What is Growth Hacking?

The Origins of the Term Growth Hacker

The term “growth hacking” was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010. At the time, Ellis was working with several Silicon Valley startups, helping them to grow their user bases quickly and cost-effectively. Ellis had noticed that traditional marketing methods, such as advertising and PR, were becoming less effective at driving growth for startups. Instead, he began to experiment with different approaches, focusing on strategies that could rapidly and sustainably drive user acquisition, engagement, and retention. 

Ellis first introduced the concept of growth hacking in a blog post in 2010, titled “Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup.” In the post, he defined a growth hacker as “a person whose true north is growth” and who uses “data, creativity, and curiosity to grow and engage their audience.”

Today, growth hacking is widely recognized as a key approach for startups and early-stage businesses looking to achieve rapid growth and success. While the term may have originated with startups, it has since been adopted by businesses of all sizes and industries.

What is Growth Hacking?  

Growth hacking is a multidisciplinary approach that involves teams from various departments such as product, marketing, engineering, sales, and more to achieve rapid and sustainable growth for businesses. The goal of growth hacking is to find innovative and cost-effective ways to attract and retain customers and drive their North Star Metric.

Some of the key principles of growth hacking include a focus on experimentation, leveraging data to inform decisions, and a willingness to take risks and try unconventional marketing methods.

Experimentation is a key principle of growth hacking because it allows growth hackers to quickly test and validate assumptions, and find the most effective tactics for achieving growth. Experimentation allows growth hackers to take a data-driven approach to growth by collecting and analyzing data from experiments to inform their decisions. They can use this data to identify what works, and what doesn’t, and to continuously improve their tactics.

Growth hackers use a variety of experimentation methods, including A/B testing, multivariate testing, user surveys, and customer feedback loops, to identify the best growth strategies. By constantly testing and iterating their tactics, growth hackers can identify what works best for their business, and adapt to changing market conditions to stay ahead of the competition.

Key Principles of Growth Hacking

Growth hacking has become a popular approach for businesses looking to achieve rapid and sustainable growth. At its core, growth hacking is about using data, experimentation, and creativity to identify and capitalize on new growth opportunities.

1. Experimentation

Growth hackers are constantly testing and trying new tactics to find what works best and drives growth. This involves using a variety of experimentation methods, such as A/B testing and user surveys, to validate assumptions and identify the most effective strategies.

Experimentation is critical at every step of the customer journey in growth hacking. This is because the customer journey is complex and multifaceted, and there are often multiple touchpoints and interactions that influence the customer’s decision to make a purchase or engage with a product or service. By experimenting at every step of the customer journey, growth hackers can identify the most effective tactics for driving growth and optimizing the customer experience.

2. Data-Driven Decision Making

Growth hackers rely on data to inform their decisions and prioritize tactics based on what’s working best. This involves collecting and analyzing data from various sources, including customer behavior, marketing campaigns, and product usage, to identify opportunities for growth.

Data is essential to finding insights for growth hacking experiments and uncovering opportunities for growth. By collecting and analyzing data from various sources, such as customer behavior, marketing campaigns, and product usage, growth hackers can identify patterns and trends that can inform their growth strategies. For example, data analysis can help businesses identify high-converting marketing channels, optimize pricing strategies, and improve product features and user experience. By leveraging data, growth hackers can focus their efforts on the most effective tactics, while avoiding costly mistakes and wasted resources.

By collecting and analyzing data from experiments, businesses can understand the impact of various growth tactics and determine which ones are most effective at driving growth. Through data analysis, growth hackers can identify patterns and trends in customer behavior, campaign performance, and product usage, and use this information to optimize and scale their growth strategies. Data-driven insights from experiments can also inform broader business decisions, such as product development and marketing strategies.

3. Rapid Iteration

Growth hackers prioritize speed and efficiency and are always looking for ways to optimize their tactics and strategies. This involves quickly iterating and improving on tactics based on the insights gained from experimentation and data analysis.

Iteration is a critical component of the growth hacking methodology, as it allows companies to quickly test and validate new growth tactics, optimize existing ones, and scale those that are successful. With this approach, growth hackers can quickly identify what works and what doesn’t, which enables them to pivot their approach when necessary and adapt to changing market conditions.

