Typology of Growth Hacking Strategies Along the Growth Hacking Funnel

Document Type : Research Paper


Faculty of Economic, Management and Administrative Science, Semnan University, Semnan, Iran


With the increasing significance of startups in recent times, practitioners and academicians have considered the growth hacking strategies by which these firms could obtain competitive performance gains and play an important role in the world economy. So far, studies have mostly focused on the technical dimensions of these companies, while the business promotions they require and the way they should be leveraged strategically have remained neglected. Thus, the current study attempts to present a qualitative study that could help explain the growth hacking strategies. We employed a multiple-case study approach in this paper and investigated the growth strategies of 13 Iranian startups via semi-structured interviews with their founders. The comparative analyses – with above 90% inter-rater reliability of the coders – concluded in the formation of five groups of growth hacking strategies, namely the growth hacking funnel of acquisition, activation, revenue, retention, and referral. This study developed a deeper understanding of the significance of growth hacking strategies and the mechanisms by which they leveraged towards strengthening the business value.


Main Subjects

Abdullah, M. D., & Hossain, R. M. (2013). A New cooperative marketing strategy for agricultural products in Bangladesh. World Review of Business Research, 3(3), 130 –144.
Al-Adwan, A., Al-Adwan, K. M., & Al-Adwan, A. S. (2019). E-marketing strategic for Jordanian small business to increase sale in local e-market. Academy of Strategic Management Journal, 18(6), 1939-6104.
Armstrong, G., & Kotler, Ph. (2008). Principles of marketing (12th ed.). Pearson Education.
Baltes, L. P. (2015). Content marketing - The fundamental tool of digital marketing. Economic Sciences, 8 (57), 2, 111-118.
Battistella, C., De Toni, A. F., De Zan, G., & Pessot, E. (2017). Cultivating business model agility through focused capabilities: A multiple case study. Journal of Business Research, 73, 65-82.
Biyani, G. (2013). Explained: The actual difference between growth hacking and marketing. http://thenextweb.com/insider/2013/05/05/the-actual-difference-between-growth-hacking-and-marketing-explained/.
Bohnsack, R., & Liesner, M. M. (2019). What the hack? A growth hacking taxonomy and practical applications for firms. Business Horizons, 62 (6), 799-818.
Boudreau, M. C., Gefen, D., & Straub, D. W. (2001). Validation in information systems research: A state-of-the-art assessment. MIS Quarterly, 25(1), 1-16.
Bussgang, J., & Benbarak, N. (2016). Every company needs a growth manager. https://hbr.org/2016/02/every-company-needs-a-growth-manager.
Carfi, C., & Hermann, F. (2013). A guide to growing your user base and revenues with lean marketing. https://www.slideshare.net/netzkobold/the-beginners-guide-to-growth-hacking.
Cho, Y., Lee. Ch., & Mok, E. (2017). The effects of cooperative activities with competitors on the performances of innovation and management. 2017 IEEE International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management (IEEM), Singapore, pp. 166-170. https://doi.org/10.1109/IEEM.2017.8289873
Chom, V. (2017). Analyzing the cooperative model for startups (unpublished master’s thesis). University of Port, Porto, Portugal.
Chong, A. Y. L., Ch’ng, E., Liu, M. J., & Li, B. (2015). Predicting consumer product demands via big data: The roles of online promotional marketing and online reviews. International Journal of Production Research, 55(17), 5142- 5156.
Coll, P., & Micó, J. L. (2019). El growth hacking en la estrategia de captación de audiencias en la nueva economía. Hipertext.net, (18), 14-22. https://doi.org/:10.31009/hipertext.net.2019.i18.02
Dalaman, I. (2017). Overview of growth hacking: The evaluation of implementation on Uber. International Journal of Economics, Commerce and Management, 7(6), 60-77.
Ellis, S. (2010). Find a growth hacker for your startup. http://www.startup-marketing.com/where-are-all-the-growth-hackers/.
