The universal truth about markets is that every business needs a market share and this hypothesis is doubly true for start-ups. A start-up only has limited funds and it is with that limited budget only through which the starters have to R&D, market, and bear the cost of operations. There is a reason why 75% of all start-ups fail within 5 years (as per studies) after all.

So, it comes as little to no surprise that they work aggressively towards capturing a market for their product. The best way to do this for a start-up is to growth hack. For those who do not know, growth hacking is the term given to strategies focused solely on growing during the early stages of the start-up. 

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These strategies are usually very cost-effective as they are primed towards fast customer acquisition with the least amount of money spent. This might sound a little fantastical, but is very true. With that being said, let us explore this a little more. 

How growth hacking works

For you to understand how growth hacking works, you will first need to understand the key components that make it. As per Dave McClure, co-founder of 500Startups, the key points for Growth hacking are:

  1. Awareness – How many people did you reach out to?
  2. Acquisition – How many people are visiting your website?
  3. Activation – How many people signed up for your services?
  4. Retention – How many people keep coming back?
  5. Revenue – How many people are paying customers?
  6. Referral – How many people are being referred to you by your customers?

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This is more commonly known as the Pirate funnel. If every step in this is implemented correctly, then exponential growth can be seen in little to no time. 

So, whenever you do decide to go down this route, make sure that the growth hacker you have employed knows the basics and can work on these key components. In case, you are still confused about what a growth hacker does, then let us shed some more light on it. 

As per Sean Ellis, the man who came up with the term, anyone can be a growth hacker. All they need to have is the acumen to exploit the market and allow for rapid growth and progress. Since growth is their sole area of concern, a growth hacker isn’t bogged down by technicalities like analytics, budget constraints, etc. 

The only thing a growth hacker needs is to have an analytical and creative head on their shoulders. Any solutions that they come up with must be inexpensive and innovative while allowing for the maximum possible growth. 

Growth hacking success stories

Growth hacking is a relatively recent market practice with a fair share of detractors. With that being said, there are quite a few success stories as well. The most prominent amongst them being Facebook and Airbnb. Here is a quick breakdown of their respective journeys:

1. Facebook

Until the turn of the decade, Facebook barely had 500 million users. Their growth was fairly linear until 2008. However, since 2010, Facebook has added a staggering 2 billion more users as per a recent study. 

This spike in growth is evident since 2009 in fact and now, Facebook has almost become a monopoly in social media spheres.

This spectacular growth can, in large parts, be attributed to growth hacking. It was so effective that a lot of users are now implementing it on Facebook itself to grow their pages, etc. 

2. Airbnb

Airbnb is another success story that saw a rapid spike in its customer base once they went down the growth hacking route. They had less than 20 million users as early as 2014. However, since then, they have more than quadrupled their user base in less than 2 years as per figures available.

The growth is so staggering in fact, that Airbnb is projected to have around 500 million users by the end of this decade as per the same study. 

So, if implemented properly, then growth hacking is the way forward. Not only does it provide rapid growth, but it also works well within budget and time constraints. With that being said, the one question that remains is how to do growth hacking?

To be frank, there are quite a several ways you can do it. There is so much variety, be it in the physical realm, or the digital one, that you will be spoilt for choice. However, the best way to do growth hacking is to do it along with digital marketing. 

Growth Hacking & Digital Marketing

Digital marketing, when you boil it down to its bare bones, is all about marketing and raising awareness about the product. As shown below, it fits in perfectly with two of the key aspects of the Pirate funnel for growth hacking and addresses the entirety of the Pirate funnel.

Conclusively, it is closely tied with growth hacking.

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Now, we come to the point for which you all came here, how do you marry digital marketing with growth hacking? 

In all honesty, it is quite straightforward. This end can be achieved through several different means. Here are a few examples off the top of our heads. 

  1. Social media posts

Social media has allowed millions to connect with one another. So it comes as little to no surprise that brands have started to capitalize on it as well. From playful banter on Twitter to targeted posts on Facebook, the brands are seemingly adept at all of them. 

And with access to millions of potential customers, it comes as no surprise to anyone that companies are piling on to social media. A well executed viral post would bring in hordes of new customers, thus executing a successful growth hack. 

2. Search Engine Optimization

Optimizing your pages for the search engines often decides the fate of customer retention. So, if you have a properly optimized landing page, the visitors will have a smooth experience on your website. This enhanced experience will go a long way in marketing your website and encouraging customer loyalty. 

And in case you are wondering then, customer acquisition, retention and referrals are the hallmarks of growth hacking (refer to the Pirate funnel shown before). So, if you want to blend digital marketing and growth hacking, then a proper SEO optimization will go a long way towards that. 

With that being said, a properly optimized landing page will also contribute towards revenue generation. For this to work, there should be a proper call to action and targeted ads for the customers to click on. 

When the visitors go through this process step by step, they tend to understand you better, and an eventual trust building takes place. The trust then turns these visitors into customers. This is known as conversion.

So, for a higher conversion rate, make sure that your landing page is properly customized. And in a start-up, a high conversion rate is always beneficial. 

3. Targeted advertisements

Another way to advertise your product and improve your conversion rate is through targeted ads. These ads can be created in several ways.

a. Pay per click 

Pay per click is a relatively new method of advertising through google. Here, you make bids for the keywords associated with your business and product. As a result, whenever someone searches for anything related to the said keywords, your advertisement will be displayed as the top search result.

As a result, PPC is one of the fastest-growing digital marketing avenues with exemplary performance.

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b. Native advertising

Native advertising is a rather unconventional way of advertising. Here, rather than having banner ads, sponsored content, etc. blog posts are created to talk about the products and offer solutions. This offers several advantages to the business such as a personalized touch and increased trust among other things.

c. Email marketing

Since we have talked about unconventional methods before, let us now tip the scales back into balance by talking about more traditional means. Email marketing has been a part of digital marketing since the dawn of online businesses. And the reason it has survived the test of time unlike many such businesses is because of how good it is. 

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There are quite a number of other ways you can do proceed with Growth Hacking, one definite way, is the digital marketing way. However, the examples cited above, we believe, are the more important aspects of it. Just be sure to remember that in this field, no one shoe fits all. You will always need to tweak your marketing strategy to suit your business model. Otherwise, it will be money down the drain. 

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With all of this being said, there are still many obstacles that you will have to overcome if you are going to go down the digital marketing and growth hacking route. Here is a quick taste of some of the hurdles you might run into- 

  1. Website building and optimization
  2. Audience outreach
  3. Content creation
  4. Content promotion
  5. Generating new leads
  6. Sales
  7. Brand trust

Despite all of these, not one of them cannot be overcome as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort. And if you can perfect the art of digital marketing, then there is no stopping you from implementing an exemplary growth hack for your business. 


With this, we believe that we have given you a fair idea about growth hacking and how well it can work with digital marketing. Not only are the two ideal for start-ups but they can also reap dividends for any business out there irrespective of financial backing. 

The only key components for these are the products and the personnel to sell the products. As long as you have the two, the sky is your limit!