Who knew? “growth hacking,” a term coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis, the first marketer at Dropbox, could become so common by 2022? Considering that growth marketing wasn’t even a formal function at startups 12 years ago, I think it’s okay to say we couldn’t have predicted how growth hacking would evolve.
But let’s discuss what growth hacking is and isn’t. First, growth hacking is not a way to code or hack your way to 100x growth with one smart tactic. Nor is it a magical solution that only a few people in this world possess.
Growth hacking actually means growth to test. exhausting growth testing.
Growth hacking involves using creative strategies with minimal resources to help startups acquire and retain customers. At the heart of growth hacking is growth marketers who use rigorous experimentation frameworks to run countless A/B tests to achieve rapid growth.
Let me give you an example.
During my tenure as growth leader at Postmates, we encountered huge roadblocks due to limited budgets and high fleet (driver) acquisition targets. This was before the company raised the $300 million Series E from Tiger Global Management, so we had to get crafty and find new ways to acquire fleet.
If each test can result in a 1% improvement, you are well on your way to 100% improvement after running 100 tests.
For example, we signed up with platforms such as Handshake, a careers site for students, to recruit students who want to drive for us for extra cash in their spare time. Although this was a manual edit, we were able to hypertarget a specific profile (e.g. students) for free. We’ve tried many other tactics to “hack” growth, but there was never one super solution that ended up being acquired by Uber.
In other words, it takes countless tests and a lot of analysis to determine the winners from the losers.
Every large company has done growth hacking at some point. Let’s look at some examples of growth hacking and explore how you can start thinking about the next steps.
How to proactively think about growth hacking
When trying to hack growth, you need to start thinking about increasing test throughput while being as methodical as possible. By implementing a fairly simple framework, any startup can be successful with growth hacking:
- Hypothesis idea.
- Stack arrangement.
- To test.
For starters, hypothesis ideation can be fueled by key answers to questions at each step of the funnel (more on that later). It is important to have a healthy number of hypotheses, as that will help ensure that there is a suitable runway for the tests being launched.