What Is Growth Hacking? What To Know In 2021

Gary Green
Gary Green
November 17, 2021

Strategies for growth hacking generally all have a goal of acquiring the maximum number of customers or users as possible without spending a lot of money.

Sean Ellis, the CEO and founder of GrowthHackers coins the phrase “growth hacking” back in 2010, and it has become common vernacular over the past decade among marketers who seek to maximise their revenue while minimising their expenditure.

The term “growth hacking” is often used as an umbrella for strategies that focus entirely on growth, usually, it can be found being used to refer to start-ups in their early stages that require enormous growth within a short period of time but on a tight budget.

What Are Growth Hackers?

Growth Hackers are people who use low-cost yet creative strategies to assist businesses in acquiring and retaining customers. On occasion, the term “growth marketers” may be used to refer to growth hackers, however this is somewhat of a misnomer since growth hackers aren’t just marketers. Anybody who is involved with a service or product, including engineers or product managers, may become a growth hacker if they wish to do so.

There are several common features of growth hackers. These include:

  • Having a tendency to be analytical, curious and obsessive.
  • Focusing only on strategies that relate to growing a business.
  • Hypothesising, prioritising and testing innovative strategies for growth.
  • Analysing and testing to find out what works and what doesn’t.

The best growth hackers know the best ways of setting priorities for growth, identifying channels to acquire more customers, measuring success and scaling growth.

Aren’t Growth Hacking And Marketing The Same Thing?

It may appear at first glance that growth hacking is really just marketing in a different guide. However, this isn’t actually the case. Although there isn’t always an enormous difference between the two things, there are a few variations between marketing and growth hacking that set them apart. These variations include:

Growth hackers focus on their next growth opportunity whereas marketers usually are too busy working on day-to-day branding and marketing. They utilise the whole sales funnel, even referral and retention, whereas the majority of marketers will focus on acquisition and awareness.

They run little experiments in which they test which directions show more potential and work best. Meanwhile, marketers usually work on long-term, larger projects.

Growth hackers’ work is data-driven, and this is rarely common among marketing departments. They tend to have greater technical skills like automation, tooling and programming at their disposal. Marketers lack these skills in most cases.

Growth hackers have an involvement with the product itself since they need to pay close attention to active customer retention. Marketers, meanwhile, are usually hands-off when it comes to the product.

How Does Growth Hacking Work?

Growth hacking can work in different ways for different companies. Each one needs to figure out the answers to why they grow, then look for different ways of making that happen deliberately. The “Pirate Funnel” used by Dave McClure is often adopted by start-ups as the best recipe to help them grow their companies. These come under the acronym AARRR (hence the reference to pirates!):

  • Acquisition
  • Activation
  • Retention
  • Referral
  • Revenue

Other companies use raising awareness to growth hack. The entire purpose of growth hacking is to gain visitors and traffic, then turn visitors to users, before retaining as customers those satisfied users.

How Can I Begin Growth Hacking?

It needn’t be too difficult to begin growth hacking for yourself. Once you have a product or service that people are interested in buying, you can gather the necessary data you need to understand target buyer personas so you can then begin to target your growth marketing strategies accordingly.

It’s important to update product offerings regularly and continue to get feedback from customers so you can be confident you’re staying on track. Also, your product needs to be marketed to foster ongoing growth, taking the time to track how successful those results are over time. Conversion optimisation techniques like A/B testing is vital to growth hack effectively.

Some Top Strategies For Growth Hacking

There are three primary areas within which strategies for growth hacking fall:

  • Advertising
  • Product Marketing
  • Content Marketing

It will depend on which tactics you use, but often, content marketing represents the most affordable way of getting word about your products out into the marketing. Some popular activities for content marketing include:

  • Launching a blog then creating shareable, valuable content
  • Creating content for social media
  • Guest blogging
  • Writing white papers and eBooks
  • Running webinars
  • Podcasting
  • Hosting giveaways and contents
  • Asking bloggers for reviews of your products
  • Joining relevant subreddits, groups and forums
  • Influencer marketing
  • Utilising SEO to improve content visibility
  • Email marketing for stronger connections with users
  • Getting listed on relevant sites and marketplaces

Meanwhile, product marketing involves using techniques that make your products appear more appealing in order to build up a bigger user base. These strategies include:

  • Gamifying the process of onboarding so it becomes more enjoyable, with rewards offered.
  • Leveraging FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) but using invite-only signup systems.
  • Offering an incentive for referrals which benefit new users and referrers alike.
  • Affiliate marketing (this also uses growth tactics for content marketing).

PPC (pay-per-click) and social advertising can also be employed by growth hackers to advertise their businesses.

Popular Examples Of Growth Hacking

There have been many very successful growth hack campaigns out there, with some of the most visible being:

  • Dropbox’s extra storage rewards to existing users when they invite new ones to sign up.
  • Hotmail’s appending of a line onto every outgoing email to encourage new users to register for an account.
  • Airbnb’s use of Craigslist to locate then market to individuals seeking affordable accommodation.

Many companies, from start-ups to successful corporations have leveraged growth hacking to maximise their business opportunities and make their businesses even more successful. By adopting these strategies, it’s possible to grow a company exponentially and help to take it to a far higher level of success than by simply using traditional marketing strategies.

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