Growth Hacking

What Is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking refers to strategies startups and digital businesses use to rapidly increase their user base and revenues with minimal expense.

It combines elements of marketing, product development, and data analytics to create, test, and execute high-impact strategies.

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 new customers. Growth hackers are sometimes 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 marketers can be members of a company’s growth team or entrepreneurs themselves.

Effective growth hackers tend to be obsessive, data-driven, 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. They can 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 effective growth strategies and finding ways to implement them.

Many startups use Dave McClure’s “Pirate Funnel” as a recipe for growth. With Pirate Funnel growth hacking, you identify and improve the weakest points of your business.

The main aspects of the Pirate Funnel are acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and revenue (AARRR). Some entrepreneurs include another “A” for brand awareness as a key part of the funnel. Either way, the point is to get traffic and visitors, turn visitors into users, and retain those users as a happy customer base. When you optimize each part of the sales funnel, your growth will skyrocket.

How to Start Growth Hacking

Here’s how a company can get started with growth hacking. First of all, create your product and test the product-market fit. You must make sure people want your product and are willing to pay your pricing for it. This testing will help you gather data so you understand your key buyer personas. Then, you can target your growth marketing accordingly.

Update your product at regular intervals, and keep getting 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 search engine optimization (SEO) are examples of crucial growth hacking techniques. For every step of the customer journey, you should gather and apply data on what is and isn’t effective

Growth Hacking Strategies

Most growth hacks fall into three main areas:

Depending on the tactics used, content marketing can be a low-cost way to get the word out about your product. It can help you reach your target audience and turn active users into customers. Examples of growth hacking in content marketing include:

  • Starting a blog and creating valuable, shareable content
  • Guest blogging to build brand awareness
  • Creating social media content
  • Writing ebooks and white papers
  • Podcasting and appearing on other podcasts
  • Hosting webinars, especially if you use the Software as a Service (SaaS) business model
  • Running contests and giveaways
  • Getting bloggers to review your product
  • Joining relevant forums, groups, and subreddits
  • Seeking out influencer marketing for improved word-of-mouth reputation
  • Optimizing conversion rates and other digital marketing metrics
  • Designing effective landing pages 
  • Using email marketing campaigns and email automation to build a stronger connection with users
  • Improving content visibility with SEO growth hacking
  • Getting listed in relevant marketplaces and sites, such as Product Hunt

A product marketing strategy aims to make your product more appealing and build the user base. Strategies include:

  • Leveraging the fear of missing out (FOMO) by using an invite-only signup system
  • Gamifying the onboarding process and offering rewards to make user experience more enjoyable
  • Offering incentives and referral programs that benefit both the referrer and the new user
  • Using affiliate marketing as a content marketing growth tactic

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 has a referral program that rewards existing users for inviting new ones with additional storage.
  • Hotmail (now Outlook), which added 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 accommodations.
  •, which used OptinMonster popups to increase conversion rates by 1000%. Read the full case study for more details.

Ready to learn more about the growth hacking process for your startup? Get started with the related tutorials and terms below: