The Definitive Guide to Growth Marketing for Startups

growth marketing guide

Growth Marketing for Startups :

Growth marekting is the very core of every business. But growth can be nothing but a projection if a company has no clear strategy and the product not designed for growth from the very beginning. As startups pop up left and right, traditional marketing strategies start to fall short. New job positions need to be made and new tools need to be adopted. Still, growth is the priority, the only difference is how it can be achieved.

So, What’s the difference between a growth hacker and a digital marketer?

What You Will Learn ?

  1. Growth Hackers and What They Do?
  2. Growth Hackers Qualifications.
  3. Growth Hacking Strategy Implementation Checklist.
  4. Growth Hacking Funnel.



Chapter 1: Growth Hackers and What They Do ?

There are fundamental differences between a growth hacker and a marketer aside from the job title. The need for growth hackers actually sprung from the inability of marketers to properly implement a specialized growth strategy made for startups.


It was 2010 and Sean Ellis was the go-to person for internet-based startup companies when it comes to growing their user base. He worked alone, yet he accomplished what a team of marketers cannot. He’s basically in a league of his own and this became very apparent when it was time to hire someone to continue what he started.


The company needs someone in their ranks to continue driving growth. Ellis already made the blueprint for them. It was then that Ellis came to the realization that there was no one like him – what he’s doing is basically a new hybrid strategy brought forth by the demands of a new market.


That’s when Ellis coined the phrase “growth hacker.” In his blog, he stated that startups should, “Find a growth hacker.” This is because, for all their skills and experience, marketers aren’t:

  • A good fit for a growth-focused strategy.
  • Necessary in the early phases of a startup.


Growth hackers, on the other hand, Ellis explains what startups need since in the early phases of a startup, growth should be the only agenda. Though marketers also aim for growth, it is not their main objective, rather it is only a by-product of the success of their set objectives. Growth hackers only have growth in mind.

Why do startups specifically need growth hackers?

Why is there a need for growth hackers in the first place? Ellis’ growth strategies were quite effective but why does it only applies to tech startups? There are two main reasons for this:

  1. The changing definition of a “product.” The internet enabled new intangible products to develop. These software products can be marketed as tangible products but its marketing potential is more flexible. Software products don’t have the limitations of physical presence; they can be simultaneously accessed in real time by numerous people.
  2. Product distribution is no longer the same. Since software products aren’t confined by physical limitations, the way different distribution channels and intermediaries are used change.


How can growth hackers accomplish their goals?

“Hacker” has different direct meanings and connotations. When Sean Ellis coined the term “growth marketing” he may be referring to someone that is ingenious and forward-thinker. But as growth hacking evolved, growth hackers can actually work in ways that are somewhat beyond their own connotation of a hacker.

  • Ingenious hacker,
  • They can act as a “software hacker”
  • Illegal hacker.


How do growth marketing hackers implement their strategies?

Growth marketing hacking, just like in other strategies uses different sets of skills and specialized tools to implement. The implementation itself can differ but the end results are still the same: growth. There several companies that were early adopters of growth hacking but these three companies really stood out. The idea was already there, and the implementation is strong but what really made Airbnb what it is today are these growth hacking strategies implemented at the right time, in the right places.


Airbnb Case study :

growth marketingAirbnb Leveraging Craigslist

Discovery is the reason why SEO and ASO exists but these strategies aren’t the end-all. Craigslist is a large platform with millions of users – users that need what Airbnb has to offer. It would be a great leverage. It can be used to supplement other growth marketing strategies but how to implement this strategy. Airbnb gave its users an option to have their listing also appear on Craigslist. The post listing would appear on Craigslist and redirect to the original post in AirBNB. Both users and Airbnb gain inbound links.


Dropbox Case study :


dropbox invite systemDropbox Incentivizing Invites

Sean Ellis himself, the master growth hacker was behind Dropbox’s phenomenal growth. Her strategy? Use the software’s latent potential to distribute itself. In Dropbox’s case, they used an incentivized invite system to grow their user base. Both inviter and invitee receive free storage space so it’s a win-win.


Dropbox also later on included social media connectivity options in their incentivized referral system.

This strategy increases Dropbox’ social media presence. This growth marketing hacking strategy was to increase Dropbox’s signup rate by 60% – a growth rate that Dropbox was actually able to sustain.


