Building your Growth Hacker toolbox from scratch

Source: Hackerman Meme x Twitter Mask

Like many people, the COVID-19 crisis and the underlying lockdown has been a unique opportunity for self-examination and new skills development. Since I was just coming into a work transition period at the beginning of the quarantine and knew I would have plenty of time to strengthen my employability, I decided to learn as much as I could about Growth Hacking (GH)(as it was the only job role I would eventually apply for in a start-up if I was not kicking off a Venture Capital career). At this time I am writing, it has been a few months I have started a job in a top-tier Growth “lab” in Paris without knowing a single thing about GH a few months before applying. As I am aware there are tons of resources available online and thus it is definitely tough to decide where to begin with, I thought it might be useful to share how I have managed to build my GH profile swiftly (in 4/5 weeks). You will find in this article concrete and straight-to-the-point articles, tutorials and tools which I hope, will help some of you willing to start a career in GH save time in their learning process.

Note: This blogpost is designed for Juniors looking for a first-time experience in GH, i.e. it is not about learning how to build a Growth strategy (Senior roles), but more about building an effective toolbox as you will be more into execution first.

Note 2: All views are my own and do not reflect those of the venture I am working in.

Please find below a detailed plan of the steps I have followed to educate myself (+ a personal approximation of the time you should spend on each task). Of course, you will have to do a bit (or a lot) of research by yourself (as I want to make it a <15 min read article) but I will try to give you as much resources as possible. I have tried to put as much 🇬🇧 resources as I could, but sometimes, the best ones I have found were in 🇫🇷, sorry for that!

(1) General GH culture | Definition, Principles & Mindset, AAARR Framework

(2) Landing Pages | Copywriting, Design & Integration

(3) Tracking| Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager & Hotjar

(4) Paid Marketing| Facebook Ads, Google Ads & Other

(5) SEO | Keywords Optimisation & Content Marketing

(6) Emailing | Cold Emailing & Drip Campaign

(7) Workflow Automation | Zapier

(8) Web Scrapping | Phantombuster & WebScraper

(9) Data Enrichment| DropContact

(10) Other | Design & Coding

I think that the first 5 points are the very basics you need to have dug into.

(1) General GH culture | Definition, Principles & Mindset, AAARR Framework

Of course, it all starts here. At the time, I had read the expression “GH” in a lot of job descriptions, but did not even know what it was about. This is not the most important step, but it is obviously pivotal to understand what we are talking about. I would recommend to read stuff about the meaning, the mindset and follow some leading minds in the industry (e.g. Sean Eilis, Brian Balfour, Andrew Chen or Neil Patel).

Definition, Principles & Mindset —Articles (🇬🇧) from Oren Greenberg (Kurve), Ward van Gasteren (Grow with Ward) and Chris Out (RockBoost)

The AAARR Framework — Articles (🇬🇧) from Melanie Balke, Yaroslav Lehenchuk (Product Tribe) and Matylda Chmielewska (LiveChat)

Do not spend a lot of time on this, I think that one day is largely enough to understand what it is all about. Theory is good, but practice is better.

(2) Landing Pages | Copywriting, Design & Integration

A Landing Page (LP) is is a standalone web page, created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign in order to have the client perform a specific action (e.g. buy a product or subscribe to a newsletter). It is where a visitor “lands” after they click on a link in an email or on an ad. You can learn more about LPs in this series of articles (🇬🇧) from Unbounce. As a GH, you will definitely be asked to build LPs at some point to convince prospects to buy your product/service, so that I think it is essential to master it.

Copywriting — I am talking about this here, but copywriting is crucial for everything (writing ads, emails, etc.). You may think you are already good at writing and that it is quite useless, but trust me, you are probably wrong. Forget your prejudices and read this article (🇫🇷) from Danilo Duschenes; I always refer to this when I have doubts. I also like that article (🇬🇧) from Janni Pedersen (Founders) and that one (🇬🇧) from Paul Boag (Smashing Magazine), in case you do not know where to begin with when building your landing page (copywriting and design).

Design — I reckon that it is quite difficult to get inspiration without a precise project in mind and a solid design thinking approach. I think that the best way to train is to have a look at existing LPs and try to replicate the ones that you like. You will notice that they are often built the same way (e.g. the hero section: text on the left with CTA + product image on the right or a background image with centered text - the features/benefits section: alternating left and right images or 3-element grids). Just have a look at, say, Shopify or DoorDash websites, and you will see what I mean. You can find a lot of great inspiration on Landingfolio.

