These days its not enough for a new company to turn a tidy profit and reinvest it in long term growth. For todays startup businesses growth is the only metric of success and companies are looking for ever more ingenious ways of bringing new users onboard with their products or services… growth hacking strategies.
Buy what exactly is a growth hack? Here’s a hypothetical before we look at over 50 examples of how real world businesses have hacked their way to growth.
Lets say you’re in a restaurant, you’ve finished your meal and the time has come to pay. Obligingly, your waiter or waitress brings you the bill and retreats to the counter while you pull a card from your wallet and decide on a tip.
Meanwhile, at another table, the same ritual has just taken place, but on this occasion the waiter has brought not only the bill itself but an extra ration of minty chocolates. According to research carried out by the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, the second waiter is – statistically speaking – likely to receive a tip that is 23% higher than his counterpart on the other table.
This is just small and simple example of a ‘growth hack’ – a strategy designed to increase revenues or win new customers.
And what works in the restaurant can work equally well in the wider commercial world. Let’s take a variation on that “something extra” theme. You order a product from an e-commerce site and when you get to the payment and checkout stage you’re offered a choice of delivery options, including free (three or four days) and premium (next day in a designated time slot). You opt for ‘free’ but a few hours later receive an e-mail saying you’re order has been upgraded to “next day” delivery.
If the ‘hack’ works as it should, the merchant will be your first port of call next time you want to buy a similar product.
And when you look at startup businesses that scale up rapidly, the likelihood is they will have deployed their own growth hacking strategies to gain traction in the marketplace and win market share. These hacks may be simple or complex and they may take place online or offline. The common factor is they capture the attention of the target audience in innovative ways and they’re designed for, above all else, growth.
And there are plenty of great growth hacking examples in the wild to choose from. Here I’ve looked at over 50 companies that have growth-hacked their way to success. You may not agree that all of these examples should be classed as “hacks”. Some of them are using conventional marketing tactics or may have stumbled across the strategy by accident rather than deliberately setting out to do it. I don’t think that matters, the point here is that all of these examples have resulted in growth in one form or another so there should be something you can learn from it.
I intend this to be a living list of real world growth hacking case studies and I’ll add to it over time, please feel free to share your own examples in the comments and I’ll add the best ones to the article.
1) Shazam’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Spreading The Word Offline”
Music tech company Shazam came up with a neat marketing device to spread interest in its song-recognition app, while at the same time turning a problem to its advantage.
Shazam’s app allows its users to identify songs they hear at clubs, on the radio or at parties by recording a snatch of the music and matching it to an online database. When there’s a lot of background noise it can be tough for the software to do its work, so Shazam encourages users to hold their smartphones up to the speakers.
It’s a neat trick. Others see smartphones brandished and ask “what’s going on?” News of Shazam spreads quickly by word of mouth. The result – 500 million downloads.
2) Uber’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
With operations in 35 countries and a valuation of more than $30bn, Uber is a poster child for rapid scale-up. But in 2009, it was just a local car-hire company with a platform matching supply and demand and handling payments.
The company knew it was solving a range of problems associated with conventional cab services but it needed traction.
Its base in San Francisco was the key. Uber initially focused on the tech community, organising events and – crucially – free rides for those attending. Those who used the service told their friends about the experience. The result was rapid growth and model that could be rolled out elsewhere.
3) Netflix’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Talk Direct to Buyers”
Like Uber, the now all-conquering Netflix drove early growth by targeting a community of interest. The company started in the DVD rentals business. To spread the word, it used internet bulletin boards and forums frequented by avid DVD buyers. The strategy was to reach early adopters with a “soft launch” message that Netflix offered titles that weren’t easily available elsewhere. This approach was expected to bring in just a few buyers. In fact, Netflix found itself processing 1,000 orders per day within a month, without the need for any conventional marketing spend.
Addressing target audiences through sites such as Reddit still works today and Reddit now have an ad product that can help you scale up this approach.
