What is Growth Hacking? Description, strategy and success stories.

what is growth hacking

What is Growth Hacking? In this article we explain what growth hacking is, how to apply it to grow your idea and I’ll tell you several success stories of companies that have used it.

An Introduction to Growth Hacking: The Instagram Case

Did you know that Instagram wasn’t always Instagram? The germ of this application emerged in 2010, and it was called Burbn. A geolocation app, very similar to Foursquare, whose main objective was for users to check-ins at the places they visited. It also allowed you to share images or leave reviews of a particular site.
The problem?
The app had users, but no one checked in.
What most users did was take pictures and share them. So the founders behind Burbn decided to fine-tune the application and focus it on what users really liked. Thus, Burbn became an app with which to convert photos. And the rest is history. This is growth hacking at its finest.

Seen this: What is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking arises from the need for startups to grow their business with scarce resources.
Take the case of a traditional company, already more established than a startup (and with more budget). If they want to be known, they will hire a marketing specialist to carry out:

  • Short-term marketing actions: such as paid campaigns on social networks or AdWords.
  • Medium/long term marketing actions: As SEO or actions aimed at creating brand image

However, this strategy is not valid for a startup. Why?

  • They do not have budget for short-term campaigns.
  • They don’t have time for long-term campaigns.
  • If they don’t make themselves known quickly, they could be gone in a few months. Your product or service, on many occasions, is not even validated, so you are not invoices, hence the Growth Hacking arises.

We can define growth hacking as the set of strategies that a business carries out to grow very quickly, and with very limited resources.

How would we define a growth hacker?

A growth hacker is a person focused on the growth of users of a product. You will have to be in constant search of ideas and actions with which to achieve the scalability of a product.

What attitudes would define it?

  • Analytical Mentality: You will have to constantly monitor the behavior and opinion of users, to reorient the product/service and actions to promote it.
  • Creativity
  • Domain of tools and software
  • Agility
  • Open mind

Attention! Although it will always help, growth hacking is not a marketer to use. Your functions will not only be to launch campaigns, but you will have to get your hands dirty, analyze and know very well the product you want to sell.

Another good example of growth hacking: The case of Dropbox

It´s easier to explain growth hacking with examples than with definitions. And the example of Dropbox illustrates very well what this type of strategy consists of.
When Dropbox was launched, there was a strong investment in short- and long-term marketing. Techcrunch sponsored articles (this is not cheap, I assure you), Adwords campaigns, PR campaigns…
And what about this?
The conversion wasn’t too high, and Dropbox saw its conversion costs go up to a staggering $388 per conversion. Almost nothing.
Thus, they detected the main problem: People don’t get up in the morning thinking: “I need an alternative to USBs”. Banners and landings did not work as they should, and advertisements on search networks attracted that particular audience, but did not generate demand.
On the other hand, they realized that when a user used Dropbox, he liked it and tended to share it with his acquaintances. How did they analyze this?

  • Customer surveys
  • Tests A/B in landing pages
  • Tests onboarding
  • Strong investment in analytics

With all this information, they were able to analyze the situation and react in time. And they changed the focus. They stopped spending money on AdWords and began to encourage the user to do the promotion work and share the tool.
By creating a referral program to attract new users. If you shared the tool with an acquaintance (and they created an account) you gained extra storage in your account,
They managed to go from 100,000 to 4,000,000 users in 15 months. 35% of the registrations came from referrals, and 20% from shared folders.yes: All this was based on a good product. If the product hadn’t been up to the task, analytics, campaigns and everything else would have mattered. Your product is at the heart of any growth hacking strategy.

And one last success case: The WhatsApp case

The founders of WhatsApp created this app with a very clear objective: to create a tool with which you can communicate with your acquaintances without advertising through.
Instead of investing in marketing (they never have) they decided to create a really useful product for users.
They were lucky that the conditions that their growth were conducive. But also:

  • They designed an app valid for all types of phones and platforms
  • It was cheaper than sending SMS
  • Onboarding is very simple
  • An effect was created Word Of Mouth

Growth Hacking: How to Create Your Strategy in 6 Steps
First of all, a point. A Growth Hacking strategy should have one main objective: to create a product that falls in love.
once this is clear, let’s see what steps you should take to achieve this objective.

Step 1: Define a segment. Your person buyer.

The person buyer is the archetype of your ideal client. To define it well, you will have to study your potential client well and create as broad a profile as possible.
To do this, you will have to take into account sociodemographic data, but also understand their online behavior (what social networks they use, how they communicate, what digital media they read…); personal (who they relate to, what their hobbies are, where they like to go out…); professional (what their professional level is, how many hours they spend working…).
Some of the most popular technology companies were born with a very clear person buyer:

  • Uber: San Francisco Tech Community
  • Tinder: Fraternity Girls
  • Stripe: Developers with very little time
  • Etsy: Young artisans

If you know your person buyer well, you will be able to customize your product as much as possible to fit what they are looking for.
Step 2: Validate channels
Once we know our buyer well, we will have to know how to get to him. What are the most appropriate channels to establish a relationship? Where and how should we advertise? In order to know, we will have to test.
Testing in channel validation
We will have to test in different formats and with different types of content.

