April 2, 2024

Growth Hacking in 2024: The Ultimate Guide to Data-Driven Growth

Are you keen to grow your startup fast — without spending a ton of money? When you can see the end of your runway up ahead, it’s important to use growth strategies that will work reliably and quickly. That’s where growth hacking comes in.

What is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking lets you grow your startup fast, without expensive, outdated methods like “spray and pray” advertising. It’s all about figuring out what works and doing more of it, optimizing every area of your business, and using important metrics to acquire customers as efficiently as possible.

Let’s take a quick look at how growth hacking is generally defined, before digging into the differences between growth hacking and more traditional marketing techniques.

Growth Hacking Definition

Growth hacking is a type of marketing that focuses on rapidly growing a company through experimentation and iteration. It's a key part of any aggresive GTM AI-driven strategy.

It involves a range of cost-effective strategies, often innovative or creative ones, and gathers data to see what’s successfully driving user/customer acquisition and retention.

How Growth Hacking Differs from Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing and growth hacking have distinct goals. 

With traditional marketing, you’re typically looking to increase brand awareness and loyalty. There’s a focus on the customer journey. Typically, traditional marketing involves:

  • Having a fixed budget (often a large one) and timeline for large campaigns
  • Using offline strategies and channels such as print, radio, or TV advertising
  • Tracking “vanity” metrics, like the number of Instagram followers a company has

Growth hacking’s goal is to increase users/customers, both by acquiring new users and by retaining more existing users.

There’s a focus on the product-market fit and the goal is to grow fast. Typically, growth marketing involves:

  • Low-cost, creative techniques, that are used online
  • Running lots of tests and experiments, and gathering a high volume of data to analyze
  • Tracking data and iterating on what’s working (while ditching tactics that aren’t paying off)

Of course, there’s some degree of overlap between traditional marketers’ approach and growth hackers’ approach. Both might use similar techniques like social media ads, influencer marketing, or content marketing.

But as you’ll see from our growth marketing strategies and examples of growth hacking, growth hacking works by aiming for rapid business growth at a low cost.

Why Growth Hacking Matters

Why is successful growth hacking so important for startups in particular? It has a range of crucial benefits that allow agile small companies to easily compete alongside more slow-moving big businesses in the marketplace.

1. Achieving Rapid Growth

The biggest benefit of growth hacking is that it lets startups grow quickly, even if they have limited capital and a small marketing budget.

By continually trying new ideas, tracking the results, and creating new iterations, startups can quickly figure out exactly what works to bring in new customers and keep them on board.

If you’ve got limited capital, you may need to scale up your business dramatically within a space of just months. Growth hacking lets you do that, making it easy for you to experiment and then iterate based on your results. 

2. Leveraging Data and Testing

All marketers will track some kind of KPIs … but growth hacking is laser-focused on data. Instead of simply recording growth or vanity metrics (like more followers on social media), growth hackers will track the metrics that really matter: are you getting more customers and keeping them?

One key feature of growth hacking is A/B testing, where you optimize landing pages, emails, ads, and more, trying out two different versions, then iterating on the one that does best. 

This strategy lets you quickly do more of what’s working (and less of what isn’t), making the most of your limited time and budget.

Cost-Effective Customer Acquisition

Your startup can’t afford to waste money by advertising widely and hoping for the best.

Growth hacking focuses on building optimized funnels to move customers from the “awareness” stage through to becoming a customer, and eventually acting as a brand ambassador. 

Growth hacking uses cost-effective techniques to bring potential customers into the funnel, like guest posting and social media marketing. Within the funnel itself, you’ll be optimizing to make sure you move as many people as possible to the next stage.

It’s a highly cost-effective way to get new customers, as at each point, you’re tracking what’s actually working and improving on that … not just taking a shot in the dark and hoping for the best.

Growth Hacking Techniques and Strategies

Do the benefits of growth hacking sound perfect for your business? Let’s dig into some key growth hacking strategies and techniques to help you become an expert growth hacker.

