thinking outside the box to speed up your business – WAU

Growth Hacking is a term implemented by Sean Ellis. According to him, the most correct definition is: experiment-oriented marketing. The objective is to find opportunities aiming at quick results for the company’s growth.


Growth Hacking is a reality for many companies today, and it is gaining more and more space.

If you have studied Digital Marketing, entrepreneurship and start-ups, you must have found this expression, perhaps even read some success stories.

But it is not only in start-ups or large Marketing teams that growth hacking has space.

In fact, this expression has been widely used in these media, but it has also generated some confusion and is sometimes associated with myths that hinder the understanding of what growth hacking is and how to put it into practice.

Therefore, in this article we have gathered everything you need to know to understand and apply growth hacking to your strategy.

Come on?

What is growth hacking?

Growth Hacking is a term coined by Sean Ellis. According to him the most correct definition is: experiment-oriented marketing. In other words, finding opportunities / gaps (hacks) for success and creating specific strategies aimed at quick results for the company’s growth.

Sean Ellis coined the term growth hacking to describe what he himself was doing for the companies he went through.

“Growth Hacking is experiment-driven marketing.” (Sean Ellis)

He was Head of Marketing for LogMeIn, one of the best known remote access software in the world, and the first Marketing professional in the history of Dropbox, a file sharing service in the cloud.

Known for promoting rapid growth in startups wherever he went, Sean started to provide consulting services to replicate his methods and in 2010, together with Hiten Shah and Patrick Vlaskovits, he started to use the term growth hacking. He also founded and is CEO of the portal.

That is, he is the greatest authority on the subject in the whole world!

In London, growth hacking has no translation and because it is an expression, it is difficult to be literal about its meaning.

Isolating the words, it would be something like:

  • Growth – growth.
  • Hack – breach, space, cut.
  • Hacking – the act of finding and exploring these gaps and spaces.

In a simple way, it is possible to understand the growth hacking as the practice of finding “triggers” that, when triggered, promote accelerated growth.

This practice is not so simple and fast. However, growth hacking is equivalent to the scientific approach to finding these triggers and exploiting them. That is why Sean Ellis’s explanation makes so much sense: “experiment-driven marketing”.

Read more about Growth Hacking at Inbound Marketing here.

The Growth Hacker figure

Sean Ellis

Sean Ellis began to realize that many times, when his consulting period ended, companies stopped innovating and applied growth hacking, returning to stagnate or grow very slowly.

Thinking about it, he felt the need to train professionals to continue the work he had implemented. Thus emerged the figure of the growth hacker.

Generally, Sean would seek these professionals in the Marketing areas of the companies, as they were the closest to having the necessary knowledge.

In addition to the technical and conceptual knowledge of Marketing, the growth hacker needs to understand very well Law Suit, experiment methodology, technology and above all, consumer psychology.

Knowing how people think along the buying journey, how they react and what they are motivated for is essential for a growth hacker.

Understanding this, he uses his Marketing knowledge to find possible growth triggers and, with method, seeks in experimentation to prove his hypotheses.

Although many companies have created the position of growth hacker or structured growth hacking teams, usually within the Marketing area, growth hacking is more a way of thinking than a formal position or position. Any professional can and should adopt this way of thinking, to obtain better results.

In the same way that a hacker is known to find and exploit security holes, the growth hacker is the person who finds “open passages” to grow the results of a business.

This can be a reality in Marketing, Sales, Controllership and any other area of ​​the company where there are potential growth triggers.

The biggest myths you will hear about growth hacking

Like all news, growth hacking is also subject to misinterpretations of what it is and what it is for.

To help you make no mistake, we have separated three main myths around growth hacking and explained why they are wrong.

Is Growth Hacking “magic”?

Many people associate growth hacking with magic like “we change the color of the button and triple the lead generation”.

Is it possible for this to happen? Certainly, but no result of this magnitude is achieved overnight, much less without studying and basing the hypotheses well.

The “try everything and see what works” approach is totally contrary to growth hacking.

Growth hacking is one of the most scientific ways of approaching Marketing and business growth. Being scientific helps to prove your hypothesis as quickly as possible and exactly because of that, the results can appear very quickly, which gives the appearance of magic.

However, in practice, the most common is that a set of “small hacks”, added together, guarantee such expressive growth. Of course, color substitution can be one of those little hacks.

Later on, we will approach the growth hacking process in practice and you will understand why it is so scientific.

Is Growth Hacking unethical?

Certainly, the association with “hackers” is practically instantaneous and when it occurs, it seems that when you practice growth hacking, you are breaking a law or harming someone.

However, this is not the case. Black hat strategies, in fact, only harm your Marketing even more.

The word “hack”, as we said, has several possible translations. The most suitable, in this case, is “loophole”, in the sense of shortcut. Growth hacking is finding gaps or shortcuts for rapid growth.

The hacker also finds loopholes and shortcuts, but in application security and data protection, which is absolutely not and should not be the case for growth hacker.

