Growth Hacker Marketing — 10 Best Quotes From Ryan Holiday’s Book Enhanced With GIFs

Melanie Balke
Nov 26, 2017 · 10 min read
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Growth Hacker Marketing By Ryan Holiday

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday is deemed one of the best introductions to the topic of growth hacking out there. So much so that I have actually seen it be a requirement in a job description.

The book is not very thick and most certainly gives you an excellent overview of what a growth hacker is and how you can apply some of the techniques to your own business challenges and goals so I highly recommend making some time to read it.

However, if you’re an evil Disney villain when it comes to reading…

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​… then worry no more because I have compiled the 10 best quotes of Ryan Holiday’s book Growth Hacker Marketing and will delight you with not only his wisdom but some GIFs too.

  1. “Instead of bludgeoning the public with ads or dominating the front page of a newspaper to drive awareness, they [Growth Hackers] use a scalpel, precise and targeted to a specific audience.”


2. “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”

What Ryan Holiday refers to here is one of the key differences between ‘normal marketers’ and growth hackers. While normal marketers use a ‘let’s throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks’ approach, growth hackers use a methodical approach based on data. They talk to customers, figure out what the wants, challenges and needs of customers are and make decisions based off of that. Once they implement a solution they set rigurous KPIs to track the success of that measure and make adjustments accordingly, always testing their way to success.

That’s why growth hackers don’t need a lot of exposure to make noise. They already know exactly who their target customer is and where to reach them best, how to motivate them to use the product and what makes them stick around. So while the traditional marketer is out there busy advertising their product to 100,000 of people of which they don’t know who they’re really targeting and who will likely convert, the growth hacker has figured out the 1,000 that will convert, targets them specifically with messaging that gets them to convert and tracks if the strategy is working. That’s why you’ll usually find growth hackers within startups and not large companies because they figure out an efficient and cheap way to target customers.

Billboard ads vs. niche Facebook ads

TV spots vs. viral YouTube videos

Superbowl spots vs. …

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3. “Growth Hackers believe that products — even whole businesses and business models — can and should be changed until they are primed to generate explosive reactions from the first people who see them.”


4.”Product Market Fit is a feeling backed with data and information”.

If you think about it, growth hackers almost have more in common with engineers than with traditional marketers. That is because most of the principles growth hackers work by, such as testing, iterating and basing decisions off of data, are modeled after the engineering world.

So instead of taking a product as is and just focusing on getting the word out there for a finished, non-changeable product, growth hackers create a feedback loop back to product development and help enhance the product. They understand that products and messaging might need to be adapted. For example, Instagram started as a location check-in app where adding a picture was just a small feature. Once the founders figured out that was the main thing customers loved about the app, Instagram pivoted to becoming a photo app. Stories like this are not rare. The complete contraty is true, in fact. I can probably rattle of more successful businesses that started as something very different to their current business than those that didn’t.

This process of iterating, adapting and fine-tuning not just the product but also the messaging to customers is a key fundament of growth hackers. Achieving product/market fit is the very first and most important goal for a company. After you have achieved product/market fit you need to ensure that your messaging reflects the value your customers see in your product. If customers love that your product saves them time and you’re advertising that it’s cheap then you might be hitting one of the things they value but you’re not speaking to their core need for the product. In Rafiki’s words: Change is good. Especially when it’s about achieving product/market fit.

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5. “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? Don’t ask random people or your friends — be scientific about it.”

I feel like a broken record because I think I’ve mentioned it 1,000 times, but one thing that growth hackers do and do over and over again is speak to customers, from happy to unhappy customers. They do this to figure out what it is that customers love about the product specifically. What/when is the customer’s Aha-moment (the moment your customer realizes she/he is in love with your product)? Have you achieved product/market fit?

As a growth hacker you want to ensure that you’ve actually built a product people love before you set out to achieve virality.

This is something Sean Ellis & Morgan Brown talk about in their book Hacking Growth as well. Sean Ellis has a very simple survey method, he calls the must-have survey, to figure out if your product has achieved sufficient product/market fit and is, as the name says, a “must-have product”or if it still needs tweaking. More on this survey in another blog post here.

The main message of this quote is that you need to question your customers and scientifically measure their answers to understand not only what it is your customers love, but also what they hate. What you can do better, what you’re doing great and who your customer really is.

Only with that knowledge will you be able to devise a growth hack that will reach virality. The key to doing this successfully is to really just listen. Do not explain your product, do not defend your product, just watch your customer in his/her ‘natural habitat’.

So listen to your customers, no matter if what they say is good or bad, as if you’re Ryan Gosling at the Academy Awards.

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6. “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.”

Usually founders believe that once you build a product people will come. Nothing has been wronger ever. Having a good product, does not mean success. Even if founders have achieved to create some traction at the release of their product they still believe they need to acquire thousands of customers from the start. Again, nothing is wronger.

