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  • Writer's pictureChristina Tsiripidou

Growth Hacking 101: Unleashing Unconventional Tactics to Drive Business Growth

Growth hacking is a term coined by Sean Ellis, who defined it as "a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business." Growth hacking is essentially a marketing strategy that focuses on using unconventional and innovative tactics to grow a company's customer base, revenue, and brand awareness. This approach is particularly popular with startups and small businesses, as they often have limited resources and need to find creative ways to gain traction.

One of the defining features of growth hacking is its focus on data-driven experimentation. Growth hackers often use A/B testing, user feedback, and other data sources to identify the most effective strategies for achieving growth. This allows them to quickly iterate and refine their tactics, as well as to scale those that are working.

In this article, you'll find an overview of growth hacking, including some of its key principles, best practices, and case studies. You will be provided with actionable recommendations for businesses looking to implement growth hacking strategies of their own.


The Principles of Growth Hacking

Best Practices for Growth Hacking

How to Use Digital Marketing Channels to Hack Growth

Examples of Brands that Hacked Growth

Actionable Recommendations for Growth Hacking

The Principles of Growth Hacking

To understand growth hacking, it's important to start with its underlying principles. Here are a few of the key ideas that underpin this approach to marketing:

Data-Driven Experimentation

Growth hacking is all about testing different tactics and strategies to find what works. This requires a willingness to experiment, as well as the ability to gather and analyze data to inform those experiments.

Focus on User Acquisition and Retention

The ultimate goal of growth hacking is to grow a company's customer base and revenue. This means focusing on both acquiring new users and retaining existing ones.

Rapid Iteration

Because growth hacking is based on experimentation, it's important to iterate quickly and frequently. This allows growth hackers to test many different strategies and tactics, and to refine them based on what works and what doesn't.


Growth hacking is only effective if it can be scaled. This means that successful tactics must be able to be replicated across different channels and user segments, without sacrificing their effectiveness.

Best Practices for Growth Hacking

With these principles in mind, let's take a closer look at some of the best practices for growth hacking. Here are a few strategies that have proven effective for many companies:

Referral Marketing

One of the most popular growth hacking tactics is referral marketing, which incentivizes existing users to refer new ones. This can be done through a variety of means, such as offering discounts or other rewards for successful referrals.

For example, Dropbox famously used referral marketing to achieve explosive growth in its early years. By offering users additional storage space for each successful referral, the company was able to grow from 100,000 to 4 million users in just 15 months.

Content Marketing

Another effective growth hacking tactic is content marketing, which involves creating valuable, informative content to attract and retain users. This can take many forms, such as blog posts, infographics, videos, and more.

For example, HubSpot has built its entire business around content marketing. The company offers a wealth of free resources for marketers, including blog posts, webinars, and downloadable ebooks. By providing value to its users in this way, HubSpot has been able to grow its customer base to more than 100,000.

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is another popular growth hacking strategy, which involves creating content that is so compelling or entertaining that it spreads rapidly through social media and other channels. This can be difficult to achieve, but can lead to explosive growth if successful.

For example, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a viral marketing phenomenon that raised more than $115 million for ALS research. The challenge involved dumping a bucket of ice water over one's head, and then nominating others to do the same. The campaign was incredibly successful, largely because it was so shareable and engaging

How to Use Digital Marketing Channels to Hack Growth

Digital marketing provides a wealth of opportunities to hack growth and drive business success. It is a powerful toolkit for growth hackers, and can be used to drive growth in a variety of ways. Some are listed below:

Paid Advertising

Growth hacking can be implemented on paid ads, and in fact, many companies use growth hacking techniques to optimize their paid advertising campaigns. Here are a few examples:

  1. A/B Testing Ad Copy and Images: A/B testing involves creating two versions of an ad and testing them to see which one performs better. In paid advertising, this can be done by testing different ad copy and images to see which version generates more clicks or conversions. By constantly testing and optimizing ad copy and images, companies can improve their paid advertising performance and achieve better results.

  2. Retargeting: Retargeting is a form of advertising that targets users who have already interacted with a brand. For example, if a user visits a company's website but does not make a purchase, the company can retarget that user with ads to encourage them to return and complete the purchase. Retargeting can be a highly effective growth hacking strategy for paid advertising, as it targets users who have already shown an interest in the brand.

  3. Lookalike Audiences: Lookalike audiences are a way to target new users who are similar to existing customers or leads. By using data from existing customers or leads, companies can create a lookalike audience that is more likely to be interested in their products or services. This can be a highly effective growth hacking strategy for paid advertising, as it allows companies to target new users who are more likely to convert.

  4. Geotargeting: Geotargeting involves targeting users based on their location. For example, a company may target users in a specific city or region with ads that are tailored to their local interests or needs. Geotargeting can be a highly effective growth hacking strategy for paid advertising, as it allows companies to target users who are more likely to be interested in their products or services based on their location.

