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Growth Hacking definition: what is Growth Hacking?

It's a term we hear everywhere without, sometimes, really understanding it. Do you know what Growth Hacking is? Discover its definition.

If you're interested in digital marketing, it's a term you'll probably have come across before: Growth Hacking. Everyone talks about it: companies, trainers, specialists (called Growth Hackers), agencies... But what is the real definition of Growth Hacking? 

Let's discover together what Growth Hacking really is, and how companies are implementing it to improve their growth. 

Definition of Growth Hacking

Growth Hacking is a concept that was developed in the 2010s by Sean Ellis, founder of As such, it has a clear definition, which may have evolved over time. But more than this definition, to fully understand what we are talking about, we must also understand the concepts on which this discipline is based.


The definition of Growth Hacking

The definition of Growth Hacking is that it is a set of techniques that aim to grow a business, using the least amount of resources possible. 

This definition touches on two sensitive aspects of growth hacking: first, it is about growth. Growth hacking will therefore help companies to increase their revenues, find more customers or sell more products. Secondly, there is the notion of frugality: in Growth Hacking, we try to do more with less. 

These two notions explain the success of Growth Hacking at a time when more and more start-ups are looking to scale with reduced means. The techniques used, which are a change from traditional marketing, make growth an activity of choice for these companies. 

Moreover, Growth Hacking has a close link with the digital world. In its purest definition, there is no reason why growth hacking has to be done online. But in reality, if you want to scale a business, the best solution is often on the internet: that's where you'll find a maximum of data and where you can target, precisely, a maximum of people. 

The Growth Hacking Model

The definition of Growth Hacking is often accompanied by the mention of its main tool: the AARRR framework (or Pirate FUNNEL AAARRR). This framework serves to define all the fields of action of the Growth Hacker: it states that by improving the KPIs of each of its stages, one will succeed in growing a business. AARRR stands for Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, Referral. 

Acquisition, in Growth Hacking, is often the key to success. Whether you sell a product or a service, you need to make it known by attracting people to your website, your application, or your shop. The main KPI for acquisition is therefore the number of visitors. The idea is very simple: to find more customers and sell more, you must first attract more people to your site. 

Activation is the second step in AARRR. This is the step that consists of getting people to interact with your content, service or product. Indeed, if, in the previous step, you have succeeded in increasing your traffic, but if they leave your site immediately after arriving, you will not sell more. The main KPI for activation will therefore be the bounce rate. It is used to measure the percentage of users who have left your site without interacting with it and without taking any action. 

The third step is retention. Retention is the art of keeping visitors and customers coming back. In many businesses, it is much easier to sell your product to someone who is already familiar with the brand and has confidence in it. This trust is built over the long term. The main retention KPIs will therefore be those that measure the commitment of your visitors over the long term: time spent on the site (or application), number of sessions per visitor....

Fourth step: revenue. This is the crux of the matter: how do you increase the income (and therefore the turnover) of your business? There are three ways to do this: the first is to increase the number of customers who place an order on your site. The second is to succeed in increasing the average basket of your customers. With the same number of customers, you increase your turnover. Finally, the third and last method consists of increasing the number of orders a customer places over time. By acting on these three variables, you can increase your company's revenue. 

One might think that the job of the Growth Hacker is finished: once the revenues have been generated and maximised, what more can the company expect? Well no, there is a fifth step, that of Referral. Referral is the act of turning your customers into brand ambassadors. An extremely satisfied customer will become the best advertisement for your company to their friends and family. This theory is the basis of all corporate referral programmes. 

Some examples of Growth Hacking

Now that we have seen the definition of growth hacking and the framework in which this discipline evolves, let's take a look at some examples of growth hacking that have enabled businesses, then very small, to become what they are today. 

Airbnb and Craiglist

The first example is certainly one of the best known of growth hacking: it is that of Airbnb. At its launch, Airbnb was struggling to find users for its flats: the company therefore needed to act on the "acquisition" stage. How to easily and cheaply find thousands (or even millions today) of users? 

The answer can be found in one word: Craiglist. Craiglist is like the American Leboncoin. You can find classified ads for anything and everything, including flat rentals. In no time at all, Airbnb decided to automate an action: each flat on the platform would be automatically published on Craiglist, with a link to The result paid off: Airbnb was able to attract more and more highly qualified users by using the reputation of another site. The brand became known and took off, until it became the giant it is today.

Hotmail: between advertising and referral

When it was launched, Hotmail (now Outlook) was struggling to find new users. To unblock this situation, it took a single sentence: "PS: get your free email at". Indeed, at the end of each email sent by its users, this sentence was added automatically, in small characters. 

The effect is immediate for almost no cost: the publicity is enormous, and each user becomes an ambassador for the brand, literally carrying its message to potential new customers. A masterstroke that has allowed Hotmail to establish itself as one of the leaders in Internet messaging. 

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