Transparent Growth Measurement (NPS)

Growth Hacks – A reality check from a Growth Hacker

Contributors: Chandala Takalkar
Published: August 14, 2018

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Don’t just tell me the growth hacks are crucial for business success. How do I come up with a right growth hack, what process are most likely to generate the essential growth hack? Should we invest energy in investing those hacks or follow them blindly? Do we need to build a new team to find growth hacks or can we train existing team?

There has been enough written and said about Growth hacks – how they are the way forward and why everyone is supposed to follow it religiously.

This is an attempt to remove misconceptions about growth hacking and bring forward some reality checks.

There are 3 ways to plan and win any game –

  1. Play by rule
  2. Find a way, skip stages through cheat codes
  3. Hack it and win it

Everyone knows how to play by the rules but only a few know how not to and still win it.

It’s not any different while doing business.

Founders, VCs hungry for growth more often tend to explore uncharted territories in pursuit of growth, which at times deviate them from sustainable growth.

Following are hard realities (good and bad) about growth hacking:

1. Growth hacks are not sustainable solutions; they are nitro boosts

Growth hacks are always almost inferior to consistent investment in the right marketing channel and tactics for your strength and your audience.

Growth hacks for any business are supposed to give an instant boost of increase/decrease in numbers based on the objective.

2. Growth hacks have to be invented; they cannot be discovered

What you discover is already available. It’s just that you were unaware of it, the industry may be following it in secret for many years.

Do you really think, what Airbnb achieved through craigslist hack was not been thought of by anyone before? I believe lots of them would have tried but only Airbnb succeeded in scaling it up to 1 million.

Growth hack has to be something that has not been imagined and practiced before, or if it has, it could have been secretly done but as it is a hack no one would openly talk about it.

3. You may never know the “Growth hacks” unless they make it public.

Why would anyone reveal their secret of growth?

It may come out after someone/competition found about it or practitioners revealed it by themselves.

Businesses will only reveal their hacks after they know 98% of times it won’t work after trying and testing it in multiple formats in every possible situation.

Do you think Dropbox talked about their Referral program on day 1? As sson as we all were done with it they started talking about it. They openly admitted that it does not work the same way in different geographies.

4. Growth hacks may not be necessarily cost-effective solutions.

If the hack involves any technical adaption or entering into someone else’s database or a secret cross-integration, it will never be easy on pockets.

5. Do not mistake optimization strategies for growth hacks.

You may teach a cat to bark but that does not make it a dog!

Decreasing CPA from X to Y will be conversion optimization through ad platform or LP optimization, it cannot be a hack. There may be cheat codes available here but no hacks.

Increasing CTR for organic results is also not a growth hack. It’s just helpin Search Engine Optimiser for better SEO.

6. You may find a hack if you have your basics clear

Many entrepreneurs search for quick fixes without having their basics clear.

Optimisation (could be looked at as cheat codes) can only be practiced if you have a strong foundation.

Optimization and continuous experimentation may trigger a thought which can lead you to a growth hack if you can connect dots easily.

Referral scheme is not a hack; its nothing but an adoption of chain messaging.

People at Dropbox could’ve thought about it because they tried and tested different ways of acquisitions and finally were able to connect the dots together to arrive at a referral scheme idea.

7. Growth hacks could be categorized as black hat

Many people may not agree with it, but being in a community of growth practitioners I can confirm this.

Growth hacks and black hats share a very thin line of separation.

Some black hats can be growth hacks but you can differentiate the majority of them into unique or individual growth hacks and black hats.

If an outsider cannot guess or find signs of how an X company is achieving exponential growth when they aren’t practicing traditional/mainstream/known channels, generally the last resort is Blackhat tactics.

Final thoughts –

Innovative ideas always emerge in a half-baked, partially formed condition. They subsequently go through a shaping process that transforms them into the fully fleshed-out business plan. complete with strategy, that is required to win the game.

It is easy to get fooled early and start categorizing anything and everything which brings in growth as a hack.

Hacks are not easy and will never be.

Hacks are not easy

You need to have a mindset of a growth hacker and hackers ethics to be a growth hacker.

To have a real growth hackers life you need to do relentless experimentation, never dying hunger for optimization and T-shaped skills is what you need .

I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew that one thing I might regret is not trying. – Jeff Bezos, 2016

About the Author


Chandala Takalkar is a young content marketer and creative with experience in content, copy, corporate communications, and design. A digital native, she has the ability to craft content and copy that suits the medium and connects. Prior to Team upGrowth, she worked as an English trainer. Her experience includes all forms of copy and content writing, from Social Media communication to email marketing.

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