Growth Hacker Marketing


by Ryan Holiday
ISBN: 1591847389
Finished 1/5/16
Amazon page for details and reviews


Traditional, big-ticket marketing campaigns are mostly ineffective, and are unattainable for small businesses and startups with tight budgets. This short book provides guidelines for marketing in the digital era. From startups and book self-publishers to large corporations, this data-driven, experimental approach strives for exponential returns at minimal cost.

Most of the examples are tech products, but it is clear the principles can be applied to any type of business and in other areas of life. It’s all about product-market fit, testing, and continually challenging assumptions. Growth Hacker Marketing is not a specific set of tactics, but a manifesto and mindset for maximizing success in a rapidly-changing world. If you know the way broadly, you will see it in everything.


Growth hacker is the new VP of marketing

Hybrid of marketer and programmer

Shortcuts, innovations, back door solutions

Product development and marketing not distinct

Big budgets and releases don’t work for small companies, and not ideal for big ones either

Track, test, iterate

New mindset began at turn of millennium

Hotmail signature in every email led to viral sign ups
40 months – 30 million users
sold for $400 million to Microsoft
Gmail had similar growth story and had big multimedia ads but led to failure

Old school marketers consider themselves artists, and ROI is often not as good as they would hope

Focus on who and where in measurable way

Growth hacking more a mindset than a toolkit

Marketing begins during dev and design phase

Step 1 is product market fit (PMF) – don’t go to market with product nobody wants
Growth hackers believe products and whole business models can and should be changed until explosive growth is achieved

Airbnb changed significantly since 2007 launch.
From good to explosive idea, $1 billion valuation

Instagram was originally a photo feature in an app that did much more

Eric Ries – MVP

PMF is a feeling backed by data

Authors who experiment with blog before publishing a book

Marc Andreessen – Do whatever is required to get to PMF

Growth hacking is not just marketing, everything is on the table

Sometimes outward facing part is the least important

Evernote – focus on making the best product. Slowed brand building but paid off because of its superiority in the long run

Evernote stickers saying “I’m not being rude, I’m taking notes in Evernote”

Goal of making product that sells itself.

Whoever gets PMF first wins

Use analysis tools like Google, Optimizely, KISSmetrics
But also Socratic method. Repeatedly question everything.
User surveys.

Must market in the same place our target is looking

Aaron Schwartz failed 2x before Reddit

Users don’t come to you, you come to them

Don’t hit NYT, hit the NYT of your scene

Dropbox demo video for the right market: Digg, Slashdot, Reddit
went from 5,000-75,000 users overnight

Mailbox app – 1 million users signed up

Maybe that growth hack is played out but you need to have the right mindset

Don’t target everyone, target the right people

Attract the early adopters, ignore the urge to appeal to the mass market, at least to start

If you don’t know where to find the right people, you don’t know the industry well enough

1. Send email about you
2. Hacker news etc
3. Blog indirectly promoting product
4. Kickstarter
6. Find customers 1 by 1

Patrick Vlaskovits – the more innovative your product is, the more likely you will need to find new and novel ways to get at your customers
1. Create aura of exclusivity with invite-only feature (Gmail)
2. 100s of fake profiles to make it seem like service is more popular than it actually is (Reddit)
3. Target a single platform and piggyback on its growth. E.g. PayPal with eBay
4. Host cool events and drive users to system manually
5. Bring on influential advisors and investors

Intensely focused on driving new user sign ups and customers right now.

Airbnb coded set of tools that made every member cross-post on Craigslist

Instead of building a brand, build an army of users. Brand will come naturally when you get that right

Branding is a total waste of money the first year or two

Once you get first customers, next step is to turn them into an army

Viral: has to be worth spreading and has to build a desire in people to spread it

Viral spread is vital to growth hacking – users themselves must spread word

Jonah Berger – making things more observable makes then easier to imitate, which makes them more popular

Spotify integration with Facebook

Sent from my iPhone/BlackBerry signature on emails

Apple white earbuds

Dropbox get free space for referrals

Twitter had lot of sign ups but not a lot of use. Found that following 10 profiles increased use so made it part of the signup process

Always be tweaking

Can’t sell broken product call users to help set up

Dropbox extra storage to learn about service

Uber gift cards/free first rides to encourage signups

Tim Ferriss not using publishers for The 4-Hour Chef

Bain and Co. – 60-70% of users likely to buy again, 5-20% of non users likely to buy for the first time. Once you have customers you may be able to sell them more

Use tools like Compete, Quantcast, Alexa to research target markets

Tim Ferriss BitTorrent for book launch, discounts

If you know the way broadly you will see it in everything

Growth hacking can apply to many areas of life beyond marketing software products and books

Anything that gets customers is marketing

Growth hacking reduces cost of being wrong