The Growth Hacking intrigues, the Growth Hacking excites and disturbs at the same time. Old school marketers are pulling their hair: the disruptive ideas of the Growth Hackers make them crazy, as is the insolent growth of some start-ups. The term Growth Hacking was coined by a certain Sean Ellis at the beginning of the years 2010. The reality is anterior of at least one or two decades.
Growth Hacking is a set of techniques, or rather a state of mind, a methodology, the goal of which is the rapid growth, by all means, of a service or a product. The growth of what? What techniques? What means? What business? To see more clearly, we have worked on a complete guide dedicated to this phenomenon, this marketing revolution.
This concept echoes more and more in the ears without knowing what it is. The answer is not simple. One can try to define in one sentence the Growth Hacking (as we will try to do at the beginning) without touching the concrete reality of Growth Hacking. To define the Growth Hacking quickly, one often uses a subterfuge, both relevant and insufficient. All Growth Hackers or “experts” of the GH will tell you that Growth Hacking is a state of mind, before being a set of techniques, tools and know-how. This is a very relevant way of describing the Growth Hacking, as we will see, but at the same time, inevitably, it leaves us hungry. “State of mind” is, at the very least, a very vague notion.
We will try to propose a simple definition of Growth Hacking, to begin with. Growth Hacking is a set of practices and techniques, often unconventional, used to ensure the rapid growth of a service or product. In this definition, we insist on two elements:
This definition is rather disappointing, as it does not explain what growth it is. Nor does it explain what these unconventional practices, these “hacks” are. The analysis must therefore continue. We chose four ways, four ways to explain the Growth Hacking more precisely. We will begin by recalling the history of Growth Hacking, then we will try to describe the standard profile of the Growth Hacker before discussing the AARRR matrix and to cite some concrete examples of GH.
Growth Hacking, as a concept, was born in the early 2010s in the United States. Specifically: in Silicon Valley. The inventor of the term “Growth Hacking” is Sean Ellis. At the time, Sean Ellis worked at Dropbox, but already had other professional projects behind him. In short, he wanted to leave Dropbox. So Sean Ellis had to look for someone to resume his job. Problem: he did not know how to titulate and define his position. His job was to develop the user base of Dropbox. The term “marketing” was inappropriate because it was completely insufficient to describe what it was doing. Finally, he opted for “Growth Hacker”.
This anecdote can help us better understand what Growth Hacking is. The GH is above all a business of start-ups. The GH was designed by and for start-ups, hence its birthplace, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Specifically, technological start-ups. To my knowledge, all Growth Hackers work in this kind of business and their job is always the same: to increase as quickly as possible a user base.
Example: You are a start-up that offers an innovative email solution. You are sure that people will love, but the famous question: how to publicize the service? The Growth Hacker is the person who will seek (by what means, we still do not know) to publicize your service. Or, concretely: to increase the number of users significantly.
Why technological start-ups? There are many answers to this question. I see at least two: First, start-ups often do not have much resources at the very beginning of their business. They rarely have the means to afford traditional advertising and marketing campaigns. The Growth Hacker must be remunerated, of course, but the actions it realize usually have a quite manageable cost. A Growth Hacker allows a start-up to grow up without getting bigger, in a way. Then, the second answer we could make: the operation of a start-up is, as will be seen when we talk about the AARRR matrix, almost always based on the acquisition-demonetization model. One does not monetize before having done a great work of acquisition. This is not always true, of course, but overall this is how it works. The objective of a start-up is first of all to build a loyal user base large enough to, afterwards, begin to monetize. Conventional companies, on the contrary, can very well “walk” without having a huge user base.
We now know what growth it is. Let’s see what tools are used by the Growth Hacker to bring it to an end.
It is very pertinent to explain the Growth Hacking by the Growth Hacker, that is to say to cast down an activity on a personality. In general, a trade is defined by a set of know-how, practices and skills. For example, a baker is a person who knows how to make bread and who, to make bread, uses well-identified processes. However, Growth Hacking bends very hard to the logic of the business card. Hence the embarrassment of Sean Ellis, who did not know how to define his trade and who was forced to invent a new term: Growth Hacker.
