Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success

Hacking Growth: How Today's Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success
Publisher: Currency
Published: 4/25/2017
It seems hard to believe today, but there was a time when Airbnb was the best-kept secret of travel hackers and couch surfers, Pinterest was a niche web site frequented only by bakers and crafters, LinkedIn was an exclusive network for C-suite executives and top-level recruiters, Facebook was MySpace's sorry step-brother, and Uber was a scrappy upstart that didn't stand a chance against the Goliath that was New York City Yellow Cabs.

Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis

About the Authors

Sean Ellis is a keynote speaker who helps companies unlock their growth potential. Additionally, he is a renowned growth coach and author credited with coining the term “growth hacker.” Ellis was pivotal in helping firms such as Dropbox and Eventbrite experience breakout growth.  Ellis is the former CEO and founder of Qualaroo and the current CEO of Growth Hackers. He is an active investor, entrepreneur, and advisor to startups. Ellis attended the University of California, Davis (1989-1994), New York University (1998) for a Strategic Management course, and Harvard University (2007) for a five-month course in Advertising and Buyer Behavior. Ellis acknowledges that his mission is to help startups enjoy “the revered unicorn status” as discussed in the contents of his book, Hacking Growth .

Morgan Brown is currently the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Inman News as well as the co-founder of Growth Hackers with Sean Ellis.  He is a renowned veteran in the field of start-up marketing with more than fifteen years helping companies in the nascent stage to breakout and experience amazing growth.  Morgan has a passion to help companies use digital marketing and business methodologies to transform from little known entities to powerhouses that are forced to be reckoned with. He grew up in Connecticut and attended the University of California at Santa Barbara where he graduated with a degree in Zoology. He first worked at a startup in 1999 at SalesMountain.com. Morgan is married to Erika and has two children-Audrey Grace (9) and Banks (10).


Hacking Growth provides unique insights on how to move a company from a mediocre performance level to the next level. The approach taken by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown is simple and practical--it motivates a company to move from sluggish growth to double-digit growth rates. The authors present an easy step-by-step guide that explains how a company such as Uber grew exponentially from a scrappy startup to its current height.  This book appeals to budding entrepreneurs as well as seasoned CEOs wishing to understand the methodology that produces extraordinary growth. Hacking Growth is rich in marketing and startup information and is one of the most important books for anyone starting a business.

Chapter One: Building Growth Teams

-Want to increase revenue and profit? The answer is growth teams! Growth teams are the tires that will move your car forward.

-How do you create a growth team?  Includes members from each department so that you have the collective energy of all your departments. This means your growth team is collaborative with a focus to push growth.

-Choose a visionary growth team leader who can keep the team focused and inspired and set targets for your team. Why? Every team needs inspiration and leadership--think of a football team with a strong coach!

Chapter Two: Determining if Your Product is a Must Have

-How do you figure out what product or service will sell in the marketplace?

- A must-have survey is a simple way to engage your customers about how they feel about your products. This survey will provide critical feedback in creating that must-have-product or service.

-What next? Test! A/B testing is a good way to test how well your product or service will perform in the market. Think of your respondents in the must-have survey as coffee tasters helping you to develop a new coffee brand-for free!

Chapter Three: Identifying Your Growth Levers

- Stats are important to monitor what you are trying to sell.

-Stats are also useful core metrics that measure how customers interact with your product or service. Metrics such as user acquisition and web traffic will help you to identify which metrics can be used to drive growth.

-This sounds rather complicated and technical? Not really-- you don’t need to be Einstein to analyze these stats. You can always work with a professional to crunch the data.

Chapter Four: Testing at High Tempo

- How do you gain customer insights to generate growth-hacking ideas?  This starts in the analyze stage--where data is analyzed and customer insights are shared with a growth team. Why analyze? The analysis helps to identify patterns and trends and removes the haze so you can see clearly.

- What comes next after the analyze stage? The ideate stage-(don’t be scared by the big word).  It simply means the stage where ideas are further developed or refined. Think of it this way-after taking a photo, the film has to be developed in a dark room which is the ideate stage.

-You now come to the idea pipeline (another big word!). The idea pipeline is where proposals are presented in clear terms for possible implementation.

Chapter Five: Hacking Acquisition

-You now have to move from theory and preparation to practice. You have the clay with which to sculpture a beautiful piece of art in what is known as the prioritize stage.

-How do I go about prioritizing? Use ICE which stands for impact, confidence, and ease. ICE is a scoring methodology where ideas are rated on how they will impact growth, create confidence in the growth team, and the resources required to implement the plan.

- After scoring your ideas, the next bus stop on your hacking-growth journey is the testing stage. Ideas that have passed through ICE are tested with customers to single out the must-haves from the must-not-haves.

Chapter Six: Hacking Activation

-How do you attract customers who will generate revenue? The answer is to craft a message that is aligned with your marketing channel. The message you create will effectively ‘activate’ new customers. The first impression created in your message is the most important.

- Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup tagline-“Two great tastes that taste great together” is an example of a great tagline that catches the attention span of customers (the average attention span is eight seconds).

-Your message is important since it clarifies the benefits of your product or service and helps to make a connection with consumers in a meaningful way.

Chapter Seven: Hacking Retention

-Now that you have attracted customers, how do you retain them and actualize sales? This seems like a tough task when the rate of conversion from website traffic into actual sales is a dismal 2%.

-Retaining customers starts by creating a funnel report which shows where customers are dropping off before making a purchase (where is the leak?).

-Once you identify where customers are dropping off, you can come up with solutions that will retain customers and increase conversions--make actual sales.

Chapter Eight: Hacking Monetization

-In order to make money in growth-hacking, you need to keep customers engaged to the point where they form a habit of engaging with your business. This process is known as creating an engagement loop.

-Start your engagement loop using user achievement rewards (make your customers feel good when engaging with you) and social recognition (recognize active users).

-What is the result? You get and retain customers who are loyal and active. Most importantly, you are rewarded with customers who will generate revenue continuously.

Chapter Nine: A Virtuous Growth Cycle

-As you have journeyed this far, you are probably asking where is the revenue? You will know if your business is generating revenue by looking at the customer segments.

-Customer segments will tell you a lot about your customers in terms of their membership, age, and location. You will know who, where what age is buying. Use this data to hack more ideas that will generate more revenue.

-You have reached the end of the growth-hacking cycle. Hopefully, you know your customers better, have experienced growth, and are ready for the next cycle!


Ellis and Morgan offer one of the cutting edge business methodologies that work at rapid-fire speed. The authors divulge secrets on how startups and companies can leverage the power of data to drive growth. The main takeaway from this book is that data-driven growth is the key to success in our modern computer age. If you have just started out and need ideas on how to grow your business, Hacking Growth is for you. Get a copy and discover the North Star of your business!


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