My top 5 growth hacking techniques

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“Growth Hacker is the new VP of Marketing. Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of ‘How do I get customers for my product’ and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph. On top of this, they layer the discipline of direct marketing, with its emphasis on quantitative measurement, scenario modelling via spreadsheets, and a lot of database queries. If a startup is a pre-product/market fit, growth hackers can make sure virality is embedded at the core of a product. After product/market fit, they can help run up the score on what’s already working” – Andrew Chen ,

I have seen many novel ways for companies to generate their growth. Here are my top five:

1) Hotmail – “P.S. I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail”

One of the first web-based email systems, called “HoTMail” originally, was launched in July 1996 by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith with an initial seed investment of US$300,000. Growth was very slow at the start as they were focused on conventional marketing strategies such as buying billboards and radio ads.

A few weeks after launch, they discovered a key insight: 80 percent of signups actually came from friend referrals. Tim Draper, one of their seed investors, then came up with an idea of putting a message at the bottom of every email sent using Hotmail – ‘PS: I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail’

Bhatia at first feared that doing this would be unethical but finally agreed to do it but without “P.S. I Love You” part. The impact was almost instant – the growth curve took the shape of a hockey stick. They then started averaging 3,000 new users per day.

Fast forward six months, they reached the one million users mark, with two million users five weeks later. It was VERY viral. At one point, Bhatia sent a message using Hotmail to a friend in India and three weeks later Hotmail had registered 100,000 users there.

They had 12 million users in 18 months of inception (keep in mind that there were only 70 million Internet users at the time). Microsoft subsequently acquired the company for an alleged $400 million .

2) Airbnb – the Craigslist Auto-Post

The first rule of thumb of growth hacking is “The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs”. Be the first-to-market and you will get strong results and ROI because of its novelty and lack of competition. Over time, any marketing strategy will converge on a low ROI, i.e. shitty returns.

Airbnb did just this with its reasonably difficult integration into a big platform. There is no other better and cheaper way to generate your early user-growth than leveraging big third party platform like Craigslist with its tens of millions of users.

Airbnb provided a quick link to “post to craigslist” from your Airbnb listings and this was done seamlessly without ANY public Craiglist API. Conventional Marketers (read; non-programmers) would not be able to achieve this.

Any user then wishing to rent that property was required to create a Airbnb account. With millions of users looking to rent properties on Craigslist, this meant millions of signups for Airbnb.

3) PayPal – AutoLink with eBay (pre-acquisition)

Similar to Airbnb, PayPal also generated their viral growth from a third party platform – eBay. The PayPal marketing team and their engineers set out working on an automatic auction logo insertion tool for eBay sellers, in the early 2000s.

Named AutoLink – it automatically linked to their customers’ existing eBay auction listings and added a PayPal logo to the bottom of each eBay listing of theirs, this feature could be activated by customers from the PayPal Website – again without integration with any public API.

The only catch was that PayPal required their customers to submit his or her eBay username and password to be activated, but it didn’t deter customers from using AutoLink since they already trusted PayPal to handle their money.

The result was almost instantaneous. They boosted their “listing share” from 1 percent to 6 percent of all eBay auctions within three months of launch.

4) SoundGecko – HackerNews Audio Station

Hacker News is a social news website catering to computer hacking and startups, run by Y Combinator. Hacker News is a very powerful news aggregator especially for startups. engineers and data scientists are regular readers of Hacker News including our CEO – Matt Barrie.

Hacker News readers usually comprise of hackers, innovators, early adopters, startup enthusiasts, programmers, etc. This is where startups hang out and share interesting articles/news. Comments on article submissions are also encouraged and usually very insightful. Hence, a lot of startups submit their ideas/features to gain powerful insights and feedback.

SoundGecko – a product by co-founded by my friends Andrew Armstrong, Ed Hooper & Long Zheng – was created with a simple mission: turning your favourite blogs/articles into MP3 files for later listening.

I am a strong believer and advocate of 121Cast. Their growth potential is very promising as they are looking to reinvent the radio by creating an online platform that delivers personalized audio for consumption on the go. Their vision is to be “the radio station of choice for smartphone owners with an intelligent and contextual audio stream to compliment the busy lifestyle and heavy information consumption of the modern”

Having brainstormed about how to generate user growth for SoundGecko, we then came up with an idea of creating an audio version of Hacker News.

Within minutes of the submission of this on Hacker News, SoundGecko was voted up to the front page – subsequently staying on the front page for another 36 hours. The result was staggering – close to 100,000 visits and a doubling of the user base in a month.

My blog post about “How To Build A Kick-Ass Growth Team” was also on the front page of the Hacker News for a few hours and I had up to 5,000 visitors on that day.

5) Harrah Entertainment Inc – Hiring Gary Loveman as its COO subsequently CEO

Gary Loveman is one of the most practical academics I have ever seen. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He was well known for helping the company break out of a financial performance plateau.

He perceived his customers as a set of probabilities and attributes wrapped in human flesh. He is very empirical and data-driven. There are three things that can get you fired from his company (he claimed):

- Stealing
- Sexual harassment
- And most importantly running an experiment or A/B test without a control group.

