"Growth Hacker Marketing" by Ryan Holiday: Summary & Thoughts

I recently finished “Growth Hacker Marketing” by Ryan Holiday. I was initially wary of the term “growth hacking”, as I thought that it would link more into SEO and coding. It can do, but it doesn’t have to.


In fact, what I learnt was more surprising: it’s exactly the type of marketing techniques that I like to employ for long-term, sustainable growth.


So, what is growth hacker marketing? Holiday defines a “growth hacker” as “an employee with a simple job: growing the business by any means possible… This role, according to Andrew Chen and many Silicon Valley pioneers, has come to supplant the typical VP of Marketing… Growth hackers are pros at hypothesizing, testing, and iterating different versions of their products to create hockey stick growth for their companies.” (Holiday, 2014:82) “Growth hacking” is defined as a “business strategy that throws out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaces it with customer acquisition techniques that are testable, trackable, and scalable. Its tools are e-mails, pay-per-click ads, blogs, and platform APIs instead of commercials, publicity, and money.” (Holiday, 2014:83)


Within the book, Holiday gives practical and concise steps of how to develop a growth hacker marketing strategy.


Product Market Fit is the Beginning: The argument is that there’s no point marketing a product that nobody needs, or wants.


Finding your Growth Hack: before working out what your growth hack is, you need make sure that it’s going to reach the right audience. This is fundamental because no businesses target market is everyone. Once you’ve defined your audience, you can find them. Holiday gives the following ideas for beginning your growth hack:

  • Reach out to sites you know your customer base is on with a pitch e-mail.

  • Upload a post to Hacker News, Quora, or reddit.

  • Write blog posts about popular topics that get traffic and - in Holiday’s words, not mine - “indirectly pimp your product”.

  • Use a Kickstarter platform for exposure and bribe your first users with incentives.

  • Access a server such as Help a Reporter Out www.helpareporter.com to find reporters who are looking for people about topics they are already covering.

  • Find potential customers one by one by inviting them to try your service for free, or by bribe with a special incentive.

Going Viral: Why customers think your product/service should go viral and how easy it is for customer’s to do this needs be considered prior to launching your marketing strategy. In order to do this, Holiday advises “you should not just encourage sharing but give powerful incentives to do so”.


Retention and Optimization: This makes clear the distinction between traditional marketing that focused on getting leads to today’s marketer. The job is no longer to just bring potential customers but to “create lifelong users”.