If you’re a startup founder, you probably have one major question: how can I grow my company without spending a $1,000?
Well, there’s a term for that "Growth hacking". Growth hacking is a process that involves creating marketing strategies that aim to make a product viral. It's not for everyone, but for certain companies, these techniques can be extremely effective—and can even help you grow your business from nothing to something over the course of a few months or years.
Below are some famous growth hacking examples, where companies achieved massive growth with close to no spending. Who knows? Maybe one of these approaches will work for you!
Growth Hacking Examples That Taught Us to Think Outside the Box
Growth hacking example of Clubhouse
We can say that Clubhouse is a perfect example of how a brand can become successful through marketing. The thing that makes Clubhouse different from other audio-related social media platforms is that it has managed to create a sense of exclusivity.
In fact, this is one of the best marketing strategies that brands can use in order to attract more customers. They have somehow managed to put people in a ‘’VIP situation’’ and yet make them feel special about it. It was kind of like creating an illusion for their customers to make them feel like they are part of something big here.
The Bottom Line
We all know that humans are social animals, and we like to feel like we belong. It's one of the reasons we love social media—we get to be part of a community and bond with our friends and family by liking, commenting on, and sharing each other's posts.
That feeling of being included is so rewarding that we'll even pay for it! And that's exactly where brands come in.
Companies want us to feel like insiders, too. They want us to feel tied into the company like we're part of the team because when we feel included, we're more likely to spend money! So instead of just advertising their products and services as they used to in the old days (you know, back before everyone had access to the internet), they're now trying a different tactic: they're making us feel special.
By offering discounts or special promotions only available to select people (typically ones who are already customers), companies are creating a sense of exclusivity that makes us feel like we've been invited into an elite club.
This exclusivity has proven so effective at driving sales that companies have started using it as a marketing strategy in its own right—and it's working!
Growth hacking example of Puma
Have you ever wondered why some brands seem to get all the attention? They have a simple secret. They know how to make good marketing work for them.
Puma, one of the world's most successful sports brands, is an example of this kind of success. In the 1970 World Cup finals, they showed their marketing genius. Pele was asked to tie his shoes before the kickoff and Pele did it. The cameras focused on him and his Puma's, making people realize the world's best footballer wore a Puma.
How much did Pele get paid? $120,000! That's a lot of money for just crouching and lacing his shoes — but it worked! People realized that if you want to be as good as Pele, you should wear Puma shoes.
Puma's decision to use this tactic during a time when social media wasn't even invented was bold, but it paid off for them in the long run. If you're looking for a way to get your product out there without breaking the bank, try contacting one of your company's biggest fans or influencers in your industry and see if they'd be willing to help you out.
The Bottom Line
Figure out how to approach influencer marketing for your own business. Find your ideal audience and make sure that your message reaches that audience in an authentic and effective way.
Growth hacking example of Unsplash
When people think of Unsplash, they think of a hipster influencer named “Jane Doe” who has an Instagram following of 12 million. She’s a total trendsetter. When she posts something on her profile, it gets shared and commented on by her 12 million followers, and the next thing you know, Unsplash is getting a lot more exposure for the photos of their users that they showcased in their galleries.
Because people like to be praised, Jane Doe’s followers don’t mind being used as sources for content for other companies. And that means that Unsplash is now able to get incredible amounts of user-generated content without having to pay thousands of dollars or spend hours trawling the internet for quality photos themselves.
The Bottom Line
People love being praised—and they tend to pay attention when they're praised. So if you praise someone, they may pay attention to what you're saying.
If you use that tactic, consider praising someone who has a larger audience than yours. That way, you'll be able to reach more people—and maybe even convert some of those listeners into customers or clients.
Growth hacking example of Twitter
If you're trying to grow your business, it can seem like there's a lot at stake. And that pressure can make you start to feel desperate. So desperate, in fact, that you'll try anything—even "growth hacking."
It's tempting, especially when it comes to growth hacking. It sounds like something that could give you the upper hand on your competition, right?
But here's the deal: Growth hacking is a strategy based on testing and uncovering the nature of user experience on your platform, and then remodeling that platform for improved user experience.
Twitter used this approach, but there were two major factors that made their growth hacking strategy successful:
The company had only just emerged from beta and was still working out its bugs.