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc – now Caesars Entertainment Corp – is the largest gaming corporation in the world thanks to Gary Loveman. He built Harrah from a regional operator of 15 casinos to one with 39 in the U.S. and 13 more overseas – solely relying on Mathematics in achieving this goal.

“My sort of logic excels at things like acquisitions or expansions or developments,” he says, “where I can look at the numbers and make it a defined, deductive problem.”

Loveman in his first few months ran a regression analysis on the revenue of the casino. Stickiness of customers is definitely a key to increase the revenue. Consequently, Loveman concentrated heavily on increasing the retention rate and loyalty among the casino’s customers. On the other hand, conventional casino marketing will involve spending big chunk of money to lure “whales” – wealthy gamblers.

Leveraging the data, he went a lot further – compiling and collecting all his customer data and leveraging that data to send targeted and personalized offers and come-back-soon incentives to millions of the customers with, of course, a predefined set of probabilities for them to convert – this formed the Harrah’s Total Rewards Loyalty Program.

This program of his was so advanced that it contributes up to 80% of Harrah’s revenue versus industry average of 45 percent. By 2010, this program has grown to over 40 million members, the largest database of probabilities in the industry. It allowed for a more accurate analysis of betting patterns — probabilities — and a more equitable distribution of “comps” or free rooms, meals, show-tickets and the like.

Before joining Harrah’s, he also spent two years at Federal Reserve Bank – running regression analysis on the impact of the burgeoning budget deficit on interest rates and was a professor at Harvard Business School.
#growth #hacking #techniques #top
  • Profile picture of the author beuniq
    Great article , Facebook also , Dropbox ..
    Thank you
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  • Profile picture of the author gokulmaba
    Its awesome to read all these techniques. Thank you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Reginavidor
    Good article,Thanks for sharing.
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  • Profile picture of the author Awesomeinside
    Nice article thanks!

    One of the learning point from the article is the cooperate with other big players where you can offer complamentary service (in case of Ebay and paypal).

    It is very similar to finding affiliates for your offer: both party wins

    "Never, Never, Never Give Up" /Winston Churchill

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  • Profile picture of the author trendier
    very cool ideas here, thank you for the useful post

    Are you an online marketer? Take my 5 minute research poll, and you'll be entered to win a $50 Amazon certificate. Would love to hear from you!

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  • Profile picture of the author melvinsh
    Giveaways are huge right now. And if you can target your audience using a prize you can really go viral if you have something good to offer.
    Signature - Social Media Syndication - stop buying fake shares & likes! Get Real Shares from Onlywire & Sendible users managing their own social profiles! Drip feed - Anonymous Shares - Spun Content - View Reports - FREE Accounts - 45+ Social Networks - Take The Tour

    Wanna run a successful Giveaway? SKYPE: Justin.chasar I can get you 1000s of real subscribers, facebook likes, etc. in days
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    • Profile picture of the author Syssolution
      Very inspiring article.
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    • Profile picture of the author MikeShaw
      I run comps on Facebook and the majority of entrants are people who are constantly entering comps! How can you turn these people into buyers?

      Originally Posted by melvinsh View Post

      Giveaways are huge right now. And if you can target your audience using a prize you can really go viral if you have something good to offer.
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  • Profile picture of the author mariajames1
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  • Profile picture of the author knyght
    'PS: I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail' reinforces the power of having a CTA "signature file".

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  • Profile picture of the author Oziboomer
    Offline...we use leveraged word of mouth...every client gets given a "Do a friend a favour" gift check with instructions to send or give to a friend to spend in our business.

    We used another variation back when groupons and other discounts were being offered. We put various prizes inside envelopes and asked people to write a friend's address on the outside of an envelope they'd chosen. We said we'd mail it for them with our compliments.

    Of course we doubled our database with this method.

    Online the use of things like Listeruption have leveraged similar offline methods.

    Sometimes the most mundane things get the biggest shares and results so you just gotta try stuff.
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  • Profile picture of the author leunamme777
    Nice! I'm a marketer just getting my feet wet in the technical side of growth hacking so information like this is always great help.
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  • Profile picture of the author WebScavenger
    Great post thank for sharing! That Airbnb strategy was pretty clever.
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  • Profile picture of the author kendido
    Great article. It reinforces the power behind the growth of million dollar companies. Thanks.
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  • Profile picture of the author IO Cape Town
    Is there anyone who knows growth hacking techniques for Facebook likes/followers? I'm working on content marketing..

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  • Profile picture of the author AaronBurton
    Nice article! Love those success stories. AirBnB will be forever known as the growth hacking king along with paypal. Attaching yourself to big companies can be really rewarding if you do it right.
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  • Profile picture of the author MarkAse
    AirBnb doesn't get enough credit for that one. Craigslist posting can be a disaster at scale, but they pulled that off seamlessly. Oh and they built a $10B+ business with those postings, at least partially-

    My current project, the Uncorked Ventures Wine Club. More coming soon, here.

