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Growth hacking techniques: 11 mistakes that kills your growth

One of the inclined terms in the tech world today is “growth hacking,” which introduces to the terms of scaling an item in quick and out-of-the-crate ways. In basic words, growth hacking techniques implies scaling an item virally. It is a proven technique that discovers achievement!

Though growth hacking for startups is a proven element of success, not every marketer and organization do growth hacking the correct way. Most of the companies, especially startups suffer from their inability to comprehend the idea legitimately and make terrible mistakes!

This results in failure in their venture and in worse scenario shows an exit from the market. Some startups come back, and some take the back seat forever!

In this post, I have tried to extract 11 terrible mistakes every startup must avoid while doing growth hacking! Here is the list-

#1. Applying old growth hacking techniques without analyzing

Ask this question first “Is your product a solution for customers in the market?”

If you feel you don’t have complete trust on your product, think again before you apply any growth hacking technique.


Every product and market is different! You may find one a product or business found success through growth hacking but that doesn’t mean that same will happen with you!

For example, Metro UK implemented a responsive design back in 2012 for better UX. Back in 2012 very few websites had responsive design as it was fairly new concept! That worked for Metro UK and their visitors started to return frequently.

metro uk

Now, if you are a startup is in the same field as Metro UK and apply the same technique will it work in the same way?

Not necessarily! Cause the market has changed since 2012 and the audience test has too! So you will have to do a complete market and product research to make your product that provides a solution to a pressing problems!

DO NOT apply growth hacking techniques before!

#2. Applying growth hacking techniques in unrealistic way

Remember, growth hacking= Data driven, proven, applied and result oriented strategies.

So just because you heard or learned someone’s success by growth hacking, doesn’t means that’s gonna be effective for you as well! Even you have an army of growth hackers doesn’t mean you will become Facebook overnight!


A lot of companies failed miserably doing this mistake. If your strategy is not built on existing market data, no proven example which brought success to a SIMILER business niche to yours, the strategy would be risky as a startup.

Now how do you build a realistic growth hacking strategy? Here is a short checklist for you-

  • Know your product first and believe in it
  • Know your customers and their needs
  • Know your competitors and their success method (DO NOT COPY PASTE)
  • Set up a practical time slot to achieve goals

Growth hacking is real! It gives you a yes or no answer which is the beauty of it! So unrealistic planning and growth hacking techniques are antonyms!

#3. Applying growth hacking techniques way too early

Before applying any growth hacking techniques, it’s a MUST that your product or services achieves a market fit stage! Your product may be dynamic, superb and totally new but yet, it may not get in to the test of the consumers due to lack of knowledge!

For example, Lettuce, an online inventory and order management system tried “referral program technique” to penetrate the market quickly! They had a similar vision like “Drop Box” which achieved massive success through their referral program.

growth hack too early

However, things did not happen as planned:(

Major reasons were “lack of solid customer base” and “premature product stage”

This resulted in a ZERO customer and consumption of a huge number of labor for nothing! This could have been avoided by little bit of patience and data mining. They could have waited till the product developed and had a “good” number of customer’s before applying the “referral program technique”.

Nevertheless, the whole campaign was a failure and resulted nothing but waste of time, effort and money. The story source is from the entrepreneur

#4. Applying growth hacking techniques without understanding consumer behavior

If your applying growth hacking techniques to boost your sales, first you should answer few questions to yourself! Here is a Q&A checklist for you-

  • Why a customer buys a product of your niche?
  • Why a customer does not buys a product of your niche?
  • When a customer buys a product of your niche?


The answers of these questions will give you an overview of the consumer behavior! Either you want to launch a referral program, affiliate offer or free subscriptions understanding your audience is a must!  Remember, no matter what technique you apply if it cannot relate to your customers it’s a vain! You can follow this short checklist bellow to understand your customer behavior-

  • Be your own customer and think like a customer
  • Use authentic data and analytics to set the right metrics
  • Fetch feedbacks from your customers (DON’T BE A QUIZE MASTER THOUGH)

Remember this equation-

Accurate source + Accurate data + Accurate analytics = Insightful customer behavior analysis

Once you know how your customers are behaving, which means their likes/dislikes, their interest/disregards and their opinions you can forge the right plan that can work with them.