They had an engaged community of users who were eager to help with bug-fixing, troubleshooting, and overall improvement of the platform.
So if you're considering growth hacking for your business… just know that if it worked for Twitter, that doesn't mean it will work for you.
The Bottom Line
Twitter's success can be attributed to its focus on testing and improving its platform for a better user experience.
Growth hacking example of Flowrite
If you've ever been frustrated by the amount of time it takes to craft an intelligent, well-written email, you're not alone.
Flowrite was founded in 2020 by Aaro Isosaari, CEO and cofounder of Flowrite, and Karolus Sariola – CTO and cofounder of Flowrite. The pair began working on a project that, within a few weeks, evolved into Flowrite and a $550,000 pre-seed round.
Flowrite is a productivity tool to generate better emails for different purposes, from sales to hiring usine AI. The app turns short instructions into ready-to-send emails in your personal style. It lets you write emails faster and makes your life easier.
The service was in beta when it decided to try a growth hacking strategy to expand its userbase. The company created a “waiting list” for Flowrite access. When new users signed up, they were presented with a long list of other users ahead of them in line before they could get into the beta version of the service.
But there was one shortcut: new users could jump to the front of the line by spreading the word about Flowrite to their network of friends on various platforms. Each referral sent Flowrite's way would move new users one step closer to getting access to the service.
This technique converted new users into Flowrite marketers as they marketed to their network of friends on various platforms – without having spent any money on marketing at all. After just a few weeks, Flowrite had hundreds of new users waiting for beta access, and many more were coming in thanks to the referral program.
The Bottom Line
Getting people excited about new products is hard. You need to make something that stands out, and you need a strategy for getting it in front of the right people. If you want to skyrocket your growth without spending too much on marketing, you should consider implementing a strategy like Flowrite's.
Growth hacking example of Tinder
Tinder is an online dating app that is popular among the youth. The app has been around for some time now and has served over 20 billion matches, with 1.5 billion swipes per day. This is no small achievement for a free app that was only launched in 2012.
However, this achievement did not come easy; Tinder was faced with numerous challenges at the start of its operations. There were many competitors (Tinder being a copycat of Hot or Not) who offered similar services as Tinder, and it took a lot of effort to stand out and gain popularity.
They used a simple strategy to get new users — they organized frat parties on campuses around the country where students had to download and use the app to gain entrance into these parties.
The idea was so successful that it helped them grow exponentially while becoming one of the most popular dating sites in the world.
The Bottom Line
It's not a secret that Tinder has become a household name. In fact, it is one of the most popular dating apps in the world. It even has a different Tinder app for people who are looking for something more than just a quick hook-up. However, there was one thing that made Tinder so popular: it was able to create virality.
Growth hacking example of Buffer
Buffer helps you manage your social media presence. It's a simple social management and sharing tool that lets you post to all your accounts from one place. Buffer has grown tremendously since its launch in 2010, and a lot of that growth can be attributed to the company's acquisition of Digg Digg, the popular "floating share bar" tool.
It's a great example of how an acquisition can serve as a growth hack—and how an approach like this is really just changing the way we think about marketing and business.
The floating share bar, which lets users click and share pages on social media sites, was purchased by Buffer in 2013. By default, the social sharing tool uses the Buffer button. By acquiring this popular plugin, Buffer was able to reach a new audience for its product: anyone who used the free Digg Digg plugin on their site.
In addition to getting in front of more people, Buffer also was able to use the data it gained from Digg Digg users to improve its own features and offerings. This type of cross-pollination is something that happens when companies combine resources—but it's not always considered when evaluating an acquisition or merger.
The Bottom Line
Buffer has now been around for over 7 years, and as a result of this experience, they have developed and refined their features to the point where they offer much more than just scheduling social media posts.
Buffer has now taken over many social platforms and their Buffer feature which makes the site much more appealing, while attracting a large number of users. When you see a new user on Buffer, it's not hard to see who is using it.
You can easily tell that they are new by their name or profile picture. This is very important because it makes Buffer seem like a much more professional community than some other social media sites.
Growth hacking example of Hubspot
The team behind Hubspot, a company that provides inbound marketing and sales software, knows how to make people want to engage with their brand. They’ve created a free tool called the Website grader that helps users evaluate their sites for SEO friendliness, mobile friendliness, and speed—with no strings attached.
