Growth hacking in digital marketing: what is it and how does it work?


Growth hacking in digital marketing is a tactic deployed by small businesses with limited funds. Thanks to shallow pockets these SMEs – typically start-ups – seek out low-cost entry points into their chosen markets – attempting to engage and persuade customers to buy their wares on shoestring budgets.

  • Although popular with start-ups, growth hacking is scalable and can be applied to businesses of any size and regardless of sector
  • Growth hacking and digital marketing share some common traits but aren’t entirely the same – which provides a neat segue into our discussion

Growth hacking versus digital marketing: how are they different?

As suggested, a growth hacker goes off-piste – looking for more economical routes to build much-needed brand awareness and generate high-quality leads.

Digital marketing, meanwhile, encompasses a wide range of methods and skill sets, many of which require considerable budgets in order to be effective 

To understand growth marketing in digital marketing terms..

  • A growth hacker will use notifications, social media posts, or optimised sign-up forms to attract and onboard interested parties.
  • A digital marketer will spend thousands on Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns and considerably more on television or radio ads

How do growth hackers operate?

Growth hackers are data-driven and obsessed with testing new ways to scale their business. They’re also first-class collaborators who are never too proud to ask advice from others to build their knowledge.

As a growth hacker you’ll need to work quickly: trialling new ideas and mercilessly culling those that don’t work. This means meeting infrequently and keeping strategic discussions short and highly focussed.

Growth hacking in digital marketing: the pros

If we’ve kindled your interest here are three big reasons to become a growth hacker in 2023.

One-person is all it takes

Small businesses with tiny budgets don’t have the financial clout to create in-house think tanks, replete with experts from across all marketing disciplines. Fortunately growth marketing requires the acquisition of just one person.

Demonstrable ROI

Growth hacking is always a work in progress. By continuously tracking data you can see which strategies work and focus on those that generate the highest return on investment.

Appealingly inexpensive

This point cannot be emphasised enough: growth hacking in digital marketing isn’t free. But it costs comparably little when you consider the millions global brands spend on advertising campaigns.

Examples of growth hacking campaigns might include:

  • On-page optimisation. Writing insightful blogs peppered with the right keywords is a great way to attract interest in your brand and costs nothing but your time.
  • Social content. Developing a presence on social channels is free and requires (a) consistency; and (b) posting about topics close to your audience’s heart.

growth marketing strategies for startups

Growth hacking in digital marketing: the cons

  • It’s not all blue skies and rainbows because:
  • It has a bad rep – some marketers have distanced themselves from growth hacking, which they see as a gimmick and not true marketing
  • The process takes time and effort – and time is money (so is this approach really a cheaper way to win customers?)
  • Hacking a product or service that exists is one thing; try this process in reverse before you’ve even launched.

Your next step…

Whether growth hacking is distinct from digital marketing is a matter of debate. One thing is for certain: if you put in the time and effort it could work wonders for your business. 

But not every business has the time or in-house expertise to hack growth. That’s why hiring experts to do the hard work for you makes sense.

Contact one of our specialists today and let’s talk over a virtual coffee.

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