What is Growth Hacking?


You’ve probably heard the term growth hacking before. It seems to be a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot. Hugely popular amongst startups but misunderstood by many, growth hacking is either bullsh*t or brilliant depending on who you ask. We think it’s the latter.

So what exactly is growth hacking?

It’s not a simple trick or a silver bullet. It’s not computer hacking either. Growth hacking is a process in which companies rapidly experiment with different marketing channels and develop their product to find the most effective way to grow their business. They might use traditional marketing channels, they might not. It all depends on what works for that company. 

What are the basic steps of growth hacking?

  1. Set your key performance indicators. Think about what you’re aiming to achieve.
  2. Develop your message/value proposition. What are you offering people?
  3. Think up ideas. Which channels do you want to use to promote the product?
  4. Prioritize the channels you want to try first. Which ones do you think will have the most impact and are the easiest for you to try?
  5. Test run. The experimenting begins.
  6. Gather and analyse data. Find out how the channels have been performing.
  7. Optimize and prioritize the successful channels.
  8. Test these again. Analyse them again.
  9. Scale up. After optimizing the well-performing channels and improving the product, it’s time to grow even more.
  10. Go again.

Through this process companies learn the best methods to grow their business. It could be using social media, it could be getting users to share the product with friends for rewards, or it might even be handing out leaflets at a train station. But keep in mind that one organisation’s successful growth hacking technique can’t be duplicated to produce the exact same results. Each company has to keep experimenting and testing to find the right method for them.

Why is it called growth hacking?

Sean Ellis, a growth hacker working in Silicon Valley, first coined the phrase in 2010. He made a living helping companies to grow, developing processes that worked for them and leaving these to somebody to maintain after he moved onto the next business. But he had trouble finding his replacements. He searched for people with marketing experience but soon realised traditional marketers didn’t really do the same things he did. So he created the term growth hacker to find more suitable people who could take over his role.

Where has it worked?

Growth hacking has helped a number of companies to grow. A few years after Airbnb was founded, the company implemented their infamous Craigslist growth hack. When users posted their listings on Airbnb they were also given the option to post on Craigslist, increasing the exposure for both the user’s listing and for Airbnb. It sounds simple enough, but to pull this off the company had to reverse engineer how Craigslist forms work and build a bot that would allow users to automatically post listings to the website. It was an innovative experiment that paid off and lead to huge growth for Airbnb.

You could even argue Donald Trump used growth hacking to win the US presidential election. He set his goals, cemented his messaging, and tried out various channels to promote himself. Social media was the most effective, with controversial tweets giving Trump a lot of exposure. He didn’t need expensive advertisements or other traditional marketing methods. Controversial statements, tweeted or spoken, would land him in the media spotlight. He managed to scale the growth of his campaign enough to finally win the election. 

What else should be kept in mind for growth hacking?

It’s best to approach growth hacking with a certain mindset. Be open to trying new ideas. Be persistent. Be prepared to fail – it’s how you learn. Involve as many people in the organisation as you can. Growth hackers are all about taking action and continuously moving forward to achieve their goals.

So those are the basics of growth hacking. At Huddle, we’ve taken the principles of growth hacking to create the Huddle Hack, a process where we collaborate with companies to innovate. At the end of the Hack, companies will have a prototype or brand concept they can scale into a full product or brand. It’s fast paced, it’s collaborative, and it delivers results. Just like growth hacking.

Download our Growth Hacker's Guide here for ninety-six and a half Growth Hacking techniques to get you started...

Annabelle MayorComment