In this article, I will do my best to introduce you to growth hacking and help you with some basic principles and tactics. So let’s get into it!
What does a growth hacker do?
A growth hacker is a new type of marketer who uses data and creativity to grow companies. The term “growth hacking” was pegged by Sean Ellis back in 2010, but the underlying concept goes further.
Peter Drucker talked about marketing as a set of activities that seeks to make present buyers aware of a product or service for the first time and bring them back again in the future; it’s not just about nailing down sales today.
The critical difference between traditional marketers and growth hackers is their mindset: marketers traditionally approach problems from an analytic perspective (how can we drive more conversions?). In contrast, hackers start with a creative problem-solving mentality (what if we tried this?). With the right blend of these two techniques—creativity and data—you can identify new channels, build products for customer acquisition, and scale them rapidly.
What did the term “growth hacker” mean?
A growth hacker is a marketer who uses creativity and analytical thinking to grow a business. A growth hacker doesn’t just identify the “next big thing” in marketing; she’s the one who builds it. In this sense, all successful marketers are growth hackers—look at Oprah.
For example, she created her unique channel (her show), built an audience around it, then leveraged that into other related media (books, magazines) until she had a massive platform.
That’s hacking growth. But there are plenty of examples of great startups whose marketing have been hacked by intrapreneurs within larger companies. Microsoft’s work with Bing and Facebook with News Feed come to mind as classic examples of this dynamic at work in the digital age.
What’s the primary purpose behind growth hacking?
Growth hackers are like modern-day prospectors: they know that it’s not about finding a few more deposits or nuggets, but rather creating scalable ways to exploit existing opportunities—and then using those to find more.
In this analogy, traditional marketers are industrial miners who go out with dynamite and shovels looking for holes with gold in them; growth hackers figure out how to turn small things into big things by optimizing the hell out of every stage of the process. They also rely heavily on testing and iteration until they get it right.
What makes a good growth hacker?
Creativity, curiosity, and an analytic mind; in fact, the two skillsets aren’t that different: creativity is applied analytics. Growth hackers are on a never-ending quest to find scalable ways to get users for their product or service.
If you can think creatively about how to find those users and drive them to action (while measuring results along the way), then you’ve got the right mindset. Creativity also helps when it comes time to brainstorm new channels or products—growth hackers know that success doesn’t come out of nowhere; they look at what’s already working in other categories and apply some of those principles.
What should marketers do if they want to become growth hackers?
The term “growth hacking” has gotten a lot of attention recently, with some marketing execs attempting to re-label their entire teams as growth hackers. But while the term is hot right now, it’s important to remember that this isn’t just about a new buzzword; it’s a different way of thinking about how companies grow.
If you’re managing marketers today and want to send them on the path to becoming growth hackers, start by encouraging them to think like entrepreneurs: What are all the possible channels for promoting my product? Which are big enough? How can my team get involved in those channels at scale?
How do you define growth hacking culture?
A growth hacker lives at the intersection of data, creativity, and product development. They use an iterative process to build, test, and improve products that drive user growth. They’re comfortable working in small teams and wearing multiple hats. And they work with a sense of urgency under the belief that every day they aren’t growing is a missed opportunity.
What role does data play in growth hacking?
Growth hackers say “data” rather than “statistics” because it’s about more than just looking at numbers. It’s about using those numbers to provide insight into why customers are (or aren’t) using your product, along with what you can do to get them to derive even more value from it.
The critical difference versus traditional marketing is that most growth hackers have amnesia when it comes to the question: “If everyone who came to this site clicked ‘Buy,’ would we be profitable?” So the focus is on what’s next rather than the last click.
What are some early growth hacking examples you can think of?
One example that people tend to bring up is Dropbox, which nailed its referral program; another is Airbnb, which also used a referral model by encouraging users at conferences to list their extra rooms and earn free credits if they got friends to sign up.
In addition, Dropbox has invited all sorts of other startups to use its APIs so that it can engage in “platform wars” against Box and others without having to do any additional work. Uber was another classic example—it sent emails with $20 off coupons for new customers. And Tinder taught us that a simple, elegant design could make millions.
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How do I find a growth hacker?
The best growth hackers aren’t the ones who have a list of accomplishments—they’re the ones who can tell you how and why they made something grow. And this kind of insight is difficult to find in traditional marketing hires. If you hire one through a recruiter, refer to question one: How does that person think? What are their instincts like? And can they explain those instincts clearly?
What are some of the tools growth hackers use?
Growth hackers don’t start their days making things. They’re talking to customers, interviewing them, finding out what’s working and not working for them, and using those insights to develop hypotheses about how to grow the business. Data is king—growth hackers will analyze data from all sources: Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Twitter, or even good old Excel.
Then they’ll set up A/B tests in Optimizely and look at metrics like conversion rates over time, etc., along with a host of other tools. Growth hacking isn’t easy; you need a solid foundation to make it work. You need to figure out where your attention is naturally going so that you can amplify that signal.
What are the best growth hacking strategies?
The best strategies are the ones that play to your company’s strengths. For example, if you have a solid in-house creative team or a great developer community, lean on those and use them to build tools that enable users to do more with your product. If you’re not strong in either of these areas, you might lean on other organizations in your industry for help.
The key is to constantly be asking yourself: How can we make it easier for people to get value from our products? And how can we amplify the value they receive as a result?
How much time and does growth hacking take up when done properly?
If done right, growth hacking will generate results fast enough so that by week four or five, you already see the fruits of your labor.
Of course, growth hackers have to be scrappy and move fast, so sometimes they’ll launch a campaign without even setting aside resources for it (i.e., find a way to keep costs down, either by using current employees as assets or hiring third-party vendors). But you also need dedicated resources at some point—you can’t do everything in-house all the time.
If I hire a “growth hacker,” what exactly will they do?
Growth hackers don’t have a predetermined set of skills; their job is to constantly evolve based on what works best for different companies and products. That said, they’re constantly testing and iterating—so if there’s something that’s not working to drive the business forward, they have to be willing and able to move on quickly.
Most growth hackers are engineers by nature—tech guys who can code and build things from scratch. They’ll spend a lot of time testing new ideas and then writing code on the spot if something needs to be made from scratch.
What kind of people make the best growth hackers?
How much growth marketers make?
Somewhere between $20,000 and $75,000 a year. The average is around $40,000 to $50,000.
Growth hacking is a new, experimental way of quickly building sustainable growth, measuring results, and iterating. Although there are no universal formulas that will always work, companies like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are examples of where this fast-paced process can lead. Growth hackers as marketers have existed for years—a kind of “marketing technologist”—but the industry has started calling them “growth hackers” only in the past few years.