What is Growth Hacking?

growth hacking

Seeing as my blog is all about growth and this new crazy buzzword that is “Growth Hacking” it makes sense that I cover off the basics early on and outline my understanding of Growth Hacking.

As it is still a fairly new idea there are still many interpretations of what it entails. This usually shows itself when clients come to me for help and are looking for a ‘growth hacker’ – yet when I ask them what they see the role entailing they generally have very little idea and have just heard the term floating around in communities and forums without any real substance.

Lets dive right in…

What is Growth Hacking?

Growth Hacking (Growth Marketing) is a form of marketing where you are rapidly experimenting with new marketing channels and product developments to find the most cost-effective ways to grow a business.

The term itself was created by Sean Ellis back in 2010 and he created the term to better describe the role he held at startups that he’d helped to grow. Sean can effectively be called the first celebrity ‘growth hacker’ and Silicon Valleys go to guy for getting startups off the ground.

One of the key standout terms that you need to keep note of is ‘experiment’. Growth hackers will always be trying new ideas out in an attempt to drive growth for the business they are working for. You will often find that many of these experiments will fail but as they are generally low-cost or free to implement (other than the time of the growth hacker) it makes it a cost-effective strategy as you generally only need to find that one winning experiment to drive crazy growth.

The term is often attached to startups but growth hackers can be employed for any online business looking to grow.

How is Growth Hacking different from traditional marketing?

For me this is where many people don’t understand the role of growth hacking so hopefully this will make it clearer.

In traditional marketing you would normally put your focus on improving your SEO efforts, putting money into Paid marketing such as Adwords or Facebook Ads and paying for media such as TV, Radio or display advertising.

In growth hacking/marketing you are looking to use platforms such as social media, viral competitions, personally targeted advertising as well as product enhancements and pivots to drive growth.

The reason for using the word ‘hacking’ is because growth ‘hackers’ often look for ways to exploit existing platforms and processes to adapt them to drive growth at their business whereas traditional marketers tend to follow set processes and existing platforms without innovation.

The biggest difference between a growth hacker and digital marketer is their role within a business. Marketers are generally in the marketing team and that is where their influence ends. A growth hacker operates across the business, across all departments and is looking to ‘hack’ or drive growth across all these departments.

How to become a growth hacker?

A question I have been asked many a time in recent months since becoming a freelance growth consultant.

In short there is no simple answer to this question however you will generally find that good growth hackers will come from a ‘product’ background.

The skills required to do the job are varied and include but are not limited to:

  • Content marketing
  • Viral marketing
  • Analytics
  • Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
  • SEO
  • Marketing Automation
  • Product development
  • Coding (HTML/CSS/jQuery/etc)
  • Copywriting

As you can see there is no real one area of expertise here!

You are looking to increase traffic as well as convert users and then make those users stick long term!

For me the single most important attribute of a growth hacker is Creativity. You always need to be thinking outside of the box, looking at different ways of using tools and platforms to drive growth and always asking ‘can we do this better?’, ‘can we do this more effectively?’.


As you can see growth hacking is not for the feint-hearted. For those that love to solve problems and love to hack new systems and processes to drive users to a website and make them convert it is the most perfect job in the world.

If you lack the creativity and desire to always be learning then growth hacking is not for you.

If you can accept that not everything you will do will work, if you can keep getting hit and keep moving forward then growth hacking may well be the career for you.

Go forth and innovate growth warriors!

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