By iterating quickly, teams can learn from both their successes and failures, and use this information to refine their approach and uncover new opportunities for growth. This culture of experimentation fosters innovation and agility, which is critical for staying competitive in rapidly evolving markets.

3. Controlled Risks 

Growth hackers are willing to take risks and try unconventional tactics to achieve growth. This involves thinking outside the box and exploring new and innovative ways to attract and retain customers.

Growth hacking and experimentation provide companies with a way to take controlled risks when testing new strategies. Rather than relying on guesswork or assumptions, growth hackers use data-driven experimentation to validate their hypotheses and test their ideas in a controlled environment. By taking this approach, companies can reduce the risk of failure and make more informed decisions about where to allocate resources and invest their time and money.

Through experimentation, growth hackers can also identify potential problems or roadblocks before they become major issues, allowing them to make adjustments and pivot their approach as necessary. This helps to minimize risk and ensure that resources are used efficiently and effectively.

4. Collaboration

Collaboration is a critical element of the growth hacking methodology. Growth hacking involves cross-functional teams that work together to identify opportunities for growth and execute experiments. This approach fosters collaboration between different departments and encourages a culture of innovation and agility.

Collaboration allows teams to leverage the diverse skill sets and expertise of different departments, resulting in more effective and efficient growth strategies. For example, product teams can work with marketing teams to develop strategies that align with the product roadmap, while engineering teams can provide technical expertise to optimize website performance and user experience. By bringing together different perspectives and skill sets, growth hackers can create holistic and effective growth strategies that span across the entire customer journey.

Moreover, collaboration fosters a culture of experimentation and continuous learning. By working together to execute experiments, teams can learn from each other’s successes and failures, and use this information to refine their approach and uncover new opportunities for growth. This collaboration also helps to break down silos within the organization, creating a more cohesive and innovative company culture.

5. Focus on the Customer

Last but not least, the most important principle for driving growth is to deliver value to your customers. That is why value delivered is the rationale behind a North Star Metric, the one metric that translates value delivered and is the main focus to measure growth in the growth hacking methodology.

Growth hacking is not just about increasing the number of users or customers, but also about delivering value to them. For instance, growth hackers can use data to identify areas of improvement in the customer journey and then work on optimizing those areas. This might involve improving the onboarding process to make it easier for new users to get started, or optimizing the checkout process to reduce friction and increase conversion rates. By delivering a better user experience, growth hackers can improve customer satisfaction, reduce churn, and ultimately drive growth.

Misconceptions about Growth Hacking

Growth hacking has become a popular buzzword in the business world, with many companies adopting the methodology in an effort to drive rapid and sustainable growth. However, with this increased popularity comes a number of misconceptions surrounding growth hacking.
In this context, it is important to address and dispel some of the most common misconceptions surrounding growth hacking to provide a clearer understanding of what it is, how it works, and what it can achieve.

What Growth Hacking is NOT?

  1. Growth hacking isn’t synonymous with unethical or shady practices, such as spamming or manipulating users or finding and using backdoor tactic. However, true growth hacking is focused on delivering value to customers and building long-term relationships, rather than short-term gains through unethical tactics.
  2.  Growth hacking isn’t only about acquiring new customers or users. While acquisition is certainly an important aspect of growth hacking, it is only one piece of the puzzle. Retention, engagement, and customer satisfaction are also critical factors in driving sustainable growth.
  3.  Growth hacking isn’t about finding a magic bullet. In reality, growth hacking is a process of experimentation, iteration, and optimization that requires ongoing effort and continuous learning. It is not a one-time fix or a quick solution to growth challenges.
  4. Growth hacking isn’t only applicable to startups and small businesses. While growth hacking can certainly be effective in these contexts, it is also relevant and valuable for larger, established companies.

How to Keep  Learning About Growth Hacking

We have covered what growth hacking is,  key principles and misconceptions surrounding it, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. There are several paths to learn about growth hacking:

  1. Take a course: At Growth University you will find courses in growth, marketing and product, including te certification by Sean Ellis. 
  2. Learn with others: Join GrowthHackers Community to onnect with other growth professionals and collaborate to find solutions together.
  3. Learn by example: Learn how companies like AirBnb, Uber, Coca-Cola, and Slack approach growth with our growth studies
  4. Attend industry events: Attend the gathering of growth leaders at GrowthHackers Conference.