The Complete Guide To Growth Hacking In 2023

Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation, coupled with the understanding of the whole funnel, where marketing, product, data analysis, and engineering work together to achieve rapid growth. The growth hacking process goes through four key stages: analyzing, ideating, prioritizing, and testing. 

It is critical to integrate growth hacking within your business model experimentation to develop the full potential for your business.

Table of Contents



Growth HackingGrowth hacking is a marketing and business strategy that focuses on rapid and scalable growth. It emerged in the tech startup world and is characterized by using creative and innovative methods to acquire and retain customers. Growth hackers aim to achieve exponential growth quickly.
OriginsThe term “growth hacking” was popularized by Sean Ellis in 2010 when he coined it in a blog post. Ellis, a marketing expert, defined a growth hacker as someone with a singular focus on growth, distinguishing them from traditional marketers.
Key PrinciplesData-Driven: Growth hacking relies heavily on data and analytics to identify opportunities for growth and measure the success of tactics.
Experimentation: Growth hackers use a process of constant experimentation and testing to find strategies and tactics that work effectively. This involves A/B testing, rapid iterations, and learning from failures.
TacticsGrowth hacking employs various tactics, such as viral marketing, content marketing, social media optimization, search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, referral programs, and product optimization.
Viral marketing aims to create content or products that users want to share, leading to organic growth. Social media optimization focuses on optimizing social media platforms to reach and engage a broader audience.
TargetGrowth hacking is often associated with startups and tech companies aiming for rapid growth in their early stages. However, the principles of growth hacking can be applied to businesses of all sizes looking to boost customer acquisition and retention.
Challenges– While growth hacking can yield significant results, it requires a creative and data-driven mindset, and not all tactics will work for every business. There is also a risk of focusing solely on short-term growth at the expense of long-term sustainability.
Ethical Considerations– Some growth hacking tactics may push ethical boundaries, such as deceptive clickbait or aggressive user acquisition strategies. Balancing growth with ethics is a challenge for growth hackers and businesses.
Success Stories– Airbnb’s growth through its innovative Craigslist integration and Dropbox’s referral program are often cited as successful examples of growth hacking. However, the effectiveness of growth hacking varies depending on the industry and target audience.
Conclusion– Growth hacking is a dynamic and data-centric approach to achieving rapid business growth. It involves continuous experimentation and optimization of marketing and product strategies. When used ethically and effectively, it can be a powerful tool for startups and established businesses alike.


What happens when you use Growth Hacking?

Back in 2018, my blog was dead. I managed to build some traction back in 2015, as I used external channels like Quora to bring quite some referral traffic back to my blog.

But I’ve never managed to build enough traction with SEO.

Things got worse when at the end of 2016, I focused my efforts on developing the business for a high-tech startup.

The blog tumbled to the point where I was organically reaching just a couple of dozen of people per day.

Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t a bad result. However, it wasn’t either the kind of result you would get excited about.

And that was fine to me as I wasn’t using my blog anymore as a channel to sell my courses and ebooks.

Yet, in 2018 I decided things needed to change.

Thus, I started to iterate on a process that I later called SEO Hacking, which is simply the transposition of the concept of growth hacking around SEO.

Below you see the results I got:


I don’t mean to say that things happened overnight.

It took me a few months before the strategy started to pay off.

Also, it wasn’t a magic thing or a simple tactic that worked.

It was a process of rapid experimentation, enhanced by a continuous stream of ideas, tested repeatedly.

And it wasn’t effortless. Quite the opposite.

The kind of effort to make this flywheel gain momentum was insane and required trust that things would work out.

That the growth process would eventually pay off.

Thus, beyond the buzz around the growth hacking discipline, growth is a critical element of any digital business.

Thus, growth hacking offers a solid framework for achieving growth.

To really appreciate this discipline, we’ll look at three key aspects of growth hacking:

  • Mindset.
  • Process.
  • Framework.

More specifically, we’ll look at why Growth Hacking looks at the whole funnel.

What’s the critical process around it?

Why does it matter to have a must-have product or service before being able to “growth hack it?”

And what’s mindset critical to enable sustainable growth? 

Before going all-in with a growth strategy, what’s an aha experience!

This is a critical element to manufacture within your product, to make it possible for it to be easily distributed. 

What is Growth Hacking and what is not

As the story goes, in 2007, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia couldn’t afford the rent on their San Francisco apartment, which is why they decided to transform their loft into a lodging space.

Yet instead of relying on Craiglist, they built their site, which they called Airbed & Breakfast, and leveraged Craigslist to drive users back to their website,


I wish I could tell you that this is how that idea turned into a multi-billion company, known under the name Airbnb.

Airbnb is a platform business model making money by charging guests a service fee between 5% and 15% of the reservation, while the commission from hosts is generally 3%. For instance, on a $100 booking per night set by a host, Airbnb might make as much as $15, split between host and guest fees.

Airbnb didn’t grow into a multi-billion business from one day to the next with a single magic trick.

Instead, they had to undertake several experiments before seeing their listings grow.

More importantly, they had to master a process of continuous iteration that spanned across product features to marketing channels which eventually spurred an impressive growth track for the company.

Sean Ellis, one of the fathers of the discipline, called this process of continuous experimentation to achieve exponential growth: growth hacking.

