The blog ofJonathan Pepin

Don't do growth hacking


Too many early stage startups ask me about "the secrets of growth hacking". They want to know what hacks they can put in place to gain customers and grow. Looking for the one trick that will finally unlock their hockey stick growth and magically bring in paying customers. Maybe it's a viral blog post or video. Or maybe they've been doing their Adwords and Facebook ads wrong, and a simple tweak will do it.

There are no such things.

You'll often hear stories of a specific product that got huge traction out of something completely unexpected, which then becomes the one trick that everyone should do. "We just did this for fun and never thought it would explode like that" someone will say, "but it did and now we are doing X in MRR!".

That's wrong. There was not one single growth hack that brought fame and success. It might have been some luck, but it's always coupled with product market fit.

Product Market Fit is the only trick

This one trick does exist. Product. Market. Fit. No growth can be achieved before having Product Market Fit.

Growth Hacks don't say anything about your product. It says things about your ability to trick people into signing up for your product, showing synthetic growth. You pay for signups which eventually disappear (called churn) since you are not bringing any value to users.

On the other hand, Product Market Fit means that you are solving a problem for your users, which is why they keep coming back. Here the keyword is coming back.

Once you see users keep coming back, efforts to bring in more signups will be way more efficient (less churn) and it will be easier to convince people to signup since you won't have to trick them into doing so.

Trying to grow before achieving PMF will only make you waste time and money, because most of the users you'll acquire will churn. That means that for every user you add, some users will leave. While you are small you'll be able to keep some linear growth, but at some point you'll reach a size where even keeping a stable amount of users will be hard and get more expensive.

You haven't found your real, value-adding product until you've found product market fit.

Once you've proven that you are adding value to your users and that they are coming back, you reached product market fit. You can start investing in growth and see its value.

Because your users are coming back, your efforts in growth will compound and allow to reach what you've been looking for - The Hockey Stick.