What can be learned from these growth hacking implementations?

  1. Growth hacking strategies that work today may not work tomorrow. Take AirBNB’s Craigslist form integration, for example, it was certainly innovative. But there can be downsides when you are “hacking” into another platform. Craigslist removed the vulnerabilities in the codebase that could’ve been exploited by Airbnb, allowing them to integrate their forms into the platform. Strategies like this usually have a short lifespan so growth hackers should have a backup plan.

Airbnb solved this by reaching out to people that have new listings on Craigslist and convinced them to sign up in Airbnb. Spammy but it works!

  1. Social sharing is a powerful growth hacking tool. Software that has inbuilt sharing functionality basically have a growth and marketing channel in


Chapter 2: Growth Hackers Qualifications

Can anyone become a growth marketing hacker? As discussed earlier, growth hackers aren’t your traditionally trained marketers. And in order for someone to become an effective growth hacker, they need to acquaint themselves with new concepts and even at times, contradict age-old beliefs about how products are sold and distributed.


But as a relatively young profession in a controversial premise, growth marketing hacking was – is mostly seen in a bad light by those, not in the know. Before believing any of the negativity surrounding the profession and the practice, those interested into getting into the profession or hiring growth hackers for their company should learn the basic tenets of the hows and whats of becoming a growth hacker.

Debunking Misconceptions about Growth Hackers

  1. Only programmers can become growth hackers. There are specific requirements for a job position but unlike traditional jobs, growth hacking is more dynamic. Not all growth hacking goals are achieved through lines of code.
  2. Growth hackers work alone. As said above, growth hackers aren’t necessarily programmers but then, growth hackers also need to work with code in order to achieve his growth goals. For this reason, growth hackers need to work in a team with a front-end and back-end developer. The roles may change but it is still the growth hacker that would implement growth strategies for the startup.
  3. Marketers can’t learn growth hacking. It is clear that marketers and growth hackers are two different players that can work on the same team. But can marketers also double as a growth hacker? The answer doesn’t actually lie in black and white. Growth hacking is just a subset of marketing that focuses on growth. Over time, growth hacking may seem like a totally different ball game but its marketing core is still there. Marketers just need to adapt and use their skills in ways they can’t even imagine in marketing.
  4. Growth hacking is “black hat.” The word “hacking” gives it away, doesn’t it? But as discussed earlier, there different connotations of growth hacking and going to the dark side is only one of them. But most often, growth hackers don’t even need to go to that path since they have the tools and the skills to achieve their goals ethically.


But what makes a great growth marketing hacker? What skills and expertise should a startup look for?


Characteristics and Skills that Growth Hackers Should Possess

  1. Interpreting Analytics. Growth marketing hackers are in love with analytics to the point of dependence. Analytics keep them going and it is vital that they understand it intimately. Growth hackers should be able to use in analytics in:
  1. Monitoring real results. Growth hackers should not go blindly about without monitoring the performance of their strategies. A strategy may sound cool and innovative but at the end of the day, performance is the real measure of success.
  2. Directing focus on strategies that matter. More than finding out if something works or not, analytics can also influence how, when or where strategies are implemented.
  3. Replicating success. With the use of analytics growth hackers can find out how and why strategies work and they can replicate this success or even make it better.
  4. Forecasting future growth. There are trends in analytics and with careful monitoring, growth hackers can predict future outcomes – or rather properly forecast for probabilities, decreasing future risks.
  1. Soft and Hard Skills Mastery. Growth hackers are versatile. They complement either their programming or analytics skills with “soft skills” like social media know-how and content creation.  This makes them know intimate details of how the process should be done. Delegation is also limited so they can control even the smallest of variables in each strategy.
  2. Creativity. Growth hackers don’t just perform the same tricks over and over. They don’t just strategize, they innovate. And innovation isn’t just based on analytic reports but also creativity. Growth hackers can think beyond what already exists and give a new spin to straightforward strategies.
  3. Innate curiosity and daring. Growth hackers are willing to explore different sources of ideas and experiment on them even if these ideas sound silly or far-fetched. They’re not afraid to consider “what ifs” and pursue growth channels that no one had even dared try.
  4. Thorough and persistent. Growth hacking isn’t a one-time thing and it’s certainly not instant. Growth hackers won’t stop until they reach their goal – maybe not even then. They eat and breathe growth.  As Bryan Goldberg said of Bleacher Report, “But what is even more fantastic is the chart of how we got there. Now, I challenge any reader to pull out a pen and put an “X” over the spot in which Bleacher Report achieved escape velocity. What you may find is that it cannot be done. There was never a moment in which we “took off like a rocket.”


