Hacks are for Hacks: 5 Long-Term Growth Strategies for Your Startup

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We’ve all heard the term “growth hacker.” What an amazing business idea: to hack growth. There are actually a few people who are tried and true growth hackers. But what is a growth hacker, really?

A growth hacker is someone who increases a business’s sales or user base in a short amount of time. How short? Like a few weeks short.

If you’re a real growth hacker — or if you know a real one — then great! Your company is just days away from an explosion of revenue and user growth.

However, not many people are real “growth hackers.” For the most part, growth hacking has become a pejorative term in the same vein as other startup buzzwords like “beta testing” and “usability.”

For the rest of us who aren’t real growth hackers, business growth is a slow process. However, if we do it correctly, our business growth becomes sustainable and long-term. The same can’t be said for growth hackers.

Thus, in a way, growing slowly is almost better than doing it in a flurry. In fact, often, it is. This is why I recommend the following 5 long-term growth strategies for your startup:

1. Put the Customer First

Yawn, right? Actually, no.

While it sounds contrived, putting your customers first is the best way to support long-term growth. Putting your customers first forces you to take the long road, and ensures that each initiative, process, or personnel hire directly results in better customer service.

It’s tough to constantly think about the customer. The result, however, is second to none. If you’re able to put your customer first, you not only create repeat customers, but you create evangelists who are rabid lovers of your product or service.

With this frame of mind, sales growth becomes a simple function of listening to your existing customers and servicing them. From there, they’ll tell their friends and family about your business and your service, and your customers will suddenly multiply.

The best part? This is 100% sustainable.

Remember: it costs 10x more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Focusing on putting your existing customers first is the best way to create long-term growth at a fraction of the cost.

2. Plan Ahead for Increases in Capacity

One of the largest issues with growth hacking is that businesses often aren’t ready for the explosion of growth. The other large issue is that the growth hacking never actually occurs, and businesses burn out instead of explode.

To circumvent this problem, make sure you have plans to increase your capacity before you start focusing on growth. Is your business scalable? The idea may be, sure, but how about your operations? How about your technology?

When you begin to focus on growth, ensure that your business is flexible and ready to grow. Things will break along the way, sure, but if you stick to the plan, you’ll be able to meet your business’s growth demands and come out on the other side bigger and badder than ever.

Of course, planning ahead for increases in capacity is literally the act of creating sustainable growth. If you focus on the the customer and then ensure you have the capacity to meet their demands, you’ll be growing in no time.

3. Ensure You’re Cross-Selling

One of the largest issues with growth hacking is that people thirsty for growth often look for new customers and new revenue streams. However, this isn’t an efficient way to grow.

Remember the statistic about it costing 10x more to find a new customer than to retain an existing one? Well, if you focus on finding new customers to grow, your growth won’t be sustainable.

Instead, you need to focus on cross-selling your existing customers. This includes up-selling, too. If you have a happy customer, why not try to sell them an additional product or service that they might also enjoy?

This model is a win-win, because both the existing customer benefits and the business benefits — and all without onboarding a new customer.

Worried you don’t have anything to cross-sell? Don’t worry about it! Refer to step one and put your customers first. They’ll tell you what they need. All you have to do is provide it for them and watch your company grow.

4. Take Advantage of Partnerships

One of the hardest parts about growing is dealing with the increases in customer acquisition costs. Revenue might be increasing, sure, but if your costs are also increasing, especially if they’re outpacing your revenue growth, then you’re in big trouble.

To help, seek out partnerships when you’re trying to grow. Partnerships are a great, non-growth hacking way to hack growth…if that makes sense.

This is because partnerships, when done correctly, are often sustainable and long-term. The same can’t always be said for growth hacking.

With partnerships, you can share another business’s existing customer base and also help your partner profit. It’s another win-win.

So, if you’re looking for sustainable growth, and if you’ve already serviced and cross-sold your existing customers, seek new customers through strong partnerships. This reduces your cost of acquisition and helps you grow more sustainably.

5. Search for New Lines of Revenue

Okay, it’s finally time to search for new lines of revenue. If you’re looking to grow with sustainability, this should be (one of) your last growth strategies.

We don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but again, it’s 10x more expensive to find new customers. This is why you should always look to grow with your existing customers. Then, once that tap is depleted, seek out partnerships for easier growth.

Once all of these options are exhausted, you can then invest in growth through new customer acquisition. Remember, however, that new customers are often the hardest cohort for sustainable growth. Consumers who know you are more likely to purchase from you long-term.

If you can tap this well of revenue, the possibilities truly are endless.


The bottom line? Growth is good, but sustainable growth is better. When you’re looking to growth hack, make sure that the growth you achieve is long-term growth.

There have already been too many flashes in the startup pan. It’s time we as startup owners, founders, advisors, and executives stop this trend and start focusing on long-term growth. And the best part? It only takes the 5 steps listed above.



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