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Guide to Growth Marketing

What It Is and Why Your Business Needs It

Have you come across the term “growth marketing” and wondered what exactly it meant? You’re not alone. There is quite a bit of confusion in the marketing world about the term growth marketing and what it really entails. 

We’re here to help clear up some of that confusion. 

Consider this your growth marketing primer. Below is a crash course on how growth marketing works along with examples of those concepts in action. 

We’ll also break down how growth marketing differs from things like traditional marketing and growth hacking. From there, we’ll look at how growth marketing tactics can benefit your organization and how you can design a growth marketing strategy for your own company.

Ready to do this? Let’s dive in.

What Is Growth Marketing?

The field of growth marketing emphasizes agile and evidence-based decision-making. It uses these tools to look beyond a single aspect of the sales funnel, focusing instead on the entire customer lifecycle.

Much like a scientist conducting an experiment, a growth marketer regularly tests their techniques. For instance, they might compare the design and content of one landing page versus another. From there, they can make further marketing decisions based on the results. This allows marketers to lean on clear, calculated data instead of over-relying on their gut instincts.

Another important aspect of growth marketing is having individual team members who can take ownership of different parts of the process. For example, a fully-integrated growth marketing team will likely consist of experts from multiple departments, including marketing, sales, customer support, and analytics.

In addition, traditional marketers tend to focus on the top of the marketing funnel. Growth marketers put time and attention into the entire cycle. In essence, they create an entire growth funnel — something we like to call the AAARRR.

The Pirate Funnel: AAARRR

Developed by Dave McClure, the Pirate Funnel is aptly named after its official acronym: AAARRR. Though some companies may interpret the steps differently, every part of the funnel relates to a different piece of the growth marketing puzzle. From top to bottom, the Pirate Funnel generally consists of the following:

It doesn’t matter if your business sector is e-commerce sales or SaaS, whether you sell products or services — you can use the AAARRR framework to jumpstart sustainable growth in any industry or environment.

What Is the Difference Between Growth Marketing and Other Forms of Marketing?

Marketing can take many forms. This has led to confusion between things like growth marketing vs. digital marketing and traditional marketing. Heck, even growth marketing vs. marketing, in general, can get confusing.

To help sort things out, let’s consider one example: traditional marketing. How do past marketing norms compare and contrast with modern growth marketing standards?

What is the Difference Between Growth Marketing and Traditional Marketing?

When comparing growth marketing and traditional marketing, there are several main components to consider. At first, these tend to look the same. 

For instance, achieving success in either type of marketing involves staying on top of current marketing trends. But the majority of the similarities tend to end there. 

Traditional marketing is typically company-focused and aims to sell a product or service. In contrast, growth marketing zeroes in on the consumer and aims to provide the most personalized experience possible.

Another aspect of traditional marketing is its strong focus on customer awareness and acquisition. Traditional marketers tend to concern themselves with statistics like the number of views a digital ad receives or the reach of a particular print magazine.

In comparison, a growth marketer isn’t just interested in gaining new customers. They want to retain them. They even go further, striving to turn new customers into brand ambassadors who can then do the work of bringing in even more customers. This in-depth approach requires marketers to continue engaging customers beyond the initial point of acquisition.

Yet another difference between growth marketing and traditional marketing is the process by which marketing decisions are made. Traditional marketing often relies on opinion-based decisions. That can be woefully inefficient and ineffective. The constant testing done in the growth marketing sector provides data that can perpetually inform the next steps in a strategy.

To top it off, traditional marketers tend to plan campaigns and ads on an annual basis and within defined marketing channels. Growth marketers update and tweak their cross-channel marketing strategies more frequently. This allows them to be faster, more responsive, and more dynamic.

What Is the Difference Between Growth Marketing and Growth Hacking?

Along with differentiating growth marketing from other forms of marketing, it’s also helpful to clarify how it differs from growth hacking. Though some may use growth marketing and growth hacking interchangeably, they are not the same thing.

Originally coined by “Growth Hacking” author Sean Ellis, growth hacking strategy focuses on achieving the most growth in the shortest amount of time possible. Growth hacker marketing has been a strategy favored by many Silicon Valley giants over the years, including iconic brands like Facebook, Twitter, and Dropbox. These companies, at least initially, lived by the “grow or die” mentality. 