With the Website grader, you just type in your URL, fill out some information about what kind of site you have, and click “get report.” The results give you a breakdown of your site’s performance on the three metrics mentioned above, with tips for improving those metrics. You can enter your email to get the results sent to you.
Hubspot uses this tool as a way to build their mailing list; anyone who enters their email address is added to Hubspot’s email list and receives promotional emails from them (as well as regular email updates about their website performance).
This move has paid off in spades. In 2015, the company’s founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah credited the website grader tool as a key part of growing the company to 15,000 users and a $1.6 billion market value.
The Bottom Line
So there you have it—a free tool is one more way to help your customers while also growing your own business.
Growth hacking example of Dropbox
Dropbox, the service that allows you to sync and share files online using a cloud based platform, has had an incredibly successful marketing strategy during its brief but explosive existence. A service like Dropbox needs people to spread the word about their platform in order to survive, even small companies.
As a result of this need, they created what is arguably the most established referral program in history.
Dropbox’s invite-a-friend program is a stellar example of viral growth. This viral loop made it possible for the startup to start generating revenue before it was actually cash flow positive. It was a win-win situation; Dropbox got more users, and so did its new customers and without paying for pricey online ads.
By allowing people to refer other new members, they leveraged their already large customer base and made the onboarding process even easier. They fell into the trap of having separate referral links for each platform which ultimately affected the conversion rate. They then fixed this by integrating their referral program with Facebook and Google. This allowed users to invite their friends and receive credit when they signed up through the program.
The Bottom Line
Dropbox is a stellar example of viral growth. Viral loops can help startups grow without spending a ton of money on ads. Dropbox's invite-a-friend program was an excellent example of this. It allowed the startup to grow without having to spend money on pricey online ads, and it did so in a way that benefited everyone involved. Expect your customer base to grow if you adopt an incentivized referral plan too.
Growth hacking example of AirBnB
Disruptive ideas are often the product of desperation. For Airbnb that desperation was the need to find a place to stay when the hotels around them were sold out. This company is now the world’s leading community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique spaces around the world with over 25 million guests served.
At first, Airbnb didn’t have the budget for marketing. Their strategy was to grow their network organically through solid word-of-mouth. They would make their product so great that users were encouraged to spread the word about it without any extra prompting.
It worked surprisingly well in the beginning. Airbnb provided a luxury service at an affordable price, which meant they could easily woo guests and hosts alike with their excellent customer service.
Airbnb goes to great lengths to make their site user-friendly for their guests. The description of each listing provides detailed information about the space and its features, including reviews and pictures taken by professional photographers.
Among their strategies for gaining bookings, improving the photos is a simple tactic that makes a big difference.They were afterwards able to hire plenty of photographers from around the world to execute the task on demand.
If you’ve ever wondered how Airbnb managed to gain traction and eventually become the biggest community-driven hospitality service in the world, you’re not alone. We’ve been following this company long enough to realize they were just a startup like any other one.
But unlike others, they used a clever Craigslist API reverse engineering hack to inflate their user base by millions each month and quickly achieve traction.
The Bottom Line
Some development hacks, such as taking better photos, are so basic that it's difficult to believe how effective they may be. Others can be quite difficult (like reverse-engineering an API).
Growth hacking example of Hotmail
In the early days of the web, companies like Yahoo and Hotmail were targeting business customers, who often already had corporate email. That meant they had to find a way to advertise their service, but it was expensive. It would have been easy to increase the price of the free accounts, but instead they decided on an alternative strategy.
"We believe one of the reasons Hotmail has been so successful is that “we got into it before anyone else thought of putting adverts in e-mail," Sabeer Bhatia, a co-founder of Hotmail had said in an interview back in 2000.
It’s hard to deny this statement — at the time, an investor suggested putting the text “PS I love you. Get your free E-mail at Hotmail” at the bottom of every e-mail sent from their platform — it may seem corny, but it was the first of a now very common practice. Take the examples of “Sent from my iPhone” or “Sent from my Blackberry”.
It was offered for free, which meant that Hotmail had to find another way to monetize their services (as most companies do). Here’s where it got interesting: Hotmail essentially turned every single user into a free advertisement for their services, and soon began acquiring 3,000 new signups per day. By 1997, they sold the company to Microsoft at $400 Million with 12 Million users.