4) Buffer’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“The Power of the Guest Blog”
A company blog is increasingly seen as a ‘must have’ in terms of driving inbound traffic. But posting on your own site is not the only game in town.
Buffer is a case in point – an app developed to help people manage and schedule their social media posts. The company grew its user base from 0 to 100,000, largely through the impact of guest blogs on third party sites, written by founder Leo Widrich.
The aim of Buffers guest blogs were first and foremost to attract views – and repeat views – a percentage of which will result in clickthroughs back to your own website. Widrich’s advice in an interview with Searchenginewatch.com was to “copy the hell out of others.” So if you’re writing about social media, study similar blogs and find formulae that work. For instance, “Ten Ways to Get the Most Out of Twitter.” Today, Buffer has around 1.5m users across six continents.
5) Hubspot’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Taking the Inbound Train”
Blogging is often part of a larger inbound marketing strategy that uses content as a means to draw customers to the website.
US company Hubspot not only provides marketers with a set of tools to manage their inbound marketing activities, it also demonstrates the efficacy of its services by adopting its own pro-active content marketing strategies.
Like many companies it posts regular blogposts while also providing added-value content in the form of e-books. However, one of Hubspot’s most successful strategies has been the provision of a free site-rating tool, known as the “Website Grader.” Put simply the tool allows users to see which parts of their sites are performing well or poorly.
It’ a great freebie, but crucially it also directs traffic to Hubspot’s portfolio of services.
6) Groupon’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Passing on the Bargain”
Increasingly, of course, word of mouth means shares and likes on social media and securing the advocacy of customers is something that online discount provider Groupon has turned into an artform.
After any Groupon purchase, customers have the option to tweet, like or share the offer. It’s not a new technique but it aligns with a wider menu of growth hacks. These include:
- A refer a friend programme (paid in groupon bucks)
- Multiple purchases – say tickets for a friends
- Daily e-mails with the latest bargains.
Hacks like these helped groupon grow 228% in one year alone
7) Paddy Power’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Getting Up to Mischief”
Irish online betting company Paddy Power is also an avid user of social media, but with the aim of raising the company profile and in doing so indirectly boosting sales.
The preferred modus operandi is the high profile stunt. For instance, prior to the Brazil World Cup, the company leaked faked pictures onto the internet, suggesting it was carving “C’Mon England” into the Amazon rain forest. The company doesn’t measure the outcome in terms of ROI, but these campaigns keep Paddy Power’s platform in the front of target punter minds.
8) The Ice Bucket Challenge Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Driving Offline Participation”
If you didn’t take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge, you probably knew someone who did.
Launched in August 2014 it raised almost $100m by the simple expedient of asking participants to brave the experience of having ice water thrown over them to support donations to motor neurone research.
This was a truly viral event and all the more effective for having a strong offline component. This was not simply about sharing a funny video, it was about taking part and rising to a challenge. As such it attracted those committed to fighting the disease, attention seekers, natural leaders and natural doers. Once nominated, it was hard to avoid taking up the challenge.
It’s a reminder that social media often works best in tandem with the real world.
9) The Body Coach’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Achieving Media Ubiquity and Raising Sales”
Joe Wicks – AKA – the body coach has built his business by striving for media ubiquity.
The starting point was Instagram. In a bid to grow a relatively small personal training business, Wicks began posting before and after pictures of clients on Instagram, along with healthy recipes. In addition, Wicks is constantly using Snapchat to update fans on his activities. Social media fame has led to adverts for Uncle Ben’s Rice, a book deal and a television programme. His business now earns £1m a month.
10) Gmail’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Using Scarcity to Create a Buzz”
When Google launched Gmail in 2004, the company wasn’t quite the all conquering data-gathering behemoth we know today. Indeed, no one could say for sure whether Google’s offering would compete successfully with those of Hotmail and Yahoo..
But Google cleverly turned a problem into a marketing ploy. With limited server space available, Google made a virtue out of scarcity. When it was launched on April Fool’s Day, it was by invitation only, starting with around 1,000 opinion formers who were able to refer friends.
