What is Growth Hacking? Best Practices and Useful Tips

growth hacking

Growth hacking is the recent, but not so new term you’ve probably gotten bored of hearing from new businesses and online forums, or is confusing if it’s your first time. It is the reason we see new startups grow at a ridiculous rate each year. Marketers have used the term so often that it is now difficult to define and narrow down to what it entails. The point to note, however, is that real growth hacking is crucial for expanding a company’s market from a handful of users to millions of them.

Wikipedia says: Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across the marketing funnel, product development, sales segments, and other areas of the business to identify the most efficient ways to grow a business.


What exactly does it mean?

Growth hacking is a relatively new term that has only been around since 2010, owed to Sean Ellis, the founder and CEO of GrowthHackers. Sean once described a growth hacker as “a person whose true north is growth.” He went on to say that everything a growth hacker does is guided by its potential to influence scalable growth. Every strategy you put in place, every tool you use and every technique you invent should be scrutinized by a desire to expand.

Here are some characteristics of growth hacking:

– It amounts to sustainable and scalable growth.

– Growth hacking involves extensive testing (such as A/B price testing), regular tweaking, using different growth hacking tools, and breaking the monotony of a product, sales, and marketing strategy.

– It requires all teams in a company to work in harmony towards one goal.

As you might guess already, growth hacking is very extensive and is not limited to precise guidelines and techniques. It can be almost any action that directly results in sustainable, scalable growth, and it all depends on your company.


Examples of successful growth hacking

Although it is a relatively new term, growth hacking had existed long before it was invented. For instance, consider McDonald’s strategy of starting a branch at every interstate highway exit during the 1950’s. Upon realization that these locations were going to be big, they popped up at almost every one of them, knowing that there would be significant numbers of customers.

Presently, nearly any major startup on the market has had to employ some ingenious growth hacking techniques to increase their customer numbers drastically. Talk of Uber, Facebook, Dropbox, Airbnb, and PayPal, among others.

what is growth hacking

For instance, when Dropbox was just getting started, they were purchasing PPC ads and conducting social campaigns to attract traffic to their site, which would ideally result in more sales. They experienced considerable growth, gaining attention, traffic, and customers, but that wasn’t entirely sustainable because customer acquisition costs were rocketing.

So what did they do? They shifted to a referral-and-reward based strategy to scale their growth. They used customers to make referrals and in turn, rewarded them for their acquisition efforts. This program made their market explode.

what is growth hacking

Here is a checklist of growth hacking techniques to enable your business soar high with sustainable profits. Remember, you have to come up with growth ideas on your own.


– Get creative with your ideas

Try using various techniques for generating concepts, such as mind storming, scamper, mind mapping and so on. Find one that works best for you and make the most out of it. Even better, use several of them.

You also want to use smart tactics to attract leads. For example, try offering free trials and content at the beginning. That way, if potential customers are still reluctant to spend money, you can gradually nurture them until they are ready. You can achieve this through different tricks such as offering a free trial of your premium features for a specific number of days (like the way Spotify gives a 30-day free trial) or providing a free ebook if someone signs up for your newsletter.

what is growth hacking


– Blog to your level best

If you don’t already have a blog for marketing your brand, what’s holding you back? Customers can’t love you if they don’t have a way to know you. Blogging is your least costly and most straightforward way of getting an audience with your prospects. In this digital era, consumers tend to go straight to the web for information concerning a product before they even consider talking to a person.

Ensure you put some excellent content on your blog to captivate your readers, and then do yourself a favor and don’t stop. Once your readers are hooked, they’ll be curious to come back on a regular basis. Remember, the more information they acquire about your brand, the higher the chances you have to earn their trust and influence them to recommend you to their friends.

growth hacking

For instance, Mint (a personal financial management company) came up with the idea of a content-driven approach to stimulate growth and boost brand awareness. They fired up with mind-blowing content on an array of financial topics – like investing, credit, saving, and planning. The blog, which is now called MintLife Blog, made Mint a major player in the financial market.


– Have a specific target market

Do not target everybody. Familiarize yourself with something called the law of diffusion of innovation. It argues that to acquire the maximum market size your product must pass through several stages, such as innovators and early adopters.

what is growth hacking

There are small groups and communities that you have to target explicitly. There are several entire books written about this phenomenon. Products will either capture the first 15% of the market or go on to die there. If you target everyone at once, it will be tough to get that first 15% because you won’t even know who to convince to buy.


Embrace partnerships

Instead of hating on competition, find a way to partner with them. You might have the best product, or believe you do, but seeking partners that compliment your company will take you higher.

You get to tap into new customer bases, provide more value for customers, your brand gets more cross-marketing, and you open up more opportunities for potential new markets.


Employ the ICE test to inform your next move

In your strategies, you should be choosing the one with the most significant impact, so you don’t end up wasting your time, money and resources on tests that don’t have the biggest rewards.

Developed by Sean Ellis, the ICE test is a framework that enables you to prioritize testing:

  • Impact: if the idea works, how big will its impact be?
  • Confidence: how sure are you that the concept will work?
  • Ease: How readily can I get this test up and running?

The test is not designed to be the perfect system for prioritization of individual ideas, but it is a good system for relative prioritization. Although it’s not objectively accurate, it’s good enough to get the job done.


Conduct experiments

Be it A/B testing information on your homepage or identifying which email subject lines resonate with your readers, experimenting can help you uncover quick fixes that you wouldn’t have known to give huge results. The trick could lie in eliminating one field in your form, or add detail on your landing page. For example, when InsightSquared removed the part where users have to give up their phone numbers, they got a rise in conversions by 112%.

what is growth hacking

Social proof

The most powerful weapon of every growth hacking process is social proof. Demonstrate how you’ve already helped people with the same challenges your prospects face. This may be achieved in a number of different ways:

  1. Disclose how happy your existing clients are with the help of text and video testimonials. Although reviews don’t result in immediate purchases, they are a great way to give your prospects a little more confidence.
  2. Gather customer ratings and display them in Google search results.
  3. Display recent conversions like opt-ins or sales to boost social proof and improve your conversion rates.
  4. Feature the number of visitors on your website or a specific page. This simple trick will definitely raise the demand for your products or services.

The above-mentioned social proof tricks and many others can be implemented automatically and thoroughly with the help of testimonial platforms like Trust.

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Growth hacking isn’t just another vague concept. It could be the single most incredibly ingenious technique for expanding your market. It doesn’t matter if you are a one-man-army or a team, a marketer or an engineer. Anyone can be a growth hacker, and your most important goal is growth. Nowadays, marketing your product through conventional approaches is no longer enough. You have to adapt to survive.

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