Growth Hacking

What is Growth Hacking?: Fundamentals Unlocked

March 17, 2023
min read

With the explosion of digital marketing and technology, traditional methods of attracting customers and driving sales are no longer enough. The market is saturated with businesses vying for the same customers, and with digital advertising becoming more expensive and less effective, it has become increasingly difficult to stand out.

Businesses face a variety of challenges, including low customer acquisition rates, high customer churn, and slow revenue growth. The reality is that traditional digital marketing strategies can only do so much, and many businesses are struggling to keep pace with their competition. The need for a better solution is clear.

Enter Growth Hacking - a new-age practice that is transforming how businesses solve problems and even putting small businesses on par with large enterprises in the digital world.

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What is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking is a data-driven full-funnel approach to problem-solving that focuses on quickly and efficiently identifying opportunities to increase customer acquisition, reduce customer churn and drive revenue growth.

Instead of relying solely on traditional marketing tactics like paid advertising, growth hackers look for innovative solutions across the entire user experience – from product design to customer service.

A growth hacker leverages data and analytics to identify opportunities and build strategies based on user behavior. This type of testing allows growth hackers to quickly refine their approach, often resulting in more tremendous success than traditional marketing campaigns.

Growth Hacking vs Digital Marketing

Growth hacking is sometimes confused with digital marketing, but the two are actually quite different. While digital marketing focused on traditional tactics like SEO and paid advertising to reach potential customers, growth hacks look beyond the standard methods to find creative ways of solving problems.

While they share some similarities, the fundamental difference between the two is that while a marketer focuses on lead and traffic generation, a growth hacker takes care of the entire funnel - from awareness and referral.

Why is Growth Hacking on the Rise?

Companies globally are searching for ways to improve efficiency and reduce burn rates. Investing in people who employ out-of-the-box practices to meet business goals is proving to be a better option than traditional digital marketing.

Growth hacking provides businesses with the agility they need to stay ahead of their competition. This is especially true for startups, who often have limited resources to dedicate to marketing and need to find creative and cost-effective ways of driving growth.

There are four primary reasons why growth hacking is on the rise:

  1. Improved Capabilities
  2. Things Are Moving Fast
  3. Frugality is Rising
  4. Overall Awareness

Improved Capabilities

Earlier, most digital tools required a lot of manual intervention. For starters, websites had to be coded from scratch, data had to be manually fetched and cleaned, and analytics involved dealing with APIs by a back-end developer.

Today, there is an ocean of off-the-rack no-code solutions that can be used to do most of these tasks without relying on anyone's expertise. This makes it easier for companies to quickly iterate and refine their strategies.

As technology advancements give businesses access to more powerful analytics capabilities, automation software, and sophisticated tools, it has become easier for growth hackers to quickly identify opportunities and come up with strategies.

Things Are Moving Fast

The world of digital marketing is very dynamic, and businesses need to be on their toes at all times if they want to keep up with their competition. As the industry transforms, traditional digital marketing tactics are becoming redundant.

For instance, market research in the past meant conducting surveys and experiments that lasted weeks or even months by spending thousands of dollars. Today, it can be done with just a few ads on Google and Facebook at a fraction of the cost.

Growth hacking has allowed businesses to quickly iterate and test different strategies in order to find the most effective approach.

Frugality is Rising

Founders understand that every penny counts in the early stages. Hence, most emerging startups today want to gain traction without running into a lot of debt or overspending their budget.

The way to do this is through meticulous yet rapid experimentation by innovative thinkers who also take a data-driven approach.

Growth hacking is an effective way for startups to acquire customers without having to spend a fortune on marketing campaigns.

Overall Awareness

The evolution of digital marketing has ushered in a new era for the industry. As more and more businesses adopt growth hacking, overall awareness of the approach is increasing. Companies are starting to understand the potential of growth hacking and the significant impact it can have on their bottom line.

This is leading to a growing number of businesses investing in growth hacking and hiring growth hackers to help drive their growth. As a result, the demand for growth hacking skills and expertise is growing, further fueling the rise of the approach.

Myths About Growth Hacking

Although growth hacking is becoming more widely accepted, there are still a few misconceptions about it. Let's debunk some of them here.

