“Growth marketing” is the latest marketing buzzword people love to throw around.
But what does it even mean?
After all, isn’t the purpose of all marketing to grow a business?
So, how is calling what you do “growth marketing” any different?
And should you even care about the difference between traditional and growth marketing?
The short answer:
It’s a difference in philosophy—a difference that has the power to take your business to new heights or run it into the ground.
Think that’s an exaggeration?
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What Is Growth Marketing?
Growth marketing is a philosophy that focuses on the entire marketing funnel. This is commonly referred to as “holistic” or “full-funnel” marketing.
Every marketing funnel that exists has some form of the following steps in it:
The growth marketing philosophy gives just as much focus to conversion, loyalty, and advocacy as it does awareness and consideration.
Growth Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing
Traditional marketing focuses almost solely on the first two steps in the funnel—driving awareness and consideration.
In today’s terms, that means generating traffic and leads.
Growth marketing, on the other hand, focuses on each step of the funnel.
That means not only generating traffic and leads but figuring out how to convert and retain them as well.
And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize converting and retaining customers is just as important as finding them in the first place…
I like to think of it this way…
Imagine your business is a bucket.
Traditional marketing philosophy doesn’t pay much attention to potential holes in the bucket.
If revenue is “leaking”, traditional marketing’s solution is to pour more into the bucket.
Growth marketing philosophy cares about patching holes in the bucket just as much as filling it because it knows that once the holes are patched, the bucket will hold far more and growth will accelerate.
And with more and more businesses moving online, thinking like a growth marketer is now a requirement for success.
What a Growth Marketing Strategy Looks Like in Practice
Growth marketing is all about increasing revenue through “high leverage” activities.
What does that mean?
Finding the 1-2 strategies that have a disproportionate impact on revenue in each stage of your funnel and homing in on them (I refer to these as “levers”)
And with a growth marketing mindset, you find those key strategies through testing…everything.
- Marketing copy (ads, offers, site copy)
- Creatives (ads and images)
- Site elements and UX (buttons, page layout, etc.)
- Acquisition channels (SEO, social channels, email, etc.)
- Funnels (email sequences, offers, lead nurturing, upsells and downsells, etc.)
- Content (content formats, content distribution, etc.)
- And more
…All with the goal of finding those few strategies you can implement to get traffic, leads, sales, and returning customers more efficiently.
And once you find those levers that you can pull to drive better results faster, you focus on them until they stop working.
Simple enough, right?
But it’s not simple in practice.
The process of finding these levers is often time-consuming and confusing.
To make matters worse, you’ll often have to determine your business’s levers without being completely certain they’re really levers because of imperfect data and time constraints.
You’ll likely find yourself having to decide when to determine a winner of an A/B test between different landing page copy.
Standard practice is letting your test run until you get to 90% – 95% statistical significance, but what if that takes several weeks?
And what if your variation has been converting 15% better on average for two consecutive weeks to this point?
You have a decision to make:
- Do you wait it out until you hit your desired level of significance, thus potentially making less revenue for the duration of the test because your control is converting worse than your variant?
- Do you declare a “winner” at 80% significance so you can have the better performing copy live for all visitors, thus running the risk of getting a false positive and your variant converting worse than the control over time?
This is just one very specific example, but the same decision will come up pretty much everywhere.
You’re trying to decide which acquisition channels to focus on as your awareness and consideration levers.
You run a $1,000 Facebook ads test and your cost per lead is 50% less than your average value per lead.
If you choose to go “all in” on Facebook, you run the risk of that test being a false positive and moving attention away from other potentially profitable channels.
If you choose not to go “all in” on Facebook ads, you run the risk of moving attention away from an acquisition channel that drives better results than the rest.
Growth marketing is all about running these tests, interpreting data, iterating, and finding the most influential actions you can take to increase revenue.
You’ll frequently make the wrong call and that’s okay—the main thing to remember is every test is one step closer to finding your business’s true levers.
Growth Marketing Campaign Examples (By Funnel Stage)
To this point, we’ve been pretty abstract—covering what growth marketing is from a 10,000 ft. view.
This section will help provide color to how to approach specific marketing challenges from a growth marketing mindset.
