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Growth Hacking – Treading your way to scale and success

AirBnb wanted to grow fast, really fast. The goal was to get access to large set of customers who were looking for homes to stay, in cheapest possible way. AirBnb engineers devised an ingenious way to do that, they created an option for AirBnb to post the same listing on craiglist.The catch, listing has a tagline mentioning “posted via AirBnB”. This way Airbnb’s name got quoted on widely popular Craiglist and gave them immense visibility. There was no Craiglist public API available for AirBnB engineers to do this, so they practically hacked their name into Craiglist.

The advent of startup culture has brought with it new roles, new organization structures and funding models. New words like accelerators, crowdfunding have become commonplace. Similarly, in last few years the concept of growth hacking has gained considerable traction among startups around the world. Growth Hacker is now considered a specialized role within many startups. Growth hacking in its essence means increasing customer base of startup at accelerated pace. The term was originally coined by Sean ellis in 2101 after his experiences at Dropbox.

The AirBnB example gives us a peak into the world of growth hacking. High Growth is the most essential quality that every startup wants to achieve.

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How is growth hacking different from a marketing strategy, well for starters growth hacking involves innate understanding and application of technology platform. Growth hacker’s sole focus is on growing the company.


The goal of growth hacking is to increase the user base and adoption of product by making continuous and effective changes.

A startup works with constraints of budget and time, and despite that needs to achieve exponential growth. This requires focus on innovative technology solutions geared to increasing customers at rapid pace.

Having a person  functioning as growth hacker or team reviewing growth hacking strategy periodically will help a startup not lose focus from acquiring new users at accelerated pace. A typical growth hacker will be a programmer UX designer with good understanding of consumer behavior or a marketer with deep understanding of technology.

Growth Hackers work specifically on the user interaction feature of the product. Their goal is to make the process of User Acquisition, activation and retention as smooth as possible. They innovate and hack new solutions using technology that can make the product go viral among its target consumers, and all the time keeping budget constraints in mind. They work to make the process of on boarding of new consumers as smooth as possible.

Role of Analytics

Growth hacking also involves continuously looking at user analytics to understand what is working and what is not. Trying new things to attract new user , understanding their online behavior and iterating new features. Having a keen understanding consumer behavior, asking questions like, why a large set of visitors is not converting to users, what is the percentage of repeat users? What is the key source of users? How they are discovering the product? It’s like a series of small experiments to understand what works and what not. User analytical tools like Kissmetrics, Google Analytics are used by companies to analyze online behavior and generate insights.

New digital media startups use content discovery platforms like Outbrain to increase their readership. Outbrain let  their content appear as suggestions to viewers of heavy traffic websites like Wall Street Journal, Reuters and First Post.

To sum up growth hackers works with that part of product this involves user interaction.

The Growth Hacking Funnel



Growth hacking strategies

Leveraging other platforms

Like the Airbnb story, startups can leverage popular platforms to get their brand across to users. Examples – Spotify, Saavn- Whenever a user listens to music, he or she has the option to post it on Facebook.

Blackberry – Facebook status updated from Blackberry had a trailing line mentioning “ sent from blackberry”

Incentivizing referrals

Startups can provide incentive to existing users to provide referrals to the product.


Groupon: – Earlier Groupon discounts got activated only after a minimum set of users have applied the deal, prompting users to invite other users.

Dropbox: Dropbox provided extra storage to users for every new referral.

Giving discounts

To increase usage through mobile platforms companies like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Redbus are giving discount coupons on first time app downloads by users.

Also startups sometimes use funny and creative infographics to tell stories about their company, product and in turn drive customer engagement

Some off beat growth hacks:

Surprisingly, publishing world has seen some innovative growth hacking techniques. Amish Tripathi created a Youtube video for his Meluha series to create excitement among readers, Varun Aggarwal of Almamater wrote a book on his experience of starting up which in turn increased curiosity and increased the hits at his e-commerce website.

Growth Hacking is more of a philosophy than a discipline in itself. Using it startups sharpen their focus and build the initial momentum. It enables you to challenge that million dollar funded company in your market, by being nimble

Ofcourse, if the product-market fit is not right, no amount will growth hacking will work. And if you have endless pool of investor funds you just can mass advertise on TV, but where is the fun in that.

Nitin MalikAbout the Author :

Nitin Malik, is an alumnus of Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), batch of 2011-13. He loves to write on social enterprises and microfinance sector and observe larger trends in start-ups space. He is passionate about football & eagerly waiting for the world cup.


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