Growth is the holy grail in all startups and many companies consider adapting growth hacking methodology. Many thing that it is absolutely necessary to have an engineer in marketing team and ideate black hat strategies that are borderline illegal to even start thinking about doing “growth hacking”.
The truth it, growth hacking is a combination of marketing tactics with a product development strategy. The goal is to maximize growth - because it is directly related to selling the product or service, either on your website or any other distribution channel. It doesn’t have to be online. It doesn’t have to be illegal. It does, however, differ a little from Agile Growth Marketing methodology.
Growth hacking nowadays is kind of a marketing strategy based mainly on tools available on the web. As the name suggests, it's about hacking growth - i.e. wise use of available tools in a new way, thanks to which we grow much faster than the competition investing in traditional marketing methods.
Although growth hacking does not exclude paid advertising, it definitely prefers methods that require minimal costs, at least at the experimentation level. For growth hacking methods to work well, you must first have a good and strong product. If your product somehow defends itself, gives real value and helps in solving real problems, these types of methods work extremely effectively. If you don’t have a Unique Selling Point, or your product is barely on the level of competition (or you don’t have any product market fit yet), you absolutely need to start on product level. Most of growth tactics will not bring any results unless you fix your product issues first.