Last updated: Growth marketing: Definition, benefits, examples, tips

Growth marketing: Definition, benefits, examples, tips


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Growth marketing – a long-term strategy for attracting, engaging, and retaining customers that’s focused on constant experimentation – has been hailed as the next big thing for brand evangelism and a possible hedge against recession. Yet, surprisingly, most marketing teams are not on board with it.

In fact, a recent survey by 3Q/DEPT found that 76% of marketers don’t embrace growth marketing and only 41% even know what the term means.

It’s entirely possible CMOs prefer to avoid anything they perceive as potentially risky after enduring more than two years of a global pandemic that caused every brand to reassess its marketing strategies. It’s also possible that, with budgets vulnerable to economic turbulence, marketers are more concerned with tightening budgets than embarking on fresh adventures.

Let’s walk through what growth marketing is, what it’s not, and how it can benefit a brand.

What is growth marketing?

Growth marketing takes innovative approaches to attract new customers while keeping existing ones captivated because they feel like they’re part of something fun, exciting, or rewarding. Instead of relying on standard marketing techniques, it involves relentless iteration, testing, and optimization.

Growth marketing initiatives are often called “growth hacks,” a term coined by author Sean Ellis in 2010, who said marketers needed to engage in experiments to improve specific customer metrics, such as new user sign-ups, user retention, or revenue. The approach involves A/B testing, data analysis, multiple channels, and lots of creative thinking.

According to 3Q/DEPT, growth marketing requires a full-funnel approach, marrying brand (upper-funnel) and performance (mid-to-bottom-funnel) marketing strategies and activities together for more cohesive and holistic customer experiences.

It must also involve a robust approach to data management and activation where insights are constantly collected and utilized to measure the health of the business, build engaging creative materials, and optimize marketing strategies to drive broader company goals.

Growth marketing isn’t a magic trick, according to Ellen Jantsch, founder of growth-marketing agency Tuff.

She tells TechCrunch that it’s a circular process where a team tests a range of different tactics within chosen channels, and checks in every day to gauge performance, reallocate budgets, glean insights, and prioritize quick wins. After a few weeks, the team analyzes the data to see what did or did not work as planned, and then creates a game plan for longer-term success.

Growth marketing benefits + examples

How does this constant experimentation, data analysis, and optimization benefit a brand? Done right, growth marketing can produce a number of benefits:

  1. Know your customers. Testing and iteration help brands better understand their target customers and quickly make data-driven adjustments
  2. Attract new customers. Growth marketing is helpful for growing a quality customer base through analytics-driven and highly creative campaigns.
  3. Heighten brand awareness. Companies often use growth hacks to create buzz around their brands and help position them in specific markets.
  4. Improve SEO. Through its constant experimentation and analytics-based adjustments, growth marketing usually improves SEO effectiveness, meaning brands have more articles ranking higher on the top search engines.
  5. Economical. Brands achieve results by tapping existing resources, like web and social media sites, store locations, and so forth.
Growth marketing examples include:
  • Dropbox: The online storage company is famous for building a multi-billion-dollar business by essentially gamifying the onboarding process for its site.
  • Fortnite: The wildly immersive video game built its business with growth marketing by offering it free along with huge in-game updates called “seasons” that were released (like movies) with trailers to create hype. Gamers came to anticipate the new seasons.

Some teams excel at growth marketing, and there are several so-called growth hackers like Ellis and Patrick Cines of Planted, who are known across the industry for being experts on it. There are also a host of growth marketing agencies, such as 3Q/DEPT, Thrive Digital, and Deviate Labs.

With companies advertising about 26,000 senior positions on LinkedIn asking for growth marketing expertise, agencies can provide an opportunity to quickly fill skills gaps many teams have been confronting for several years.

Sound good? Here’s how to get started

Growth marketing won’t be right for every company, so if a CMO or other executive is thinking about trying it, it’s best to first ask the questions, “is this the right fit for us?” and “how would this help our business?”

If the answer is “yes, this would ignite sales the way we have in mind,” then there are a few recommended steps for kickstarting a growth marketing program:

  • Identify specific goals and metrics: As with any strategic program, the first step is to chart where you’re going, and why, as well as your key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Design programs around customer journeys: Think programmatically about how you see customers engaging with your brand through each growth marketing activation. Literally storyboard it to illustrate each key step you want them to take, and the start-to-finish results you expect to achieve. These goals should take a long view and consider KPIs such as acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and revenue.
  • Execute in stages: You don’t need to boil the ocean. Start small. Focus on either high sales priorities (if you’re in a hurry) or low priorities (if you prefer to play it safe and want to see how things go before investing more heavily).
  • Assign top talent: To really assess growth marketing’s potential, you need your best staff on it. After all, if it works out, that’s who would be driving these programs anyway. If you don’t have the talent in-house or available, don’t be afraid to hire an agency or consultant to get you going.
  • Test, test, test: Again, it’s vital to continually measure performance and adjust (rinse and repeat). Some organizations do this through A/A or A/B testing where you share different content with various focus groups to see which perform the best. Whatever you choose, make it part of the growth marketing religion.

Time will tell if growth marketing stands the test of time. In recent years, it’s become a more formalized and specific strategy that many CMOs should at least consider.

At the very least, it could help boost results for sales and marketing teams struggling to show wins amid what may end up being a prolonged economic slowdown.

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