Growth Hacks: Growth is about systems, not hacks or ideas.

Growth Hacks: Growth is about systems, not hacks or ideas.

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Growth is about systems, not hacks or ideas.


While great ideas are sexy and exciting, that’s not what’s going to change the trajectory of your business and uncover that hidden opportunity you were looking for. Sorry to inform you, but there are no silver bullets.

It’s easier to believe that Dropbox’s growth success came from one idea about a referral program — but they fail to mention the hundreds of interactions required to achieve such a level of customer satisfaction.

People like to brag about Airbnb’s improvement on high-quality images and its impact in the early growth of the business — however, the story lacks the hundreds of unsuccessful experiments that were necessary to get to the ones that performed well.

The 2020 State of Growth research found out that the most successful teams are also the ones failing the most. It does sound counterintuitive but, in order to succeed on their challenges and objectives, these teams are also the ones running the largest number of experiments and, even when the majority of such experiments fail, the ones that worked, pay the bills. So, ideas are just a means to an end — what the company needs and expects from the growth team is not a hypothesis validation, but the achievement of a major strategic business goal.

Take for example the objective of validating a paid media acquisition strategy.
The success metric of the objective could be: finding a CAC lower than X.
The experiments could be:
– Google ads
– YouTube ads
– LinkedIn ads
– Twitter ads
– TikTok ads
– Facebook ads
Even if 90% of the above fails, but the LinkedIn test brings you substantial results, that’s all you need to achieve your goal and deliver what the company needs.
After all, they didn’t ask you to perform well in every single channel (that will eventually be someone else’s job) but to validate one (this one is yours).

Systematizing Growth

The way Etsy manages its product teams is a great example of how to approach growth in a systematic way. The focus is on WHICH problems the team solves, not on HOW they solve. Twice a month, the CEO gets together with their product-squad-leader to get a review of how many experiments have been executed and how much the needle has actually moved towards where they need to go.

“94% of most problems and possibilities for improvement belong to the system, not the individual.” — from Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming.

We need to start thinking about growth from a compounding perspective. Just like when you have a content strategy, 1–5% of your posts will get to the first page of google. Does that mean that the other 95% had no influence at all and could even not be written? No. Actually, without that 95%, it’s very likely that the 5% wouldn’t be on the top.

At the end of the day, while having a Sean Ellis in your team would definitely be beneficial, the secret doesn’t lie in one person, it lies in the constancy and consistency of your process. Set a system that makes it certain that tests will be run and you will eventually find yourself among the top performers.

To get there, ask yourself the following questions across the three main pillars of growth: strategy, process, and culture:

  • [strategy] Does your growth team have a clear objective to be achieved?
  • [strategy] Do you have a measurable metric to measure if you’ve gotten there?
  • [process] Does everyone in the company know how to collaborate?
  • [process] Are you running your growth meetings religiously?
  • [process] Do you have consistency in terms of test volume?
  • [culture] Can your superiors clearly keep track of your work?
  • [culture] Is there a way to promote wins and deliveries?

If the answer is no to any of the above, you got some more work to focus on before scaling it up — maybe we can help!

Growth is about systems, not hacks or ideas. was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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