Let me further define what’s not Growth Hacking so we can avoid falling into the trap of a few myths surrounding the discipline; appreciate its full potential.

Growth hacking is not a one-time marketing trick

One of the biggest misconceptions around growth hacking is that is a trick, a tactic, or a technique that all of a sudden spurs incredible growth for an organization.

While some companies might have stumbled upon a trick that gave them short-term traction.

Growth hacking is, first of all, a process. It’s not a one-time thing or trick. It requires continuous analysis, ideation, prioritization, and experimentation.

The classic growth hacking process is more like a loop, which needs to be run over and over again.

Growth hacking is not a single-person endeavor (unless you run a solo business)

Another common belief is that growth hacking is usually performed by this mythological figure, called the growth hacker.

In reality, in general, there is no such thing as a growth hacker.

There is, instead, a growth team led by a growth lead, which is in charge of coordinating the work of several people.

As we’ll see, this is usually the rule of thumb because growth hacking requires several disciplines that span from marketing, product, and engineering to run successful experiments.

The only exception might be if you’re running a solo business where in fact, you have a bunch of capabilities that go from marketing to development which indeed enable you to follow a sort of growth hacking process.

But if you’re building a startup or company made of a few people, growth hacking becomes a group process.

Growth hacking is not marketing without a budget

A dangerous misconception is that growth hacking is marketing without a budget.

Indeed, growth hacking does require thinking outside the box to find marketing channels, product features, or data that enable us to have a massive ROI on our investment.

However, a growth hacking team usually comprises people with extensive expertise.

And it might require advanced tools for analysis and experimentation, which might be expensive.

What’s matters here, again, is not the budget itself but the mindset behind it.

A growth hacking team looks for an untapped opportunity.

It looks for marketing channels that can impact the business; in the long run, it is way less expensive than a marketing strategy spent without a growth hacking mindset.

However, in the short term, having competent growth hacking might be expensive but might result in an ROI that a conventional marketing team won’t be able to achieve.

Now that we clarified some of the myths, we can go to the definition of growth hacking.

The Growth Hacking Mindset


If you look at a traditional sales, funnel you can realize right away how that creates silos within the organization.

In short, it makes people think in terms of departments.

Thus, in a traditional funnel, for example, marketing and sales will be in charge of acquisition.

And for instance, engineers and product managers might be in charge of retention (by adding product features, updating the product code, enabling more functionalities, and so on).


Yet in growth hacking, the whole funnel is in the hands of the growth hacking team, led by a growth lead who is all aligned around a North Start (we’ll see that).

In the meanwhile, it is essential to start emphasizing the process.

Emphasizing growth as a process

Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way. When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth take plenty of time, effort, and mutual support. 

by Carol S. Dweck from Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

To build a solid growth mindset, it is important to stress the process to avoid falling into the trap of believing that growth can only be achieved by a few individuals that have it as a gift.

That implies aligning your growth team around this simple fact: growth is a process.

A few ways to make sure your team internalizes growth as a process consists of:

  • Praising the process and making sure your team knows the process is what matters.
  • Reward effort, strategy, and process, not individual intelligence.
  • Learn and teach to push outside the comfort zone so that failure becomes a normal aspect of the growth process.

Once aligned with your team around the fact that growth hacking is a process, you can make sure they follow the growth hacking methodology and cycle in a continuous pattern.

The Growth Hacking method

Sean Ellis in Hacking Growth shows the growth hacking methodology as follows,

The process is simple yet powerful. From data analysis to testing and back to that analysis, the growth loop must be followed consistently.

We start with data analysis and insights to gather and generate as many ideas as possible.

It is essential to highlight that ideas can come from anywhere and from anyone on the team.

There isn’t a single department or person within the organization in charge of generating ideas.

In addition, often, good ideas might come from what seem completely disconnected domains.

So it’s essential to keep the idea-generation process as open as possible.


Once those ideas have been brainstormed, it is possible to evaluate each idea’s impact and how hard it might be to experiment.

For instance, changing a landing page color might be simple to implement, with a potentially high impact if you have many users.

However, if you have a few users, the problem is not optimizing the conversion process.

But instead focusing on acquiring users in the first place. Thus, other ideas might have a priority.

Once experiments have been designed and weighed against potential outcomes and difficulty of implementation (specific experiments might require a few resources, others might require extensive resources), it is possible to start testing those who have a priority.

Then you can go back and measure what experiments had the most impact.

Only then to proceed with a full roll-out.

For instance, if changing the landing page color didn’t affect the conversion, it makes sense to revert it.

Thus, it is essential that those experiments are reversible, rolled out gradually, and evaluated against other options.

This I like to call asymmetric bets!

Another dimension of asymmetric betting is given by how impactful the idea can be to the business. When we have asymmetric bets that can have a high impact and are easy to reverse, we get to the “Jackpot” and go into an “All-In-Mode” of action! And how easy to reverse.

Those are experiments with large potential upsides, very limited downsides, and cheap/fast to experiment.

However, you must speed up the iteration process to stumble upon these asymmetric bets.

In many cases, those asymmetric bets result from random tinkering. 

Since asymmetric bets are usually rolled out at a small scale, they carry a limited downside.

And often times they flip upside down your understanding of a discipline as they bust best practices. 

Those are real gems that make you find new real-world truths, also randomly, which completely make your previous assumptions irrelevant. 

