A beginner’s guide to growth hacking

November 11, 2015 - 4  min reading time - by Emma Labrador
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You may have heard this word a lot of time over the past few years, but what is exactly growth hacking? While some sees it as an anti-marketing discipline, other considers marketing and growth hacking as the same activity. Applied to startups, classic marketing is not enough to achieve your development goals.

We are not going to discuss whether or not marketing can be assimilated to growth hacking but what is exactly growth hacking.

What Is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking is the meeting of marketing and engineering where measuring actions is all about tracking to rapidly increase results in a few costs. Growth hacking relies on empirical and scalable methods and follow a full conversion funnel from awareness to referral.
To fully understand what is growth hacking it is important to understand the idea of hacker. Actually, a growth hacker is someone who focuses on achieving goals established rather than following a precise process. The results is what matters and not the way you do it. That is why growth hacking is often associated with innovative processes.

Promote an innovative product

Doing growth hacking with something useless and with no value does not worth the trouble. Growth hackers are in the core of your product development as they have to come up with great marketing and growth ideas that will find a positive echo to your target.
According to Sean Ellis, the growth hacker term father, defined the very first step of any startup growth must be a product-market fit and then follow growth preparation and scaling growth.

Integrate storytelling

Any projects and user acquisition start with a good story. Once you have yours, it will be much easier to communicate to the right audience at the right time.

Set up a tracking plan

Tracking and tracking again is what makes growth hacking value. You’re gonna have to track more than just sessions, CTA or signups. The key is to gather insights from data and use them to grow your business. You need to bring out lessons of these numbers.
When building your analytics you should, at least, ask yourself if:

  • You currently track content creation metrics
  • You track content creation by cohorts or just in aggregate
  • You track metrics based on the content itself (file size, length, views, shares, etc.)
  • You track the devices that are used to create and consume the content?
  • You track the referring URL’s which are most responsible for content creation?
  • And many more…

Those metrics are essential to track your performances. Tracking will help you make the right change in your strategy if needed and set up new goals.

Understand your acquisition channels

Depending on which type of market you’re evolving and which type of company you are, your acquisition channels won’t be the same. Here are the main ones:

Paid Acquisition

Paid acquisition consists in paying for customers like ecommerce companies. .

Virality and Referrals

While not all products can gone viral, SaaS products might not be an exception. Products involving engagement, social or trendy will have a better proportion of being spread. The best example must be Slack, who has – partially– grown without any marketing, and only on the back of word of mouth.


SEO is a great inbound marketing options to start for any business. Creating a lot of content and fostering User Generated Content can be a excellent growth hacking option to boost your website visibility. Websites like Yelp or Quora work on that basis.


Sales are obviously a meaningful part of your grow but you can’t only rely on your pitch talent to acquire new users. While at the beginning you will improve your sale’s pitch and demo each new users, at a moment, you won’t be able to do it anymore as your database will be too big.
Christoph Janz from Point Nine Capital wrote about how to build your sales process depending on what stage you’re at. This resource is pretty helpful to scale what you do.

Content Marketing

Content marketing helps build you a reputation on your expertise and make people trust you. You have to think in terms of users needs. What do they want to read? What do they need? What are their sales objections? Make it valuable. Content marketing is quite efficient to attract a qualitative audience on your website and then convert them into new customers.


PR are great to get covered to a wider audience and to reach new customers. The thing is to know exactly what to tell (think of the storytelling point above), to who and then track back the consequence. The idea is to take the habit to get covered every time you have a new feature released, fundraising or partnership for instance. You have to been covered in specialized press.

Email marketing

Email marketing is still a qualitative source of acquisition. People on your email list have chosen to follow you so they are more likely to be receptive to your messages. The key is to segment, target and automate your emails.

Come up with new ideas

The process of growth hacking needs to provide new ideas all the time to be efficient. Find an idea with your coworkers, prioritize, test, analyze, optimize and then start with a new one. This is way easier to do this when you’re still move because you have more flexibility.
In clear, growth hacking is all about testing, tracking and optimizing new ideas and processes.
Stay hungry, stay foolish!

Emma Labrador See all their articles
Emma was the Head of Communication & Marketing at Oncrawl for over seven years. She contributed articles about SEO and search engine updates.
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