top of page
  • Writer's pictureTanya Hemphill

What Is Growth Hacking?

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

The growth hacking approach (also referred to as ‘agile marketing’ and ‘growth marketing’) is used to boost awareness, lead generation and conversion.

Sean Ellis, a marketer and entrepreneur who has worked for companies such as Dropbox and Eventbrite, devised the term ‘Growth Hacking’ in 2010. Originating from Silicon Valley, growth hacking has successfully been used to build high-growth companies such as Hotmail, PayPal, Twitter, Airbnb, Instagram and Uber. Ellis says:

“Startups live and die by their ability to drive customer acquisition growth…[they] are under extreme resource constraints and need to figure out how to break through the noise to let their target customers know they have a superior solution for a critical problem…the best growth hacks take advantage of the unique opportunities available in a connected world where digital experiences can spread rapidly.”

Growth hacking is now gaining traction in the UK and has recently been termed ‘the next big thing for marketing’ by Advertising Age. Even well-established organisations such as The Guardian have recently advertised related job roles, such as ‘Head of Growth Hacking’, which has further raised its profile. Although the term ‘hacking’ has technology connotations, more traditional companies such as Regus and Penguin Books are also using the principles of growth hacking. This indicates that the concept is not just relevant to technology start-ups and this movement has wider implications. Think of it as ‘marketing digital disruption’ because technology is an enabler for marketers to understand and respond to user behaviour more rapidly.

Core Principles of Growth Hacking

The core principle behind growth hacking is to quickly and cheaply test a marketing idea, use data to analyse the outcomes, and to iterate, optimise, implement or change the experiment. Running A/B tests and checking data with analytical software such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel and Optimizely are essential components to this process.

Despite the high data analysis element of growth hacking, it is an extremely creative process that requires people to “swim against the flow” and spot emerging opportunities before anyone else does. This dichotomy of ‘intuition and rigor’ and ‘art and science’ makes it very difficult to find people with the right skill-set; which is why building a growth hacking team is so important (or finding an agency with this type of team already in place).

Although digital marketing is a key element of growth hacking (because of the analytical part of obtaining quantitative user data and gaining insights from it), it is also important to use traditional marketing methods to bridge the gap between the physical and digital world.

Creating a Growth Hacking Mindset

Growth hacking is an approach, rather than a set of tools. To illustrate this, we are going to tell you about a brilliant growth hack that has nothing to do with either marketing or business. Instead, it tells the story of a winning mindset…

In 1996 Britain’s cycling team was ranked 17thin the world and had won just 2 bronze medals at the Atlanta Olympic Games. By 2012 they ranked first in the World and British riders had won 12 medals (8 gold) at the London Olympic Games.

Its success was largely down to the coaching of Sir David Brailsford. His approach was to break down everything that went into riding a bike and improve it by 1%. Putting all the 1% margins together meant that in 2012 British Team Sky had won 70% of the gold medals in cycling at the Olympics.

There wasn’t a magic silver bullet but a series of micro, cost-effective and human-centred optimisations that could be effectively scaled. This demonstrates what a growth hacking mind set looks like.

To be a good growth hacker:

  • Mindset is extremely important – growth hackers focus on accelerated growth on a minimum budget. It’s all about users (or an alternative KPI, depending on your business)

  • Being curious and creative are key elements. Don’t get fixated on spending a particular budget, go back to basics and think about tapping into human behaviour (we’re social animals)

  • The internal culture is important: the business needs to be open to experimentation – some ideas will fail

  • It needs a good (Pi-shaped) team, i.e. marketers with a broad base of knowledge in all areas, but capabilities in both ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ disciplines. They are both analytical and data-driven, yet understand brands, storytelling and experiential marketing

The team element is very important as one individual person is unlikely to have all of the skills needed for growth-focused marketing.

Do you want a growth hacking perspective on your business? Get in touch with us on 07811 430 730 or

141 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page