Definition

growth hacking

Contributor(s): Dennis Shiao

Growth hacking is an approach to driving product adoption, usage and sales by experimental, innovative and low-cost means. The term was coined in a 2010 blog post by Sean Ellis entitled “Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup.” Ellis’ idea was that a startup needs to hire someone whose sole job focus is to find scalable, repeatable and sustainable ways to increase revenue and grow the organization.

Growth hacking is outcome-oriented and there is no proven or prescriptive methodology to achieve growth. Instead, growth hackers are free to seek whatever means are necessary to achieve repeatable, desired business outcomes. Some practitioners hold the job title of “growth hacker,” while others implement the methodologies under a different, but related title such as Chief Development Officer.

Growth hackers have the potential to grow companies from zero to millions of users in a very short period of time. Companies known to have capitalized on growth hacking methods include Pinterest, Zynga, Groupon, Instagram and Dropbox.

Growth hackers tend to hold a combination of technical and marketing knowledge because they’re often responsible for producing and completing ideas from start to finish. They must also be comfortable working with business intelligence dashboards because growth hacking use data-driven analytics to quantify the outcome of methods and inform decisions about future tactics.

Growth hacking funnel

The growth hacking funnel is a framework developed by venture capitalist Dave McClure. McClure, who selected five important metrics for startups to focus on, refers to Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral and Revenue (AARRR) as "pirate metrics for startups."

Acquisition: Experiment with ways to use multiple channels to attract customers.

Activation: Experiment with ways to ensure that a customer's first interaction is positive.

Retention: Experiment with ways to encourage customers to return multiple times.

Referral:  Experiment with ways to turn customers into brand advocates.

Revenue: Experiment with ways to monetize customer behavior.

This was last updated in April 2019

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