At the end of the day, marketing is all about growth.
But very few businesses actually experience significant growth in their lifetimes. At some point, most businesses find themselves stuck.
One of the best ways to get unstuck is to be inspired by others’ success.
So, in this post we’re going to walk you through:
- 31+ (Successful) Growth Hacking Examples
- Basics of Growth Hacking
- How to Get Started With Growth Hacking
So, let’s get started!
31+ Growth Hacking Examples
PayPal successfully penetrated the online payment market, one of the most competitive markets in the world. So, how did they manage to achieve this?
The answer is paid referrals.
In the beginning, PayPal paid out decent sized referral commissions that helped them grow to 1 million users by March of 2000 and 5 million users by July.
Once they became prominent in the market, they reduced the referral bonuses to $5 and eventually phased them out altogether.
Read more about how PayPal set up a successful referral program.
File management company Dropbox reached $116 million in revenue in 2012, and skyrocketed to $1.1 billion in five years.
One of their biggest drivers of growth was their gamified onboarding program, where you earned more GB of storage for every onboarding task you completed (most of which were related to promoting DropBox).
This led to impressive customer retention rates and allowed them to scale quickly in a short period of time.
Learn more about how Dropbox used gamification to hack their growth all the way to $1 billion in annual revenue!
Airbnb flipped the hospitality industry on its head by using what would later become one of the most famous growth hacks of all time.
Before they were a household name, most people stayed in hotels. But if you wanted a hotel alternative, you went to Craigslist.
So the Airbnb developers found a way to allow users to post their rentals directly to Craigslist, giving them exposure to 100 million-plus consumers.
Find out more about Airbnb’s brilliant move and massive growth hacking example.
#4. Dollar Shave Club
Dollar Shave Club got popular thanks to monthly razor blades starting at just $1.
But they got their message out through viral video marketing.
Thanks to some pithy humor and smart use of profanity (“Our blades are f***ing great.”), their original video on YouTube garnered almost 20 million views in the first few months, making them a household name and growing from $65 million in revenue to a $615 million valuation just a year later.
Putting profanity in your video titles might not work every time, but pair it with a solid script focused on what makes your product unique, and you may go viral.
Learn more about their viral video marketing strategy.
Foundr is a resource for entrepreneurs that boasts over 250,000 subscribers.
But they were much smaller back in 2016. To achieve faster growth, they decided to publish a book and use Kickstarter to market and fund it.
The beauty of a crowdfunding campaign isn’t just the funding you receive from fans, but the brand engagement and loyalty built in the process.
Those who are willing to fork up cash to see your product come to life are likely to become raving fans and brand ambassadors, as they literally have a stake in what you’re doing.
So the campaign not only helped them publish a book, it landed them free marketing to thousands and gained them loads of fans who were deeply invested in what they were doing.
The whole thing led to almost $300,000 in book pre-sales and thousands of new email subscribers.
Find out more about how they pulled it off.
Gmail began its beta program in April 2004 and today has well over one billion active users.
Rather than rushing to release it to the world, the Gmail team remained in “beta” for five years. For the first few years, you could only use Gmail if you were invited by a user.
The invite-only method stirred curiosity and the fear of missing out – so much so that invitations were being sold for $150 on eBay! This gave Gmail very strong momentum, allowing them to grow like crazy when the software came out of Beta.
Read more about their invite-only growth hack.
HotMail acquired over 12 million users in just 18 months before being sold to Microsoft for $500 million – all through an email signature.
They added an email signature line to every user’s email inviting the recipient to start a free account. It worked and helped them grab almost 20% of the entire email market.
Learn more about Hotmail’s email signature growth hack.
LinkedIn launched in 2003 with around 12k users after the first week. Within a year they hit 500,000 users and reached a whopping 225 million by 2021.
Their growth hack?
Focusing on a hyper-targeted audience.
At first, they only rolled the product out to the tech sector in Silicon Valley. This was an audience they were extremely familiar with, which helped them expertly market the product.
Thanks to rapid adoption by their initial audience, they were able to test and scale rapidly across the nation and then the world.
Read more about LinkedIn’s growth hacking strategy.
Slack is one of the fastest-growing B2B SaaS companies of all time.
Their team attributes their fast growth to identifying a gap in the market, nailing the product experience, and using a freemium model.
Their freemium model is very easy to get started with, and as teams grow, it’s an easy decision to start paying.
This growth hack took them from 15,000 daily users to 500,000 daily users in just one year.
Learn more about Slack’s massive growth, and check out their B2B marketing case study.
The job board Proven managed to grow its organic traffic by 43% over three months with a unique growth hack.