Growth Hacking is not defined by means and tools, but by one objective: to grow rapidly, to increase the number of users, regardless of the means used to achieve this end. As Sean Ellis says (definitely, there is much talk about him), the Growth Hacker is “a person whose only goal is growth. Everything that this person undertakes will be judged by the impact of his actions on the measurable and evolutionary growth of the activity, the product or the service “. Barely implied implication: you can do whatever you want, including completely illegal things, what counts is that it works.
The first consequence of this is that there are no schools specifically designed to train Growth Hackers. The Growth Hackers are all self-taught. They learned on the job, still having basic training either in marketing or in computer science. Because yes, the Growth Hacker is far from being silly. One can compare it to a sort of poacher of the web or genius, according to the appreciation that one makes of it. The list of skills that must possess to a Growth Hacker is potentially unlimited. SEO, web culture, social marketing, social psychology and anthropology (to be able to calculate public expectations and habits of people), data analysis, statistics, A / B Testing, emailing, development, etc.
The skills of a Growth Hacker, as we see, ultimately revolve mainly around (web) marketing and IT. From one Growth Hacker to another, the skills can be very different. On the other hand, the trait common to all GHs, in addition to their imperturbable objective of growth, is of a “human” or behavioral order. The GH is nonconformist, creative, full of ideas, ready for anything and at the same time capable of continually questioning itself. A GH can learn from its mistakes and do not persist when something does not work.
We will see, through examples, how the Growth Hacker uses these skills. If one wanted to pick up his work a little, one could say that a Growth Hacker, basically, is an experimenter. It is a person who will test actions (set up features), and analyze, through an A / B Testing method, the result of these actions. The indicators monitored for the analysis of the tests can be very different: rate of rebound, time spent by the users on the service, actions of the users on the service. Methods to better analyze the results have emerged, including the cohort method. Experimenter and fine analyst, the GH is the cornerstone of a long service refinement of the service leading from the acquisition of traffic to the generation of income. This leads us naturally to the AARRR matrix.
Any Growth Hacker works, consciously or unconsciously, but more often consciously, from a pattern that can be summarized from the AARRR matrix. It was Dave McClure, entrepreneur and business angel, who first proposed this matrix. The latter describes, more broadly, the functioning of any technological start-up. Better understanding it also means better understanding the Growth Hacking. AARRR is an acronym for Acquisition – Activation – Retention – Referral – Income. This matrix defines the successive steps on which a Growth Hacker must pay attention. This is the conversion tunnel, no more and no less.
The first step in the work of a GH and a start-up is to attract Internet users to a service (via different channels: social networks, SEO, SEA, etc.). In other words: the acquisition of traffic. This is the BA-BA. To succeed in acquiring, the proposed value of the proposed service must be sufficiently relevant and the user must visualize it very quickly (hence the importance of the landing pages). Example of a value proposition: “rent from the inhabitant for cheaper than a hotel and with more conviviality” (that of Airbnb).
Once the users have arrived on the landing page, have seen the proposal of value, it is necessary to succeed to make them adhere. In other words, to transform the user into a user. A typical way to measure the degree of activation: registrations (newsletter, RSS feed or other). To succeed in this step, you must ensure that the user has a satisfactory first experience of the product or service. He must say to himself “ah yes, not bad, good go I register”. For Uber, for example, a way to optimize activation is to show cars that are moving live. It is sometimes referred to as “onboarding marketing”.
The Growth Hacker must ensure that service users become active and use it regularly, via , for example, regular updates, new features, the proposed new functionalities, organizing events, coupons, Loyalty programs, drip marketing, etc. This step is sometimes overlooked, but it is a mistake that leads straight to the drilled basket syndrome. It is important to work well with retention before attempting to referral. Retention of the work is the condition sine qua non of the product / market fit. Roughly, we can say that if we reached this stage of the P / M Fit, the start-up has every chance to break through. This means that the start-up has been able to create its market or to seize a pre-existing application. People like it. All that remains is to pursue the vein. Retention is perhaps the most crucial step for start-ups, and it is on this that the right GH do the hardest job.