AARRR Framework

Growth hacking typically follows the AARRR formula for tracking their growth. This is sometimes referred to tongue-in-cheek as “pirate metrics” by growth marketers.

Here’s how it breaks down:

A - Acquisition

The acquisition stage is all about users finding your company online. They might learn about you through a social media post, through searching the web, through an ad, or all sorts of other ways. 

At this point, you’re looking for people to convert to leads or contacts. Some typical metrics you might track are:

  • Visit-to-lead conversion rate
  • Email click-through rate
  • Cost of acquisition (the cost of acquiring a customer) – this may overlap into the other phases

Note: Some growth hackers add an additional “A” before this step for “awareness”, while others see this as part of the “acquisition” stage.

A - Activation

The activation phase is when a lead signs up and begins using your product: often this will be a free version or a free trial. 

You’ll be looking for signs that they haven’t only created an account. Instead, you’ll want them to be taking action. For instance, if someone signs up for a Copy.ai free plan, we might consider them “activated” once they’ve prompted the Chat three times.

You might track metrics like:

  • Customer conversion rate
  • Time to value
  • Sign-up-to-PQL conversion (how many people who signed up then became product-qualified leads, who’re ready to upgrade/become paid customers)
  • Dwell time

R - Retention

Retention isn’t a one-time event. Instead, it’s an ongoing process, where you’re looking at keeping users over time, or whether people are signing up, trying out your app for a day or two, then never engaging with it again.

Some retention metrics you could track are:

  • Churn rate
  • Login frequency
  • Email open rate (for emails sent to signed-up users)

R - Referral

The referral stage is a fantastic one to reach. Instead of you seeking potential new users, your current users are recommending your product to people they know.

As well as the huge advantage that referrals don’t cost you anything, they’re also seen by potential users as more trustworthy than content created by brands.

You might track metrics like: 

  • Net promoter score
  • Percentage of customers who refer friends
  • Conversion rate of referred customers
  • Viral cycle time

R - Revenue

Understandably, the revenue stage is a critical one! Any moment where the user pays money counts here. (What exactly that looks like will vary depending on your business model: it could be when they pay a monthly subscription, or when they place a repeat order.)

You’ll definitely want to track the customer lifetime value, figuring out how much revenue you can typically expect per customer, during their usage of the product.

Your metrics here might include:

  • How many free users upgrade to paid users?
  • Your customer lifetime value
  • Average order value per customer
  • Your monthly recurring revenue

High-Tempo Experimentation

Growth hacking isn’t a slow or ponderous process. Instead, it’s about rapidly testing different options to see what gives you the best possible conversion rate at each stage of your funnel. This is a crucial part of the growth hacking mindset. 

As a growth hacker, you could — and probably should! — experiment with things like:

  • Different versions of your sales copy. A/B test different headline options and different calls to action in particular.
  • Different offers. Perhaps adjusting prices or introducing a new package would make a big difference in how many free users upgrade. You’ll never know until you test it.
  • Different landing pages. Changing the layout, colors, images, or structure of your landing page may result in many more sign-ups. 
  • Different email sequences. Perhaps sending more emails would get better results … or maybe fewer emails would work best. Again, you’ll need to test both options to find out.

Viral Loops

One clever growth hacking technique is to craft a “viral loop” where you reward users for driving referrals and sharing, potentially leading to exponential growth.

A great example of this is Dropbox's referral program, one of the most successful growth hacks out there. Users got free space by inviting their friends — and new users got more space for accepting an invitation too.

Their referral program was integrated into the onboarding process, and it helped them drive 3900% user growth in just 15 months.

For a successful viral loop, you want to make it as easy as possible for users to spread the word (and to get rewarded for doing so). Of course, as with all growth hacks, you should test different options, gather data, and iterate on what’s working.

Social Proof

Prospective customers might not trust what you say about your product … but they’ll trust what other users say.

That’s why forms of social proof like testimonials and positive reviews are so crucial. 

Another form of social proof is showing your popularity: telling users how many people are signed up (or how many have signed up today) can encourage new visitors to get on board too.

