Last update: May 2021

8 mins to read - 2016/11/19

Growth Hacking: Retention is Key

As a marketeer, I know first-hand it can be very difficult to stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest trends that help impact our marketing strategies. Over the past few years, the term Growth Hacking has been used and even over used by those who consider themselves to be marketing or Growth Influencers. To give you a better understanding, Sean Ellis was the brain behind the term “growth hacker’, which was coined in 2010 due to his frustrations of finding adequate replacements for himself. For those who don’t already know:

Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation cross marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business. Growth hackers are marketers and product managers that specifically focus on building and Engaging the user base of a business.

Now the purpose of this post is not to slam previous opinions or articles. Instead I wanted to highlight an area of Growth Hacking which is often overlooked, retention or re-engagement.

Companies like Facebook and Airbnb have used growth hacking like strategies to get to scale and market their products or services unlike previously seen before. Start-up companies now find inexpensive or analytical ways to fuel their company’s exponential growth and customer base.

Download our Mobile Marketing Playbook to perfect your user engagement game!

First stage

When it comes to Growth Hacking, acquisition is the first target to building a business and I’m sure you’re already familiar with this. Now acquisition can mean a lot of things to a lot of companies, but because there are so many successful tactics out there, but it’s up to you to determine which ones are best for your growth strategy. Some of our favourites include, but are not limited to, running a blog, creating relevant content, using free social channels, SEO, paid media, remarketing, email newsletters, free publicity, attending meetups, organizing/sponsoring events and asking current customers for feedback on your product or service offerings. There are so many articles, blog posts and books available to you, many for free, that I won’t go into much detail about each here. Ultimately, growth hacking is about trying new marketing tactics to acquire users or customers, refining those methods and dropping the ineffective ones.

All of this may come with a cost, remember, customer acquisition is not cheap. Most companies forget that using paid media, giving away vouchers, sponsoring events and even creating content takes time and money. Little investment into these channels may be necessary as some point, so you better be prepared to brush the dust off of that old checkbook.

Hacking customer acquisition stands as one of the most important tactics for a growing business. It’s about getting to a profitable scale and making sure all the moving parts are there. A good quote by Josh Elman from is “You need to learn from your data and understand what innately in your product helps your active users attract new users, and then create solutions that help engineer that to happen more quickly and more often.”

Now if you thought that was growth hacking in a nut shell, being able to quickly attract new customers, you’re absolutely WRONG.


Second Stage

Ask yourself, what happens to your business once those customers who you invested so much in at the start, begin to drop off or move on?

This is why Engagement and Retention is Key. In order to hack growth, it needs to be sustainable growth.

What I’ve found as I constantly speak with tech-driven companies all over the world is that marketing strategies heavily lean towards acquiring users at all costs. Many companies utilize this method, although it’s not a one size fits all. For example, consider the mobile app industry where acquiring new installs is thought be your main focus from the start, most focus solely on this but forget to think about continuing to build quality relationships and great experiences. It’s true, marketers aren’t paying enough attention to their happy customers, or maybe mobile marketers just don’t realize the fact that after 30 days retention rates fall to 9%. Retention is Key! In a recent article, Slack’s Noah Weiss stated, “The biggest mobile challenge is retaining new users,” “customer acquisition propels an app, user retention builds a business.” It takes less work to maintain a relationship with an existing customer than it is to go out and find new ones. Most marketers know that it’s 5x more cost-effective to retain existing customers than acquire new ones.


Real-life Example:

Sustaining continued growth will only happen if current installs are also taken into account.  Today there are many different channels that marketers could use for re-engagement or winback. By far the most effective for mobile apps is through App Notifications.  Plenty of apps out their already have begun to work towards perfecting their retention strategies by focusing on well-timed ‘push’ notifications with targeted content and the hopes of engaging their users, bringing them back into their apps for more. The results mean a huge increase in engagement with the apps, more purchases/referrals, improved communication channels, great user experience and less opt-outs or uninstalls.



Growth Hacking should be part of every marketer’s strategy in 2017. The focus should be on finding innovative ways (that work) to grow a company’s customer base using analytical and inexpensive solutions that result in exponential growth. Every growth hacker strategy must consist of both acquisition and retention, as both are needed for truly exponential growth.

Since the objective of Growth Hacking is to identify the best marketing channels to sustainably grow your business, it is important to focus on acquisition and retention. Here are some of the tactics mentioned above:



  • Running a blog
  • Content creation
  • Social channels
  • Paid media
  • SEO
  • Re-marketing
  • Email
  • Sponsorships
  • Attending Meetups
  • Landing pages



  • Email (Drip campaigns)
  • Phone Calls
  • Feedback surveys
  • Customer referrals
  • Mobile app notifications


It’s always more important to keep your existing customers happy and to understand what their Lifetime value to your business is. Focus your Growth Hacking on retention, making sure your customers or users stay fully engaged and have an enjoyable experience when using your product or service. Trust me, the key to your success is your customer’s happiness. Hey maybe they’ll even be encouraged to recommend your product or service to their friends.

Now you’re ready to focus your Growth Hacking on Retention, go winback your users and keep them customers to life!


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