WTF is ‘growth hacking’ anyway?

I hear that a lot from my clients who aren’t really sure the difference between that and traditional marketing.

It’s a valid question. I wasn’t sure what it was either. Then my ‘marketing’ efforts stalled.

It was about a year ago, and I was doing marketing the way I thought you were supposed to.

Go to networking events. Get referrals. Run the occasional Facebook ad. Write the occasional blog post.

That’s what marketing has become.


The problem with my efforts was that a foundation was missing. I wasn’t testing anything. I wasn’t measuring anything. I wasn’t iterating on what I was doing in order to continue the growth of my company.

It’s not that I didn’t know I needed to, or that I wasn’t trying. Sure, I looked to see how many likes a post got, how many leads a networking event yielded, how many referrals we were getting. But I WAS NOT tracing any of that back to the root causality of the efforts I was doing.

I hadn’t laid a foundation to test my assumptions. A foundation that allowed me to look at solid numbers to see if what I was working on yielded the results our company needed to grow.

THAT is growth hacking.

It’s not complicated. Far from it. It’s actually very simple.

Growth Hacking is the continued effort to grow a business through measurable, testable and iterative marketing efforts.

Many entrepreneurs do one or two of the three above, but you MUST have all three to have a real, reliable growth hacking system.

Having a measurable system that’s not being tested or iterated upon leaves you to create your own assumptions about how your marketing is working, and also doesn’t give you the data you need to continue growth hacking.

Having a testable system that’s not being measured or iterated upon is like grading a student on a test for which they had no idea what the criteria was.

Having an iterative system without measuring or testing anything is the most common and most dangerous a business can create, and the one I fell prey to for over a year. I took a shotgun style approach to my marketing, throwing any and everything against the wall and relied on my ‘feelings’ to tell me whether it was working. Definitely did not work out well.

How do you create a measurable, testable & iterative growth hacking system?

Well, first you need to lay a solid foundation.

You should integrate tools into your business that allow you to measure all your marketing efforts and their relationship to one another.

Here’s an example. If you’re an e-commerce business, then make sure if you’re utilizing Facebook ads to grow that you have the Facebook pixel installed on your site, and another pixel installed on your checkout and purchase confirmation page. That wayin a week after you start your ads you don’t look back and say ‘this isn’t working’ but instead you’re able to make a data driven decision on what you can fix, or what you need to move on to. Without that data how would you know if it’s the ad image, copy, landing page, product, or any number of other factors that’s hurting your business. Having that basic foundation in place will help you not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Growth hacking works because it allows you to make small improvements to your marketing efforts using real information, not your feelings at the time.

This is especially important for new companies or companies trying new marketing tactics, whose stakeholders may be emotionally inclined to give up on a tactic or channel because they’re already scared about spending the time, energy & money on something new.

Growth hacking takes the emotion out of the decision and gives you and your team the freedom (yes, freedom) to know for sure what isn’t working, why, and how to fix it.