Integration — There are a lot of no-code tools available today to quickly build qualitative LPs (Unbounce, Instapage, etc.). I will not debate on which one is the best, but Webflow is an extremely powerful one and standard in the industry (highly customizable, responsive, SEO-friendly). This is definitely not the easiest to get grips with (some HTML & CSS coding notions are a plus to make the most of it and understand it quicker), but I think it is worth the learning. They have a great crash course (🇬🇧) to learn how it works, but like everything, the most efficient way to learn is to get your hands dirty. I would recommend to build two or three LPs from scratch, using different layouts.

This is definitely the most time-consuming task. Depending on your learning velocity and design skills, it might take you a few days to a few weeks. But once you start mastering it, you will be able to build a beautiful LP in a day.

(3) Tracking | Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager & Hotjar

Once you have your LP ready, you obviously want to know how much people have visited it, how long they have stayed on it, etc. Google has free in-built services helping you to track all these elements easily.

Google Analytics (GA)— It enables you to track a bunch of metrics (e.g. how many people visit your LP or where they come from) with a macro/micro vision. I will not go into detail now, but here is an exhaustive guide (🇬🇧) from Aja Forst (Hubspot) that covers a lot. You can also read this guide (🇬🇧) from Kristi Hines (Moz) and download this whitepaper (🇫🇷) from Thomas Gadroy to understand GA and the key metrics to track.

Google Tag Manager (GTM)— It has two purposes. First, it acts as a container to connect different apps (GA, Hotjar, Pixels, etc.) without having to add scripts to your website source code each time. Second, it enables you to track specific actions (e.g. how many people have clicked on a specific element or to measure your Adjusted Bounce Rate) that you could not track with Google Analytics alone. Here is a step-by-step guide (🇬🇧) from Jeff Sauer (DataDriven) to get started with GTM. You can also check this article (🇬🇧) from Shannon Dunn (Distilled) and this must read (🇫🇷) from Victor Leboda to understand how to set up variables that matter.

Hotjar — This one is quite helpful to understand the exact behavior of your visitors on your LP and optimize where you have to put your efforts to stop losing potential customers. Here is a tutorial (🇬🇧) from Trevor Greenleaf to get started and an article (🇬🇧) from Rich Page to help you make the most of the tool.

Those 3 tools are very standard in a lot of start-ups, so that it is great to know what they are designed for and how to use them, as you will be asked to be comfortable with them in lots of job descriptions. The tricky thing is that GTM and Hotjar will require a paid plan on Webflow (I do not know when dealing with other CMS) as they use scripts that you need to put in the source code of your LP but you must pay to edit that very code. Well, at least you know how these tools work and what they are for, which is the most important thing.

The theory learning can be done in about two days, but putting all this into practice will probably lead to a lot of technical issues, so that it will definitely take longer in the mid-term.

(4) Paid Marketing| Facebook Ads, Google Ads & Other

When it comes to marketing, you have two options to grow your business: investing in zero cost channels (SEO, content, word of mouth, PR, etc.) or resorting to paid options. We will talk about the latter here (excl. offline). Once you have your LP and tracking ready, you will like to promote it and call prospects to action. Ads are a powerful way to drive forward your business and you must be familiar with them (as you will go there 100% sure) and all the jargon around (CPC, CPM, CTR, CPR, ROAS, etc.). You can learn more about the acronyms in this article (🇬🇧) from Bartosz Bielecki (Zeropark) .

Facebook Ads—This is probably the most efficient channel to advertise (B2C & B2B). Kevan Lee from Buffer has made a detailed guide (🇬🇧) on FB Ads. This video (🇬🇧) from Ruan M. Marinho breaks it down to the very last detail how to set up a FB campaign. This article (🇬🇧) from Karola Karlson (AdEspresso) will give you insights about optimising your campaigns. I would recommend spending some time particularly on how to build relevant audiences (segmented, custom, lookalike). This article (🇬🇧) from Nima Gardideh (Hackernoon) might help you a bit on that. Do not forget to implement the Facebook Pixel. You know when you have just visited a website and you see a creepy related ad 2 sec later in your FB feed; this is done thanks to the FB Pixel and retargeting, among other things. You can dig it in this article (🇬🇧) from Casandra Campbell (Shopify).

