Skip to main content

What is Growth Hacking? [updated 2023]

By January 16, 2023growth hacking

We are definitely not talking about using some kind of gene therapy to help your kids grow up to be great basketball players here.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.

But I have to disagree.  Growth hacking is a marketing technique any company could use to better engage with their customers in new and unique ways.

Growth hacking describes a set of tactics and strategies used by startups and companies to rapidly acquire new customers and grow their business.

Growth hacking is a data-driven approach that uses a combination of marketing, product development, and engineering to identify and exploit opportunities for growth.

The goal of growth hacking is to achieve maximum growth in the shortest amount of time possible, often through creative and unconventional methods.

Growth Hacking is a Strategy

Growth hacking is not a replacement for your marketing.  It is a strategy you use to reach customers and attract customers in new ways that result in growth.

That growth metric is defined by you, but it is a measurable metric. That is the key to successful growth and it is the only thing a true growth hacker should be focused on.

For instance, traditional marketing is focused on building brand awareness. A growth hacker would be focused on the growth rate of the number of paying visitors.

The Growth Hacker Job Role

A growth hacker job role is typically measured on product growth.

So they are dedicated to watching the growth rate. Digital marketers are usually obsessed with improving conversion rates and engagement rates using conversion optimization and adaptive web design.  Of course these strategies are critical to online success.  A growth hacker will be monitoring overall growth numbers, growth rates by channel and focused on finding unique ways to get that growth.

The role of a growth hacker is to identify and exploit opportunities for rapid growth in a startup or company. They use a combination of marketing, product development, and engineering tactics to acquire new customers and grow the business.

A growth hacker’s main responsibilities include:

  1. Identifying key growth metrics: A growth hacker will identify the metrics that are most important to the business’s growth and track them closely to understand how the business is performing.
  2. Developing and testing growth strategies: A growth hacker will develop and test a variety of growth strategies, such as viral marketing, SEO, and content marketing, to see which ones are most effective.
  3. Analyzing data: A growth hacker will analyze data to identify patterns and trends that can be used to improve the business’s performance.
  4. Collaborating with other teams: A growth hacker will work closely with other teams, such as product development and engineering, to ensure that growth strategies are aligned with the overall goals of the business.
  5. Communicating progress and results: A growth hacker will communicate progress and results to key stakeholders, such as the CEO and investors, to keep them informed about the business’s performance.

The role of growth hacker is often considered as a hybrid role with a mix of marketing, product management and data analysis skills. The role is also often associated with early-stage startups where the need for rapid growth is crucial for survival and success.

Growth Hacking Tactics

Traditional marketers are typically not great at growth hacking.  But marketing technologists, those that understand both the world of programming and design as well as the psychology of marketing are well positioned to succeed here.

Growth hacking is not unethical.  It is not what you typically think of hackers breaking into your servers to steal and destroy.

The concept here is putting together different systems to have an unexpected output or using a system in an unexpected way that drives increased engagement and product growth.

As mentioned, analytics is the key to everything.  It will reveal whether or not you are having an impact or simply guessing at what works.  Without good metrics, bosses in the corner office typically won’t let it fly for long anyway.

Analytics will tell you if you’re impacting customer churn rates in a positive way. They’ll tell you when to stop what you’re doing and when to put on the gas.

  1. The Key.  No matter how you approach growth hacking, the key tactic is measurement.
  2. Identify Goals.  Be sure your goals are focused and measurable.  Broad goals don’t help you focus.  Narrow your goals so that you can have more focused and meaningful tasks.
  3. Experimentation. Create experiments around those goals.  Be sure before executing that you document what you expect the results to be. This will help you learn and not cheat yourself.
  4. Get Ready. Get the resources you need to complete the experiments.
  5. Learn and Optimize.  If an experiment fails, you’ve still won, but keep moving forward.
  6. Begin Again.  You’ve learned what doesn’t work, so figure out why and begin again.

There is no single “best” growth hacking strategy as the most effective tactics will vary depending on the specific business and industry.

There are several ways that growth hacking can be used to attract customers. Some strategies that have proven effective include:

  1. Viral Marketing: Creating a product or service that is easy to share and encourages users to invite their friends and family. For example, by adding referral codes or referral bonuses, that incentivize users to share the product or service with others.
  2. SEO and Content Marketing: Optimizing your website and creating valuable content to attract organic traffic from search engines. This can include keyword research, meta tags, and backlinks, as well as creating high-quality, informative content that is relevant to your target audience.
  3. Social Media Marketing: Building a strong presence on social media platforms and using targeted advertising to reach new customers. This includes creating engaging and shareable content, as well as paid advertising campaigns targeting specific demographics.
  4. Influencer Marketing: Partnering with influencers in your industry to promote your brand and reach new audiences. By working with influencers who have a large and engaged following, you can tap into their audience and get your brand in front of potential customers.
  5. Email Marketing: Building an email list and using targeted email campaigns to re-engage with customers and acquire new ones. This can include email campaigns that offer discounts or other incentives for signing up or making a purchase.
  6. Referral Marketing: Encouraging current customers to refer their friends and family in exchange for discounts or other incentives. This can be done by adding referral codes or referral bonuses to the product or service, or by creating a referral program that rewards customers for bringing in new business.

It’s important to note that a growth hacker should always be testing and experimenting with different tactics to see what works best for your business. Also, the focus should be on the customers and their needs, and not on the company’s product or service.

Testing different strategies and tactics to see what works best for your business is essential to finding the most effective growth hacking strategy for your business.

Growth Hacking Ideas to Drive 300% in New Sales

Well, I wish I had the big red button to tell you how to do this.  The problem is that growth hacking is very unique from one company to the next.

Heck, its unique from one experiment to the next.  As mentioned growth hacking is a strategy.  It isn’t something to be tried for a few months then discarded.

It is a concept and I believe we will be seeing a lot of jobs in the near future with that title.  This is the wild west of marketing and technology combined together.  It has already created upstarts and amazing companies that are using these concepts we’ve touched upon here.

John Paul Mains

John Paul Mains is the Chief Marketing Scientist at Click Laboratory. He loves all things digital, but especially SEO and analytics. If you're interested in learning more, his LinkedIn profile is


Leave a Reply

Share This
  • Get started

    1Step 1
    2Step 2

  • download-now
    Step by Step SEO Conversion Checklist

    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

    Easy to Print for Daily Use