The Bottom Line
This message is an example of one of the most powerful conversion tools used by corporations. It's the customer testimonial. Hotmail has effectively turned everyone who clicked on their message into an unpaid salesman. By using a friend's name, the note is given more authenticity and makes the reader click because it appears to be from a friend and not some rich company owner.
Growth hacking example of Paypal
When PayPal started up in 1999, they used a referral system. In fact they even helped launch an affiliate program at the same time. It’s here that growth expert John Jantsch shares some valuable insights from his book “The Referral Engine” on how you can improve your business using referrals.
The trick here is to really focus on the users, and not so much on the number of signups. Long-term, sustainable growth will result as a consequence of this.
PayPal has implemented ingenious strategies in the past to attract new users. In many ways, they set out to make a smart investment by paying the users that referred their friends to the product.You and your friend would both receive $10 each time a friend you referred created an account. It made perfect sense for them to invest in their own referral system because they knew their customer lifetime value was greater than $20.
Furthermore, PayPal joined with eBay, which paved the road for their success:
Without paying a single dime, PayPal was now getting one step closer to becoming an important payment service by jumping on the site of their huge competitors. In effect, this move was a bold competitive response against more established players in an attempt to directly tap into the transactional bread and butter of the credit card industry.
However, in order to purchase something on eBay from a seller who only accepted PayPal (as was becoming more popular), you had to open your own account.
The Bottom Line
Growth hacking isn't just about ingenuity and imagination. Good old-fashioned economics also plays a significant role... the combination of the three always works.
Growth hacking example of Instagram
Instagram is a perfect illustration of product-market fit, as growth hackers like to call it (or PMF). In no time, the startup had created a social media platform that was not only popular among the masses, but was also becoming the de facto standard for photo sharing.
The founders of Instagram were not your average entrepreneurs.
This experience taught them a lot about what makes people tick in the online world. For example, they knew that being able to share pictures with friends and strangers is an integral part of social interaction.
That’s why they decided to have people add friends before posting pictures, so that they could share their pictures with other people instead of just tagging their locations.
The story of the rise of Instagram is one of those stories that few businesses have the pleasure of experiencing. It was a product that people excitedly invited their friends to use, instead of one that had to be advertised. When you look at the rise of other social networks, it has become clear that this word of mouth effect is incredibly rare.
The way in which people spread the product and created an explosion in users can’t really be compared to anything else. There are perhaps a handful of products that have had this same kind of growth.
Influencer marketing, a new phenomenon in the advertising industry, had its humble beginnings with the founders of Instagram. Through their leadership and ingenuity, they turned “Influencer” into a verb for most digital marketing practitioners today.
The Bottom Line
A lot of companies start off with a bang but then lose momentum and fail to reach their full potential. A lot of founders and business owners think they can handle everything by themselves, but that's when things spiral out of control. If you want to achieve great success, you need the right growth hacking tools and a plan to guide you through the hard times.
Growth hacking example of Slack
Slack reinvented internal communication — and the way companies treated their employees. In other words, a product needs to have a value for the users. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I’ll tell you about it in a second. The first thing we need to wrap our head around is that Slack has achieved incredible market success.
Slack is selling a promise and a hope: “They were (still are) not selling a software solution. Slack is selling a promise: 'less information overload,' 'less stress,' 'better organizations and teams,' 'all your team communication, instantly available wherever you go,' and so on.
In other words, they have been selling as much as possible of the psychological benefits brought by their product. It was this approach that helped Slack bring their business to the investors. Not marketing or technical aspects - they concentrated solely on the benefits of their product.
When compared to its competitors, Slack puts a higher emphasis on customer experience. The challenge is that the market for team communication software was already pretty crowded before Slack entered the digital arena.
Some of their competitors include HipChat and Yammer — both of which already had loyal customer bases with an existing footprint in the enterprise space. With about 8,000 Zendesk help requests and over 10,000 tweets every month, they also commit resources in responding to client feedback.
Slack received 8,000 invitation requests on the first day of the "Preview Release." That number had risen to 15,000 in just two weeks.
