What the hack? A growth hacking taxonomy and practical applications for firms

René Bohnsack*, Meike Malena Liesner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


As companies become increasingly digital, growth hacking emerged as a new way of scaling businesses. While the term is fashionable in business, many executives remain confused about the concept. Even if firms have an idea of what growth hacking is, they may still be puzzled as to how to do it, creating a strategy-execution gap. Our article assists firms by bridging the growth hacking strategy-execution gap. First, we provide a growth hacking framework and deconstruct its building blocks: marketing, data analysis, coding, and the lean startup philosophy. We then present a taxonomy of 34 growth hacking patterns along the customer lifecycle of acquisition, activation, revenue, retention, and referral; categorize them on the two dimensions of resource intensity and time lag; and provide an example of how to apply the taxonomy in the case of a fitness application. Finally, we discuss seven opportunities and challenges of growth hacking that firms should keep in mind.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-818
Number of pages20
JournalBusiness Horizons
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Big data
  • Digital marketing
  • Digital transformation
  • Growth hacking
  • Lean startup


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