Thus, fast iteration, an idea pipeline, and a prioritization framework, make you find these asymmetric bets.

While they are cheap (once you find them), the iteration process is expensive, as it requires a continuous loop built into your experimental business framework. 

And asymmetric bets might come out as a result of that. 

Before we can push at full speed on a growth strategy, we must make sure that all the pieces come together. Let’s see how.

What are some of the prerequisites of an effective growth hacking strategy?

Before realizing the full potential of a growth hacking strategy, it is essential to understand its foundations.

A multidisciplinary team is the rule of thumb

Unless you are a solopreneur who has a deep competence in multiple disciplines.

A growth hacking team has to be also comprised of individuals whose competence goes from marketing to development, data analysis, product management, and more.

This is a crucial ingredient as your growth team will be aligned around the same objective.

Usually, a good fit for a growth team is called, in HR lingo, a T-shaped profile:


Source: FourWeekMBA

Thus, a person with deep competence and expertise in a field and a broader competence spans several business areas.

Must-have product or service

Marc Andreessen defined Product/market fit as “being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.” According to Andreessen, that is a moment when a product or service has its place in the market, thus enabling traction for the company offering that product or service.

The foundation of a successful growth hacking strategy, as highlighted in the book Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis, it’s a must-have product or service.

In short, if you were to survey your existing customer base, announce to them how disappointed they would be if you shut down your product or service.

If the answer is “very disappointed, ” you have a must-have product.

If you’re not there yet, you need to work a bit more on the product and service to understand why it’s not a must-have.

There are several ways to understand whether your customers or users are close to perceiving your product or service as a must-have.

For instance, if you were to survey them to ask what makes your product unique to them.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of the ability of a product or service to attract word-of-mouth advertising. NPS is a crucial part of any marketing strategy since attracting and then retaining customers means they are more likely to recommend a business to others.

Suppose you got a lot of conflicting answers.

It might mean there is not yet a clear value proposition that makes your product unique and sticky.

So you need to manufacture the so-called “aha experience.”

Manufacturing the aha experience

An “aha experience” might be defined as the moment in which your users or customers appreciate your product’s or service’s full potential.

It’s that moment when they realize what makes your product unique and special. So much so that they want to tell others.

When you do have that aha experience, your product might be on the way to becoming a must-have.

Of course, the aha experience will depend on your product or service.

For instance, for a social network like Facebook, that was the realization that after having a certain number of friends in the network, the product would become sticky.

Or if you offer an email list software, that might happen when the newsletter becomes big enough for your customer to appreciate the full potential of your software.

Thus, once you have identified that aha experience, it is essential to align your product feature to enable users or customers to reach that moment.

So that you can make your product sticky.

And when that happens, it becomes the right time to push as much as possible on growth.

Thus, speeding up the process of experimentation!

Finding your North Star!

As growth hacking enables you to unlock data not available before (in your team, you might have a data scientist or someone very good with data), that might cause you and your team to fall into the trap of looking at too many metrics to assess the success of a growth strategy.

While each experiment might have its own metrics.

It is important to find your North Star, or these 2-to 3 metrics which might impact your business.

A north star metric (NSM) is any metric a company focuses on to achieve growth. A north star metric is usually a key component of an effective growth hacking strategy, as it simplifies the whole strategy, making it simpler to execute at high speed. Usually, when picking up a North Start Metric, it’s critical to avoid vanity metrics (those who do not really impact the business) and instead find a metric that really matters for the business growth.

In this way, you have the compass to understand whether the growth process is moving in the right direction.

Switching on the engines of growth


When you align your team around the growth hacking mindset, process, and method.

When you’ve built a team of T-shaped profiles aligned around growth.

And you’ve built a must-have product or service, which produced the aha experience for its users or customers. That is when growth can be unlocked at its full potential.

For that matter, you’ll have three engines of growth:

  • Paid engine.
  • Sticky engine.
  • And viral engine.

From there, you’ll be able to experiment with several marketing channels and find the ones that fit most of your growth stage, industry, and product.

Iteration and continuous discovery, and innovation

That is a process that requires a continuous feedback loop to develop a valuable product and build a viable business model. Continuous innovation is a mindset where products and services are designed and delivered to tune them around the customers’ problems and not the technical solution of its founders.

When dealing with the growth of a digital business or with a physical business transitioning more and more into the digital space, it’s important to understand this is a process of continuous discovery. 

In short, growth hacking in the context of continuous innovation (see the FourWeekMBA interview with Ash Maurya) can be extremely powerful because it enables companies to experiment quickly while keeping in mind their long-term mission. 

In that context, growth hacking becomes a robust process to follow, especially in the growth stage of an organization. 

Growth channels are mediums in which an organization acquires and retains customers. 

Understanding growth channels

Today, businesses have never had more opportunities to grow their customer base. There are now a bewildering array of potential growth channels which are simply defined as any specific means of acquiring and retaining customers.

For a business to determine which channels it should use, some important questions need to be answered:

  • Who are the customers and how can they be reached? Surveying and market research can help teams become ultra-specific on these points.
  • What is a typical customer pathway and how can they be attracted? Flow charts can detail exactly how a customer reaches a business. One customer may attend a trade show, speak with a company representative at a booth, and then use a referral code to purchase a product. Another may listen to the podcast of a social media influencer and then respond to a marketing message.
  • Which are the best performing pathways? Each should be ranked on metrics such as volume, conversion rate, repeatability, level of effort, and so forth. Then, it’s important to determine the ROI for each channel and seek to maximize it.

