Ever wondered how companies like Airbnb and Netflix achieve explosive growth while other businesses go decades without expanding? The answer is simple: most successful firms follow the principles of growth marketing.
It's a term you might be familiar with if you frequent the startup and digital marketing space, but there's lots of misunderstanding over what growth marketing actually is.
To help you piece it together, we’ll cover:
- What is Growth Marketing
- When Should You Hire a Growth Marketer?
- How to Hire a Growth Marketer
- Growth Marketing Case Studies
So, let’s dig right in!
What is Growth Marketing?
Growth marketing isn't just a buzzword — it's a methodology outlining exactly how companies can use clever strategies to boost their growth.
Whereas traditional marketing strategies hone in on specific activities (like writing great copy or running an ad campaign), growth marketing is about seeing the bigger picture.
Growth marketers take a comprehensive look at a business and analyze the entire sales funnel, all with the aim of — you guessed it — achieving growth.
This holistic approach is often described as T-shaped marketing. Although T-shaped marketers have a specialism (represented by the bottom of the T), their knowledge also branches out to include other aspects of business and marketing.
Growth marketing is also highly data-driven. To achieve optimum results, growth marketers are continually carrying out tests and analyzing their results.
A growth marketing team therefore spends a lot of time on activities like:
- Looking for ways to boost retention of current customers.
- Examining with different marketing channels & figuring out which ones can bring the best results.
- Analyzing data to find what’s working and what isn’t.
Growth Marketing Example
A practical example of a growth marketing initiative would be an eCommerce store that realizes it gets a lot of website visitors yet very few sales, so looks for a way to solve this problem.
They define several potential problems that might be causing this:
- There are (potentially) too many steps in the checkout process.
- The ads they’re running are not targeting the right audience.
- The traffic they’re receiving is cold, and the website visitors are not familiar with the brand.
In turn, the growth team comes up with several solutions to address each of these problems. They:
- Shorten the checkout process.
- Test targeting different demographics & see if they convert better.
- Star running remarketing ads to anyone that engaged with the website, but didn’t buy (so as to remind them about the website and raise brand awareness).
...All of which leads to increased sales.
When Should You Hire a Growth Marketer?
Growth marketers aren’t usually the first staff member that a new company looks to hire. If you’re still trying to figure out what your product or service is and whether there’s any demand for it, that’s a strong signal that it’s too early to take on a growth marketer.
But once you achieve product-market fit (meaning you’re past the exploratory phase and know there’s a market for your business), adding a growth marketer to your team is essential.
The main aim of growth marketers is to help businesses test new marketing channels, figure out which ones work better, and scale them.
Choosing the right marketing channel is one of the greatest difficulties new startups face — there are countless options to choose between, from SEO to PPC to influencer marketing.
Growth marketers can cut through the noise and point companies in the right direction. Once past the experimentation phase, they can help with scaling.
That’s why the period between nailing product-market fit and deciding on a marketing strategy is the prime time to bring one on board.
Does this mean that only new startups should hire growth marketers? Not necessarily.
Although hiring a growth marketer makes less sense for companies that already have a successful marketing strategy, older and more established companies can still benefit — especially if their marketing strategy doesn’t seem to be working all that well.
Bringing a growth marketer into an established company as a kind of consultant can be a great way to identify blind spots in your existing marketing strategy. Even if you think everything is going well, a growth marketer might be able to find new tactics or strategies that take your marketing to the next level.
How to Hire a Growth Marketer
If you can comfortably tick the “product-market fit” box off, you’ll no doubt have another big question hanging over you. How exactly should you find the perfect growth marketer for your business?
Assuming you want to hire a full-time employee (some companies opt for freelancers for greater flexibility), you’ll need to think about the following aspects:
- Seniority. Taking on a previous CMO or VP is optimal but not always feasible. A more budget-friendly option is to hire a junior marketer with experience working in startups, as that usually involves experience with several marketing channels as opposed to a handful (which is the case with corporate marketers).
- Experience. While a fancy position might not be essential, experience is! Look for someone with past successes in growth marketing. Ideally, you want someone who has achieved results using several digital marketing channels. Experience working with a product team or a previous role in a fast-growing company can also be a good sign.
- Knowledge. Look for a solid knowledge of Google Analytics, SEO, and content marketing, plus experience running campaigns on Google Ads or Facebook Ads. Equally important are good marketing fundamentals, such as an understanding of human behavior and how business works.