We’ll look through the lens of a fictitious SaaS company that helps online course creators have better data on their students (these numbers are completely made up).
1. 2x Website Traffic in 3 Months (Awareness)
The CMO at this company decided SEO was the highest-leverage channel to pursue to increase awareness.
So, they created a campaign with these areas of focus over 90 days:
- Complete a website audit to maximize organic traffic
- Create 20 new pieces of SEO-driven content targeting high intent keywords
- Build 20 relevant and high-authority backlinks to the website
The CMO focuses solely on this campaign for top-of-funnel marketing because they know that their best leads come from search (and 2x’ing traffic will likely also 2x leads).
2. 3x Trial Signups in 3 Months (Consideration)
For the next stage of the funnel, the CMO decides to focus on increasing trial signups from website traffic.
In the same 3 months as the SEO campaign, they run a Conversion Rate Optimization campaign on their CTA’s (call-to-action) with these areas of focus:
- Determine the best positioning of their trial in pop-ups and lead forms
- Testing 10 headlines on their exit intent pop-ups
- Testing placements of their lead forms on their blog posts and pages (between slide-ins, ribbons, and in-content)
The CMO focuses solely on increasing trial signups because they know that anyone who signs up for a trial is more likely to become a customer.
3. Increase Trial Conversions by 50% in 3 Months (Conversion)
The CMO then decides to focus on increasing conversion rates on trials for middle-of-funnel marketing.
In the same quarter as the previous campaigns, they run another CRO campaign focused on turning trials into customers with these areas of focus:
- Create an email sequence for the duration of the trial that gets customers to take specific actions (thus “activating” them)
- Have a member of the sales team reach out to everyone with a trial a few days before their trial ends
- Run retargeting ad campaigns to convince expired trials to start a premium account (with a 15% off discount)
At this point, they’ve focused on increasing quality traffic, turning the traffic into leads, and now, turning the leads into customers.
All 3 initiatives build on each other.
4. Reduce Churn by 10% in 3 Months (Loyalty)
The CMO has done a great job thus far at generating awareness, consideration, and conversion, but since they’re a growth marketer, they know their job isn’t done.
A HUGE part of growing revenue for this fictitious SaaS company is reducing retention.
…Because the more paying customers, the more MRR (monthly recurring revenue).
So, this smart CMO decided to launch a campaign to reduce churn by 10% in the same quarter with these areas of focus:
- Create an onboarding email sequence for new users that gets them to start using the product.
- Offer each new customer a 30-minute consultation within the first 2 weeks of their subscription.
5. Get an Average of 10 Customer Referrals Per Month Over the Next 3 Months (Advocacy)
Finally, the CMO noticed that, to this point, the company hadn’t run any sort of advocacy campaign.
So, they decided to create a referral program for current customers where they get a free month for every paying customer they refer.
Over the next quarter, they will make significant progress in improving each step of the entire funnel and will increase total revenue.
That’s what growth marketing is all about.
The Main Growth Marketing Metrics to Pay Attention to (Regardless of Your Industry)
1. CPL (Cost Per Lead)
Your CPL will inform whether certain marketing channels are making you money or not (in the context of numbers like CLV and LV).
2. LV (Lead Value)
This metric (revenue divided by leads) shows you how much your leads are worth over a specific amount of time.
I usually look at 30 days, 90 days, 180 days, 365 days, and all time to get an idea of how LV changes over time.
3. CLV (Customer Lifetime Value)
This metric shows you how much a customer is worth over their lifetime. It further informs how much you should spend to acquire a lead.
This metric measures customer loss over time. It helps you spot “leaks” in your business that can help you retain your customers.
5. Conversion Rate
Conversion rate can mean a ton of different things, but in this context, it refers to the percentage of your leads that turn into customers.
This one metric will help you understand how the first 3 stages of your funnel are performing—the quality of your traffic, nurturing, and leads all have a major influence on it.
Thinking Like a Growth Marketer Is Now a Requirement for Success
Growth marketing is a powerful mindset that allows you to become data-driven and optimize your entire business.
Instead of focusing on just getting people into the door, you’re focused on getting them to also stay awhile and tell their friends.
And when you do that, you’re focused on revenue instead of single vanity metrics like website traffic.
…which unleashes your business’s potential.