Ellis, S., & Brown, M. (2017). Hacking growth: How today’s fastest-growing companies drive breakout success (1st ed.). Virgin Books.
Elezovic, V. (2017). The value of growth hacking: Business development manual for Emi- Rent Properties (unpublished bachelor’s thesis). Haaga- Helia University of Applied Science.
Fechter, J. (2017). Growth hacking: Strategies and techniques from marketing’s 25 most influential leaders. https://mashable.com/2017/11/07/influencer-markting-tips-tricks-25-most-influential/.
Ferrell, O. C., & Hartline, M. O. (2011). Marketing strategy. South-Western Cengage Learning.
Geru, M., Rusu, E., & Capatina, A. (2014). Growth hacking practices in a start-up: A case study of Thecon.Ro. Risk in Contemporary Economy International Conference, Galati, Romania.
Gia, H. K. (2017). Attaining success through growth hacking (unpublished bachelor’s thesis). Lahti University of Applied Sciences.
Godfred, Y. G. (2018). The farmapine model: A cooperative marketing strategy and a market-based development approach in Sub-Saharan Africa. International Journal of Agriculture System (IJAS), 5(1), 24-32.
Iranian Journal of Management Studies (IJMS) 2021, 14(2): 331-346 345
Gopalkrishnan, V., Guszcza, J., Lewis, H., & Steier, D. M. (2012). Big data, big business: Bridging the gap. Proceedings of the ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining. https://doi.org/10.1145/2351316.2351318
Gregor, S. (2006). The nature of theory in information systems. MIS Quarterly, 30(3), 611-642.
Grin, C. (2016). A study into growth hacking based on Snapchat, Spotify, and 9GAG case studies (unpublished bachelor´s thesis). Erasmus University Rotterdam Faculty of Economics and Business Marketing, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Hartmann, M., Klink, J., & Simons, J. (2015). Cause related marketing in the German retail sector: Exploring the role of consumers’ trust. Food Policy, 52, 108-114.
Herttua, T. Jakob, E., Nava, S., Gupta, R., & Zylka, M. (2016). Designing networks for innovation and improvisation. Proceedings of the 6th International COINs Conference In: Zylka, M. P., Fuehres, H., Fronzetti Colladon, A., Gloor, P. A. (Eds). Part of the Springer Proceedings in Complexity book series (SPCOM) (pp.151-161). Springer International Publishing. ISBN: 978-3-319-42697-6
Herzberger, T., & Jenny, S. (2018). Growth hacking: Mehr wachstum, mehr kunden, mehr erfolg (1st ed.). Rheinwerk Verlag.
Holiday, R. (2013). Growth hacker marketing: A primer on the future of PR, marketing and advertising. Portfolio Trade. https://books.google.pt/books?id=6R2aAAAAQBAJ
Houston, D. (2011). Dropbox startup lessons learned.http://www.slideshare.net/startuplessonslearned/dropbox-startup-lessons-learned-2011.
Jiang, Y., Shang, J., Liu, Y. & May, J. (2015). Redesigning promotion strategy for e-commerce competitiveness through pricing and recommendation. International Journal of Production Economics, 167, 257-270.
Kilgour, M., Sasser, S. L., & Larke, R. (2015). The social media transformation process: Curating content into strategy. Corporate communications: An International Journal, 20(3), 326-343.
Kolowich, L. (2016). 20 Types of lead generation content to put behind your landing pages. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/lead-gen-content-ideas
Lee, J. (2016). Growth hacking for startups: How growth hacking can utilized for growing startup (unpublished bachelor´s thesis). Oulu University of Applied Sciences.
Lio, W., & Ji, R. (2018). Examining the role of online reviews in Chinese online group buying context: The moderating effect of promotional marketing. Social Science, 7 (141), 17.
Liu, Y., Li, H., Peng, G., L. V., B., & Zhang, C. (2013). Online purchaser segmentation and promotion strategy selection: Evidence from Chinese e-commerce market. Annual Operation Research, 233, 263–27.
Mai, N. K. (2017). Growth hacking as the optimizer of start-ups to grow: The way start-ups could implement growth hacking successfully (unpublished bachelor thesis). Aalto University.