At this stage, everything should be done so that the active users of the service become ambassadors of the service to their network. We are here at the heart of Growth Hacking: virality. It is the virality that will allow the user base to grow exponentially or by geometric growth. The Growth Hacker can use a whole range of actions to increase the refferal: sponsorship deals, coupon codes, contests, etc. The inventiveness of GH is limitless.
This last step consists of transforming the active users into turnover. It is the stage towards which all the work of the GH tends, but which, nevertheless, only arrives at the end. This is the stage of monetization (advertising, subscription …) during which prospects become real customers.
This matrix explains very well the philosophy of the Growth Hacker. At first (the first four steps!), The Growth Hacker does not try to make money at all. Its objective is to increase the number of users of the service. To ensure sustainable growth, the GH focuses its attention on user quality, hence the importance of the activation and retention phases. Only once the user base becomes sufficiently large and users have become sufficiently active that the monetization work (last step) can begin. So the Growth Hacker is not an ox that heads down in the direction of the goddess growth, as our first definition of GH could let it think. It wants qualified and sustainable growth, the only growth able to make the business of the start-up perennial.
Here, finally, are more or less famous examples of Growth Hacking practices. For those who discover the Growth Hacking, it is probably the best way to get a concrete idea of the thing. We will find in these examples the linearities of the matrix AARRR.
Everyone knows this famous e-mail. This is the first electronic mailbox. It was created by two employees who did not want their boss to read their mails. The history of start-ups is sometimes crisp … Both employees, admiring their own work, quickly sought to market their revolutionary solution, but they did not have enough money to invest in marketing. The idea of Timothy Draper, one of the two (former) employees, was to add down to all the mails an original signature: “PS: I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail. ” It does not pay for bread, but after six months, Hotmail has exceeded one million users (more than 12 million after a year and a half …). Note that Apple recycled this idea by proposing the signature “sent from my iPhone” at the end of each message sent from an iPhone. This action of GH particularly concerns the “Referral” stage.
YouTube, meanwhile, had the idea to offer its users to post their videos on their own websites or blogs ( via the “embed” function). This has helped boost the site’s stats in no time! Here, too, is the Referral level.
Airbnb, probably one of the most frequently cited examples with Hotmail, had another idea to develop its user base: divert traffic from a big site. Airbnb, created in 2008, had a lot of trouble taking off. Its creators then had an idea of genius: to post the announcements of Airbnb on a site with strong hearing: Craiglist (an American Leboncoin, it is to tell you its audience). Each time a user posted an ad on Airbnb, the ad was automatically posted to Craiglist at the same time. It worked perfectly and propelled Airbnb where they are today. We see with this example the sometimes borderline side of the practices of Growth Hacking (Airbnb has more or less “hacked” Craiglist, it must be said).
Spotify used the same process as Airbnb, using Facebook to develop its user base. As of 2011, the music streaming service has developed an integration device allowing automatic sharing of music played on Facebook. All Facebook contacts of people using Spotify were able to discover the service.
The Dropbox service also used a Growth Hacking technique. Its trick: offer to get 16 GB free of spaces by inviting people to join Dropbox. Here again is a typical example of Growth Hacking action to play on the refferal. It is also noted that the biggest successes of Growth Hacking is the Referral stage. This does not invalidate the idea developed above: before the Referral, one must think of Retention.
Finally, here is an example of Growth Hacking action linked to the phase “Retention” precisely. Twitter realized that many users were subscribing to the social network but did not use their account after a few days or weeks. Twitter has become aware that the majority of inactive accounts belonged to users who had a number of followers below 20. To improve the retention of its users, Twitter’s teams Had a very good idea: to propose at the time of registration a list of people to follow. Success has been achieved and the proportion of inactive users has fallen sharply.