“P.S. I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail.” 

This is how Hotmail (now Outlook) succeeded at reaching 1 million users within 6 months and became one of the earliest growth hacks on the web back in 1996.

What is growth hacking? 

The notion of growth hacking was first coined by American entrepreneur Sean Ellis in 2010. On his blog, he defines a growth hacker as “a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.” Quite different from traditional marketing, growth hacking is a marketing technique fully based on data and experimentation to identify the most effective way to grow a business. Every decision, every strategy is driven by growth only. 

Why “hacking”? You might think the word “hack” is negative or even illegal… but in this case, it means hackers will find creative shortcuts or tricks to meet their expectations. Startups are usually the ones turning to growth hacking techniques as they are looking for rapid growth but do not necessarily have the budget for it; however, bigger companies are not excluded.

Growth hacking and marketing… same but different? 

Marketing uses traditional media channels to promote their products, but growth hacking involves science, data and process to find out which method works the best for each product or service. The main difference between marketing and growth hacking is the aim of it. Traditional marketing focuses on achieving continuous growth, whereas growth hacking focuses on exponential growth. 

Growth hacking has yet to be taught in marketing classes as it does not revolve around methodologies or guidelines. It must be done using innovation and ideas. That is why a growth hacker is more than a simple marketer. He also is a designer, a programmer, an SEO expert, an anthropologist… It can differ from one to another. That is why it would be difficult to define a growth hacker by just the tools he uses, if not by his objectives. 

Perfect businesses that have succeeded at growth hacking 

As mentioned above, Hotmail succeeded at growth hacking without knowing it. Instead of traditionally promoting their service through billboards or ads,  Hotmail had the idea of putting a simple HTML code at the end of each sender’s mail. Another example is LinkedIn, which used SEO to generate more traffic just by putting your LinkedIn profile at the top of Google when searching for your last and first name. YouTube used backlinks to generate more traffic as well. It allowed the embed function so users could integrate their videos on their website. As for AirBnB, it might be one of the greatest hacks ever. It succeeded at hacking the website Craiglist. Each time a user posted on AirBnB, the post was automatically published on Craiglist.

You can learn more about growth hacking on the official website of the creator, Sean Ellis.

How do you think growth hacking will change the marketing industry? Let us know in the comments!

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