Growth hacking is a relatively new field that is quickly gaining momentum. This article outlines what growth hacking is, and then discusses 3 early, famous examples.
What is Growth Hacking?
Put simply, growth hacking involves growing your customer base through iterations of unconventional marketing experiments. Growth hackers expect most of their marketing experiments to fail; they are quick to move on from failed experiments and to double down on successful ones.
Growth Hacking Skills
Unlike traditional marketers, growth hackers are a hybrid breed of:
- Creative / guerrilla marketers,
- Designers / UX specialists, and
- Data / analytics professionals
Why is it So Powerful?
It is so powerful because it leverages OPN (other peoples' networks) and OPR (other peoples' resources). Experiments often cost companies a minimal amount of money to execute (if any) but can yield incredible results. Said another way, they are low risk, but high reward.
3 Famous Growth Hacking Examples
Three of the most famous examples of growth hacking were implemented by Airbnb, Dropbox, and Hotmail.
Airbnb struggled during its first year in operation to get customers to rent available rooms / apartments. They asked their customers, "where did you go before Airbnb for rentals?" The most common answer: "Craigslist."
After learning this, Airbnb allowed hosts to post their rooms / apartments on Craigslist through Airbnb. The posts on Craigslist, of course, linked back to Airbnb. Essentially, Airbnb leveraged Craigslist's huge audience.
But Airbnb didn't stop there. They directly messaged Craigslist users, asking them to also list their rooms / apartments on Airbnb.
After a couple years of this, Craigslist caught on to what was happening, but at that point Airbnb had exploded in popularity.
It did, however, have a core group of users / fans. Dropbox leveraged their core user base, and launched one of the first modern day referral programs.
Users could invite friends to Dropbox, and if they signed up, both would receive free storage space.
The result was 3900% growth, according to this Viral Loops article.
One of the first and perhaps most elegant growth hacks was implemented by Hotmail; they added a line which read "PS - I love you" to all emails sent from a Hotmail account. The line also contained a link back to the Hotmail homepage.
The result? Twelve million users in seventeen months, according to this Research Gate Case Study.
Why Isn't Growth Hacking More Popular?
I personally feel growth hacking isn't more popular for two reasons - it requires impressive technical skills and subversion.
First of all, to properly implement growth hacking campaigns, it is helpful to have adequate programming, design, marketing, and analytics skills. It is challenging enough to find good developers today - imagine how hard it is to find a developer with a solid grasp of marketing, design, and analytics as well!
Second of all, as can be seen from the three examples above, successful growth hacking campaigns often involve some degree of subversion; in Airbnb's case, it pertained to Craigslist. Understandably, many large organizations may avoid it for this reason alone!