Instead you should focus on acquiring early adopters. They are the ones that will be most invested in the industry / category that you are releasing your product in. They are usually the most knowledgable customers and will be a) easy/cheap to acquire because they like to be the first to know and try out things, and b) great for collecting customer feedback to iterate (see quote 5).

So instead of putting up that huge billboard ask yourself where you can find your early adopters. If you’re a tech business try to get featured on blogs like Tech Crunch. If you’re a beauty product have someone like Jennifer Phan talk about you in her YouTube videos. Do whatever it takes to get those people that are burning to try new products in your realm to try yours and then give you feedback. Use that feedback to iterte and once you have a ‘must-have’ product you can move on to devising a growth hack for acquiring ‘mainstream customers’.

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7. “Well, why should customers do that [share your product]? Have you actually made it easy for them to spread your product? Is the product even worth talking about?”


8. “If you want to go viral, virality must be baked into your product.”

To understand this quote I want you to go back to your school days. What kind of things did you recommended to your friends? Stuff that was either super insanely cool, made you look cool or you got something out of referring it. Because we’re all still in high school, just a bigger one, the same principles apply.

In order for people to share your product, they will have to want to share your product. How do you get people to want to share something? Make them look cool or incentivize it. Because trying too hard to be cool never works cause you just can’t force it (remember high school) and some products just don’t have a cool-appeal to the general public (e.g. Dropbox) you should probably focus on the latter option.

You don’t want to just promote sharing your product, you want to incentivize it. Dropbox did this by offering 250GB of free storage if you got a friend to sign up. PayPal offered to pay you $5 per referral which proved a very efficient strategy, albeit a very expensive one. How can you cheaply get people to refer your product? What can you give them that won’t cost you a ton of money, i.e. your equivalent of Dropbox’s free storage?

Another great strategy is to get your customers to refer your product without even knowing that they are doing it. A prime example of this strategy is the iPod with it’s white headphones that immediately let everyone know you were listening to an iPod (before the whole headphone market caught up). Another great example, by Apple too, is the “Sent from iPhone” automatic signature added to every email sent from the phone. If you want a really, really cheap way to get referrals then build virality into your product like Apple did. So much so that people will recognize your product in the Simpsons show without ever seeing your logo!


9. “What’s the point of driving a bunch of new customers through marketing channels if they immediately leak out through a hole in the bottom?”


10. “According to Bain & Company, a 5 percent increase in customer retention can mean a 30 percent increase in profitability for a company.”

Here’s the gist: If you lack growth you don’t need to invest in more marketing, but rather in refining your product and or service to make your customers happy until they are so out of the world insanely in love with your product that they stick around and bring everyone else they know too.

Too many startups focus on increasing vanity metrics like site traffic instead of looking at the KPIs that really drive growth. Instead of trying to increase site traffic, try to increase your conversion rate. Look at your site traffic and understand where your qualified leads are coming from. You can segment by traffic source, dig into it and find out what sources are bringing in your most valuable customers. Once you know, scale that channel.

After your site traffic converts you want to understand if your customer is happy with your product or service. What’s a good metric to look at for understanding customer happiness: Retention. How many customers are continuously using your product? If you usually have a one-time sale, how many times do customers come back to purchase more? A little more on retention here and I highly encourage you read this article because it’s the most important metric ever!

Keep your customers, so you don’t have to pull a Sheldon on them…

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11 Bonus. “Figure out what your most important metric for growth is and focus on that.”

As said above a lot of companies focus on vanity metrics instead of metrics that truly drive growth. In the words of Eries Ries: “Vanity metrics are the numbers you want to publish on Tech Crunch to make your competitors feel bad”. They are not useful to measure the real success of your business.

Some examples of vanity metrics are:

Site traffic

App downloads

Registered users

Why are these metrics vanity metrics? While they are useful, they can be misleading. Site traffic doesn’t necessarily mean that your customers are converting. App downloads doesn’t necessarily mean that people are actually using your app. The same goes for registered users.

More useful metrics would be:

Repeat customers -> Customer happiness

Daily active users -> Engagement with app and repeat users (customer happiness)

You want to find the most important growth metric for your business. For Dropbox that would be files stored because it is both a good indicator of the number of people using the product (growth) and the number of files they store (frequeny of usage, satisfaction with product).

For a scheduling app the growth metric would be appointments made because a growth in this metric both indicates an increase in users (more users = more appointments = user growth) and an increase in usage per user (more appointments booked per user = customer satisfaction).

Ryan Holiday uses a good example in his Growth Hacker Marketing book:

If Disneyland focused just on park visitors they would soon go out of business. Why? Because what matters to them is HAPPY customers. That is the only metric that cannot be influenced by promotions and truly reflects how well the product/service is doing.

As with everything in life, don’t be fooled by vanity.

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​If you read the book Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday let me know what you think the best quotes were :)


Read more about Growth Hacking & Marketing at

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