This created the impression that in signing up to Gmail, you became part of an exclusive club – something that raised interest and demand.
11) Hotmail’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“PS I Love You”
Hotmail, in contrast, used a deceptively simple technique to grow its market. Back in the 1990s when a user sent an e-mail message from a Hotmail Account, the company included a sign-off strapline “PS I love You,” which was also a link to Hotmail’s own site.
It was a small feature but a percentage of recipients clicked on the link to become users themselves, helping Hotmail to establish itself in the market.
12) Facebook’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Taking a Hard Line on Messenger”
Messenger was an important launch for Facebook, allowing the company to create a stand-alone messaging service that can be used by third parties to offer a range of services through Chat bots. Ultimately playing into Facebook’s future advertising plays.
But Facebook faces a challenge – namely that there are a great many people who already have the Facebook App itself on their smartphones. People who might well ask – why should I download Messenger?
To counter such resistance, Facebook has progressively turned off the message facility on its own app and telling mobile users they must migrate to Messenger. The result is a rapid growth curve to underpin the Facebook messaging masterplan.
13) OK Cupid’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Playing Games with Quizzes”
Dating site OK cupid already had a fairly compelling USP in that it was free to use, but in 2007 it sought to drive traffic by integrating with the Facebook Platform.
It was a simple plan. Quizzes of various sorts are a popular component in the Facebook universe. For anyone needing diversion on the bus, train or in the office, a Facebook quiz – usually put together by a third party – is often the first port of call.
In integrating with Facebook, OK Cupid enabled its users to participate in quizzes – on anything from music to politics – with the interactions linked to their personality type and profile. Facebook’s massive reach provided a hugely effective distribution method for the dating site.
14) YouTube’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Ramping Up With Competitions”
Quizzes also contributed to the early success of Youtube. Again the core offering – an opportunity to post videos of any sort online – was compelling, but to really succeed Youtube needed to scale up its quality content to a degree where it could pull in viewers and advertisers.
Competitions provided a means to grow the content creator community. Initially, Youtube offered its own prizes – such as an Ipod Nano for winning videos – but then extended the strategy to include partners. For instance a brand might offer a prize for the best video on a chosen theme.
Arguably, though, the most radical step for Youtube was the expansion of its partner programme, allowing content creators to share advertising revenue, thus encouraging clickbait posts.
15) Paypal’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Paying for Customers”
Competitions aren’t the only way to incentivise.
Founded in 1998, Paypal took a simple idea – that you could transfer money from account to account using e-mail addresses (rather than numbers and sort codes) to facilitate cash movement. But while the idea was visionary, finding customers was harder. Advertising was expensive and established banks were wary of partnering with a startup.
Paypal’s solution was to incentivise with cash. $10 for opening an account and another $10 for every referral. The company reputably spent around $60m on referrals, but this delivered a daily growth rate of between 7% and 10%. From there the company became the preferred payment provider on eBay.
16) Shopify’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Proving Value with a Free Trial”
It’s a technique that is almost as old as the hills, but offering a free trial helped Shopify hack its way to 150,000 users.
The company offers small businesses the chances to set up online stores. For a small company that has yet to put its toe in the e-commerce waters, spending upfront with a web designer on an online store might look risky. Shopify allowed its users to prove the value of the proposition by giving them 14 days free usage.
The trial offer was prominent on all advertising and paved the way for paying customers to come on board.
17) WPEngine’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“A Super-Generous Affiliate Programme”
WPEngine provides hosting and optimisation for WordPress blogs. There are plenty of players in the market but the company offers a quality services and harnesses the power of existing users to bring more customers.
The strategy is a hugely generous affiliate programme which pays $200 to any existing user who refers another sign up. The payouts are unlimited with commissions paid monthly.
The audience for premium WordPress hosting is limited but the referral programme has been cost effective in finding paying customers.
18) Invision’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Giving Something Back”
The business-to-business market is different from the B2C arena and often requires a different approach to growth hacking.
