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growth hacking

What is Growth Hacking? You’re not doing it for a reason

Because one of my previous job titles was a “Growth Hacker”, at least once a month I receive a message on LinkedIn with an offer to become one in a cool startup or some tech enterprise.

What is a growth hacking?

Because one of my previous job titles was a “Growth Hacker”, at least once a month I receive a message on LinkedIn with an offer to become one in a cool startup or some tech enterprise. If I were looking for a job, I’d seriously consider most of these opportunities, but since I run my own business, I am not really interested in having anyone above me in the ladder. Nonetheless, it always makes me wonder whether all these companies really need Growth Hackers? And what’s more important: if they finally get one, will they be able to take full advantage of having a Growth Hacker?

What does Growth Hacking mean?

If you ask me, being a growth hacker is about the ability to scale up the business with any source there is, but it doesn’t really mean that you should know how to execute the strategy step by step. A Growth Hacker doesn’t have to be an expert in SEO, SEM, paid social, email marketing and data analysis. It’s cool if this person has experience in more than one area of expertise, but in my opinion, a growth hacker should be able to design and execute a big picture strategy. 

  • If you design great PPC campaigns and generate plenty of leads, it doesn’t make you a growth hacker.
  • If you can increase organic traffic so fast that servers ask for mercy, it doesn’t make you a growth hacker.
  • If your emails have CTRs and open rates better than anyone else, it doesn’t make you a growth hacker. 

It makes you a skilled marketer. If you can do all these things, it makes you a very skilled T-shaped marketer, but to be a Growth Hacker you would need to understand the entire process. Why do we run Google Ads campaigns? To have more leads. And yes, you optimize these campaigns to pay less for a potential client or maybe to have higher quality leads.

And that’s fine, but there’s a question if you’re this pro marketer that generates plenty of transactions or form submissions with your campaigns, do you think about:

  • Where are potential bottlenecks (that have nothing to do with your campaigns) that may impact the conversion rate?
  • What’s the user journey and user experience on the website, and how to improve them?
  • What are other sources we can use when we max out the current source of acquisition?
  • Is this really the best we can do?

That’s right. If you’re hired to scale up a business or sell more products as a Growth Hacker, you’re expected to have one principal: “business value is the most important thing there is”. 

Nobody really cares whether you’ll focus on SEO or paid ads, or whether you’ll send letters to your audience. You’re expected to deliver results. And it’s up to you how to accomplish that. In most cases a successful growth strategy involves multiple sources and this is why you should be comfortable with the most popular marketing channels, but your main goal should be to create a strategy that works. If you can execute the strategy yourself, that’s even better, but your job is to take the budget you’re given and provide the highest return on investment possible. 

Do you need growth hacking?

You probably feel like it would be great to have a Growth Hacker on your team, and you may be right, but in my experience, companies often are looking for one, but aren’t ready to implement a growth hacking strategy. Why? Because they are either too small or too big. 

They are too small, so they don’t have the manpower required to take care of all aspects of sales and marketing. In this case a Growth Hacker is responsible for paid channels, SEO, social media and many other projects. Is that a job for a Growth Hacker or a small marketing team? Hire a couple of freelancers or an agency, because if you ask one person to take care of your entire marketing, each campaign will be done, but none of them will be as great as they could be. It’s because a day has only 24 hours.

They are too big, so they already have their processes, proven ways of doing marketing and conducting business. Now the Growth Hacker comes and is supposed to scale up lead generation, but are they willing to give up these methods that are working? Not really. In this case a Growth Hacker is needed to point out any areas that may be improved and to improve them, but it’s not an easy job when the company hires 200, 500 or 2000 people and each change makes a huge impact for several departments working there too. 

Facebook once had a motto: “Move Fast and Break Things” and it’s the definition of how a Growth Hacker should act. You shouldn’t be a strategist or a skilled marketer able to deliver results. You should know how to grow businesses and execute your ideas, one way or another. And if they don’t work? Let’s try another approach. And another one, and another one, until one of them finally works. 

You are a Growth Hacker if you know how to grow things. Not by being comfortable with your area of expertise, but by understanding how things work and taking advantage of this knowledge. Each channel, source or platform is a mean to an end, but you don’t focus on them. You focus on growth.

Who needs a Growth Hacker?

So we already know why some companies don’t really need Growth Hackers, but in this case: who needs them?

I can identify several types of companies that are able to take advantage of having one:

  1. You’re disrupting the market. Your product is so unique that people don’t know yet that they need your product. If there’s no search demand for you, and you have no idea how to utilize social traffic you may need a growth hacker. Making sure that you reach the right audience, at the right time with the right message is tricky. You’ll need someone with a deep understanding on how to approach this;
  2. You’re flexible. You know that you need to grow fast, and you’re open to experiment. If that’s the case, a Growth Hacker is someone who can help you. Testing various strategies and channels is a great way to determine what works for you and what don’t, but equally important is understanding the data and being able to find out why some experiments worked and some didn’t. 
  3. Your product or service is complex, and the purchasing process takes a long time. I have solid experience in the software industry, and it’s the perfect example. When someone is looking for a tech partner to build them an app for a million dollars, it doesn’t take one visit on the website to close the deal. You need to identify the audience, nurture it, show the world that you’re an expert and push towards becoming a lead when the moment is right. You won’t accomplish that with ads or SEO, or social media. You need to understand attribution and make use of this knowledge.

And if you’re none of the above? There’s a chance you need a Growth Hacker too, but before you start looking for one, ask yourself whether you need one Growth Hacker or several marketing experts in their areas of expertise. 



Founder of I've been working with PPC campaigns since before it was cool. Not that it wasn't cool back in the day. It's just way more cooler these days.

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