What is Growth Hacking: Definition and Examples

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Regardless of ifit's a startup or an established company – growth is the only valid metric thatdictates the company's success.

A startup mustgrow quickly – acquire more users and revenue, to circumvent the riskof failing (90% failure rate!).

On the otherhand, larger, more established companies are at the riskof becoming irrelevant ($1 trillion at risk in U.S. based companiesalone!).

They must focuson pulling in more customers andretaining them as users.

This is wheregrowth hacking comes in.

What is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking pertains to using low-cost techniques to bring about growth – typically by pulling in new users.

Growth in this context can also mean selling more products or retaining existing customers by intensifying brand exposure and interaction.

The term ‘GrowthHacking' first emerged in 2010. Sean Ellis coined it, and its ideology broughtabout a fast track marketing culture that is booming away.

Loads ofcompanies, most notably tech-oriented startups began to employ thesestrategies. The growth tactics generated more leads, boasted higher conversionrates, and significantly increased both brand awareness and perception.

what is growth hacking

Source: https://www.marketingcharts.com/customer-centric/analytics-automated-and-martech-29037/attachment/ifbyphone-growth-hackers-and-marketing-metrics-apr2013

According to the State of Inbound, generating leads andtraffic are two of the most challenging goals that marketers struggle with.

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Source: https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/3476323/State%20of%20Inbound%202018%20Global%20Results.pdf

Not only doesgrowth hacking enable marketing teams to overcome these challenges, but it alsoallows them to track their progress and will enable them to make amends alongthe way.

The marketingindustry changes its focus everyfew years as a response to change in trends.

Growth hacking isan in-demand skill, and the trillion-dollarindustry has morphed to adopt it as a critical marketing tool.

Here is a briefrundown of how growth hacking is done.

How to do Growth Hacking:

‘Growth hacking’is an umbrella term – and there are multiple strategies that can be employed toboost growth.

Here are some ofthe effective broad growth hacking tactics anyone can try:

Blogging: People fromacross the globe use the internet to scour for entertainment, information, andopinion. Content consumption is now an integral part of daily life.

Creatingand putting up high-quality content is a super effective growth tactic.

Emailmarketing: Integrating an email form to a website and building a mailing list isone of the most effective ways of increasing brand interaction.

Theaverage ROI for email marketing is $38 for every dollar invested.

CTAs: Regardless ofwhat the website is about, having a call-to-action is a must.

CTAsare more effectivethan Google’s AdWords.

Supplyingvalue for free: Be it a monthly newsletter, an e-book, or a trial for your services,offering free stuff to your visitors is one of the best ways of improving brandengagement.

Freetrials averagea 60% conversion rate.

Looking at otherbrands’ approaches to growth in the market and their circumstances will helpyou better understand which tactic is best suited for any given situation.

Here are 15 companies that hacked their growth in the market.

IncredibleExamples of Growth Hacking:

#1. Uber

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This ridesharing behemoth boasts 110million users worldwide and dominates the ridesharing market, holdinga 70% market share.

As reported by Statista, theride-sharing platform generated a whopping net revenue of $11.3 billion in 2018 alone and is currently valued at $76 billion.

One of Uber's most compelling growth tactics is their referralprogram. They have a separatereferral program for drivers and passengers.

92% of all consumerstrust recommendations from friends and family more than advertising. Leveragingword of mouth in this way, and offering free rides to both referrer and the newcustomer expanded their userbase exponentially.

Their review system was an instanthit and made it easier to avail of quality services.

Another super useful growth hack Uber uses to date is the viralpromotion tactic. Although this tactic may seem simple, everysuch promotion makes brand engagement go through the roof.

#2. Airbnb

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Over twomillion people check into an Airbnb every night.

In 2017, Airbnb reported a gross revenue of $2.6 billion.  The company is valued at $38 billion and claims to have generated over a billion dollars in gross revenue in the second quarter of 2019.

Airbnb’s famous Craigslist growth hack dates back to the company’s‘lift-off’ stages around2010.

They realized that Craigslist had a massive userbase that Airbnb canutilize. The founders also realized that the people on Craigslist representtheir ideal target audience.

So, they began to ask hosts also to post their listings on Craigslist.A little later, a bot was built that would automatically post new Airbnblistings to Craigslist.

Another effective, but slightly grey-hat marketing tactic Airbnb usedinitially is Craigslistlisting farming. If a user posts a listing on Craigslist, they’dreceive an email from a “fan” recommending Airbnb to them.

More often than not, the person would jump ship and post to Airbnbinstead.