Of course, in the current day and age, many are managing the fallout of this excessively aggressive growth strategy in marketing. The unwieldy long-term results of growth hacking are a perfect example of the essential differences between growth marketing and growth hacking. 

Similar to traditional marketing, growth hacking focuses on the top parts of the sales funnel — especially customer acquisition. As we’ve repeated ad nauseam by now, growth marketing addresses the entire funnel from start to finish.

It’s true that growth hacking and growth marketing both focus on data and testing. However, growth hackers test with the goals of experimentation and refining an outcome. Growth marketers aim to identify patterns and design strategies.

Growth hacking leads with hands-on tactics, too, while growth marketing strives for marketing automation. A growth hacker also focuses on optimization of techniques, whereas a growth marketer prioritizes customer personalization for long-term, meaningful growth and retention.

While both marketing approaches help scale a business, a growth hacking agency obsesses over immediate acquisition with a relative disregard for the future. A growth marketing agency prioritizes substantial growth across the customer journey as well as customer lifetime value (CLV).

What Is the Goal of Growth Marketing?

There are many strategies and benefits of growth marketing (some of which are outlined below), but what is the end goal of a growth marketing strategy? If growth marketing is focused on long-term, sustainable growth, what does that look like in execution? What are some of the reasons to implement growth strategies in business? 

When you’re trying to grow, the primary factor is traffic. The more eyeballs you have on your products or services, the more opportunities you create. We tend to break this down further into two categories: the quantity of your traffic and the quality of your traffic.

It’s tempting to try to boil the objective of growth marketing to a single goal or OKR (objective and key results). But the truth is, you want both higher quantity and quality traffic if your growth is going to be sustainable.

8 Tactics of Growth Marketing

A good growth marketing strategy consists of a web of interwoven tactics. Each of these supports the whole and helps reach the common goal of better traffic, leads, and conversions. Here are a few of the most common growth marketing tactics that you can implement:

Content

Your content is ground zero for marketing. You want this to be optimized and built for both on-site (resources, blog posts, how-to’s, sales pages) and off-site (guest posts, social media) use. Content helps you rank for new keywords and attract that traffic growth you want.

SEO

Search engine optimization is critical to organic traffic. You always want to weave keywords, backlinks, internal links, technical SEO optimization, and other search engine-friendly elements into your growth marketing efforts. Without a solid foundation and optimized content, your site won’t be doing you many favors when it comes to seeing actual growth.

Digital PR

You can talk about your business on your own content assets all day long. But at some point, you need third-party sites and sources to mention you, too. Digital PR helps you build authority through the endorsement of those who already have it. This can help give you a snowball effect with your other efforts, and show to Google, and potential leads or customers, that you are an authority in the space.

Social Media

Social platforms help create buzz. They give you intimate encounters with your target audience. They help you build communities around your brand and receive detailed feedback on a regular basis.

Email

From drip campaigns to newsletter updates, emails put you right in the pocket of your target consumer. Even better, an email list consists of those who have opted in to hear your message and are willing to engage with you.

PPC

Pay-per-click advertising helps you supercharge your growth efforts. It puts money behind your marketing efforts and pushes your brand out in front of new consumers searching for your solutions.

Influencer Campaigns

Influencers come with an audience that already trusts their endorsements. Working with high-profile social personalities creates an immediate level of respect and interest with their followers (who are ideally your target audience, as well).

Webinars and Podcasts

Webinars and podcasts give you a chance to share your advice as an authority in your industry. It positions you as a thought leader in the eyes of your target audience. It also offers them a multimedia way to access your content.

Key Elements of Every Growth Marketing Strategy

There are a variety of tactics used in the implementation of successful growth marketing campaigns. These tactics include: 

  • Cross-channel marketing
  • A/B testing
  • Data-based decision making

Let’s break these down further, shall we?

The Synergy of Cross-Channel Marketing

A major focus of growth marketers is promoting across multiple growth marketing channels. It allows businesses to create the most streamlined, customer-centric experience possible and enables companies to reach customers at every stage of the funnel. 