When we talk about growth channels, it’s also worth making the distinction between traction and scale. Traction involves a business finding its first customers by experimenting with various growth channels and determining future profitability. Growth can then be scaled once product-market fit has been created, but certain channels are better than others. Email, for example, is not considered to be a scalable growth strategy.

With that said, we have detailed some of the more suitable scalable channels in the next section.

Scalable growth channel examples

Growth hacker Brian Balfour argues there are only five scalable growth channels that the most successful startups have utilized over the past decade. In fact, Balfour noted that most companies were able to scale to millions of users with just one or two channels.

The five scalable growth channels are:

Search engine marketing (SEM) and display advertising

Such as TripAdvisor, Amazon,, and other online comparison sites with high lifetime value (LTV).

One of the first mentions of customer lifetime value was in the 1988 book Database Marketing: Strategy and Implementation written by Robert Shaw and Merlin Stone. Customer lifetime value (CLV) represents the value of a customer to a company over a period of time. It represents a critical business metric, especially for SaaS or recurring revenue-based businesses.

Most of these sites are from industries such as financial services, tech, and healthcare.


The social media platform is a scalable growth channel in its own right. Companies that have profited from this potential include Zynga and Instagram.

However, it is more difficult to scale using Facebook than it once was. LinkedIn and to a lesser extent Pinterest may be taking its place.

Sales and partnerships

This is a versatile channel that comes in many forms. The most successful companies in this space are PayPal, Oracle, IBM, Salesforce, and Apple.

Viral (word of mouth)

While some growth channels become saturated and less effective over time, word of mouth is an evergreen strategy that relies on a positive feedback loop.

However, it can also be more difficult to replicate. Companies that have cracked the code include Uber, Evernote, and Groupon.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO or search engine optimization stands for the practice of improving the understanding of your web pages for commercial search engines to enable them to connect you with your core audience, thus bring organic traffic back to your website. SEO can be done on-page or off-page.

SEO is another more traditional strategy that is still a viable growth channel today. HubSpot, Quora, and Medium are prime examples.

Recap on growth channels

  • Growth channels are mediums in which an organization acquires and retains customers.
  • Modern businesses are spoilt for choice in terms of the channels they can use, so it is important to choose wisely. Before moving forward, the company should define where its customers reside and identify several customer pathways. It should then choose the most effective pathway based on metrics such as conversion rate, level of effort, etc.
  • There are only five scalable growth channels that the most successful startups have utilized over the past decade: SEM and advertising, Facebook, sales and partnerships, viral (word of mouth), and SEO.

Growth Channels Case Studies

Growth Hacking ChannelDescriptionExamplesWhen to Use
Content MarketingCreating and promoting high-quality content to attract and engage a target audience.Blog posts, ebooks, videos, infographicsUse when building brand authority and educating users.
Email MarketingLeveraging email campaigns to nurture leads, drive conversions, and retain customers.Newsletters, drip campaigns, product updatesEffective for customer retention and lead nurturing.
Social Media MarketingUtilizing social platforms for brand awareness, engagement, and viral marketing.Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedInIdeal for creating buzz, interacting with audiences, and virality.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)Optimizing web content to rank higher in search engine results, driving organic traffic.Keyword optimization, on-page SEO, backlinksBest for long-term visibility and organic traffic growth.
Paid AdvertisingRunning targeted ads on platforms like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and others to acquire users.Google Ads, Facebook Ads, display adsUse for quick user acquisition and targeting specific demographics.
Referral MarketingEncouraging existing customers to refer new customers, often through incentives or rewards.Referral programs, referral linksEffective when aiming for low-cost user acquisition.
Influencer MarketingCollaborating with industry influencers to promote products or services to their followers.Sponsored posts, influencer partnershipsEffective for reaching niche audiences and building trust.
Viral MarketingCreating content or campaigns designed to spread rapidly through social sharing and word-of-mouth.Viral videos, challenges, social sharing buttonsUse when aiming for rapid, organic growth through sharing.
Product-Led GrowthBuilding a product that drives its own user adoption through user experience and value delivery.Freemium models, trial versions, self-service onboardingIdeal for SaaS and digital products aiming for user adoption.
A/B TestingExperimenting with different variations of webpages, emails, or features to optimize performance.A/B tests for headlines, CTAs, design changesUse to refine and improve conversion rates systematically.
Community BuildingFostering a loyal user community through forums, discussion boards, and social groups.Online forums, social media groups, chat platformsEffective when creating a user-driven community around your product.
User-generated ContentEncouraging users to create and share content related to the product or brand.User reviews, testimonials, user-generated videosUse when aiming to build social proof and trust.
Growth Hacking ToolsUsing software and tools to automate, analyze, and optimize growth strategies.Analytics tools, marketing automation platformsIdeal for streamlining growth efforts and data-driven decisions.
App Store Optimization (ASO)Optimizing mobile app listings to improve discoverability and downloads.Keyword optimization, compelling app descriptionsBest for mobile app developers aiming for app store visibility.
Partnerships and AlliancesCollaborating with complementary businesses to expand reach and customer base.Co-marketing campaigns, affiliate partnershipsEffective for leveraging partner networks and mutual benefits.
Events and WebinarsHosting or participating in events and webinars to showcase expertise and engage with prospects.Webinar series, industry conferences, virtual eventsUse to demonstrate thought leadership and engage with a live audience.
Landing Page OptimizationOptimizing landing pages to improve conversion rates and user sign-ups.A/B testing of landing page elements, clear CTAsEffective when driving traffic to specific conversion points.
Content SyndicationDistributing content on multiple platforms and publications to reach wider audiences.Guest posting, content partnershipsIdeal for expanding content reach and building backlinks.
GamificationIncorporating game-like elements and rewards into products or apps to increase user engagement.Loyalty programs, badges, points systemsUse when enhancing user engagement and loyalty is crucial.
Chatbots and AIImplementing chatbots and AI-driven interactions to enhance user experience and support.Customer support chatbots, AI-driven recommendationsEffective for providing 24/7 support and personalized experiences.
CrowdfundingUsing platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to raise funds and build a user base for new products.Crowdfunding campaigns, backer rewardsIdeal for startups and innovative product launches.

