How to Growth Hack Your Startup: A Guide

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Learning how to growth hack a startup is an extremely worthwhile process and it’s a critical part of finding out how to be sustainable in the long term. That’s because your vision, product, and users become fully aligned when you achieve product-market fit through growth hacking. But growth hacking operates on both micro and macro levels. So in this post, you’re going to learn all about growth hacking to demystify it so you can understand it once and for all.


In this post, we’ll:

  1. Explain what growth hacking is and the definitions of it.
  2. Explain why growth hacking is so important.
  3. Show the difference between a growth hacker and using growth hacks.
  4. Explain how to growth hack your startup with the lean startup model.
  5. Show you how to growth hack anything with 7 steps.
  6. Tell you how to keep track of your tests.
  7. Show you how to build towards product-market fit.
  8. Help you find out what your customers want.
  9. Share the significance of analytics in your startup and your growth hacking experiments.
  10. Give you 20 examples of tested and proven growth hacks
  11. And I’ll wrap up the post in the conclusion


What is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking doesn’t refer to performing any illegal activities.  So, you definitely don’t have to worry about that.

Instead, growth hacking is about finding inventive and/or creative ways to maximize user engagement, user retention, traffic, and sales through experimentation.

And another great thing about growth hacking is that it helps startups by finding ways to increase efficiency and profits, and reduce time, effort, and overall costs.

Below, you can learn about the three different types of growth hacking.


Growth Hacking Definition #1

Experimentation of marketing activities through the scientific process. People can growth hack marketing activities by setting up analytical experiments or tests to find what brings you the best results. You can do this via A/B testing or multivariate testing.

If you keep doing this tactic, let’s say on a specific Facebook ad, then you can keep increasing your conversion rates or click-through rates by finding the better performing version. Thus, “hacking” your growth.


Growth Hacking Definition #2

Create and code variations in software features of your SaaS and set up experiments with your analytics to see what your users like more. This type of growth hacking is also known as the lean startup methodology and it allows you to grow with confidence.


Growth Hacking Definition #3

Growth hacking can also mean shortcuts to perform marketing activities in as little time and with as little effort as possible.

This style of growth hacking is incredibly popular.

It can be through software that automates processes for you, such as chrome extensions for LinkedIn which can auto-connect with types of users and auto-message specific niches of users.

Additionally, you can software stacks. A software stack is when you use two different pieces of software to significantly reduce time, effort, and even cost to perform a marketing activity.

An example of this is using a data/email scraper to create a list, and then sending out automated emails to the people on the list.

A third example is by creating a script to perform a function that would have taken a long time for you to do. Thus, saving you time so you can spend it on other activities. Time is money, after all.


Examples of these Growth Hacks

For instance, you can use data scrapers to collect data from a given page instead of copy and pasting individual data sets and creating new columns and rows.

Data scraping saves you time and allows you to harness that data towards your business development, marketing, or product development.

Or let’s say you want to get in touch with all of your LinkedIn connections, but you don’t want to take the time to message them all, you can instead export your LinkedIn connections straight from LinkedIn. They have an option to do this.

Then, all of your connections and tons of data about them go into spreadsheets and you can then upload that data to your email client. This means you don’t have to individually message every one of your LinkedIn connections.


Why Should You Learn How to Growth Hack for Your Startup?

Learning how to growth hack is important for your startup because it gets to the essence of your value proposition.

To create a truly successful startup, it’s important to focus your product or service around a problem in your target niche.

There are growth hacking tactics and then there’s general growth hacking for your startup which is based on the lean startup formula.

All of the smaller growth hacking tactics used to increase your conversion rate in the world won’t keep your startup afloat in the long-term if your product sucks.

That’s right, split testing email subject lines or post titles won’t help you enough in the long-term to survive. But they are still good exercises nonetheless. You just have to make sure that you keep track of all of  your growth hacking experiments!

Rather, your product or service needs to be something your target audience wants and needs (product-market fit).

If you don’t have product-market fit, no specific or generic growth hack will take care of growth unless your product near-magically goes viral. It’s through the constant optimization of the sales funnel on your website where you will find the best results.

However, traffic and growth are obtained by the implementation of numerous marketing strategies, methodologies, and distribution channels aimed at your target customer.

Moreover, qualified lead generation targeted towards getting emails remains to be the best tactic to convert people into paying customers.

This works best for both the short and long term through a combination of automated, drip, and manual email processes.


The Difference Between Growth Hacks and a Growth Hacker

There are a considerable amount of growth hacks on the web that will say you can increase your growth by doing a certain action or by switching from one technique to another.

The people that performed the tests and discovered those growth hacks are the true growth hackers.

Using someone else’s growth hacks won’t make you a growth hacker.

If you want to become a true growth hacker, then you’ve got to do the dirty work.

You have to think like a scientist and act like a scientist.

This is why analytics is part of the field of data science and why it plays a central role in growth hacking.

However, you also need to have the makeup of a marketer, because growth is all about marketing, but the right kind!