Creating customer awareness (located at the top of the funnel) is an activity that can involve working with social media influencers, buying digital ads, or creating a television ad. Customers at later stages of the funnel may require email marketing tactics, promotions, and various website features.

Cross-channel marketing encompasses a wide range of platforms and strategies, both in digital marketing and print marketing. It creates comprehensive marketing initiatives that utilize social media posts, google ads, email subscriptions, and many of the other growth marketing tactics listed in the previous section.

Using these in strategic unison creates a synergistic effect impossible to achieve with each one separately.

A/B Testing Refines Marketing Over Time

Also known as multivariate testing, A/B testing is an essential component of a growth marketing strategy. A/B testing takes place when marketers compare two variations of a marketing campaign — anything from greater engagement to purchases or referrals — to determine which achieves the desired outcome. To make results even more accurate and helpful, growth marketers typically divide their customers into subgroups and test how each variation performs with each subgroup.

For example, marketers may design two versions of an email varying in tone, design, or content and then test it on Gen Z, Millennial, and Baby Boomer consumers. They would then use the resulting data to tweak the content until it has the best chance of engaging their desired customer segment.

Data-Based Decision-Making

There is certainly value in factoring opinions and gut responses into decisions. However, adding data to the mix makes the results more actionable. 

The A/B testing emphasized in growth marketing allows companies to test everything, from small decisions, like the color of their home page, to larger ones, such as which incentives to offer for customer referrals. This is made possible through a variety of tools that provide and curate data at different points in the growth marketing process.

For instance, on the front end, SEO tools like SEMrush and AHrefs provide detailed insights into keywords, backlinks, and other elements to help you build a sound strategy. As you execute a growth marketing campaign, platforms like Google Analytics collect data and create reports on how each of your initiatives performed.

This data-driven approach allows companies to zero in on smaller segments of their customer base. A pet food brand can glean insights into dog owners, in particular. A supplement company can hone in on runners or seniors. The effect of this targeted approach is the development of even more customer-focused products or services, which in turn, leads to greater customer retention.

Benefits of a Growth Marketing Strategy

There are many significant benefits that come with adopting a growth marketing strategy. Here are a handful of the biggest advantages of growth marketing for your brand.

Long-Term Growth

As discussed above, both growth hacking and traditional marketing tend to focus on the initial stages of the customer funnel. In growth marketing, you are constantly discovering ways to not only gain new customers but also keep them engaged.

This could come from offering discounts, delivering excellent content marketing, up-selling, or cross-selling. Regardless, growth marketers don’t seek the fastest growth in the shortest amount of time. They aim to uncover the most effective techniques that can be automated for the long haul. Then, they continue to improve them along the way.

Customer Retention

Customer retention is an important component of a growth marketing roadmap. Nobody likes to see an ad that offers new patrons a cheaper price than they, as existing customers, are already paying. The solution to this is for companies to value their customers over the long haul by continuing to offer benefits and incentives months and years after acquisition.

When companies continue putting effort into creating a personalized experience for long-term customers, those customers can become brand ambassadors. They can shout the brand’s praises, virtually or otherwise, to their friends and family. 

Agile Responsiveness

Many traditional marketing plans utilize yearly evaluations. However, it’s better to actively assess and tweak tactics throughout the year.

A growth marketing manager evaluates relevant data more frequently and makes needed changes more often. This avoids wasting valuable time and money on strategies that are not achieving your goals.

Examples of Growth Marketing Campaigns

One of the most effective ways to understand and plan your own growth marketing campaign is to study the success of other businesses. Below, we have outlined some growth marketing examples in the form of two companies that have experienced amazing results with growth marketing campaigns.

Case Study #1: Slack Becomes the Fastest-Growing B2B Software Provider Ever

As the fastest-growing B2B software provider ever, Slack is a valuable company to study when searching for insights into growth marketing success stories.

The tech brand is an instant-messaging tool for work communication that was created by a remote team that understood the struggles of the virtual work experience. Over time, the developers have used both growth marketing and growth hacking strategies to scale their brand. 