One time-honoured strategy is to provide useful business intelligence to your target audience. Witness Invision , a software company that takes basic – non-functioning – web page designs and creates functional simulations. A developer can sketch out a page, run it through Invision, and see how it works.,
To build trust with that community, Invision ‘gives back’ – for instance by producing an extensive report on design industry practices, strategies and even salaries, which was of genuine use to its audience
19) One Dollar Shave Club’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
YouTube has been a catalyst for growth for countless brands and a viral video can be hugely effective in driving sales and subscriptions.
One Dollar Shave Club are a great example of how viral videos can be used to hack growth. In the space of just three years, the company went from startup to a $600m business on the back of a subscription model that involves sending out razors and other male grooming products once a month.,
The subscription model is great for repeat business, but to first sign up significant numbers of people. The company’s approach was a relatively crude but funny video, presented by the founder with impeccable comic timing around the strapline “our blades are f**king great.” That first video scored 19 million views and was followed by others, including one for scented butt wipes. Get it right and viral videos attract customers.
20) Poo Pourri’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Content Creation and Toilet Humour”
Another example on a similar theme. Viral videos can be easy and quick to make or they can be major production numbers. Poo Pourri – a provider of scented solutions to hide all too familiar toilet smells has gone into content creation with a series of comedic videos demonstrating why their products are needed. The videos share some of the no-nonsense crudity of One Dollar Shave but add a sitcom sheen. You can view them as entertainment, but you don’t forget the product name.
21) Shopstyle’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“A Focus on Content”
Less controversially. Shopstyle has driven a rapid increase in business by focusing on high quality editorial.
The site – owned by Popsugar – allows users to find and match clothes using criteria such as colour and its goal is to deliver qualified traffic to its retail partners. In 2015, the company achieved a 55% increase in traffic over the previous year, with much of that improved performance attributable to editorial designed generate inbound traffic. Recognising the power of advocacy, the company has established partnerships with fashion bloggers to build an audience through an “inspiration hub”
22) Dropbox’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Growth Through E-Mail Advocacy”
No article on growth hacking strategies would be complete without at least one reference to Dropbox. In the space of just five years, Dropbox grew from 0 to more than 100 million users while keeping advertising costs to a minimum.
The key was a combination of social media and e-mail. In the early days, the company used Google AdWords to get the message out but found that customer acquisition costs were too high to be viable.
Instead, Dropbox encouraged users to spread the word “virally” by social media and e-mail. There was a natural symmetry between the product and the marketing channel. Users wishing to share files via Dropbox would naturally have to tell e-mail recipients about the channel. To access files, they in turn would have to sign up for the service.
All this was backed up by a video “explainer” providing a guide to using Dropbox
23) Buzzfeed’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
When it comes to generating traffic out of viral shares, few can compete with the mastery of Buzzfeed.
Today, Buzzfeed is not only a purveyor of bite-sized entertainment via its own website and shares on social media, it is also a serious news platform, mounting investigations with the BBC and covering politics.
But at core, Buzzfeed’s growth has been based on a thorough understanding of the kind of content that works in the digital age – and how to distribute that content.
A typical example would be questionnaire format – for instance, “what kind of parent are you.” To find the answer, you complete a questionnaire and probably share the result on Facebook. Intrigued your friends do it too.
24) TripAdvisor’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“SEO Plus Secret Sauce”
It’s a little known fact that hotel recommendation and review site Tripadvisor started out as startup, offering white label search engine functionality. Those origins undoubtedly imbued the company with a deep understanding of the importance of SEO.
First and foremost, thanks to the company’s commitment to SEO, Tripadvisor always ranks high in travel related searches, which is half the battle. The business model also feeds the SEO effort, with the constant addition of new reviews adding to the searchable content.
But the company has a few more growth hacks up its sleeve. Some of these are brilliantly simple but effective. For instance, Tripadvisor encourages hotels to publicise good reviews by displaying badges. This is good for the hotels in question, but the badges also link traffic back to Tripadvisor and make Google rank that hotels reviews higher in their own search results.