The Bottom Line
Slack grew its user base in two significant ways — HN publicity & word of mouth. But it didn’t stop there. Slack focused on building a brand that built trust and comfort for people who used the product.
Growth hacking example of Uber
Uber has been quite smart in their strategy to enter new markets, tailoring their approach to each new city they visit.
Uber is one of the most popular ridesharing services to date, and for good reason. Their app has made it ridiculously simple to call a car at the touch of a button — value proposition from an app user's point of view, perfect execution on their end as it seamlessly connects you with whichever driver is available in your area.
That’s not all though. Uber also got another crucial part right: they chose where they would offer service based on what their customer needed.
The first time users took an Uber, they knew it was a great experience. But, to maximize the chances that these people would become repeat customers, incentives were needed. As soon as you got off the ride (and even before your customer deleted the app), Uber sent a text message with a $20 credit, making it incredibly easy for you to book another ride.
Uber has been an amazing success story, but it also came with legal battles and criticism. One of their biggest challenges was starting up in cities that had taxi monopolies.
But Uber rose above the legal obstacles and created a new industry around its simple taxi service concept. They have earned billions of dollars, have expanded rapidly across the globe, and are growing into other industries, such as deliveries and freight.
The Bottom Line
Traditionally, marketing and advertising are seen as the only ways to promote a business or product. This model has been used by businesses for many years now, but oftentimes it becomes inefficient. Uber is a part of a growing trend in unconventional marketing.
Growth hacking example of Tesla
Tesla is a very innovative company that is changing the way we look at and use cars. Since its creation, Tesla has produced over 600.000 cars, proving it to be one of the most successful car companies in the world with a 0$ marketing budget .
The company was founded by Elon Musk, who is also behind several other start-ups such as Paypal and SpaceX. So, how did Tesla accomplish emission-free cars that go from zero to 60 miles per hour in seconds, with very little noise?
Tesla knows how to tackle this. While other car brands turn towards TV ads, billboards, and other traditional marketing methods, Tesla doesn’t. Instead, they are turning towards word-of-mouth marketing where customers of the brand actually promote the brand for them.
The unique marketing approach is making Tesla one of the most talked-about brands today.
Tesla didn’t just build a car and start selling. The company’s goal has always been to provide a service which helps shape the future of cars. To note, this is why Tesla doesn’t have dealerships as they believe you shouldn't have to pay extra money to buy a product.
That kind of approach is called ‘direct sales.’ Car shoppers usually expect somebody who can help them with questions and offer the best price on their car. However, in Tesla’s case, there are no sales staff or showrooms. The only way for you to own one of their vehicles is to order one online and configure it according to your personal preferences.
When it comes to a solid referral program there are a lot of ways to ensure that the experience remains worthwhile for the customers engaging in the referral program. The Tesla Referral Program is no stranger to providing new and existing owners with some impressive incentives, but it does so with a much more subtle approach than you would expect from your typical car company. And for that matter, it does so in a way that earns its place as one of the best referral programs in the business.
You can’t deny that car was a hit. A concept so appealing it was received with open arms by bloggers and media all over. But, believe it or not, Tesla is doing all this marketing through a mission. Their product is to save the planet from climate change and make you happy while doing it. This idea of creating an association with a social impact is something most brands should take into consideration.
The Bottom Line
With all this talk about disruptive business models, We thought it would be a great time to highlight a company that has managed to build a disruptive business model throughout their entire organization. The automobile manufacturer Tesla has experienced negative effects from traditional marketing tactics and instead decided to offer a unique customer experience —which translates into low costs for employing high amounts of marketing activities essential for their success.
Growth hacking example of Linkedin
People used to visit a company’s website, click on the ‘About us’ section and find information about the organization, as well as pictures of executives and employees. LinkedIn made this obsolete by creating public profiles that search engines would index.
One of the first things a person would see when they searched for a company on Google was its profile on LinkedIn, which featured key stats about the organization.
Who would have guessed that it was a simple hack to convert visitors into users? Yet, this is exactly what helped LinkedIn grow from 2M to 200M in a few years. Simply put, the more people we know, the more likely we can connect with our potential clients.
This is why LinkedIn offers an option for its users to invite people and expand their network. After a couple of years, LinkedIn got rid of the hack so they could get unlimited user growth.