#3. Instagram

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It is oneof the most popular social media platforms. Instagram has overa billion active users and is the secondmost-preferred social media platform.

According to Statista, Instagram generated$6.84 billion in 2018 and will makeat least 14 billion dollars in 2019. The platform is worth over $100billion.

A product as polished as Instagram for image sharing didn’t exist backin 2010. The great idea and execution fuelled the company’s rapid growth.

It grew so fast that the foundersstruggled to keep it from crashing from all the newusers flooding in.

Facebook bought Instagram for $1billion in 2012, polished the platform, and set up a robust business modelthat would bring in overhalf a billion dollars in three years.

#4. PayPal

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PayPal dominates the online payment market. This popular gateway holdsan impressive 60.18%market share.

For the past three years, PayPal has consistently processed over 100billion dollars. In the second quarter of 2019, PayPal processeda net total of 172.36billion dollars.

Their net income in 2018 was $2.05 billion. The company isworth over $61billion.

PayPal’s referral program is, to date, one of the most effectivemarketing programs ever carried out. After just onemonth of its launch, PayPal has acquired over 100,000 customers.

As the customer base grew, they gradually decreasedthe incentives until they reached their goal.

PayPal also manufactured popularity using eBay. The team approachedthe largest sellers on eBay and offered to sell them products at lucrativeprices, with one condition – they pay them using PayPal.

With more and more sellers using PayPal, eBay eventually integratedPayPal as an official payment option on its platformin 2003.

#5. Facebook

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Facebook is the world’s mostfamous social networking platform. In the second quarter of 2019, it had 2.4billion monthly active users, making it themost preferred social media website globally.

Facebook generated a total revenue of $55.8 billion in 2018. The company is worth over $540 billion.

In a Forbesinterview, Andy Johns, who was a growth hacker at Facebook in their initialstages, spoke about the methods they used to grow at such a rapid pace.

The most effective tactic was enabling embeddable badges/profile widgets for users to embed on their websites and blogs.

These generated billions of impressions each day. The links were clicked millions of times a day, and accounts were subsequently made due to a rise in interest.

Facebook also began to acquire service providers from all around theglobe. The technology these companies possessed enabled Facebook to procuremore email addresses.

#6. LinkedIn

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LinkedIn boasts over 660 million users. A study in 2017found that over122 million people have been invited for an interview throughLinkedIn.

As of 2019, LinkedIn has over 20million job postings from across the world at any given time.

According to Statista, LinkedIngenerated over $5.2 billion inrevenue in 2018. In 2019, its projected revenue exceeds 6.75 billion dollars.

LinkedIn, too, used referrals to achieve virality. However, thereferral program employed was more traditional than modern – Reid Hoffman, thefounder, used his network of successful friends to lift LinkedIn off theground.

In a CNNinterview, Reid speaks about how the 13 people associated with the companyinvited 112 people to join the platform.

Growth was slow, but the platform gradually began to gain traction inSilicon Valley. By the end of the first week, they had over12,000 registered users. In a year, the company had amassed over500,000 users.

In 2005, the company launched three new revenue streams: job listings,advertisements, and subscriptions. These made LinkedIn super profitable in 2006(bringing in over$10 million!).

#7. YouTube

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Each day, over one billion hours of video arewatched on YouTube. It is the second most visited site globally.

The website is worth over $160billion by itself, not considering the revenue Google generates. YouTube willgenerate an estimated 11.76billion dollars in ad revenue in 2020.

YouTube hacked its growth by making the content on their website easyto share.

Back in 2005, there was no easy way to share videos, and enablingsharing video using embed codes on blogs, and even other websites put YouTubefront and center.

This move not only made their brand more recognizable, but it alsohelped create the necessary backlinks that propelled their site’s popularity.

Their strategy worked, and by 2015, YouTube was processing over 3billion searches every month.

#8. Hotmail

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The email service launched in 1996. Only 20 days after its launch inJuly, over20,000 people were already using Hotmail.

It was growing so fast that the service caught Microsoft's eye and wassold for a whopping $400 million in 1997. At this point, Hotmail had alreadyamassed 12 million users (which was 1/5th of allusers on the internet).

How? It was because of an ingenious marketing tactic.

The founders came up with a way to pull new users without having tospend any money. They included a “Getyour free email at Hotmail” signature at the end of every email that wasbeing sent.

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When the tag was clicked, the recipient was redirected to a sign-uppage using which one could create an account quickly.

#9. Gmail

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In October 2018, Gmail had over 1.5billion active users. It is the world’s mostused email domain.

Gmail wasn’t always this popular. However, when it was launched in2004, it had much better email management capabilities than its competition,which made it highly desirable.

