The term "growth hack" has unfortunately fallen a little out of fashion in 2019. Now-a-days it's just as synonymous with A/B testing of digital ads as it is with anything else. I actually think if you apply the concept of "growth hacking" to the business as a whole as opposed to a specific marketing campaign (as with A/B testing) then the term begins to have a more profound meaning. Growth hacking as I would define it "is a disruptive business's ability to leverage the inherent advantages of their business model and technology to accelerate sales growth and dramatically outpace competitors."
So what does that really mean? Let's take a very broad example of a company providing an IoT product designed to save customers money on their operations. The company's primary innovation is a solution that allows them to dramatically reduce the hardware, install, and integration costs of getting a solution up and running.
Many entrepreneurs will take a very amateurish perspective on their competitive landscape where the argument basically boils down to "our tech is better than their tech". More sophisticated entrepreneurs will be slightly more objective by viewing their competitive advantages in real terms and weaving them into their pitch "our product has significantly lower installation and integration costs than do competitors". An entrepreneur with a growth hacking mindset will instead see their competitive advantage as an opportunity to make moves their competitions simply can't and therefore outrun them. They'll say our implementation costs are low so to prove our value to customers, we'll pay for the install and IT setup for a small pilot project. If we meet preset performance goals, customers will automatically be put on a subscription plan and negotiations will start for a company wide expansion.
Now I know that sounds like just a simple "free trial" but it's not. For one, if the implementation costs are normally cost prohibitive then the concept of a free trial likely doesn't exists for this market the way it does for many freemium software services. Your competitors can't offer that same ability or if they can they certainly can't do it at the same scale you can. Additionally, the plan above still requires some level of customer buy-in so you're not just handing over the software hoping they'll like it. You're using the pilot as a carrot to accelerate the enterprise sale and get decision makers to make faster decisions.
If you're going to build a high growth business you can't approach your sales and marketing strategies the same way you would as a Fortune 500 or your competitors would. Sure adding the cost of a pilot implementation to your cost of acquisition is not something to take lightly. But if this is executed intelligently, it could deliver a huge ROI.
The revenue from a full company wide install is so large that it's worth the investment to make it happen sooner. It allows you to greatly accelerate an otherwise long sales cycle and to penetrate the market much faster than your competitors ever could. You're not trying to maximize bottom line profit right now, you're trying to maximize revenue over time (i.e. growth) This game is about speed to market dominance and the best way to achieve it is for founders to reexamine their competitive advantage to see if underneath there's a growth hack.