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What is Growth Hacking: Everything You Need to Know

Growth Hacking is a term invented by Sean Ellis. According to him, it’s all about experiment-oriented marketing with the goal of finding fast growth opportunities aiming for a company. The obsession of every company is growth and expansion, especially for those just starting operations. In reality, a new company may take a longer time to experience product development and business growth. That’s where growth hacking comes in.
What if you don’t have to wait for long to experience to get results gotten by established brands? What if you could experiment faster and get ahead of your competitors? Sounds unbelievable, right? That’s what growth hacking will help you achieve. You need to consider growth hacking for your business development process if you want your business to grow fast.
But what is growth hacking, and why do you need it? Find out everything you need to know about growth hacking definition in this post.

What Is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking is a method of experimenting with product development and marketing techniques to quickly pivot based on results and potentially lucrative opportunities. There are no set guidelines or rules when it comes to growth hacking. Rather, you make the rules and figure out the best way to serve your potential customer base and target audience.

Growth hackers focus on experimenting with product development and marketing trends so that they can attract/entice customers from their competitors and become authorities in their industries. The word “hack” in “growth hacking” seems confusing and misleading. Most people wrongly associate the term with the practice of computer hackers. For this obvious reason, a lot of people feel growth hacking is illegal and unethical. This is not the case because not all hacking activities are completely illegal and unethical.

The same way a computer hacker is famous for finding and exploring security breaches and holes, the growth hacker is a professional who finds and explores gateways to skyrocket a business’s results rapidly. Their goal is to find gateways that will provide accelerated growth for the company legally and ethically.

The similar operation of growth hackers with computer hackers indicates that growth hacking is pure programming, mathematics, and technology. The strategy involves these areas because they typically provide faster and more efficient solutions. However, the concept is more concise and involves broader business strategies. Basically, a growth hacker is a professional marketer who is already focused on business growth.

How Does Growth Hacking Work?

You can practically growth-hack any business and knock off their products and services using growth hack tweaks.

As initially mentioned, there is no specific foolproof checklist for growth hacking that you must follow to achieve your set goals in business. Growth hacking depends on your ability to upscale your product development and marketing processes to generate more results.

Some growth hacking tweaks and campaigns work like magic. Others fail. You have to patiently try out different strategies to get the one that suits your business. However, as a business expert, you already know that failure is part of business success. Therefore, you shouldn’t be scared of trying new things; even if you fail, you try again if necessary.

Every organization makes miscalculations and mistakes. You need to learn from the mistakes and never repeat them. Growth hacking is a perfect strategy for training/preparing your business mind to accept failure, rapidly pivot, and try out new strategies.

Growth hacking works by focusing on business expansion and growth as the core metric. In other words, it focuses exclusively on scaling up your business through social media activities, web traffic, virality, and customer retention.

Every new organization needs a growth hacker focused on business growth. A growth hacker is a marketing professional, usually creative and exploratory, looking for growth possibilities and proposing a new hypothesis. In addition to conceptual and technical marketing knowledge, a growth hacker needs to understand processes, experiment methodology, technology & development, data analysis, and consumer behavior.

A growth hacker needs to understand consumer behavior and how people think/react along their buying journeys, and what motivates their choices/preferences. Once they thoroughly understand these factors, it becomes easier to use their marketing skills to find possible growth triggers and conduct experiments methodically to prove their hypotheses. If proven successful, they become scalable and repeatable, allowing the company to focus on activities that bring growth.

To fully apply growth hacking strategies, you need not only growth hackers but growth teams also.

The growth teams may consist of the following positions:

  • Programmers, designers, and engineers who develop tools, products, and software derived from the experiment.
  • A growth master who is the team manager and takes the final decision.
  • Growth analysts who feed the team with performance data analysis concerning the implemented strategies and experiments.
  • Growth marketers (experts in email marketing, social media, and SEO) who propose and implement experiments focused on KPIs.
This exceptional combination of expertise makes it possible to cover all aspects of the growth hacking process. Although many companies have growth hacking teams or growth hackers within their marketing department, growth hacking is more of a thought pattern than a formal position. Every entrepreneur, business owner, CEO, or COO should and can adopt this creative, exploratory, results-focused, and opportunity-seeking behavior.
Growth hacking is a reality in accounting, sales, marketing, and every other company area where there are potential triggers for growth.

