Book Review, Summary & Notes

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

A Primer on the Future of Pr, Marketing, and Advertising

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday
My Rating


Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

Here are my notes of Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday. It's a solid introduction to growth hacking and the future of marketing. The author discuses the benefits of growth hacking and provides some examples to help you understand the power it has over traditional marketing.

Biggest lesson: growth can be hacked, measured and scaled eliminating the guesswork.


The traditional route to market is broken. Holiday explains how companies that have come to rely on massive advertising budgets, infomercials, and a broadcast-only marketing focus are missing out on huge opportunities.

In Growth Hacker Marketing, he introduces a new class of marketing professional—the growth hacker—and shows how to apply their unconventional tactics to your business.

By reading this book, you’ll learn how to identify growth opportunities, measure and test your unique value proposition, and distribute your product through a viral growth engine.

Notes & Quotes

The end goal of every growth hacker is to build a self-perpetuating marketing machine that reaches millions by itself. – AARON GINN

First Google built a superior product. Then it built excitement by making it invite-only. And by steadily increasing the number of invites allowed to its existing user base, Gmail spread from person to person until it became the most popular, and in many ways the best, free e-mail service.

A growth hacker is someone who has thrown out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaced it with only what is testable, trackable, and scalable. Their tools are e-mails, pay-per-click ads, blogs, and platform APIs instead of commercials, publicity, and money. While their marketing brethren chase vague notions like “branding” and “mind share,” growth hackers relentlessly pursue users and growth—and when they do it right, those users beget more users, who beget more users. They are the inventors, operators, and mechanics of their own self-sustaining and self-propagating growth machine that can take a start-up from nothing to something.

“Marketing has always been about the same thing—who your customers are and where they are.”

How do you get, maintain, and multiply attention in a scalable and efficient way?

It begins with product market fit

Make something people want. – PAUL GRAHAM

You know what the single worst marketing decision you can make is? Starting with a product nobody wants or nobody needs.

Some companies like Airbnb and Instragram spend a long time trying new iterations until they achieve what growth hackers call Product Market Fit (PMF); others find it right away.

Isolating who your customers are, figuring out their needs, designing a product that will blow their minds—these are marketing decisions, not just development and design choices.

In other words, Product Market Fit is a feeling backed with data and information.

The race has changed. The prize and spoils no longer go to the person who makes it to market first. They go to the person who makes it to Product Market Fit first.

But the most effective method is simply the Socratic method. We must simply and repeatedly question every assumption. Who is this product for? Why would they use it? Why do I use it? Ask your customers questions, too: What is it that brought you to this product? What is holding you back from referring other people to it? What’s missing? What’s golden?

Finding your growth hack

To be successful and grow your business and revenues, you must match the way you market your products with the way your prospects learn about and shop for your products. – BRIAN HALLIGAN, FOUNDER OF HUBSPOT

This means that our outward-facing marketing and PR efforts are needed simply to reach out to and capture, at the beginning, a group of highly interested, loyal, and fanatical users. Then we grow with and because of them.

  1. You can create the aura of exclusivity with an invite-only feature (as Mailbox did).
  2. You can create hundreds of fake profiles to make your service look more popular and active than it actually is—nothing draws a crowd like a crowd (as reddit did in its early days).
  3. You can target a single service or platform and cater to it exclusively—essentially piggybacking off or even stealing someone else’s growth (as PayPal did with eBay).
  4. You can launch for just a small group of people, own that market, and then move from host to host until your product spreads like a virus (which is what Facebook did by starting in colleges—first at Harvard—before taking on the rest of the population).
  5. You can host cool events and drive your first users through the system manually (as Myspace, Yelp, and Udemy all did).
  6. You can absolutely dominate the App Store because your product provides totally new features that everyone is dying for (which is what Instagram did—twenty-five thousand downloads on its first day—and later Snapchat).
  7. You can bring on influential advisors and investors for their valuable audience and fame rather than their money (as and Trippy did—a move that many start-ups have emulated).
  8. You can set up a special sub-domain on your e-commerce site where a percentage of every purchase users make goes to a charity of their choice (which is what Amazon did with this year to great success, proving that even a successful company can find little growth hacks).
  9. You can try to name a Planned Parenthood clinic after your client or pay D-list celebrities to say offensive things about themselves to get all sorts of publicity that promotes your book (OK, those stunts were mine).

Instead, we are intensely focused on driving an initial set of new user sign-ups and customers, right now.

Turn 1 into 2 and 2 into 4 – going viral

Virality isn’t luck. It’s not magic. And it’s not random. There’s a science behind why people talk and share. A recipe. A formula, even. – JONAH BERGER

All of which is to say a simple truth that we try to deny too often: if you want to go viral, it must be baked into your product. There must be a reason to share it and the means to do so.

As Eric Ries explains in The Lean Startup, “The focus needs to be on improving customer retention.” Forget the conventional wisdom that says if a company lacks growth, it should invest more in sales and marketing. Instead, it should invest in refining and improving the service itself until users are so happy that they can’t stop using the service (and their friends come along with them).

Growth hacking is about maximizing ROI—about expending our energies and efforts where they will be most effective. You’re better off rolling out new features that get more out of your customer base, that turn potential users into active users, than going out and pounding the pavement for more potentials. You’re better off teaching your customers how to use your product—spending time, as services like Facebook and Amazon do, to get users to supply more personal information and make them more engaged—than chasing some new person who doesn’t really care.

Instead of pushing for TV and radio coverage, we worked with bloggers—because blogs are trackable and work fast. Knowing the type of reach we needed, we set a floor: the blogs had to have more than one hundred thousand unique visitors a month. With tools like Compete, Quantcast, and Alexa, it was easy to research potential sites we wanted to appear on, cross-check their traffic, and then reach out.

The thing about marketers—and, well, everyone—is that we’re wrong all the time. We think we make good gut decisions, but we don’t.

Growth hacking really is a mindset rather than a tool kit. And if you leave this book with one thing, it should be that mindset.

Lesson: Cheaply test your concept, improve it based on feedback, then launch.

Lesson: Reduce barriers to entry; use targeted media and platforms to bring your first users on board.

Lesson: Aim for a wow factor and response from your customers.

Lesson: Build your e-mail list!

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this page are referral links. Should you decide to purchase a product or service through our links, we may earn a commission. This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.

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