Anyone working in the tech start-up marketing space in the last few years would have heard the term growth hacking, however it is starting to spread into the vocabulary of traditional businesses as well. In this short guide to growth hacking, we explore what it all means.

Wikipedia puts it as "a marketing technique developed by technology start-ups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure."

So what's that mean, really?

Instead of focusing efforts on traditional marketing, including pay per click and online display advertising, growth hackers are looking for cheaper alternatives to create interest and sell products or services.

Areas of growth hacking campaigns may include (but not limited to);

  • A/B split testing
  • Landing page optimisation
  • Search engine optimisation
  • Content marketing
  • Viral techniques
  • User generated content strategies

For example, Airbnb when they started, quickly found user traction in allowing property owners to publish straight onto Craigslist from within Airbnb. This allowed a massive traffic source, as Craigslist users started visiting the Airbnb website and booking through the service.

Another great example is Hotmail, the web-based email service, which included a 'Sent by Hotmail' comment and link at the bottom of every email sent by the system, encouraging the email recipients to come to the site and sign up themselves.

Both of these tactics were effectively free for Airbnb and Hotmail, yet drove thousands of new customers to their respective services.

Companies such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Dropbox have all credited growth hacking as one of the main drivers to their success.

The term 'growth hacker' first appeared in June 2010, in the blog post, Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup by Sean Ellis.

The common characteristic seems to be an ability to take responsibility for growth and an entrepreneurial drive (it's risky taking that responsibility). The right growth hacker will have a burning desire to connect your target market with your must have solution.

- Sean Ellis

Three common traits of a successful growth hacker

Tech Crunch in an article called 'Defining A Growth Hacker: Three Common Characteristics' states that the three most important attributes to a growth hacker are;

Data
Growth hackers have a passion for tracking and moving a metric. Without metrics or data, a growth hacker can feel out of place and uncomfortably exposed. This strong bias towards data drives a growth hacker away from vanity metrics towards metrics that will make or break the business.

Creativity
While driven by data and moving metrics, growth hackers are also creative problem solvers. A growth hacker has a vibrant mental dexterity to think of new ways to acquire and loop in users. Growth hackers do not stop at data but build into new and unknown frontiers to find growth.

Curiosity
A growth hacker has a fascination at why visitors choose to be users and engage and why some products fall flat on their face. With today's distracted users, growth hackers are habitually exploring to find new ways to push metrics up and to the right. "Growth hacking has a subtle message of 'what have you done for me today?'

We've found that these three traits ring true with all the successful growth hackers we've met in Australia and abroad.

A growth hack is something that:
• Costs little to no money
• Rapidly grows customers, engagement, retention or revenues
• Results from experimentation
• All of the above

- Jared Waxman, Yahoo!

How do you start the journey towards growth, now that you've read our short guide to growth hacking?

So, you believe growth hacking can result in great growth for your business or product, so where do you begin?

DIY
The first issue you need to consider is if you have an existing person amongst your team which already displays these mentioned characteristics, and has a deep understanding of inbound marketing techniques. Maybe it's you, or someone in your team?

Hire a growth hacker
Is it worth hiring a growth hacker? Do you have enough resources available in salary and equipment to allow to add an additional team member to your organisation, to help work on growth hacking full time for you? If so, search online forums and employment sites, and hunt for the right person.

Outsource your growth
Then there's always the outsourcing model. Remember though, that growth hacking can't be done at a very slow pace. You'll want to maintain a consistent hours per week that are reflective of how aggressive you wish to enter this space. It may take a few months to see the benefits too, so don't just try it for a month and then give up.

Good growth hackers have a deep understanding and curiosity of the how internet works. A good growth hacker will read Nudge and Predictably Irrationality and see possible growth hacks.

- Jesse Farmer

Further growth hacking information

Ryan Holiday, who visited Perth a few years ago, and spoke at the Edge of the Web conference alongside our MD, Miles Burke, wrote a fantastic book about Growth hacking, which is definitely worth getting a copy. You can find out more on his blog.

Another fantastic resource is this presentation on Slideshare about Growth Hacking, exploring '29 things you should be doing (but probably aren't).

http://www.slideshare.net/mattangriffel/29-growth-hacking-quick-wins

Resources for learning more about Growth Hacking

We have written a few blog posts recently, which can help you get started in growth hacking;

There are many resources out there about the art of hacking growth, and here are three of our favourites;

In Summary

Growth hacking can be an extremely important part of your mix, and lies somewhere between data science, marketing and technology. The right growth hacker can take your product or service from being a small affair to one with tens of thousands of engaged customers.

We trust you enjoyed our guide to growth hacking and wish you the best of luck on your path to hacking growth!