25) TripAdvisor + Amex’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Partnering to Grow Trade”
Tripadvisor is constantly innovating, proof that a growth hacking mentality doesn’t need to finish when you seize to fall under the startup category. A great example is its partnership with American Express. Under the deal, Amex users in the UK, US and Australia use their cards to book hotels seamlessly via Tripadvisor while also leaving reviews. These appear under a combined Amex/Tripadvisor banner. It’s a move that encourages commerce while promoting both brands
26) Skyscanner’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
Acquiring customers is expensive so in the low margin sector of flight meta search the last thing a growth-hungry company like Skyscanner wants to do is spend money reaching out to the same customers again and again. Much better to hug them close.
That’s where widgets come in. Essentially widgets allow companies to stake a piece of prime real estate on the desktops or websites of third parties – be they partners or existing customers.
Travel site Skyscanner has used Widgets to great effect. In 2008, the company teamed up with Netvibe to create widgets that customers could place on their own personal pages or Windows/Mac desktops, allowing them to hunt for travel bargains without going through the time consuming business of running a search or keying in a travel site URL .
Not only that but the range of embeddable website widgets they offer allow other travel sites to add a useful flight search function for their visitors. But these widgets didn’t just get the Skyscanner brand in front of millions of extra eyeballs every day but also created a massive network of backlinks to the Skyscanner site, fuelling their explosive growth through high Google rankings.
27) Spotify’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Widgets to Share”
Spotify is rather the keen on Widgets too…although in this case, it provides widgets to allow artists and fans to promote their songs or share playlists on their own web pages or via Facebook and Twitter.,
All roads lead back to Spotify. Aside from previews, clicking on a widget must open a new Spotify account to hear the full track or open an existing account on their device, thus creating more users.
But Spotify’s biggest hack is the freemium model. Unlike Apple Music and Deezer, Spotify is free to use for those who don’t mind listening to ads. This has ensured Spotify is the market leader in terms of traffic while also giving it an ad revenue stream in addition to cash from subscriptions.
28) Hotel Tonight’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“The User Experience Hack”
Hotel booking apps aren’t new or unique and nor are services that enable you to get cheap deals at short notice by allowing suppliers sell unsold inventory. So what explains the rising popularity of Hotel Tonight?
Well, sometimes getting the user experience right can be the best growth hack of them all.
Hotel tonight is focused on the mobile experience. That’s not surprising. After all, if you’re looking for a hotel in a town you’ve just arrived in – the company’s original use case – the chances are you’ll use a smartphone. So Hotel Tonight has zeroed in on the mobile experience, conducting vigorous A/B testing to ensure that customers move easily through the funnel to purchase.
29) Tinder’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Making a Game Out of Hooking Up”
In 2014, the two year old gay dating app began the year with 10 million downloads. By year end that number had risen to 100 million.
So why has Tinder done so well? Once again, part of the answer is a playful interface that turns dating into a type of game. In the background, the potential dates are filtered by their own interests – as defined by Facebook profiles – and then location. Browsing through potential partners, a user can decide hot or not and right swipe to make a choice. A right swipe by the other person creates a communications link. Left swipe and it’s over. The average tinder user, logs on 11 times a day.
Tinder is all about engagement and ease of use. The integration with Facebook means there’s no need for users to go through a protracted registration – their interests and pictures are already available.,
30) Moonpig’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“The power of the Earworm”
How many greetings card companies can you name? If it’s just one (and you’re in the UK), the chances are it’s Moonpig
Moonpig established a USP by offering personalised cards via its online platform. But that was only half the battle. The real challenge was to get customers and to that end the company owes its growth to clever TV ads with a jingle that is both irritating and probably unforgettable. In the parlance of psychologists, it’s an earworm – a tune that won’t get out of your head. Brand recognition and sales soared.
32) Compare the Market’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Small, Cute and Fictional Animals”
The comparison website model has proven its worth in sectors ranging from utilities to banking and insurance. But there are a lot of players around and brand recognition – and by extension traffic – cannot be taken as a given.
