Looking at the growth hacking of some startups, you’d think it was a foolproof strategy. Find out why growth hacking may not be as effective as it seems.

Many of the most successful startups used growth hacking to rocket-launch their success. The impressive revenue growth of legends like Slack, Dropbox, Airbnb, and PayPal inspired hundreds of less-successful tech startups to use the same techniques.

So why are we still only talking about a few dozen successful growth hacking companies? Does growth hacking really work for all B2B startups?

What Is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking has been around for about a decade. The term was coined by Sean Ellis: serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and author of Hacking Growth. The idea emphasizes rapid experimentation and trial-and-error campaigns to get results fast.

For growth hackers, a strategy that works is one that leads to growth — ideally, exponential growth. Because of this, growth metrics become all-important and receive all the attention.

Does Growth Hacking Work?

Fundamentally, growth hacking isn’t a bad idea. If it works, it can lead to a rapid increase in sales numbers, and tech startups in particular need to move quickly. You have to validate your product and start generating revenue as fast as you can. The agile nature of growth hacking can help you get the momentum you need. When well-executed, it can lead to phenomenal success.

But we’re still talking about the same success stories because growth hacking is not easy to execute well. It can be difficult to measure your impact, and you're not necessarily operating with a proven target market.

Instead, you’re throwing a wide net and seeing what you can catch. You don’t know exactly who your target buyer is, what they need, or why your solution can solve their problem better than anything else out there.

You don’t know these things because you started marketing and selling to your prospects before you found out from them exactly what they need. This means you need to have some conversations with them.

One-on-One Conversations Discover Things that Growth Hacking Often Misses

If you want to help your B2B tech startup grow, do these two things before you create your growth strategy:

  • Have one-on-one conversations. Human interactions provide a distinctly different type of business intelligence than the insights and data you get from digital channels.
  • Use feedback interviews and demos or betas on your minimum viable product (MVP) to gain insights that you can apply to your marketing strategies and your business strategy.

Only focus groups and interviews will enable you to ask your customers in-depth questions. This is where you get the answers you need to grow reliably.

You can use this tool to evaluate the impact of your solution on multiple levels:

  • The social impact — how your product will empower customers within their specific role and unique set of responsibilities
  • The emotional impact — how your product makes customers feel; whether it simplifies their work, removes a barrier or burden, inspires them to take their business to the next level, or something else
  • The functional impact — how effectively your product will help customers meet a need

You’re not going to learn any of that from a growth metric. Don't neglect the dynamic needs of the people you serve in the name of growth. Talk to them.