time. Make that one extra sales call. Help guide that promising brand manager to where they might find that little extra insight. There is no short cut.


Also published on Medium.

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