Like Moonpig, Comparethemarket.com used TV advertising to build brand recognition. And while Moonpig put its trust in an ear-worm, Compare opted for Meerkats, linked to the company’s offering by a very bad pun. It could have bombed but by building a sequence of stories around the Meerkats, the company achieved brand recognition and stellar growth. It’s an example of why it pays to stand out from the crowd.
33) Secret Escapes’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Building the Audience Before the Product”
Founded in 2010, Secret Escapes sells luxury but heavily discounted hotel breaks. The appeal to hoteliers is an opportunity to sell rooms – albeit at a discount – that would otherwise go unoccupied. But to attract suppliers the company needed a large customer base. But how to do you get customers before you have a product?
TV advertising was the chosen method and Secret Escapes risked £250,000 on its first TV campaign. To find a receptive audience, the company decided that prime time shows were not the answer as viewers would be too engrossed in programming to notice ads. Instead they went for afternoon TV with slots on Poirot proving particularly effective.
34) Slack’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
In February 2014, Slack had 15,000 users. A year later it 500,000. The company attributes its success to a “bottom up word of mouth” but within a very specific context.
The challenge facing slack was to convince businesses who didn’t use an internal communication tool that they actually needed one. This was tricky. After all, we’ve all become accustomed to communicating via e-mail and if that fails, there is always Skype.
But Slack offered a more efficient way to manage communication within teams. The company’s approach was to find larger companies who could be persuaded to use the system. One example of Rdio who signed up on a limited trial and then spread it out through the organisation. Once hooked, users recommended Slack to others.
This corporate word of mouth, grew Slack’s business exponentially.
35) Linkedin’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Giving Users a Profile on the Web”
Social media platforms tend to be walled gardens. If you want to find someone on Facebook you can but you don’t get to see that person’s full profile and history until you connect. And that’s fine. Facebook protects privacy.
But some social media users want to be seen and that’s certainly true of the business/career focused members of Linkedin. But most normal people don’t have personal blogs and websites.
The primary purpose for most Linkedin users is to make connections and build careers. Realising this, Linkedin introduced public profiles. Users not only have a presence on the site, they also have a presence on the web.
The key growth driver is that once a CEO or MD has been tracked down on Google, to make a connection, the person carrying out the search must sign up with Linkedin. It’s just one example of the tactics that have seen the company grow from 2m to more than 400m users.
36) Pokemon Go’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Mining a Familiar Seam”
Pokemon go is a triumph of discreet marketing, with massive user growth paving the way for additional revenue.
There was no advertising for Pokemon Go and no explanation of how the game actually worked. All the maker Niantic did was tweet that it was available.
It was an approach that fermented the creation of a cult on a very large scale, with 100m downloads by August 2016. It was a cult that was helped by public familiarity with the Pokemon Nintendo game, coupled with renewed interest in augmented reality.
By growing the game as a free download, the developers also fuelled demand for premium additions and also hardware such as wearable devices showing when a Pokemon is around.
37) Mail Online’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“A Complementary Product”
The Mail Online is the world’s second most popular newspaper website – the New York Times holding top position.- which is a surprising position for a mid-market British tabloid, albeit one with very high sales.
Perhaps more importantly, the Mail has achieved online growth without cannibalising newspaper sales.
One successful strategy has been broadening the content mix. The Mail and Mail on Sunday Newspapers have always had a high celebrity count but there is a lot more of this on the online channel, creating an abundance of clickbait. This has served to create a much wider audience for the site, both domestically and internationally, with relatively little spent on marketing.
38) Zappos’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Addressing Returns Head-On”
Back in the early days of the e-commerce the received wisdom was that non-tangible goods, such as books, sold well while clothes were more difficult. That has since been disproved in spectacular fashion (no-pun intended) but one area of the clothing market – footwear – was slow to go online. The reason was simple – the fit and comfort of a shoe are arguably more personal than those of a shirt or dress. People like to try shoes on before they buy them.
