What Is Growth Hacking and Why You Need To Know About It


Consider this – You have a product in the market. You need to bolster your sales and what if you do not happen to be a member of the marketing team, how would you increase you sales? Even consider this – If your product is a market fit, i.e. more than 40% of your customers would ask you to bring back the product if taken off shelves. How would you scale then?

One fine day, I sat down for my routine reading and I came across an interesting article by Andrew Chen, an Adviser/Angel Investor in the Valley, titled – ‘Growth Hacker is the new VP of Marketing‘. That just spun my brain into thinking how could this new term – ‘Growth Hacking’, which I wasn’t quite familiarized with at that time, manage to replace, or rather replicate the VP of Marketing? How could this new term possibly make something obsolete that was present since the beginning of early corporate industry?

This might be taking a toll on you by now, wondering what exactly is this ‘Growth Hacking‘ so you could benefit somehow out of it. This article is aimed to make you familiar with the term ‘Growth Hacking’ and eliminate all ambiguities regarding the same.

What Exactly is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking - Startup Marketing screenshot
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First of all – Where does this word come from? Well, It was coined by Sean Ellis, writer at  entrepreneur and founder of Qualaroo, back in 2010. Sean Ellis was responsible for the scaling of many online companies, almost single-handedly driving the companies to their IPO. Everything went fine until he decided to hand over the torch and retire from what he does best. He couldn’t find a replacement for himself!

All the people those who applied for the post were marketers and that was not what Sean wanted. That’s when Sean asked for ‘Find Growth Hackers for your Startup‘, and the term ‘Growth Hacking’ was coined for the first time.

Enough of the history – What is Growth Hacking?

Growth Hacking is the concept of focusing entirely on the growth/rise/scaling of a startup. Growth hacking doesn’t have roles assigned to people, even a programmer can be a growth hacker. In the startup world, Growth hacking is the revolutionary action where even a programmer or a designer works for the growth of the startup.

Growth Hacking, as I put it, Is the Scientific-approach to Marketing. You will come across Growth Hacking most commonly in technology startups, that are mostly populated with developers and designers with a hustler-personality. Growth hacking is the use of unconventional alternatives to traditional marketing.

  • Traditional Marketing: Radio, Newspaper, Television, Billboard ads
  • Approach By Growth hacking: Social media, Viral marketing, Innovation, scalability, user-connectivity.

So, How is a Growth Hacker different from a Marketer?

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Here comes the most confusing part. How is a Growth Hacker any different from a Marketer?

  • Growth Hacker – ‘Growth first, Budget second’
  • Marketer – ‘Growth depends on the budget you spare’

What is a Growth Hacker? Here’s what Sean says in his own words:

“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.”

The only thing a growth hacker cares about is growth. Every action and every tactic is attempted for the growth of the startup. A marketer also concentrates on growth, but not to a similar extent. Growth hackers are the unique hybrid between a coder and a marketer. A growth hacker is the one who does not need to ask an engineer to implement an API, nor does he need to reach the marketer for getting the data from the database.

Growth Hacking in Context: How Tech Startups Exercised it

Okay, so up and until now all I have been doing is blabbering how great Growth Hacking is. What if you want to know growth hacking in context? i’m just coming to that – The all important ‘Example’! Show me what it is all about in context!

We are just take the example of AirBnB, the poster-boy of Growth Hacking over here, as I have a case study of tech startups who made the most of growth hacking lined up, so stay tuned. Coming back to AirBnB, if you must know, is a room rental to complete strangers service, to transform your spare room into a hotel! Here’s their approach making the most of Growth hacking responsible for their rise:

  1. They made the most of some loopholes in Craigslist, a classified advertisement service to find almost anything, by giving you an option to also list your room on Craigslist while applying through AirBnB.
  2. While Craigslist didn’t have a public API to allow any sort of such integration, the engineers at AirBnB spun into action and tried to reverse engineer Craigslist forms without even access to their code.
  3. AirBnB made this use of Craigslist to drive inbound traffic without spending a dime on magazine and TV ads.
  4. AirBnB reached out to users who demanded such a congregation of different services at once and they were rewarded for their deserved attention.
  5. Craigslist later fixed their vulnerabilities of cross-posting to their service, but AirBnB already made the most of some little loopholes.

