Shift December 14, 2018

From growth hacking to growth strategy

Maarten Van den Bossche

Growth Strategist

Building a product is often a long and winding road. Much time, effort and money goes into getting to the first dozen releases of your product. The board is banging on the door. When does this investment start to turn into returns? They want to see ‘growth’. So your next hire is a Growth Hacker, isn’t it?

Where growth hacking fails

Right away, he’ll run some A/B-tests on your signup form and report that conversions increased no less than 369.52%. Bring in the board! Yet months later, your active user base has been in steady decline. Most of your investors are withdrawing their funds. What has happened?

In practice, most ‘growth hacking’ efforts are focused on the acquisition channels or signup forms, leaving users at the doorstep of the product. Tests are evaluated mostly on single, short-term metrics. Any further work on retention and virality is left out because of this short-term evaluation and focus on metric manipulation.

Don’t get me wrong, you should always be testing. But prior to going all out in testing every possible growth hack or best practice you’ve read online, taking the strategic route requires that you first gain understanding of the current situation. What exactly keeps your product from growing? Is it a lack of discovery? Or perhaps people just ‘don’t get it’?

Decide what (not) to work on

Growth strategy focuses a large part of its work on deciding what to work on. This mostly happens in a process called ‘Planting The Flag’. We decide on the long term business goals and gain understanding of the current situation through data analysis. We set objectives and key results that are both inspiring and ambitious.

In what’s called a growth model, we split up these key results into all the factors that will lead to the result. A growth model then guides your team in deciding what (not) to work on and make projections on product growth.

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