Get Up to Speed with “Growth Hacking”
If you’re based in the UK, you may not have heard about “growth hacking”, but the chances are you’re going to pretty soon. “ Growth Hacking”, a term coined by Sean Ellis, emerged in Silicone Valley in around 2006 and has gradually spread around the world. It is an approach to growth which has fuelled the success of the likes of Facebook, eBay, Pinterest, Uber and AirBnB, to name just a few. It is also widely practiced around Europe, and is just starting to bubble up in the UK — which has been slower to adopt.
Growth hacking offers a low budget, alternative approach to traditional big bang marketing campaigns. It adopts many of the lean practices common in software and product development — using data to drive decision making and running experiments. It encourages a cross-functional approach, advocating a growth team of marketers, product managers, engineers, designers and analysts which collectively take ownership for growth of the entire funnel.
I discovered the concept of growth hacking about 18 months ago, and it fundamentally altered my world view. I was simply blown away by the potential. I have since been more than mildly obsessed with the concept, and have spent a lot of time reading about it. To that end I’ve gathered together some of the most helpful material I’ve come across, the combination of which has helped me both to learn how to practice growth and how to create growth teams and processes.
If you have come across growth hacking and dismissed it as a set of slightly grubby, underhand tactics, read on. Many of the posts below challenge head on that perception of growth hacking, explaining that real growth hacking is actually about rigorous, scientific process, not a single silver bullet. Similarly, if you think growth hacking, or growth marketing, is simply about running tests to increase traffic, you’ll find there’s much more to it than that — and MUCH greater potential for growth!
1. Growth Tribe’s quick guide to Growth Hacking
Growth Tribe are Europe’s first growth training academy. This page describes their growth hacking crash course, but before getting to the detail of the course they provide a lightning overview of growth hacking — this is great for a quick introduction to the topic.
2. Build it and they won’t come: How and why growth hacking came to be
This article actually dates back to 2012, but it’s useful reading because it sets the context in which growth hacking emerged.
3. Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
This is the ultimate growth hacking bible and, for me, the best way to start learning about growth. I devoured it in a weekend, and my life hasn’t been the same since! It’s easy to read and packed full of compelling case studies. Ellis and Brown begin by explaining what growth hacking is, before going on to talk about the process and the different ways in which companies structure growth teams in their organisation. Subsequent chapters are dedicated specifically to acquisition, activation, retention, referral and revenue.
4. Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz
While this isn’t strictly about growth hacking, it makes an excellent supplementary read as it focuses on the analytics aspect of growth. Whereas Hacking Growth talks about all manner of business and growth models, Lean Analytics identifies and discusses them separately. It looks at acquisition, acquisition+loyalty and loyalty models individually. It also devotes chapters to specific business models — SaaS, ecommerce etc — which means you don’t need to read the whole book, you can cherry pick chapters relevant to you!
5. Marketing Needs Growth Planning Not Media Planning by Mayur Gupta
Mayur Gupta is a VP of Growth & Marketing at Spotify. In this blog post he discusses the changes in the marketing landscape, specifically the availability of data. He goes on to explain why, to achieve real growth, companies need to shift from a channel-focused marketing approach to a metrics-focused marketing approach.
6. Growth vs Marketing vs Product by Brian Balfour
Brian Balfour was the VP of Growth at Hubspot before going on to found Reforge, a growth training company. He’s widely recognised as a thought leader in the growth space and I’ve found his blogs and presentations to be extremely useful. This is one of his older posts written during his time at Hubspot. In it he clearly articulates the difference between marketing and growth, and product and growth, and explains why growth requires the cross-functional efforts of marketing, product, engineering and analytics to succeed.
7. Growth is good, but retention is forever by Brian Balfour
This video presentation is also from Brian Balfour. You’ll need to login to watch it, but a single sign on option is available so it’s pretty painless — and well worth the effort. While it focuses on retention, I found it particularly valuable because Brian talks through various real examples, explaining how he used cohort and correlation analysis to drive and analyse experiments. It also makes the vital link between activation and retention — in other words how a user’s first interaction with your product or service fundamentally affects retention, and that that first interaction is not simply about “a great user experience” . I think this is a great way to understand what “real” growth hacking actually looks like.
