What is a Growth Hacker and why it’s the fastest growing marketing role at startups

What is Growth Hacker


Growth hacker roles have been becoming more and more common over the last few years.

Thousands of new companies make their way online every day. As the sheer volume of competing for content on the Internet wears away at the time of your potential clients, implementing a strategy for growth becomes more important than ever. Growth hacking is becoming essential rather than a luxury for companies with big budgets. Here is what you need to know about growth hacking, and if you are a growth hacker, how to use that talent in the world of SMBs.

What is a Growth Hacker?

A growth hacker is a quantifier: the person who knows the customer base by the numbers and knows how to measure everything by the appropriate metrics. A growth hacker is a tester: She knows how to test solutions by hand, and more importantly, how to code and automate those processes for expediency in future testing. A growth hacker is also a creative marketer: In the analogy of David versus Goliath, the hacker is David. This is the person who can get around the otherwise unassailable walls of marketing dollars from international competitors.

However, the number one criteria of a growth hacker is creativity in reaching the goals above. Everyone understands that the traditional marketing platforms, the ad programs that are offered by the platforms that you are trying to manipulate, are not viable marketing solutions. Fewer people are finding that paying for Facebook ads or competing directly on Google for keywords is worth the money, and they may be right. Traditional marketing methods are especially bad for startups: The modern customer does not even trust them. Growth hacking is all about finding a way around these expensive “solutions” and using insider knowledge to reach a target audience.

Why Do People Still Use Traditional Marketing Methods?

Startups may fall victim to Stockholm syndrome and think they must pay tribute to the social media and search engine gods in order to be seen. After all, the biggest companies online have no problem doing this, and startups are compelled to use the same methods to compete for the same market share. What new business owners do not realize is that traditional solutions are only one method: Facebook ads and Google keyword competition is one marketing choice among many, not a mandate that must be followed. A growth hacker looks for the highest ROI activities that are outside of the box.

How to Become a Growth Hacker

In order to become a great growth hacker, you must internalize the lesson of David versus Goliath: Although you face a giant in the form of seemingly overwhelming competition online, you must realize that a well-strategized precision shot can bring down the entire obstacle at once. You do not have to meet advertising force with an opposite force. Small armies using unconventional methods are the winners in 66 percent of wars over the past 200 years, and online marketing competition is no different.

Growth Hacker

A growth hacker is a product of the little tips that you find on hidden message boards. If you are using a new app that connects people that overlap with the target audience of your company, then you may not have to use the big social media platforms at all. For instance, if you are marketing to artistic Millennials, you will find a much easier time organically connecting to people on KanKan or Moorus than you will pay for ads on Facebook.

Growth hacking is all about testing strategies by hand instead of accepting the predetermined strategies that are given to you by the larger social media platforms on the Internet. You are able to weigh the time, manpower and money that other strategies require and pick the best from this wider spectrum rather than limiting yourself. You will test strategies by hand in order to create your own predetermined arsenal that is customized to the business that you are trying to promote.

Finally, as a growth hacker, you will help to create the sales funnel for the business. Taking great notes at every step of the process is essential, and knowing your audience will aid in this. For instance, if you know that you can convert a large number of Facebook page visitors into website views but not Twitter, then you know to focus your efforts on that particular forum. Perhaps you have gained traction in a niche forum that feeds a larger social network with stories and content. Because none of your competitors have this angle on the audience, you have a different sales funnel than any of your competitors.

Resources for Growth Hacking

growth hacker

Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising – If you want to be a growth hacker, then you must read this book. Detailing successful case studies from around the Internet, this book will give you ideas on how to hack if you do not have ideas, and it will also help you create your own philosophy for getting around the giants of your industry.

The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking – A great infographic on the subject takes you through the basics of growth hacking tips if you do not have time to read the entire book above. This is the quick primer that will allow you to start experimenting on your own.

Growth Hacking Case Studies – If you want to skip the philosophy and see one of the best lists for growth hacks in action on the Internet, this resource is a great place to start. Greg Lenz goes through many different studies from companies that you may know and companies that you should know. The slides are easy to follow, and the logic will help you to determine what your next move should be. This is a resource that should be utilized by every novice growth hacker for the wide range of strategies that it introduces to the audience as well as the compelling philosophy that accompanies the presentation of the cases.

Some of the best job sites are traditional job boards like CareerBuilder. Others, like Jooble, allow you to search through many job boards, company career sites, associations, and other sources of job postings. You can even search directly on Google to find job opportunities as a Growth Hacker.


A list of interesting resources about growth hacking. It’s an open forum brought you by GrowthHakers.com one of the leading communities about growth hacking.

In Their Words

Here is how some of the most know growth hackers define a “Growth Hacker”:

Andrew Chen: Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph. On top of this, they layer the discipline of direct marketing, with its emphasis on quantitive measurement, scenario modeling via spreadsheets, and a lot of database queries.

Neil Patel: Growth hackers are obsessive about growth. This allows them to persist until they uncover the tactics that will work, and it allows them to build upon minor successes as they slowly move their product forward.

Sean Ellis: A person whose true north is growth.

Further Reading:

This Article is About:

  • Growth hackers
  • Hiring for marketing roles
  • Trends in marketing hiring
  • Why growth hacking is important for startups
  • What is a growth hacker
  • Growth hacker marketing

Originally published: April 24th, 2016.
Updated: November 8th, 2018.