Please login to the form below

What pharma marketers can learn from growth hacking?

Growth hackers instinctively blend technical skills with creative thinking

Have you heard the news?

Growth hacking is the new marketing.

But what is growth hacking and is it relevant in pharma multi-channel marketing?

Coined by entrepreneur Sean Ellis in 2010, growth hacking is a relatively new term. Growth hackers instinctively blend technical skills with creative thinking to effortlessly traverse the digital media landscape with the simple aim of growing their customer base as quickly as is humanly possible.

But let’s dig a little deeper, if we dissect the term we start to get a better understanding of this intriguing role.


The purpose of a growth hacker is laser-sharp, it’s all about growth. The role was born in companies like Uber, AirBnB and Dropbox when they were fresh-faced start-ups needing to grow rapidly. However, this growth mindset has been around since the launch of online services like Hotmail.

The objective may be tightly focused, but the scope is as broad as it can be. Whereas marketers will tend to focus on the early stages of the customer journey, growth hackers get to work right across the whole journey, including awareness, acquisition, retention, customer service, loyalty and advocacy.

Growth hackers are particularly interested in the customer experience because if people love the brand, they’ll tell others. It doesn’t matter whether you call this word of mouth, buzz, viral or earned media, it’s all the same thing, the most powerful tool in the growth hackers toolbox.


As mentioned, the role was born in start-ups where money was tight, and so this led to the use of cheaper tactics like social media marketing, viral marketing, SEO, email marketing and content marketing plus the adoption of a ‘hacking’ approach to marketing.

A ‘hacking’ approach is when people use their technical know-how to come up with creative tactics to build their subscriber bases.Historically, these hacks presented huge growth opportunities that needed to be exploited quickly before competitors jumped on the bandwagon or the hack expired. An infamous example of the latter is when the fledgeling Airbnb created an unauthorised Craigslist integration that enabled their users to cross-list their properties on Craigslist, as well as on Airbnb’s site with just one click. This resulted in a surge in new users due to Airbnb’s newly-found functionality, until Craigslist pulled the plug.

Today hacks are less experimental and are more tried-and-tested tactics such as the personalised landing page, the double-sided referral and the ‘embed this’ code.

Never good enough

But there’s another trait of the growth hacker which is really important. And that’s their obsession with optimisation. They are constantly looking at how to improve their performance. How can we drive more traffic? How can the website experience be better? How can we drive more advocacy? And they achieve this through being a master of data analytics and testing everything from copy to imagery, from colours to calls to action.

Pharma growth hackers?

It would be easy to dismiss growth hacking as something only start-ups need to do or only being relevant to businesses that need to grow subscribers or because the tactics are unconventional. But we would suggest that’s missing the point.

The growth hacker has a number of character traits which are essential for any modern marketer, in any sector, including Pharma.

  1. Obsessives about results— Be clear about your KPIs and ensure all activity will drive these
  2. Customer experience engineers — Work out what a great customer experience looks like and work towards delivering that
  3. Savvy digital marketers— Gain a deep understand of all digital media, it’s no longer a nice-to-have
  4. Lateral thinkers — Don’t default to a formulaic marketing plan, challenge received wisdom
  5. Data Analysts — Know how to unlock knowledge and insights from your data
  6. Optimisation Experts — Test, measure, learn, repeat.
If we fast forward another 3 to 5 years, we believe there’s a good chance that the term growth hackers won’t exist, because all marketers will be growth hackers.

We’re Owen Health, a Healthcare Communications Agency that specialises in Multi-channel Marketing to make you Digitally Fitter, Stronger & Faster.

Read more about our thoughts on multi-channel marketing, brand strategy, CX and digital marketing for pharma on our blog:

And find out why we're not like the others on our website

25th June 2018



Company Details

An agency called Owen

+44 (0)23 9248 6566

Contact Website

Longcroft Barn, Priors Leaze Lane,
West Sussex
PO18 8RH

Latest content on this profile

The Pharma UK Twitter Ranking 2018 [RESEARCH]
The second edition in our Pharma Social Media Series, the UK Twitter Ranking.
An agency called Owen
The Pharma UK Twitter Ranking 2018 [RESEARCH]
The second edition in our Pharma Social Media Series, the UK Twitter Ranking.
An agency called Owen
What pharma marketers can learn from growth hacking?
Growth hackers instinctively blend technical skills with creative thinking
An agency called Owen
The Periodic Table of Healthcare Communications 2018
The definitive framework for building healthcare communication strategies and plans. Covering Brand Planning, Customer Experience and Multi-channel Marketing.
An agency called Owen
Battle of the Voice Assistants and Voice Search
At-a-glance crib sheet on how the battle of the voice assistants is shaping up between Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung.
An agency called Owen
Discover who are the most engaging Pharma companies on Twitter
With engagement such a key performance metric we first created a weighted formula, incorporating likes, retweets and replies, which produced an engagement score for each account.
An agency called Owen