Hacking Growth - Sean Ellis, Morgan Brown

Hacking Growth - Sean Ellis, Morgan Brown

Discover how this strategy will enhance the growth of your business through the recognition of opportunities and less use of resources.

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Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown will take you on a journey of innovation and development with the book “Hacking Growth”.

Understand everything about this new methodology that has been conquering not only marketing professionals but engineers, programmers, businessmen, and entrepreneurs.

And that's not all! This strategy has already been successfully used in companies such as Airbnb, Dropbox, and Twitter.

Welcome to the Growth Hacking flight. Are you prepared to hack your growth and improve your results? Then come with us, because we will take off in 3...2...1...

About the book “Hacking Growth”

The book “Hacking Growth: How Today's Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success” was published on 25 April 2017, by Currency.

Presenting this new idea called Growth Hacking, the authors were able to share their knowledge in a didactic way, detailing concepts, presenting definitions, and the best of all: with practical examples.

The book is divided into two parts: “The Method” and “The Growth Hacking Playbook”, with a total of 320 pages.

Who are authors Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown?

Entrepreneur, investor, and startup consultant, Sean Ellis is none other than the developer of the Growth Hacking concept.

Today, Sean also gives lectures to startups and large companies and has already been featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Morgan Brown has been a marketing professional for decades, focused on helping companies achieve growth and traction (momentum).

Speaker at major conferences such as SXSW, CTA, and HubSpot, Morgan is part of Inman News, an American market intelligence company.

To whom is this book indicated?

The book “Hacking Growth” is for entrepreneurs, startups, and big organizations.

There are no boundaries for Growth Hacking! As we will see in the next topics, this strategy is the result of a joint effort between different areas of the company, combining forces in order to promote growth.

So, if you want to get your business into a growth path, you've come to the right place!

Main teachings of the book “Hacking Growth”

Before we go further into the content, let's take a look at the highlights of the book:

  • Analysis and experimentation are key to growth;
  • A qualified team is crucial;
  • Create products that will cause the “AHA!” moment and will be “must-have” for your consumers;
  • Analyzing and getting to know your customers in depth is essential.

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[Book Summary] Hacking Growth - Sean Ellis, Morgan Brown

After all, what is Growth Hacking?

According to Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown, Growth Hacking is a philosophy of growth that can be summarized in two terms: data analysis and experimentation.

Basically, the objective is to have ideas and test them. By doing it, you will know which ones are valid and generate results.

Following this thought, this methodology works as a cycle, where analyzed data creates ideas, which are tested. These ideas are analyzed and generate new ones, completing the cycle of analysis, experiments, and, consequently, growth.

Later, we will show you how this cycle works, but we will give you a spoiler now, showing the 4 stages of the cycle, which works as follows:

Analyze > Ideate > Prioritize > Test

In short, Growth Hacking is something that will unite the company, the areas of technology, engineering, and marketing, to “hack” the processes and leverage the company's growth, through detailed analysis and quick experiments that will provide relevant information. And the best of all: at a low cost!

What are the main steps to implement the method?

Okay! We already know the concept of Growth Hacking!

We took the first step, but the journey still requires other understandings before we can run towards growth. Therefore, in this overview of the book “Hacking Growth”, we will deal with the necessary concepts and see some tips.

Build your team

Great results are made by great people. And for your growth strategy to work, qualified people are essential.

So, you need to build a team full of marketing professionals, right? Wrong!

One of the fundamental premises of Growth Hacking is that there should be no barriers between departments. Everyone must, together, contribute to the growth of the company, analyzing, planning, and experimenting.

In this new methodology, it is important to unite marketing to engineers, managers to designers, forming a multidisciplinary team focused on Growth Hacking strategies.