  5. Ad Stacking: Ad stacking involves layering multiple ads on top of each other to create a more engaging and attention-grabbing ad. For example, a company may use a video ad on top of a display ad to create a more dynamic and engaging ad. Ad stacking can be a highly effective growth hacking strategy for paid advertising, as it allows companies to create ads that are more memorable and engaging for users


Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical component of any digital marketing strategy, and growth hackers often use unconventional tactics to improve their search rankings.

  1. Guest Blogging: Guest blogging involves writing and publishing blog posts on other websites to increase exposure and backlinks to your own website. By creating high-quality content for other websites, you can establish yourself as an expert in your field, drive traffic to your website, and improve your website's search engine rankings.

  2. Keyword Research: Keyword research involves identifying the keywords and phrases that your target audience is searching for and optimizing your website content around those keywords. By targeting high-traffic and relevant keywords, you can improve your website's search engine rankings and drive more traffic to your website.

  3. Link Building: Link building involves getting other websites to link to your website. By building high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites, you can improve your website's search engine rankings and drive more traffic to your website.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a powerful growth hacking tool that allows businesses to reach customers directly in their inboxes. By creating targeted email campaigns, businesses can nurture leads, promote new products or services, and build relationships with customers.

  1. Personalization: Personalization involves tailoring your email content to the interests and needs of your subscribers. By using data like purchase history, website behavior, and demographic information, you can create targeted and relevant email campaigns that are more likely to resonate with your subscribers and drive engagement.

  2. Lead Magnets: Lead magnets involve offering a valuable piece of content or resource in exchange for a user's email address. By offering something of value, like an e-book, guide, or webinar, you can encourage users to sign up for your email list and grow your subscriber base.

Social Media

Social media provides a powerful platform for growth hacking, and can be leveraged in a variety of ways to drive business success. Here are a few ways to use social media for growth hacking:

  1. Build a strong brand presence: Social media allows businesses to build a strong brand presence and connect with their target audience on a more personal level. By creating high-quality content and engaging with your followers, you can build a loyal following of brand advocates who can help spread the word about your business and drive growth.

  2. Leverage user-generated content: User-generated content (UGC) is content that is created by your customers or followers, such as reviews, photos, or videos. UGC can be a powerful tool for growth hacking, as it allows you to tap into the creativity of your audience and showcase their experiences with your brand. By featuring UGC on your social media channels, you can build social proof and inspire others to engage with your brand.

  3. Use paid advertising: Social media advertising can be a highly effective way to reach a wider audience and drive growth. By targeting specific demographics and interests, you can ensure that your ads are reaching the right people and driving traffic to your website or landing pages.

  4. Run contests and giveaways: Contests and giveaways can be a great way to engage with your audience and drive growth. By offering prizes or discounts for social media engagement, you can incentivize users to share your content and promote your brand.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a powerful growth hacking strategy that businesses can use to increase their customer base and revenue. Here are a few growth hacking tactics using affiliate marketing:

  1. Partner with influencers: Influencer marketing is a highly effective form of affiliate marketing, as it allows businesses to tap into the large, engaged audiences of popular influencers in their industry. By partnering with influencers and offering them a commission on sales generated through their unique affiliate link, businesses can drive more traffic and sales to their website.

  2. Offer incentives: In order to encourage affiliates to promote your products or services, it can be helpful to offer incentives such as higher commission rates or bonuses for reaching certain sales milestones. This can motivate affiliates to work harder to promote your brand and drive more sales.

  3. Create high-quality content: To attract affiliates and encourage them to promote your brand, it's important to create high-quality content that showcases your products or services in the best possible light. This can include product reviews, videos, and other engaging content that affiliates can use to promote your brand and drive more sales.

While there are many growth hacking strategies that businesses can use to achieve growth, it's important to note that not all strategies will work for every business. In order to achieve success, businesses need to discover the strategies that work best for their target audience and business model. This requires a deep understanding of the target audience, their needs and pain points, and the channels and tactics that are most effective for reaching them.

By experimenting with different strategies and analyzing the results, businesses can identify the growth hacking techniques that are most effective for driving growth and achieving their goals. This approach requires a willingness to take risks, adapt quickly, and continuously iterate in order to find the strategies that will lead to sustainable growth over the long term.

Examples of Brands that Hacked Growth


Airbnb used a clever growth hack early in its history to get more hosts on its platform. The company created a feature that allowed users to automatically post their Airbnb listing on Craigslist, which helped Airbnb reach a wider audience and get more listings.


Instagram used a combination of growth hacking tactics to become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. One of their most successful strategies was to partner with popular influencers and celebrities, who would post photos on Instagram and encourage their followers to join the platform.


