Growth Hacks and The Illusive Silver Bullet…

We live in the age of instant noodles.

We look for ‘instant’ hockey stick exponential growth.
Hoping that this new widget / tool / hire / service will be the silver bullet for growth.

Its probably quite counter-intuitive for me as a Growth Marketer to call BS on that – but hey I have always been honest and the first to call out BS when I see it.

I think there are many different stages to a business – not all stages are ‘growth hack-able’ or meant to even be ‘growth hacked’.

I remember telling restaurants back when we launched foodpanda – “We are just a delivery platform – we can help in facilitating convenience and improving distribution of your food. We can’t help you if your food sucks”.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so blunt.

The early days of any venture is to get the basics right.
To understand your product, service and most importantly regular paying customers.
I emphasize – regular paying customers.

Not all customers are created equal unfortunately.
The ones that really matter are the ones that are regular and that would pay full price for your product / service. The rest are just noise.
If you don’t have enough of regular paying customers – you are either barking up the wrong tree or the problem that you are solving isn’t worth solving (or so your customers think).

Once you have the basics down to pat.
Its about looking at which channels bring you the most results.
Most often for entirely new products it would be offline or ancillary online.

Back when we started foodpanda – the search volume for food delivery wasn’t great.
As I recalled it was less than 1K searches per month on Google.
So it was almost like educating the market that there are other alternatives besides pizza and fast food that can be delivered.
We had to start with food bloggers and e-commerce partners – these are ancillary online partners.
Food bloggers would get us foodies who wished that the restaurant was closer to their homes / can be delivered and e-commerce folks are people comfortable parting with their cash (or credit card information) based on picture descriptions on a screen while waiting for the item to be delivered (extra difficulty when they are hungry).

The education and mindset shift took some time – the way we brought the message across wasn’t always clear – we struggled for a bit trying to communicate our value proposition. But we learnt along the way that what we were selling besides just food delivery service was convenience and time saved.

All this while trying to fix the product (last mile delivery, customer service, product features) while balancing company morale, expectations from HQ and obviously competition.

As much as others would say focus on your own race – the reality is that unless you are doing something 10X, you should never underestimate your competition.

The fancy growth hacks are more experiments based on hypothesis built on the product, UI/UX, customer experience from a proven (or at very least clearly defined) product / customer base.
Else – it will be just as good as buying a WSO and building a short game IM scheme.

Growth hacks are by no means a silver bullet – rather calculated optimizations to improve customer acquisition, activation, retention, revenue and referral.

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