Growth hacking is a special approach to online marketing that promotes growth and revenue through the distribution of the product itself. This marketing discipline is particularly based on the combination of creativity and analytical, data-supported approach. Compared to conventional methods in online marketing, Growth Marketing tries to achieve a maximum effect with minimal financial means, similar to guerrilla marketing. Growth hacking is therefore often used by startups. Social networks and viral network campaigns play an important role in the implementation of such measures.
In order to advertise with a high reach, companies need a comfortable advertising budget. The stronger the advertising is designed for reach, the higher the dispersion losses. Young start-ups, in particular, therefore face the dilemma of trying to achieve the widest possible reach at the beginning without being able to work with large media budgets. Before Web 2.0, young companies had limited opportunities to attract attention online, but nowadays start-ups can use social media to reach out to a large number of potential customers at low cost. Marketing managers use web analytics to measure visitor behavior, and they use this information to plan new approaches.
Approaches from content marketing such as storytelling are used to make users spread the attractively-packaged advertising message. All activities of the growth hackers focus on the growth of the website, brand or community. This growth is fostered by the special affinity for computer-aided processes. This is also where the term "hacking" comes from, which in its original meaning means "tinkerers", i. e. someone who deals with modern technology in a playful way. Accordingly, a growth hacker is a person who uses existing technical systems in a creative way to promote the growth of a web project. In growth hacking, financial input is replaced by idealism, commitment and ingenuity. Large web companies such as Facebook or Airbnb have grown up through growth hacking, for example. The term growth hacker first appeared in a blog post by Sean Ellis in 2010.
The main reason behind growth hacking is to keep costs low. The acquisition of new customers, the achievement of conversions, as well as branding development are usually carried out via the product itself. By enthusiastic users sharing the product's content with others, a kind of chain reaction is created that leads to rapid growth. The advertised product thus becomes a marketing instrument itself.
Already in the late 1990s, the mail provider hotmail opted for a form of growth hacking. In every email sent via this mail provider, the recipient received a graphic with the text "PS: I Love You. Get Your Free Email At Hotmail ", which prompted users to sign in to hotmail. Within a year, hotmail was able to attract more than 12 million users. Whether this growth can be attributed solely to the described action is not proven. However, the fact that the growth hack in this case had a major impact on growth remains undisputed to this day.
In the context of online marketing activities, growth hacking has long since ceased to be just a phenomenon that is used in the development of start-ups. The huge potential to achieve great effects with little financial effort is of course also attractive for large companies, similar to viral campaigns. In contrast to purely viral marketing strategies, however, growth marketing has the advantage that success can be better anticipated through previous analyses. This also makes it easier to evaluate growth hacks. Ultimately, however, no analysis can accurately predict the success of marketing campaigns, because the user has to accept the creative idea with which the product is to be shared.