Want to know who needs to be on your growth team? Here are some members:

  • Growth lead: responsible for managing the team, this leader commands the process, defines the directions to be followed, sets goals, and analyzes results. With the team, the growth lead generates ideas and test them;
  • Product manager: it is who supervises the development of the product and its respective resources. This person has experience in contacting customers - through surveys and interviews - using this information to optimize the development of experiments and data analysis;
  • Software engineers: important pieces for the development of applications, websites, and, in cases of digital products, codes. They have the necessary analytical problem-solving skills;
  • Marketing specialists: they will apply strategies to promote the product, using tools such as email marketing and SEO (search engine optimization mechanisms);
  • Data analysts: who will gather, organize, and perform sophisticated analysis of customer data to obtain insights that lead to ideas for new tests;
  • Product designer: someone responsible for product layout and specifications, working on advertising and promotions, is essential to have a unique design. A professional with experiences that allow you to speed up the execution of tests.

With your team assembled, you need to get your hands dirty. Therefore, here are some points proposed by the book “Hacking Growth” for a team to achieve the best results:

  • Be aware of the process: plan everything that will be done and divide the tasks well;
  • Knowledge management: document the results found, share what has been done. This is fundamental so that mistakes don’t occur again and triumphs are perpetuated;
  • Look for improvements: allied to knowledge management, always look for improvements for the next experiments;
  • Growth meetings: Growth Hacking requires constant meetings to update the progress of the project and brainstorm for new ideas. These are called growth meetings and are a central point in aligning the team and monitoring results.

Finally, it is important to point out that each reality requires different actions. Maybe your team will need a marketing specialist more than software engineers.

So, it is necessary to study your situation and build your growth team according to it, seeking to maximize results.

Define your “Must-Have”

The authors Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown affirm that it’s necessary to understand the perceptions of your brand by the customers. To do so, you can ask them to answer surveys about your products.

Allied to this, you need to develop your product in a way that, when you show it to the customer, the “AHA Moment” happens.

This moment is when consumers realize the importance of what you are offering to their needs and create a bond with it. The “AHA!” makes the product become “must-have”.

The Growth Hacking Cycle

To develop your best ideas and test whether they will be effective, there are 4 steps to be followed, which form the Growth Hacking Cycle:

  1. Analyze;
  2. Ideate;
  3. Prioritize;
  4. Test.

The cycle begins with data analysis and search for information, to provide the initial basis and definition of a problem to be tackled. After that, there will be the generation of ideas, where the team will conduct brainstorming and discussions to have good solutions for the chosen problem.

These ideas will be translated into experiments that should be prioritized and, thus, executed. In the end, the results are analyzed and this cycle begins again.

Step by step

The authors Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown start saying that the growth lead will get the team together, explain the steps, and assign the roles of each team member.

At this point, the analysis is done, which will generate the initial data for to understand the project. The data analyst has to present the necessary information and provide answers to questions such as:

  • How do the best customers behave? (What do they buy? When do they buy? How much do they spend?);
  • What are the characteristics of these customers? (What is their profile? Where do they live? Do they use the competitors’ products?);
  • What makes the customer not to use the product (it can be apps and websites too)? (Where is the highest drop-out rate? Is there anything preventing user interaction? What is the relationship between customers who buy and those who give up?).

With the data in hand and analyzed, the next phase is ideation. Now the team will build a list with several ideas, to generate a continuous flow of experiments.

Of course, there will be good and bad ideas, but the authors quote Linus Pauling in the book “Hacking Growth”, affirming that it’s by having many ideas that you get a good one.

That why’s there can be no censorship. Every idea is valid. Also, it’s important to define the following items:

  • Name of the idea;
  • Description;
  • Hypotheses: What will this idea provide for the project?
  • Metrics to be surveyed: what will be monitored to identify the success of the idea?

Subsequently, these ideas will be prioritized, starting the next step. According to the book “Hacking Growth”, the factors that will be evaluated are:

  • Impact: it will be the positive impact that the idea will have on the defined metrics;
  • Confidence: the team should ask themselves how much they believe that the idea can create the imagined impact, that is, how much they trust it;
  • Ease: time and resources required for this idea.

Once the ideas have been defined according to the above criteria, they can be scored, compared and, thus, prioritized. For example, ideas that have a greater impact should be prioritized over those that have a small impact, while those with greater ease will have higher priority.

After choosing them, it is time to test. It’s the practical part of the methodology, where the ideas are carried out and will generate data for the next stage.

