growth hackerThere’s an aura around the growth hacker: they’re do-it-all marketers, data ninjas, technical wizards and a mix of geekiness and artistry. Growth hackers are celebrated as five-tool players.

But this grand view of growth hackers is exaggerated. Growth hackers aren’t super-heroes or super-marketers. They are people with different skills with a focus on getting things done.

The make-up of a growth hacker was thrust into the spotlight recently when a friend of mine, Jeff Goldenberg, wrote a story on BetaKit: “What does a great growth hacker look like?”. Jeff’s list of growth hacker traits includes being data-obsessed, focused, creative, not afraid to fail, tenacious and team players. It’s a good list but I’ll offer you a slightly different take on the definition of a growth hacker.

They’re agile: These are people who can move quickly and decisively. They can jump on opportunities without missing a beat. They can effectively go with the flow. While growth hackers have strategic plans, they also recognize tactical flexibility is a valuable tool.

They’re experienced: While enthusiasm and energy are important, there’s a lot to be said for having been there and done that. The best decisions often emerge when someone has seen a situation or opportunity. It is about having experience that can be applied without second-guessing or hesitation. It is being able to come up with the right answers or approaches, even when there is incomplete information. 

They’re creative in different ways: A growth hacker can brainstorm and develop different creative concepts and ideas. They can think out of the box and embrace different approaches so they can seize an opportunity or gain a competitive advantage. Growth hackers can leverage text, video and images to drive creative success. They don’t have to be experts in writing blog posts or shooting videos but they know what needs to happen when and how different mediums can be combined for maximum impact.  

They have a willingness to learn new things: A big challenge for growth hackers is the landscape constantly changes. There’s no such thing as resting on your laurels for a growth hacker. They need to learn new skills, embrace new approaches and adopt new tools to stay on top of their games.

They’re collaborative: Growth hackers have the ability and willingness to work with other people. They’re team players who recognize that success happens when different skills are combined. Growth hackers are not territorial or think they have all the answers. A  growth hacker understands their skill-set and appreciates what others bring to the table.

They’re not necessarily data geeks: This is where I diverge with Jeff’s thesis. We live in a data-obsessed world. There’s a sense that data can deliver all the answers. As a result, we need to immerse ourselves in data or we’re operating at a disadvantage. While growth hackers need to embrace and appreciate data, not every growth hacker has to be obsessed with data. Some growth hackers – like myself – know  data has its place but other things such as creativity have just as much value.

What’s your definition of a growth hacker? Is there anything missing from what Jeff and I have articulated? By the way, Jeff and Mark Hayes recently published “Growth Hackers Guide to the Galaxy” – you should buy it.


If you’re looking to jump-start your startup marketing, I can help you make it happen – everything from messaging and brand positioning to strategic planning and content development. Here’s how you can explore the different ways we can work together.

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