Here are a few of the strategies that helped Slack grow so quickly:

  • Slack asked for feedback and constantly improved: The team at Slack didn’t create a product and then rest on their laurels. They relentlessly queried users about their experience. They requested suggestions for improvement and used them to make necessary changes.
  • Slack created a market and solved a problem: There was nothing quite like Slack before it appeared on the scene. The brand’s development team used its software to tackle a number of business communication problems.
  • Slack offered a free option: Slack’s marketing strategy included offering a free plan that was substantial enough to stand on its own. At the same time, it hinted at further abilities that enticed customers to pay for the full plan.
  • Slack provided seamless onboarding: Slack made it nearly effortless for new users to sign up for the platform and invite others to join them.

Case Study #2: Etsy Builds a Hyper-Targeted Community Based on Values

Early in the internet era, eBay was the primary option for crafters looking to sell their goods online. Then, in 2005, founders Rob Kalin, Chris Maguire, Haim Schoppik, and Jared Tarbell unveiled Etsy. By creating a platform specifically for artisans, they tapped into a vast customer base that soon became dedicated members of the Etsy community.

Here are a few keys to the company’s success: 

  • Etsy defined a niche: The team knew right off the bat who their target audience was. They understood the unmet needs of their artisan audience and made targeted efforts to meet them.
  • Etsy created a low entry point: In addition to creating an artisan-focused community, Etsy created a lower-cost option. Etsy stores required less risk from their consumers while still giving them a platform to sell their wares.
  • Etsy carved out a strong brand identity: Etsy did a phenomenal job of brand marketing by defining itself as an anti-consumerism, eco-friendly, and feminist enterprise. This further appealed to their target audience of small, primarily female business owners and buyers who didn’t want mass-produced items. Buying a product from Etsy was designed to be more than just shopping. It proclaimed a person’s values, whether those were supporting small businesses, helping the environment, or finding a one-of-a-kind gift.
  • Etsy used social media to grow: The strong brand identity Etsy created naturally fed into organic social media growth. It distinguished itself with recognizable styles and products. Selling on or shopping at Etsy became a way for consumers to show others who they were.

Unleashing the Potential of Growth Marketing for Your Business

When designing your own business’s growth marketing strategy, it’s important to stay flexible. You need to combine both gut decisions and the data you uncover through frequent testing of your marketing tactics, whether that’s marketing emails, website design, or anything else. 

Focus on all parts of the AAARRR funnel. That means putting as much time and attention into engaging existing customers as you do into finding new ones. Carve out a strong brand identity and use content marketing to share useful videos, blog posts, podcasts, and more with your consumers. Don’t be afraid to use other successful growth marketing campaigns as inspiration for your own strategy, too.

When you (or if you’re overwhelmed, you and your growth marketing agency) work to put all of this together, it creates synergy. Growth marketing brings together the many different aspects of successfully scaling a business and combines them to tap into and unleash a brand’s full potential.

Using Growth Marketing to Own Your Industry

Growth marketing can help you focus on every stage of the customer lifecycle. You can create personalized customer experiences and effectively use tactics like A/B testing to gauge your success over time. While there are many ways to attempt to use growth marketing, at Relevance, we’ve found that genuine growth marketing tends to focus on three primary areas:

Credibility

Using tools like digital PR allows you to build a credible brand that consumers can trust. This enhances your credibility as a brand, both in the eyes of your potential customers and in the eyes of Google. Being mentioned alongside other key figures in your field of expertise and being part of the conversation is vital to beginning to be an influential part of your industry.

Authority

Building a cohesive content strategy helps your brand establish itself as an industry leader. Think through the important themes of your industry and company and make sure you’re writing well-rounded content covering all aspects of it, and not just the benefits. This authority positions you as someone who can offer informed and effective solutions.

Visibility

If you want your traffic to grow, you need to get in front of more people. You know that content we just mentioned that is talking about all aspects of a certain topic? Use that to your advantage and make sure it’s showing up in the SERPs. A targeted SEO ensures you’re visible at the right times and in the right places. Being at the forefront of those topics is key to your growth efforts.  

Together, these three growth marketing strategies combine to help companies spark sustainable, long-term growth. It beefs up their sales funnels from top to bottom and enables them to attain and retain industry ownership.

When it comes to scaling your business, emphasizing your credibility, authority, and visibility can help you tap into that hidden growth potential, no matter what stage of the business lifecycle you’re in or what challenges stand in your way.

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