Chapter 3: The Growth Hacking Strategy Implementation Checklist

Before a strategy takes off there’s a process that growth hackers follow. Each step of the process is a tick on the mental checklist of things that ensure things will go as planned. Even non-growth hackers need to learn this process in order to monitor a strategy’s path and progress.


Define Actionable Goals :

What makes a goal actionable? The scope and focus of a goal define how achievable a goal is. Sometimes it’s easy to think that since growth is the main goal, it can be achieved through the implementation of a strategy. But even a single strategy had sub-strategies or tasks that make it successful.


If your goal is to increase user retention alone, you’ll need to try to implement general strategies to drive retention. This goal is too broad and it would be difficult to decide which of the strategies caused the retention to increase. But if you select a specific strategy, and select a specific task on that strategy, your goal becomes actionable, more concrete and easier to monitor. For example, you decide that improving user onboarding can increase user retention. This is an appropriate goal but you need to split it into actionable tasks that you can easily implement. You then decide that you either make the registration process easier, enable guest user option, or allow an offline user option. And once you are done with that specific task, you can work on another task under the strategy until you achieve the goal of the strategy in the end.


Analytics Implementation :

Once you set your goals, you need to decide what key performance metrics to monitor. Goals are useless without analytics. In the example above, you can select to increase retention by making user onboarding easier. Refining your goal further, you select to implement the “guest user” option. So, what should you monitor? Ask yourself these:

  • Do you already monitor user onboarding?
  • Do you monitor what devices are used for onboarding?
  • Do you monitor the referring URLs?
  • Do you monitor cohort behavior?
  • What are other metrics directly affected by the changes?

There are more questions to ask but as you implement analytics, you can find results that can change the way you implement your goals or even your goals itself. So analytics should give you the information you most need at different phases of your goal implementation – these needs would be ever-changing.


Assess and Leverage Existing Growth Potentials :

As they say, “play to your strengths.” This is especially important if there are limited resources to leverage. For example, your product doesn’t have built-in social sharing options so you don’t ask users to sign up using social media accounts. The product also allows users to log in and create content anonymously but the long registration process is putting users off.


So you decide to implement a guest user option. But how can this benefit you? Users would surely grab the opportunity to sign up as guests, would they? Is this worth losing social data you can use in user behavior monitoring? Would increase the product’s retention rate worth the disadvantages?


Weigh in the product’s strengths and decide whether it is advantageous to leverage on these strengths for your growth strategies.


Execute a test-run

It’s now time to test if your strategy would actually work. Before you begin, you need to do the following:

  • Create a hypothesis on what result you will achieve. In the example, the hypothesis would be that implementing a guest user option would make onboarding easier, therefore increasing user retention.
  • Assess the necessary tools and resources. Testing the hypothesis is just like a soft implementation of a growth hacking strategy. There needs to be a team involvement and more often, they need to do this with their usual tasks. Be realistic on estimating the time and effort necessary to code or to just analyze the results of the experiment so that there won’t be any pressure on the team’s part.


There’s always the possibility that your hypothesis won’t hold up to expectations. It’s almost impossible though that you won’t learn anything from the results of the experiment. So don’t lament on the time or resources lost.


Optimize the test-run :

The first results don’t spell the end of the test-run, though. The test can still be improved upon – tweak it to see if the results would remain the same. There are two ways to optimize the test-run:

  • Use a control group. You can effectively monitor the strategy’s performance against the regular performance of the product. This is opposed to just estimating the rate of increase or decrease in performance.
  • A/B tests. Split tests are very useful, especially if you want to know the performance of one strategy over the other. Take note to design your test-run with A/B tests in mind.


When to stop :

Don’t easily give up on your test-runs or experiments. Repeat the process until you have solid proof that your hypothesis is either right or wrong. Stopping at one test can leave out data you can gain from environmental factors. If the test is costing an inordinate amount of resources and effort and still not yielding the results you want, then it’s time to end it.


