Growth hacking only works when customized to a specific situation. One company's growth hack could be another company's downfall. That's why you need to build your own growth machinery—a set of systems unique to your product that will allow you to test and improve methodically.
Building a habit around growth hacking means knowing what strategies are right for your product, collecting a toolbox that will enable you to carry out these techniques, and getting inspired to growth hack every day.
This guide is meant to help beginners learn about growth hacking and experienced teams pick up new ideas. Here's what we'll cover:
- What is growth hacking? A short introduction to the modern myth.
- Growth hacking strategies. Growth hacking ideas you can take and apply to every stage of your customer journey.
- How to build a growth hacking toolbox. A collection of tools that will help you engineer growth in your business.
- The growth stories of great teams. Lessons and success stories from renowned growth hackers.
- Growth hacking library. Blogs, podcasts, books, and other resources to put on your daily reading list.
What is growth hacking?
Since Sean Ellis coined the phrase in 2010, the internet has been a growth hacking fest.
Sean's first definition of a growth hacker was: “a person whose true north is growth.” Shortly after, growth-focused marketing, sales, development, and project management folks started redefining their objectives as “growth hacking.”
Practicing growth hacking in your company is about applying engineering to marketing. It's about building systems that allow you to create tests and learn from them, so that you can move forward with the strategies that yield the highest rate of growth.
Growth hacking strategies
Growth hacking requires a detailed process. You need to look at moments in your user's experience, identify an experiment that could drive growth, and adapt your product in the light of what works.
To do that you need to build your own growth hacking lab in your company and learn how to experiment with growth at every stage of your customer's lifecycle. Grow your email list to acquire more users, measure engagement in your product to boost retention, experiment with referral incentives to grow a viral loop. Whatever you're working on, pick an experiment, observe the results, and tweak your product into a better version.
The more people see you, the more chances you have of finding the right audience. Use these techniques to grow acquisition:
- Your Average CAC Is Lying to You — What To Do Instead. Brian Balfour explains why Average CAC is a “faulty myth” and shows (in detail) how we should segment CAC instead.
- The Beginner's Guide to Keyword Search Volume for Marketers. The WordStream Blog helps you to find the keywords you should be targeting to build site authority.
Experimenting in your product is the most powerful leverage you have for increasing activation, but is often overlooked in favor of email and website optimizations. Start by building a compelling onboarding experience and deepen engagement with lifecycle nudges. Here are some resources to get you started:
- User Onboarding Academy. A dedicated guide to best practices and strategies to maximize user onboarding goals.
- Personalizing User Onboarding is the Best Growth Hack in the Game. How to add a personal touch to tooltips, welcome messages, and more to make a strong first impression.
- The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization. A whole 12 chapters of the what, why, and how of conversion rate optimization from survey tool Qualaroo.
How to build a growth hacking toolbox
Whether you're trying to build an email list or engineer greater product/market fit, there's a tool out there that can help you.
Before you start building a toolkit, it's important to set a goal. Some tools are for the long haul, while others just provide temporary fuel for the growth fire. Localize an area for growth and choose your target so that you can measure your success.
If the selected tools work for you and your team, explore how you can get more mileage out them through integrations.
- The Ultimate Growth Toolbox: 60 Growth Hacking Tools for Every Area of Your Product. An epic storeroom of tools you can take and plug in to your unique growth hacking machinery.
- 42 Essential User Onboarding Tools to Drive Your App's Growth. From progress bars to Gravatars, these onboarding tools can give you quick, easy ways to help users get attached to your app.
- How We're Using Free Tools to Engage Developers. “When you’re in the API business, marketing can be tricky,” says Clearbit.io's Matt Sornson. In this article, he shows how companies can find effective free tools to drive inbound leads.
- The $0 Marketing Stack: 41 Free Options to Popular Paid Services and Tools. The pieces of your marketing machinery needn't cost the earth—stack up these free tools to start experimenting with growth quickly.
The growth stories of great teams
Growth looks different for every company. That doesn't mean you have to do an Airbnb and engineer a never-before-seen strategy. You can step into the space that other growth hackers have created. Explore what strategies have worked for others and consider how you could customize them to your own growth machine.
Keep in mind that growth teams often succeed by focusing on one area and hyper-optimizing it. Growth spurts don't happen when teams try change their whole company all at once. Pinpoint your area for growth and dig into it.
For inspiration, here are some of the most innovative and successful growth stories out there. Some are classics you may have heard of already, while others are less expected.
Here are deeper dives into some of our favorite growth stories and lessons:
- Airbnb: The Growth Story You Didn't Know. How Airbnb grew with “pure, unadulterated hustle,” and engineered its own place in the market by tapping Craigslist.
- Monkey Business: The Story Behind MailChimp's Wild Growth. Breaking down the world's leading email marketing platform into the strategies that made it happen.
- How Wealthfront Disrupts a Trillion-Dollar Industry. Here's a look at the growth tactics Wealthfront used to become a leader in fintech and disrupt an established $20 trillion industry.
- Buffer's Top 10 Lessons From Growing to $10 Million ARR. From “how to learn better from customers” to “what to do if you get an offer to sell your company,” Buffer's co-founder and COO Leo Widrich shares his personal tips after reaching the major milestone of $10 Million ARR.
Growth hacking library
Your regular hit of good stuff about growth hacking. To be able to build your own growth hacks within your company, you need a regular supply of ideas, vocabularies, launch pads, and devil's advocates. Curate your own reading list from these trusted sources.
- The 20 Best Growth Hacking Blogs to Follow Right Now. A list of not-to-be-missed blogs from people who think about growth hacking all the time. Including personal blogs from people like Noah Kagan and company blogs from teams like KISSmetrics.
- A Guide to the Best Growth Hacking Books, Courses, Conferences, and More. An arsenal of tried and tested resources to give you inspiration and assurance for your growth hacking practice.
- Amplitude's Medium channel is a regular source of data-driven tips to optimize your app's acquisition, conversion, and retention.
- Growth Insights Video Series. For regular doses of growth inspiration, tune in to this Youtube series from Growth Tribe, a group of thinkers dedicated to making concise resources for marketers.
- 50 Incredible Women in Marketing to Follow. To celebrate National Women's Day last year, Huffington Post put together this ultimate list of women in marketing, each with an insight-rich Twitter feed, blog, or podcast to help keep you experimenting and inspired.