Nader Sabry is a strategist, innovator and entrepreneur in NASA space tech, government and health/wellness. He is also the author of "Ready Set growth Hack: A beginners guide to growth hacking success" which is a growth blueprint for organisations to achieve 10x growth.
When we first hear the word "HACK," we are thrown off...we all assume "HACKING" is terrible, but it isn't. A hack is a short-cut, whether it's for growth, a bio-hack, or even a life-hack.
Growth hacking is essentially a shortcut to growth. This shortcut is a transition point between taking four units of effort to get one unit of results, to taking one unit of effort and getting four units of results. This is the disproportionate outcome that leads to massive growth.
It is a rapidly emerging discipline that brings technology, marketing and business to a meeting point where they all agree to serve towards growth. It's a new corporate superpower, but one that is not only enjoyed by the elite startups of Silicon Valley, but by corporations, governments, secret societies and even organised crime groups.
To Grow or Not
This all stems from what I call the growth dilemma. The growth dilemma is every CEO, founder, leader and executive’s nightmare. It usually creeps up on you at the start of the year, start of the month and start of the quarter. This dilemma is when you have big growth goals but don't have the resources to pull it off. Resources like, money, people, time, tools, technology, training and even mindset. We all know this moment, when we have to face-up to poor performance and deliver the bad news in the aftermath. So this situation is where growth hacking comes into play. Big results achieved without all the resources.
There is little to no business marketing or technology knowledge is required to make growth hacking happen and remember, there is no one size fits all or a single silver bullet formula to this. It's about finding what works for you in a systematic and structured manner.
Downsizing Boardroom Ego
Getting growth hacking right is about experimentation. The reality is, the boardroom ego outright kills data since opinion usually supersedes. This is the single most dangerous factor leading to failure I have seen over the past 25 years. Everyone thinks they know better, but they really do not. It comes down to data, and data derived from experiments that are quick, simple and cheap that enable an organisation to find their sweet spot for growth. Booking.com for example conducts over 1000 tests a day and that is just scratching the surface.
For years, I have seen board members see experiments as a way for experts to cover up for what they don't know. Well it's true, but being open about it and having the tools and mindset to figure it out is what is key. If everyone had the answers, then no one would have a job or business for that matter, since we all get paid to solve a problem. In fact, the bigger the problem the more we get paid to solve it.
Let me re-emphasise that this applies to investors, and investment funds as well, not just the internal board. That said, a new breed of talent and tools are emerging, and growth hacking is becoming more definitive, as many have been confusing it with digital marketing. The reason behind that is digital marketing is a small-part of growth hacking but has been magnified by practitioners in the space as a new discipline, and they charge more for the same thing.
Flip, Switch, Grow
This new emerging discipline has one thing that makes it very different. Organisations that have experienced exponential growth have made growth a priority over everything else. What that means is, usually the leadership would have business functions that report to them and underneath them, three layers down is where growth is really being managed. Growth hacking oriented organisations flip it the other way, growth as a discipline superseded the business functions and this has been proven by Dropbox, AirBnB, Facebook and many other unicorns.
What unicorns have mastered and taught even Fortune 500 companies, is that growth is its own discipline and growth hacking is how to make it work. Many Fortune 500s today are flipping and switching their hierarchical orientation towards a more aggressive approach to growth. Typically a few years ago, you would find growth hacking nestled in a marketing function, nice and deep down there that would work with their tech divisions to find a way to grow. It's obsolete now, as it did not work, and will not work. Growth is about priority, and that priority is really why an organisation exists when you strip away all the camouflage.
Growth Hacking in Context
As we enter 2020, and taking into account major world changes like the spread of coronavirus (COVID 19), turbulent geoeconomics, and super-surge in technology, leaders are struggling to find the path to growth. The old, tried and tested doesn't work like it used to, and the tools and mindset needed for the future is a much rarer commodity than anticipated. We are in an interesting time in world history, new rules are being defined and disruptions are leading the way. Disruption is now a norm not a rare far-fetched idea.
So, growth hacking is about solving towards disproportionate results, less input, big outputs. It isn't about the tools and technology, but the growth mindset that enables the tools and technology to boost growth.