Ultimately, growth hacking is a mix of product development, marketing, data science, resourcefulness, and ingenuity to maximize your conversion rates of your target customers.


How to Growth Hack Using the Lean Startup Model

this lean startup methodology helps you learn how to growth hack your startup
Infographic via Kissmetrics Blog

The lean startup model is about finding what’s scientifically proven to work with a SaaS (software as a service) startup or any startup which utilizes the internet to generate revenue for its business.

Step 1: Create a Hypothesis

You start with an idea and you create a hypothesis so you can test whether the hypothesis is true or false. Just like in science class from grade-school. Pick your key performance indicators (KPIs) of what you want to measure and learn.

Step 2: Build

As shown in the picture of the above model, you code or build the product or feature you want to test and make a duplicate with one variation so you can A/B test it (also known as a split test).

The “A” version is your control and your “B” version is your variation.

With the “B” test, you only change ONE thing.

There are more advanced ways to test, such as multivariate testing, but A/B testing is the most common.

In other sections below, you can learn more about analytics, how to get trained in it, and find out info about other analytics software solutions besides Google Analytics.

Step 3: Measure with Analytics

Insert your analytics tracking codes into the objects you’re testing so you can measure their performance and get data to find out if your hypothesis is true or false.

The goal is to see what version resonates with your target audience more.

In other words — what performs better?

Step 4: Drive Traffic to Your Experiment

Drive traffic to your experiment by marketing it through your marketing channels or through click funnels/sales funnels within your SaaS.

You want to reach a statistically significant conclusion, so it’s better to have larger sample sizes of traffic going to each variation (A/B).

You definitely want at least 150 interactions with each side of the experiment.

This way, you learn if your control or your variable of your growth hacking experiment worked better.

Step 5: Analyze and Learn

Analyze your results using your analytics software and through event tracking.

Find out if your control or your variable converted better.

The data is helpful to see raw conversion rates, but you don’t necessarily know why people acted the way they did unless you ask them.

You can form a hypothesis as to why the result was the way it was.

Additionally, you can use surveys to help with this process. You can use free surveys through Hotjar.

Step 6: Repeat the Process

Repeat the process by then using the former control or variation (whichever one tested better), and form a new hypothesis to test out.

How to Growth Hack Anything with these 7 Steps

We just explored how to growth hack SaaS products.

Now, we will explore how to growth hack your marketing experiments such as pages on your website, ads that you’re running, email subject lines, content in emails, or just about anything else that can be tested.

How to growth hack in 7 steps

Step 1

Create the material that you want to measure and make your hypothesis for your experiment

Step 2

Set up tracking on your website or app to the measure results of that specific material (this URL builder will help you with tracking campaigns via Google Analytics).  Most of the tracking is done by either doing split testing (otherwise known as A/B testing), multivariate testing, event tracking, or basic page tracking. A/B testing is when you have two choices (variables) that are shown to a segmented user-base/traffic. Half of the user-base/traffic will see one option (option A), and the other half of the user-base/traffic will see the other option (option B).

Multivariate testing is when you have more than two variables to test.  You’d divide those options up equally with your user-base/traffic divided between each variable. Event tracking is when you track specific user actions, such as downloads, video plays, or clicks on a button. Basic page tracking is done by easily installing a Google Analytics tracking code into the HTML file of each page (if using WordPress, there are WordPress apps that do this for you).

Step 3

By using Google Analytics or another analytics software, you can analyze your findings such as time on page, bounce rate, pages per session, devices used, user-flow from page to page, interests, and more. Run the testing.  You will want to have a good sample size of at least a few hundred results before you halt the test.

Step 4

Stop the test and analyze the key performance indicators in your results to learn about how your campaign performed.

Step 5

Pick the best variable with the highest conversion rate if doing A/B or multivariate tests.  If all variables performed badly, then keep the least bad one as the control for the study.

Step 6

Then create additional variables & restart the experiment.

Step 7

If using event tracking or basic page tracking, figure out what had the worst statistics/best statistics and learn how to improve your content to achieve better results. Record your results & record any changes. A spreadsheet is usually the best method for record-keeping.

Keeping Track of Your Experiments

Keep track of your experiments using a spreadsheet. Include what the experiment is, the hypothesis, the variations used, date, the sample size of the experiment, and the results of the experiment.

Doing this will keep you on top of your testing and keep you focused on improving your startup scientifically.


How to Growth Hack Your Product Towards Product-Market Fit

All of this experimentation has an overarching purpose. That purpose is to achieve a product-market fit with your startup.

The creator of growth hacking ideology, Sean Ellis, says that (paraphrasing) “you know when you’ve achieved product-market fit when 40% of your users cannot live without your product.”

You can test and tweak your marketing campaigns and tweak your product or service until you reach it. Most businesses will not achieve product-market fit overnight.

Instead, it’s a long grind of both finding out exactly what your target customers want and the formulas of what works best for your target audience. They’re crucial to your survival. Therefore, make sure you listen to your customers and their feedback.