  • We will be able to generate valuable content in different formats: articles, videos, ebooks, infographics, webinars, etc.
  • We will be able to make Ads campaigns
  • We will be able to reach agreements with influencers to help us promote our brand.

As we have mentioned before, in a startup environment we will not have the budget to invest in expensive marketing campaigns. One way to reduce costs is to use templates, coupons or design tools.
And where do we find them? We can turn to:
Buzzsumo: It allows you to detect the relevant content for your audience and the outstanding influencers of your sector.
Envato: A marketplace for the sale of predefined templates to create videos, infographics, landing pages…
Unbounce: One of the best tools to create landing pages with which to boost your conversion.
Shutterstock: A bank of paid images with millions of templates. It’s great for creating content such as infographics, banners or ebooks.

Step 3: Activate your users

At all times, you have to work for your visitors to perform an action and convert.

  • Subscribe to a newsletter
  • Download an ebook
  • Register
  • Request a free trial
  • Request a demo
  • Make a payment

How do we do it?

  • Subscribe to my communications: Communications understood broadly. We can talk about newsletters, push notifications, contacts through Facebook Messenger … It is a “free” channel with which to reach the customer. For people to subscribe, sometimes we will have to give them an incentive.
  • Downloadable: If we create valuable content, we can offer it as a download and ask the user for some data in return. In the future, we’ll be able to use that data to contact him. Push Notifications: Widely used by mobile apps. We can use them to warn of a promotion, to announce a new article…
  • Free tools: We can create an independent tool or a functionality integrated in our product or service. The key is that it’s free. It will allow us to activate users and make a detailed segmentation.
  • Freemium Services: We will offer a series of functionalities for free.

The importance of onboarding
Onboarding is key to activating users. When we talk about doing well onboarding we mean giving the customer the necessary tools to adapt to your product/service as quickly as possible and in a simple way.
How will we do it?
We will have to design actions aimed at optimizing registration, product testing and upgrading.
The usual resources in this step are videos, tutorials, a guided process, chats or chatbots.
Examples of activation and onboarding: Canva
Canva makes things very easy for users who want to register and start working with this tool.
allows you to make a social connect and register with your account on social networks.
Here’s a video tutorial about the tool.
Afterwards, you will be able to see a tutorial that is shown on the tool itself.
Finally, it encourages you to share the tool in networks.
Examples of activation and onboarding: Tumblr
The Tumblr onboarding process is as follows:
You are asked to register with a very short and simple form. They recommend a username.
They then take you through a guided process to set up your tool.
Finally, they show you a tutorial to create your first publication.
Examples of activation and onboarding: Wordable
In Wordable they do it in the following way: They allow you to sign up with one click or using Google. You can access a 24 hour trial. The installation process is super simple. You can synchronize content with Drive. Useful tools: UserlaneUserlane is a very useful tool to improve the onboarding process in any platform. It allows you to create guided processes for any type of online product or service.

Step 4. Retention.

It’s no use activating users if we can’t hold them. Therefore, we will have to develop actions aimed at:
Get a second visit
That pay for the service
That do an upgrade
To do so, the most common resources are:

  • Email marketing
  • The push notifications
  • The remarketing
  • The marketing automation: We can segment users based on their behavior patterns or sociodemographic aspects. We will design automatic communication flows and offer a personalized value to each user. Some tools: Intercom, Mixpanel, HubSpot, Drip.
  • Chatbots: Chatbots are AI software that work automatically, without a human being behind it. Some very useful uses of this type of tool are to get feedback, to help a customer, to remarket or to get leads. Some tools: Chatchamp.

Step 5. Itera.

This is always not a step in itself, but something we will have to do continuously, taking into account the results we are achieving. And, in Growth Hacking, iterar always goes through the same thing: Improve our product. The user has to fall in love with the product.
Step 6. Measure continuously
Measurement is basic to growth hacking. In fact, it makes no sense to do all this if we are not measuring results and acting accordingly.
We can measure in two different ways:
Analytical Measurement
Analytically, we can measure several aspects: We will measure the capture actions (using UTMs or tools such as Branch). We’ll measure user behavior. We will need to identify which factors are key at each stage and design specific KPIs. Some tools: We can use tools such as Google Analytics, Hotjar or Mixpanel, we will look for what they call the moment “Aha! We can define it as the indicator (or indicators) that determine when a user becomes a loyal user. Some examples:

  • Twitter: When a user follows 30 people.
  • Facebook: If you make 7 friends in the first 10 days.
  • Dropbox: If you have at least one file in your folder.