Does Growth Hacking require programming knowledge?

Experiment applications may require some programming knowledge in some cases, but this is not a rule.

Even when it is necessary to program, it does not have to be the growth hacker to do it. Some companies have, in their growth teams, one or more programmers to put the selected experiments into practice.

For growth hacker, regardless of knowing or not programming, it is important to have a good knowledge of technology: possibilities, news and, in general, how things work.

Still, there are several growth hacks that don’t need programming.

How to do it: the process of growth hacking in practice

Growth hacking is totally focused on experimentation, in a scientific way.

Although some processes may vary from company to company, there is a basic sequence of how to apply growth hacking in practice.

Below we separate everything you need to know to start applying growth hacking in your company.

The Growth Hacking Funnel

Just as there is a sales funnel, there is also a growth hacking funnel.

It was created by Dave McClure, who named it “pirate funnel” because, in English, the initials form AARRR (in a sound similar to a pirate interjection!).

The funnel has 5 stages:

  1. Acquisition (Acquisition), which brings together the practices to attract and win a customer.
  2. Activation (Activation), when the focus is to deliver the first good experience to the customer.
  3. Retention (Retention), stage in which customers are satisfied to the point of continuing to use your product.
  4. Recipe (Revenue), when customers are generating revenue for the company (instead of using free versions, for example).
  5. Indications (Referral), when they are calling friends and acquaintances to become customers as well.

In general, growth hacking actions are designed to optimize one of the stages of this funnel.

Unlike the sales funnel, the stages of the growth hacking funnel do not have a clear territory demarcation. That is, for some products and services, retention and revenue go together: if the customer keeps using it, he keeps paying. In other cases, referrals may come before the customer is generating revenue.

More important than looking at the stages of the funnel as separate steps is knowing how to identify which stages are the most urgent problems to be solved, as this is where you can start applying growth hacking.

Generation of ideas

The first step in the growth hacking process is to generate ideas for practices to leverage the growth of the Growth Funnel metrics.

There are several possible sources of ideas: research of successful cases, benchmarking of companies that are references in the market, websites of these companies, LinkedIn forums and groups linked to your business, presentations on SlideShare, blogs, among others.

After this research, get the team together and brainstorm.

Always write down each idea, without exception! It is very common that the first idea does not appear in its definitive format. Good ideas can be built on input from other team members.

If you don’t have a growth hacking team yet, try brainstorming with people from other areas who can help you think. As a last resort, do it yourself, but remember to write down all the ideas.

After brainstorming, group ideas according to the part of the funnel that impacts them most. This will help with prioritization.

Always have a place, like a board or a shared document, to gather all the ideas that have already come up.

Selection of ideas

Naturally, ideas related to the company’s main objectives have a certain priority. For example, if sales are low, focusing on Acquisition will be a priority over Retention.

Still, for each stage of the funnel the ideal is to have many ideas.

To select the ideas that will be prioritized to be put into practice, several criteria can be used.

The three most indicated are:

  1. Implementation cost and / or complexity
  2. Probability of success of the experiment.
  3. Impact on the company’s results.

Ideally, the simplest ideas, most likely to succeed and high impact on results should be the first to be put into practice.

In this prioritization, take care not to select more ideas than the team’s ability to implement them and track results. The team’s capacity must be implicit in the criterion “cost or complexity of implementation”.

Modeling experiments

At this stage of the process, the idea becomes a hypothesis.

To model the experiment that will prove this hypothesis, it is essential to have clarity both about the growth barrier to be overcome and the trigger that will be exploited for this.

A practical example of a hypothesis:

With the reduction from 5 to just 3 fields to be filled in the form, we bet that the lead conversions on the page will increase by 40%.

It is at this point that the entire scientific part of growth hacking comes into play. Which fields will be removed from the form? Do we intend to compensate for the loss of information that these 2 fields contained? If so, how? If not, why is this experiment worthwhile?

As you can see, this is the question phase.

One of the most used sciences at this stage is the statistic.

To prove your experiment, will an A / B test be necessary with a control group? What percentage change is expected? How long will the experiment need to be active to reach the minimum sample size? To help, we recommend using an A / B Test Calculator.

It is also at this time that the people involved and the tools that will be used for the experiment are defined.

If the implementation is too complex, it is worth rethinking the prioritization or trying to “split” the experiment into different phases or smaller experiments.

Think about it: an experiment with a high cost of implementation, if it goes wrong, results in a great waste of time and resources. The idea behind growth hacking is to prove, as quickly as possible, the hypothesis.

Finally, at this stage it must be defined how the results will be measured. Are all the necessary metrics already being obtained? Is everything already trackable or will new implementations have to be carried out?

Conducting experiments

Time to put the experiment into practice, that is, apply the idea the way it was planned.

For experiments that involve programming or more complex implementations, several growth hackers recommend choosing the fastest path. With certain limits, a dose of “gambiarra” is totally accepted at this moment! After all, the objective of the experiment is to prove a hypothesis, and not to develop a definitive and robust solution.