For example, Drop Box new their customers were tech savvy people who were on the internet massively! So they applied two hacks which worked brilliantly for them! Here it is-

  1. Refer a friend- Here they gave away 500 MB of space to every one of their users who referred them
  2. Social Sharing- For every follower on twitter and Facebook the Drop Box users got a 125MB increase

Lot of companies specially startups dont go through these analysis which is a core mistake for marketing. No matter how many growth hacking techniques you are applying, the core marketing principles should always be emphasized.

#5. Applying growth hacking techniques without proper risk management

Regardless how prominent your product or service is, uncertainty is always there as a shadow. Does not matter how well your planning is it may turn out to be worse at any time. One of the fundamentals of successful growth hacking is having proper “risk management strategy”.

There is a good example of using “risk management” as a marketing tool to boost growth. Airbnb which has gained massive reputation by its unique growth hacking strategies did something very different.

risk management

They cut their prices and provided accommodation to the victims of the disaster hurricane Sunday. This elevated their reputation in the market and eventually resulted in higher growth.

#6. Applying growth hacking technique by not listening or listening too much of the customer 

Now what I mean by that?

Well, listening to your customers are as important as breathing in your daily life. Your customers are your oxygen and their feedback is priceless! But how you deal with the feedbacks? Customers are never patient and always inquisitive. So how do you maintain the perfect balance?

I will give you an example of Samsung. Back in 2012, A Canadian citizen named Shane Bennett requested for a Samsung Galaxy S3 from the Samsung Canada FB page. This is the message he sent-


In response, Samsung Canada replied like this-

samsung reply

The story did not end here though! Shane shared this amazing response from Samsung on Reddit which went viral! As a result, Samsung sent Shane a Galaxy S3 for free fully customized with the dragon picture and a thank you note! Here it is the full story at

So what we learn from here is listening to customers can be a lottery to your growth. Samsung S3 sale took a pick and got a massive promotion because of the incident I just shared here.

But before you apply the same approach, make sure you handle customer queries smartly, professionally and entertain requests in a manner that will gain you exposure and reputation.

Most of the company’s mistakes buy handling customers queries just to answer questions! But each query may lead towards multiple sales! Every customer is you’re key to unlock more customers and keeping customers happy is a growth hack by itself. So if Samsung can do it, you can do it as well 🙂

#7. Applying growth hacking techniques focusing on features not benefits

You are forcing your products diversity in to your visitor in many ways. How it works, Features, Functions and many more things are highlighted in your website backing your product to be the best!

But customers buy the best product only when it serves their needs. A lot of companies specially start up software companies makes this mistake. They let the visitors see the functions of the software’s but fails to point out the benefits or mixes it up.

This is not a strategy that’s going to work for good! You may have some conversion but would lose plenty of potential customers as well.

You may have a healthy sales flow through your product features exposure but you could lift it more if you start focusing on exposing the benefits as well.

How? Let me give you an example of Twitter-

features not benefits

See their home page? Look at their contents which are limited but specifically focusing on the benefits of this platform! Such as connecting with friends, people, being up to date, real time events and many more!

This triggers your visitors to move forward. As much as benefits you showcase the more customers you get.

#8. Applying growth hacking technique by spending every last dollar

“Never test the depth of the water with both feet”

Sounds familiar? It’s not only a saying but a reality for everyone! For entrepreneurs, this could be a live or die situation for their business!

Your money is the fuel to your business. Keeps it moving and stable. So it’s very important to use that money in the right way.

Let me share a story of UDesign which was a promising startup back in 2013-2014! But due to miscalculation of budgets and similar mistakes I have mentioned so far, the company went down.

every last dollar

You can read the complete story here from Martin Erlić who shared this case study on Medium. The bottom line of this point is before you allocate your funds to promote your business by growth hacking, make sure you put a surplus of 15-20% as miscellaneous expense on your budget. This will help tremendously as eventually your companies’ situation will change!

