Introducing Growth Hacking and the Growth Hacking Toolkit

Last week I facilitated a growth hacking workshop for a company in the mobility industry at Catolica-Lisbon. Before starting the workshop, I asked the audience, “Who has heard of growth hacking before?”. From the 30 participants in the room, two indicated that they had heard about it. When I asked, “Who would like to accelerate the growth of your company?”, everybody raised their arm. A good start of the workshop.

Today I would like to share the key ideas that I communicated in the workshop, which are based on my most recent publication in Business Horizons (read it here).

The first thing you learn in a growth hacking workshop is: a growth hacker is “a person whose true north is growth”. This is a quote by Sean Ellis who is the founder of “Growth Hackers” and the ‘father’ of growth hacking as such.

The second thing you learn is examples of growth hacking. Famous companies that applied growth hacking successfully are Booking.com, Hotmail, and Dropbox. Legendary is the example of Airbnb, which was able to increase the growth of its platform through a nifty hack that linked AirBnB with craigslist (see the whole story in my article).

The third thing you learn is why you would use growth hacking: well because traditional marketing is expensive (especially for new ventures) and saturated!

After setting the basics, we continued to explore more detailed questions…

So, what is growth hacking? Essentially, growth hacking is a combination of marketing, data analysis, and coding (see Figure below). This means that companies use digital marketing along the customer life cycle (i.e. acquisition, activation, revenue, retention, and referral), test the effect of different options and combinations based on data (e.g. from google analytics or equivalent tools), and (re)code depending on the most successful strategy.

Who implements growth hacking strategies? As modern organizations adopt a more and more lean and agile innovation methodology, growth hacking brings together marketeers, programmers and product owners in sprints. Put differently: you need a hacker (i.e. the programmer), a hustler (i.e. the product owner), and a hipster (i.e. the marketeer).

How do set up a growth hacking strategy? This is challenging. Even if firms have an idea of what growth hacking is, they may still be puzzled as to how to use it, creating a strategy-execution gap. That is why we set out to develop a generic toolkit that helps to overcome the strategy-execution gap. The toolkit is like a recipe book along the customer life cycle which you can use to get inspiration and to configure your own growth hacking strategy, for instance in a workshop (we provide card sets that allow you to configure your strategy interactive in a team) or in strategy meetings.

The Growth Hack Toolkit

Are all growth hacks the same? No, essentially they differ in terms of resource intensity (i.e. costs) and the time lag to effect (i.e. when it becomes effective), see figure 2 below. Also, it should be noted that when growth hacking, channels change. While growth hackers used to love Facebook, now they move more to Instagram. Having said, the suggested toolkit is generic and can be adapted to all kinds of channels.

Growth Hack Classification

So why should use adapt growth hacks and is there a ‘dark side’? Growth hacking provides ample of opportunities. It improves communication across departments, improves products since you take a holistic view and put the customer in focus, development costs are lower due to fast experimentation and the customer is happier. The dark side? Well, data quality needs to be provided, it is hard to find qualified growth hackers (note: right now there are more than 16.000 people on LinkedIn that have Growth Hacker as their job title) and growth hacks are perishable.

Growth Hacking Opportunities and Challenges

Once the growth hacking concepts and potential were set, participants had the chance to use the Growth Hacking Tool Kit to develop different growth hack strategies for their company. Now it’s your turn. Start developing your own growth hacking strategy today. Get your Growth Hack Toolkit, read the article, reach out to us, or explore more growth hack resources in the links below. Happy growth hacking!