Hotmail, one of the first web-based email providers, used a simple but effective growth hacking strategy. They added a small email signature at the bottom of each email that read: "PS: I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail." This simple message encouraged users to sign up for Hotmail, which quickly led to explosive growth.

Harry's Shaving

Harry's, a shaving company, used a referral program to achieve rapid growth. They offered existing customers $5 off their next purchase for every new customer they referred. This strategy not only helped Harry's acquire new customers but also rewarded their existing customers for referring their friends and family.


Duolingo, a language-learning app, used gamification to drive growth. They created a fun and engaging experience for users by incorporating game-like elements into the app, such as points, levels, and badges. This strategy helped Duolingo achieve rapid growth and establish itself as a leader in the language-learning industry.

Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club, a subscription-based razor company, used a viral video to drive growth. They created a humorous video that poked fun at the high cost of razors, which quickly went viral and generated a massive amount of buzz for the company. The video helped Dollar Shave Club acquire new customers and establish itself as a disruptor in the razor industry.


Tesla, an electric car company, used a social media strategy to drive growth. They leveraged social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to generate buzz and excitement around their products. They also encouraged their existing customers to share their Tesla experiences on social media, which helped them acquire new customers and establish themselves as a leader in the electric car industry.


Birchbox is a subscription-based beauty box service that uses email marketing to promote its products and keep its subscribers engaged. By offering personalized product recommendations and exclusive offers to its subscribers, Birchbox has been able to build a loyal customer base and drive repeat sales. is a personal finance app that used SEO to attract new users. By creating valuable, educational content related to personal finance, was able to rank for keywords related to financial advice and attract new customers to its platform.


Notion has implemented several growth hacking techniques that have helped them to rapidly grow their user base and become one of the most popular productivity tools on the market.

One of the most notable growth hacking techniques that Notion has used is the "viral loop." Notion's viral loop involves making it easy for users to invite their friends and colleagues to join the platform. When a user invites a friend to join Notion, they receive credits that they can use to unlock premium features. This incentivizes users to invite more people to the platform, which helps to drive growth and increase Notion's user base.

Another growth hacking technique that Notion has used is content marketing. Notion has a comprehensive library of resources, including blog posts, tutorials, and case studies, that are designed to educate and engage their target audience. By providing valuable content, Notion has been able to attract new users and establish themselves as a leader in the productivity tools market.

Notion has also used social media to drive growth. They have a strong presence on platforms like Twitter and Instagram, where they share tips and tricks for using the platform, as well as updates and announcements about new features. By engaging with their audience on social media, Notion has been able to build a loyal community of users who are passionate about the platform.

Finally, Notion has used product-led growth to drive adoption of their platform. Notion's product is designed to be easy to use and highly customizable, which has helped to attract users who are looking for a more flexible and intuitive productivity tool. By focusing on product-led growth, Notion has been able to build a user base that is highly engaged and committed to the platform.

Overall, Notion's growth hacking strategies have been highly effective in driving growth and establishing the platform as a leader in the productivity tools market. By leveraging viral loops, content marketing, social media, and product-led growth, Notion has been able to build a loyal user base and establish themselves as a top player in the industry.

Actionable Recommendations for Growth Hacking

While growth hacking can seem like a magic bullet for rapid business growth, it's important to note that it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different businesses require different growth hacking strategies, and what works for one business may not work for another. However, here are some actionable recommendations for growth hacking that can help businesses achieve rapid growth:

  1. Identify your North Star Metric: Your North Star Metric is the key performance indicator (KPI) that most accurately measures the core value that your product or service delivers to customers. Identify your North Star Metric early on, and then focus your growth hacking efforts on driving that metric.

  2. Use A/B testing to optimize your website or product: A/B testing involves creating two versions of a website or product, and then randomly showing one version to half of your audience and the other version to the other half. By analyzing the data from both versions, you can determine which version performs better and optimize your product accordingly.

  3. Use social media to reach a wider audience: Social media is a powerful tool for reaching a wider audience and generating buzz about your business. Consider partnering with popular influencers in your industry to get your product in front of more people.

  4. Create a referral program: Referral programs are a proven way to get more users or customers. By incentivizing existing users or customers to refer new people to your product or service, you can achieve rapid growth.

  5. Optimize your landing pages: Your landing pages are where your customers will convert and take action. Optimize your landing pages to improve your conversion rates and drive more growth.

  6. Build a community around your product or service: By building a community around your product or service, you can create a loyal following that will help you spread the word about your business.

Growth hacking is a powerful methodology for achieving rapid growth in a business. By combining marketing, data analysis, and product development, businesses can identify the most effective and efficient ways to grow. While growth hacking is not a one-size-fits-all solution, the actionable recommendations outlined above can help businesses achieve rapid growth. By identifying your North Star Metric, using A/B testing, using social media, creating a referral program, optimizing your landing pages

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