Growth hacking has become a viral phenomenon over the last couple of years. Particularly in the startup scene but also in a few other businesses, people call out for growth hackers to promote their business in a miraculous way. It is believed that they can achieve things others had no success in and that they carry traits that make them unique. Whether that is actually true or whether they are normal marketers with a talent to see the big picture, I don’t know.
One problem I have seen when looking at this topic and seeing it in use on websites like AngelList is that is not seen much different than a normal marketer. In fact, businesses that look for growth hackers have about the same profile requirements as those for other marketers.
This is why I asked myself what a growth hacker actually is and what it is not. While I will not make a full study out of it at this time, I collected definitions on both sides. I hope it will give anyone interested in this topic a first comprehensive overview of the growth hacker phenomenon.
What is Growth Hacking and Growth Hackers:
- Growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure. (Wikipedia)
- A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth. (Startup Marketing)
- The growth hacker is essentially a scrappy, resourceful and creative marketer with a knack for attracting users. (Mashable)
- Growth hacker – one whose passion and focus is pushing a metric through use of a testable and scalable methodology. (Aaron Ginn’s Thoughts)
- It is a set of disciplines learned through doing and out of necessity. (Dan Martell, founder of Clarity) (TechCrunch)
- A growth hacker is an IT professional who uses elements of marketing and market research, along with technology and technical strategies, to provide marketing solutions to clients or employers. (Techopedia)
- Growth hacking is about scalability — ideally you want your marketing efforts to bring in users, which then bring in more users. (Huffington Post)
- It is the process of finding the right trick or ‘hack’ that allows for accelerated and accumulative growth. (SEO Chat)
So what is NOT Growth Hacking and Growth Hackers:
- Growth hacking is marketing. But a growth hacker is not a marketer. (Mashable)
- Growth hacking does not, however, separate product design and product effectiveness from marketing. (Wikipedia)
- Growth hacking is a process, not a secret book of ideas. (Aaron Ginn’s Thoughts)
- The biggest mistakes you are seeing with companies who use growth hackers fall under the header of unrealistic expectations. They think having someone who is growth driven in their corner is going to launch them into superstar status by using a magic buzz word that holds unlimited power. (SEO Chat)
- A growth hacker will not hack in the illegal sense of the word, but they they will push the boundaries of what is expected or generally advised. (QuickSprout)
I really hope I could give you a first idea on the phenomenon of growth hacking and what a growth hacker does. While still learning myself and re-drafting my own definition, from what I read and experience this is what my definition looks like as of now:
“A growth hacker is someone who sees the big picture and can think outside the box to create customer traffic to grow and scale the business beyond what is believed to be possible by traditional marketing in the same time.“
With this attempt to define what growth hacking is all about, I will conclude this post. I really hope you got some value out of this summary, bearing in mind that it is not a complete list of what growth hacking is and what it is not. There is always more to include and more to learn, so take it as what it is: a first overview of the phenomenon growth hacking.
- Ellis, Sean (July 26, 2010). Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup. Startup Marketing: A blog about unlocking startup growth. Web. 13 Dec 2014.
- Ginn, Aaron (n.d.). What is a Growth Hacker. Aaron Ginn’s Thoughts. Web. 13 Dec 2014.
- Ginn, Aaron (December 2, 2012). Defining a Growth Hacker: Three Common Characteristics. TechCrunch. Web. 13 Dec 2014.
- Hockenson, Lauren (May 18, 2013). Growth Hacker: A Buzzword Surrounded by Buzzwords. Mashable. Web. 13 Dec 2014.
- Holiday, Ryan (Sep 4, 2013). What is Growth Hacking? A Definition and a Call-to-Action. Huffington Post. Web. 13 Dec 2014.
- Patel, Neil & Taylor, Bronson (n.a.). The Definite Guide to Growth Hacking. QuickSprout. Web. 13 Dec 2014.
- Techopedia (n.d.). Growth Hacker. Techopedia. Web. 13 Dec 2014.
- Wikipedia (n.d.). Growth hacking. Wikipedia. Web. 13 Dec 2014.
- Smarty, Ann (n.d.). What is Growth Hacking?. SEO Chat. Web. 13 Dec 2014.
Learning from one another. Feedback appreciated!
The Author: Konstantin von Brocke has graduated in business management from University of Wisconsin-Stout with magna cum laude in December 2012 after receiving an Associate in Applied Science degree in marketing from Fox Valley Technical College. He is interested in all things related business with a particular focus on entrepreneurship, marketing, and growth.