What is Growth Hacking? As Defined By a Real Growth Hacker

What is Growth Hacking? As Defined By a Real Growth Hacker

written by Houston Golden
Founder & CEO, BAMF Media
April 20th, 2021
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Here’s a question I hear all the time.

What is growth hacking?

And, honestly, maybe it’s time that a growth hacker weighed in on the definition of growth hacking.

So, here’s what I’ll do.

In today’s guide, I don’t only want to answer the question to “what is growth hacking,” but I also want to dive into the other aspects of the growth hacker lifestyle.

We’ll talk about the pillars of growth hacking, growth hacking versus digital marketing, and even talk about the traits that make a good growth hacker to begin with.

What Is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking is looking for creative, data-backed ways to grow an organization.

This could mean bringing in more sales, widening the customer and market base, or even finding ways to scale the human potential of the organization.

It’s basically looking for growth opportunities and exploiting them as creatively as possible while utilizing data and minimizing costs.

It can be used to fine-tune the operations of any organization regardless of the size and industry.

Another thing that we love about growth hacking is the fact that you can layer it on top of what you’re already doing and gradually integrate it into your entire company.

You can deploy it in its entirety or gradually roll it out.

But, you know what really sets it apart?

Growth hacking is also a mindset.

This means you can integrate within an organization’s culture and take ownership of your growth.

Growth Hacking is Cross Disciplinary

Growth hacking is not just about increasing your revenue online.

That’s the job of your digital marketing specialist or your sales team.

what is growth hacking, What is Growth Hacking? As Defined By a Real Growth Hacker

Growth hacking requires some knowledge in the following fields:

  • Sales
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Statistical analysis
  • Content creation
  • Social media marketing
  • Advertising
  • UX and UI design
  • Development
  • Lead generation and nurturing
  • SEO
  • CRO

And, this is only the start of this list.

A lot of growth hackers actually started with a specialization in one or two of these fields until they build the repertoire of skills and experience needed to replicate their success in other companies.

Just because somebody is great with PPC doesn’t make them a good growth hacker, it’s knowing how to combine several disciplines along with an organization USP and niche industry to drive growth that determines the success of growth hacking.

Growth Hacking is Data Driven

Growth hacking relies on a lot of data.

This data can either be generated in-house – which we will get into in a minute – or derived from other sources.

what is growth hacking, What is Growth Hacking? As Defined By a Real Growth Hacker

The reason behind it is simple.

It’s better to build around things that have a history of working well.

It gives you a basis for your decision and allows for smarter decision-making.

But, that’s not all.

Data also allows you to create leaner campaigns, and this allows organizations to be more efficient with their resources.

However, historical data isn’t a crystal ball that you can use to predict the future of your growth hacking campaigns. You still need to leverage the data you have with a lot of creativity.

Growth Hacking is a lot of Tracking and Monitoring

I’ve said this in many of my articles in the past.

“You can’t growth hack if you don’t track.”

And, unsurprisingly it makes for one of the pillars of growth hacking.

what is growth hacking, What is Growth Hacking? As Defined By a Real Growth Hacker

Tracking is absolutely essential because it allows growth hackers to measure their efforts, thus building the in-house data that we talked about in the previous section.

By constant monitoring, you can create reactive campaigns that can be switched out and evaluated.

If you find that a campaign isn’t performing well, you can cut it and reallocate your resources. It makes organizations more agile.

There are different kinds of metrics a growth hacker can check, this could range from simple website data such as CTRs, hot spots from heat mapping, and can even cover advanced SEO analysis such as TF-IDF checks and counting your anchors for backlinks.

The tools used for tracking aren’t standard and can differ depending on the specialization of the growth hacker. Knowledge of common tools like Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools is a must.

Looking for the growth hacking tools that we use over at BAMF? We’ve got you covered.

Growth Hacking is Cost-Effective

Growth doesn’t have to be expensive.

I’ve seen a lot of people grow without having to spend a single dime.

what is growth hacking, What is Growth Hacking? As Defined By a Real Growth Hacker

If you doubt that statement check out the amount of growth that services such as Dropbox or Gmail have generated in their earlier years.

You’ll find that they didn’t have to spend much in order to achieve great results.

Cost-effectivity doesn’t just only mean that growth hackers run efficient campaigns that aren’t financially heavy on their clients’ resources. This also means that they find ways to create the growth that they need without spending money too much money.

Take for example the LinkedIn Influencer Academy that we run on BAMF. You’ll find that in a lot of cases reaching influencer status is more cost-effective than spending tens of thousands of dollars in LinkedIn ad spending.

And, that’s not all.

Methods such as inbound and passive lead generation are designed to ensure that you don’t spend money on ads at all and rely on organic marketing to drive results.

Not only do you get to give out value to your prospects, but you also get to sell passively at the same time.

This is one of the biggest reasons why a lot of people – especially cash-strapped startups – look towards growth hacking in the first place.

