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What is growth hacking? Definition and examples

A very interesting word describes ” hacking ” growth within the long list of concepts that come to us from American startup innovation. There is a very interesting word that describes “hacking” growth. Although it is a term that is already more than ten years old, growth hacking is a very striking idea whose main application has to do with technology startups. But I think the philosophy can be applied to any business even to essay writing service. I’ll tell you what this innovation technique consists of and some real examples.

Photo by Marc Mueller from Pexels

Photo by Marc Mueller from Pexels

Definition of growth hacking

A simple way to explain growth hacking is a set of innovative and unconventional techniques and tactics that allow rapid and sustained growth with little investment. The variable used to measure growth can be the number of users, revenue, or company impacts, among others.

The term was coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis, the inventor of these strategies. He defines the person who implements them, the growth hacker. “His sole objective is growth. The effectiveness of their actions is measured in terms of the impact they have on scalable and lasting growth.”

Going deeper into the concept

There are many differences between traditional marketing techniques, even the most recent digital marketing techniques, and growth hacking. Because this is a highly innovative and unconventional way of achieving growth. They are techniques that are sometimes copied by others and become part of the arsenal of digital marketing tools. But when that happens, they cease to be innovative and unconventional, and their effectiveness declines, so they cease to be growth hacking.

By that, I mean that it’s usually temporary. If one person discovers a trick to grow the number of users of his startup, it is likely that when the technique and its results are discovered, many will do the same. But then, it is normal that the trick will stop working so well. Keep in mind that the hacker, despite his good intentions, often exploits bugs in the system. When they are detected, they are corrected.

But, the main difference between a growth hacker and a traditional marketer is that the former’s sole objective is to grow, while the latter also considers other things. And that “obsession” with growth usually makes it a very efficient function. A person whose sole objective is to grow the company ends up having great results if he or she has the right profile. And I will talk about that later.

The emblematic example of growth hacking: Airbnb

But, for now, I want to tell you about a real example of growth hacking with a company that we all know and use today: Airbnb. In its beginnings, they did something very smart. When a new user registered an accommodation on their platform, they gave him the option to publish an ad automatically on Craigslist, the North American equivalent of Milanuncios. Thus, the user was advertising their accommodation and the Airbnb service on a platform that already had many users looking for those services.

Why didn’t Airbnb’s competitors do it? Because there was no API (application programming interface) developed by Craigslist. And there wasn’t for a very logical reason. The classifieds platform was not interested in other sites trying to vampirize its users by posting automated ads.

What Airbnb did, was to reverse engineer, to understand how Craigslist’s ad posting worked. They developed a compatible form, which they used for as long as possible. In the end, when Craigslist detected it, they modified their programming, and Airbnb could no longer post their accommodations. But in the meantime, they had achieved enviable registrations thanks to that trick.

I like this example of growth hacking because it has everything: the technological part, innovation, temporary success, and of course, effective growth.

These are techniques for technology companies

It is not by chance that I quoted Airbnb. The concept of growth hacking is closely related to technology projects. One of the reasons is that those digital products can be designed to be an integral part of growth.

The growth hacker profile

  1. A person with a technical background. This is not necessarily someone with a degree in computer science, but he or she must understand programming and other important technical aspects. Otherwise, he or she would not be able to identify opportunities.

  2. Someone very creative. The most complicated part of this role is finding new techniques that work. For that, you need a very creative and multidisciplinary profile to understand things as a whole and come up with innovations.

  3. Analysis and decision. It is essential to determine the company’s relevant metrics and measure the results to know when to bet more or stop and change strategy. The speed of decision-making is very important.

  4. Pursuing rapid growth. A growth hacker is not satisfied with a technique that increases the number of new users by 10%. He seeks to multiply them by 5, 10, or more if he can. He is looking for spectacular results.

More examples of growth hacking that worked like a charm

The first one is many years old when Hotmail found a very efficient trick copied many times since then. Simply, they thought to add a message under each email sent by their users “Get your free email address with Hotmail” with a link to the web. They achieved spectacular and exponential growth in a few months with this simple trick.

Another well-known example is Dropbox. They couldn’t do a regular affiliate program because they didn’t have money for marketing. So they decided to give away free additional space to users who invited their friends. The space was a resource they had because it was the basis of their product. It worked wonders.

How to use growth hacking if your company is not a startup?

Using ingenuity to grow fast is possible even outside the Internet. A few weeks ago, I blogged about the movie The Founder, about Ray Kroc and how he turned McDonald’s into the giant we know. He leveraged several hacks.

One of the main ones was to take advantage of the new highways that the US had just built, to establish his restaurants at the entrances to the cities. This ensured customer traffic and lowered real estate prices.

The other was to focus the business on real estate, buy the land, build the restaurants, and rent them to franchisees. It was much easier for him to get the financing to grow fast by owning the real estate. Remember, it’s all about growth!

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