Growth Hacking: What Is It & How Does It Work?

Growth Hacking: What Is It & How Does It Work?

Here is why many startups and emerging businesses are enthusiastic about this idea

Hacking is not an everyday word in the business community because it connotes invasion and theft. But when used with growth, does it have a unique meaning, or it’s just a fanciful way to describe marketing?

Follow me keenly in this article as I demystify this concept and reveal the ideology behind it. Besides defining it, this article will x-ray the differences between growth hacking and marketing. Also, if you’re a startup, you will learn how this approach works and its benefit for your enterprise.

I’m sure you would want first to know what this idea means, so let’s start from there.

Growth Hacking: What Is It?

In a straightforward term, growth hacking refers to strategies and methods focused on rapidly expanding a business. Coined by Sean Ellis in his 2010 blog post, this concept, requiring multi-disciplinary skills, is now famous among low-budget startups.

Sean Ellis submitted that anyone who has their “true north” as growth is a growth hacker. Andrew Chen later popularized this idea, describing it as a hybrid of marketing that seeks to answer one question. That question, according to Chen, is “How do I attract more customers to my product?”

From a simple idea conceived by Sean in 2010, this idea has become a movement. The goal has been to assist business starters with low experience and little money to scale up.

Is Growth Hacking The Same As Marketing?

There are marketing elements in growth hacking, but the latter offers more. For instance, while marketing primarily focuses on activating a product and creating awareness, growth hacking considers customer retention. A growth hacker is not just an employee paid to promote a brand; h/she is part of the product. The table below differentiates these two similar but different roles.

S/NGrowth HackingMarketing
1Constantly seeking new opportunities for growthPre-occupied with creating awareness for an existing brand or product
2Operates by small experiments to see what is workingConcentrates most times on long-term, big projects
3Requires extra technical skills like automation, tooling, and programmingIs OK with general marketing skills
4Functions and reasons based on statisticsIt is not necessarily data-driven
5Obsessed with retaining customers, especially the active onesNot mandated to keep customers
6Requires more commitment and involvement than marketingIt does not require as much involvement as growth hacking
7Targets startups with no substantial experience and financeBest suited for big or emerging companies

The table above clearly shows that both concepts are not the same. The areas where they overlap include

  • Awareness
  • Acquisition and
  • Activation

Both concepts cannot exist without the above, but one goes further.

Does Your Business Need Growth Hacking?

It seems plausible to admit that every enterprise needs expansion, hence, growth hacking. Big corporations like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Udemy, Dropbox, and Pinterest adopt this approach. Just like seobrotherslv and others exist for everything SEO and marketing, there are dedicated growth hackers in many big corporations.

Therefore, if your company is struggling and desirous of upscaling, you may want to get on board. Instilling this concept in all team members is better since hacking can spring from anywhere.

The benefits of growth hacking are numerous for struggling companies, some of which include

  • It applies to any goal, company, person, or country
  • Besides being cost-effective, it can significantly increase your ROI
  • It can birth novel business ideas or products
  • You can detect multiple opportunities for expansion from it
  • It motivates producers to develop customer-centric products
  • Improves current marketing strategies
  • Aids objective analysis of business

Growth Hacking: How Does It Work?

Getting started with growth hacking demands that you put certain things in place. One of them is having a product loved by many people. Growth hacking is not applicable without anything to sell or services to render. It is also essential that your current business has a feedback mechanism from which you can extract actionable data.

Finally, you must have the skillsets required for growth hacking to progress. Parts of these skills include data analysis, graphic design, digital marketing, and other technical skills. You can quickly acquire these skillsets in under a year through online means.

Once this preparatory framework is on the ground, you can proceed to check the boxes below.

  1. Find Out Why Your Business Isn’t Growing

You would first want to find out impediments to current upscaling efforts. Findings from this can help you quickly come up with workable ideas. And to nail down the exact factor holding back businesses’ explosion, expert hackers employ the Pirate Funnel.

David McClure was the brainchild of this model, and it breaks down companies’ growth into six. These six steps, called Pirate Funnel, include Awareness, Acquisition, Activation, Revenue, Retention, and Referral. It has a canvas model you can print, fill out, and discover the bottleneck to your upscaling. You can rely on your analytics tools to fill out the printed form.

You can quickly identify your business’s weak points from your answer to the questions. You can know what stage or step out of the six you are not performing well and narrow down why. Let’s say your weakest point is the Activation Stage. You can check reviews from customers and feedback from employers to know why.

  1. Conceive Your Small Growth Experiment

Growth hacking works through small experiments, and this is where you concentrate on the metric that matters. At this stage, you conceive a tactic or channel and try it in small quantity to see its effectiveness. If it fails, you can discard it and try another without losing many funds.

  1. Analyze and Implement Your Solutions

Whatever tactic you choose must be analyzed before you apply it on a large scale. The analysis is crucial when two or more solutions appear probable. Once you rank your ideas based on their effectiveness, you implement the first most successful, albeit on a small scale.

  1. Repeat the Circle

Once you address a bottleneck, you can expect another one to surface. Repeating this process can gradually eliminate your setbacks and upscale your business.


Growth hacking applies to all manners of business or enterprise. If you have the right skill sets and are hungry for expansion, nothing stops you from kickstarting immediately.