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Thierry de Vries

What the “hack” is growth hacking?

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What does a growth hacker do in general?

Although growth hacking sounds like a new and techy discovery, it has always been around in some way. To explain the expertise of growth hacking, we should describe both words separately. The term hacking describes the process of achieving an objective by discovering a hidden path, instead of following the prescribed or mainly used routes. Through the use and combination of modern day tools, hackers can achieve objectives in a innovative and fast way. The word growth means, simple as it is, increasing in size. And we are talking about increasing success in every part of the customer funnel here. So.. in short, growth hacking is looking for opportunities for businesses to grow, using unconventional and unknown tactics. Traditional marketers have been using quite a few of these tecniques already, but since a views years we can call it an stand-alone type of marketing. In the course of time growth hacking has evolved to a real field of expertise.

But what do they do?

We could say growth hacking is a type of marketing, but that’s not all about it. Let’s take one step back. A short definition of traditional marketing is easily given by the word: market-getting. Marketing is focused on the activities a business undertakes to upgrade their sales. On the first side, that is exactly what growth hackers aim to do. The main difference is in the way they do that.


Traditional marketeers mainly focus on Awareness and Acquisition. Growth hackers have their focus on the whole customer journey: Awareness, Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue and Referral with an overarching focus on conversion. Traditional marketers think about a new marketing strategy for months, spend thousands of euros for implementing it top-down in the whole company, and then… fingers crossed and wait for results. If the results don’t show up, they just create another marketing strategy. These actions are all pretty time consuming and expensive, but more important: there is no way of telling why this new strategy would be better than the last one. Growth hacking isn’t about an overwhelming marketing strategies. It’s all about dreaming big and setting goals. By setting up small experiments on different kind of traction channels companies are able to learn from those results and can optimize the way of work right away. Build. Measure. Learn. Repeat.

Do you know the pirate metric?

As mentioned before, where traditional marketers are mainly focused on the Awareness and Acquisition, growth hackers run the extra mile. Their field of work contains the whole journey of a (potential) customer, the (A)AARRR funnel (developed by Dave McClure), better known as the Pirate metrics. And why are they called the pirate metrics? Well, if you shout it out loud, you’ll immediately visualize to be Jack Sparrow, (A)AARRR . But why do growth hackers love it this much. Well, if you would make a roadmap of a customer journey you and use all the letter within (A)AARRR (Awareness – Acquisition – Activation – Retention – Revenue – Referral). To give you a better feeling of what this means, we wrote you a small story, describing the six metrics in an everyday, offline setting.

Johnny is walking down the street and is looking at a billboard (Awareness). The salesrep from that specific store is selling him the advertised product (Acquisition). Because of the discount of 20%, Johnny is really motivated to buy (Activation). After paying, Johnny gets a voucher: he’ll get a 25% discount on his next purchase (Retention)! Now Johnny is becoming a regular customer, the company is able to get to know him a little better. The advertisements will be more personalised and Johnny will spend more money than the previous times (Revenue). Now Johnny is frequently buying, happy customer. On a day he receives a friends-for-friends voucher: he invites a friend to the store and his friend get a 10% discount! Another customer is born.

In a nutshell:

Awareness: → It’s all about branding
Acquisition → Make sure the potential user gets a first point of contact with your company
Activation → Make sure the user has a positive first visit
Retention → Make sure the user comes back and revisit
Revenue → Make money
Referral → Use your users network to attract new users

Build, measure, learn

Yes, growth hackers build, measure and learn. Not once in awhile, but always. In order to rapidly grow your business, testing is the only efficient way to get to know if you are on the right track. Why? Creating small experiments won’t take lots of time, won’t be expensive and will give you meaningful insights in your business. By running experiments you’ll get a helpful understanding of the growth opportunities of your business! And even if the experiments fail, your experiments are useful: a negative outcome is knowledge as well.
Based on the pirated funnel we discussed before, you can run thousands of experiments on every imaginable element of your business. By building and running experiments you are able to get a sustainable insight. But how do you build so quickly and how do you know which experiments to run fist?

Rating! We all have some great idea’s overtime, or brainstorm sessions that results into a stack of great ideas. Organising, prioritising and sprints! Yes, this is how organised growthhackers work. Prioritising your experiments by giving them a score based on: Impact (1-10) Ease (1-10) Confidence (1-10) you know which experiments to run first.

Cialdini principles

Yes, mr Cialdini, one of the more known soft data x hard data driven marketeer. Within the growth hacking principles his name is mentioned a lot of times. At Bammboo we even have a Strategizer for experiments that includes all 6 of his principles. Even though there are many different types of experiments done based on behaviour, Cialdini’s principles can be included in many experiments. So what are his principles:

1. Reciprocation -> people feel indebted to those who do something for them or give them a gift.
2. Social proof -> When people are uncertain about a course of action, they tend to look to those around them to guide their decisions and actions. They especially want to know what everyone else is doing – especially their peers.
3. Commitments and Consistency-> People do not like to back out of deals. We’re more likely to do something after we’ve agreed to it verbally or in writing, Cialdini says. People strive for consistency in their commitments. They also prefer to follow pre-existing attitudes, values and actions.
4. Liking -> “People prefer to say ‘yes’ to those they know and like,” Cialdini says. People are also more likely to favor those who are physically attractive, similar to themselves, or who give them compliments. Even something as ‘random’ as having the same name as your prospects can increase your chances of making a sale.
5. Authority -> People respect authority. They want to follow the lead of real experts. Business titles, impressive clothing, and even driving an expensive, high-performing automobile are proven factors in lending credibility to any individual.
6. Scarcity -> In fundamental economic theory, scarcity relates to supply and demand. Basically, the less there is of something, the more valuable it is. The more rare and uncommon a thing, the more people want it. Familiar examples are frenzies over the latest holiday toy or urban campers waiting overnight to pounce on the latest iPhone.

Check out this article for more background info.

Growth hacking roadmap

There are many type of e-commerce businesses. But all of them could benefit from the growth hacking mentality.
It all starts with a business model canvas, mapping your mind and understanding your own product. When starting your business, you should always focus on usability, knowing what your target audience thinks of your product and how they use it. While receiving loads of feedback, you can now simultaneously work on pivoting your business. Slowly you’ll work towards a strong value proposition with a high relevance for your customer that is easy and clear. Also you’ll work on minimizing the anxiety and distraction of your product. Slowly you’ll find out that your product is market / product fit, this is the most important step. Now you know that you can accelerate and you can ask money in return for your service. Find out who your most valuable customers are, dig deep into their behaviour, why do they have a high retention, why do they love your product, these customers could be your Ambassadors keep track of them with a NPS score. Did you find your aha-moment? This is the moment that a new users sees the beauty of your product and reaches the highest level of affection with your service, this should be defined and a ultimate task for you to keep track of why people get the aha-moment. Now start working on content and virality, get your product out there and let people know you exist!

Is your business running smoothly? We are now going to work on optimizing! Get more experiment and get better every day. Optimize your funnels -> (A)AARRR, get to know your channels and segment your audience. Understand why an specific age is converting better on a different landing page than others. Be there, online and offline, be there on every spot your target audience hangs out, brand yourself, content, video, audio, photo get is all! Be open and honest to your customers, use your social media channel as a communication tool. Optimize desktop and mobile, be always up front of new channels and idea’s. When you are out there, when your brand has a High NPS score, Use other people’s networks, let them share your product and get that virality.

Good luck!