- Personality. Don’t overlook personal characteristics. Seek out a marketer who is self-driven (able to take ownership of initiatives successfully) and logical (uses numbers and experiments when making decisions). Although being a data scientist isn’t necessary, a growth marketer should also be able to work with and analyze data.
Once you’ve sourced the right people, then there’s the interview process to think about.
During the interview, make sure to ask questions that assess the characteristics and experiences we mentioned before.
In addition to that, we also recommend asking the growth marketer to complete a small trial task.
Assessing a candidate’s ability to come up with a real-life growth marketing plan for a business goal is a pretty accurate test of how good they’ll be at their job.
Keep in mind, though, that the growth marketer doesn’t know your business inside and out.
Don’t ask them to create a complete top-down marketing strategy for your business. Instead, give them smaller tasks with the goal of evaluating their understanding of specific marketing channels (e.g. Google Ads, SEO, content marketing, etc.).
Growth Marketing Case Studies
To really understand what growth marketing is all about, it helps to look at case studies of companies that have applied its strategies successfully. Here are some of our favorite growth marketing case studies:.
The personal finance app Mint has more than 600,000 reviews on the App Store these days — but it hasn’t always been that way.
The platform went from zero to one million users in just six months thanks to a clever combination of growth marketing strategies, such as reverse engineering goals using data and carefully vetted promotional sources.
Mint took a quant-based approach, meaning they chose specific numbers as their targets (e.g., 50 new clients or $50,000 monthly revenue) and then worked out which strategies would help them achieve those goals.
The company carefully tracked metrics like CTR, traffic, and conversion across various channels, allowing them to figure out how well each marketing channel performed.
Then, they simply scaled up the ones that performed the best.
You’ve probably used Eventbrite to book onto an event before. Yet in 2009 it was just a promising startup struggling to find users. That is, until Tamara Mendelsohn was hired as marketing head.
Mendelsohn used metrics, channel monitoring, and funnel reporting to drive growth — and Eventbrite now hosts more than a million events a year.
This was made possible through a careful analysis of the funnel — Eventbrite even had a dedicated staff member to focus solely on optimizing the sales funnel.
They monitored important metrics like conversion rate and the number of people who saved events and invitations sent, so the team could figure out which growth strategies were making a difference.
Mendelsohn also realized that social media was a huge driver of new customers, so she directed more resources toward this channel. She also made use of an in-house PR person and retargeting to bring more attention to Eventbrite.
Stripe launched in 2011, a time when PayPal was already established as a market leader. So how did this challenger company manage to break into the market and establish itself? You guessed it — growth marketing.
Early on, the team at Stripe realized they were getting a lot of new customers through word of mouth, proving just how strong the demand for their product was.
Since word of mouth was working so well, Stripe decided to double down on the channel by creating a referral program.
This took the form of “care packages” sent to developers that used Stripe, made up of clothes and stickers - perfect for sharing on social media!
As more developers received and wore the Stripe merchandise, the word spread further.
Meanwhile, Stripe capitalized on the momentum it was building by fostering a community. It started events like hackathons and meetups to strengthen its position among developers.
This shows that “building a community” isn’t just some marketing gimmick that customers see right through — done right, it can be incredibly effective.
In April 2020, Stripe became Silicon Valley’s most valuable company.
Etsy was one of the eCommerce stores that emerged as a major winner amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and has grown around 31% a year over the last three years.
Like Stripe, Etsy was able to build a community and capitalize on that, albeit a very different type of community (feminist crafters) and during a very different period (the early 2000s).
Unlike its major competitor (eBay), Etsy marketed itself as a more empowering, anti-establishment company — perfect for feminists and other alternative crafters. Etsy built a community around this by attending art and craft shows and networking with influential individuals.
Even though social networks had yet to emerge as a huge force, Etsy took a growth marketing approach and spread through word of mouth since the artisans they brought on board had huge (non-social media) followings.
Despite spending almost nothing on marketing, Etsy’s growth skyrocketed, and it hasn’t stopped since.
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Looking for a team of seasoned growth marketers to help you implement whatever we covered in this article?
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Now that we’ve covered everything about growth marketing, do a small recap:
- Growth marketing differs from conventional marketing because it looks at the entire sales funnel as opposed to individual marketing tactics or channels.
- When your business achieves product-market fit, it’s time to start thinking about growth marketing.
- Growth marketers have a broad knowledge of marketing, so they can point your marketing efforts in the right direction.
- When hiring a growth marketer, look for analytical, self-driven people with experience in growth marketing and using various marketing channels.
- Examples of companies that have used growth marketing tactics successfully include Mint, Eventbrite, Stripe, and Etsy.