Repeat the process :

Keep this checklist in mind every time there’s a need to implement growth hacking strategies. Growth hacking is a continuous process so making this checklist a second nature is vital. There is no luck in growth hacking, just persistence.


Chapter 4: The Growth Funnel

A funnel in a physical sense has a wide brim that narrows down in the other end. The funnel is used figuratively to denote a process in which something is slowly channeled through a medium.


The general concept of a growth hacking funnel is similar to that in marketing. A marketing funnel visualizes the process of converting leads into customers. The wide brim of the funnel is a representation of the wide potential of capturing leads. The funnel narrows as the leads are led to different stages of the funnel. In growth hacking, the funnel has three levels but unlike in marketing, the purchase is not the desired conversion.


Three Growth Funnel Levels :

  1. Getting visitors. On top of the funnel is the leads in the form of visitors. There are three ways to get first-time visitors to an  app or website:
  • Pull them in
  • Push them in
  • Use the product as a lure

These ways are also called the 3P’s of growth hacking. Getting visitors is just the tip of the iceberg. In the long run, having many visitors won’t matter if you can’t pull them deeper into the funnel.

  1. Membership activation. Members are those who signed up for different reasons. They are deeper into the funnel but not yet “your” users.
  2. User retention. Retained users are users that keep on giving. There’s no assurance that you will keep them forever but the longer you retain, the higher their value become.


Conversion Benchmarks for Each Level:

But what is a good conversion rate? The rates can vary. Some startups have relatively few visitors yet a large percentage of these visitors become members and are retained. On the other end of the spectrum are startups that have a lot of visitors but only a few retained users.


The problem is that it is difficult to get industry benchmarks for each level of the growth hacking funnel. What you need to do is get a “feel” of what you are doing wrong. Growth is continuous and dynamic after all. This feeling though isn’t a calculated guess but based on certain variables like:

  • Traffic source. Identify if the traffic your source gives you is the type of visitors that would be interested in your product.
  • Activation goal. The simpler your activation process, more users you can convert.
  • Retention comparison. Retention can be benchmarked but even in the same industry, websites and apps perform differently. Industry averages can also be skewed by very high-performing players so it is best to make comparisons from competitors that are similar in size.
  • Strategy implementations. There are strategies that can positively affect one level of the funnel but negatively affects the other level(s). The changes shouldn’t be drastic and each implementation should work in together especially in the long run.
  • Growth hacking benchmarks. You can also team up with another growth hacker working for a product that employs similar growth hacking strategies. An exchange of ideas can be done but the most important thing is the data you can both exchange.


By paying attention to these variables you can let you identify if there is something wrong in each level of the funnel. The conversion rate should improve – continually.


Why the Funnel Can Still Fail:

It’s normal for funnel levels to have varying conversion ratios. The low-performing funnels are actually reflective of areas in your growth hacking strategies you need to pay more close attention to.  But sometimes, the reason why one level isn’t performing well is the brim of the funnel – the first level of visitors. The root of this problem can be often remedied easily but there’s one big issue that causes this: product-market mismatch.


It was Sean Ellis who also popularized this concept. Ellis said that if at least 40 percent of users won’t miss or get disappointed if your product suddenly disappears, then your product doesn’t really have a market demand. That, or you are marketing to the wrong people, which can yield the same disappointing result.


But how would you know if there’s a product-market mismatch or your efforts weren’t just enough? Go back and test your implementations, use the funnel, and benchmark your funnel level conversion. If there is indeed a mismatch, then you should rethink your traffic source. Work from there and find a niche in the market especially for your product.


Why use this specific funnel framework?

The three-level funnel looks somewhat simplistic but there’s actually a benefit to using it over more complicated growth hacking funnels.

  1. It is descriptive of the users’ state in the funnel.
  2. The three levels of conversion are what really matters in growth hacking.
  3. It is insightful without the added frills.


Chapter 5: Strategies for Increasing Traffic


In the last chapter, we briefly discussed the three ways in which a startup can get first-time visitors to the product website or app. But how do you really go about pulling, pushing and presenting your product to prospective visitors?


Let’s take a closer look at the 3 Ps.