Applications of Growth Hacking – Case Studies

CompanyIndustryCase Study DescriptionGrowth Hacking Tactic
DropboxCloud StorageAchieved rapid user growth through its referral program, offering extra storage space for referring friends.Referral Program
AirbnbShort-Term RentalsHost referral program incentivized hosts to invite new hosts, expanding property listings on the platform.Referral Program
TinderOnline DatingIntroduced the “Swipe Right” feature for quick matches, resulting in engaging user interactions and rapid growth.User Interface Enhancement
QuoraQ&A PlatformSent email notifications about relevant topics and questions, encouraging user engagement and growth.Email Marketing
PinterestSocial MediaImplemented the “Pin It” button for easy content sharing, driving user-generated content and platform growth.Social Sharing Feature
UberRide-SharingUtilized a driver referral program that rewarded drivers for referring new drivers, expanding the driver network.Referral Program
LyftRide-SharingEmployed creative marketing stunts like “Taco Mode” with Taco Bell to attract user attention and achieve growth.Viral Marketing Campaign
DuolingoLanguage LearningIncorporated gamification elements and competitive features to keep users engaged and motivated to learn.Gamification
LinkedIn’s “People You May Know”Professional NetworkingSuggested connections based on existing connections, encouraging users to expand their networks.User Suggestion Feature
Candy Crush SagaMobile GamingEncouraged social sharing and friend invites, fostering user engagement and fueling growth.Social Sharing Feature
MailchimpEmail MarketingOffered a “Free Forever” plan for small businesses, attracting users who later upgraded to paid plans.Freemium Model
AirtableCollaborative DatabaseBuilt a community of power users who shared templates and solutions, expanding the user base.User-Generated Content
Snapchat StreaksSocial MediaIntroduced streaks to encourage daily interactions between users, driving engagement and retention.Gamification
BuzzFeedMedia and EntertainmentProduced viral quizzes and listicles that encouraged social media sharing, attracting a large online audience.Viral Content Creation
Refinery29Media and FashionLeveraged social media influencers and partnerships to reach a wider audience and grow readership.Influencer Marketing
PayPalOnline PaymentsOffered referral bonuses for users who referred friends, contributing to rapid growth of its user base.Referral Program
Duolingo’s Language IncubatorLanguage LearningCrowdsourced course creation, allowing users to contribute to new language courses and expand the user base.User-Generated Content
Slack’s Integration DirectoryTeam CollaborationMaintained a directory of integrations and apps that encouraged developers to build for the platform.Developer Ecosystem
Dropbox’s Campus Ambassador ProgramCloud StorageRecruited college students as ambassadors to promote the service on campuses, driving user sign-ups.Campus Ambassador Program
Spotify’s Personalized PlaylistsMusic StreamingCurated playlists and offered personalized recommendations, keeping users engaged and returning for more music.Personalization and Recommendation
TikTokSocial MediaEncouraged user-generated content with easy-to-use video creation tools, fostering viral trends and user growth.User-Generated Content
YelpReviews and RatingsBuilt a strong online community by encouraging users to write reviews, attracting more businesses and users.User-Generated Content
GrouponDeals and DiscountsLeverage the “Group Buying” concept, offering discounts that required a certain number of people to purchase.Group Buying Model
WhatsAppMessagingFocused on providing a simple and reliable messaging experience, leading to organic word-of-mouth growth.User Experience Design
Dropbox’s “Get Space” CampaignCloud StorageIncentivized user engagement with actions like referring friends and connecting social media accounts.Incentive Marketing
RobinhoodFintechOffered a referral program with free stock rewards, encouraging users to refer friends and grow the user base.Referral Program
Tinder’s “Swipe Night”Online DatingLaunched an interactive video series within the app, driving user engagement and fostering connections.Interactive Content
Twitter “Follow Suggestions”Social MediaIntroduced the “Follow Suggestions” feature, recommending users to follow based on their interests.User Suggestion Feature
CanvaGraphic DesignProvided a simple and intuitive design platform, resulting in organic sharing and growth among users.User Experience Design
Mint.comPersonal FinanceLeveraged blog content and infographics to educate users about personal finance, attracting a large user base.Content Marketing
HubSpotInbound MarketingCreated valuable, educational content to attract and engage users, building a large audience of marketers.Content Marketing
ZillowReal EstateDeveloped home value estimation tools that encouraged user engagement and repeat visits to the platform.Valuable Tools and Calculators
MediumPublishingImplemented a paywall and premium content, enticing readers to subscribe for access to exclusive articles.Subscription Model
FitbitFitness and WearablesLeveraged partnerships with corporate wellness programs to offer Fitbit devices to employees, driving sales.B2B Partnership
Pinterest’s “Related Pins”Social MediaIntroduced the “Related Pins” feature, suggesting additional content to users, increasing engagement and sharing.Personalized Content Recommendations
Yelp’s “Review Solicitation”Reviews and RatingsEncouraged users to write reviews by providing incentives and reminders, increasing user-generated content.User Engagement Strategies
Uber EatsFood DeliveryUtilized limited-time promotions and discounts to incentivize users to place orders and try the service.Limited-Time Offers
Harry’sMen’s GroomingLaunched a viral marketing campaign called “The Truman Show” to create buzz and attract new customers.Viral Marketing Campaign
BufferSocial MediaUtilized transparency and educational content to attract and retain users, building a loyal user base.Content Marketing
Dropbox’s Public LaunchCloud StorageAnnounced the public launch of Dropbox with a simple video demonstration, generating widespread interest.Video Marketing
Yelp’s “Elite Squad”Reviews and RatingsCreated an “Elite Squad” of active reviewers who received special recognition and events, encouraging engagement.User Community Building
HootsuiteSocial MediaOffered a free plan with limited features, enticing users to upgrade to paid plans for advanced functionality.Freemium Model
EvernoteNote-TakingLaunched an early version of its product and offered free accounts with limited storage, driving early user adoption.Early Product Release