Google Ads — Likewise, it is very likely that you will have to run campaigns on the Google network (Search, Display, Youtube, etc.). Here is an exhaustive guide (🇬🇧) by the guru Neil Patel to understand how it works. Additional information are available here (🇬🇧) thanks to Sahil Kakkar (Kinsta). I would recommend spending some time to really understand the keywords operating mode (SKAG, quality score, etc.) and have a look at Google Keywords Planner + Ahrefs Keywords Explorer (guide (🇬🇧) from Joshua Hardwick (Ahrefs)) + Google Trends (insights (🇬🇧) from Nick Churick (Ahrefs)). I also love this article (🇬🇧) from Janni Pedersen (Founders) again highlighting why copying is good and inspiring for your keyword search. All this work will be useful in the next section (SEO).

Other — You got it, you can also run campaigns on LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. depending on your business, but I will let you search by yourself if you want to train in specific ad channels. In any case, once you understand how an advertising sales house works, you will see that they are often quite similar.

Of course, if you want to run campaigns on your own, you must pay. Yet, understanding how to set up a campaign, the best practices, and how to analyze the results will definitely be valuable in the future. Here are some interesting reads to understand a bit better the endgame but there are no secret recipe: Post-campaign analysis (🇬🇧) from Gavin Llewellyn (Smart Insights) and CTR vs. CPC discussion (🇬🇧) on Quora.

I think it is worth spending a bit of time on this as launching campaigns without undestanding the ins and outs is simply a waste of time and money. I would recommend to dig it for at very least 2 or 3 days.

(5) SEO | Keywords Optimisation & Content Marketing

It is time now for the “free” option. SEO is defined as the optimisation process of websites with the aim of ranking better in search results, so that you could drive more traffic and thus have higher conversion rates. You can have an exhaustive overview of SEO in this guide (🇬🇧) from Moz.

Keywords Optimisation—You would like to define the right keywords for your audience in order to optimise on-page (titles, meta descriptions, URLs, etc.) and off-page SEO (external linking). Here is a great read (🇬🇧) from Rachel Leist (Hubspot) to walk your way through keywords. All the work done in the “Google Ads” part is relevant here.

Content Marketing— The goal is to build a strong brand, attract more visitors and generate leads through helpful and specifically targeted articles. As put it perfectly in this post (🇬🇧) from Jason Therrien (thunder::tech), it has a compounding power of return (i.e. value increases over time and is profitable during the whole lifecycle of a website unlike paid marketing). Here is an interesting guide (🇬🇧) from Alina Petrova (SEMrush) to understand Content Marketing (strategy-oriented though).

Part of the work has already been done in the previous section, but it is quite a huge work to dive into technical SEO, so that I would not recommend to spend a lot of time (maybe 1 or 2 days maximum) on this. Plus, the significance of SEO is not equally pivotal in all businesses.

The next 5 points (excl. Other) are more about training yourself to use GH tools. You could tell the recruiter that you are familiar with the most famous of them and have tried to use them on your own; it is always great to prove your curiosity and that you have done the extra mile.

(6) Emailing | Cold Emailing & Drip Campaign

Emailing is a key part of every company’s growth strategy, so that you need to know the basics about it.

Cold Emailing — I am pretty sure you have already tried to cold message HRs/CEOs to find an internship/job. Well, quite the same logic applies here. This is the act of sending an email to a prospect you have never interacted with before. This is a way to generate new leads quickly. You can dig it in this article (🇬🇧) from Justin McGill (LeadFuze). A lot of tools allow you to send personalised cold emails but I would recommend having a look at Lemlist to understand what it looks like. They also have a very complete blog section (🇬🇧). Besides, here is a very well-made video (🇫🇷) about cold emailing from Fabien Ferreira.

Drip Campaign—You know when you have just signed up for a service and you instantly receive a welcome message or when you have 7 days left from a free trial and you receive a reminder message to upgrade your plan? Well, that is Drip Marketing. The beauty of drip emails is that this all happens automatically based on triggers and user segments that you define. Joe Sych (Zapier) has an interesting read (🇬🇧) about that. Whether it is e.g. MailChimp or Woodpecker, just pick one and read about their features and how it works. You can see real examples (🇬🇧) of start-up’s emailing campaigns thanks to Good Sales Emails.

I would also recommend to read about the best practices to maximize open and response rates as it is something you will want to track and improve as a GH. Here are some resources (🇬🇧) from Campaign Monitor and Pritesh Vora (Hubspot).

A day should be enough to dig that section.

(7) Workflow Automation | Zapier

A Growth Hacker hates losing time on repetitive or no added value tasks (actually I believe everybody finds it counterproductive). Finding hacks and automating workflows/processes are key, so that I think you should have a closer look on that. You can learn more here (🇬🇧) thanks to Pipedrive.

