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What Is Growth Hacking And How Can You Get Started?

October 25, 2019
written by Alice de Courcy

When growth is everything but budgets are small, you have to get creative. Let’s find out more about growth hacking.


  • Growth hacking is generating leads in the fastest and most efficient way possible.
  • Make sure your product is top-notch before drawing attention to it.
  • Set precise goals so that you know what success looks like when you hit it.
  • Pick one growth strategy, implement it quickly and test it.
  • Let data drive your decisions so make sure you analyse results thoroughly.
  • Practice makes perfect.

When you first hear the term “growth hacking”, your mind fills with questions. Is it complicated? Does it work? Is it even legal?! While it sounds like a dark art, there is science and strategy behind growth hacking and it can be extremely effective when you get it right. For B2B startups that want to grow super-fast, but only have limited resources, growth hacking strategies can be a great choice.

In this article, we’re going to dive straight in and look at what it is, how it works, and how you can take the first steps on your growth hacking journey. Let’s go.

What is growth hacking?

Growth hacking is a form of lead generation and a branch of digital marketing where everything you do is designed to get the maximum number of users for the lowest possible outlay. The name is the clue; growth is everything! The ‘hacking’ part refers to the unconventional, out of the box ideas that companies try to achieve super-fast growth.

Entrepreneur Sean Ellis coined the term in 2010 and he’s now the CEO of Growth Hackers.

Because it’s about achieving a lot with a little, growth hacking is usually a method for startups. They don’t have the budgets for big advertising campaigns or star-studded launches, so they have to get creative. For B2B and SaaS companies that often need to grow quickly to reassure investors, it’s a popular strategy.

How does growth hacking work?

Growth hacking works by figuring out what makes a company grow, then looking for ways to speed up that process. It usually works to a structure, which we’ll look at later.

There are several famous examples of successful growth hacking, including:

  • Dropbox – the online storage firm offered existing users extra capacity if they referred their friends.
  • Airbnb – the online travel app leveraged the classified site Craigslist to bring early users in quickly. Even when Craigslist found out what was going on and shut it down, it was too late, Airbnb users were hooked!
  • Gmail – Google’s email app started by invite only, which created massive FOMO in the tech community. Everyone wanted one!
  • Evernote – the notes app started out with early funding woes, but with a great product and superb timing, Evernote became a multi-million dollar company with over 75 million users.

What does a growth hacker do?

We’ve seen how it works — now let’s look at what a growth hacker actually does.

As you might have guessed, a growth hacker focuses on growth. It’s one of the fundamental umbrella metrics for startups and that’s all they need to care about.

Growth hackers don’t have to be singular entities either. Anyone can be a growth hacker as long as they have the right focus.

That means being adaptable, creative, and analytical and finding unique ways of growing a company’s user base.

How to get started

The concept of growth hacking is not as anarchic as it sounds. It’s based around a rigid structure, driven by data and managing only what you can measure. Here are the five steps to success:

  • Get your product right – Before you spend time and resources getting your product in front of as many people as possible, you have to make sure that it works. You want your new users to love your product, not discard it immediately.
  • Goal setting – Set precise, measurable goals for your growth hacking campaign. If your goal is raising your number of users, define how many users you want to bring onboard. Set out what success looks like.
  • Test, test, test – You can’t run multiple growth hacking ideas at the same time, because you won’t know which ones are working. Pick one growth hacking strategy and implement it quickly.
  • Analyse – Measure your idea against previous results to gauge if it worked. Then, move on to the next one. Let the data drive your growth hacking in the right direction.
  • Improve – Perform more split tests to look for ways to improve your growth hacking campaign. Practice makes perfect.

Growth hacking ideas

There is an enormous number of ideas and strategies out there. Some involve creating content that promotes your product and getting it out to as many people as possible. Others are about making your product appear more desirable, creating a buzz around it. Here are ten ideas you can try:

  • Creating valuable blog content that your users can’t wait to share with their network.
  • Being everywhere on social media, creating memes and videos that go viral.
  • Influencer marketing – employing social media personalities with big followings amongst your target audience to promote your product.
  • Contests and giveaways – people love to win!
  • Affiliate marketing – pay affiliates a percentage of revenue to bring new users onboard.
  • Incentives for referrals – it worked for Dropbox!
  • SEO – produce content that gets your site ranked higher on Google and noticed by more people.
  • Email sequences – introduce your brand to your target audience through a series of emails.
  • PR – get your product featured by relevant publications – for SaaS startups, a good option is TechCrunch.
  • PPC or social media advertising – invest some budget in highly-targeted ads to guarantee your product is found by the audience you want.

Growth hacking resources

Besides ideas and strategies, there are lots of growth hacking resources out there to bolster your knowledge.

Growth Hackers

Sean Ellis is the CEO of Growth Hackers and the site has a community full of advice and tips collated from the Web. If you want to keep up to date, this is the best place to be.

10X Factory

Have you heard of the 10X concept? It claims that the best engineers have to be “10x as productive as the worst”. This fuelled the idea for 10X Factory and its Slack channel offers access to the best entrepreneurs in the world to ask questions, learn from other successful growth hackers.


Where would we be without Reddit? The GrowthHacking subreddit is a bustling community covering all kind of topics related to growth hacking and digital marketing.


If you’d prefer to fill your bookshelf, here are some essential growth hacking books to add to your collection:

Alice de Courcy

A passionate marketer with extensive experience in the execution of integrated and award winning customer acquisition marketing campaigns. With a sharp focus on multi-channel campaign management, lead nurturing, and content creation and distribution. Experienced B2B SaaS marketing lead. Focused on growth and scaling early-stage scale-ups

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