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What works for them won't work for you.

Rather than just reusing old growth hacks, we must uncover our own techniques.

To see this in action, we can analyze e-mail apps that launched over the last 15 years. All solved a similar issue, yet each used different growth tactics to achieve success:


  1. Hotmail

  2. Gmail

  3. Mailbox


(Details included in the article.)

Stolen growth hacks are still valuable, though.

Re-using them can lead to diminishing returns, but exciting hockey stick growth comes from new growth hacks.

So, breakthrough success comes from new growth hacks. But how do we generate new ideas?


  1. Brainstorm ideas

  2. Rank by risk/reward

  3. Test quickly


(Details included in the article.)

Conclusion: build a growth machine that combines old and new tactics.

  • DL

    Dylan La Com

    over 5 years ago #

    Nice article @natedesmond! It's sound advice to diversify your growth efforts across known and unknown channels.

    I have a nitpick though :D

    I think the article would be more appropriately titled "How Hotmail, Gmail, and Mailbox, Uncovered Revolutionary Growth Hacks". It was very light on any info on Spotify, Uber, and Mint.

  • VV

    Visakan Veerasamy

    over 5 years ago #

    Great post!

    A huge thing is really to map out the user's journey- where does she find out about your product, how does she use it, who does she 'touch' with it, etc?

    When you completely map out the user's journey, you can start then questioning each point along the way- how might this be used for growth?

    If you haven't mapped out your customer journey, you're missing out!

    • NK

      narek khach

      over 5 years ago #

      +1 with @visakanv, user journey is important!

      Also I look at UserOnboard.com examples and I basically make one for my own products. I produce them in design tools, then import to Keynote so I can annotate the User Journey/experience screen-by-screen.

  • DB

    Drake Ballew

    over 5 years ago #

    Great article. First point resonates: once any tactic is demonstrably successful/valuable, it's value is basically depleted. Why working in growth is fun :)

  • BG

    Brandon Gains

    over 5 years ago #

    Great article @natedesmond Guerilla marketing like Uber and Airbnb is a very under-rated tactic for growth.

  • ND

    Nate Desmond

    over 5 years ago #

    I'd love to hear some of the most interesting growth hacks you all have heard of!

    • NW

      Nick Warner

      over 5 years ago #

      Hey @natedesmond something 99designs has been doing lately in their email outreach is having the sender name come from

      [Ashley, 99designs] Subject: Last Chance ...

      so that it looks like you aren't the only one on the email.

      I don't know how much this has increased their email clicks, but I caught myself opening a (typically) useless email because I thought I was included in the conversation. Just a fun thing I noticed this week.

  • DW

    David Wang

    over 5 years ago #

    @noahkagan what is your process for research and development of growth hacks? does your team bang out idea after idea until there's something that sticks?

    • NK

      noah kagan

      over 5 years ago #

      Hey David

      the things i look for
      a) large amounts of ideal customers using the platform
      b) others haven't reverse engineered or are using it actively
      c) testing many places out.

      obvious ones that many companies neglect: message boards, Skype, whatsapp, Amazon, WordPress, Tumblr, etc...

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