The 3 P’s

  1. Pull. Visitors come willingly. They saw or learned about your product somewhere and they’re interested. The reason for the interest may be an incentive or an offer but they were drawn organically.
  2. Push. This is often done through paid campaigns. You basically reach out to a targeted audience and lead them to your product page. You pay for user acquisition instead of just waiting for them to come.
  3. Product. As we discussed earlier, the internet is redefining products. Internet products can lure visitors through social sharing and referrals.

Proper execution is the key to the success in leading visitors to your product. Growth hackers usually use a combination of strategies that not only increase traffic but also deliver high-quality visitors.


Pull Basics and Strategies:

Pulling visitors may sound simple but organic outreach also has a share of obstacles. A saturated market is definitely one. Pull strategies don’t also work if your product doesn’t offer enough value in the eyes of your prospective visitors.

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This doesn’t mean that pull strategies are difficult to implement. You just need enough knowledge of different discovery platforms and of course, content creation.


Here are some of the strategies and platforms you can explore:


There are advantages and disadvantages to blogging. Though it is tried and tested, make sure that you’re ready for the effort it will take to maintain a blog. Here are a few of the advantages:

  • Keyword-rich content aids in discoverability through Google indexing, this is especially favorably if your page ranks in SERPs.
  • Blogs are niche-specific especially those that are made especially around products. You can basically tap into more high-quality traffic.
  • Every blog post increases the chances of discovery. RSS distribution is also a plus.
  • You can use high quality and informational content to gather leads through an email list.
  • Blogs are great for branding especially if the blog gains an “authority site” status.
  • There are lots of opportunities for guest posting on authority blogs that can increase your startup’s exposure.

Blogging can be a lot of work, from writing content on a regular basis to employing SEO tactics not only on-page but also outside of your blog, blogging can eat a lot of your time. So you either outsource or just settle for guest blogging. This is called leveraging other people’s audience (LOPA) which applies to any strategy where you are driving traffic through a pre-made audience. You will notice that several of the next strategies take advantage of platforms that already have a considerable number of users.


Podcasts and Webinars

Podcasts have this “authority” air about it, even more so than blogs. This could be because you can hear and learn the information straight from the source. You can most of the time tell offhand if this person is knowledgeable about a subject matter or not. But unlike blogging, podcasting has a limited distribution network. Podcasts also then to have fewer audiences but there’s always a way to make it work, especially for growth hackers.


Just like with blogging, you can opt to the guest podcast. This will spare you the effort of creating podcasts using your own resources. You can also leverage an existing user base especially if you are guesting in a popular podcast.


You can also try webinars. Webinars create a sense of urgency and fear of missing out since they are usually only available live. You can also create a sense of scarcity by only allowing limited slots. Webinars are also more interactive than podcasts. You can interact with your audience and assert your authority in a subject. To entice users to sign up for a webinar, you can use giveaways or product free trials that are only available after they join the webinar.


Guides and Resources

You can actually provide high-value content without starting a blog. This is a tactic that you often see at startup blogs but you can also use this on your product page. Just offer comprehensive guides and resources in the forms of ebooks, whitepapers, infographics, etc. These resources are often marketed as “all-in-one”, “ultimate”, and “the only guide you’ll ever need.” In exchange for this valuable knowledge, you can ask visitors to signup first. A lot of visitors find this cumbersome but they sign up anyway because the deal is just too good.


Social Media

Brands that don’t have a social media presence are missing out. This seems to be the marketing mantra these days. But social media plays a vital part even in growth hacking. There are unlimited ways in order to pull traffic from social media platforms. Here are a few of them:

  • Engage with people to bring awareness to your product. Show a casual air as much as possible. This makes your brand more relatable and will make users more comfortable about engaging back.
  • Provide valuable content. Don’t just post your product. Create or share interesting content but don’t stray much from what your product is about so that you attract users that are really interested in your brand and not just your posts.
  • Use social media as a customer support channel. Visibility is the key. When users see brands in social media they’re not only after the news and updates but also the verification from others that this brand can actually address their needs.
  • Use social media to host contests. The viral loop can drive exponential growth to a website or social media. The type of content doesn’t matter as long as it has high “sharing factor”.