Why Use Growth Hacking?

In the past, when you contact traditional media outlets like TV or radio stations, you first analyze their advertising costs, assess their mode of advertising, negotiate prices, and air your ad. However, you can’t guarantee your ad will reach your target audience or you’ll get the expected returns on your investment. This is how companies invest heavily in advertising platforms without getting commensurate results.

Since traditional advertising was no longer as effective as it ought to be, companies started looking for different alternatives. That’s how growth hacking gained so much buzz. Growth hacking presents itself as a safer and more reliable option for companies since it relies on data analysis and experimentation before application. The new strategies are only adopted if the experiments seem effective, i.e., if they provide cheaper and faster solutions than traditional marketing. The goal of growth hacking strategies is to make business repeatable, scalable, and sustainable.

Why Use Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking is essential for lean startups and businesses on a tight budget. It allows brands to boost revenue and expand their audiences even when they can’t afford costly marketing tactics and tools.

There are different ways growth hacking can affect a business:

1. Provable outcomes

Growth hacking is data-driven. Therefore, companies that use it run data analysis and experiments before adopting any strategy. This gives business owners the ability to have a clear picture of the efficacy of each technique before adopting it. Moreover, businesses have concrete measurements that allow them to judge and prove the results of the strategies they adopt.

2. Product improvement
Growth hackers regularly test different strategies and learn more about their target audience, including their interests, preferences, demands, and lots more. This leads to a thorough understanding of how to improve the product or services a company provides.

3. Adjustable strategies
The modern market is tricky nowadays. The strategies that worked decades ago may suddenly stop yielding the desired results. Growth hacking monitors performance and allows you to dump less effective strategies for new ones. It also works the other way round – you can scale your bulletproof (currently effective strategies) strategies and apply them in other marketing channels.

Prototyping - "Fail often and early!"

A central aspect of the design thinking process is prototyping. In an iterative process, more and more detailed prototypes are developed step by step, and feedback from stakeholders and, above all, customers is obtained on essential aspects of the prototype (critical function). The motto “fail often and early” applies. The goal of prototyping is to try out the innovation team’s ideas with the customer as early as possible in the innovation process, to gain valuable insights from the customer’s perspective, or to uncover weaknesses. Fail early” has a positive effect on the outcome of the process and saves the company valuable resources.

Design Thinking Application Examples

The range of applications for design thinking is constantly growing. Companies are using the method for a wide variety of topics, e.g., for generating product, service and process innovations. Accordingly, Design Thinking is used, for example, in so-called Corporate Think Tanks, in which future-oriented topics such as foresight, strategy and innovation are worked on. Design sprints, which have become known in particular through Google Ventures, are a special variant. Here, a problem is worked on in a focused manner in a 5-day sprint week. In addition, some nonprofit organizations have discovered the method for themselves and try to solve the big problems of mankind. Even schools, among others in the USA or in India, have integrated Design Thinking projects into their curricula.

Phases of Growth Hacking

Growth hacking is all about process. There’s no point in starting data analysis and experimentation without a method. There’s no point applying strategies without a purpose in mind. Therefore, you need to fully understand the phases of this process so that you can reap faster results.

The 4 Phases of Growth Hacking

1. Product-Market Fit

The main goal of growth hacking, marketing, and startups is to create products that people want to use. In this first phase, you need to critically consider the alignment between product and market. Product-Market is a process of creating a product/service that is desired by a market and can satisfy its predominant needs. This phase explains the failure of many products/services placed in the wrong market or created without targeting potential customer’s needs.

To excel in this phase, you need to understand people, including their desires and needs, motivations, buying journeys, etc. Thereafter, you can now create products they wish to use and are willing to pay for. We are not necessarily talking about creating revolutionary products. Sometimes all that is needed to bring excellent results is a slight modification in your company’s products or in the strategies you use. One strategy you can use to check whether your product is aligned to market demands is the 40% Rule postulated by Sean Ellis.

