Growth Marketing vs. Growth Hacking: What’s the Difference?

How do we properly distinguish between emphasizing growth marketing vs. growth hacking? Here's a quick guide to help you market with clarity.

Determining which digital marketing channel or tactic will actually reach a potential customer and help spark exponential growth can be confusing and stressful. In the face of this challenge, many startup businesses looking to score some quick growth struggle to appreciate the difference between the phrases “growth marketing” and “growth hacking” as they launch.

So how do we properly distinguish between emphasizing growth marketing vs. growth hacking?

Working Definitions

Growth Marketing

The practice of growth marketing takes the traditional marketing model and adds new layers, such as a data-driven technical analysis of all aspects of the customer experience. Marketers move quickly to implement the insights gained from this user experience strategy to achieve sustainable growth.

But your growth marketing effort scarcely ends there. Unlike traditional marketing, growth marketing goes beyond the top of the marketing funnel.

The Driving Forces Behind Growth Marketing

The primary role of growth marketing is to create value rather than extract value from your existing customers. Growth marketing uses a systemic process that builds on adaptable development principles and prioritizes tactics based on their perceived long-term impact.

Growth marketing is a long-term strategy focused on fostering business growth. Its emphasis is on building relationships and loyalty to reinforce brand awareness and also acquire new customers. This growth strategy adds consistent value by attracting users and engaging with them, often while they are out on a product hunt.

Once implemented, you can then focus on retaining customers. Growth marketing, done right, can even turn customers into advocates for your brand. In short, they become cheerleaders, part of your growth tribe. This particular marketing tactic is tough to beat!

Anyone serving on your company’s growth team probably knows that it’s become increasingly important to have a creative, results-driven, and compelling marketing strategy targeted to the new customer.

Your growth marketing strategy can serve as a new, robust approach to building a loyal customer base. It will prove invaluable as you engineer the desired customer journey and create or edit various aspects of your growth hacking funnel.

Growth Hacking

While we often use the terms growth marketing and growth hacking interchangeably, these techniques have subtle differences.

Growth hacking focuses on creative, often low-cost strategies to help companies quickly acquire new customers. This concept utilizes a cross-functional approach that integrates marketing and technical product development skills.

Marketers use growth hacking to facilitate rapid growth through the use of qualitative and quantitative data, as well as experimentation. They use qualitative and quantitative data to gain insights into user behavior and preferences. This strategy also utilizes an accelerated testing process and specific standards to evaluate and act on the results.

The most fundamental difference between growth hacking and growth marketing lies in their opposing views on brands.

  • Growth marketing is all about building the brand.
  • Growth hacking is about growth by whatever means necessary.
    • This approach leads to a need for more attention on the brand itself.

The other critical difference is the specific type of growth. Both rapid and sustainable growth would be ideal, but companies often feel pressured to pick one or the other for their focus.

  • The primary goal of growth marketing is managing sustainable growth. As a result, we focus every action on achieving growth over time.
  • Growth hacking supports fast-paced growth. Therefore, the long-term aspects of the growth plan lose some of their focus.

How the Right Combination Will Work in Tandem

An effective growth marketing process turns the best attributes of growth hacking into a sustainable practice based on solid principles.

Growth marketing emphasizes the importance of understanding people, competition, and the business as it exists in the real world. Growth marketers know that the best marketing tactics result from knowing the ideal customers for each company.

Although there are stark differences, there are also some obvious similarities between growth marketing and growth hacking. Both approaches rely on an adaptable growth model, encouraging experimentation, data-informed decision-making, and constant improvement. Growth hacking and growth marketing rely on access to qualitative and quantitative data to drive revenue growth and customer acquisition.

How Do I Decide?

Deciding which growth strategy will be the most beneficial for your business may seem complicated, but it all boils down to your goals.

If you need more sustainable growth, growth marketing is the better option because it can keep giving for years and years if done well.

  • Growth marketing is preferred if there is enough evidence of demand and a clear market for the intended product. Long-term plans suit businesses or products with lasting sales cycles and high customer value.
  • Growth hacking is the ideal choice for brand marketing if you are a new startup or business that hasn’t launched. Implementing a growth hack is especially needed when we haven’t determined the product or market fit. New companies often have limited marketing teams and bare-bones choices. These circumstances allow for experimentation with the product, audience, and pricing standards.

Even though they share the same goal, both techniques pursue different growth methods and complement each other. Businesses are buzzing about these concepts because everyone is seeking rapid yet sustained growth that strives to improve revenues. When you analyze and define the specific roles of growth marketing vs. growth hacking, it’s clear that they both have value.

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