Growth Hacking: 0 to 150,000 Useless Chancers

No, no, no, no bloody no!

No Marketer You!

I’m sorry Growth Hackers, you really don’t get it, and I’m afraid you’ve just confirmed my worst suspicions about your monomaniacal fraternity. User growth, in and of itself, is not the point of marketing. Sure in the past I’ve been willing to concede that Growth Hacking has a place in the marketer’s toolkit, but I’m questioning myself now.

150,000 Useless Chancers

What set me off is this guest post on Growth Hacking guru Andrew Chen’s site.  If you haven’t heard of Chen, he’s famous for getting Growth Hackers sweaty-palmed when they talk about his work for AirBnb – aka Affiliate Marketing mixed with smart coding to everyone else. The guest author goes into great detail talking about how he achieved 150,000 subscribers through the use of giveaways. His findings were remarkable, apparently he gained faster user growth by giving stuff away, and that some incentives work better than others. Bravo Growth Hacker! Bow down to your marketing genius because 0-150,000 and because ROI! Bravo.

But there’s a problem here. Leaving aside the fact you’re now spamming people, just who are the people subscribing? And why are they subscribing? Are they subscribing because they love your product or because they want free stuff? I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and say it’s the latter. As for ROI, yes that’s nice, but what’s the CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) of these subscribers vs the people who subscribed without being given free stuff? Dollars to donuts your free-stuff loving chancers bring just a fraction compared to your loyal subscribers. Worse than that, they’re just as likely to disappear to your competitor for a better (indeed any) offer. Congratulations, you’re now caught in an arms race of giveaways to buy the questionable love of flakey customers. Clearly that’s bad marketing and catastrophic for your business.

Staying Loyal

In marketing we use the term ‘Brand Loyalty’… I realise that to someone with a engineering background this sounds like more marketing waffle but it’s not. The hard-edged reality is that it’s the thing that allows you to retain customers and make profitable products. Those are real customers, they show up because great marketing tells them about your great product. These customers are not the ones that show up just for a free party.

As a final piece of advice to anyone employing a Growth Hacker and wondering how it interacts with your business objectives… When in doubt, just ask yourself, “What would Apple do?”

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