Referral Programs

Even if a full-blown viral loop won’t quite work for your product, you could establish a referral program that gives customer incentives for referrals. Airbnb, for instance, used to have a guest referral program offering users “travel credit” for successful referrals: a straightforward growth hack that tapped into exactly what their target market wanted. 

Growth Hacking Tools and Resources

There are dozens of tools that can help you with your growth hacking — but which are most worth your time and/or money? Let’s take a look at some key tools to incorporate into your growth hacking process.

Analytics Platforms

The success of your growth hacking depends on high-quality data and analysis. That’s where these tools come in.

1. Google Analytics

Essential and free, Google Analytics has a wide range of features to let you analyze user behavior on your website. It’s particularly well geared up to figuring out what channels and sources are bringing in visitors.

2. Mixpanel

You can set up Mixpanel to track key metrics related to your product’s growth and retention. One big advantage over Google Analytics is that you can use Mixpanel retrospectively, showing your user’s interactions over up to 90 days in the past (even if your funnel wasn’t set up then).

Alternative: Amplitude, which has more of a focus on funnel analysis. 

3. Copy.ai

The powerful Workflows feature built into Copy.ai lets you easily gather and analyze data from all kinds of sources (not just your website). It’s powered by AI, meaning you can get in-depth automatic analysis and reports to assist your growth hacking efforts.

A/B Testing Tools

However well your copy is converting, or however optimized your offers seem, there could be room for improvement. The only way to find out is through A/B testing: a vital marketing strategy for any business. Try these tools to help:

1. Copy.ai

You can instantly draft different versions of your copy with Copy.ai. Whether you want email subject line variants, headline options, benefits/features lists, or something else entirely, just give the Chat tool your original and ask for some variations. 

2. Optimizely

Optimizely is software that lets you construct and run A/B tests through their Experiment module. You get a WYSIWYG visual editor so you can make changes to your website without adjusting any code.

Alternative: VWO, which has more tools but can be a little more complex to use.

3. Unbounce

Unbounce is designed for landing pages, letting you create A/B tests and even route customers to different versions of your landing page based on AI. You can create as many landing pages as you want.

Email Marketing Tools

Email is one of the most effective marketing channels out there — so it’s going to be a key part of your growth hacking strategy. Here are some tools to help.

1. Drip

Drip is a powerful email marketing platform that lets you build email marketing campaigns and segment users (based on dynamic and data-driven segmentation) so you can send emails precisely tailored and personalized to what users need. It also offers extensive A/B testing options. 

Alternative: ConvertKit, which includes a landing page builder, but has limited A/B testing.

2. Copy.ai

Any growth hacker can craft fantastic marketing copy quickly and easily using Copy.ai’s proven templates, plus you can use Workflows to automate the process of creating personalized emails based on prospects’ data.

3. MailChimp

For startups on a tiny budget, MailChimp is a powerful email marketing platform that lets you create and automate customer journeys based on different customer scenarios. You can get started with a free plan or free trial, if you need to avoid spending money at all. Paid plans all include A/B testing, customer journeys and integrations with other tools.

Surveys and Polls

What do your users really want … and would they recommend you? Create surveys and polls to find out, so you can adjust your strategies based on real-life user feedback.

1. Typeform

Typeform is an easy-to-use tool that lets you design appealing surveys and forms that feel like a natural conversation — potentially boosting your completion rates. It also includes limited analytical tools.

2. SurveyMonkey

If you want more data analysis than Typeform can offer, SurveyMonkey has a great suite of tools for you with features like cross-tabulation, filters, and more. Its approach to survey/form design is more traditional (though it has a straightforward, user-friendly interface).

Real-World Growth Hacking Examples (Growth Hacks)

We’ve covered a lot of tips and tools for growth hacking … but what does it actually look like for real companies? Let’s go through some famous growth hacking examples.

Airbnb’s Craigslist Integration

Airbnb created a simple tool to help hosts repost their Airbnb listings to Craigslist — a win-win situation that helped hosts get more bookings, helped Airbnb generate more revenue, and raised awareness of Airbnb.

