A few months ago, my col­league Kevin Lind­say dis­cussed how growth hack­ing is enabling start-ups to make a big impact with­out a big budget.

Coined just a few years ago, this term is often used to describe the process of get­ting prod­ucts to mar­ket in more of a hands-on, grass­roots way—through online tech­niques such as social media posts, viral videos, email sig­na­tures, and blog com­ments. Some of the most famous suc­cess sto­ries are AirBnb, Face­book, Groupon, Hot­mail, Twit­ter, Red­dit, and Spotify.

Some experts argue that growth hack­ing is just a fancy new name for the online mar­ket­ing strate­gies that have been around for as long as the Inter­net … and per­haps it really is more of a rebrand­ing than a new­fan­gled strat­egy. Even so, effec­tive mar­ket­ing has a lot to do with mind­set, and growth hack­ing has mar­keters think­ing in very dif­fer­ent (and excit­ing) ways. There def­i­nitely seems to be a grow­ing gap between the tra­di­tional “old school” mar­ket­ing tech­niques and this new low-cost, home-grown version.

All buzz­words aside, growth hack­ing has been around long enough to pro­vide some valu­able lessons. All types of mar­keters can ben­e­fit from these key take­aways, which can be applied in vir­tu­ally any chan­nel or campaign.

#1: Start with the per­fect fit.

Many mar­ket­ing cam­paigns fail not because the mar­ket­ing is bad, but because the prod­uct doesn’t meet the needs of the tar­get audi­ence. Suc­cess­ful growth hack­ers begin by ensur­ing the right prod­uct mar­ket fit—and in most cases, they are heav­ily involved in the actual prod­uct devel­op­ment. If a prod­uct effec­tively solves a prob­lem or caters to con­sumer pref­er­ences, it will essen­tially mar­ket itself—leaving mar­keters free to ana­lyze the result­ing data and opti­mize the offer­ing even more.

#2: Act on data immediately.

You already know there’s a vast amount of data avail­able to you. The key is act­ing on that data in real time to achieve imme­di­ate results, rather than sit­ting on it until it becomes out­dated. Growth hack­ers focus more on what buy­ers are doing now, rather than what they did yes­ter­day or are expected to do tomorrow.

With the real-time capa­bil­i­ties and “fire­hose” live stream data offered in tools like Adobe Ana­lyt­ics, you can react to live trends, change mar­ket­ing tac­tics in an instant, quickly aban­don cam­paigns that aren’t work­ing, and imme­di­ately cap­i­tal­ize on hot opportunities.

#3: Be flexible.

With tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, once a course is charted, there’s not much devi­a­tion from it. With growth hack­ing, the process is more fluid and flex­i­ble, chang­ing by the day (or even by the hour) to adapt to con­sumers’ fluc­tu­at­ing reac­tions. If some­thing isn’t work­ing, growth hack­ers don’t wait for the next cycle to change it. Con­versely, if an oppor­tu­nity arises, they shift gears mid­stream to seize it. If a mes­sage or approach is set in stone, the poten­tial rev­enue stream will be too.

With a tool like Adobe Tar­get, you can quickly dis­cover which offers, expe­ri­ences, and mes­sages truly engage your vis­i­tors. Enjoy the capa­bil­ity to make rapid changes and opti­miza­tions, with­out hav­ing to wait for IT and devel­op­ment cycles and with­out the cod­ing and setup has­sles of A/B test­ing. Gauge your vis­i­tors’ responses to con­tent vari­a­tions in real time and instantly adapt your site to meet their needs.

#4: Mas­ter the art of engagement.        

The suc­cess of growth hack­ing lies in its decid­edly non-salesy approach. Instead of tar­get­ing an audi­ence with a sales let­ter, mag­a­zine ad, or tra­di­tional email cam­paign, these strate­gies con­nect with con­sumers in more cus­tom, often inti­mate ways. Through casual con­ver­sa­tion, use­ful infor­ma­tion, and per­son­al­ized offers, growth hack­ers cap­i­tal­ize on user intent to boost brand loy­alty and sales.

#5: Put cus­tomers to work for you.

Growth hack­ers focus on share­abil­ity. A prod­uct or piece of con­tent goes viral when it has some unique, inno­v­a­tive “it” fac­tor that prompts users to share prod­ucts or infor­ma­tion with their online net­works. It’s all about cre­at­ing a sense of com­mu­nity and urgency. Done right, this strat­egy will turn your cus­tomers into your biggest advocates.

Ulti­mately, growth hack­ing is about blend­ing cre­ativ­ity, tech­nol­ogy, and ana­lyt­ics to engage and con­vert a large num­ber of users. You don’t have to be a start-up to uti­lize these tech­niques. Even if you were hired in a tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing role for a large cor­po­ra­tion, you can look for unortho­dox ways to accel­er­ate growth.


Hi Gina,

Can you please give an example of casual conversation for start-up growth hacker ?

For example if I start with information. What base should I use to approach them? (Mail?? You told it traditional !)


This blogpost is great example of GH to plug two Adobe products :) It's good anyway. Thanks fo sharing.