What is ‘growth hacking’ and what do you need to know about it? One growth hacker defines the specialization as “one whose passion and focus is pushing a metric through use of a testable and scalable methodology.”

It’s OK, you can be confused. That means nothing. Growth hacking is not mysterious. It’s merely a marketing tactic that puts raw growth at the forefront of a marketing campaign rather than more conventional metrics such as revenue.

Many of the most famous growth hacking campaigns – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram – provided free services, so it only makes sense that they used growth as their primary metric.  They could hardly use revenue when they had not yet established a clear revenue stream.

And growth hacking is nothing new. In fact, on some level, any competent campaign can be called a growth hacking campaign if it simply achieves growth really, really fast. That’s because any competent campaign uses testable and scalable methodology and any competent campaign involves passion and focus.

And who doesn’t want to grow fast?

Well, a lot of people. The #1 cause of startup death is premature scaling. Growing is not necessarily hard. Growing with stability is. Slow, organic growth is usually preferable to a huge boom. Even established corporations can make the mistake of scaling upwards too quickly and then faltering under the weight of their new overhead.

Huge growth appears appealing to investors but it carries with it some big problems:

  1. A lack of physical or virtual infrastructure to support huge growth.
  2. A lack of clear monetization and revenue streams for digital startups.
  3. A lack of customer feedback and user experience optimization.
  4. A lack of sustainable growth which the company can rely upon in the future.

In short, the question is: are you really ready for growth?

That’s not to say that growth hacking can’t be a good technique; it’s just a very specialized strategy. Growth hacking is, at its heart, a microcosm of the dotcom boom. It can only be used by companies that can absolutely scale up quickly and that already have a stable infrastructure and viable revenue stream in place. Basically: the lean internet startup. For businesses that have more tangible costs, it’s ironically unlikely to produce reliable, sustainable growth.


  1. http://www.aginnt.com/growth-hacker#.VTUTkfnF-So
  2. http://www.quicksprout.com/the-definitive-guide-to-growth-hacking/
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_hacking#Methods
  4. http://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanfurr/2011/09/02/1-cause-of-startup-death-premature-scaling/
  5. http://www.inc.com/karl-and-bill/build-your-business-one-customer-at-a-time.html
  6. http://www.geekwire.com/2011/number-reason-startups-fail-premature-scaling/
  7. http://readwrite.com/2012/12/31/10-real-world-things-to-consider-before-scaling-your-startup
Jenna Inouye
Jenna I. is a freelance writer, programmer and web developer, focusing on the areas of digital marketing, technology, gaming and finance. Hire Jenna through WriterAccess or contact her directly.

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