Growth Hacking is Overrated

“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!

Accelerators and Incubators Level the Business Playing Field

Accelerators and Incubators Level the Business Playing Field | LiveWorkAnywhere.com

Accelerators and Incubators Level the Business Playing Field | LiveWorkAnywhere.com

It’s no longer necessary to be a Harvard grad to get all the cred.  In fact, you don’t even have to go to college at all to be successful.

Finally the playing field is being leveled. You don’t have to be a college grad to be successful. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here: Being accepted into an accelerator is a more significant step toward business success than a degree from Harvard.

Microsoft is actually contracting TechStars companies to build their products, so this attitude is even affecting the workplace. Which I predict is really going to work in Microsoft’s favor going forward. Thinking like an accelerator is the style of the future. Big companies need to adapt to survive.

The problem with corporations, in short, is that everything changes when they get big. Big companies come with a lot of problems and hang-ups. Employees get comfy paychecks and pseudo-meaningful titles that they hang onto, fight for, and step on others to maintain or get. As a result, innovation is lost.

From there, companies are then forced to copy ideas from startups or established companies. Then, due to politics, egos, and position control, it takes a long time to get something meaningful accomplished. They don’t have the nimbleness that comes with being a startup, especially one nurtured by accelerators and incubators.

Startups are agile, quick, and either don’t have titles or know titles mean nothing. They focus on getting things done and rapid iteration.  That’s it. There’s no junk getting in the way. Startups are there to get things done.

So let’s support our local startups, and the accelerators that make them great. And if you want to be successful in business, avoid the big corporations. Don’t go for that expensive business degree unless you just want it anyway. Just build a startup, and find an accelerator/incubator to light a fire under it!

A Startup is Not a Company

a startup is NOT a company live work anywhere

I was just at an event last night where we went around the room and introduced ourselves.

Many people talked about their “company.” It’s hard to tell if they were talking about the company they worked for, the piece of code they were working on, or the group of friends they worked with to raise a seed round.

Steve Blank gave the best definitions of a startup I’ve ever heard: A temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

It’s a project. Until there are paying customers, a formed corporation, and a need solved that’s scalable, it’s a project. Startups fail because they are experiments.

Of course, it depends on where you are in the process. Anyone can turn from XYZ into CEO overnight with a project. It’s easy to give yourself a title and to build a prototype. That’s the simple part.

A startup moves from the project phase into the company phase when there is revenue. Revenue comes from paying customers.

By now, Lean Startup has become a common term. Lean Startup takes the principles of Customer Development and Agile Development and combines them. It’s important to think of customers first—who will actually buy your product? It ‘s usually not who you think! After you figure that out, how quickly can you iterate on your development when you learn this? This is known as agile development, or SCRUM.

On the other hand, there is no need to start a company (or even incorporate) when all you have is a project. Unless there are some patents, trademarks, etc that are essential to the core of the product, then all you really need to do is experiment. That’s the beauty of a startup. It’s not failure if you are experimenting and documenting what you’re learning.

A startup project is fun, exciting, and experimental. A company deals with real revenues and expenses, customers and support issues. So if you want to build a company, it’s okay to begin with a startup. Just keep in mind that customers are your goal. With customers comes real business decisions. If you don’t want a company, keep building startups! It’s all about the learning.

In your experience, at what point does a startup become a company?

Why Do We Follow Systems Even When It Doesn’t Make Sense?

Why Do We Follow Systems Even When it Doesn't Make Sense LiveWorkAnywhere.com

Why Do We Follow Systems Even When it Doesn't Make Sense  LiveWorkAnywhere.com

Why do we always follow systems even when it doesn’t make sense? I’m not just talking about business—I’m talking about life.

We don’t even realize we are trained, like dogs. To respond, to act. To exist.

As I write this, I just went through airport security. I had spent the night at the airport, and my nerves were fried. But after having gone through security earlier in the day, I was asked to go through again.

Now, I was in no mood to go through security again. I wanted coffee. But I’d have to wait to get it until after security, because since 9-11 no more gels, aerosols, liquids etc. And any coffee I would have wanted won’t go into a plastic bag without spilling.

The system says: I can’t track Libby individually (until we are ‘voluntarily’ chipped, ugh), so it’s the same policy as though I just arrived here and in case I’m a terrorist.

Fair enough. I went through the scan and the security guard shouted “WOMAN RANDOM.” She then asked me to step aside to be searched. I thought maybe she thought I looked at her funny until the guy said “Might as well buy a lotto ticket today, the computer picked you.”

Random. Riiiiight….

It reminded me of the movie Idiocracy where the individual person has been dumbed down, losing the ability to think for himself/herself, and letting the work of machines take over. Why is that even a possibility? Why do we ever trust machines over intellect?  Why do we not question the processes put in place?

Should I really have been pegged for a terrorist when I slept at that same airport all night?  Of course, I could have been waiting all morning just to get combustible coffee that I could sneak through and blow up the plane. Darn it! The random computer scan busted that airtight plan.

Flying through Wisconsin. I bought butter and cheese. I had to, because it’s Wisconsin. But my cheese was confiscated because it might have been very dangerous cheese!  That could have been true. Or it was just all part of the system someone put in place for situations NOT like mine.

Once a system is put in place, we blindly follow. Then we place rules on top with a punishment attached. An example: Don’t cross the road (even if there’s no traffic for miles!) until the little red guy turns to white on the traffic light. If you do, you’ll get fined. We are purposely giving up our ability to think rationally.

I am not arguing systems aren’t good. They can be eerily effective.  I just think it’s good to be aware that as we use more and more technology (as I write this from my smartphone-turned-dumbphone) we should be using our brains more, not less. Don’t give in to systems. Make the systems work for you.

What systems do you see in place in your daily life?