A Practical and Brief Guide to Growth Hacking

Written by: Julia Chen Julia Chen 

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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?

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.

For a shortcut, here are 30 ways to experiment with acquisition, product, and virality.  

The more people see you, the more chances you have of finding the right audience. Use these techniques to grow acquisition:

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: 


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.

  • 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 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: 

  • 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.

  • 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. 
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