So, making the most of opportunities, technology and a bit of ingenious thinking, that’s what growth hacking is in its entirety.

I call This – ‘Colliding Worlds’

Colliding worlds Growth hacking
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A Growth Hacker does not proclaim to be an ‘Expert’, But believes in his Experiments.

Growth hacking is the future of companies. Once in a while there comes a thing that changes the course of history and challenges the ways implemented prior to it. One such thing is – Growth hacking.

Businesses before used to work in a way where the job of the programmers was to build the product, and the marketers’ duty was to promote and get more customers on board. Period. The programmer didn’t gave a squat about getting more users, nor the marketer cared about a line of code.

For now, growth hacking is limited to startups, as corporate companies and Fortune 500 companies couldn’t alter the traditional foundations they were built on. But it is the estimate that future companies would be built around this concept of Growth Hacking.

Why should you care about Growth Hacking?

Why Growth hacking
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Growth Hacking is the future of companies! If you happen to run a startup, growth hacking would benefit you in the long run for sure. Building your company around this concept would help in faster scaling of your business, rather than implementing this tactic later.

It would be far difficult for a traditional marketing to become a growth hacker than for an engineer to become a growth hacker – As there are too many technical aspects for that to happen. Over the past few years, growth hackers have managed to build scalable and profitable companies using various frameworks and best-practices like email marketing, virality, search engine optimization, social media marketing, etc.

This was just an introduction to Growth Hacking and the beginning to a series of upcoming guides on Growth Hacking. What do you think of implementing growth hacking for your startup? Shout out your thoughts and comments below.  Don’t forget to join ShoutMeLoud on Youtube.

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Authored By
A Shouter whose articles got mentions from the likes of The New York Times, Kissmetrics and AllTopStories. He writes articles, novels and poems; spends most of his time reading everything he could get his hands on. Srikanth is currently pursuing his Masters from The University of Illinois and holds a Bachelors in Electronics Engineering from the University of Mumbai. He is a programmer, a motivational writer and speaker.

4 thoughts on “What Is Growth Hacking and Why You Need To Know About It”

  1. Jee Main

    The term ‘growth-hacking’ has become soooo overused recently that my eyes gloss over whenever I see it, partly because most of the info surrounding growth hacking has been recycled and regurgitated so many times that it lost all originality long ago.

    Having said that, you’ve managed to bring some genuinely new tactics to the table here, there’s a lot of quality info that I’d never come across before in other posts about growth hacking. Once more, you’ve managed to blow most of your rivals out of the water, so kudos to you!

  2. Ajay

    Great article Srikant, I read about growth hacker on Shoutmeloud for the first time and it seems pretty unique and new concept. Reading other post in series as well..!!!

  3. Mainak Halder

    Nice post on growth hacking Srikanth. It’s not a very famous word but the way you explained the term, it’s so clear.

    The market is so competitive now that really companies need to focus on growth first and budget second if they want to stay ahead in the game.

  4. Nilantha Jayawardhana

    First, I like to Thank for this awesome post. Really successful, effective and useful post. I think to add something about growth hacking to appreciate the author Srikanth AN.

    Growth hacking techniques such as social campaigns, content marketing, CRM automation, and influencer targeting have helped startups succeed much better than traditional marketing.

    Today, since social is big, growth hacking revolves around many such techniques within the web, as it allows for a “lean” launch that focuses on a “growth-first”, budgets-later approach. A growth hacker is someone with a rare combination of the right marketing and technical skills. Someone who can come up with smart marketing hacks and also track the results to optimize their resources to the fullest.

    Some of the techniques that spur growth hacking are:

    Targeting niche communities via web forums
    Private email lists
    SEO/SEM and organic search
    Content marketing
    Guest blogging and podcasts
    Social campaigns
    Social bookmarking and seeding content
    CRM automation and engagement via loyalty campaigns
    A/B testing
    Getting influencers to be early adopters
    Media planning via Facebook and Google ads

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