Key Highlights

  • Definition & Process:
    • Growth hacking is a blend of marketing, product, data analysis, and engineering aimed at rapid business growth.
    • It involves a cyclical process of analyzing, ideating, prioritizing, and testing.
  • Benefits:
    • The technique can revitalize stagnant platforms, as illustrated by a blog that leveraged ‘SEO Hacking’ to regain traction.
    • Growth hacking emphasizes a systematic approach over isolated tactics or tricks.
  • Essential Aspects:
    • Growth hacking focuses on the entire funnel, not just acquisition.
    • It requires a product or service to be a ‘must-have’ before it can be effectively ‘growth hacked’.
    • A growth mindset is crucial for sustainable growth.
  • Misconceptions:
    • Growth hacking is not just about a one-time marketing gimmick.
    • It is a collaborative effort, not just the work of a single ‘growth hacker’.
    • Growth hacking is not simply marketing without a budget; it requires an innovative approach to achieve high ROI.
  • Growth Hacking Mindset:
    • The strategy breaks down traditional departmental silos and focuses on the entire sales funnel.
    • Growth is viewed as a continuous process, emphasizing iteration and experimentation.
  • Methodology:
    • The growth hacking method involves continuous loops of data analysis, ideation, prioritization, testing, and revisiting data.
    • Teams are encouraged to identify ‘asymmetric bets’ – high-reward, low-risk experiments.
    • Teams need to be multidisciplinary, often with T-shaped profiles (broad knowledge with deep expertise in one area).
  • Pre-requisites for Growth Hacking:
    • A must-have product or service is essential.
    • Teams should aim to identify and foster an ‘aha experience’ for users, making the product indispensable.
    • Key metrics, or a ‘North Star’, should guide the growth process.
  • Growth Channels:
    • Growth channels are mediums through which organizations acquire and retain customers.
    • Important questions include identifying who the customers are, how they can be reached, and the most effective pathways to them.
    • Brian Balfour identifies five primary scalable growth channels: Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and advertising, Facebook, sales and partnerships, viral (word of mouth), and SEO.
  • Examples:
    • Companies like TripAdvisor and Amazon use SEM and advertising, while Airbnb and others have leveraged the viral channel.
    • SEO remains a viable strategy with companies like HubSpot and Quora exemplifying its success.

Digital marketing channels

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, and email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Go-to-Market Strategy

A go-to-market strategy represents how companies market their new products to reach target customers in a scalable and repeatable way. It starts with how new products/services get developed to how these organizations target potential customers (via sales and marketing models) to enable their value proposition to be delivered to create a competitive advantage.

Growth Matrix 

In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode). Or perhaps by tackling new problems for new customers (reinvent mode).

Key takeaways

  • Growth hacking is not a marketing trick but a mindset, methodology, and discipline followed by growth teams.
  • Usually, growth hacking goes through a process of analysis, ideation, prioritization, and testing. It’s not a one-time thing but a continuous process.
  •  A growth hacking team is usually comprised of T-shaped individuals with core expertise and competence, and a broader understanding of several disciplines.
  • Growth hacking requires a solid product or service, which is a must-have for users and customers. That also requires the so-called aha experience, when users and customers perceive the value of the product and service in full.
  • When you reach that must-have status, you can push and prioritize the speed of experimentation, as you’ll get the most results from your growth efforts!


