Growth Hacking 101: Everything You Always Wanted to Know with Examples | 2019

Growth Hacking 101

“What’s the point of driving a bunch of new customers through marketing channels if they immediately leak out through a hole in the bottom?” Ryan Holiday


What is growth hacking?
How growth hacking works
Growth hacking vs marketing
Methodology: growth hacking tricks of the trade
Successful examples of growth hacking (HubSpot, GitHub, 99designs)
Growth hacking and recruitment

What is growth hacking?

Growth hacking is the method of growing a company exponentially through rapid experimentation in multiple areas of business trying to identify which way is the most efficient. The term “growth hacker” was first coined by Sean Ellis in his now widely known revolutionary article “Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup, ” which was published as long ago as in 2010 and instantly spurred a new phenomenal approach to marketing and scalability. The goal of rapid growth and engaging low-cost alternatives to traditional marketing gained a colossal number of followers and preachers and started a new rebellious wave in recruitment with headhunters curiously ransacking job boards in search of elliptical and elusive “growth hackers.”

But few of us truly knew what growth hacking was all about back then, except for a simplistic acknowledgment of the appearance of a new approach in growing business. For the past 9 years, though, gargantuan volumes have been written by “experts” from various fields on the topic, so we’re lucky enough to see where the term came from, how it developed, and what future might hold in store. Hereinbelow, we tried to dissect the approach into small digestible chunks for all of you who always wanted to find out the underlying fundamentals of growth hacking but somehow missed the hype; or for those, who wanted to see where the term might be going in 2019-2020; or learn something from the past examples from companies who successfully embraced the approach.

Hacking Mind of a Growth Hacker

How growth hacking works

Since growth hacking is more than just an approach, but a new way of thinking, it starts with a realization that you’ll never have extra money or free time for everything you’ve planned for your business. Accepting the scarcity of resources is the first logical step in embracing the inevitability of change and the urgency of reallocating the resources you have to achieve the required and wanted growth.

Growth hacking, therefore, is about the optimization of available resources and lead generation (as well as customer retention). The root fundamental of the hacking principle lies in moving the available metrics: using all the accessible data from trends to analytics to determine an area that will generate the greatest results.

Growth hacking vs marketing

Growth Hacking vs Marketing

Many mistakenly think growth hacking is marketing with zero budget, whereas the true notion behind the approach is creating an amazing thing with the limited available resource you have. Thanks to the prolific number of social media platforms, and their respective targeting ad campaigns available for businesses, PPC ads, SEO, opportunity to create a compelling piece of content – companies now have plenty of ways of reaching a target consumer for a fraction of a cost.

But growth hacking is not only about marketing; it involves building a product’s growth based on and involving “user acquisition, onboarding, monetization, retention, and virality.” That’s why the role of a growth hacker really starts at the product level rather than when the product has already been built. The virality and monetization, for example, has to be already sewed into the product’s core fundamental architecture during the development stages rather than added up on top of an already developed solution. Ultimately, the role of a growth hacker is to find out what actually drives users to the product, or how they can be drawn, and what makes them pay for it. That is why growth hackers are more than marketers in that they have to understand a lot more about technical stuff underlying the creation and development of a product. Moreover, real mastery comes from an understanding of what the users want and working closely with product teams to ensure the product is built around those wants and needs.

Methodology: growth hacking tricks of the trade

Automated Sales Process

In their book, Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley’s Best Kept Secret, Raymond Fong and Chad Ridderson propose one of the solutions or methodology of approaching growth hacking through their so-called proposed Automated Sales Process model, which consists of the following steps:

  1. Attraction: defining a target audience (identifying and building an “avatar” of a prospective buyer) and eliminating marketing resource waste by parsing unqualified prospects; using available digital marketing resources (like analytics, attribution, and automation) to establish digital marketing tactics
  2. First impression: working on creating a professional and personalized experience for users; turning qualified prospects into brand-acquainted prospects
  3. Engagement and education: transforming a brand-acquainted prospect into engaged and educated prospect (through Unique Value Proposition (summation of how your company is different from the competitor), copywriting, social proofs (client testimonials and endorsements, partner and press mentions, reviews, and ratings, social media presence and following), FAQs, calls to action)
  4. Follow-up: turning educated prospects into trusting prospects (through email, valuable educational and selling newsletters, promotions, retargeting)
  5. Sales technology: creating a frictionless sales experience for trusting prospects ready to buy (employing up- and cross-selling, CRM, and customer service)
  6. Referrals and retention: transforming a one-off customer into a referring or repeating customer (asking for testimonials through satisfaction surveys, feedback forms, controlling the conversation on social media)

If you’re looking for particular advice, we found a great article that goes into detail on how to grow your business without employing a lot of resources along the way, namely, How To Grow Your Business. In this article, the author advocates the use of creative and low-cost strategies to acquire and retain customers and gives extensive examples of how to optimize your content strategy, start blogging, humanize drip campaigns, refine email subscriptions, use pop-ups intelligently and sensibly, and many more. In fact, they share as many as 16 Growth Hacking Tools that cost zero dollars.

