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Is growth hacking soon to be dead?

For a few years now, Growth Hacking has been a mantra for most of the startups around the world. But is is still relevant?

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This is a follow-up to Oussama Ammar’s (Co-Founder and Partner at TheFamily) 20 minute talk at BlendWebMix in Lyon, France, on October 30th 2014.

What's the deal with growth hacking being "dead"?

In Oussama’s opinion, growth hacking has lost a huge part of its efficiency since its techniques have become well known by everyone. What skyrocketed as a trend in the past few years has now become common practice, and is close to being over, so we need to start moving forward. According to Oussama, what does "moving forward" mean? It means giving top priority to customer care and scaling it. For once, the French startup scene can avoid being 5-10 years behind the United States by considering this now.

The previous paragraph is just a short summary of Oussama's talk. Because I’m really interested in startup ecosystems, I did some more research and asked a few growth hackers what they think about the perennity of their work. (If you don’t know what growth hacking is, I recommend you to read this article before going further.)

Is growth hacking a trend?

First, let’s check Google Trends on “Growth Hacking”:

It at least allows us to say that there’s an important growth of this trend since the end of 2012, so 2 years ago.

And if it’s not enough to convince you of the importance of it and the cool image it returns, just check on LinkedIn your relations who used to work in marketing in startups. How many of them proudly display “growth hacker” as their current job now? Yes, a lot.

Does growth hacking still work?

So this is the moment when we wonder how this kind of metrics could reverse.

First, we can’t deny it, some growth hacking methods have lost their initial efficiency because of their popularity.

For example, a classic method for great acquisitions was to post the link of your landing page on Hacker News and ProductHunt plus having an article on TechCrunch when you officially launch your product. It used to give good results, but now that everyone does it, you’ll find way larger lists of new products than before on these websites every day and it becomes more and more difficult to shine (get a lot of upvotes and be in the top products).

Another one: emails. It was a tool acclaimed by growth hackers too because they found ways to stand out from traditional emails. Apart from the famous story of Hotmail, there were the emails sent like if it was from the CEO (or at least a real person instead of a bot: say hi to “Émilie Mailjet”!), automatically triggered emails when you didn’t use the product for X time etc … Some great improvements that everyone uses now. Honestly, who truly believes at the end of 2014 that the CEO of the company selling the product they use is directly and personally reaching them? That’s what is killing growth hacking.

Is growth hacking really dead?

The essence of growth hacking is to test and iterate, so it’s a permanent reinvention.

Every startup/product is different, and it will always be possible to find new hacks.

The thing is that it’s all about cycles: a startup will use a new way to get more growth and collect the profits of it until it becomes the standard. Thus, you should really consider how important it is to be the initiator of such manners. That’s why companies like Facebook or Pinterest have some teams dedicated to growth hacking with their own engineers, designers and product managers.

Moving forward

Care is showing customers how important they are, like if you considered them individually and not as a set. It’s obviously great for retention, because happy customers stay, but also for acquisition. Indeed, it acts like a natural referral: happy customers will talk about your product around them and bring new customers to you. Thus, it’s a powerful approach that every startup should really consider as a priority.

How many of you have already bought a product because you’ve seen an ad on a website? And how many of you have already bought a product because a friend recommended it? I guess you understand the impact of customer care now.

But in my opinion, we can’t consider customer care apart from growth hacking and we should see it as one of its methods. Customer care is part of the growth hacking, and this method is at the beginning of its cycle: it’s not already a standard for startups at all, and companies like Airbnb have taken the lead. At Mailjet, we also have understood that proper support is a key value and offer all our customers a 24/7 support to answer their questions as fast as possible.

In the next months, startups will probably consider it as the new thing to do and make their best to reach an incredible level of customer care, but in the meantime, there will probably be something new allowing one or a few companies to distinguish themselves.

What will it be and which company will take the lead on it? We'll just have to wait and see.

Thanks to Youcef Eskouri, Anthony Marnell and Clément Delangue for their advice.

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