Key Insights

  • Growth Hacking Definition: Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation, involving marketing, product, data analysis, and engineering working together to achieve rapid growth.
  • Growth Hacking Process: The growth hacking process consists of four key stages: analyzing, ideating, prioritizing, and testing.
  • Integration in Business Model: Integrating growth hacking within your business model experimentation is critical to unlock the full potential of your business.
  • Not a One-Time Trick: Growth hacking is not a one-time marketing trick; it’s a continuous process that requires analysis, ideation, and experimentation.
  • Multidisciplinary Team: A growth hacking team is usually a multidisciplinary group of individuals with core expertise in various fields, working together to achieve growth.
  • Must-Have Product or Service: A must-have product or service that creates an “aha experience” for users is foundational to a successful growth hacking strategy.
  • Scalable Growth Channels: Growth hacking involves finding and leveraging scalable growth channels such as search engine marketing, Facebook, sales and partnerships, viral marketing, and search engine optimization.
  • Growth Hacking Mindset: The growth hacking mindset emphasizes a learn-and-help-learn framework, where failure is considered part of the growth process.
  • Continuous Iteration and Innovation: Continuous iteration, innovation, and experimentation are crucial elements of growth hacking to unlock its full potential.
  • North Star Metric: Growth hacking requires finding a North Star metric to align the team’s efforts and track progress toward growth goals.
  • Three Engines of Growth: Once a must-have product and growth channels are identified, three engines of growth are unlocked: paid engine, sticky engine, and viral engine.
  • Team Effort: Growth hacking is not a single-person endeavor; it requires a team effort and collaboration to be successful.

Related Growth Concepts

Business Development

Business development comprises a set of strategies and actions to grow a business via a mixture of sales, marketing, and distribution. While marketing usually relies on automation to reach a wider audience, and sales typically leverage a one-to-one approach. The business development’s role is that of generating distribution.

Market Development

Market development is a growth-centric strategy that businesses use to identify or develop new market segments for existing products. Companies utilize the market development strategy to discover new potential buyers of their products or services.


A total addressable market or TAM is the available market for a product or service. That is a metric usually leveraged by startups to understand the business potential of an industry. Typically, a large addressable market is appealing to venture capitalists willing to back startups with extensive growth potential.

Growth Engineering

Growth engineering is a systematic, technical approach to the improvement of conversion and the user experience. Combined with business engineering it helps business people build valuable companies from scratch.

Growth Hacking

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.


Blitzscaling is a business concept and a book written by Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn Co-founder) and Chris Yeh. At its core, the concept of Blitzscaling is about growing at a rate that is so much faster than your competitors, that make you feel uncomfortable. In short, Blitzscaling is prioritizing speed over efficiency in the face of uncertainty.

Engines of Growth

In the Lean Startup, Eric Ries defined the engine of growth as “the mechanism that startups use to achieve sustainable growth.” He described sustainable growth as following a simple rule, “new customers come from the actions of past customers.” The three engines of growth are the sticky engine, the viral engine, and the paid engine. Each of those can be measured and tracked by a few key metrics.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

fixed mindset believes their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that cannot be developed. The two mindsets were developed by American psychologist Carol Dweck while studying human motivation. Both mindsets are comprised of conscious and subconscious thought patterns established at a very young age. In adult life, they have profound implications for personal and professional success. Individuals with a growth mindset devote more time and effort to achieving difficult goals and by extension, are less concerned with the opinions or abilities of others. Individuals with a fixed mindset are sensitive to criticism and may be preoccupied with proving their talents to others.

Sales vs. Marketing

The more you move from consumers to enterprise clients, the more you’ll need a sales force able to manage complex sales. As a rule of thumb, a more expensive product, in B2B or Enterprise, will require an organizational structure around sales. An inexpensive product to be offered to consumers will leverage on marketing.

STP Marketing

STP marketing simplifies the market segmentation process and is one of the most commonly used approaches in modern marketing. The core focus of STP marketing is commercial effectiveness. Marketers use the approach to select the most valuable segments from a target audience and develop a product positioning strategy and marketing mix for each.

Sales Funnels vs. Flywheels

The sales funnel is a model used in marketing to represent an ideal, potential journey that potential customers go through before becoming actual customers. As a representation, it is also often an approximation, that helps marketing and sales teams structure their processes at scale, thus building repeatable sales and marketing tactics to convert customers.

Pirate Metrics

Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.


The general concept of Bootstrapping connects to “a self-starting process that is supposed to proceed without external input.” In business, Bootstrapping means financing the growth of the company from the available cash flows produced by a viable business model. Bootstrapping requires the mastery of the key customers driving growth.

Sales Cycle

A sales cycle is the process that your company takes to sell your services and products. In simple words, it’s a series of steps that your sales reps need to go through with prospects that lead up to a closed sale.


Distribution represents the set of tactics, deals, and strategies that enable a company to make a product and service easily reachable and reached by its potential customers. It also serves as the bridge between product and marketing to create a controlled journey of how potential customers perceive a product before buying it.

Zero to One

Zero to One is a book by Peter Thiel. But it also represents a business mindset, more typical of tech, where building something wholly new is the default mode, rather than building something incrementally better. The core premise of Zero to One then is that it’s much more valuable to create a whole new market/product rather than starting from existing markets.

Digital Marketing Channels

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.


RevOps – short for Revenue Operations – is a framework that aims to maximize the revenue potential of an organization. RevOps seeks to align these departments by giving them access to the same data and tools. With shared information, each then understands their role in the sales funnel and can work collaboratively to increase revenue.

