who knows Will “growth hacking,” a term coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis, Dropbox’s original marketer, be a common thing by 2022? Considering that growth marketing wasn’t even a standard practice at a startup 12 years ago, I think it’s safe to say that we couldn’t have predicted how growth hacking would evolve.
But let’s discuss what growth hacking is and isn’t. First of all, growth hacking is not a way to code or hack to 100x growth with one clever trick. Nor is it a magical solution that only a few people in this world possess.
Growth hacking means growth. Experiment. Tiresome Growth test.
Growth hacking involves using innovative strategies with minimal resources to help startups acquire and retain customers. At the heart of growth hacking are growth marketers who use rigorous testing frameworks to run countless A/B tests to achieve rapid growth.
Let me give you an example.
During my time as head of development at Postmates, we faced major roadblocks due to limited budgets and high fleet (driver) acquisition targets. This was before the company raised a $300 million Series E from Tiger Global Management, so we had to find new ways to get crafty and acquire fleets.
If each test results in a 1% improvement, you are well on your way to 100% improvement after 100 tests.
For example, we sign up on platforms like Handshake, a college student job board, to recruit students to drive for us in their spare time for extra cash. Although this is a manual operation, it allows us to view a specific profile (for example, college students) for free. We tried many other methods to “hack” growth, but there was never a single super solution that ultimately got us bought by Uber.
In other words, it takes countless tests and lots of analysis to separate the winners from the losers.
Every large company has done some level of growth hacking. Let’s dive into some growth hacking examples and explore how you can start thinking about next steps.
How to proactively think about growth hacking
When trying to hack growth, you should start by thinking about increasing test volume while being as tactful as possible. Every startup can be successful with growth hacking by implementing a simple framework:
- Hypothetical idea.
- Stack level
To begin, a hypothesis can be motivated by key answers to questions at each stage of testing (more on that later). It is important to have sound hypotheses as it helps to ensure that there is an adequate runway for the experiments that are launched.
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