Growth Hacking is Overrated

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“Growth hacking” is a technical term for customer development. Essentially, it involves figuring out what your customer wants without ever having to talk to or interact with them.  How?

By using tools like OptimizelyGoogle Analytics and KISS Metrics, you’re able to learn more about your customer based on a specific set of metrics. These types of programs allow you to discover their likes, dislikes, and interests solely by monitoring their Internet usage and what sites they frequent most.

So, what’s the problem with customer development via growth hacking?

The Problem with Growth Hacking

You can’t growth hack your way into your customer’s mind.  Sure, you may gain a little understanding about them thanks to the software program, but your growth will be faster if you actually keep a finger on the pulse of your customers. How do you do this? By having real conversations with them.

The software developers responsible for creating these types of programs are partially to blame. I’m not saying that they are schmucks, but not all of these growth hackers are worth the beaucoup bucks they’re generally paid.

A large number of software developers (and non-savvy business developers) have the illusion that “if they build it, they will come.” In this case, the second “they” refers to the customers who they expect will adore everything they do and flock to their software simply because it exists.

In all fairness, this way of thinking is not entirely their fault. We fawn over stories of icons such as Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook and dream of being that one in a billion.

However, overvaluing software developers and undervaluing business developers can give software developers a giant ego and false sense of worth. Unfortunately, it is this inflated ego that can drive them to quit projects midway through to pursue their own passions. And, why not? They can, right?

While it’s great for anyone to follow their passion, this is bad luck in these types of situations. Plus, it’s just awful for the teams they leave behind.

Growth Hacking Can Be Good…Within Reason

Personally, I love the concept of growth hacking. In fact, by definition I am a growth hacker. But I also know that you cannot – 100% cannot – grow your company without getting to know your customer face-to-face.

For instance, consider the concepts behind Lean methodology which forces you to GOOTB (Get-Out-Of-The-Building) and talk to your customers. It’s so much better! Why?

It makes your potential customers part of the growth process so you become customer-centric. When you follow Lean methodology, you are constantly putting your product or service in front of them to test their response, giving you immediate feedback that is essential to your growth power.

One way to do this is by signing up for Lean Startup Machine. This is a three-day course designed to teach you the process by which you can learn enough about your customer base to make your business more successful.

When it comes to Lean methodology versus growth hacking, Lean methodology wins every time!

Customers Aren’t Numbers

Customers aren’t just numbers.  They have a voice.  So, hiding behind the numbers and hacking away at code, pretending that you’re staring at a matrix screen that somehow tells you all you need to know about your customer… that’s all bunk.

Your front end sales people have the pulse on your company.  Your business development people actually know what your customers are saying – and they’re worth listening to.

That’s why I believe that growth hacking is seriously overrated and may, in fact, be one of the worst effects of modern tech culture.

What’s your opinion on growth hacking? Do you find it helpful or not? We’d love to know your thoughts!

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