By finding guests where they were already looking for accommodation (on Craigslist), Airbnb was able to tap into a huge market at essentially no cost.

Dropbox’s Referral Program

We looked at Dropbox’s referral program above, as an example of a viral loop. One of the things that made it work so well was positioning this as the final step in the onboarding process, with the headline “Get More Space” – focusing the referral program on the benefits to the user, not the benefits to the company.

Referrals were essentially free: Dropbox only “paid” for them in storage space. Dropbox also leveraged the viral loop effect by making sure that as soon as a new user accepted their friend’s invitation to join Dorpbox, they got an email to encourage them to share with some friends too.

Hubspot’s Free Marketing Tools

By giving away genuinely valuable free marketing tools, Hubspot can bring lots of prospects on board. It’s free to sign up (no credit card details required), so there’s a low barrier to entry. Once the user has created an account,  they can quickly get started with the free tools.

There are plenty of opportunities then to upgrade, from the “Upgrade” link in the top navigation bar to menu options with an “Upgrade” arrow beside them, indicating these are available in the full version. If a user goes to a premium tool, there’s a short landing page with CTAs to “Talk to Sales” or “Start a free 14-day trial”.

Growth Hacking Best Practices

Excited to try growth hacking techniques to grow your own company fast? Already come up with some growth hacking ideas to try? Here are four best practices to keep in mind for successful growth hacking. 

Goal-Oriented Testing

You don’t want to randomly test aspects of your marketing for the sake of it. Instead, create experiments that will directly impact your business goals. For instance, you might A/B test your landing page headlines to see which option results in the most conversions.

Any time you’re testing something, know what metrics you want to track and what you’re hoping to see. If you don’t get that result, that’s not a failure: the test has still taught you something useful, and you can learn from it for future growth hacks.

Small Iterations Over Big Bets

Growth hacking is all about rapid iteration. You don’t want to spend a month painstakingly redesigning your entire email sequence and redoing every graphic … only to find that the original version was more effective.

Look for small growth hacks and growth experiments you can carry out in a matter of minutes or hours. That might mean A/B testing your CTA, reframing how you describe your “Standard” package, or tweaking your referral rewards.

Analyze and Optimize

There’s no point in implementing growth hacking techniques if you’re not going to analyze the results. Make sure you’re gathering all the relevant data you can, so you can dig into what’s working … and do even more of it.

Let’s say your data shows that your initial landing page converted at a rate of 5% and your new landing page converts at 8%. Don’t stop there! You can A/B test the new page again. Perhaps a different version would appeal even more to your target audience, converting at 10%.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

With any marketing technique, it’s important to make sure you’re operating in a legal and ethical way. Taking shortcuts here isn’t going to do your business any good in the long run.

Avoid growth hacking techniques that deceive or mislead your users. You don’t want to lie or deliberately confuse users about what your free offer involves, for instance. Even fairly common tactics like “clickbait” headlines can be off-putting to users, so be careful with anything that seems a bit shady or unethical in any way.

Begin Your Growth Hacker Journey With Copy.ai

Copy.ai has some fantastic features for growth hacking. You’ll want to use Workflows to get the most from Copy.ai: these let you automatically extract data from a whole range of sources, helping you pinpoint areas where a few tweaks could make a big difference.

With its highly advanced AI writing features, Copy.ai can create personalized messaging at scale for LinkedIn and email campaigns (along with social media copy, landing pages, blog posts, and anything else you need).

Plus, you can automatically create reports to instantly see the impact of your experiments and tests … and you can use Copy.ai to carry on optimizing your campaigns based on this data.

Want a demo of what Copy.ai can do for you? Book your time slot here and we’ll be delighted to run you through all the growth hacking possibilities that our platform offers.

Ready to level-up?

Write 10x faster, engage your audience, & never struggle with the blank page again.

Get Started for Free
Get Started for Free
No credit card required
2,000 free words per month
90+ content types to explore