App Marketplaces

The Apple App Store and Google Play Store are B2C app marketplaces, probably the biggest ones. Submitting your app for public consumption in these marketplaces require compliance with platform rules and censorship guidelines. Discoverability is also an issue since these marketplaces are very saturated. Make sure to employ App Store Optimization (ASO) strategies.


B2B app marketplaces, on the other hand, are niche marketplaces that only cater for business apps. Your app either aids in the business process, or is used to integrate to another business software. Most of the time, B2B app marketplaces are the latter. Examples are MailChimp and Salesforce. The two companies have a marketplace for apps that are designed to integrate with their own.


Deal sites

There are many niche deal sites that cater to a considerable number of people. Approaching sites like these are straightforward, sometimes all you need is to have a discount or promo to offer and your offer will be listed on the site. This is a quick-fix distribution channel and if your discounted deal gets enough traction, a lot of users won’t want to miss out and would even pay for the full price if they won’t be able to avail of the promo.


Push Basics and Strategies :

Push strategies are often interruptive, trying to push your own content to the audience that you intended. This is contrary to pull strategies in which you use the lure of content or deals to lead organic visitors to your website or app. With push strategies, your content is put to the forefront, asking the audience to take action.


Another different from pull strategies is that push strategies are more often than not paid. The cost can add up but it will be worth it especially if the lifetime value (LTV) of your users are higher than the cost to acquire them. LTV is basically the average amount you can gain from the length of time you were able to retain a user. It is important to pay close attention to LTV since it reveals to the true value of an acquisition.


Paid Ads

So how can it be called growth hacking if you have to spend money on it? But ads aren’t just about their face value. You can actually approach them in a growth hacking perspective. Here are ways you can do this:

  • Don’t limit yourself to the large platforms. There are several niche platforms where you can run specific ad types from without tethering yourself into a single campaign.
  • Use different platforms to target specific types of audience. It also matters that see your ads in the appropriate setting. For example, corporate B2B products introduced through Facebook ads don’t just the same appeal as ads shown on business websites.
  • Some ad platforms have a steep learning curve. It is vital that you the technical aspect of ad creation and distribution. This can give you a deeper understanding of your earning potential.
  • You can remove the middleman in the equation. You can instead directly approach companies or blog owners that sell ad space or want to cross-promote. You can negotiate with these people, but not with ad platforms.
  • It’s not how much the ads cost, but the effectiveness of your business model. If you have a high LTV and your business model has high efficiency, then you have the capability to spend more. This is an advantage that not just anyone can have.
  • Qualify each click. If you select to buy ads on a per-click basis, make sure that each click leads to your desired conversion. Put all possible details in your copy so that those who do click knows exactly what you are offering.
  • A/B test. Test variations of your ad copy to get an idea of your audience’s reaction and preference. Most large ad platforms offer an inbuilt A/B testing capability so make the most of that.



Affiliate marketing is what keeps some blog owners going. You pay them every time they achieve your set goal like driving traffic to your website or activating members. This is advantageous especially that you are reaching a diverse user base. There are things you should consider, though:

  • Make incentives appealing but design it so that it would be a win-win situation. An affiliate will do anything to reach the goal but sometimes, quality will be compromised. Make sure that you are only incentivizing quality traffic.
  • Affiliates represent you in some way so be careful in choosing them.
  • Don’t use pre-made affiliate systems. Some services can connect you with affiliates and do the work for you. There’s always a caveat to these things, some even track payouts and you don’t have much control over the process.


Product Strategies

Finally, there’s the product and ways you can use it to get first-time visitors. Using the product as a lure seems like you are already sailing through the two top levels of the funnel. They for the product after all! You did not just pull them to learn something or push them through ad copy. There’s something about your product that drew them in and most of the time, there’s a social factor to it.


We discussed viral loops earlier. The viral loop can actually be used on the product itself.  There are different ways to achieve this, most of the time, you leverage an existing relationship to create a bridge for new ones. But how would you go about implementing these product-based strategies?

