Growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which use creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure. It can be seen as part of the online marketing ecosystem, as in many cases growth hackers are using techniques such as search engine optimization, website analytics, content marketing and A/B testing. Growth hackers focus on low-cost and innovative alternatives to traditional marketing, e.g. utilizing social media and viral marketing instead of buying advertising through more traditional media such as radio, newspaper, and television. Growth hacking is particularly important for startups, as it allows for a “lean” launch that focuses on “growth first, budgets second. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Airbnb and Dropbox are all companies that use growth hacking techniques.
Growth hacking appeared as the modern way in the age of Web 2.0 to reach a market and distribute an idea. Instead of classic marketing which typically interrupts your day, a growth hacker uses “pull”; he or she understands user behavior provides value immediately to persuade. A growth hacker wraps messaging into the fabric of the lives and thoughts of other users. A growth hacker will leverage across disciplines, pulling in insights from behavioral economics and gamification, to find the right message to pull in users. The ultimate outcome in growth hacking is that your product will eventually market itself, without extra time or money invested by you.
Some people says that growth hacking is a substitute for digital marketing, but no, it’s not. In fact, far from being separate entities, growth hacking and digital marketing are intrinsically linked. The shared mentality behind both is an emphasis on experimentation, creativity and measurement in order to accomplish goals.
In startups, growth hacking is a discipline that can be cultivated within a marketing team. In larger organizations, there can be a separate, cross-function growth contingent. Either way, growth hacking and digital marketing are two very complementary specialties ; it’s no coincidence that a quick LinkedIn search generates a multitude of profiles whose titles include “Head of Growth and SEO”, or “VP of Growth and Analytics”.
Growth hacking and marketing share the same fundamental principles, and can even share the same metrics; increased engagement, increased conversion, increased retention. The key difference between the two is the scope of their goals.
A marketer could use engagement rate to analyze an overall goal of building brand awareness. A growth hacker, by comparison, could set a goal of increasing social sharing by 50%. To put it simply, marketing activities can have a broad focus that encompasses any part of the funnel, whereas growth hacking depends on setting highly defined, achievable goals in order to reach a specific, singular outcome… growth, in case it wasn’t obvious enough.
There are many opinions on what this relatively new term means. Generally, growth hacker is used to describe how those who are often technically proficient work on marketing campaigns that use sophisticated logic processes. These kinds of processes often rely on algorithms or other logic resources, where technology helps humans make more precise decisions. One way that some describe the role of a growth hacker is that it merges the principles of marketing with the principles of engineering in order to create more accurate marketing strategies. Although this sort of IT profession is still relatively obscure, a community of growth hackers has emerged within the greater business world, where conferences and other resources may be available to help these individuals talk about how to pursue this specific type of marketing.