While browsing through LinkedIn, you may have come across the term “growth hacker”. This is really no surprise as the platform has been inundated with job postings from start-ups and technology companies in search of their next growth hacker. But who exactly are these individuals? What purpose do they serve and are they actually hackers as the word suggests?


Putting a spotlight on the growth hacker


Today’s digital environments enable far greater agility, innovation and scalability than ever possible in just the physical world. In the digital world, software creation and great marketing share common characteristics. They are both juggling an explosion of digitally powered interactions in a whirl of constant change and innovation. But harnessing this potential requires various, unconventional and innovative approaches in the sense that they need to leverage digital dynamics instead of fighting them. This is where the growth hacker steps in.


Growth hackers, a term coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis, is the evolution of a traditional marketer. They have in-depth know-how on technical issues, and they focused on the key objective of how to grow a company.


intrasoft growth hacking


How do they achieve growth? They use a variety of tactics called "hacks" and no, these hacks are not the unauthorised kind that those in the software community know all too well about. They are more like life hacks the things you do or the shortcuts you take to make life easier. In other words, these hacks are not about breaking, but instead they are all about making.  They are about creating new inventions and harnessing innovation - in, fast fluid and fun ways.


A growth hacker imagines what is possible, figures out smart ways to realise those ideas within the tangle of real-world constraints and above all celebrates the courage to try, tinker and learn. The secret sauce behind these hacks is that they are resource-light and inexpensive (commonly free- usually because of their capability to multitask) and they aim to boost the company's growth by increasing the viral coefficient. 


A love of creativity and curiosity


Unlike most professions, a growth hacker isn't based on a set of skills or stock of knowledge. Growth hacking is all about the way you take advantage of the tools and not about the tools you will use. In other words, growth hacking is a way of thinking more than a way of doing. It requires the unique talent of being able to master the art of marketing and growth and relies on a set of disciplines learned from experiences stemming from experimentation not merely on performing the tasks of a job.  This mindset of creativity and curiosity allows a growth hacker to turn a basic idea into one that can help a company, such as start-ups, grow into a million-euro business. 


How successful have growth hackers actually been? There are many cases were growth hackers have thrived against conventional marketing. What characterises the market nowadays is the drive to do more with less. For marketers and entrepreneurs, that paradox is practically their job description.


intrasoft growth hacking


The cases in which growth hackers have helped companies stand out from the crowd without having in their possession enormous budgets are more than you think.  Companies such as Dropbox, Airbnb, Uber, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and many more have based their business models and attributed their success to growth hacking. Let’s take a closer look at Airbnb a start-up now valued at approximately $10 billion.  In 2007, the business started out as an idea centred on turning your living room into a little bed and breakfast. But the actual value proposition was a little mediocre and they failed to convince investors to jump on board. However, thanks to the few users they have acquired, they noticed that their value proposition was not what they thought. From this observation, they turned their start-up from a good but impractical idea to an explosive billion-dollar valuation as we know it today.


This was the same for Instagram. It started as a location-based application called Burbn - which had an optional photo feature. What the founders noticed was that users were using the app because of the photo filters functionality rather than the main idea that forced them to launch the app. The service soon retooled to become Instagram as we know it today.


Let me leave you with some food for thought. The digital battleground is where you will find marketers fighting to gain a competitive edge over their rivals. It is a battleground where  inflexible targets, restricting budgets, lack of resources, advanced tools and platforms and  competitors exist. It is because of these things, a traditional approach to marketing will not suffice. Surviving means adaptation. It means growth hacking.



Author: Manos Stefanopoulos.