What is Growth Hacking & What does a Growth Hacker do?

September 2, 2021

Growth Hacking has been one of the most popular concepts and terms in the business and startup world for the past decade. Apart from Silicon Valley, you will also notice a lot of vacancies in Growth Hacker and Growth Marketer that are offered by various companies on job opening portals. 

But what does a Growth Hacker do? Why do we always hear about Growth Marketing? And what are the differences between Growth Hacking and Growth Marketing ? 

What is Growth Hacking? 

The term Growth Hacking was coined by Sean Ellis, one of the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley in 2010. He pointed out that the concept of Growth Hacking is a term of strategies subjected solely to growth. Commonly used in early-stage startups that need massive growth in a short period of time with small budgets. Typical examples include Airbnb and Dropbox. Growth Hacking is widely used in startups because the goal of growth hacking strategies is to acquire as many users as possible while spending as little as possible. Eventually, many people will call themselves a Growth Hacker. 

photo source: canva

But how about Growth Marketing? A Growth Hacker is someone who uses creative, content marketing, low-cost strategies to help businesses obtain and retain customers, which is usually highly overlapped with what a Digital Marketer does. The term “Growth Marketer”, hence, was coined. So strictly speaking, the line between Growth Hacking and Growth Marketing is undefined as the two share a lot of similarities and the detailed job responsibilities vary in different companies/industries.

Growth Hacking vs Traditional Marketing

Although Growth Hackers and Traditional Marketers may share some common tactics , they are far from the same thing. Below are a few of the most significant differences: 


Growth Hacking is all about data. A growth hacker analyzes, understands, and utilizes the information based on quality data for decision-making.

Flexibility in Planning

Traditional marketers usually work according to the annual marketing schedule with minimal changes. What differentiates the Growth Hackers is the ability to think both analytically and creatively. They seek rapid growth in a short period of time. If the results that appear are not as effective as expected, Growth Hackers usually take immediate actions to adjust and change the plan. 

Software Savvy

Most marketers do not understand programming, but Growth Hackers need to have an in-depth understanding of some of the programming languages such as CSS and HTML. Specialize level may vary depending on the organizational structure of different companies

What skills are needed for Growth Hacking?

As we mentioned previously, the job responsibilities of Growth Hackers and Digital Marketers are more or less the same, therefore some required skills are similar as well. However, basic programming knowledge and data analytic capabilities are the essentials for Growth Hackers. Therefore it’s more likely to be a combination of Marketing + Engineering. Let’s take a look at what skills are needed for a Growth Hacker!

(1)Data Analytics & Tracking

Just like how we talked about the data-driven mindset, it’s essential for Growth Hackers because Growth Hacking is a data-driven field. Analytic tools that are commonly used by Growth Hackers include Google Analytics, Mixpanel, etc; to find out website traffic data to understand consumer behavior for the next decision making. Growth Hackers also need to be familiar with Excel or Google Sheet to effectively do data tracking and analyzing. When the data itself is sufficient, it is a bonus point for Growth Hackers that can handle Databases and SQL and have experience with some CRM systems such as Pipedrive. 

(2)Acquisition Marketing

Growth Marketing has a lot to do with Marketing. Acquisition channels can be very broad, which include Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Organic Social Media (Facebook / LinkedIn / Instagram / Twitter), SEO & SEM, Paid Advertising, etc. A Growth Hacker should have a know-how on the above marketing skills, but it can vary from different companies and  industries. 

(3)Technical Skills

One of the biggest differences between a Traditional Marketer and a Growth Hacker is technical proficiency. Most of the seasoned Growth Hackers have additional programming skills such as CSS / HTML. It helps you to better optimize the landing page yourself based on the results on Google Analytics. 


Remember we talked about better optimizing your landing page? If the Growth Hacker has knowledge of UI / UX, it can improve the user behavior pattern with the collected data while doing website optimization. A user-friendly website has a major impact on all the click-through rates, conversions, and customer retention rates. If one has basic knowledge about UX, they can definitely help in product optimization or suggestions. 

photo source: canva

What mindset do you need for Growth Hacking?

Growth Hacker job roles are always increasingly on the rise for startups. The core quality of a Growth Hacker is being able to adapt to a fast-paced working environment, be ready to change, and jump into a brand new strategy anytime, just like a startup company. Growth Hackers are essential to have the following mindsets in order to live with this position and help the company grow rapidly in a short period of time. 

Speed is more important than Perfection.

Fast-growing start-ups have limited resources and budgets, Growth Hackers seek massive growth in a short period of time, so speed is everything. For example, if a campaign were planned to be a score of 100, there will be more time and resources needed. But startups do not have the privilege of these resources. It is important to not be carried away by perfectionism, if the campaign is in a score of 80, just go for it. You can always perfect it later.

Always have a Plan B

Speed > perfection, which means some errors are likely to occur during execution. You will need to have a Plan B, an alternative plan can be used if problems tend to happen. If the error is inevitable, no matter how fast it is it will still be a waste of effort and time.

Data-driven mindset 

In contracts with many Traditional Marketingthat make decisions based on past experience, Growth Hackers must let the data speak for themselves and invest their limited resources on strategies that can elevate the most new users.

Stay curious

Learn something new every day. For example, everyone has never accomplished anything in startups. Nobody knows which decision or strategy is the most effective. What a Growth Hacker can do is constantly learn new skills and new tools in order to help you to view or solve a problem from multiple angles. If one is not working, be prepared to come out with new strategies, tools, and tactics. Curious to know which 100 tools are commonly used by Growth Hackers today? Click here to download the 100 tools list that Growth Hackers commonly use (Note: the list is currently in Mandarin, while the English version is coming very soon).

Recommended Courses for Growth Hacking

Tools are easy to learn but the mindset is hard to grow and develop. The marketing world is developing so fast that new opportunities are popping in every day. Improving yourself by learning from the people in the industry. Enhance the Growth Mindset and be prepared! Check out the courses platforms below that are related to Growth Hacking:

Full Beginners Course to Growth Hacking (Growth Hackers) 

Organized by one of the largest online groups of Growth Hackers, step by step guide students to understand the fundamentals of Growth Framework, required skills, and common tools of Growth Hackers in 3.5 hours. There are also online resources for students to refer to, suitable for beginners who are fairly new to the Growth Hacker concept.

[2021] Growth Hacking with Digital Marketing (Version 7.3) (Udemy)

This 9-hour online course is suitable for people who have certain knowledge and ability in digital marketing and are ready to become a Growth Hacker. Mainly focus on website traffic, digital marketing funnels, and sharing of the latest trends of SEO, email marketing, viral marketing, PR, and others.

Growth Hacking & Digital Marketing - From execution to management

Growth Marketer Academy (GMA) is the 1st growth marketing school in Asia, with footprints in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Jakarta, Manila, Singapore, etc. Apart from the 12 weeks Growth Marketing Bootcamp, GMA also provides a few short-term topic-based courses such as Growth Hacking Course, Advanced Digital Marketing Course, SEO Course, etc. Onsite training allows you to interact face-to-face with the trainers and students which helps you to solve problems easier and faster. One of the good things about GMA is that you get to connect with different marketing professionals.