Lessons From ‘Hacking Growth’

When it comes to growth, many entrepreneurs make the mistake of looking for a silver bullet. If they could only find that secret combination of marketing techniques, they’d convert all their traffic into sales and be an overnight success. If you’re prone to this sort of magical thinking, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of “Hacking Growth.”

In this no-nonsense guide, Morgan Brown and Sean Ellis share their real-world experience of helping startups become household names. These case studies dip beneath the gloss of the seemingly effortless growth experienced by companies like Dropbox and Airbnb to reveal the truth: All growth is hard-earned.

What About Overnight Successes?

road to successThe authors admit that there can be “one-hit wonders,” where growth spikes only to never be seen again. Even though many entrepreneurs dream of this accidental, viral success, it’s actually harmful. The book is chock-full of cautionary tales about companies that enjoyed meteoric success without investing the time and resources to actually understand their customers. In the end, these runaway success stories end in either stagnation or implosion.

So What’s the Right Way to Grow?

Brown and Ellis see growth as a marathon, not a sprint. This perspective is sobering, but it isn’t exactly fresh in the world of business advice. The real wisdom “Hacking Growth” has to offer is how to run smarter, not faster.

Ellis illustrates this right at the beginning of the book. As a marketing manager of a small game studio competing with the likes of Sony and Microsoft, he had to do more with less. His winning strategy was to rethink how the studio collected and interpreted sales data. While this process has been one of trial and error throughout Ellis’s carrier, the underlying philosophy has remained the same: Understand your customers.


Rethink Data

Using this game industry experience as a springboard, Ellis and Brown take a sledgehammer to many of the mainstays of data-driven marketing. One of their more radical ideas is breaking down the walls between your sales team, your service providers, and your number crunchers. In today’s fast-paced world, you need a cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives to truly get a sense of what consumers are looking for. Using real-world examples, the authors lay out a clear, methodical way of implementing this and other techniques to allow your company to have the clearest view of where the market is at so you can start grabbing a larger share.

Reach People, Not Inboxes

“Hacking Growth” embraces all the tools of our digital age as a lens to create laser-focused campaigns, but it doesn’t mistake them for silver bullets. Rather than spamming your message out to the masses, you want to engage in a dialogue with consumers, building a loyal fan base that snowballs over time. This humanist approach to the world of data-driven marketing is a refreshing read and extremely effective advice for entrepreneurs who are serious about growing their businesses.

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