Google generated hype for its email service using scarcity as amarketing tactic.

Gmail was initially invite-only. Limited ‘invites’ were granted toexisting users, which created a lot of demand for the service.

The invites were so desirable that people began to auction them. You would find people selling invites on eBay for as much as $125 per invite!

#10. Groove

growth hacking funnel

Groove had their “aha” moment when Alex Turnbull, the CEO, realizedthat no other SaaS company employed content marketing as a growth tactic.

The company’s user base exploded when Alex decided to openly share hisexperiences with his audience using the Groove blog.

He also reachedout to customers, asking them why they signed up with Groove.This supplied valuable insight and enable better marketing.

Now, Groove is positioned to make over $10million a year.

#11. Dropbox

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In April 2009, just two years of its inception, Dropbox had amassedone million registered users.

Another million users had joined by September 2009, and anothermillion by November in the same year.

The rapid growth is a result of the company gamifying their services.

Existing users would get additional online storage when they completedparticular challenges. Inviting other users, following their social mediahandles, sharing feedback, and even uploading files from select devices addedmore and more space to the user's account.

The company is worth now worth over 12billion dollars and generated $400million in the third quarter of 2019.

As of 2018, Dropbox has over12.7 million paying users.

#12. Netflix

what is usually the first activity in the hacking process?

Netflix currently has over 158million paying subscribers from across the globe.

Netflix has been in the movie renting business for over two decades.However, it grew into a household name only because of targeted marketing.

Retargetingthe company’s finances to focus on the booming streaming industry gavethe company more marketing flexibility.

Investing capital generated into making exclusive movies and TV showsalso gave Netflix an edge over its competitors.

Catering recommendations based on location and culture made theirservice super appealing.

The company generated a little over$18.8 billion in 2019 and is worth $136.33billion.

#13. Shazam

growth hacking tools

The app has been installed overone billion times!

Shazam was perfectly positioned to make great use of word of mouthmarketing. When it was first launched in the UK in 2002, it was known as 2580.

It was an extension that, when dialed, would pick up the audio and return a message with the name of the track and its artist.

It became super popular in a matter of months.

As of 2018, the service is activelyused by 478 million people.

#14. Slack

growth hacking strategies

Slack has it’s name up in the fastest growing business’s hall of fame.It went from zero to beingworth seven billion dollars in less than five years!

The reason for the app’s rapid growth is excellent timing and betterPR.

With more and more startups popping up and rapidly scaling theirgrowth, there was a need for these teams to organize internal communicationbetter. Slack was the answer to every startup's communication needs.

The PR team came up with a great hook, “The Email Killer.”Using the founder's reputation from their previous successful venture, Flickr,the PR team connected with multiple tech publishers and attracted new users atan exponential rate.

#15. HubSpot

growth hacker marketing

Hubspot is valued at oversix billion dollars and generated$513 million in 2018.

HubSpot gained popularity by supplying free online tools for people togain insights about their website and their Twitteraccount.

These free tools were handy marketing tools and acted as a catalystfor HubSpot's initial growth.

Another super effective tactic that HubSpot employed is their blog.They put up content that added a lot of value to readers’ lives.

The CTAs were tailored to match the post they were reading, which made for better conversion rates and higher brand engagement overall.

Growth hacking isa relatively new marketing tactic. Although we can trace some similar tacticsback to their older, offline origins, it has been around for about ten years.

However, in this short time, we have already managed to create highly-effective techniques and even labeled some for conventional use.

Following thesetechniques can work, but the real key to hacking growth lies in thinkinganalytically and identifying growth opportunities.

These companiesfound ways for people to start talking about their product and start adoptingit.

At the end of theday, people must connect to the brand in powerful ways for the brand to gainmomentum in the market.

Even the most fruitfulmodern marketing tactics are based on the principle of people connecting –either with the company itself or with one another using the company’sservices.

Content marketingand social media marketing work soeffectively for this reason.

Referral programsused by Uber and Dropbox, Gmail, and Hotmail's invite system and LinkedIn'snetworking tactic allowed people to connect and gain value over theirconnection.

When YouTubeenabled sharing videos freely, It also allowed people to connect withoutlimitations.

Finding the rightpattern and tailoring it to work with the target user base is the right way tohack a company's growth. Nonetheless, the most effective growth hacking tacticsare those that find ways to connect people.

Kulwant Nagi

Hi! I am Kulwant Nagi. I created this blog in 2011 with the vision to help new bloggers. I am running more than 10 blogs on various categories and running a digital marketing company in India now.

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