Author: Megesh Vaidun
This series will explain a variety of concepts in tech, marketing, product, digital transformation, strategy, and finance to executives & senior managers in a brief format.
Growth Hacking 101
Recently, it has become nearly impossible for a person to read a marketing article without coming across terms like growth hacking, growth ninja, or growth specialist.
So what is growth hacking?
In short, Growth Hacking is an experimental mindset of a person who is involved in a company’s growth.
Let’s first understand growth. Growth is a philosophy that deals with handling acquisition, retention & monetization of a company’s product or services.
Growth essentially is a marketing term that involves handling the entire funnel. More specifically it is called the pirate funnel aka AARRR funnel.
Traditional marketing involves pre-onboarding a new customer (awareness, interest, consideration, evaluation, purchase), but the pirate funnel involves the complete life cycle of a customer (acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referral).
This guide will help you understand the basics of growth hacking and why it’s important to today’s tech companies.
So, who are Growth Hackers?
The term growth hacking was first coined by Sean Ellis. Growth hacking is both a process and a mindset.
Growth Hackers are a hybrid of scientists, marketers, tech geeks, data scientists, copywriters, & designers.
Growth Hackers are people who focus on driving growth in the entire AARRR funnel through rapid experimentation and frugal use of resources.
People with growth hacking mindsets are often found in startups & early-stage tech companies.
Growth hackers usually don’t have just a traditional marketing degree, since it is a mindset and degrees, work experience, certificates rarely matter. Some companies have growth hackers with strong product backgrounds while others have growth hackers with strong marketing backgrounds.
Usually, growth hackers are expected to have a diversified skill set (market research, branding, UX, product, SEO, content marketing, automation, etc and they have deep expertise in 1 or 2 skills, commonly referred to as ‘T’ shaped skill sets.
“T shaped” skill set growth hackers are in high demand for early-stage startups, because of their ability to replace traditional roles. For example, an early-stage SaaS startup may have one growth hacker instead of a content writer and a digital marketer, until they scale.
Some startups have a growth team instead of a standalone marketing team.
General traits of growth hackers include:
- Extremely analytical (data over intuition)
- Willingness to experiment and learn
- Diversified knowledge
- Complete understanding of customers
- Frugality with resources
What do Growth Hackers do?
Growth Hackers rely heavily on experimentation to find the appropriate way to drive growth. They experiment in many different ways.
Growth Hacking is always about taking cautious steps to ensure success, hence experiments form a crucial part of it. Some experiments include:
- Identifying the right channel
- Testing a loyalty reward program
- Trying various referral mechanisms
- Experimenting with various retention strategies
- Test various pricing methods in business
- Analyze between product-led growth & separate growth channels
- Gamification for acquisition, retention & monetization
And many more.
They usually coordinate with the product, data, customer teams, etc to deliver results.
They often share responsibility for the funnel with other teams.
They are also expected to deliver results in terms of growth through aggressive OKRs & KPIs. Growth hackers are very focused and specific about what metrics they track.
Growth hackers do not just drive growth, but also constantly experiment and find ways to reduce the cost spent on driving growth and also should find long term ways of sustaining the existing growth. This essentially means lowering the CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) while increasing the LTV (Lifetime Value) or increasing the Conversion rate at landing pages.
They rely on viral loops & feedback loops to not just drive growth but also get valuable information on how to improve the product.
Growth hacks often are not repeatable; they sometimes need to be unique to the demands and characteristics of the company and customers to work
Growth hackers also tend to be keen observers of the industry and competitors. They work closely with other teams and run competitor analysis to differentiate their offerings in form or another.
Growth Hacking Examples
When you search for “Growth Hacking examples” on Google, you’ll find a bunch of classic cases:
- Google Pay (Tez) in India used scratch cards aka rewards & referral bonuses to drive acquisition and usage of the product.
- Harry, a grooming brand used referrals to drive in more audiences into the funnel by using double-sided referrals.
- Dropbox during the initial days of its launch used customer referral to drive more sign-ups to its product. In this, extra storage space for those who referred to others.
- Oneplus smartphones used the power of community, guerrilla marketing, and referrals to drive hype around their phone and which in return increased their overall smartphone sales.
- Hotmail increased their signups/customer acquisition by using the “P.S. I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail”. A hyperlink was added to the text, which when clicked led them to the landing/registration page.
As you can see, growth hacking is all about majorly experimenting with an early set of customers and building the model on top of it.
The crucial step here is to test these with hypotheses with every experiment and not experiment on a random basis.
Why You Should Hire a Growth Hacker
Growth Hackers can be a great “all-in-one” hire for a startup. They easily can replace at least 2 or 3 roles you are looking to hire in your company because of their diverse skill set. With the industry becoming more modular, there is a strong need for T-shaped cross-functional generalists.
They are fearless and will experiment relentlessly while staying lean on resources. This means they can have a great ROI for an early-stage startup.
They tend to evangelize products like no other, a growth hacker usually falls in love with the growth of the product. They do everything to drive growth.
They can have a comprehensive approach to customer funnel. They are also very calculating and tend to adapt very quickly to ever-changing market circumstances and naturally move where the opportunity is greatest for your company.
Growth Hackers are very flexible: they can produce both short term and long term growth. They can adapt as the situation demands and changes. There are a few places/forums where you can find & hire growth hackers for a contract or on an employment basis.
As always said, growth hacking is a mindset and not a role.
Apart from the buzzwords, the philosophy of Growth is incredibly important and it is inevitable for your startup.
By hiring a growth hacker and celebrating the growth hacking mindset, a startup can accelerate growth and a more established company can better fight disruption.
At end of the day, everything in this world is about experimenting!