How to Use Growth Hacking to Drive Startup Success

5 min read
How to Use Growth Hacking to Drive Startup Success

Startups that set their sights on exponential growth face a long list of challenges. When you’re building a company, limited resources and intense competition are par for the course, and traditional marketing strategies often just won’t cut it.

This is where growth hacking comes into play. Growth hacking is a tailored approach to marketing that’s designed to help startups overcome marketing obstacles and drive rapid growth.

Understanding the Startup Growth Hacking Environment

Startups operate in uncertain, highly dynamic environments. They often lack the resources of larger companies that have been around for years, which puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to executing large-scale marketing campaigns. 

The innovative nature of startups also presents unique growth challenges. Startups usually aim to disrupt existing markets or create entirely new ones, making it all the more difficult to attract early customers and gain traction.

Unlike traditional marketing strategies that come with huge price tags, growth hacking prioritizes low-cost growth. Growth hacking encourages marketers to think outside the box and experiment to find the strategies that result in the biggest impact for the lowest price.

Key Principles of Startup Growth Hacking

While your approach to growth hacking should always be guided primarily by your startup’s specific needs, there are a few key principles to keep in mind:

1. Rapid Experimentation

Successful growth hacking depends on continuous experimentation. This is also known as iteration. Growth hackers should conduct numerous rounds of small-scale testing to help them narrow in on the most effective strategies for growth — both in terms of outcomes and cost.

2. Growth Channel Optimization

As the Chinese proverb goes: “if you chase two rabbits, you’ll lose them both.” That’s exactly why one of the most important components of growth hacking is pinpointing which acquisition channels hold the greatest growth potential. These channels should receive the brunt of your attention, while lower-impact growth channels can be more or less ignored for now.

3. Data-Driven Decision Making

Collecting data is crucial for understanding user behavior and making informed growth decisions. Without data-driven insights, it would be very difficult to allocate resources efficiently or adapt your growth hacking approach to real-time market changes.

Exploring Growth Hacking Tactics

Growth hacking is not a single set of steps that leads to a discrete outcome. You can employ many different kinds of growth hacking tactics depending on your needs. These tactics are not mutually exclusive, and it’s quite common for startups to combine multiple types of growth hacking as part of a comprehensive growth plan.

1. Customer Acquisition Strategies

Experimentation is one of the core tenets of growth hacking. Try lots of different customer acquisition strategies and stick with the ones that get the best results. For example, you might try using targeted advertising campaigns to reach specific customer segments, or you might try teaming up with a marketing influencer in your industry to boost brand exposure.

2. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

To drive fast, explosive growth at your startup, you’ll need to refine every aspect of your online presence with conversions in mind. Your website, social media accounts, and all other digital content should be carefully crafted to turn prospects into leads and leads into customers. One of the best ways to optimize your website’s conversion rate is to run A/B tests for different versions of each web page.

3. Virality and Referral Programs

The most successful growth hackers understand how to use virality to their advantage. This means they know how to promote organic growth by baking opportunities for word-of-mouth marketing directly into the customer journey. A common example of viral growth marketing is a referral program that rewards customers for inviting friends and family to try the product.

4. Product Development Hacks

Growth hacking requires close collaboration between the marketing team and the product development team. On one hand, growth hackers inform product developers with valuable insight to help them identify the most impactful opportunities for improvement. On the other hand, it’s up to product developers to turn growth hacking insights into actual business gains by implementing an iterative product development process.

Successful Growth Hacking Case Studies

Let’s look at a couple of case studies from well-known companies that know a thing or two about growth hacking:

Airbnb

Airbnb's remarkable growth story is mainly thanks to its well-crafted, two-sided referral program that offers rewards like discounts or travel credits for both hosts and guests who spread the word about the platform. This referral system has been enormously successful at creating a network effect that led to a snowball of popularity for Airbnb.

Dropbox

Dropbox is another prime example of a referral strategy done right. By offering additional storage space for free to any user who convinced a friend to sign up, Dropbox turned their existing user base into an army of enthusiastic brand ambassadors, resulting in a jaw-dropping 3900% increase in customers over just 15 months.

Implementing Growth Hacking at Your Startup

Hopefully, you’re sold on growth hacking by now — but how do you know where to start? These three basic growth hacking steps should get your strategy off the ground:

Unlocking the Power of Growth Hacking With Mentorship

Growth hacking is all about fast-tracking your startup’s early stage growth — but unfortunately, there’s nothing fast or easy about becoming a growth hacking expert. That takes years of hard work and firsthand experience.

Luckily, there’s a way to access top-tier growth marketing mentorship with nothing more than a few clicks. Mentorcam’s growth hacking mentors can share personalized advice based on their own storied careers in marketing.

Start browsing available marketing experts today and take the first step toward accelerating your startup’s growth!

Get 1:1 advice from expert growth hackers

Tristram Hewitt

Tristram Hewitt

Ex-VP of Operations - Turo
Startup Growth Expert

Turo
Outschool

Tristram Hewitt is an experienced ops executive with a track record of scaling companies like Turo (Series B to E) and Outschool (Series A to D). His expertise covers customer ops, risk, insurance, go-to-market, and company operations in marketplaces, mobility, and edtech. Tristram excels at data-driven problem-solving and has prior experience at Bain. He got his degree from Harvard and holds his MBA from the University of Chicago.

Turo
Bain & Company
Outschool
Intrax
Harvard University
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Robin Daniels

Robin Daniels

CMO - WeWork Matterport
Growth and GTM Expert

WeWork
Matterport

Robin is a three-time CMO with more than 20 years of experience in marketing and growth leadership roles at companies like Salesforce, Box, LinkedIn, Matterport, and WeWork. He's done 3 IPOs, several acquisitions, and led companies through hyper-growth to become household names. Robin now works as an advisor, speaker, and motivator to fast-growth companies around the world.

Took 3 companies public
WeWork
Matterport
Salesforce
Box
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Itay Forer

Itay Forer

Co-Founder - Cleanly
Y Combinator Alum

Cleanly
Initialized Capital

Itay Forer is the co-founder of Cleanly, an on-demand laundry & dry cleaning service backed by YCombinator (W15), Initialized Capital, Soma Capital, Paul Buchheit (creator of Gmail), and NFL legend Joe Montana. He is a serial entrepreneur, board member, mentor/coach, and active angel investor who has built a startup from the ground up to a 400+ person workforce. Specializes in PMF and scaling companies from 0 to 10. As a mentor, he has helped over 200 founders realize their full potential.

Y Combinator alum
GTM strategy
Building sales team
Finding PMF
Scaling startups
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