Measurement by customer feedback
And how?
You can offer something in return, such as discounts, free trials, early access to premium features, money or valuable content. what tools can we help with for feedback? surveys: Typeform, Wufo, Ninja Forms, Google FormsLanding pages: UnbouncePush notifications: Qualaroo
Chatbots: Manychat, ChatchampAccelerators: Facebook Lead Ads, LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms

Growth Hacking: 4 Rapid Growth Techniques

We’ve already talked about what growth hacking is. And that, in growth hacking, the most important point is always going to be the product. Our entire strategy should be aimed at analyzing the behavior and opinion of our users to improve our product.
The analysis and improvement of the product is a constant process. We will never reach that moment when we remain static and stop evolving. However, there will come a time when our product or service is powerful enough to power it in conditions. This is how you enter the growth phase. When that time comes, there are four forms of growth integrated into your product that you can use to reach many people, quickly and at low cost. And they are as follows:

Incentive Systems

This strategy is to provide an element of value to your user, to get traffic, leads or new customers. An element of value that doesn’t always have to be monetary (although sometimes it is).
Some example:

  • Cabify gave you a discount for your next trip for every friend you invited and who installed the app.
  • N26 paid €15 into your account for each friend who registered and used their N26 Mastercard.

Affiliate Program

In these types of programs, companies pay users who promote their brand and attract new users and customers.
To help them in their promotion, the company offers them “assets”, such as banners, email templates, predefined social media publications, videos, discount codes…
It’s easier to explain with an example:

  • Shopify: Shopify has an affiliate program that enables new users to create an account in Shopify (and use it). Let’s say I have a blog specializing in ecommerce. The process would be as follows:
    • I would sign up as a Shopify affiliate. Shopify gives you a custom URL to “track” any user that comes from your blog.
    • I can create an article talking about Shopify, or ecommerce platforms, in which I encourage my readers to use Shopify, and provide them with a link to create a new account. This link will be my personal affiliate link. If the user enters through this link, creates an account and starts using Shopify, Shopify will pay me a commission. If you want to create your own affiliate program, you can use tools such as ReferralCandy or Tapfiliate.

Brand creation

Yes, before or after we had to reach branding. A strategy that usually works in the medium/long term and that, if we are not careful, we can go out of price.
But there are systems to create a brand in a cheap way and with little effort.
The affiliate programs or incentive systems mentioned above are a great way to promote virality and give impact to your brand. Why not make your product advertise itself?
This was taken into account by brands such as WordPress, YouTube or Sniply. Let’s see their examples:

  • Sniply: Sniply is a content healing tool. Allows you to integrate a CTA into any content we share (either from your own URL or from another URL). If you don’t pay for the premium version, Sniply includes its logo on every CTA you share. Voilà! Your product will be advertising itself without you having to do anything.
  • WordPress: This platform allows you to create your website using your own domain or, if you do not have it, using the subdomain example.wordpress.com. Free branding.
  • YouTube: When you embed your videos, the YouTube logo appears on the video.


The APIs are application programming interfaces.
In short: they allow you to create applications based on the code of a third party. A third could be Twitter, Facebook, Google or many other platforms. And the API marketing is something real that can help you a lot in your growth hacking strategy. What do we use the API marketing for?

  • Connectors
  • Message Publishing
  • Remarketing
  • Automation
  • and more

We’ll look at some cases where APIs can help you grow. (Keep in mind that increased online regulation is leading to more and more captured APIs that offer fewer options over user data).
One of the clearest examples of how to use an API to grow. By using a connector, you can speed up the registration process in your application. So when a user arrives, you can allow them to sign up using their Google Account or Facebook, for example. This will strengthen the connection and give us access to certain user data and certain permissions (we repeat, yes, this is increasingly captured by large platforms).
Bots are another great API application. They are computer programs that allow you to perform repetitive tasks automatically. An example of their practical use are bots that automatically follow people on Instagram, or those that send predefined direct messages to new followers on Twitter. Some bots you can use are Instazood or Tweetfull.
Task automation
The existence of open APIs from third parties allows you to automate processes. A very good example is Zapier. This tool allows you to synchronize all kinds of applications and create “if this…then that” style rules. In other words, we can tell Zapier that every time something happens, there will be a reaction. This tool allows you to integrate more than 1,000 apps (Google Drive, Trello, Gmail, Asana, Slack, Facebook Pages… and many more) Zapier synchronizes with the APIs of each of these platforms.
The amplifiers are tools based on APIs, which help us increase the impact of an action. For example, the “Pay with a tweet” (what we would call a “social locker”). I publish an infograph on my blog and, in order to access it, I ask the user to share this publication on Twitter. This doesn’t mean anything to the user, but it helps me generate virality and get more out of my content.

A conclusion about Growth Hacking

The Growth Hacking is not simply a combination of tools or techniques. It is a way of working that combines:

  • Creativity
  • Analytic
  • Feedback
  • And, above all, a good product