Successful examples of growth hacking (HubSpot, GitHub, 99designs)

Successful Examples of Growth Hacking

Now, the best way to see how concepts actually work in real life is to study and follow the examples of companies which have successfully integrated and used the approach. For the sake of providing the best examples, we’ve chosen the few renowned companies and their stories as shared in Growth Hacking Techniques – How 40 Companies Made it BIG, a book by Robert Peters.

HubSpot, a software platform for inbound marketing, which grew from just three users in 2003 to more than ten thousand by 2013, employed a strategy of offering free content daily and a website grader to analyze more than two million websites in the first three years of operation. It continues to offer free invaluable content and daily tips to its users, having realized that it generated quality leads much cheaper than would have been achieved with traditional marketing.

GitHub, a software development environment, which initially focused on facilitating projects that used the Git system. Before GitHub, it was cumbersome for developers to share their code with others: they had to download the source code, create their changes locally, compile those changes in a patch and send to a project’s maintainer for review. GitHub created an outstandingly simple solution allowing developers to copy any code repository, modify it within their accounts, and share with the repo’s owner through pull requests. The environment is free but there are paid accounts that give developers more freedom in leveraging GitHub resources with their teams. The social networking tools built in within the platform (like live conversations, chats, wikis, etc) have enabled the ease of communication and created a large community of followers which has grown into a whole new level of social network for computer engineers. In case of GitHub, the growth was persistent and exponential because the company with its platform found a niche never filled before, and created a collaborative environment and culture that continues to attract and keep bright minds to this day.

99designs, an online graphic design marketplace and a community where a customer selects the designer by scanning their portfolios or announcing a contest. The company spun off from web designer’s forums, where designers occasionally participated in fictional contests and then decided to do “a real thing.” 99designs is a good example of how growth hacking can be drawn directly through user demand.

Growth hacking and recruitment

Growth Hacking and Recruitment

Now, a few of you might be interested in how exactly growth hacking is applicable to the recruitment process. Whether you’re hiring remotely or on-site, growth hacking methodology can be applied to hiring in several prominent ways. Neil Patel, for example, a famous angel investor and analytics expert, shares the following tips:

  1. In order to quickly find the best talent, poach it from your competitors. Obviously, the best people are employed, right? So why not try and steal them to work for your company? Now, the best tools for achieving this are already out there for free (or for a small fee incomparable with the possibilities of income the prospective hire can bring you), like LinkedIn, for example. If your budget allows and you’re an entrepreneur with constant time constraints, it’s best to outsource the process to someone else so you can concentrate on something you do best.
  2. Use recruitment software to save time and disengage from the 19th-century useless paperwork (To learn more about software recruitment, read our article on the 13 Best Apps & Software for Hiring and Employee Management)
  3. Ask for references, work samples, make a list of non-negotiables upfront. That would save you a ton of time and make the hiring process less stressful.
  4. Always have a recruitment plan and act quickly.

If you want to learn more examples of successful hiring strategies from companies in the technology sector, then, you might also like our article on 10 Hiring Lessons from Silicon Valley.


Having started the article with a quote from Ryan Holiday bestselling book, Growth Hacker Marketing, it would be predictably wise to finish with another sticky but yet educational quote from the same book: “people [who are] thinking about things other than making the best product, never make the best product.” The bottom line here is this: before looking for customers for your product and spending money and time on traditional marketing, develop and refine your product until it’s so great that the customers feel the urge to spread the word and come back with their friends and relatives. Sounds like something you need to work on? Indeed!

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Brad Mathias August 31, 2020 at 1:11 pm

Great read! Thank you for sharing it with us. I’ve heard the word growth hacking being thrown around in marketing but never knew what it really was about.

Jasmine Coms April 23, 2021 at 4:38 am

Yes, I totally agree on the line about How ethical hackers operate and that was exactly my encounter with some hacker group ” Barrysanchez Athackermaildot co m”
I needed a phone hack for my divorce process and it was something that was worth it as I got all information I needed. I still reckon one of the best places hacker reside are on the deep web too Dark Basin is also one of the forums where you can see other listing. But always make your research before you hire the hacker that fits you and your budget .

Marvin Berg July 22, 2021 at 8:11 pm

Hello Jasmine,
You might not read your DM I know but I have been sending you messages.
I also hired the Barrysanchez group of hackers and this is my take ” You never outlined that they were expensive after completing the task”
It took 8 hours for a phone hack instead of the initial 13 hours they mentioned. They gave me a web log in where I am able to monitor my kids phone.

Thank you for sharing.

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