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What is the difference between growth marketing and performance marketing?

Date published: July 03, 2023
Last updated: March 7, 2024

In the digital age, marketing terminology is a complex vocabulary in and of itself. There are so many tools, techniques, and platforms that marketers use. It’s hard to keep track of all of the terms and acronyms floating in the marketing ethers at any given moment.

Even broad concepts like product marketing, performance marketing, and growth marketing are easy to confuse. If you’ve ever wondered if there is even a difference between performance marketing and growth marketing, well, there is. Quite a significant one, in fact.

Despite the similarity in the terms “performance” and “growth,” these two forms of marketing represent two dramatically different ways to promote a brand. Let’s explore each one and consider their similarities as well as where they don’t line up, shall we?

What Does Growth Marketing Mean?

Unlike traditional marketing, growth marketing is a data-driven approach to marketing that prioritizes analysis and adaptation based on results. It is also a consumer-focused marketing activity that keeps the customer at the center of every decision. It doesn’t just focus on customer acquisition and the top of the marketing funnel, either. It takes the entire customer journey into consideration.

Growth marketing utilizes a smorgasbord of digital marketing tools and techniques to meet the customer at every point along the customer lifecycle. Unlike growth hacking (which sacrifices long-term stability for short-term gains), growth marketers foster sustainable business growth. A good growth marketing strategy focuses on three key pillars to do so:

  • Building credibility and brand awareness through digital PR.
  • Establishing authority by cultivating high-quality content.
  • Increasing visibility via SEO techniques.

Together, each marketing tactic delivers adaptable, high-yielding growth over a long period of time. When it comes to growth marketing vs. marketing, growth marketing is a broad, long-term approach. It combines multiple marketing techniques and requires serious strategic investment.

What Is Performance Marketing?

When it comes to performance marketing — also called performance-based marketing or results-based marketing — the definition is in the name. This is a straightforward form of marketing that prioritizes short-term pay-offs. In fact, with performance marketing, businesses don’t pay unless they see the results they’re investing in.

Shopify defines performance marketing as an approach to brand marketing that is results-driven “where advertisers pay only when specific actions or outcomes are achieved.” The e-commerce giant adds that these “specific actions” could be any of several forms of consumer behavior, including clicks, leads, and sales.

In essence, performance marketing is a form of direct paid marketing. Companies pay to push their messages and promotions in front of consumers through search engines and social media platforms. Ad spend with performance marketing can be pricey, but it’s predictable. A marketing team only pays when it has confirmed results.

The Difference Between Growth Marketing and Performance Marketing?

Okay, so how is growth marketing different from performance marketing? At their core, a digital marketer and performance marketer use similar tactics in the sense that they seek to generate revenue and help a company grow its bottom line.

When considering growth marketing vs performance marketing, though, a couple of key differences quickly arise. The first is the limited scope of performance marketing. When you break it down, performance-based promotion feels more like a specific technique than an entire marketing strategy. It is simplistic in that it uses money to push a message in front of a specific audience.

In comparison, growth marketing takes a more holistic approach. It invests in organic growth tactics through SEO, content creation, and PR to create customer loyalty, brand awareness, and sustainable growth.

Performance marketing is also a single activity, even if it takes place across more than one marketing channel. Growth marketing weaves various elements together. It combines customer-facing and back-end techniques and uses the power of both on-site and off-site promotion.

Should I Invest in Growth Marketing or Performance Marketing?

If you’re struggling to choose between growth and performance marketing, it all comes down to your marketing goals. If you need to get a message in front of an audience quickly, such as promoting a seasonal sale, investing in a performance marketing campaign is an effective way to do that.

Outside of specific events like a sale, though, growth marketing is a preferable way to cultivate long-term growth. Much of its activity — things like SEO and content marketing — focuses on up-front investment that continues to yield results far into the future. In addition, growth marketing is easy to adapt and optimize as you go along. This ensures that your marketing effort remains at peak efficiency every step of the way.

Investing in Growth Marketing for Long-Term Success

Being a growth marketer isn’t easy. It requires intimate industry knowledge, the right tools, and plenty of experience. You can research this on your own or work with a strategic growth marketing agency to come up with a good growth marketing campaign for your brand.

Either way, investing in a marketing strategy is well worth the effort. The result is an insightful marketing campaign that is built on data, focused on your target audience, and perpetually tailored to your brand’s growing needs.

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