Decoding Growth Hacking: Separating Fact from Fiction

Anna-Lisa Natchev
5 min readFeb 4, 2023

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Growth hacking has become a buzzword in the startup world, with many companies seeking ways to scale and grow their businesses quickly. However, many entrepreneurs still need to learn what growth hacking is and is not.

This blog aims to separate fact from fiction and provide a clear understanding of growth hacking.

What Growth Hacking IS

Growth hacking is a systematic building, testing, learning, and iterating approach. It involves continuously using data and validated learning to improve and optimize the product and customer experience. This approach is rooted in the principles of Lean Startup and data-driven innovation. Growth hacking aims to find the most effective and efficient ways to scale a business.

What Growth Hacking IS NOT

Growth hacking is not a secret sauce of tricks that can make a lousy product successful. It is not a one-time effort with a PowerPoint presentation and no follow-up. Most importantly, it is not a magical solution to fix a poor product-market fit or founder issues.

Growth hacking requires a continuous effort and improvement mindset to achieve sustainable success.

Working with a Growth Hacker

If you’re considering working with a growth hacker, it’s essential to understand what to expect.

A growth hacker will candidly assess your current situation and provide a clear understanding of the methodology and next steps. They will not promise a quick fix; instead, they will help you improve gradually and reach new milestones.

Arguments For Using Growth Hacking for Go To Market Planning:

  1. Data-Driven: Growth hacking is a data-driven approach to Go To Market planning. This means that businesses can make informed decisions based on data and validated learning, which increases the chances of success.
  2. Agile and Flexible: Growth hacking is designed to be agile and flexible, allowing for continuous testing and optimization. This will enable companies to identify what works quickly and what doesn’t and make necessary changes to improve their product and customer experience.
  3. Faster Results: Growth hacking enables companies to achieve faster results and reach new customers more quickly than traditional Go To Market models. This is because the focus is on rapid experimentation and continuous improvement.
  4. Embrace Failure: Growth hacking embraces failure as a part of the process. By building failure into the Go To Market model, companies can learn from their mistakes and adjust accordingly, increasing their chances of success.

Arguments Against Using Growth Hacking for Go To Market Planning:

  1. Risky: Growth hacking can be problematic if only a part of a company implements it. Companies may save time and resources if all teams and managers are on board. Still, suppose you have a majority of managers or employees desperately clinging to old ways of management models. In that case, you better change jobs, change the management team, or just get satisfied with whatever growth you get by ignoring constant validated learning.
  2. Working with Data-Driven innovation is also time-consuming, especially when setting everything up and learning how to learn about success. Founders and managers are often too busy putting out fires, and implementing a data-driven approach sounds great. Still, when someone tries to initiate this, the stressed corporate profiles run back to the rigid traditional model where they don't have to prove their teams impact on the company's growth more than once a year on the Company Strategy retreat and fishing trip.
  3. Lack of resources and skills: Growth hacking focuses on rapid experimentation and optimization. Working with data-driven innovation requires a team, tools, and skills to understand the experiments and be able to run different A/B tests and measuring and understand the data.
  4. Confusion: Growth Hacking sometimes needs clarification with the strategy of just testing things and despising everything that has to do with management models and systems. This “just do it” mentality is, as often as traditional management models, a quick recipe for failure.

Comparison of Growth Hacking Scale-Ups and Big Tech Giants:

Growth hacking scale-ups leverage validated learning and embrace failure as a success factor. They are focused on rapid experimentation and continuous improvement, allowing them to quickly reach new customers and achieve rapid growth. On the other hand, big tech giants like IBM often need to be more agile and faster to adapt to changes in the market. They focus on long-term planning and may ignore valuable data and feedback from customers.

For Founders with Corporate Backgrounds:

Founders with a corporate background may be more comfortable with traditional Go To Market models and may be hesitant to embrace the principles of growth hacking. They may prefer a more structured approach focused on long-term planning and stability. However, they may need to take advantage of the advantages of a growth hacking approach, such as faster results and a more data-driven approach. A warning, if you find yourself alone trying to implement validated learning into your company or if you are working with a customer project where the Founders are, let's say: traditional. Please assess what there is to win and at what cost by trying to fight windmills. Usually, these personas only change if they have to, and not always even then.

For Founders with Agile Backgrounds:

Founders with an agile background may be more comfortable with the principles of growth hacking and may embrace the focus on rapid experimentation and continuous improvement. They may be more open to embracing failure as a success factor and see the value of a data-driven approach to Go To Market planning. However, they may need to be cautious when interpreting the principles of growth hacking. What I mean by this is that the agile founders sometimes adopt an aggressive “Just do it” “anarchy” go-to-market approach and end up swinging at everything that moves and missing most targets.

In today’s fast-paced and constantly changing market, it’s essential for companies to stay ahead of the game and make informed decisions based on data and validated learning.

The traditional corporate management model that relies on personal opinions and rigid structures may have worked in the past. Still, it’s no longer a viable option for companies that aim to scale and succeed in today’s competitive market.

The founders and managers who stick to these outdated methods risk falling behind and missing out on opportunities for growth and innovation.

In contrast, a Go To Market model based on growth hacking leverages lean startup and data-driven innovation principles.

By continuously testing, learning, and iterating, growth hackers can identify the best path forward and make informed decisions that drive growth and success. With funding becoming more scarce in today’s economy, companies must make the most of every opportunity and not waste resources on ineffective strategies.

Therefore, relying on personal opinions and outdated methods in today's market is risky and unaffordable.

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Anna-Lisa Natchev

SaaS Growth Navigator ,also sharing insights into reaching happiness from the Happiest people in the world...