Mattera, M., & Baena, V. (2018). The ball is in your court: Using socially responsible actions as an effective marketing tool. In M.A. Dos Santos (Ed.), Sport media: Marketing and management (pp. 74-87). IGI Global.
McGill, J. (2017). How to develop a content strategy: A start-to-finish guide. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/content-marketing-plan.
Myers, M. D., & Newman, M. (2007). The qualitative interview in IS research: Examining the craft. Information and Organization, 17(1), 2-26.
Opreana, A., & Vinerean, S. (2015). A new development in online marketing: Introducing digital inbound marketing. Expert Journal of Marketing, 3(1), 29-34.
Organ, M. (2017). Cause marketing definition. http:// www.causemarketing.com
Orji, R., Mandryk, R. L., & Vassileva, J. (2015). Gender, age, and responsiveness to Cialdini’s persuasion strategies In: MacTavish T., Basapur S. (eds) Persuasive Technology. Persuasive 2015. Lecture notes in computer Science, Vol 9027. Springer, Cham. http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20306-5-14
Palmer, A. (2011). Cooperative marketing associations: An investigation into the causes of effectiveness. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 10(2), 135-156.
Patel, N., & Taylor, B. (2016). The growth hacking process - The definitive guide to growth hacking. https://www.quicksprout.com/the-definitive-guide-to-growth-hacking-chapter-3
346 Feiz et al.
Piatek, A. (2016). Growth hacking model for B2B SaaS startups: Liquid case, a work project (unpublished master’s thesis). NOVA.
Pulizzi, J. (2012). The rise of storytelling as the new marketing. Springer Science Business Media, 28(2), 116-123
Rauhala, M., & Sarkkinen, L. (2015). Growth hacking a global community (unpublished bachelor’s thesis). Oulu University of Applied Sciences.
Roschier, T. (2018). How can large Finnish companies implement and execute growth hacking (unpublished master’s thesis). Aalto University.
Salemisohi, B. (2015). Growth hacking in start-ups: A case study of IranAuto Oy (unpublished bachelor´s thesis). Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, Pori, Finland.
Siurblyte, V. (2018). Growth hacking as a methodology for user retention in the entrepreneurial venture (unpublished bachelor´s thesis)., Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.
Smoteck, H. (2018). 128 marketing tactics – The most epic growth hacking list. https://blog.linkody.com/seo/growth-hacks-list.
Sobal, A. (2017). 12 different types of advanced marketing content [Infographic]. https://www.weidert.com/whole_brain_marketing_blog/different-types-of-advanced-marketing-content-infographic.
Soni, S. (2016). Cause related marketing versus corporate social responsibility: A modern marketing war. NMIMS Management Review, 29(1), 93-102.
Troisi, O., Maionea, G., Grimaldi, M., & Loia, F. (2019). Growth hacking: Insights on data-driven decision-making from three firms. Industrial Marketing Management. In press.
Veerasamy, V. (2015). Growth, referrals and getting the job done: What Airbnb’s growth team has learnt. http://www.referralcandy.com/blog/referrals-at-airbnb-our-notes-and-takeaways/.
Verlegh, P. W. J., Fransen, M. L., & Kirmani, A. (2015). Persuasion in advertising: When does it work, and when does it not? International Journal of Advertising, 34(1), 3-5.
Vinrean, S. (2017). Content marketing strategy: Definition, objectives and tactics. Expert Journal of Marketing, 5(2), 92-98.
Wilhelm, A. (2015). Google ventures’ Bill Maris says Uber is the fastest-growing company we’ve ever seen. https://techcrunch.com/2015/05/05/google-ventures-bill-maris-says-uber-is-the-fastest growing-company-weve-ever-seen
Yavuz, M. C., & Haseki, M. I. (2010). Cooperative marketing: A case study for a health tourism destination in turkey. European Marketing Conference, Munich, Almanya, Germany, 1 - 03 Haziran 2010, pp.71-78.
Yin, R. K. (2013). Case study research: Design and methods. Sage Publications.
Yo Ho, S. (2016). Making sense of growth hacker marketing (unpublished master’s thesis).Lund University.
Zhu, G., & Gao, X. (2019). Precision retail marketing strategy based on digital marketing model. Science Journal of Business and Management, 7 (1), 33-37.