Growth hacking is an umbrella term for strategies focused solely on growth. It is usually used in relation to early-stage startups who need massive growth in a short time on small budgets.
The goal of growth hacking strategies is generally to acquire as many users or customers as possible while spending as little as possible. The term “growth hacking” was coined by Sean Ellis, founder and CEO of GrowthHackers, in 2010.
What is a Growth Hacker?
A growth hacker is someone who uses creative, low-cost strategies to help businesses acquire and retain customers. Sometimes growth hackers are also called growth marketers, but growth hackers are not simply marketers. Anyone involved in a product or service, including product managers and engineers, can be a growth hacker.
Growth hackers tend to be obsessive, curious and analytical:
- Growth hackers focus solely on strategies related to growing the business.
- They hypothesize, prioritize and test innovative growth strategies.
- They analyze and test to see what’s working.
The ideal growth hacker knows how to set growth priorities, identify channels for customer acquisition, measure success, and scale growth.
How Growth Hacking Works
So, how does growth hacking work? For each company, it’s about figuring out why you grow, and looking for ways to make that happen on purpose.
Many startups use Dave McClure’s “pirate funnel” as a recipe for growth. These are acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and revenue (AARRR). Others include raising awareness as a key part of growth hacking. Either way, the point is to get traffic and visitors, turn visitors into users, and retain those users as happy customers.
How to Start Growth Hacking
Here’s how a company can get started with growth hacking. First of all, create your product and test to make sure people want it, and are willing to pay for it. This will help you gather data so you understand your key buyer personas and can target growth marketing tactics accordingly.
Update your product at regular intervals, and keep getting customer feedback so you always know if you’re on the right track. At the same time, market your product to foster continued growth, and track the success of those results. A/B testing and other conversion optimization techniques are crucial for effective growth hacking.
Growth Hacking Strategies
Most growth hacking strategies fall into three main areas:
- Content marketing
- Product Marketing
Depending on the tactics used, content marketing can be a low-cost way to get the word out about your product. Typical content marketing activities include:
- Starting a blog and creating valuable, shareable content
- Guest blogging
- Creating social media content
- Writing ebooks and white papers
- Running webinars
- Running contests and giveaways
- Getting bloggers to review your product
- Joining relevant forums, groups and subreddits
- Influencer marketing
- Using email marketing to build a stronger connection with users
- Improving content visibility with SEO
- Getting listed in relevant marketplaces and sites, such as Product Hunt
Product marketing includes techniques for making your product more appealing, and building the user base. They include:
- Leveraging the fear of missing out (FOMO) by using an invite-only signup system
- Gamifying the user onboarding process to make it more enjoyable, and offering rewards
- Offering incentives for referrals that benefit both the referrer and the new user
- Affiliate marketing, which will also use content marketing growth tactics
Growth hackers can also use social advertising and pay per click (PPC) advertising to promote their business.
Growth Hacking Examples
Some well-known examples of successful growth hacking campaigns include:
- Dropbox, which rewards existing users for inviting new ones with additional storage
- Hotmail, which appended a line to each outgoing email encouraging people to sign up for a new account
- AirBnB, which used Craigslist to find and market to people looking for affordable accommodation