  1. Leveraging user contacts. This strategy can become spammy and there had been controversies about it in the past. But the main premise is that you ask an existing user to upload their contacts (phonebook, email, social media, etc.) to invite them to join app or website. At times, permission is given for you to access and send messages to these contacts.
  2. Social sharing. Built-in social sharing options allow users to share your content on social media platforms.
  3. Social media integration. Use API integration to connect your product to social media networks like Facebook. This gives your product more visibility especially that it notifies social media users of the product their social contacts are using.
  4. Incentivize. The Dropbox strategy we discussed in the first chapter falls under this category. The strategy really worked for Dropbox but it doesn’t work for all products.
  5. Word of mouth. Personal recommendation is high in reasons why consumers buy certain products. Even to this day, this simple and organic way of spreading the word about your product is still very effective. Highly recommended products are often products with an easy learning curve, has good support, and creates a sense of “being in the know” in users.


A Dynamic Approach to Traffic Strategies

  1. It’s an end-all. At the end of the day, it’s about a combination of strategies that work for you. Most of the time, strategies are like recipes, it needs tweaking to match your taste. Not all ingredients and procedures are revealed. You need to work on discovering things on your own.
  2. Strategies that work today may not work tomorrow. This is very true especially with the fast development of technology. Look at what happened with AirBnB’s integration tactic. You need to have a backup plan or adapt to emerging technologies and turn setbacks into an opportunity.
  3. Copying may not work. Tailor-fit. It’s the same as above, strategies that work for others may not also work for you. Follow the framework but make your own recipe. As you become more familiar with the ins and outs of growth hacking, creating your own strategies would become easier.


Chapter 6: Membership Activation

We now go deeper into the funnel. Activating members are so close to the end of the funnel but still so far. Activation happens when you prompt visitors to take an action that will lead them to the buying process. Common activation goals are:

  1. Email address
  2. Account creation
  3. Page engagement (browse/read content, comment, watch)
  4. Convert (buy)
  5. Fill out form
  6. Social actions (share, interact, friend request)
  7. Product-specific actions

As stated earlier, the lesser activation goals you present and the less cumbersome they are, the more you can turn visitors into users. These users may not immediately (or at all) buy your product, but retaining them is more advantageous in the long-run.


Activation Basics and Strategies

But how do you about presenting your activation goals to visitors? And how do you convince them to take the bait so to say?

Landing pages are important especially if it’s an app. It’s welcome you give to your visitors. The worst thing that could happen is for your visitors to bounce back, never returning to your page. There are ways to prevent this from happening.

  1. Landing page navigation. Navigation should be simple and limited. Presenting visitors with many navigation options can divert their attention from the reason why you want them there in the first place.
  2. Page copy. The words, especially the selling point of your landing page should match with the ad copy or description that brought your visitors to the page. It’s like having one voice for your brand. There’s also a technique where the long copy is used for expensive items while the short copy is used for less expensive products.
  3. Call to action (CTA). There’s no need for peppering the page with the same call to action (with buttons to boot!) or creating different variations of the said call to action. This will only confuse your visitors.
  4. Onboarding experience. Create visual directions to orient visitors to navigation cues and to your activation goals. This can be done in many different ways.
  5. Gamification. It was considered as a trend by many but gamification is actually an effective strategy in creating more interest in a product, especially a service. Gamification can be used to encourage visitors to complete tasks (especially those part of your activation goals) that they would otherwise ignore. You can use progress bars, award points for every task completed, or turn it into a competition.
  6. Pricing strategies. Price tiers are popular pricing strategies. The lowest tier only supports basic functionality with added integrations and control going up together with the pricing. Promos like free trials and discount codes are also good strategies to employ. Bundles also give visitors the impression that they are getting more out of the deal.


Chapter 7: User Retention

Retention, that or nothing. Acquiring many visitors and activating those boils down to the question of retention. Retention is very important, especially for SaaS and e-commerce companies. You’ll want your users to habitually return to your product or service. In growth hacking, retention is actually considered as the most important level of the funnel. Here are several reasons why:

  1. Growth hacks are useless if the retention is low.
  2. Not retaining activated members mean that you are not focusing on the most important leads that you already have.
  3. The retention rate can affect the total performance more than the traffic rate can.
  4. Retention rate also directly increases the lifetime value (LTV) of customers.
  5. Customers that had been retained for a long time have higher chances of recommending or referring the product.


User retention basics and strategies

Retention doesn’t just happen though. You need to actively work on gaining higher retention rates.

