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What is Growth Hacking

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Growth Hacking 101

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What is growth hacking?

Growth hacking is a strategic framework and set of processes focused largely on how to get customers to buy more, buy more often, and refer other customers–in essence, maximizing the value of each customer relationship. A growth team leverages multiple disciplines to analyze the entire customer journey from acquisition, retention, and sales. It works cross-functionally to uncover new learnings and opportunities through leveraging rapid research, iteration and experimentation and exploring non-traditional channels and strategies.

From start-ups to enterprises like Walmart and IBM, companies are retrofitting their standard product, engineering, sales and marketing silos for greatly enhanced agility, knowledge sharing, and speed through the incorporation of growth teams.


How are growth teams structured?

Small companies may start with a single ‘Growth Hacker,’ while large companies can quickly scale and specialize their structure into a number of practices. LinkedIn, for example, incorporates hundreds of professionals across 5 growth practices: Network Effects, SEO/SEM, Onboarding, International Expansion, and Engagement & Retention. 


What is the basic growth process?

The growth process mirrors the scientific process.

  1. Observations and research produce some insight (i.e. 20% of our customers are referred through a single Facebook Group)
  2. Forming a hypothesis around how the company might leverage this insight (i.e. if we can seed similar groups, we can great expand our inbound customers)
  3. Design an experiment. (i.e. Join 10 similar groups and share content over the course of 2 weeks and measure the number of new referrals from each).
  4. Prioritize the experiment against other growth initiatives based upon potential impact, effort, and confidence.
  5. Run the experiment and analyze results to find new insights.


What roles make up a growth team?

At large companies, there are often dedicated roles and FTEs to growth teams. Small companies might comprise of a single ‘growth hacker’ and leverage individuals from other teams cross-functionally. 

Head of Growth / Chief Growth Officer

  • Oversees all growth activities and teams
  • Aligns efforts towards the company directed North Star
  • Has a comprehensive understanding of design, marketing, engineering, research, data, and psychology
  • At a start-up, will be very hands-on in designing and executing growth experiments 
  • Might lead partnership and influencer efforts as a part of growth

Growth Lead

  • Leads a single growth team
  • Sets the direction, cadence, and performance of growth team
  • Aligns team around a single core metric for a set period of time to ensure focus
  • Has strong expertise in product management, growth, and research

Product Manager, Growth

  • Leads customer research and feature development for growth activities

Growth Engineers

  • Develop the code for product features, websites, and mobile applications in regards to growth
  • Analyze opportunities for platform or network integrations
  • Help implement tools and analytics

Growth Marketers

  • Work within advertising, content, email, and other fields to help test acquisition and retention funnels

Data Scientists, Growth

  • Ensures tests are designed in a scientific and statistically valid manner
  • Helps analyze customer and business data to expose opportunities

Designers, Growth

  • Help design marketing materials, UX, and UI for growth team
  • Provide insights into user psychology, interface design, and research techniques

How to start a growth team?

  • The CEO must empower a new growth leader with a company-wide directive. Without this, the growth team will become embattled in turf wars.
  • The growth lead should report either directly to the CEO/COO or to the head of product or marketing.
  • Growth efforts should be aligned around a central north start for the company.
  • If there is capacity for multuple growth teams, efforts generally should be aligned around one or more core company KPIs such as Acquisition, Conversion, Retention.

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