Shoe retailer Zappos sought to address this by providing an unquestioning returns policy, taking the risk out of buying.
Interestingly they found that their best customers tended to be those who returned the most goods.
39) Airbnb’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“The Power of the Crosspost”
In an online world where new marketplace models are springing up every day, you don’t hear quite so much about Craigslist. But there was a time when it was seen as a trailblazer – particularly in the US – and its pre-eminence helped Airbnb gain traction.
In a relatively simple growth hack’ Airbnb enabled room renters to cross-post on both the Airbnb site itself and on Craigslist, a move that greatly increased the reach of the offer.
40) Firebox’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Growth Via Affiliate Networks”
The gift and gadget e-commerce site launched in 2000 and achieved remarkable growth in its first decade of trading. By 2003 the company was posting revenues of £3.7k in 2003, rising to £1.7m by 2009. Over that period affiliates drove more than £7m in revenues. In parallel, Firebox used social media to build relationships with its affiliates.
The affiliate channel is well suited to businesses in growth mode because growth is self financing, there’s no outlay on advertising that may or may not work. To grow you don’t need to reach new customers, you just need to reach new affiliates.
To grow the strategy the company worked not with one Affiliate Network but 3 networks simultaneously, making sure they reached the biggest possible database of potential affiliate partners. Today it is still inviting website owners to sign up, with the promise of 8% commission on sales.
41) HideMyAss’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
Launched in the UK in 2005, HideMyAss provides a range of free and paid services, united by the concept of online anonymity. For business professionals there’s a high speed, high security Virtual Private Network (VPN) function, while individual consumers can take advantage of proxy servers ( to enter restricted sites) and anonymous e-mail. That’s the first hack – a freemium model.
This is backed up by a referral /affiliate programme offering up to 100% of the value of new signups. HideMyAss has recorded exponential growth.
42) Tastecard’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Capitalising on E-mail Marketing”
Launched in 2010, Tastecard offers 50% discounts or two-for-one offers in restaurants across the UK. Launched at a time when money-off coupons were becoming both common and acceptable, Tastecard marketed a more subtle variation on the theme. It offer was a £7.99 a month card to secure discounts.
But pivotal to Tastecard growth has been the deals they’ve secured to sell cards in bulk to organisations like banks who want to offer their cards as a perk to their own customers. Because Tastecard have virtually no costs involved in providing a service to users they can aggressively discount their cards, or even give them away for free to grow their user base. And as their users grow, more restaurants come onboard. Which in turn makes the proposition more attractive to users, which generates more users!
43) eBay’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
E-Bay is not only a global business in its own right, it has also encouraged thousands of small businesses to set up accounts and trade online.
And that was one of the drivers of eBay’s rapid growth. Individuals selling on an ad hoc basis are complemented by stores marketing anything from novelty toys to musical instruments. This has created the scale which attracts buyers. Put simply, if you want something you can probably find it on eBay.
The sticking point was potentially trust. To that end eBay has provided assurance by a system of buyer ratings and an escrow protection. Easy payment by Paypal has also been key.
44) Urban Spoon’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Playing With Technology”
Urbanspoon’s downloadable app provides thousands of restaurant reviews. One important growth hack was to gamefy the app using the Iphone accelerometer. To pull up a random review, users simply turn the handset to trigger the accelerometer, which in turn generates a review. It’s a simple marketing technique that encourages users to play with the app. As a by-product, it creates curiosity among those who are watching.
45) Kickstarter’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Tapping the Creative Community”
Despite having started a year later than Indigogo, Kickstarter has established itself as the world’s number one rewards crowdfunding platform.
Early traction was based on close proximity with those who might be likely to raise money via the platform. Based in Brooklyn, Kickstarter was embedded in the New York creative community and the platform’s reputation spread by word of mouth among those who might need to raise cash for projects such as movies or innovative gadgets. Nurturing the creative community was double-sided. Some sought to raise money, while others (swimming in the same sea) were more than willing to support like minded people.