At the time, the team behind Proven was trying to drive traffic with SEO and content marketing, but it wasn’t working all too well - their SEO growth had stalled. So their founder created Mission Week, a week where the team picks one piece of underperforming content to promote.
Employees got 1 point for sending an outreach email or 5 points for writing a guest post that links to the article. Every employee had to get 20 points before the end of the week.
This resulted in a ton of links, rankings, and traffic for Proven.
Read more about Proven’s mission week growth hack.
#11. Uber Eats
Uber Eats grew from half a billion dollars in revenue in 2017 to nearly $5 billion in annual revenue for 2020.
The beauty of their growth hack lies in their revenue model. They don’t just make money on delivery fees, but also through customer subscription fees, commission fees from restaurants, advertising fees from restaurants, and a small order fee.
Their multiple revenue streams allowed them to stand out from their competition & fund their aggressive growth marketing initiatives.
Find out more about Uber Eats’ growth strategy.
In December 2005, YouTube videos got 8 million views each day. By 2009, they were receiving over a billion views each day.
So - how did YouTube achieve explosive growth?
For starters, a brilliant business model that allowed anyone to upload a video to the internet – no technical skill required. A couple small sites had tried this prior, but none with the same success as YouTube.
But their key growth hack was incentivizing users to create content by allowing them to earn money based on ad revenue. This is very much the norm today, but it was much less common in the early 2000s.
People were quitting their jobs to create content on YouTube, fueling the company’s rise to the video giant they are today.
Learn more about YouTube’s growth here.
eCommerce giant Shopify increased its revenue by 90% in just under one year.
They have committed to plenty of growth hacks to fuel their rise, but the most notable is their partner program. Not only do they pay for referrals, but they also pay partners for building themes or selling marketplace apps.
Theme developers can earn up to 70% for each sale made on Shopify (paid themes can go for anywhere from $90 to $250) and 80% for each app sale (apps go for $2,000 on average).
They literally got their partners to build and grow their product for them.
Read more about Shopify’s brilliant growth hacks.
HubSpot grew its revenue from $15 million to $271 million in just six years.
They invested in many B2B marketing strategies, but one growth hack that significantly contributed to their growth was their website grader.
Website graders are all over the internet now, but back in 2009, the tool was both novel and brilliant. It told you how your site performed, whether it was optimized for search engines, and how well it worked on mobile.
What was even more brilliant, though, is that the solution for a poor score from the Website Grader was their tool!
They even offered a 30-day free trial to improve your scores. This lead to increased brand awareness, traffic, and ultimately – users.
Heck, even today, the Website Grader gets tens of thousands of visits from qualified leads every month!
Learn more about HubSpot’s insane growth.
AppSumo is a software deal marketplace that went from making millions a year to millions each month in just two years.
Their rapid growth of email subscribers played a big role in their success – which they achieved largely through quarterly giveaways.
Their first giveaway was for 10 DropBox lifetime subscriptions. People entered their email addresses for a chance to win and referred the giveaway to friends for additional entries.
This tactic led to 200,000 new email subscribers in just a week! Because of such stellar results, AppSumo kept doing giveaways every quarter.
Read more about AppSumo’s giveaway growth hack.
Intercom is a messaging platform that grew to $50 million in annual recurring revenue in just 3 years – the only SaaS in history to grow faster is Slack.
One growth hack that played a big role in their growth was a “Powered by Intercom” link on their chatbot that led to a landing page with personalized content.
When you click on their “We run on…” link, you’re taken to a page that looks like this:
The landing page uses dynamic keyword insertion to personalize the heading and entice you to try the same tool you were just using on one of their partner’s sites.
This hack led to loads of free trial sign-ups and plenty of customers, which helped fuel Intercom’s growth to $50 million ARR.
Find out more about this genius growth hack here.
Mailchimp didn’t skyrocket to success overnight, they’ve been steadily rising over the last fifteen years or so. But they did see big time growth in 2016 thanks to a growth hack, which helped them improve revenue from $280 million to $400 million in just a single year.
Early on, Mailchimp was doing great. They had tons of users signing up for their product. But they had a problem:
Very few of their users were paying – the majority were just using the free trial.
To fix this, they came up with a brilliant growth hack.
They ran ads to these inactive users encouraging and helping them set up their first campaign.
This growth hacking example led to plenty of upsells to the paid version of the product and helped MailChimp achieve its massive 2016 growth.
Learn more about their Facebook Ad campaigns here.
Dating app Tinder launched in September 2012. By 2014, the app had been downloaded more than 40 million times and users were swiping right 1 billion times per day.
