Growth Hacking: Reinventing the Field of Marketing

Growth Hacking: Reinventing the Field of Marketing

What is Growth Hacking?
Growth hacking is a data-driven methodology and collection of techniques for setting up and scaling businesses fast. It’s an approach to maximizing a company’s growth potential by adopting smarter ways of thinking about products, customers and value.

The “hack” in the term “growth hacking” can be compared to “hack” in the similar term “life hacking”. It can basically be thought of as a trick, or shortcut one might utilize to achieve exceptional results with as little expenditure as possible.

The term, growth hacking, was coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis, the first marketer at Dropbox. He realized that the creative, unconventional and highly technical methods he was using to grow the company went well beyond what traditionally was considered to be within the realm of marketing — and thus needed a new name.

Growth hacking has been called "Marketing 2.0" because it deviates from traditional marketing tactics in which companies run large, expensive campaigns; and instead utilizes technology to focus on very specific targeting, personalized messaging and sometimes unconventional marketing channels.

It combines creative marketing with data science and computer programming to acquire, activate and retain customers in the most effective and efficient ways possible. Growth hackers use a process of continual ideation, testing, analysis and optimization in order to discover exactly what the data says will work best for any given company in any given situation.


By letting the data guide decision making, growth hacking empowers companies to improve their conversion rate, increase their traffic and expand their user base without spending a fortune. The extreme focus on data effectively eliminates the assumption and intuition that often accompany product marketing and development.

Give Me an Example
While Airbnb was still relatively small and struggling to grow, their programming engineers decided to try something no one had done before. They reverse engineered an API that allowed anyone creating a listing on Airbnb to also crosspost it on Craigslist — who at that time already had an gigantic user base.

This resulted in enormous exposure and growth for Airbnb. They effectively piggybacked their success upon another already successful platform. Eventually, Craigslist pulled the plug on the system, but not after Airbnb had achieved skyrocket growth.


This example illustrates a few key points. Firstly, growth hackers trace their roots back to programming engineers more than marketers. A traditional marketer would not have had the skills or training to come up with or implement such a “hack”. Secondly, many growth hacks have limited lifetimes, and thus the field is always changing as new methods for growth are discovered and tested.

Today, growth hacking has evolved beyond being only a collection of tricks and tactics. A methodology and set of principles have emerged that describe the processes and systems growth hackers use to achieve growth in any type of organization, regardless of its size or industry.

What Are The Growth Hacking Principles?
Every growth hacking agency will approach their work slightly differently. At RockBoost, we have developed a framework we call the 7 Pillars of Growth Hacking. We’ve used it to help hundreds of companies achieve exceptionally fast growth, and we’ve taught it to thousands more at conferences and events around the world.

Here is a brief overview of first 5 pillars.

1. The Growth Mindset
Growth hacking starts with a mindset. It requires extreme focus on growth while simultaneously being able to think outside the box. A growth hacker has developed habits and attitudes of the world’s most productive and successful people. They are A-players and over deliverers. They are result-driven, they know how to hustle and are confident in their ability to achieve anything.

2. The Right (Team) Skills
Growth hacking is a broad field, covering marketing, data science, engineering and often behavioral psychology. Few individuals master all of this, which is why growth hackers work best in teams. A growth hacker understands, and knows how to leverage his or her personal skillset within the context of the team. They know how to balance depth and breadth of their skills in combination with their team members in order to achieve results.

3. Measurement
With the right data, growth hackers can make well-informed decisions and begin to change any trend in a company. They know how to select and measure the right metrics for any circumstance and turn the data they collect into actionable insights. By continually testing hypotheses and running experiments, they can quickly identify which areas of a business require focus and where the biggest wins can be found.

4. Listening To Your Market
Growth hackers know that whether a company is targeting soccer moms, management executives or industry influencers, that research aimed at deeply understanding the target market is essential. Once this understanding is in place, growth hackers get through to potential customers by speaking their language and ensuring they see a company’s offerings at the times and in the places where they are most receptive.

5. Product / Market Fit
The foundation for achieving growth is having product/market fit (PMF). When a company can craft its value proposition and product offerings so that they are perfectly in sync with their market’s expectations, the rest becomes easy. No matter what the product is, if PMF is there,  customers won’t be able to refuse what is being offered — and they will refer you to others. This is about building growth into the product.

If you would like to know what the final two pillars are, or if you would like to go deeper and learn more about growth hacking in general, we have a free downloadable e-book that will teach you all you want to know.

We also run workshops for students wanting to learn more about growth hacking. If you would like to get our updates and hear about when we host workshops and other events, just leave your email address in one of the subscription fields on our blog page!

Chris Out
CEO & Lead Growth Hacker