The Bottom Line
LinkedIn started out as a site for career-minded professionals. These professionals wanted to connect with, or find and evaluate, other professionals in their industry; this was LinkedIn’s core value proposition: helping people build a professional network.
Growth hacking example of Dollar Shave Club
Michael Dubin wouldn’t let big competitors stop him from enjoying a great product. So he decided to launch Dollar Shave Club in 2012 — and Gillette certainly wasn't happy about that. With this story, we’ll show you how you can use the power of video marketing to stand out from the competition and prove a market fit.
It all began with a Video clip. Yep. A video that has gone viral. A video that has received over 26 million views has catapulted them to the top of the market. Within two days, the video had generated over 12000 orders.
To begin with, the Dollar Shave Club provided a cost-effective remedy to an issue that many people were unaware of. Product Market Fit is what we call it.
In the early days, Dollar Shave Club wanted to grow their email list but also make people aware of their product and how it could benefit them. With this goal in mind, they built a video using sarcasm and stereotypes that they uploaded on several platforms. As it turned out, the video received multiple awards and transformed a boring topic: shaving, into a hilarious story that got shared on social media.
The Dollar Shave Club has done a great job of mixing video, humor and direct promotions in an email campaign that gets tons of engagement. Their content is fun, authentic, and memorable. They are not afraid to talk about their brand or product and make consumers feel like a part of the club.
The Bottom Line
Encourage your customers to engage with you. It will boost your sales and help you build a loyal customer pool. You can use different marketing automation tools for engagement.
Growth hacking example of Youtube
The online video giant YouTube is one of the greatest hacks or “virality hacks” if you want to call it that. It didn’t start as a viral platform. In 2005, the founders were paying more attention to Google Video and decided to create their own video-hosting site. However, they realized that there was no user-friendly way for users to upload content on their website.
They created a system simple enough for average users to upload and embed videos wherever they wanted. People rapidly began to use the platform to host videos that they then shared on other websites. Of course, each of these videos included a link to its own platform. That’s how it started. This hack allowed YouTube to become what it is today.
YouTube is by far one of the best video services in the world. It’s a platform where anyone can upload their videos without having to worry about complicated formatting for each individual video player, or limit your upload to a length of time that customers would be eager to pay for. Aside from being available on most devices for free, the traffic potential is endless. This is why YouTube currently has over 1 billion unique viewers every month thanks to this innovative feature.
The Bottom Line
When YouTube was launched, it was unlike anything that had ever been created. It lets users view and upload videos for the entire Internet to see. In doing so, they realized they had given an audience of millions a reason to sign up; which is exactly what they did. YouTube now has 1 billion monthly active users and over 20 million businesses globally using their platform for everything from Marketing to Customer service.
As a Spotify user, you are probably aware of the company's "Wrapped" feature. Wrapped is a section on Spotify that shows you the music and genres you listened to most over the year. The feature also tells you how many minutes you listened to music this year, what the top artist and song were, and more.
This year, like every year, Wrapped has become incredibly popular with Spotify users around the world, who flock to Instagram and Twitter to share their results. Spotify's strategy is very data-driven: by taking a look at your data (number of minutes spent on the app, favorite artists, % listening to an artist...), they can get results that are incredibly accurate and personalized.
The effect is undeniable: in 2020, the number of downloads of the app jumped by 20%, and it was all thanks to Wrapped.
Principles For The Effective Implementation of a Growth Hacking
Stand Out From The Crowd
In order to attract new customers and keep them coming back, your product or service needs to stand out from the crowd. There are many ways to make your company unique, but one of the most important is by developing an innovative approach that sets you apart from the rest.
Offer Free Stuff
People love free stuff! What better way to get people excited about your product than by giving it away for FREE? Give away samples of your product or service as a way to promote what you have available.
Whether it's solving an everyday problem or providing an innovative solution, people are always looking for ways to make their lives easier. Finding out what people need before they know they even need it will help position yourself as an authority in your field.
It's a Wrap
The above growth hacking examples will give you a new perspective on how to approach your startup marketing. You may end up doing something completely different, but at least you’d be thinking outside the box and could experience explosive growth as a result.
Remember, each of these companies had unique problems to solve. Their growth hacking strategies were tailored to their needs and they succeeded because they had a legitimate reason to take action. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your marketing and figure out what works best for your company.