This strategy verifies, through a questionnaire, how your customers will feel if your products cease to exist. If over 40% of the participants indicate they would be “very disappointed” (instead of not being very disappointed), then you have a Product-Market Fit.

2. Growth Hacks

The second phase involves growth hacks application. This is where the growth hackers and growth teams formulate hypotheses and start experimentation. The goal here is to identify which slight changes can generate the fastest and most cost-effective results.

To achieve this, the growth hackers and growth teams must look at the product and find opportunities and vulnerabilities for growth based on their intuition and know-how. This is how hypotheses are formed: “what would happen if we do things differently? what if we used a certain mechanism in the process? What if we added another element to the product?”

A perfect example was the technique adopted by Quora, a site that specializes in Q&As. They needed to boost user acquisition to provide trustworthy answers in their platform. So, the company asked itself,” how do we attract influential, well-known and authoritative professional to the platform?” Therefore, the company devised a marketing strategy to attract this category of users. Thus, Quora boosted its user acquisition, turning it into a well-known and authoritative source of information.

3. Scale and dissemination

Growth hacking is a business growth strategy that seeks to use as few resources as possible. Therefore, the best way to achieve it is by sourcing your own consumers to become your product’s propagators, and earn points for it.

Obviously, this seems to be the most difficult phase. Not every proven strategy can go viral, but business success will always depend on word-of-mouth testimonials from happy customers. Therefore, you need to strive to make it happen.

A perfect example is Candy Crush, the famous puzzle game that gained global recognition via Facebook. The game boosted user acquisition when it declared that users would gain more life when they invite more people to play the game. With this strategy in place, there was no need to invest in traditional marketing as the users themselves helped to achieve this.

Another ideal example is Hotmail. In its early years, the phrase “PS I Love You. Get Your Free Email at Hotmail” was placed in all messages footer. This singular act increased the user base significantly, and in less than a year, Hotmail had over 10 million users. Therefore, in this growth hacking phase, a business displays its potential for scalability. After running an experiment, attracting the first users, and obtaining results, it’s essential to scale it.

4. Optimization and retention

The final phase requires you to optimize the solutions to satisfy users and improve usability. The goal here is to devise strategies that help you retain the consumers you have to work with to consolidate the customer base. If this is successfully achieved, the experiment is approved, and it can become one of the processes in the company.

In this phase, testing, data analysis, and feedback play a key role. Check the metrics, keeping an eye on the KPIs to know how customers are using your products. Know whether they’re coming back or not, and if not, what could be the possible reason? Then with this handy information, consciously optimize your solutions to meet their needs.

Growth hacking is not all about pitching an idea, approving it, and calling it in a day. The entire process requires continuous improvement and optimization. You need to regularly improve user experience to satisfy their needs.

Growth Hacking Strategies and Techniques

Here is our top 3 growth hacking strategies you can use to position your business for massive growth.

1. Referral marketing

Renowned companies such as Uber, Dropbox, and PayPal consolidated themselves using this time-tested strategy. Referral marketing is the leading promotion strategy in the process of growth hacking. Referral marketing involves turning your customers into brand advocates. The system is set such that existing customers receive a referral bonus for every potential customer that registers through them.

PayPal was one of the foremost companies to adopt this strategy. In 1999 the online payment platform gained over 100,000 users in less than one month by simply offering a $20 referral bonus. Therefore, existing users earn $20 per referral.

In this way, marketing encourages word-of-mouth dissemination, reduces overall marketing costs, and boosts the company’s growth.

Referral marketing is similar to loyalty marketing, where loyal customers tend to recommend a company’s products and services to family, friends, and people they know. Therefore, you can combine your referral marketing package with loyalty programs to record massive business growth.

2. Content Marketing

It is one of the most effective strategies when it comes to traffic growth. If you have a blog containing relevant information about the products and services you offer, you will definitely receive more traffic in an organic and scalable way. If your target is to increase lead acquisition with content marketing, you need to use enticing/captivating elements on your blog pages.

