“The end goal of every growth hacker is to build a self-perpetuating marketing machine that reaches millions by it’s self” -Aaron Ginn

Traditional marketing vs. Growth hacking

In my opinion growth hacking should be called smart marketing. Why ? Because growth hacking isn’t random, you can track, test and improve your marketing whereas traditional marketing even if successful no one can explain why it was successful, what worked and what didn’t.

Sometimes I see ads that are so bad; I wonder how someone let the director of marketing spend this money on such bad advertising. That’s a waste of money. $35.9 million is the average cost of marketing a film according to Los Angeles Times. That’s for a movie; some companies spend way more than this figure.

Traditional methods of marketing typically involve advertising through newspapers, magazines, radio, billboards and TV ads. How are you supposed to market your product when you’re a startup if you don’t have this budget? Moreover, even if you had the funds for that kind of marketing, would you rather know what worked in your marketing techniques, track and improve your marketing or rather spend those millions on TV ads and billboards without having a clue on what worked and what failed? Leave the randomness of traditional marketing to people who can afford to fail; you cannot afford to fail; you don’t have a portfolio of startup.

What is growth hacking?

“A tech startup doesn’t want awareness. It wants users, customers, clients. A growth hackers job is to hack that growth together, through any means possible: “A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email and open graph.” – Andrew Chen

Growth hacking is a mindset when someone has no or too few resources and must find new customers or users without spending millions of dollars on them. The growth hacker wants to have the greatest impact with the lowest investment possible; he wants to get viral by being creative with unique marketing techniques. Companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, Groupon, Uber have used growth hacking to make their business successful.

We live now in the era of internet and social media, there are plenty of opportunities and challenges. That’s where growth hacking happens, you use these tools to create interest in customers, it’s a simple process you follow to leave your brand in your clients’ minds.

Below you can see how Dropbox encourage their users to invite their friends by providing free space. That worked, and it’s obvious why it didn’t fail, they delivered value to the customer for free! All they had to do is invite friends. This strategy did so well that they went from 100,000 to 4,000,000 users in just 15 months!

Another example is Polymail. They launched a beta version of their app, users were allowed to request an invitation, you had to wait until you get the email with the code. This strategy also worked because people like to feel like they are part of something important by getting exclusivity. Pinterest applied the same technique and they quickly growth to 70 million active users.

Pinterest invite

One last example I’d like you to consider is O’tacos, a French fast-food that created a lot of noise around their tacos. People are driving from Belgium to France only to eat their tacos but how did they manage to do that? By challenging customers to eat their gigatacos (see below) that’s about 2,5kg of meat (+-5Lbs), if you finish it, you get a refund. Youtubers are making videos about this gigatacos, people are sharing pictures on social media, everyone wants to try. People are making free advertising for O’tacos! The result is that they are opening a new restaurant every month, all around the world to satisfy their customers!

Marketing gigatacos

There are many techniques you can use to growth hack your startup, the possibilities are endless, it is all up to your imagination and work you are willing to put. Here is a short list of my favorite growth hack techniques:

  • Create a referral program by providing value (like Dropbox and Groupon)
  • Giveaway free products (like Uber who gave many free trips to users)
  • Be exclusive (like Pinterest and Polymail)
  • Take advantage of other platforms (Like Spotify did with Facebook)

The process

There are four steps in the process to growth hacking:


  1. The first one is to find your product market fit. You must have a product that people need, something for which there is a market, some people who are only waiting for you. Don’t make the mistake to create a product with no market because you think you will create a market. You can’t create a market; you have to follow the market. Create a product people want.
  2. Growth hack now! You’ve got a product worth marketing? Great, now you have to get early users, those who are savvy and are just waiting for your product to launch; you have to pull them in. At this level, you’re looking for no more than a few hundred people to use your product/service. You’re testing how people react to your product this is the opportunity to see what’s working, what people want and what’s failing, you adapt your product to the market. As Ryan Holiday says “Hacking is taking advantage of loopholes and underappreciated opportunities.”
  3. Get viral. How are you going to get viral? By using your early customers, you want them to share and speak about your product; they will create the exponential growth but why would they do that? Right some of them might like your product, but you’re not going to get viral if you don’t give your customers a reason to share. Take Dropbox; they created their virality by giving away space, now there is a value for clients.
  4. Keep your customers. Once you’ve got lots of people coming to your product, you need to keep them. What makes your customers stick? Optimize what needs to and ask your users why they leave if they don’t stick. It’s like Twitter who had a lot of people to sign up, but they weren’t active, so they had to figure out what was wrong. Twitter added a list of suggested account to follow and users were most likely to stick after this improvement. The same is happening to Groupon; users are not coming back. Don’t be a Groupon.

What stop you from starting today?

Nothing prevents you from doing it right now, start working on your product market fit, find what your customers want, test, if it fails, try again. You don’t need a budget; you have no excuses. This method is for those willing to put in the work and who wants stats they can analyze and use to improve their business. It’s not easy, but it’s effective. You have to take advantage of the social media and the internet, don’t let this opportunity pass. If you want a deeper study of growth hacking, I highly suggest you buy Ryan Holiday’s book “Growth Hacker Marketing”. Thanks to his work.

Book that helped for this post.  
Growth Hacker Marketing
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