How did they achieve such rapid growth in just two years?
For starters, they used a gamified user experience to make the app addictive. The fact that you can’t see who is coming up next makes it nearly impossible not to swipe.
And to heighten the reward factor even further, there’s the potential some of the people you’ll be presented with have already swiped right on you.
In addition to the addictive design, Tinder:
- Promoted their app through Greek life at universities
- Expanded their audience by rolling out features not just for singles looking to date
- Encouraging referrals and word of mouth to grow the size of users’ dating pools
Learn more about Tinder’s hacks for massive growth.
Social media Q&A site Quora grew from 50,000 monthly users to over 160,000 in just under one month back in 2011. This rapid growth was largely due to how addicting the platform can be.
Quora achieved this through gamification, a growth hack that can move the needle big time.
The goal of using Quora is to get your questions answered by experts. When they first started, you had to have credits in order to ask questions.
But in order to get credits, you had to answer questions from others.
Quora’s gamification technique forced members to engage their product in order to use their product. In addition to the engagement, their members began to crave the stimulus of reward credits.
Learn more about Quora’s gamification growth hack.
Personal finance app Mint acquired over 1.5 million users in their first two years by going all-in on SaaS SEO and content creation.
Before their beta product was even ready, they set out to build an audience through SEO and content marketing. They did in-depth keyword research and created quality, tailored content for every finance query they could, seeking to speak directly to the needs of young professionals.
Months later, when the application was ready, it grew rapidly thanks to an audience who was already engaged with and seeking advice from the brand.
Even today, Mint’s content marketing & SEO strategy is brining in qualified traffic on a daily basis:
Read more about Mint’s SEO growth hacking example.
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Lyft went from 100,000 rides in 2012 to completing 162 million rides in 2016. How did they grow so fast?
The Lyft team invested a ton into marketing campaigns during those four years, but one unique hack helped contribute to their growth.
They noticed many Uber riders struggling to find their rides, so Lyft put a big pink mustache on the hood of all their cars – giving them some personality and helping riders locate drivers.
So, the takeaway here is that growth hacks don’t always have to be digital!
Read more about Lyft’s offline growth tactics.
Social media scheduling tool Buffer went from $0 to $5 million per year in just five years. One of the biggest contributors to their growth has been their quality content.
The thing with content, though, is that no matter how good it is, you still need to promote it to drive results.
Here’s what Buffer did to make sure their content gets a ton of views:
Since Buffer’s product is a social media scheduling tool, they also offer post suggestions in their app to their users. If a user is in the business or marketing industry, Buffer makes sure that their own content pops up on top for Suggested Content.
This leads to thousands of social engagements to Buffer’s posts and gets their brand in front of tons of potential customers every day.
Read more about their growth hack.
Instagram had 10,000 users within the first hour of its launch. This number grew to 90 million in a couple of years, and then to 800 million just four years later.
Many attribute their early success to the fact they let people try it out prior to launching, creating a bunch of fans and brand advocates that helped the product grow rapidly when it did launch.
Find out more about Instagram’s growth hacks.
TripAdvisor is well known as a giant in the travel industry, and they’re also well known for filling your inbox with loads of emails. How can they get away with sending so many daily emails without becoming labeled a spammer?
The answer lies in a genius email growth hack. TripAdvisor’s email sequences get slightly more personalized with each and every email to the point that no two TripAdvisor users see the same emails. They’re that personalized to the individual.
This hyper personalization leads to high open rates and link CTRs. Users are still engaging their emails even when they have 2-3 in their inbox everyday.
Read more about TripAdvisor’s email growth hacking example.
WhatsApp grew to 419 million users in just four years without spending any money on user acquisition.
Their founders were committed to focusing solely on the product, not marketing, knowing a great product would market itself. Not to mention the fact that a messaging app has a built-in referral program.
Let us explain:
If you love the app (like so many did early on) and want to use it, you need your friends to have the app as well. WhatsApp tapped into this and made it very easy to invite friends to download the app.
An incredible product, easy onboarding, and the ease of getting your friends onboard helped WhatsApp grow rapidly.
Learn more about WhatsApp’s growth hacks.
In just six years, Spotify earned a more than $10 billion market valuation with over 50 million users.
Spotify implemented a handful of awesome hacks to achieve this growth:
- They worked a deal with Facebook to become its “default music service” through an integration in September 2011.
- They utilized a freemium model that was cheaper than iTunes, and more ethical than stealing music online.
- They rolled out an invite-only system early on to build hype and curiosity.
- They make sharing playlists and songs with non-users incredibly easy in order to get them onboard.
Read more about Spotify’s incredible growth.