It’s affordable.

However, I’ve met with leaders that make more than a million dollars a month and they’ve done so much with very little using a lot of growth hacking concepts.

Growth Hacking is a Creative Process

A lot of the growth hackers you’ll meet are natural artists.

Whether it’s writing, having a flair for design, or even music, these are skills that are needed to think outside of the box and develop a rhythm for the campaigns you’re running.

what is growth hacking, What is Growth Hacking? As Defined By a Real Growth Hacker

Growth hacking requires a lot of interesting marketing copy, strategizing UX, and of course, finding innovative solutions to traditional problems.

Growth Hacking Involves a LOT of Testing

Whether it’s creating individual UTMs for each area of your page or heatmapping.

We do a lot of A/B testing when we grow hack.

The reason behind it is simple.

what is growth hacking, What is Growth Hacking? As Defined By a Real Growth Hacker

You don’t always have the best idea, and there are times where you’ll have more than one. Testing them out is the best way to determine if something works.

Here’s what we mean.

We’ve done a lot of studies on LinkedIn virality in the past, and we found that by just changing out a couple of words, we’d get different engagements for each post.

The thing is we don’t always know what combination really works unless we field the idea.

By having two or more versions of one idea, you can test out which one works in order to be more effective with the campaigns that you have.

There are times where we’ll even test different colors of a CTA to find out if it works or not.

At one point, we’ll even test out different styles of sales discovery calls with the same script just to find out how they’ll fare.

It is this obsessive and passionate attention to detail that sets apart a growth hacker from any other traditional marketer out there.

Wondering how we got 100 million views a year on LinkedIn. Here’s how we did it.

Growth Hacking vs. Digital Marketing

Let’s get one thing clear.

Growth hacking is not digital marketing.

Digital marketing can be considered a part of digital marketing, but growth hacking is not under the umbrella of digital marketing.

Growth hacking transcends digital marketing because it looks at all aspects of the business using the pillars that we talked about earlier in this guide.

Does growth hacking involve digital marketing?

Yes, it does.

We live in a highly connected world where even traditional mom-and-pop shops have a social media presence …at the very least.

Almost all growth hackers will use digital marketing in order to properly leverage the market online to grow an organization to its fullest.

Here’s a quick tip.

If you’re looking to hire a growth hacker, but they don’t have a plan for your digital marketing, run for the hills.

That’s not a growth hacker.

What Makes a Great Growth Hacker?

A lot of things.

There’s knowledge, there’s experience, the ability to combine multiple disciplines, and of course, the most important trait of all.


Growth hackers are usually described as people who won’t leave any stone unturned just to get the most efficient results.

Take for example the attention to detail we put towards optimizing LinkedIn profiles over at BAMF.

We ensure that profile photos are checked by both AI and real people, URLs are trimmed and branded, even summaries A/B tested until we can turn each profile into a perfect landing page on the platform.

And, we don’t just stop there.

When we do get a prospect to head from the profile to a unique landing page – which of course has its own UTM tracking parameters – we make sure that the landing page is uniquely personalized for that prospect.

So, why are growth hackers like that?

It’s the passion for our craft and the desire to make sure that we understand our customers’ needs.

You can’t grow if you don’t understand your market.

I’ve got a badass guide on the questions to ask a growth hacker that you can check out in our guide. It will help you if you’re looking on hiring someone to growth hack for your organization.

Should I Hire a Growth Hacker or Should I Do It Myself?

That depends.

Do you have the numerous skills necessary to play around with different disciplines and concepts and apply them to your organization?

If you do, then take a shot at it.

But, before you do, ask yourself this.

“Can I look at my organization from a third-person perspective?”

If you can’t then, it’ll really help you to ask for help.

And, this is advice that I give to people who are already great at what they’re doing.

When you get a third-person’s perspective on what’s going on, it makes it easier for you to be more pragmatic with the decisions that you have to make for your organization.


So, what is growth hacking?

By now you should already be familiar with the concept after all the examples that we laid out.

For many growth hacking is a means to an end.

But for a lot of people that I know that have tried it out, it’s a mindset and a way of life.

Growth hacking isn’t just about hitting your KPIs.

You can do that any day.

But, it’s also about pushing yourself and your organization to its fullest potential.

With competition getting fiercer and the state of the economy, there’s no way that you can just rely on survival alone.

You’ve got to grow.

So, the question shouldn’t be “what is growth hacking?”

But, rather, “what can I do to start growth hacking?”

About the Author

The name's Houston Golden. I'm the Founder & CEO of BAMF — a company I've grown from $0 (yes, really) to well over $5M+ in revenue over a span of 5 years.

How did I do it? Well, it's quite simple, really. I've helped hundreds of business owners and executives get major traction (because when they win, we win), I tell all on this blog.

Growth hacking is a state of mind. Follow along as I explore and expose the unknown growth strategies and tactics that will change the way you think about marketing.
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