Growth hacking marketing refers to a low-cost, creative data-driven marketing strategy that companies, especially fast-growing digital startups, use in order to rapidly scale and accelerate growth, often through non-traditional and inexpensive channels.

Origins of Growth Hacking

The term “growth hacking” was coined and popularized in 2010 by technology entrepreneur Sean Ellis, who defines growth hacking as “the process of rapidly experimenting with marketing channels to increase user reach and engagement.” The concept came out of Silicon Valley, when startups needed to scale and ramp up growth despite limited resources and tight budgets. This is where growth hackers started experimenting with data, product features, viral techniques and more to fuel rapid growth.

Nowadays, growth hacking spans beyond startups as larger corporations and mainstream brands seek to leverage its principles of rapid data testing, creative low-budget tactics and cross-functional collaboration to accelerate digital growth.

The Core Principles Of Growth Hacking

While there are many growth hacking strategies and tactics, the core working principles that growth hackers swear by includes:

  • Focusing Obsessively On Growth Metrics – Growth hackers are intensely data-driven, continuously tracking and optimizing for key metrics like new user sign-ups, conversion percentage, activation rates, retention, referral numbers etc. Their relentless focus is on moving metrics and not vanity success measures.
  • Rapid Data-Based Experimentation – They continuously test and iterate new ideas, featuring A/B testing experiments that challenge assumptions and spark growth through creativity coupled with an analytical mindset to assess measurable outcomes.
  • Finding Growth Ideas Through Cross-Functional Collaboration – Growth hackers engage in ongoing brainstorming with marketing, product, engineering and design teams to identify possibilities and run tests that potentially impact and lift growth. They leverage collective knowledge to spark ideas.
  • Acquiring Users Via Innovative Low-Cost Strategies – Unconventional guerrilla marketing tactics, influencer collaborations, referral marketing maximization, optimizing for organic channels etc. are all part and parcel of how growth hackers acquire users at scale in a lean, cost-efficient manner.

Key Growth Hacking Strategies

Some of the most popular and widely-used growth hacking strategies include:

  • Viral Loops – Creating self-reinforcing viral cycles where existing users recruit future users via tools like invites, referrals and social sharing. Referral program optimization with incentives is a key growth lever.
  • Leveraging Influencers – Getting relevant external influencers or internal employee advocates to spread the word to their followers for increased awareness and user acquisition by activating existing networks through the brand’s credibility.
  • Targeting Organic Channels – Prioritizing unpaid channels like SEO, SEM, email marketing, content strategies and social media community building for inbound user acquisition.
  • Optimization Of On-boarding Journeys – Identifying and eliminating friction plus gamification during the initial user sign-up and on-boarding process to drive higher conversion rates.
  • Lifecycle Engagements To Retain Users – Developing ongoing triggers, promotions, personalized nudges and communications to continually engage and retain users to improve stickiness.

Examples Of Successful Growth Hacking Campaigns

Some standout examples of highly effective growth hacking campaigns deployed by companies includes:

  • Airbnb’s Craigslist Integration – Early on Airbnb leveraged Craigslist’s high traffic by having users cross-post listings on Craigslist to acquire hosts and guests with minimal effort thanks to a integration.
  • Spotify’s Viral On-Boarding – The music platform witnessed skyrocketing growth by requiring new users to share the app on Facebook for full unlimited access during sign up, which triggered viral sharing.
  • Dollar Shave Club’s Video – The startup’s humorous explainer video went massively viral notching millions of views thanks to its engaging and creative concept, fueling the brand’s early subscriber growth.
  • Slack’s Referral Program – The business chat app optimized invite mechanics and referral schemes offering both sender and recipient reward perks for every successful referral which widely spurred organic user acquisition.

Growth Hacking vs Traditional Marketing

While both aim to expand a company’s reach, growth hacking and traditional marketing have some core differences in their overall approach:

Growth Hacking

  • Rapid Data-Driven Testing
  • Ultra-Low Cost Strategies
  • Unproven Creative Tactics
  • Agile Continuous Iteration
  • Real-Time Optimization

Traditional Marketing

  • Intuition-Led Strategies
  • Big Advertising Budgets
  • Established Best Practices
  • Long Campaign Run-Times
  • Limited A/B Testing

So while traditional marketing invests upfront in broader plays through mature channels, growth hacking keeps innovating through ongoing small rapid-iteration tests with platforms, creatives and tactics using lean budgets seeking exponential outcomes.

Is Growth Hacking Right For Every Business?

While the data-first mindset works across companies, growth hacking tactics are best suited for fast-growing startups and digital direct-to-consumer businesses focused on rapid customer acquisition and engagement. For slow-cycle B2B enterprises or heavily regulated sectors like finance and healthcare which progress slower, traditional marketing may be a better approach aligned to their maturation stage.

Growth Hacking Marketing FAQs

What skills does an ideal growth hacker need? Strong analytical aptitude, data-driven creativity through tests, agile rapid iteration abilities and cross functional partnering skills are all must-have attributes for top growth hackers nowadays.

What tools do growth hackers use most? Key platforms growth hackers leverage vary from analytics for quantifying data, A/B testing tools for iterations, product mixer tools for optimization, automation software for triggers and engagement as well as community platforms.

How do growth teams work with marketing departments? They collaborate closely and align strategies for integrated campaigns. Marketing focuses more on brand-building while growth obsesses on data-backed experiments to scale tactics that acquire and retain users.

How do you determine growth hacking success? By diligently tracking and optimizing for key growth metrics across the customer journey – signups, conversion percentages, activation or login rates, retention numbers, referral channel performance etc. Revenue impact also plays a role but macro growth indicators come first.

Should every company growth hack? The data-first experimentation mindset works universally. But startups and digital businesses thriving on innovation, speed and disruption are best suited for intensive growth hacking fueled by constant agile testing aligned to their business maturity stage.

I hope this detailed overview clarifying what contemporary growth hacking entails along with its practices, strategies, metrics and applicability was helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions!


  • Sarah Teague

    Sarah Teague brings 5 years of professional writing experience to her role as content writer for Walletminded. In this position, Sarah creates compelling articles, blog posts, and other digital content that engage readers and promote the Walletminded brand. Before joining Walletminded, Sarah honed her writing skills as a freelance writer and ghostwriter. Her work included crafting blog posts and web content for financial services, technology, and healthcare clients. Sarah holds a bachelor's degree in English from Emory University, where she also served as editor of the campus literary journal. She continues to volunteer her time as a writing mentor for youth in her community. When she's not meticulously crafting content, you can find Sarah attempting new baking recipes and enjoying hikes with her dog. She also loves curling up with a good memoir.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *