Are Growth Hacking strategies just about paid campaigns?

Are Growth Hacking strategies just about paid campaigns?

Startups are harder to build.

Channels are saturated.

Competition is super high.

Growth hacking strategies are just paid media nowadays. Isn’t the truth?

After 7 years from when Sean Ellis used the term Growth Hacking for the first time, things have changed in the startup ecosystem. If you talk with marketers, it seems even the term growth hacking strategies hasn’t the same meaning anymore.

How achieving growth has changed lately?

top smartphone apps of 2016 growth hacking strategiesCreating a product has become super easy: cloud, Saas, open source software have driven the costs down to zero. Fewer barriers lead to more competition making cheaper building an MVP. But, more competition means it’s harder getting traction and it’s more difficult unlocking growth. Channels are nowadays more saturated, consolidated and highly competitive.
Growth is becoming more expensive: salaries are getting higher and growth hacking strategies have shifted more towards paid campaigns.
If you’re launching a new app, you’ll need to compete for your users’ attention not only with your direct competitors but on top, with the companies controlling most of the Top 10 apps in the mobile ecosystem.

Why are growth hackers just thinking about paid campaigns?

Competition is increasing every day, organic growth takes a while to achieve and investors can’t wait anymore. Paid campaigns are becoming the most important source to get acquisitions and growth people simply associate growth hacking strategies only to paid media.


  1. Mobile platforms are consolidating as Facebook and Google control most of the Top 10 apps in the mobile ecosystem.
    This means there’s not a lot of organic opportunities and paid channels are becoming saturated too.
  2. Paying for acquisitions is the only way you’re sure to achieve goals. 
    This is one of the few channels still available and affordable if you find the right channel and segment. But, be careful: prices and competition are topping up faster than what you think.
    Facebook advertisers in 2017  are more than 5 million, up to 2 million in 2015. We’re reaching a saturation point: the ability to add more inventory depends increasing its users base or the time spent on Facebook.
  3. Companies are starting with paid marketing early and stick to it.
    Facebook reaching 2 billions of users globally means everyone can use it and can learn how to spend money to achieve business goals. It’s now easier than ever to experiment with paid marketing, and it’s usually the first channel you use, in your startup journey. Startups can test and spend much earlier and run meaningful experiments with a budget as low as £50.
    If all your competitors are spending money on Facebook you’re pushed to do it too. And you’re going to spend even more.
  4. Consumers are becoming smarter.  1/3 of the countries are using ad blocking, banner CTRs are approaching to zero. Users aren’t keen anymore to share referral links with their friends without getting anything back. So, instead of using viral or display campaigns, you’re focusing on paid referral campaigns to juice their acquisitions. Those are paid campaigns, aren’t they?

Is Growth really just acquisitions?

It’s fair enough that in terms of acquisition paid campaigns are the key thing, both in terms of time/cost balance and channel saturation.
But it’s a mistake thinking that growth = paid campaigns. There’s much more around growth that you can’t justify or solve using paid campaigns on either Facebook or Google.
Paid campaigns are a super important part of the customer funnel, not only for acquisition but distribution too, but those channels are getting saturated easily.

Don’t focus just on acquisitions, growth is about building a growth machine understanding users behaviour, combining numbers and product functionalities to push users to stick with it.
I’m sure everyone is looking to build the next BIG thing here but failing to adopt the right approach to satisfy users needs, solving harder problems without using data to optimise users experience will just give more money to Facebook and Google, without helping you achieving your startup’s goals.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Sampada D
    November 30, 2020 at 11:47 am

    I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject.

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