Once the tests are performed, it is time to return to the beginning, analyze the data from the previous test, absorb the learnings, and restart the cycle.

Thus, the cycle of continuous learning and experimentation goes on, with new ideas being applied and growth coming as a consequence, as Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown state.

How to use Growth Hacking?

Now let’s understand how to use growth hacks for the following topics:

  • Acquisition;
  • Activation;
  • Retention;
  • Monetization.


As explained by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown, attracting customers to your brand and convincing them to buy is the starting point of the relationship between your company and them.

Acquiring customers is a challenge, even more without making excessive investments. Many companies spend fortunes on marketing and advertising and don’t have the expected return on customer acquisition.

To help you, the authors present in the book “Hacking Growth” techniques to acquire new users and take them to the next stage:

  • Use the right language according to your target audience;
  • Communication channels are also essential;
  • Create a compelling message: your company needs to send a message to the client, give an impression that will delight him, pass information, and create a connection.


After attracting your potential customer, you need to make them use your product and be your client.

They need to have a good experience with what you are offering.

The first step presented by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown is to map your funnel and find every point that leads the customer to the “AHA!” moment.

Research is key! With this path mapped, analyze the steps, segment customers, identify which ones have the highest rate of adherence and evasion, and draw up plans to improve them. Here are some points to be analyzed:

  • Trajectory in the funnel;
  • Customer adhesion and evasion at each stage of the funnel;
  • How many have reached the “AHA!” moment?
  • Through which channels did customers arrive?

Once you identify the causes of evasion, you can design a solution to delight people and turn them into customers, increasing your conversion rate.


There is no point in conquering clients if we don’t get to retain them. That's why it’s essential to strengthen the connection between the client and the company.

The authors share in the book “Hacking Growth” a great example of customer retention and engagement: Amazon. Its subscription service, Amazon Prime, offers several benefits, such as free short-term delivery and streaming of movies and music.

The data presented in the book shows that among the people who take the free trial, 73% become subscribers, 91% renew for the second year, and 96% for the third year.

To achieve customer retention, Ellis and Brown suggest that your company can test reward-based engagement strategies, such as:

  • Recognition based on engagement: The more engaged the customer, the greater their recognition by the brand, for example, users who are elected “super fans” when they interact a lot with a Facebook page;
  • Rewarding engagement: Like Amazon’s example, it is offering benefits to customers who become subscribers;
  • Recognition based on achievements: It’s about recognizing or rewarding customers who achieve goals. For example, Fitbit, the exercise platform, recognizes its customers when they reach 10,000 steps.


The last step, the monetization, comes as a consequence of the previous steps because if they are successful, the company gets the financial return.

The authors Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown recommend that you get to know your clients. Who they are and what they want. This way, it will be possible to have the best ideas to complete the previous stages and generate greater financial returns for your company.

Other books on marketing strategies

The book “Marketing 4.0”, by Philip Kotler, Hermawan Kartajaya and Iwan Setiawan, brings the importance of always paying attention to changes in the digital world and how they affect marketing. It’s the same for Growth Hacking because these changes will provide new forms of experimentation and new data to be analyzed.

Jay Conrad Levinson, in his book “Guerrilla Marketing”, presents a way to create more impact in marketing with lower costs. He suggests digital media as essential in promoting the brand and the product, using tools such as email marketing, for example.

Finally, the author of “Dotcom Secrets”, Russell Brunson, reinforces the importance of having a target audience and to do your marketing based on this persona. It's important to engage people, so they will follow you because they feel a connection.

Right, but how can I apply this growth hack in my business?

  • Create the best team;
  • Keep innovation going. New ideas can't stop!
  • Encourage the ideation;
  • Unlock new channels: get away from the basics;
  • Go deep! Look for new data to analyze and deepen the studies;
  • Raise the stakes: don't be afraid to dream bigger;
  • Understand that each reality is different. What worked with company X will not necessarily work with you and vice versa;
  • The implementation of Growth Hacking won’t happen overnight. Start with smaller experiments and build up over time, as you gain experience;
  • Focus on specific metrics, with simple objectives and, as you achieve success, set more challenging goals.

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Book 'Hacking Growth'