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The Growth Hacks Before The Growth Hack
Jason BarbatoMar 11, 2020 10:58:31 AM3 min read

The Growth Hacks Before The Growth Hack

The Growth Hacks Before The Growth Hack

One true milestone achievement in the course of any growth hacking engagement is the moment that very first experiment has officially launched. It prompts excitement, a sense of accomplishment and, often times, a feeling of great relief.

Relief? That’s right. The pressure is officially off. You made it to the finish line – except you’re just getting started on actually testing that original hypothesis.

So why, perhaps, that feeling that a burden of sorts has been lifted? Because getting to the proverbial “finish line” sometimes takes on so much more than the actual hack or tactic during those final few rewarding moments. There was quite the journey before that to get there.

To put it into perspective, here are a few facts and figures from my time at IBM while building a highly profitable and scalable enterprise growth hacking program:

  • Before my first growth marketing experiment launched, our operating model changed 3x
  • One of my first in-product experiments took 10 months (yes, about 300 days!) to launch
  • In the early days, Google Analytics was blacklisted – we could not use it for product/marketing analysis (say what??)
  • A simple web referral report took 12-24 hours to process and was delivered by email
  • Some product development teams had backlogs stretching more than six months into the future (so get in line!)
  • Over the first two years, at least five different project management tools were used to track and manage growth initiatives

Just some examples of what led to a foundational statement I used to share with other up-and-coming product teams, marketers, strategists, and others exploring growth hacking across IBM:

“You can expect 90 percent of the work to come BEFORE you launch the actual experiment. The final 10 percent is the hands-on execution.”

Sounds crazy, right?

The disruptive nature of growth and growth hacking not only impacts the tactical landscape, but the systems, processes, and culture of the organization behind it. In building up the transformative and revolutionary growth programs I was a part of at IBM, we constantly challenged the norm and applied tension to the “system” – whether a cryptic and inefficient approval process or production cycle, a dated and underwhelming business tool or application, a legacy or proprietary system, or anything else that stood in the way.

An active experiment was always the end goal, but sometimes it felt like moving mountains to get there. And without our “challenger” mentality and unrelenting collective entrepreneurial spirit, we may not have gotten there.

More recently, as I’ve taken that successful growth hacking model out into the market in my new role with Orange Pegs, I’ve seen more of this. On one current project, with a startup that has grown into one of the largest social health communities in the world, we spent a full week testing and validating the ability to send push notifications on the primary website (while temporarily stalling momentum in all other areas) – only to see a rolling increase in net new app installs since activating the intervention. With another current gig at a medical device startup, we’ve held firm on NOT activating what we know will be highly successful paid media testing until we’ve perfected the sales process to close leads behind it (and we continue to wait).

Inevitably, in your own growth travels toward achieving active experimentation, you’ll run into obstacles that may have nothing at all to do with execution. You may not be able to predict the where and what, but you can anticipate and mentally prepare for these contingencies.

If you can expect a system to run slow, a tool not to work or integrate properly with your growth stack, an overly rigorous review and approval process, or engineers that can’t bother to give you the time of day, you’ll be more equipped to accept, embrace, pivot, and overcome with the grace and professionalism of a true growth hacker.

Then, when you hit “submit,” “publish,” or “launch” on that coveted first experiment, it will be all the more rewarding for yourself, and for your client, product team, or organization. From there it becomes about velocity, learning, iterating and, most important, celebrating.

Running into blockers trying to launch your growth program? Not sure where to start or which system or process to optimize first? At my agency, Orange Pegs, we’ve developed a proven growth hacking model that works for any company of any size. Contact me to learn how we may be able to help.



Jason Barbato

Partner and VP of Growth at Orange Pegs. Former Best-In-Class Enterprise Growth Hacker at IBM.