Myth 1: It's Illegal

Growth hackers often use unconventional methods to drive growth. Because these methods are outside the bounds of traditional marketing strategies, some people assume that they must be illegal.

However, this is not true. Growth hacking is not illegal, but it does require a creative and data-driven approach to marketing that may push the boundaries of what is considered acceptable. For example, growth hackers may use tactics like hacking growth (not in the traditional sense of the word), viral marketing, or data scraping to drive growth.

It is important to note that while growth hacking may involve unconventional methods, it must still comply with all relevant laws and regulations, including those related to privacy, data protection, and marketing practices. Growth hackers must ensure that their methods are ethical and transparent.

Myth 2: It's a Bag of Shortcuts

Growth hacking and shortcuts have one similarity - both get to the destination quickly. However, that's where the similarities end.

Growth hackers don't take shortcuts when it comes to growing their businesses. Instead, they use their creativity and data-driven insights to come up with innovative ways to drive growth faster than anyone else.

Growth hacking is not a magic bullet that will magically increase your customer base or sales overnight. It requires hard work, dedication, and an understanding of what works best for your particular business. The key is to continually test and experiment with different strategies and tactics until you find the perfect combination that works for your business.

Myth 3: It's All About Getting New Users

Growth hacking is about more than just getting new users. It's also about optimizing the customer journey and improving user experience, as well as increasing retention rates and revenue.

In order for growth hacking to be successful, businesses need to have a clear understanding of their target audience and what drives them to engage with the product or service on offer. Growth hackers use data insights and an in-depth knowledge of their users to identify opportunities to optimize the customer journey.

That's not all. Growth hackers go the extra mile and even focus on customer retention and referrals. They understand that getting customers is only half the battle, and retaining them is just as important.

Myth 4: It's Only for Marketers

While marketers can undoubtedly play a role in growth hacking, the best growth hackers are often business owners or founders who have a deep understanding of their company and its customers. They have a unique perspective and are able to see the big picture, which allows them to identify opportunities for growth that others might miss.

Additionally, because they have a personal stake in the success of the business, they are often more motivated to try new and unconventional methods to drive growth.

Therefore, while marketers can be effective growth hackers, the most successful growth hackers are usually business owners or founders who are deeply involved in all aspects of their companies.

Myth 5: Requires Mastery

Growth hacking does require some knowledge of different disciplines, such as marketing, product design, web development, and data analysis. However, it's important to remember that it doesn't require mastery of all these skills.

The most successful growth hackers are often generalists who have a broad understanding of many areas and an ability to identify and capitalize on opportunities for growth. They understand the basics of marketing, product design, web development, and data analysis but are not necessarily experts in any one field.

Most importantly, they have a growth hacking mindset.

The Growth Hacking Mindset

Think Out of the Box

Growth hacking is about finding unconventional and innovative solutions to grow a business. The key to success in growth hacking is to think outside of the box and come up with unique ideas that haven't been tried before. This requires a mindset of creativity and a willingness to take risks.

For example, when Airbnb wanted to acquire more users, they set up a referral campaign where the rewards were easy to claim. Each referral got a $20-$35 travel credit. All the users had to do was post on social media or texted their friends. This not only generated buzz but also allowed Airbnb to tap into a new market.

Be Data-Driven

Data is the lifeblood of growth hackers. They rely on data to drive their decisions and inform their strategies. Growth hackers collect data on everything from user behavior to marketing campaigns and use this data to make informed decisions. This data-driven approach ensures that growth hackers are constantly learning and iterating on their strategies objectively and quantitatively.

For example, when Dropbox launched a 2-way-referral program by giving away 16GB storage for free to each converted referral, they grew by 3,900% in just 15 months!

Experiment Relentlessly

Growth hackers are not afraid to try new things and are always looking for ways to test and improve their strategies. They embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, and they view each failed experiment as a step closer to success.

For example, Facebook's early growth hacking efforts included a number of experiments, including a feature that allowed users to send virtual gifts to one another. While this feature was ultimately discontinued, Facebook learned valuable lessons about what their users wanted and didn't want, which they were able to use to inform their future growth strategies.

Be Outcome-Driven

Growth hackers are focused on achieving specific outcomes, such as increasing user acquisition or improving user engagement. They measure their success by the impact they have on their business rather than by the number of activities they complete.