OkCupid is a dating site that has managed to hold its market share despite being in one of the most competitive industries on the planet. Their success provides us a great growth hacking example.
They grew and have held that market share largely due to their genius content marketing strategy which focuses heavily on original data from their users.
Because they encourage users to share personal information, OkCupid has access to loads of interesting data.
They pull this data together, analyze it, and share original content on all kinds of interesting topics using scientifically backed data.
For example, in 2014, OkCupid figured out what’s the likelihood of people from certain ethnic backgrounds to go out with each other.
Since this type of content is based on brand-new research, it got OkCupid over 100K shares on specific posts, as well as mentions in different media websites.
Read more about OKCupid’s content marketing growth hack.
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#28. Grow and Convert
Content marketing company Grow and Convert grew from 0 to 32,000 users in 5 months with zero paid traffic through a few smart growth hacks.
Most notably, they targeted and joined groups and communities who they felt would engage their content.
They joined tons of groups focused on learning digital marketing on Facebook, LinkedIn, and (at the time) Google+.
They took their time interacting and engaging in conversation organically before promoting their own blog posts and white papers – which their founder says was key to better understanding what kinds of content their audience wanted.
The trust they built led to tons of referral traffic, subscribers, and backlinks.
Check out more on their hack.
Monzo is a mobile-only bank that grew from zero to 250,000 users within two years using the queue jumper growth hack.
They only let so many users in each day, so once you signed up, you were given a spot in line.
But the catch was that you could jump the line by referring your friends to the app.
Read more about Monzo’s genius growth hack.
Song identifier app Shazam has been downloaded more than one billion times.
Their growth hack wasn’t a social media or content marketing strategy, but a word of mouth strategy.
When using the app to identify the song, you need to hold your phone up closer to the source of the music. This naturally leads people to ask you what you’re doing, which helps Shazam grow their brand awareness.
Read more about their growth hack.
Groupon added a twist to the classic refer-a-friend technique in order to grow their revenue by 228% in just one year.
Their twist was that you HAD to refer a deal to ten people in order to access it yourself.
This motivated users to send the deal to others so that they could get it themselves. This hack introduced thousands of people to Groupon.
Learn more about Groupon’s growth hacks here!
What’s Growth Hacking?
Growth hacking, or growth marketing, isn’t just about randomly implementing quick hacks on your way to success.
Growth hacking is a science-backed marketing strategy that takes time, focus, and lots of testing. It involves:
- Defining Experiments: At the heart of every successful growth marketing campaign are experiments. You have to define your experiment with an assumption. For example, you may think that adding an email capture to the heading of your blog posts will increase email signups. There’s your experiment.
- Setting your KPI: Once you have your hypothesis, you set a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) that defines success for your experiment and let’s you know whether it’s worth scaling. For example, you could set a KPI of “25% increase in email signups.”
- Executing Slowly: Growth marketing campaigns start slowly – you don’t want to waste any money or time implementing a complicated solution before you know whether or not it will work. In our example, you may update 25% of your blog posts to test if your hypothesis is correct.
- Scaling Up: Experiments that hit their KPIs get scaled. If your test hit the desired KPI, you would finish the work and update all of your blog posts.
This is how growth hacking works. Some experiments work out, and others don’t. But with dedication and attention to detail over time, growth marketing can result in huge wins.
How to Learn Growth Hacking?
Successful growth hacking typically means knowing a little bit about every marketing channel. This will help you form experiments and test theories across a range of channels, rather than the one you may be an expert in.
A marketer that has a good understanding of a wide range of channels is called a T-shaped marketer.
It’s tough to gain such a wide range of knowledge, but thankfully there are plenty of resources on the internet to help.
If you want to grow in SEO, check out:
- Our SEO Process - How to Reach 200,000+ Monthly Traffic
- How To Write SEO Content (That Ranks #1 In 2021)
- SEO Case Study (2020) - 7 Steps To 197,514 Monthly Traffic
If you want to grow in content marketing, check out:
- The Content Marketing Institute
- HubSpot’s Guide on Content Strategy
- Content Marketing Case Study - $50,000+ From ONE Article
If you want to grow in PPC, check out:
If you want to grow in social media, check out:
And finally, if you want to grow in email marketing, check out:
Hope you liked our comprehensive list of the most popular growth hacking examples.
Companies world-wide have used these hacks to rocket-boost their growth, and hopefully, you’ve learned a thing or two you can use to apply to your own business.
And remember - growth hacking isn’t just the process of implementing some cheap hacks or tricks. It’s a methodology of testing out new tactics, measuring KPIs, and scaling best performing channels & tactics!