Sean Ellis coined the term ‘Growth Hacking’ which was further popularised by leaders like Andrew Chen by claiming that the Growth Hackers are the new VP of Marketing. The marketing teams, quickly followed by the product and engineering teams, went into a fervour to adopt this new term and techniques.

Companies of all sizes wanted to hire growth hackers to hack their growth. Misnomers like growth hacking specialists and growth ninjas became acceptable and we all stood by and witnessed the rise, and thankfully, the fall of growth hackers.  

The rush to hack growth without really understanding the concept fully has actually done more harm than good. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against companies or people finding unconventional channels and methods to hack their growth. In fact, businesses have done this for ages. All businesses want rapid growth at a minimal cost.

The term started getting a lot of flak and companies gradually distanced themselves from the term. The self-proclaimed father of growth hacking, Sean Ellis clarified his stance on what he really means by growth hacking.

All this debate aside, it is still true that businesses want to find scalable, repeatable and predictable ways to grow. Let us try to uncover what growth or more specifically, product growth comprises of.

Software is eating the world, Product is eating software.

SaaS products have been widely accepted. Companies, including large enterprises, have adopted SaaS products and the onus is now on the product and its capabilities to prove its mettle.

Increasingly, there is little to no friction in getting started with a new product. This means no more sales demos, and pretty little marketing. Consequently, it quickly becomes the product’s responsibility to retain the user.

Your customer reads about your product somewhere, clicks on a link and BAM - they are on your site.

No calls from an inside sales person, no advert, and now, no support as well. Most of the time, they can try it out without even a credit card.

Now is the real test - will they use your product or not?

The star performer of the team is the product. Just like the slick salesman or the smart marketer, the product takes responsibility of attracting the user and assuring adoption and retention. So, just like sales enablement, how can you enable your product to sell more of itself?

How do we do that? With a little help from product growth.

What the hell is product growth?

Product growth is a mindset that leads to creation of a system or framework with which you enable the product to do most of the heavy-lifting by systematically validating all assumptions.

Assumptions, Assumptions, Ass-umptions

In this world, it’s super important to know that you do not know anything. If your product has been in the market less than a few years, and if you do not have customers tumbling over themselves to use it, it is still built on a lot of assumptions.

In other words, if you have not achieved Product Market Fit, your product is really just your perception of the world. And like most things about you (or me or anyone else), your perception is inaccurate at best, and absolutely wrong at worst.

Fortunately, being abjectly wrong is something that SCIENCE has been dealing with for centuries now.

“Nature is a mean judge. Most of the time she rejects your conclusions outright. Very rarely, she says - maybe” -- Albert Einstein.

Product Growth has taken the scientific method out of science and applied it to the world of business. To do this right, you have to make JUST TWO changes in your thinking:

  1. Everything you KNOW about the market or customers is now a ‘hypothesis’ that needs to be tested.
  2. Everything you DO (eg build a feature, write a blog) is now an ‘experiment’ that needs to be evaluated

Easier said than done - simply because unlike science, business runs like a ship on ocean waves. There is chaos, jobs to be done. Delving deep into the outcomes of every single thing you think or do is going to be nearly impossible.

Build a framework

In the most ideal world, you have enough time and resources to measure every decision you make. But in the words of Ross Geller’s colleague Wonda -

“You not in an ideal world. You in a museum now”.
-- Wonda, Friends

Different people use different methods of running experiments. You need a system - a process that is repeatable.

You could write down each decision with all the details of a science experiment (hypothesis, independent and dependent variable, target and control group, success criteria, potential learning and so on.) But this is not cheap and therefore hard to adhere to.

Writing the learning is a very important bit. This exercise ensures that you now have a repeatable process. Eg we might realise that sharing more frameworks is likely to lead to more signups. Maybe next time it will not be a blog but a spreadsheet.

Quick Recap

Product is your star performer and there is a need for you to adopt a product growth mindset. This is how you do it -

  1. Everything you know about your product and market is an assumption unless it is tested.
  2. Doing this as a one-time activity will not take you far, hence you need to have a framework in place.

Now go fly, you future Unicorn.

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