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 The key is acting on that data in real time to achieve immediate results, rather than sitting on it until it becomes outdated.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.