Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

Here are my extensive notes on the book Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday which I can highly recommend to any entrepreneur. These notes are for the most part directly taken from the book.
What is Growth Marketing?

It is a illusion that we need a huge budget to market effectivly.

Growth Hacking is a Mindset!

“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.”

What growth hackers do is focus on the “who” and “where” (Customers) more scientifically, in a more measurable way. Whereas marketing was once brand based, with growth hacking it becomes metric and ROI driven. Growth hackers trace their roots back to programmers—and that’s how they see themselves. They are data scientists meets design fiends meets marketers.

The new marketing mind-set begins not a few weeks before launch but, in fact, during the development and design phase.

Step 1: It Begins with the Product Market Fit

Product Market Fit (PMF). That is, the product and its customers are in perfect sync with each other. Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup , explains that the best way to get to Product Market Fit is by starting with a “minimum viable product” and improving it based on feedback—as opposed to what most of us do, which is to try to launch with what we think is our final product.

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?

Example: Authors
Writing about in the book on their blog and when they speak in front of groups. They ask readers what they’d like to see in the book. They judge topic ideas by how many comments a given post generates, by how many Facebook “shares” an article gets. They put potential title and cover ideas up online to test and receive feedback. They look to see what hot topics other influential bloggers are riding and find ways of addressing them in their book.

Step 2: Finding Your Growth Hack

How to pull Customers;
“We’re trying to hit a few hundred or a thousand key people—not millions. That’s a relief, right? Better still, it actually works. In other words, launching does not need to be an enormous campaign we’re expected (too often) to produce out of thin air so much as an initial boost or a shot in the arm. Not a blowout grand opening, but a strategic opening or a stunt that catches the attention of our core audience.”

Not All People—the Right People
Growth hackers resist this temptation (or, more appropriately, this delusion). They opt, deliberately, to attract only the early adopters who make or break new tech services and seek to do it as cheaply as possible. Ignoring the urge to appeal to the mass market, at least to start with.


  1. You can reach out to the sites you know your potential customers read with a pitch e-mail: “This is who we are, this is what we’re doing, and this is why you should write about us.
  2. You can upload a post to Hacker News, Quora, or Reddit yourself.
  3. You can start writing blog posts about popular topics that get traffic and indirectly pimp your product.
  4. You can use the Kickstarter platform for exposure and bribe your first users with cool prizes (and get some online chatter at the same time).
  5. You can use a service like Help a Reporter Out ( to find reporters who are looking for people to include in stories they are already writing about your space.
  6. You can literally find your potential customers one by one and invite them to your service for free or with some special incentive (that’s how small we’re talking).
  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 host cool events and drive your first users through the system manually (as Myspace, Yelp, and Udemy all did).
  5. You can bring on influential advisers and investors for their valuable audience and fame rather than their money (as and Trippy did—a move that many startups have emulated).
  6. You can try to name a Planned Parenthood clinic after your client or pay D-list celebrities to say offensive things about themselves to promote your book.
“Instead, we are intensely focused on driving an initial set of new user sign-ups and customers, right now. It doesn’t matter how many people know about you or how they find out about you. It matters how many sign up. If handing out flyers on the street corner accomplishes that, then consider it growth hacking.”

The most insidious part of the traditional marketing model is that “big blowout launch” mythology and “build it and they will come” assumption that too many people associate with the web. Both are too simple and rarely effective.

STEP 3: Turn 1 into 2 and 2 into 4—Going Viral

Vitality needs to be build into the product.

Vitality at its core is asking someone spend their social capital recommending or linking or posting about you for free. The best way to get people to do this enormous favor for you? Make it seem like it isn’t a favor. Make it the kind of thing that is worth spreading and, of course, conducive to spreading.
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.

Build in Vitality Examples:
Dropbox, for instance, offered its customers a 150 megabyte storage bonus if they linked their Dropbox account to their Facebook or Twitter account. Think of Hotmail, whose early attempts at growth hacking we looked at earlier. It turned every e-mail its users sent into a pitch to new customers. Think of Apple and BlackBerry, which turned their devices into advertising engines by adding “Sent from my iPhone” or “Sent from my BlackBerry” to every message sent.

STEP 4 Close the Loop: Retention and Optimization

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).

Getting the most out of the leads we were already generation. Follow Up.

Growth hacking is about maximizing ROI—about expending our energies and efforts where they will be most effective. Well, the facts are in. 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.

“One Bird in the Hand is worth more then two in the bush”

The Future of Marketing;
Tactics that no one would have previously described as “marketing” turned out to be the marketing steroids behind their business growth.

Putting it into practice; Four Hour Body:
We had to be creative. We had to be analytical. We had to think outside the box. We had to use our relatively limited resources extremely carefully.
Data-driven approach, however, meant we actually looked at what worked and what didn’t.