For example, the growth hackers at PayPal were focused on increasing user acquisition. They came up with a referral program that offered users $20 for each sign-up and every friend they referred to the platform. The bonuses were phased out gradually. This simple referral program was incredibly effective and helped PayPal acquire 100 million new users.

Execute Without Hesitation

Growth hackers are not afraid to act quickly and decisively. They understand that time is of the essence in the fast-paced world of startups, and they know that in order to succeed, they must be able to execute their ideas quickly.

For example, when Uber realized they need gain the trust of the masses to accelerate the adoption of their app, they started offering free rides to early adopters. This catapulted them to become a multi-billion dollar company.

Have An Appetite To Fail

Finally, growth hackers have an appetite for failure. They understand that success is not guaranteed and that failure is an inevitable part of the growth hacking process. They view each failed experiment as an opportunity to learn and grow, and they are always willing to try again.

For example, when Groupon tried to launch a daily deals service for groceries, they quickly realized that it was not a viable business model. Rather than giving up, they used this experience to inform their future growth strategies and continued to experiment and iterate until they found a model that worked.

The Key Ingredient of a Growth Hacker: Experimentation

Growth hacking is a data-driven and iterative approach with experimentation at the core of achieving rapid and sustainable growth for a business.

Experimentation allows growth hackers to test their assumptions and hypotheses about what drives growth for a particular business quickly and inexpensively. By continuously experimenting, growth hackers can identify the strategies and tactics that are most effective and then scale them to drive rapid and sustainable growth.

Examples of experimentation in growth hacking include A/B testing, multivariate testing, and split testing of marketing campaigns, landing pages, and other marketing and product components.

This allows growth hackers to determine the impact of different variables, such as messaging, design, and target audience, on growth metrics, such as acquisition, retention, and conversion.

The Process of Experimentation

Understand Your Objective

Before launching any experiment, a growth hacker must have a clear understanding of their objective.

This includes identifying the problem they're trying to solve and the outcome they're looking to achieve - it could be getting new users, increasing feedback, etc.

Being clear on your objective helps to ensure that experiments are aligned with the business goals and that the results are meaningful and relevant.

Define a Clear Metric to Track

Once the objective is clear, the next step is to define a clear metric to track.

This could be a KPI, such as acquisition, retention, or conversion, or a specific goal, such as reducing the cost per acquisition or increasing customer lifetime value.

This step helps to ensure that the experiment is focused and that results can be accurately measured and analyzed.

Come Up with Ideas, a.k.a. Experiments

After defining the metric, the next step is to come up with ideas or experiments to test.

You may have to tinker with different messaging, design, and targeting to determine what works best for your specific customer base.

It's essential to have a hypothesis for each experiment that you can test. This will help guide the experiment and provide insight into why some strategies are more successful than others.

This process requires creativity and a willingness to think outside the box and test unconventional ideas.

Evaluate and Pick Your Battles

Once you have a list of experiments to test, it's crucial to prioritize and pick your battles based on their potential impact, feasibility, and resource requirements.

This will ensure that you are focusing on the experiments that have the highest potential for success and that provide the most value for your business by spending the least amount of resources.

Execute and Analyze Results

Once the experiments are selected, it's time to execute and collect data on the results.

This requires setting up tracking and analytics tools to monitor how users interact with different components of your product or marketing campaigns. This allows you to gather valuable insights such as user preferences, buying behaviors, customer lifetime value, etc.

By analyzing the results, you can determine what worked and what didn't and then refine or modify the experiments for increased success.

Document Your Learnings

It's important to document all learnings from each experiment for future reference.

This includes the hypothesis, experiment setup, results, and any insights or recommendations based on the data collected. This will help you refine your experiments over time as well as allow you to replicate successful strategies in other areas of your business.


Growth hacking is a powerful tool for driving growth and innovation in businesses.

By focusing on identifying and exploiting scalable, high-impact growth opportunities, growth hackers aim to achieve exponential growth for their companies.

Growth hacking requires a combination of technical skills, marketing savvy, and an entrepreneurial spirit, and it has become increasingly popular in the startup world as a way to get ahead of the competition and achieve success quickly.

Whether you are an entrepreneur, marketer, or simply interested in growth, understanding the principles of growth hacking can help you take your business to the next level.

Interested in mastering growth hacking? Join the course today.

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