It is very common that an experiment proves the hypothesis and its implementation is totally discarded in order to develop the definitive solution instead.

Once the implementation is done, it is also necessary to monitor the operation the operation and preliminary results.

From an operational point of view, it is important to ensure that everything is running as planned: responsible people, working tools, etc.

Regarding the monitoring of preliminary results, you should verify that the measurements are being carried out as expected.

For example, if you are running an experiment with a new Landing Page title, using an A / B Test, you can monitor whether:

  1. Are the samples well distributed between group A and group B?
  2. Does the number of visits to the Landing Page guarantee that the minimum sample size will be reached in the time dedicated to the experiment?
  3. Is the conversion rate for the new title moving?

On this last question, it is very important to remember that statistically, it is expected that there will be an oscillation at the beginning, until the numbers start to stabilize.

Keep what you planned for your experiment, unless … the conversion rate gets too bad!

Stopping an experiment means you’re never sure if it would work. But in extreme cases, if the result is getting worse, use your common sense to decide whether or not to stop the experiment.

Results analysis

At the end of the period dedicated to the experiment, it was time to dive into the data obtained to see if the hypothesis was confirmed.

For that, it is essential to look at the results with total transparency. Never try to manipulate the data to your own satisfaction. The objective of this stage is learning.

Do not limit yourself to analyzing whether the expected number has been reached. See what other metrics have been impacted and what you can learn from it.

If the objective has not been achieved, what hypotheses would explain why?

Keep in mind that from this result analysis, several other ideas of growth hacking actions may emerge for the future. Always try to feed this list of ideas, to continue following the process.

The analysis of metrics and results is essential to apply growth hacking. With that in mind, check out content that can help you in this mission:

– Defining goals and OKRS based on oriented data
– Metrics analysis with the Complete Google Analytics Guide
– Evaluate your content strategy using data

Inspiring examples


Facebook recently reached the mark of 1.7 billion active users and much of that success is due to the growth hacking mentality that the company has had since its first day.

When the creation of profiles was released for everyone, not only for university students, the acquisition of new users became a great challenge: how to remain interesting, if now everyone could be invited?

The first Facebook hack was to allow people to add badges and widgets to their websites (the evolution of these widgets is the current Page Plugin). As a result, people who accessed the website were invited to enjoy that website’s Facebook page – and ended up creating a profile.

Another Facebook growth hack was related to user retention.

Analyzing the behavior of users who remained active on the social network, Facebook’s growth hackers came up with an activation metric:

“Anyone who adds 7 friends in the first 10 days has a much better chance of remaining an active user.”

With that in mind, they created several features to encourage new profiles to find those first 7 friends.

One of them happens when, when creating your profile, you are encouraged to associate your email account. With that, Facebook searches your contacts for friendship suggestions for you.

Another is the possibility of a friend of yours suggesting another friend that is known to both of you but you haven’t added yet. This feature appears a lot to friends of a person who has just created their account and then, over time, it tends to no longer appear.


One of LinkedIn’s most famous growth hacking actions helped the company grow from 2 million to 200 million active users.

The change implemented for this was the possibility of creating public profiles, visible to people who were not on LinkedIn.

It seems contradictory, doesn’t it? If it is possible to view a profile without creating an account, why would I create an account?

The secret was that these profiles were fully optimized for SEO. When someone searched for someone else’s name on Google, one of the first results that came up was their LinkedIn profile.

The same thing happened to anyone looking for company names: there was the page, ranked on Google.

This was a major growth trigger.

Obviously, it was not an attempt that came about randomly. Remember that the growth hacker needs to have a good knowledge of people and their behaviors?

It is very likely that LinkedIn professionals have noticed the tendency for people to search Google for their new professional contacts and the companies where they work.

When realizing this, LinkedIn took the opportunity to position itself as an authority in the results of these searches – after all, viewing the person’s curriculum is something very relevant when you want to know more about them!


Quora is a website specialized in questions and answers. You can create your profile, ask a question and expect people from around the world to respond to your knowledge.

One of Quora’s biggest challenges was acquiring users. How could people trust them to find quality answers on the site?

To this end, the company directed its efforts towards the acquisition of users of recognition and authority in its means.

When people realized that they could ask a question about technology and startups, for example, and get answers from influential people in the environment – founders, marketing directors, etc. – Quora started to be seen as an excellent source of knowledge.

Detail: the two founders of Quora are former Facebook employees. In other words, the company was born with a strong culture of growth hacking!


Now that you know more about growth hacking, you can start training this way of looking at your company.

Thinking like a growth hacker will allow you to find and explore, in a scientific and well-grounded way, the triggers that leverage your company’s growth.

So it’s time to start digging into the topics that will help you practice growth hacking! Read our complete Growth Hacking ebook for Inbound Marketers!

growth hacking for inbound marketers