What is Growth Hacking?

4 min read

Growth is the make-or-break metric for startups; either they grow quickly or whither within 5 years.

This is why startups often look for creative, inexpensive, and innovative methods to fast-track their company’s customer base. The main goal, in short, is to acquire as many customers as possible while spending as little as possible.

Growth hacking is all about low-cost, creative solutions that help your brand gain new customers and engage with the ones you already have.

The term growth hacking was coined back in 2010 by Sean Ellis, the founder and CEO of GrowthHackers, and he also was the first marketer at Dropbox. And he is the author of one of the first and most complete growth hacking book: Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success.

With growth hacking, new growth opportunities are explored systematically in any part of the customer journey, from awareness through marketing to brand ambassadors by optimizing the product.


Who is a growth hacker?


A growth hacker is someone who uses these creative, low-cost strategies to help businesses acquire and retain customers. Sometimes growth hackers are called growth marketer, technical marketeer, data-driven marketer, head of growth or VP of Growth.

Anyone involved in a product or service, including product managers and engineers, can be a growth hacker.

Growth hackers tend to be obsessive, curious and analytical:

  • Growth hackers focus solely on strategies related to growing the business.
  • They hypothesize, prioritize and test innovative growth strategies.
  • They analyze and test to see what’s working.

A growth hacker sets the goal above the means; growing his ‘North Star Metric‘ is his main goal, and which channel, technique or tool is used for this is secondary. That is why it is crucial that a growth hacker has a broad set of knowledge and skills.

The ideal growth hacker knows how to set growth priorities, identify channels for customer acquisition, measure success, and scale growth. Companies like Uber, TikTok or Shopify have their own VP/ Head of growth and dedicated growth hacking teams.


The differences between Growth hacking and marketing


Many assume that growth hacking and marketing are one and the same. 

However, there are subtle yet important differences.

Growth hacking, like marketing, has the ultimate goal of customer acquisition or encouraging more people to use a particular product or service. However, because of its start-up community origins, growth hacking relies heavily on optimized tactics such as online automation that don’t involve a big budget that larger businesses have access to.

Typically, growth hacking combines marketing and optimized cost-effective automated marketing on a small budget. 

For example, automated notification emails, simple sign-up forms or sign-up driven homepages, or streamlining onboarding for new customers.1 gXYaZnrVEQLPaT 8B99pbQ development

More differences between Growth Hacking and Marketing


  • A growth hacker focuses on new growth opportunities, while marketers focus on day-to-day marketing and branding. 
  • The Growth hacker focuses on the Entire funnel( AAARRR aka The Pirate funnel), including retention and referral, whereas marketers focus on awareness and acquisition.
  • A growth hacker conducts small data-specific experiments( the G.R.O.W.S experiment), whilst the marketer works on more robust, long-term projects.
  • Growth Hacking is data-driven, while marketing might not be
  • Growth hackers have more technical skills, such as programming, tooling, automation etc.
  • Growth hackers are heavily involved in the product and thus pay more attention to the retention of active customers.

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How to start growth hacking


Growth hackers should work fast and independently, as the goal is “to acquire as many customers as possible while spending as little as possible”. To growth hack, you don’t need to be an expert in all the steps involved, but you need to understand the basics to execute the technical skills to hack your growth.

To become a growth hacker, you need to know:

  • How to build landing pages
  • How to build websites
  • Design and understand colours, fonts, branding, etc.
  • How to Run ads on channels like AdWords, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Basic HTML and CSS 
  • How to Implement tracking tools like Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, Hotjar, etc.
  • And many more concepts/techniques, like app store optimization, conversion rate optimization, growth hacking tools(link to another article?), Artificial Intelligence in marketing, web scraping, chatbots, API’s, etc.


Important rules of thumb

Speed > Perfection:

It’s better to see quickly if something has potential versus building it from start-to-end, only to find out that you misinterpreted your customer. You see this come back through the experiments and the less-talking-more-doing mentality.

Make data-driven decisions:

 By using data, you can positively improve your effectiveness. Where to focus your time and resources for the most significant impact? What improvement would bring the most growth based on data from our experiments? Which type of users is most valuable?

Always be improving (both in business and personal): 

There is always a new bottleneck in your business’s growth to tackle. And in personal terms, you learn to have a high level of “Learnability”: If you don’t know how something works, you just start to Google it to find out.

Before you start

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have Product-Market-Fit? If not, focus first on improving your product to have a sizable audience that is enthusiastic about your product. Growth hacking can’t fix a bad product. Check out our Product Development Strategy session, where we will help you with building a good product.
  • Have I set up my analytics? Do I speak to customers regularly? Without data/feedback, you can’t hack growth: You need to know what is slowing down your growth and how best to improve it.
  • Do you have the skills/knowledge to set up some simple growth strategies? Your business won’t grow from just analyzing data or coming up with strategies because nobody knows what will and will not work. You have to execute and grow from there.

Also, you might want to check on How to Build a proper MVP.


Examples of Effective Growth Hacking Techniques

  • Automation and repetition are the keys to growth hacking success. Use different software and free tools to help you do your job faster and effectively. See what works and then streamline it.


  • Abandoned cart emails. If you run an e-commerce business, consider setting up emails to send to users who abandon their shopping cart. Users don’t finish checking out for a variety of reasons, including simple distraction. These cart reminder emails are great for getting shoppers back on track.


  • Get a niche with social sharing. Naturally, you want to share your content online, and you’ll toss your post to the usual social media gauntlets like Facebook and Twitter. However, there’s so much more you can do. Find a narrow subreddit related to your topic (there’s a subreddit on every subject under the sun) and post there, rather than to larger, more general subreddits. Also, share your stuff on Quora, forums, and in the comments of other blogs (so long as what you’re sharing is relevant to the discussion). 


  • Test everything. Testing is the best way to carve away at your site until it’s a sleek, efficient, and high-performing piece of perfection. Test anything and everything!

Some well-known examples of successful growth hacking campaigns include:

  • Dropbox, which rewards existing users for inviting new ones with additional storage
  • Hotmail, which appended a line to each outgoing email encouraging people to sign up for a new account
  • Airbnb, which used Craigslist to find and market to people looking for affordable accommodation


Benefits Of Growth Hacking

  • Provable ROI – By using data to inform every decision you make and tracking the performance of the growth hack accurately, you can easily see which of your growth hacking strategies are performing as you’d hoped and which aren’t. Continue with those that show promise for customer acquisition; discard those that don’t.
  • Low-cost – By its nature, growth hacking is designed to use whatever resources you have in as economical a way as possible. This means using tactics like ensuring landing pages are leveraging SEO best practices to rank highly in search engines for important keywords. Also, writing impactful content such as case studies and then sharing broadly on key social media channels is a great tactic. Extensive and iterative A/B testing can be powerful as well to quickly gather user data. Although the testing process may be fairly lengthy before hitting upon that golden nugget, growth hacking doesn’t have the traditional costs associated with it that other methodologies such as content marketing or advertising do.
  • Low-resources – Growth hacks are often developed and implemented by a single person on the product or engineering team and don’t require an entire marketing team to execute.


In conclusion


Growth hacking is an innovative way for startups to fast track their growth. It’s all about quickly testing and validating hypotheses with little resources used. That is why we here at Jetruby created a startup development methodology that allows you to launch and grow your startups fast and efficiently, with the support from our team of experts. Describe your idea, and we will guide you through our quick and free Product Development Strategy session to help you create a roadmap and determine and shape your vision for a successful start.


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