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  • Profile picture of the author Jasonmills
    Great post. Very interesting. Youtube is another place.
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  • Profile picture of the author selfmadebm
    I like the old times when you had a open field to play. Thank you for posting this article.
    NinjaOutreach - Lead Generation/ Influencer Outreach/ Prospecting and Outreach Tool
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  • Profile picture of the author Jasonmills
    Great article. Facebook is a another example.
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Ten
    Interesting post, OP. Are you really with
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    • Profile picture of the author davidvalles
      thnx a lot, nice article
      It's time to improve the protection for anyone)
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  • Profile picture of the author nigelburke
    Have a look at more of these sheet of growth hacks

    New employee onboarding program

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  • Profile picture of the author PrettyJenny
    Thanks for sharing, really interesting cases. Airbnb case however did involve shady spamming tactics. Craigslist later did modify their API to stop Airbnb's spamming behavior but they already pocketed thousands of signups.
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  • Profile picture of the author Teesane
    Great post. These are right in front of your face, but sometimes we just don't think of them until someone spells it out!
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  • Profile picture of the author aspire7
    This is a very interesting post! I really like the AirBNB section, might have to implement this on our site!
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  • Profile picture of the author seven4
    You always learn something new.
    I always thought Hotmail was developed by Microsoft from zero, but now I found out I'm wrong.

    Good article!
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  • Profile picture of the author dewalds86
    I like the story about how hotmail started. These are some really good techniques.
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  • Profile picture of the author richardwallace81
    Thanks for this article ......
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  • Profile picture of the author joshaidan
    Its too useful post for us, Thanks for sharing this information.
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  • Profile picture of the author hankster
    Good stuff! Thanks for the post.

    Sports News You're Sure to Use! >>><<<

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  • Profile picture of the author LJBlake189
    Great post. thank you for sharing.

    Guest posting works for me. Youtube, Hotmail, Dropbox, Pinterest are great places to growth hackers.
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  • Profile picture of the author nlanda
    Very interesting post. I love learning strategies used by start up companies to become wildly successful.
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  • Profile picture of the author PA180877
    Great post. Very interesting. thank you for sharing. Youtube, Pinterest are great places
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  • Profile picture of the author AmandaThomas
    AirBnb "Craiglist" strategy is smart. Air knows the massive user base that Craig has and thus the option to post the listing to Craiglist is a good way to get users to actually visit Air listing. We know that compared to Craig, Air listings look more convincing, personal and with more helpful details about the property. Eventually people will just go to Air for listings and or finding rental properties.

    Wise move

    I am Amanda, a digital strategist. I work at OOm, a Singapore SEO Agency, navigating the digital frontier for 10 years believing only in ethical digital practices.

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  • Profile picture of the author Shelles
    Great article!

    Hotmail is my fave example from the list, such a tiny addition with a massive impact... I remember clicking on one of those links when I got my first email address

    This is great too:
    Offline...we use leveraged word of mouth...every client gets given a "Do a friend a favour" gift check with instructions to send or give to a friend to spend in our business.
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  • Profile picture of the author Charlie Agrusa
    Great article, very interesting
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  • Profile picture of the author smasif15
    great techniques that's why i just love being in forum,get to know useful information every time i log in

    To know more or if you need any sorts of help
    E-mail :

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  • Profile picture of the author blooderhand
    Interesting techniques but I thing this will not apply to all websites. Each niche in part must be investigated.
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  • Hey everyone I'm new here, so hello!

    I look forward to getting my wheels going on here.

    Our new messaging system for Twitter is going to beta and I'm pretty sure many of you would add Rabbit Message to your favourites list for growth hacking tools. It's a pretty cool auto-responder and bulk messaging system designed to change how people both use and see social automation. Built to be spam free!

    Let me know if you like it... I have a bunch of promo codes
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  • Profile picture of the author deejoe
    inspiring for me.. great share.. go for it...
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  • Profile picture of the author Jolly Serath
    Nice share..
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  • Profile picture of the author campbelljof
    Incredible work you have done here by posting such revolutionary blog here.

    Niriya offers best Digital Marketing Services

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  • Profile picture of the author damiensuccess
    Growth hacking constantly proves it's effectiveness and I'm learning as much as possible with it. Thanks for these great examples.

    The SoundGecko example gave me a great idea!

    Cheers for now,
    Damien Parsons
    Success Coach | Writer
    Join me on Successful Lifestyle Secrets
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  • Profile picture of the author sdentrepreneur
    Love the Craigslist strategy, wondering if I can pull a version of that to help grow my core business. Great post !!!

    Learn Digital, Internet and Social Media Marketing For Your Business
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  • Profile picture of the author G0nzalez
    Excellent article OP.
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  • Profile picture of the author kamikaza
    great strategies, thanks for the post!
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  • Profile picture of the author magnumopus
    very interestig article thank you


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  • Profile picture of the author Joshnano
    Very cool article. A lot of good golden information right here that anyone in marketing new or old can pick up and use. Caught some things in there that I'm going to try and tinker around with
    Learn How To Make Money Online & Learn SEO, Web 2.0, Marketing Strategies, Social Media, Content Creation & Much Much More! Offering SEO Services very soon! Visit us below:
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