As it became apparent that Kickstarter could be successfully used to raise funds, use of the platform snowballed.
46) Ministry of Supply’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Used Crowdfunding To Test the Market”
Kickstarter and other platforms don’t simply provide a means to raise cash, they also allow young companies to test the market and acquire customers.,
Witness business-wear site, Ministry of Supply. The company raised a target $30,000 within 5 days of launching a Kickstarter campaign and went on to pull in $400k above their target. This fulfilled the company’s ambition of validating the product. As a direct result, an additional investment of $1.1m to fuel growth.
Rewards crowdfunding in particular sells products and establishes a market. If successful, it’s a growth hack that can work even for pre-revenue business.
47) Oatmeal’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Harnessing Public Feedback”
The Oatmeal Website is the brainchild of cartoonist and writer Matthew Inman. To mark the publication of a new book, Inman leveraged his existing audience to publicise the print title.
His approach was to ask fans of the site to feed back on sales displays within Barnes and Noble bookshops. Some “Oatmeal Island” display were marked with a standard “New and Noteworthy” sign while others were flagged by an Inman cartoon.
Inman asked fans to say which were the most effective and better still to take pictures posing beside the stands. All pictures would then be “illustrated” by Inman.
The result – two photo submissions per minute on the same day. Instant free publicity.
48) Booking.com’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“The Power of Paid Search”
When it comes to genuine, high revenue growth businesses, there’s few better case studies than Booking.com. But the key to their success may not be so innovative. They just spend a ton of money with Google AdWords! In 2013 Priceline who own booking spent $1.8 billion (yes billion) on digital advertising, presumably with the largest chunk of that going on Google AdWords.
There’s more to the booking.com strategy than simply buying your way to the top though. Undoubtedly booking.com could be more efficient and more profitable by spending less on paid search and focusing spend on their most profitable keywords. But they’re not just buying bookings, they’re buying users, and brand loyalty is massively important in travel as hotel booking sites are becoming less able to differentiate themselves on price, so overpaying for a new customer on an expensive paid search keyword like “hotels in new york” is nothing to booking.com because they’ve acquired a new user who they can reach through a cheaper direct channel next time that person comes to book a hotel.
49) Moz’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Inbound Marketing Mastery”
There are few better examples of how content and community can drive growth than Moz, who started life as SEOmoz, an SEO blog and consulting firm which have grown into a 200 person strong software company turning over $38 million annually.
As impressive as that is, whats more that has come with virtually no ‘paid marketing’ or advertising. The company just continues to publish incredibly valuable content, at scale, bringing free traffic to their website which they convert into customers.
According to Moz, 150 marketers take a free trial on any average weekday and of these 52% convert to membership. 40% cancel but the rest tend to stay on subscription for more than a year.
50) GoPro’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
“Self Generating Publicity”
Video camera company GoPro came to the market with a product that wasn’t previously available – namely an affordable, wearable camera that was ideal for filming extreme sports. But the marketing wasn’t focused on technology. This was all about lifestyle, and a key hack for the company is featuring footage from users on its website. This fuels more demand from those who want not just to surf or kayak, but to preserve the memory,
Rapid growth saw the company raising $2.96bnbn through an IPO.
51) Twitter’s Growth Hacking Strategy:
Of all the examples of growth hacking used by Twitter my favourite is one of the simplest, their use of verified accounts.
While a ‘blue tick’ is less of an accolade than it once was its still an important status symbol among any aspiring online celebrity, but it fulfils a more important role in Twitter’s growth than an ego massage for high profile users. By verifying accounts Twitter tapped into what has become the biggest proponent of its continual success as a platform – its use by celebrities, politicians and the media. Verified accounts are a small thing but they help center the community around these high profile users who keep Twitter relevant in the face of increasingly stiff competition from other social networks and messaging services.
No other network has managed to foster and maintain the goodwill of influencers in the way Twitter have, thanks in no small part to their use of verified accounts.