However, content publishing is not enough to give you the required business growth. You need to also adopt other content marketing strategies. Explore search engine optimization (SEO). By simply applying on-page and off-page SEO techniques, your website will grow faster. Leveraging guest-posting strategies is also another reliable way to robustly increase your website’s audience, rather than waiting for visitors to arrive organically.

3. Scarcity Principle

This is one of the strategies used in growth hacking because it motivates people to take action immediately (people will pay for the product or service immediately). This strategy is based on the principle that everything that is scarce is more valuable.

When a customer realizes a product or service is restricted to only a few people, it causes them to want to get theirs immediately.

You can also apply this scarcity principle by advertising limited editions of your products or by offering time-limited discounts on products and services.

Growth Hacking Examples

1. Facebook

Recently, Facebook hit 2.3 billion active users, and a large chunk of this success is attributed to the growth hacking mentality adopted by the company right from its inception. When the social media platform became accessible to everyone, the challenge faced by the company was how to attract new users and make the platform lively for everyone.

Facebook’s first growth hack was to allow people add widgets and badges to their websites. By so doing, people visiting the site were invited to like the site’s Facebook page and ended up creating their own profile.

Another important growth hack adopted by Facebook was related to user retention. By understanding the behavior of users who consistently use the social media platform, Facebook’s growth hackers and growth teams came up with an activation metric: “Those who consciously add 7 friends within their first 10 days of joining the platform have a higher chance of becoming an active user.” With this hack in mind, they created interesting features to make it possible for new users to easily find their first 7 friends. A friend of yours can suggest friends on their list who you’ve not added yet. This amazing feature shows a lot for friends to newly-registered users, thereby encouraging them to stay on the platform.

2. LinkedIn

When LinkedIn was first launched, many business professionals felt it would never succeed. At that time, social media platforms were mainly for teenagers and young adults who wanted to exchange photos and stories. LinkedIn’s founder saw an opportunity to connect professionals, lower the barriers between enterprises and small businesses, and give job seekers a platform to connect with potential employers.

LinkedIn growth-hacked its way to success, becoming one of the best professional social media platforms. Its primary goal from inception was not money first. Rather it focused on gaining new users as quickly as possible. The plan worked, and LinkedIn became the go-to social network for professionals, and LinkedIn Premium provided a lucrative monetization strategy for its developers.

3. Airbnb

When Airbnb started out, it had a strong competitor – Craigslist. To outsmart its rival, Airbnb went mischievous. It encouraged its audience to cross-post their listings on Craigslist’s website with a backlink. This strategy was super-easy since hosts could post their ads on two sites using a single click. Therefore, Airbnb got more views.

For Airbnb to stand out, they needed a unique value proposition, so they offered one. The pictures on their competitors’ websites were not good enough, so people couldn’t clearly see what they were paying for and ended up not making a reservation at all.

Airbnb owners rented cameras and took high-quality photos of as many apartments as they could. A month after adopting this strategy, Airbnb’s revenue doubled. That was Airbnb’s competitive advantage.

Growth Hacking Tools

Here are two of the best tools to help you set up integrations, run experiments, collect data and automate growth hacking processes.

  • Zapier

This is a core service for each growth hacker and marketer. It allows you to connect to over 2,000 online tools and services to help you be more productive. In addition to that, the service lets you create automated workflows with a few clicks without any technical skills or coding.

  • Colibri.io

This is a tool for internet monitoring. It helps you understand what people think about your brand and lets you create well-tailored products and services to meet their needs.

Conclusion

There is no perfect growth hacking strategy. Every growth team has to come up with something unique that will stave off the competition and bring massive revenue and growth. Start by understanding the growth hacking definition. It’s the best way to experience rapid and sustainable business growth. Growth hacking works when your decision remains rooted in data while you apply creativity to every product development process and marketing. You can apply growth hacking strategies for startups and every other stage of your business’s life. However, you must note that growth hacking won’t totally replace digital innovation, marketing, or digital business models. It’s part of your digital marketing strategy and not the whole thing.

What if we
finally talked?

It is going to be worthwhile.