How to Win at the Sport of Business by Mark Cuban

Here is my Summary of the book “How to Win at the Sport of Business” by Mark Cuban. Which I highly recommend to every Entrepreneur. Most quotes are directly taken from the book itself.


“Most people won’t put in the time to get a knowledge advantage. Therefor it is a hugee competitive advantage if you learn continuously. “Even know most information is free most people pass on it. They dont put in the time.”

Lessons Learned
  • Lesson #1: Always ask yourself how someone could preempt your products or service. How can they put you out of business? Is it price? Is it service? Is it ease of use? No product is perfect and if there are good competitors in your market, they will figure out how to abuse you . It’s always better if you are honest with yourself and anticipate where the problems will come from.
  • Lesson #2: Always run your business like you are going to be competing with biggest technology companies in your industry

“The edge is being able to confidently call out someone on a business issue because you have done your homework. The edge is recognizing when you are wrong and working harder to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Career Advice:

“Being focused at 21 is way overrated . Now is the time to screw up, to try as many different things as you can and just maybe figure things out. The thing you do need to do is learn. Learn accounting. Learn finance. Learn statistics. Learn as much as you can about business. Read biographies about businesspeople. You don’t have to focus on one thing, have to create a base of knowledge so you are ready when it’s time.”

Financial debt is the ultimate dream killer.

Drowning in Opportunity:
  1. Everyone is a genius in a bull market. 
  2. Win the battles you are in before you take on new battles.
  3. You can drown in opportunity. As an entrepreneur you have to know what the core competencies of your business are and make sure that your company focuses on being the absolute best it can be at executing them. Bottom line is this: If you are adding new things when your core businesses are struggling rather than facing the challenge, you are either running away or giving up.
The Best Equity Is Sweat Equity
  • Rule #1: Sweat equity is the best startup capital The best businesses in recent entrepreneurial history are those that began with little or no money. There are only two reasonable sources of capital for startup entrepreneurs: your own pocket and your customers’ pockets.
  • Rule #2:Let people critic the idea.

“Treat your customers like they own you. Because they do.”“You have to re­earn your customers business every day.”

Whining is the first step toward change . It’s the moment when you realize something is very wrong and that you have to take the initiative to do something about it.

Customers want it simple. Let people go the way of least resistance. (Think Amazon = BuyIn­One­Click)


Here are some related posts:

Twelve Cuban Rules for Startups

Mark Cuban Twelve Mantras for Success









The Twelve Mark Cuban Rules for Startups

These are directly out of the Book How to Win at the Sport of Business by Mark Cuban:

1. Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love.

2. If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession.

3. Hire people who you think will love working there.

4. Sales Cure All. Know how your company will make money and how you will actually make sales.

5. “Know your core competencies and focus on being great at them. Pay up for people in your core competencies. Get the best. Outside the core competencies, hire people that fit your culture but are cheap.”

6. “An espresso machine? Are you kidding me? Shoot yourself before you spend money on an espresso machine. Coffee is for closers. Sodas are free. Lunch is a chance to get out of the office and talk. There are 24 hours ina day, and if people like their jobs, they will find ways to use as much of it as possible to do their jobs.”

7. “No offices. Open offices keep everyone in tune with what is going on and keep the energy up. If an employee is about privacy, show them how to use the lock on the john. There is nothing private in a startup. This is also a good way to keep from hiring execs who cannot operate successfully in a startup . My biggest fear was always hiring someone who wanted to build an empire. If the person demands to fly first class or to bring over a personal secretary , run away. If an exec won’t go on sales calls, run away.”

8. “As far as technology, go with what you know. That is always the cheapest way. If you know Apple, use it. If you know Vista … ask yourself why, then use it. It’s a startup, there are just a few employees. Let people use what they know.”

9. “Keep the organization flat. If you have managers reporting to managers in a startup, you will fail. Once you get beyond startup, if you have managers reporting to managers, you will create politics.”

10. “NEVER EVER EVER buy swag. A sure sign of failure for a startup is when someone sends me logo-embroidered polo shirts. If your people are at shows and in public, it’s okay to buy for your own folks, but if you really think someone is going to wear your polo when they’re out and about, you are mistaken and have no idea how to spend your money.”

11. “NEVER EVER EVER hire a PR firm. A PR firm will call or email people in the publications you already read, on the shows you already watch and at the websites you already surf. Those people publish their emails. Whenever you consume any information related to your field, get the email of the person publishing it and send them a message introducing yourself and the company.
Their job is to find new stuff. They will welcome hearing from the founder instead of some PR flack. Once you establish communication with that person, make yourself available to answer their questions about the industry and be a source for them. If you are smart, they will use you.”

12. “Make the job fun for employees. Keep a pulse on the stress levels and accomplishments of your people and reward them.”