The lean startup model is all about fine-tuning your product and marketing strategies. It takes time to build a solid user base and to achieve a product-market fit with a low or negative churn rate.

According to Investopedia, churn rate is also known as the rate of users declining to sign up again. It’s the percentage of subscribers to a service who discontinue their subscriptions to that service within a given time period.

When getting your users for your startup, there are several ways to find out if visitors are interested in your product or service.

You can survey your users, ask them personally, monitor your sales page conversion rate, A/B test your sales page, use heatmapping, and more.


Finding Out What Your Customers Want is Important for Growth Hacking

You’ll have better growth hacking experiments when you are dialed into what your customers and ideal buyers are interested in. When you actually know what they want, rather than taking educated guesses, you’ll benefit from being able to test different types of language (or copy), images, and content formats that will help you grow even more.

Some ways to find out what your customers want is to:

  • Build an email list and get feedback from your subscribers through surveys
  • Ask them personally
  • Exit-intent popups with surveys
  • Built-in surveys with apps like HotJar, Typeform, or SurveyMonkey
  • Using analytics, track your users’ behaviors, and view their affinities.


Understanding Data and Analytics is the Key to Growth Hacking

Understanding and leveraging your data is the key to expanding your business’ full potential through growth hacking.

There are so many data points you can see by harnessing analytics.

Creating a measurement plan for the key performance indicators is the first step. It’s important to understand how to use the analytics suite because otherwise, you won’t know what to do.

But in order for you to make a measurement plan, you have to know how to use the analytics suite you choose first.

Before you get started, see what many of your key performance indicators are by checking out this awesome infographic created by Anna Vital. The reason for looking at this infographic now is just so you can get an idea of what you’re going to be measuring.

You can see:

  • Demographics
  • Geographic sources
  • Traffic sources
  • Social interests
  • The technology used
  • And more

When using analytics, you’ll be able to see what your strong points were and where your shortfalls came. Moreover, you’ll be able to measure your marketing efforts and focus on growth.


Five Growth Hacking Tools

We now have more tools and resources at our disposal than we used to which help us grow our startups quicker.

These are SaaS products that help us increase website conversions such as:

These tools can help you streamline your lead generation process and help you see which experiment version performs better. If you don’t use tools to help you with that, then you’re going to be stuck in the mud. Use tools to help you, even if it’s freemium versions at first!


20 Examples of Tested and Proven Growth Hacks

  1. Content upgrades – They increase email subscriber conversion rates up to 500%.
  2. Guest blogging – It’s an easy way to build up your authority and drive traffic back to your site. And it can also link to content on your site through what’s called a backlink. The more backlinks you have from authoritative sites, the better.
  3. One click webinar registration – increases your signup rates.
  4. Leverage human errors like “oops! I forgot the link” for emails for high conversions on the 2nd email.
  5. Exit intent popups – They increase time on page and gets the user more interested in your site or more likely to buy via a sales promotion in the popup. …As long as you word it right and show them the right content.
  6. Browser notification popups – They send visitors a notification when new content comes out & increases returning visitors.
  7. Automated webinars – They give you more time for you to focus on other growth-based activities.
  8. Send emails from a real person rather than generic email addresses – It increases email open rates. For example, an email with a person’s name rather than info@.
  9. Send email blasts with a subscriber’s first name mentioned in the subject with a dynamic tag. This increases open rates.
  10. Mention people in twitter posts – This increases engagement and thus visitors to your social profile, and in turn, your website.
  11. Use Twitter lists to organize your favorite influencers. Interacting with them on Twitter gets you noticed more because of their audience size and audience engagement.
  12. Do white hat SEO techniques like commenting on Quora, LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, and in other communities. This gives you more direct and referral traffic, which also increases your domain authority. Find more white hat SEO tactics through our SEO checklist for startups!
  13. Automate your emails – planning in advance saves you loads of time, makes you more consistent. And it keeps your audience more engaged and thus interested in what you can offer them.
  14. Use 30% scroll popups for blog articles – increases subscriber signup rates.
  15. Adjust colors in ads to represent the tone of your ad – increases clicks
  16. Use a headline tester – maximizes your headlines for the best click-through rates.
  17. Landing page testimonials – increases trust, social proof, signups, and purchases.
  18. Send segmented traffic to specific landing pages – increases signups because it’s targeted to specific audiences.
  19. Use segments in your email lists to engage different audiences – higher conversion/open rates.
  20. Sales email drip campaigns – saves you loads of time and automates your sales email process to increase signups.



Growth hacking has become a cheaper alternative to spending money on traditional marketing campaigns that aren’t being simulataneously tested with alternates. With a true growth hacker on your team or by becoming one yourself, with a scientific approach to your marketing or product development, you can harness growth on a whole different level.

Once you find what works you can scale it up and achieve growth like you have never experienced. This is the draw of growth hacking. And that’s what makes it so special.


What have you successfully growth hacked?  Share what you did in the comments!


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