Logrolling Negotiation

In a logrolling negotiation, one party offers a concession on one issue to gain ground on another issue. In logrolling, there is no desire by either party to advertise the extent of their power, rights, or entitlements. This makes it a particularly effective strategy in complex negotiations where partial or complete impasses exist.

Win-Win Negotiation

Win-win negotiations first rose to prominence during the 1980s, thanks in part to books like Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton’s bestseller Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Having said that, there was also a shifting mindset at the time as negotiators saw win-win negotiations as preferable to the then-dominant win-lose approach. A win-win negotiation is a negotiation outcome resulting in a mutually acceptable and beneficial deal for all involved parties.


In negotiation theory, BATNA stands for “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement,” and it’s one of the key tenets of negotiation theory. Indeed, it describes the best course of action a party can take if negotiations fail to reach an agreement. This simple strategy can help improve the negotiation as each party is (in theory) willing to take the best course of action, as otherwise, an agreement won’t be reached.


In negotiation, WATNA stands for “worst alternative to a negotiated agreement,” representing one of several alternative options if a resolution cannot be reached. This is a useful technique to help understand what might be a negotiation outcome, that even if negative is still better than a WATNA, making the deal still feasible.


The ZOPA (zone of possible agreement) describes an area in which two negotiation parties may find common ground. Indeed, ZOPA is critical to explore the deals where the parties get a mutually beneficial outcome to prevent the risk of a win-lose, or lose-win scenario. And therefore get to the point of a win-win negotiation outcome.

Revenue Modeling

Revenue modeling is a process of incorporating a sustainable financial model for revenue generation within a business model design. Revenue modeling can help to understand what options make more sense in creating a digital business from scratch; alternatively, it can help in analyzing existing digital businesses and reverse engineer them.

Customer Experience Map

Customer experience maps are visual representations of every encounter a customer has with a brand. On a customer experience map, interactions called touchpoints visually denote each interaction that a business has with its consumers. Typically, these include every interaction from the first contact to marketing, branding, sales, and customer support.

AIDA Model

AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. That is a model that is used in marketing to describe the potential journey a customer might go through before purchasing a product or service. The AIDA model helps organizations focus their efforts when optimizing their marketing activities based on the customers’ journeys.

Social Selling

Social selling is a process of developing trust, rapport, and a relationship with a prospect to enhance the sales cycle. It usually happens through tech platforms (like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and more), which enable salespeople to engage with potential prospects before closing the sale, thus becoming more effective.

CHAMP Methodology

The CHAMP methodology is an iteration of the BANT sales process for modern B2B applications. While budget, authority, need, and timing are important aspects of qualifying sales leads, the CHAMP methodology was developed after sales reps questioned the order in which the BANT process is followed.

BANT Sales Process

The BANT process was conceived at IBM in the 1950s as a way to quickly identify prospects most likely to make a purchase. Despite its introduction around 70 years ago, the BANT process remains relevant today and was formally adopted into IBM’s Business Agility Solution Identification Guide.

MEDDIC Sales Process

The MEDDIC sales process was developed in 1996 by Dick Dunkel at software company Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC). The MEDDIC sales process is a framework used by B2B sales teams to foster predictable and efficient growth.

Virtuous Cycles

The virtuous cycle is a positive loop or a set of positive loops that trigger a non-linear growth. Indeed, in the context of digital platforms, virtuous cycles – also defined as flywheel models – help companies capture more market shares by accelerating growth. The classic example is Amazon’s lower prices driving more consumers, driving more sellers, thus improving variety and convenience, thus accelerating growth.

Sales Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Enterprise Sales

Enterprise sales describes the procurement of large contracts that tend to be characterized by multiple decision-makers, complicated implementation, higher risk levels, or longer sales cycles.

Outside Sales

Outside sales occur when a salesperson meets with prospects or customers in the field. This sort of sales function is critical to acquire larger accounts, like enterprise customers, for which the acquisition process is usually longer, more complex and it requires the understanding of the target organization. Thus the outside sales will cut through the noise to acquire a large enterprise account for the organization.


A freeterprise is a combination of free and enterprise where free professional accounts are driven into the funnel through the free product. As the opportunity is identified the company assigns the free account to a salesperson within the organization (inside sales or fields sales) to convert that into a B2B/enterprise account.

Palantir Acquire, Expand, Scale Framework

Palantir is a software company offering intelligence services from governments and institutions to large commercial organizations. The company’s two main platforms Gotham and Foundry, are integrated at enterprise-level. Its business model follows three phases: Acquire, Expand, and Scale. The company bears the pilot costs in the acquire and expand phases, and it runs at a loss. Where in the scale phase, the customers’ contribution margins become positive.

Consultative Selling

Consultative selling is a sales approach favoring relationship building and open dialogue to adequately meet the needs of a prospective customer. By building trust quickly a consultative selling approach can help the customer better meet her/his expectations and the salesperson hit her/his targets more effectively.

Unique Selling Proposition

A unique selling proposition (USP) enables a business to differentiate itself from its competitors. Importantly, a USP enables a business to stand for something that they, in turn, become known among consumers. A strong and recognizable USP is crucial to operating successfully in competitive markets.

Read: product development frameworks here.

Read Next: SWOT AnalysisPersonal SWOT AnalysisTOWS MatrixPESTEL AnalysisPorter’s Five ForcesTOWS MatrixSOAR Analysis.

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