Book Review | Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown

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Today, a company’s value can be measured in likes, SEO growth potential, and conversion rates between a photo on Instagram and a purchase linked to that image. Crazy, right? I think so. Recently I’ve noticed an inundation of bloggers and social media aspiring “gurus” who claim to know the secret to growing a business in this digital age of mass social media on a gamut of platforms.

Well, before you go paying tons of money to one of these gurus, check out Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown’s new book, Hacking Growth. They talk about a time when:

-Airbnb was used exclusively by avid couch surfers

-Pinterest was a platform just for bakers and crafters

-LinkedIn was a realm of only C-suite executives

-and New York City Cabs were the only method of transportation (other than the subway…what’s an Uber, anyway?).

Fast-forward a decade or so, and if you asked anyone about these platforms, chances are that person has one or more of these accounts and/or knows people who does. Sean Ellis pens the word, “growth hacking,” as the act of acquiring, retaining, engaging, and motivating customers to develop loyalty to a brand or company.

It’s genius really-even if you have a great product, it’s near impossible to get it off the ground without tapping into social media nowadays. This is why influencers like bloggers, celebrities, and athletes are paid lots of money and/or given products for free in order to feature them on their own social media platforms.

The book itself is split into two parts: The Method and The Growth Hacking Playbook. Part one focuses on determining whether or not you have a product that’s a “must have,” which is pretty crucial to then launching a business around. If you don’t have something customers will want, what’s the point? If you’re trying to break into a saturated business and your product doesn’t stand out, how’re you going to stay relevant? Part two deals with putting this “hacking growth” concept into play, namely how to use the disruptive concept to track impact, retention, and growth.

As far as business advice books, this is one of the best I’ve read in quite some time. There are a variety of relevant examples of business that have been successful (as well as those that haven’t) in every industry. Growth is a necessity for any company that wants to thrive in a marketplace that is constantly being inundated with competition and customers with an aversion to brand loyalty (anyone else price compare when shopping? Yeah, that’s the antithesis of brand loyalty).

I had no idea a company as prominent as Yelp, actually struggled when it achieved public trading. It’s almost common-place for me to “yelp” a business I’ve never been to before, but come to find out, that customer review section actually wasn’t a prominent feature on the application before its user interactions started to slow down because of a competitor named Citysearch. Yelp’s original business model was canned and instead of describing the businesses first, customer reviews based on personal encounters were highlighted and that created the company’s “aha moment.”

Another important concept discussed in the book is synergy with a product’s core values. I always found it annoying when companies asked me to “invite friends” to an application or program, but platforms like Eventbrite and LinkedIn have thrived on this model, because the more people you know going to a concert, or working in a particular field, the more likely you are to attend that concert or apply to that job. It creates this feedback loop that not only benefits the customer, but also is quite lucrative to the company.

All in all, I think this book is really informative about how to identify a good product offering and how to build a business around that. There are lots of examples, which is more than a lot of business books can say. I liked this, because instead of saying, “wow, what a great idea, but what does that look like in practice,” I was able to see something like what I’ve discussed above (and so, so much more) and actually see how it played out.

Business is all about calculated risks. You have to take them in order to be competitive, but taking risks blindly can lead to overestimations and hyper-inflated expectations. This book really teaches you how to pace yourself and develop a mindset that is based on an ever-changing pattern of growth based on how actively you participate in the factors that affect a customer’s interactions with you product.

Score Card:     Cover Art     3/5     |      Content     5/5     |     Ease of Read     5/5

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher, but all thoughts are my honest opinion after reading it.

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