8. How to build a high performance growth team by Sean Ellis
This video presentation is on the same platform as the previous one, so if you’ve already logged in you’re all set to watch it. Building on Balfour’s presentation, this focuses on the growth hacking process. Sean Ellis emphasises the need for process rigour and testing at high tempo. He also makes a compelling case for the link between testing tempo and growth rate.
9. How we put Facebook on the path to 1 billion users by Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya was one of Facebook’s early growth leads, and in this interview he discusses some of his experiences working at the social giant. Whilst I didn’t necessarily learn a huge amount from this, I think it’s worth watching simply because Facebook have exploited this area so successfully, and it does offer some interesting insights. If you’ve ever assumed that Facebook just “went viral”, you’ll discover that there was actually a relentless growth effort behind their success.
10. Growth Lessons from Facebook and eBay by Alex Schultz
Alex Schultz is now a VP of Growth at Facebook, and previously worked at eBay. Growth hacking is believed to have had its original roots at eBay before being cross-pollinated to Facebook and LinkedIn as people moved between those organisations. As with the previous video, it offers interesting insights from someone at the heart of the growth movement.
11. Ninjas & Pirates: Abandoning Conventional Wisdom for Hypergrowth by Douglas Cook
Skyscanner are one of the few organisations in the UK to have fully embraced growth hacking, and have since become passionate advocates for this approach. This deck, compiled by Growth Tribe lead, Douglas Cook, gives a full overview of their team set up, ways of working and approach to growth.
12. Create a full company growth culture by Willix Halim
At the time of delivering this presentation, Willix Halim was a Senior VP of Growth at Freelancer.com in Australia. In this talk he describes Freelancer.com’s growth set-up which is frankly pretty mind-blowing. This is a fascinating insight in to a company that has whole heartedly embraced the growth approach.
There is a huge wealth of material available on growth — some good, some more suspect. If you’re looking to learn more, here are some blogs you can follow. These cover a mixture of areas including process, culture and tactics, but they all come from people and organisations that are respected for practicing “healthy” growth hacking.
Sean Ellis — author of Hacking Growth, and founder of GrowthHackers.com
Brian Balfour — former VP of Growth at Hubspot and founder and CEO or Reforge, a growth training company
Andrew Chen — another thought leader in the growth world, Andrew Chen has worked with the likes of Dropbox and Uber.
Growth Tribe’s blog — Growth Tribe are Europe’s first growth training academy.
Skyscanner’s growth blog — Skyscanner are one of the few UK organisations to have embraced growth hacking and their blog offers a wealth of insights in to how they work.
GrowthHackers.com community site — founded by Sean Ellis, GrowthHackers.com is a tool designed to help companies manage their growth process and experiment backlog. Their community page has hundreds of posts and videos on growth. Their weekly newsletter is worth subscribing to as it summarises the most popular posts of the week.
Hubspot — Hubspot is an inbound marketing tool with a heavy focus on content marketing, of which their blog forms part.
Neil Patel — Neil Patel was co-founder of Kissmetrics (a customer engagement automation tool) and Crazy Egg (a tool which allows you to visualize your website’s visitors through a heatmap). He’s also recognised as another expert in the growth world.
Sumo — Sumo is a growth tool created by Noah Kagan, a product manager in the early days of Facebook. Like Hubspot, Sumo heavily invest in content marketing using their blog to share growth advice and tactics.
Noah Kagan — founder of Sumo and Facebook alumni, Noah Kagan is another well-known name in the growth world. This is his personal blog.
Could I help your business introduce growth teams and practices? I am a coach and consultant that helps organisations leverage lean, agile and growth principles. Find out more about what I do at betterfasterhappier.com.