This advanced handbook explains how to acquire customers for your site/app, and how to entice them to purchase.
It is widely recommended within Silicon Valley because it actually teaches growth marketing to a professional level. It doesn't waste time on self-evident, nonsense advice.
If you're skeptical of marketing advice, know that I am too. This handbook is unique in that I have years of diverse data: I've run thousands of experiments for clients like Microsoft, Imperfect Produce, Perfect Keto, Webflow, Tovala, Clearbit, and others.
This intro page explains which growth strategy makes sense for your startup.
This material applies to companies of every size and vertical.
I cover both introductory and advanced B2B and B2C tactics. Marketers of every skill level will encounter new material.
It's important you learn growth hacking before deciding which idea to work on.
It will save you years of going down the wrong path. You should start by assessing whether your idea is actually suited for profitable and scalable user acquisition.
In this handbook, you'll learn which ad channels you can expect to succeed for your business, and how to increase customer purchase rates.
When you're done reading this, if you can’t foresee these strategies working for the startup idea you're considering, you should consider scrapping your idea.
It's critical that managers know what growth entails so they can facilitate it.
Don't treat growth like a black box powered by your engineering and marketing departments. It's your most important business function.
This handbook helps you prioritize growth marketing projects based on their likely profitability and ease of implementation. Plus, it sheds light on a growth marketer's skill set so you can effectively assess hiring candidates.
(Many companies unknowingly hire “growth experts” who are brand marketers experienced only in creating brand voice and generating buzz. Unfortunately, brand marketers often lack knowledge of user acquisition and conversion optimization. This handbook will help you avoid unintentionally hiring them.)
Growth hacking is simply data-driven revenue maximization.
Growth "hacking" is a silly term. (It also goes by performance marketing and growth marketing.) I use it because it helps this handbook rank higher in Google.
Practice what you preach.
In reality, growth is not a series of "hacks." It's a rigorous methodology consisting of experimenting, collecting data, and leveraging human psychology. All in pursuit of directly maximizing revenue — not raising brand awareness or generating buzz.
Growth marketing (which is the term I'll be using) differs from traditional marketing in that growth primarily focuses on clearly measurable and directly profitable marketing initiatives.
For example, growth rarely starts with billboards, radio ads, conferences, and other difficult-to-measure channels. (Try attributing a customer to the billboard they saw. Now try doing it when you have multiple billboards in a city. You won't know which is worth keeping.)
Growth marketing works through continual optimization of every step in the customer's journey.
This journey includes the ads people see, the website and sales experience they then encounter, and the product they ultimately buy and use.
In other words, growth marketing involves four key disciplines:
Growth marketers must be familiar with all four disciplines. Or, at minimum, your team of growth marketers must collectively address all three.
They will also need to possess a few skills.
A growth marketer must be:
Let’s elaborate on that last point. Resourceful entails being aggressively proactive:
This handbook will help hone all three skills.
Counterintuitively, "brand marketing" is typically ineffective at shaping a brand. And, as mentioned, it's typically inefficient at increasing revenue growth.
So, what is it good for?
A few things, including keeping your messaging measured and consistent.
However, most companies don't need to exercise that restraint early on. Because long-term public perception is more the result of having a product people love than blasting them with messaging.
Consumer love is what begets organic brand building via word-of-mouth, and word-of-mouth supersedes the messaging your company proactively pushes through brand marketing.
So before you hire a brand marketer, hire another product manager to make your product so enjoyable that people can't stop talking about it.
Later, once you've established a working growth strategy, consider hiring a brand marketer to maintain the aesthetic and voice of your brand. It'll help you stay singular and differentiated in a crowded market.
But, before then, brand marketers typically slow your growth with arbitrary constraints. It's not uncommon for a brand director to dictate that all marketing materials must have red backgrounds with white text, as one example.
Well, pile enough rules like that onto one another, and growth marketers won't feel empowered to experiment with different ad designs to uncover what the data says is the best aesthetic to get ad clicks that lead to purchases.
Isn't that what matters?
Ultimately, what’s the difference between brand marketing and growth marketing? Brand marketing increases the potential energy for revenue. It primes users to convert at a higher rate in the future. Growth marketing, on the other hand, converts that potential energy into kinetic — it gets purchases.
I spend thousands of hours deconstructing complex topics. I compile my insights into free handbooks (like the one you're reading). Over a million people read them annually. Insights that don't make it into handbooks get shared on my Twitter.
I'm also the founder of Demand Curve, a company that trains startups in growth marketing and helps them find great marketing contractors and agencies.
You can read more on my about page.
The growth funnel's linearity — for example, going from Acquisition to Referral — doesn't mean the user's journey must also be linear.
Their journey may consist of repeatedly looping from advertising to in-app engagement before finally reaching the point of purchase conversion.
For example, if a user fails to engage with your product, you might show them new Instagram ads directed at your educational content. You can do this repeatedly until they're given the right content that finally motivates them to the next step.
I call this the Retargeting Loop. (I'll talk more about retargeting later.)
Here's another loop: the Ecommerce Repurchase Loop. After a user goes from Acquisition to Revenue, you then email them a steep coupon to compel them to purchase yet again.
In other words, you're prompting them to repeat earlier steps in the funnel.
If you can trigger the Repurchase Loop repeatedly, you may have a subscription business.
The key takeaways are: