Growth Hacking for Beginners: A Guide to the Basics of Data-Driven Marketing

7 mins read

If you’ve been paying attention at all, you’ve heard the term “growth hacking” by now. But what is growth hacking? Simply put, it’s an easy-to-learn marketing and sales methodology that’s based on testing, monitoring, analyzing and tweaking – and all the above as fast as possible! Growth hacking, in other words, means using any technique or strategy necessary to achieve growth.

Growth hacking: Growing Places

The term dates back to 2010, when Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown published their book “Hacking Growth.” Ellis developed the techniques behind this book by successfully growing such companies as Eventbrite, DropBox, LogMeIn and Lookout.

In those early days, growth hacking was mostly a means of quickly growing startups in the early stages of introducing new services or products. Now it is a method that new medium, and large companies are all flocking to as a means of fast, reliable growth.

Growth Hacking Business Growth Arrow, 3d render, white background

Why is growth hacking different?

The answer is fairly simple. Whereas a traditional marketer relies on traditional ways of marketing (allocating budgets, generating publicity, placing advertisements, and so on), a growth hacker has traded such time-tested, yet hard-to-measure techniques for more tangible methods: whatever is trackable, testable, and scalable.

Growth hackers snub their noses at assumptions. Who needs marketing textbooks and best practices when all the data is right there at our fingertips?

Also read: 6 SEO tools you need to rank higher in 2019.


A Tool’s Paradise

The growth hacker’s tools usually include the following: PPC ads, emails, blogs, platform APIs (and on some occasions the usual stuff traditional marketers use). She will have a wide array of tools at her disposal for tackling this task. These range from the digital, e.g. PPC ads, email, blogging, social media, and platform APIs, to the analogue, e.g some of the things a “traditional” marketer relies on. Last but not least, she’ll need creativity.

She will set her goals, define her “North Star metric,” and get to work, keeping a backlog of ideas she wants to test. If she’s working on a team, she’ll encourage everyone to add ideas to this backlog. Once it contains a minimum of 100 experiments, she’ll start evaluating  – perhaps prioritizing using the ICE (Impact, Confidence, Ease) score – and ultimately implementing them.

GROWTh comes in spurts

Since time is of the essence in growth hacking, she’ll run every batch of tests so within a pre-set period of time. This period (often call a sprint) begins with a planning session and ends with a review. The standard sprint length is two weeks, but ultimately you should choose whatever duration works best for you (and your team, if you’re lucky enough to have one).

Growth Hacking 101

Grow through the channels

For growth to happen, you need to find a source of traffic through which you can show your target audience your product.

Because let’s face it: you can’t buy what you can’t see.

Only when you have found and begun utilizing a “distribution channel,” as they are called, can you convert your target audience into active, and ultimately, paying, users of your product.

Distribution channels can be anything from a landing page or website to a retailer, wholesaler, or distributor.

Traction Speaks Louder than words

Growth hacking was born of startup culture. If you are a startup, by definition, you have little money. Simultaneously, your raison d’être is growth – growing and scaling are how you transform from lowly caterpillar to beautiful butterfly. Traction is the food that fuels this metamorphosis.

While some experts, like Naval Ravikant, define traction as “quantitative evidence of market demand” and focus on the big picture around obtaining this evidence, others dive right into the details of the process. One such marketer is Gino Wickman. Wickman’s book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business lays out a practical method for surmounting the obstacles that every entrepreneur faces during the growth process.

Wickman breaks his EOS, or Entrepreneurial Operating System®, down into 6 key components. By mastering them, growth-oriented companies reliably hit their targets and grow sustainably. These principles are designed to train leadership teams to be more focused, more efficient, and more effective. The EOS model is also a tool for improving your company culture.

Wickman’s far-reaching influence on today’s digital marketing methods is deeply rooted in the principles of growth hacking.

Pirate Funnels of the Caribbean

Ancient pirate ship sailing on the ocean at sunset. In full sail.Gather round, ye hearties, and let’s sail for the the Isle of Tortuga of growth hacking: the AARRR framework. But first, a question: what’s Captain Hack Sparrow’s favorite marketing format? Answer: the WebinARRR! It goes without saying that all the Captain’s clients are B2Sea.

Pirates of the Caribbean jokes aside, the importance of the AARRR framework to growth hacking cannot be overstated. The best growth hackers are all pirate, all the time, and any who steer around the funnel are sailing for Davy Jones’ locker faster than a landlubber’s schooner!

Blimey, what be this bloody funnel?, you ask. All hands on deck and let’s sail through its stages together. Anchors away!

Growth Hacking male's hand pointing at a printed AARRR Marketing sales funnel - Acquisition Activation Retention Revenue Referral


This stage of the funnel describes where your users are coming from. Put bluntly: your funnel is only as good as the customers you acquire at the first stage. The key to success here is obtaining the most qualified traffic.


Are your users happy with their first taste of you? Once you have acquired qualified traffic, you need a solid on-boarding strategy to clearly communicate your value proposition to discoverers of your product or service.


Do they keep coming back? You want your customers to make a habit of using your product. They should be addicted to your great user experience! A good way to keep this stage running smoothly is through marketing automation. When the right retention methods are in place, you will see value rather than just dream of it.


A great measure of organic growth is the number of people who are talking about your product and recommending it to their peers. This stage is about transformation: turning your most engaged users into your ambassadors.


Are you making money? Users have finally bought or subscribed to your product and are using your service. They are now your customers, but the journey has just begun! The best way to increase revenue is to get more value from your customers than you spend to acquire them. That means optimizing your funnel, tweaking your pricing, and maximizing audience engagement.

To summarize: traditional marketers focus on the top of the funnel only —the poop deck, to put it in pirate terms. They weigh anchor and careen straight for the shallows, blowing all their booty on ad views, brand awareness and the like.

In the growth hacker’s view, such methods are a surefire way to get hornswaggled. Growth hacking targets all of the funnel, all of the time – or at least, it always keeps the whole funnel in mind. First, we define the funnel for each of your company’s buyer personas. Then we measure your data against industry benchmarks, find weak spots, and finally, devise a plan. Then it’s growth ho!
Call it 20:20 foresight, matey. All we know is: dead men tell no tales, but the data always talks!

Growth Hacking Pirate Metrics Skull and Guns Illustration

Growth hacking today

Now you have a sound grasp of the basics of growth hacking? You have 2 choices. You can either 1) hire a few good growth hackers or 2) start practicing these techniques yourself. Either way, you’ll need to lay the groundwork for growth if you want your company to survive and thrive.

Think or Swim

What trends are shaping the current media landscape? The cost of advertising is rising steadily, and successful organic marketing requires more time and effort than ever before.

The endless flood of changes in the media landscape is triggering a rethink among marketers. Those who want to keep reaching audiences are realizing that  they can no longer just stick with what has worked in the past.

At the same time, buyer personas are slowly giving way to “channel personas” as new players replace legacy media and established channels.

Sound like a challenging situation? It is. But it’s also an opportunity to take the reins of creativity and become a new kind of growth hacker! The demand for this type of marketer is increasing rapidly, and won’t stop doing so any time soon.

The Shape of Growth to come

T-shaped marketers will need the younger generation of growth hackers’ help to succeed in ever-more specialized markets. As a result, tomorrow’s growth hackers will have more specific skill sets.

That’s our take. How do you view the current growth-hacking landscape?

Tell us in the comments! 👇

📊 Ready to growth hack your business? Work your way through these 22 tried and true methods and you'll be well on your way (if not already bigger than Facebook) 😁

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