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What businesses need to know about the DNA of growth hacking

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Are you a growth hacker?

Growth Hacking is one of the newly used terms amongst product managers and digital marketers in Silicon Valley. Considered as an innovative approach to customer acquisition, growth hacking is at the intersection between marketing tactics and product development.

In this article I’m going to explain the impact of growth hacking on business success and showcase few examples of how it makes a difference and generates substantial growth for companies.

1. What is growth hacking? 

Aaron Ginn, the head of Stumble Upon defines growth hacking as “more of a mind-set than a tool kit. The end goal of every growth hacker is to build a self-perpetuating marketing machine that reaches millions by itself.”

What are the specific traits of a growth hacker?

Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, a mixture between marketing guru and tech geek, utilizing innovative methods, creativity, product engineering and analytical thinking to build a marketing strategy and promote their services, etc.

They think outside the box and have a different marketing approach focused on growth, effectiveness and development.
Growth hackers are result driven and problem solving oriented. They do not only solve a problem, they find shortcuts to any solution and choose the most unconventional way to do so.

A growth hacker is a marketer facing a different set of challenges and using innovative tools to get the job done easier and faster.
Growth hackers explore user behavior and how people use a product to be able to optimize every digital touchpoint to acquire new customers.

2. Growth hacking traits 

Some experts consider growth hacking to be just a new word of a well-known and old held practice amongst marketers. They think of the growth hacking process as a good way to describe how marketing in a startup.

Others believe that growth hacking does not separate product design and product effectiveness from marketing. Growth hackers build the product's potential growth, including user acquisition, monetization and retention into the product itself.

According to Josh Elman, a growth hacker in Twitter’s early stages: “Growth hacking recognizes that when you focus on understanding your users and how they discover and adopt your products, you can build features that help you acquire and retain more users, rather than just spending marketing dollars."

Neil Patel, the co-founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, says: “A growth hacker is not a replacement for a marketer. A growth hacker is not better than a marketer. A growth hacker is just different than a marketer.“ You can also have a look at his 30,000 word Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking, exploring in depth the DNA of the growth hacking phenomenon.

Here are some main traits underpinning growth hacking:

  • Mostly found in early stage start-ups
  • Growth hacking has marketing goals but different tactics
  • All-in-one combination of analytical thinking, product engineering and creativity
  • Implementation of unconventional tools to substantially increase companies’ core metrics
  • A new approach to the impact of growth
  • Targeting what’s testable, scannable and trackable
  • Cost cutting methodology and time efficiency
  • Efficient digital instruments and viral alternatives to traditional marketing
  • Automation and optimization
  • Strong focus on the application of technology
  • Higher speed and greater dimension of results

Examples of growth hacking practices

Growth hacking practices require one single question before a decision is made, that is: “How will this put an impact on growth?”

Facebook, for example, built a cross-functional growth team that covered many other departments, including HR, Marketing, Business and Product Development. Similarly, Amazon’s legendary use of A/B testing could also be considered a prominent example of growth hacking.

Explore some more company cases below:

1. Paypal’s referral scheme – Paypal gave away $10 to each new customer and $10 to the customer who referred them.
2. Hotmail tagline - Hotmail applied a signature at the bottom of all outgoing messages saying,”Get your free email at Hotmail.”
3. Dropbox's Referral Program – Dropbox offers free extra storage for each friend you invite to use their services.
4. LinkedIn’s email importing scheme – LinkedIn enabled users to import their email contacts and it sent them a note inviting them to the service.
5. Instagram cross-posting - Instagram enables posting images to Twitter and Facebook.


Overall, growth hacking aims at pushing the product to market itself by pioneering powerful techniques focused on virality, email, search engine optimization and so on.

A list of the most common tactics in the growth hacker’s arsenal includes:

• Call centers
• Content marketing
• Viral acquisition
• Paid acquisition
• Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
• Heavy data analytics
• A/B testing

Have you already implemented some of the growth hacking practices to your company strategy? Please share your insights and tips with us on Google+.

Photo Credit: davetoaster via Compfightcc

About Velly

Velly Agelova is passionate about working for Puzl - a new generation website builder connecting SMEs with their customers while helping them generate quality leads and gain strong online visibility. Keen on marketing, entrepreneurship and start-ups, she is also a blogging lover and social media addict.