Growth Hacker Smart Phone Coffee Sandwich

If you ask your CMO or VP of Engineering what growth hacking means to them, they’ll both probably have different answers. The fact of the matter is that growth hacking means different things to different people. According to Wikipedia:

Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.

When I hear “growth hacking” I feel I’ve been doing it for years, it just never had an official name until Sean Ellis coined the phrase in 2010. According to Sean, a growth hacker is someone whose strategies, tactics and innovations are all based on growing the business. But wait, you might be thinking, isn’t that marketing’s sole job?

According to Aaron Ginn, co-founder of the Lincoln Initiative, the difference between a growth hacker and a marketer are the tactics. He answers this question on Quora:

“Both growth hackers and marketers have similar goals, but growth hackers have a different method to their madness. Growth hackers focus on core product. When they are working on acquisition and engagement, they start at the product to move the needle. Growth hackers, in almost every form and shape, live in the product team.

Marketers [however] are often ostracized to working on “campaigns” and external measures to move the needle. Most of the time, a marketer’s interaction with product stops at the landing page.”

When looking at examples of growth hacking a lot of folks cite the case study of AirBnB. The brilliance of how they used growth hacking by cleverly integrating their product (via reverse engineering) with Craigslist and allowing users to also share their abode for rent on the popular site. However, further research indicates that it was also a combination of this, a stellar UX, some bootstrapping techniques, plus, a focused PR strategy which targeted events that would sell out, such as SXSW and subsequently the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

SXSW Growth hacker
Image source:

The truth is, anyone can be a growth hacker. You don’t necessarily need to be an engineer, a marketer, or a PR strategist. As marketers become more data-driven, You just need to be solely focused on one goal: growth, and constantly be iterating. Florian Mettetal, a growth hacker at Indiegogo shared a definition he believes in, which says:

A growth hacker finds a strategy within the parameters of a scalable and repeatable method for growth, driven by product and inspired by data.

Some key characteristics of growth hackers are:

  • Constantly learning
  • Aggressively and constantly iterating
  • Obsessed with data
  • Innovates at a rapid pace
  • Pushes the needle

How have you growthhacked your business? Let us know in the comments below or email me your story at and maybe we’ll feature your start-up in an upcoming blog.