  1. Test your traffic. You have users to retain if you’re not getting enough traffic. But there’s no assurance of retention, that’s the caveat. The best thing to do is to also test retention during the test-runs we discussed earlier. This way, you can optimize your traffic for better retention and at this stage, you are expending the minimum of your company’s growth hacking resources so the stakes are low.
  2. The product should deliver and visitors should know about this. Bring them immediately to that “aha” moment. Catch them hook, line, and sinker even before they rethink their options.
  3. Email campaigns. There’s a bad rap about emails and their spammy nature. Fear not, you can actually growth hack the spam out of emails. You can use drip campaigns, scheduled emails you can send to new members at specific intervals to orient them about your product. There are also event-based emails that can notify users of activities they are connected to or may have interest to. Updates are also a good way to increase email open and clickthrough rates.
  4. Alerts and notifications. Push notifications are perfect for re-engagement, especially for casual users. You can retarget these users using updates that promise them new value.
  5. Increase value, especially for engaged users. Make users feel that they are special. You can give highly-engaged users exclusive access to content or features. Reward them with incentives and make their overall product experience worthwhile.
  6. Customer Satisfaction. Ask for feedback, especially from existing users. They may have issues with certain features or they find your offerings lacking. Build a community around your product through empathetic customer support and social connections.


Chapter 8: Growth Hacking Key Concepts and Tools

Growth hacking’s technical side need not sound like jargon to your ears. A lot of growth hacking concepts actually borrow from its marketing cousin. If you are familiar with those, you only need to apply the concepts in a growth hacking perspective. There’s a lot more to learn especially about how these concepts and tools are used but these things always need time and experience to master.


Important Terminologies and Concepts in Growth Marketing Hacking


Key Performance Indicators

KPIs are either at an industry level or just business model level. It is a guide on how certain aspects of your company or product are expected to perform at a certain stage. KPIs for software subscription, for example, includes daily sales and cancellations.


Viral Coefficient (K)

This metric measures the virality of your product or service. The viral coefficient tells you the number of visitors that are directed to your product through the referral of your users. A viral coefficient that is over one indicates that your product is getting viral, therefore creating a new distribution channel in of itself.


There are two ways to calculate viral coefficient. The simplest is to divide the number of invitations sent by a user over the conversion rate.



A cohort is a group of users based on the month they signed up. You can use cohorts to effectively monitor KPIs every month. This can determine any improvements or issues without otherwise skewing the data if you just monitor month-over-month without any cohorts in place.



There are different segmenting factors you can use to group users aside from cohorts. There are demographic segments, user behavior segments, retention segments, and many other categories you can use to, later on, use in analytics reports or in campaign targeting.


Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

The CAC is basically the cost of acquiring new customers. Calculating the CAC of each ad platform will help you in deciding how much to spend or if you should spend ad money on that platform at all.


Tools of the Trade

Tools and technologies are ever-changing but the process is still the same. Growth hackers are adaptive but they also know their core. Tools present their own limitations so growth hackers won’t really on only one tool to solve a multi-faceted issue.


Analytics Tools

  1. General Analytics – for high-level monitoring of product campaigns. Google Analytics is the best example.
  2. Event/people based analytics – for specific events within a campaign. This is made possible by attaching a script to individual events you are interested in tracking on your site. Kissmetrics is one of the most popular tools with this functionality used by growth hackers.
  3. Niche analytics – for verticals. This can either be an analytics platform focusing on apps, lean startups or e-commerce.
  4. Custom-built analytics tools – designed specifically for a growth hacker’s needs. Most of the time, growth hackers that have programming background create their own tools that they can specifically tailor to their needs. Some companies also have a team that makes this possible.



Is it the end? Certainly not. It’s just the beginning. Learning the basics is different from actually learning through experience. The pressure of delivering results is certainly a factor one has to consider in entering into the field of growth hacking.


Growth marketing hacking also isn’t as simple as learning the theory. Becoming a growth hacker requires a somewhat eccentric set of skills that may not be found in other traditional professions. There’s also the growth-centered perspective of things. A growth hacker shouldn’t just aim for temporary results but continued growth.


Whether you want to begin a career as a growth hacker, or you just want to know the process that goes behind the somewhat “mysterious craft,” use this guide to broaden your knowledge and inspire continued growth.

Mustapha Ajermou
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