Zapier—This tool could be described as a must-have in the industry. It enables you to create links between different apps (e.g. Slack, GSheet, Trello, etc.). Try out the free version and create some zaps. Check out their documentation. For instance, I have created a zap that sends every subscription to my podcast directly into an Excel GSheet, creating a new row with the subscriber’s information.

This is not a very long task, you could do it in a few hours.

(8) Web Scrapping | Phantombuster & WebScraper

Scrapping means extracting the content of a page in a structured way (e.g. in an Excel sheet). Imagine you are running a B2B business and have long lists of relevant decision-makers on LinkedIn. Since, there is no “export to csv” option in LinkedIn, you would normally have no other choice than entering all the information manually in a sheet or in your CRM. However, since you are doing GH, you want to do things in an automated and quick way, so that you can use a scrapper that will extract information without you lifting a finger. You can learn a bit more here (🇬🇧) and there (🇬🇧) thanks to ScrapingHub and Martin Perez (ParseHub).

Phantombuster — Briefly, Phantombuster allows you to run phantoms (automated actions at scale, e.g. scrapping LinkedIn profiles or follow / unfollow Instagram accounts). The free version is very limited (only 1 phantom) but I think it is still worth giving it a shot. Choose 1 phantom and try to execute it sucessfully (personally, I have tested the LinkedIn scrapping tool). Their documentation is great to start with.

WebScraper— WebScraper is a very easy-to-use tool enabling you to scrap information from pages (e.g. extract a catalog of products). The free version is quite extensive and allows you to extract at scale. Look at their tutorials, they are really well-made. For instance, I have scrapped a list of start-up projects from Ulule and lists of DJs from Resident Advisor and Soundcloud.

Be aware that some websites can be hard to scrap at scale and you could get banned if you try hard (e.g. LinkedIn or Leboncoin).

Again, this is not a very long task, you could do it in a few hours.

(9) Data Enrichment | DropContact

It is defined as merging third-party data from an external authoritative source with an existing database of first-party customer data. Companies do this to enhance the data they already possess so they can make more informed decisions. You can learn more here (🇬🇧) thanks to Erika Granath (Vainu).

DropContact — They have developed quite an impressive software helping you do that (and the free version is not that restrictive if you want to get your hands dirty). You will be able to clean databases (first name/last name inversion, duplicates, etc.), find/test relevant mail addresses (nominative vs. catch-call), enrich the data (company name, headcount, etc.). Check out the explanatory video (🇫🇷) from the CEO Denis Cohen and Maxime Pari (MyBizDev).

Again, this is not a very long task, you could do it in a few hours.

(10) Other | Design & Coding

The following are some recommendations I think might be useful to take the previous tasks to the next level, but it will require you a lot of time and practice.

Design— It could be useful to build outstanding LPs but also helpful in many other areas in your life. Crack the Adobe Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) and get your hands dirty. I have also recently learned how to use Figma, a collaborative tool to build mockups (might be useful for design thinking/wire framing). More basically, it would also be great to have a basic understanding of the fundamentals (colors, fonts, lines, etc.). You can check out this article (🇬🇧) from Deanna deBara (99designs).

Coding— Whatever the language you want to learn (Python, C++, etc.) , it will be useful as they definitely all use quite the same logic. The easiest to start with are HTML5 + CSS3 (the coding languages to build and design websites). MOOCs and bootcamps are your friends.

The choice is completely yours, but remember that they are bonuses (although extremely useful), not the main focus of this article.

Note that there are a lot of other great tools in each section that exist, but I have only mentioned the ones I personally find the most intuitive, complete and standard in a tech start-up’s marketing stack. If you are willing to go further, here is a big list (🇫🇷 🇬🇧) of GH tools (thanks Camille Besse) you could try.

At the end of the day, yes it is quite a lot to cover, but if you are motivated, you could learn all this in a month or so (depending on how much intensity you put into it and how far you want to dig some topics). I wish I had a little guide like that at the time, so that it would have saved me days reading about B2B Marketing strategies and similar stuff without knowing what I really needed to focus on to learn GH from 0. Of course, you won’t be an expert after reading all this, and theory is nothing without heavy practice, but I think it’s a good starting point to educate yourself and get your hands a little dirty.

Please feel free to comment and give me feedbacks if you disagree or think pivotal steps in GH are missing above, it will definitely help me a lot to improve as I am a newbie in the industry :)