So you are just taking some precautions which is always better than cure 🙂

#9. Applying growth hacking technique without CPA tracking

CPA stands for cost per acquisition which is a significant stage of every marketing strategy. Growth hacking strategies are meant to acquire customers or grow the existing customer base massively.

A common mistake most of the startups make is spending a big sum of money in a particular marketing channel which might have proven successful for another company! As I told you on point #1 and #2, a strategy which may have worked for company X doesn’t mean it will work for company B!

So you need to keep a track of your customers acquisition cost for every single penny you spend and diversify your spending channels. For example, you have a budget of $100,000 and you plan to spend it on Google AdSense $80000! The rest of the money you want to spend in different channels like SMM, SEO, SEM and email marketing!

cpa tracking

This carries a risk of losing a huge sum of money in ONE particular channel alone! But if you make it a ratio like 30:20:20:10:10:10= Google AdSense: SEO: SEM: SMM: Email marketing: Content marketing, the risk factor minimizes!

You can always reshuffle your marketing budget! For example, if you are getting a good return out of SMM which is higher than every other channel, you can increase your budget there by reducing budget for a channel which is not giving you profitable return!

In this way, you keep your $100,000 budget intact and making the best use of it! But if put all your eggs in the same basket (spending majority of your money in one channel) your options gets restrained! So any negligence on tracking your CPA can cost your foolproof plan go down in no time!

#10. Applying growth hacking techniques to grow artificially

Growth hacking techniques are meant to grow your business massively in the shortest time! But a lot of startups makes the terrible mistake by ARTIFICIALY growing their network that doesn’t do any good except giving a fake satisfaction.


Artificial growth by social media very easily. Buying followers, friends, connections, shares, reviews which are not organic and likes are very easy now. Just search online and it’s for there you! But does this really help?


According to business insider, buying a fans does nothing except increasing numbers for you! This only makes your profile look good but does nothing as far as growth is concerned. Your audience are your customer and if they are not real your business is not real:(

Moreover, according to the entrepreneur, fake fans will eventually damage your business bit time! A fake audience base will not interact, engage or be communicative! This will send a signal to the search engines and the social networks that your content is valueless! This results in an algorithmic decrease for your post reach and visibility. Other consequences could be your company account may be banned or deleted which will be a severe damage to your online reputation.

A real example can be found on the usnews where the NY regulators tracked fake web ratings and one of the leading rating sites like yelp was under surveillance.

So just be real in your approach! Take time and build your reputation rather than buying it. That’s the ultimate growth hack for any business:)

#11. Applying growth hacking techniques while handling angry customers

No matter what technique you apply your customers are your source of your growth! One of the most effective ways to grow your customer base is handling negative feedbacks smartly. Here is a good example of how to handle negative feedbacks-

handling angry customers

This first appeared on the socialmediaexaminer and the author was Andy Sernovitz! He brilliantly showcased how this negative review was handled by California Tortilla which is a renowned burrito chain.

Now let’s have a look at a terrible example of handling negative feedbacks-

Negetive Feedback

This example first appeared on markitwrite and the author of the post was John Waldron. John brilliantly explained it on the post and as you can see, the company hawkeandco is totally in the firing line here.

Remember, customers are never patient and never happy. If a customer says thank you that’s a successful growth hack! So negative feedbacks are evident! I have given two different examples here. You can choose the best method you want to practice:)

Final Thoughts:

Growth hacking is innovative and strategic approach. So mistakes are bound to happen! The key to success is “Make 10 new mistakes but don’t repeat 1 old mistake”

We will analyze, apply, test and change! In the process will fail and succeed! Our mistakes will teach us what not to do and success will show us what we can do!

Share your thoughts and let me know what terrible mistake you made while you tried to growth hack?

Your experience can help millions 🙂 Happy growth hacking everyone!


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