What is Growth Hacking?

Growth Hacking is taking marketing and a strong technical background and bringing it all together to create low cost, inbound marketing solutions that help to rapidly grow a company.

The term ‘growth hacker’ was coined back in 2010 by Sean Ellis after he helped many internet companies achieve incredible growth in a short period of time by not only using his marketing skills, but also his technical skills. Because rapid growth required both of these important skills, the term ‘growth hacker’ was formed.

How Do You Growth Hack?

The best way to describe how to growth hack is by looking at examples from companies who have used the strategy effectively.

Take Airbnb for example, they took the idea of renting out rooms and holiday houses and were able to turn it into a billion dollar company through growth hacking.

When Airbnb first started they used a popular platform called Craigslist to help get people to their site. Rather than trying to build up their own following and leads, they went to a site that already had millions of hits per day and leveraged their users.

Using Craiglist was no easy task for Airbnb as there was no public API for the website, however Airbnb were able to ‘hack’ this by reverse engineering how Craigslist forms worked. They then made their form compatible with Craigslist and automatically had their listings uploaded to the popular site.

As you can see in this example, it takes someone with technical and marketing experience to achieve such results. To break it down, Airbnb used the following ‘Growth Hacking’ techniques-

1. They did something a traditional marketer would not be able to do by integrating their forms with Craigslist without an API.

2. They didn’t run ads to drive traffic to their site, instead they used the listings on Craigslist as a way to distribute their product.

3. They thought of the Craigslist integration on their own and were the first company to use such a technique so effectively.

4. Craigslist traditionally does not allow such a practice on their site, but Airbnb thought outside the box and were able to make it work.

As you can see, Airbnb used traditional marketing, technical experience and thinking outside the box to help give their company the launching start it needed.

Now that Airbnb is a hugely successful company it no longer uses Craigslist, but without taking that leap to begin with it may never have achieved the growth and success it has today.


What do you need to be a Growth Hacker?

Even though we have given a definition for a growth hacker, the title is not limited to a set of guidelines. Growth Hacking is definitely an emerging field that is here to stay and as the industry grows so too will the title.

Here are some common myths and legends dispelled about Growth Hackers:

  • Growth hackers don’t have to be programmers
  • Traditional Markers can become growth hackers with the right skill set
  • Most growth hackers are ethical and follow the law
  • Growth Hacking is heavily analytical and relies on statistics
  • Growth Hackers are also very creative and are always pushing the boundaries
  • Growth Hacking can be a learned skill
  • Bottom line, Growth Hackers are focussed on one thing- Growth

What is the Growth Hacking Process?

There is no definitive process for growth hacking however, in order to effectively grow a company from the ground up there are some protocols you need to follow-

1. Create Actionable goals

As a growth hacker, you need to break down your goal of achieving growth and create smaller, actionable tasks that can help you with your overall mission.

For example, having the goal of increasing daily active users is far too broad, but having the smaller goal of increasing content creation by three times is more specific and actually requires you to take action.

2. Implement Analytics

Growth Hackers need to monitor their metrics in the most effective and accurate way possible. Depending on the actionable goal, the strategy to monitor statistics will vary however, there are some things to consider such as, analytics on different devices, time spent on the site, how many pages are visited etc.

3. Use Your Strengths

Most Startups and companies have a strength and Growth Hackers should always be looking for a way to maximise it. Focusing on the strong points of a company requires the least work with the maximum results and creates a lever for growth.

4. Experiment

All good Growth Hackers have a tactic up their sleeve that involves some trial and error or thinking outside the box to make growth happen.

In order to execute the experiment with the least monetary damage and time wasted it is important to consider the following:

– Create a Hypothesis: Just like a scientists does before an experiment, a growth hacker should have an educated idea about how their experiment is going to turn out.

– Notify The Team: A good growth hacker will notify the entire team of their plan and utilise resources, others help and will also cause minimal disruption to the day to day running of the company. They will also put a plan in place if any mishaps occur.

– Stay Positive: Growth hacking takes time, risk and tweaking of many experiments in order to be effective. Be patient but also be scrupulous in determining when it is time to pull the plug.

– Learn from Failures: All data is helpful in some aspect, whether the results went according to the hypothesis or not. It is important to use all failures as an opportunity to learn.

– Optimise: Once things start running smoothly, learn how to optimise the experiment and tweak it for greater efficiency.

5. Growth Hacker Funnel 

Just like a marketer will develop a sales funnel, a growth hacker will also develop their own funnel which often requires three main factors-

  1. Get Visitors- find ways to draw people to your product page.
  2. Get them to Act- motivate people to make an action such as a purchase or sign up
  3. Retain- get users coming back for more


How Can Growth Hacking Help My Company?

Whether you are a startup or an established company, growth hacking can help accelerate your company in terms of popularity and revenue.

Companies that have used growth hacking, like Airbnb have gone on to do millions in sales and have established a strong brand and a strong reputation along the way.

Growth Hacking is not just about short term success, it is also about building a sustainable and profitable brand that will be around for many years to come.