Growth Hacking – the Next Generation Startup Marketing

Everything you thought you knew about overnight success is wrong.

Success is the tip of an iceberg. It might happen overnight, but not before concerted effort, tests, analysis, metrics, tools and techniques. What if I told you that launching a successful business is a science that can be learnt, and that there are ways to build a successful startup without splurging a huge budget on marketing or advertising? Contrary to marketing maverick John Wannamaker, who doesn’t know which half of the money spend on advertising is wasted, growth hackers do.

What is Growth Hacking?

Growth Hacking is a buzzword that emerged in Silicon Valley around 2011 and quickly spread globally. It describes the use of technical skills hybridized with creativity to develop and implement marketing strategies that GET REAL USERS.

A Growth Hacker is a data- and results-oriented individual who applies elaborate but utilitarian tests to identify and analyze potential areas of growth. Once these areas are targeted, a GH utilizes strategies to optimize conversion and performance. The main areas that a growth hacker focuses on are: user acquisition, activation and retention. If customers are happy with the product and come back, the growth hacker comes up with a way to generate a referral stream and revenue. The ultimate aim of growth hacking is to find a successful and repeatable model for growth so that a business can be managed automatically and continue to acquire revenue through thoroughly tested and verified channels of growth.

Below is a graph showing the explosion of interest in the term ‘Growth Hacking’ up to August 2020.

Some people regard the term as a meaningless meme, but the truth is that Growth Hacking has earned a permanent place in tech terminology.

It is, perhaps, unfortunate that this particular phrase has been adopted. The inclusion of the word ‘hacking’ can cause misunderstandings.

‘Hacking’ does not mean writing some magical code that causes instant growth. Neither is it a button that spontaneously causes thousands of super-active users to descend on your site. Unfortunately.

It is often said that ‘Growth Hacking’ is just another way of saying ‘online marketing.’ It’s true that it does include some of the same techniques. Looked at from an SEO point of view, it is not a new term, but the methods of optimisation are.

Companies that are looking for Growth Hackers also have different understandings. You can find job offers for social media gurus, front-end developers, Facebook page managers, SEO/SEM specialists and product analysts – all of these roles come under the job description of a Growth Hacker.

On the other hand, the term perfectly captures the idea of focusing on the user experience. Not just how users make it to your site, but also their experience using it.

Silicon Valley was the seedbed of pioneer growth hacking. Most of the SV giants, like Facebook or LinkedIn, have their own Growth Teams where the best-known names work. Below is a personal view of Growth Hacking from a guy who belongs to the core world of interconnected Growth Hackers.

Josh Elman – worked for Twitter, Facebook Connect and LinkedIn, and now works for an investment fund. The definition from his personal blog:

“Growth hacking (…) describes a new process for acquiring and engaging users combining traditional marketing and analytical skills with product development skills. In the past, marketing and product development departments were often at odds where marketing groups would be spending significant amounts of money to acquire users but couldn’t get any development resources to build something as simple as new custom landing pages. And on the other side, product development teams often build what they think users want and will attract users without deeply measuring and understanding the impact of their changes. This concept of “growth hacking” is a recognition that when you focus on understanding your users and how they discover and adopt your products, you can build features that help you acquire and retain more users, rather than just spending marketing dollars.”

According to Quora (a great platform where many Growth Hackers hang out), Growth Hacking is the activity of optimizing elements both of a product and around it. A growth hack often spans several parts of the spectrum, including user awareness, acquisition, retention, engagement and resurrection.

In a nutshell, Growth Hacking stands for:

1. Process – Growth Hacking takes a lot from Lean Startup ideology. This means that working on growth is iterative and ongoing. A Growth Hacker measures, then learns, then implements then measures again, learns again and implements again.

2. Mind-set – Growth Hacking focuses purely on getting real users, rather than on product or design. This is why many SaaS (Software as a Service) companies could really use a Growth Hacker. A GH thinks differently. The owner is often in love with the product, the coder is interested in delivery and optimizing the code, the marketing manager doesn’t have technical known-how – a Growth Hacker’s role is to bridge and create a focus for these various departments.