What Is Growth Marketing? (And Why Your Business Needs It)

Growth hacking has become one of the top buzzwords in the business world. Coined by Morgan Brown and Sean Ellis in their now-classic book, Hacking Growth, the term describes a process for increasing market share through targeted experiments and constant optimization. 

But while growth hacking might be better known, growth marketing can actually be more powerful and applicable to businesses of all sizes. It’s a broader term encompassing various strategies that help propel growth by implementing bold strategies to provide customers with a more immersive and personalized experience

But what is growth marketing, anyway? And why do you need it?

These are the questions that this article will aim to answer. We’ll also cover seven vital growth marketing tactics (or hacks) and go through a few real-life growth marketing examples to show you just how impactful it can be.

Ready to get started? Then read on below.

What is Growth Marketing?

Growth marketing is the natural evolution of what marketing was understood to be for most of the 20th century. It’s a reimagining of how companies can reach their customers and promote their products by leveraging groundbreaking marketing tools that simply weren’t available a few decades ago.

Whether it’s performing split tests at the smallest and largest scales, personalizing each step of the buyer’s journey, collecting feedback on multiple channels, or even utilizing the incredible reach of SEO to gain access to thousands of highly targeted leads, a growth marketing strategy encompasses various digital tools to get your brand on the map in your market and help you separate yourself from the ever-increasing competition.

But that might not even be the most crucial aspect of what makes growth marketing so important. The real difference-maker is that growth marketing is designed to immediately act on the insights you gain from various digital tools. 

That ability to react to changes quickly and adjust accordingly is what’s probably the most important for companies that want to stay relevant and thrive in the quickly-changing business landscape of the 21st century. 

Finally, with growth marketing, you’re focusing on the entire customer journey, even after making the initial sale. This approach is just as much (if not more) about customer retention than about customer acquisition.

Growth Hacking vs. Growth Marketing – What’s the Difference?

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Before we can get into the specifics of how growth marketing can help your company, it’s important to clearly establish how it’s different from growth hacking, which is the more common term used when describing the roadmap for startup success.

But while the two terms are often used interchangeably, they aren’t exactly the same, although the similarities are certainly there.

For one thing, growth hacking is actually a subset of growth marketing. Growth hacking is the technology-driven experimental approach designed to provide immediate results, which is an integral part of the growth marketing strategy.

But at the same time, growth marketing also looks into setting up systems that benefit the company long-term, ensuring high customer retention, a diverse range of customer acquisition channels, and even customer referral programs that help build a stronger brand reputation.

So, while both of them are incredibly useful, it makes more sense to look at growth hacking as part of any comprehensive growth marketing strategy. But for most companies, relying only on growth hacking will not be a sustainable approach. 

Growth Marketing: Core Principles

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Growth marketing is a broad term that describes a variety of approaches for achieving growth. And that’s why it makes sense that it encompasses multiple core components that can be used to develop an effective strategy. 

Because growth marketing depends on being able to provide a personalized and immersive experience to your audience, it makes sense that you need to have as much information as possible to craft strategies that deliver results. 

Here are some of the core components that a growth marketing strategy should be based on.

  • Ideal customer profile. If you’re going to personalize your messages and narrow down the group of people you want to reach, you need to have a very detailed and comprehensive ideal customer profile. You need to know who they are, the main problems or pains they are experiencing, and how aware they are about their situation (awareness level) and the available solutions (market sophistication).
  • Value Proposition. At the same time, you must know precisely how your product helps solve your audience’s main problems. You should clearly define how it’s relevant, how it’s different from the competition, and what specific benefits it can offer to your customers.
  • Marketing Channels. Using the information you have about your audience and your product, you will be able to understand which marketing channels are the best fit to get the right offer in front of the right person. In growth marketing, marketing channels don’t necessarily have to adhere to traditional processes, so you should be open to various approaches and experiment to find what works best. In the How We Solve podcast ep. 81, Ashley Scorpio talks about building an omnichannel marketing strategy based on today’s best practices.
  • Testing. Finally, a crucial part of any successful growth marketing strategy is tracking results. And that means that at every point of the process, you should have a way to perform A/B testing, as that’s the only way to make informed decisions about what to do next.

Growth Marketing Tactics & Hacks

The great thing about using growth marketing strategies is that there will always be opportunities to try something new and implement tactics that may not yet be mainstream in your market. 

The forward-thinking principles of growth marketing will ensure that you’re always a step ahead of the majority of your competitors, finding new ways to get in front of your audience and get them to take action.

But what are some of the tactics and hacks you could use in 2021 and beyond? 

Let’s explore seven exciting opportunities below.

Referral Programs

When referred by a friend, people are four times as likely to make a purchase. And this ability to leverage the relationship into building trust in your brand makes referral programs one of the most powerful growth marketing strategies you could employ.

In the How We Solve podcast ep. 83, Kate Nightingale talks about building long-term relationships with your customers at scale, which you can then use to develop an effective referral program your customers will be happy to participate in.

No matter how much effort you put into proving that your product works and delivers on its promises, it will never be able to match the reliability of a friend or family member vouching for your company or products and saying that you can be trusted.

But while some of the referrals can occur organically, you can’t leave this immense opportunity to chance. 

Instead, you should incentivize referrals by creating a program where people that bring in new customers get a reward. Or at least consistently remind them to invite their friends, even if it’s just for a small incentive such as 15% off the next order.

Exploiting the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

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Fear of missing out (otherwise known as FOMO) is one of the most powerful persuasive tools at any marketer’s disposal. It’s one of the best ways to quickly boost sales and ensure that your customers feel the urgency of your sales and understand the cost of not taking you up on your offer.

But how can you add more FOMO to your marketing? 

Well, for starters, make sure there’s some sort of time limit for your products and offers. Even if your product is always available, by running promotional campaigns and offering special prices, you can leverage the FOMO effect and get people to take action because they don’t want to miss out on a good deal.

Another powerful method to increase the fear of missing out is sharing customer success stories. Seeing others succeed and overcome their challenges can be a huge motivating factor because people don’t want to be left out of the amazing benefits that your product comes with.

Finally, to really drive home the fact that it’s possible to miss out, make sure you highlight the endings of promotions as well. That way, people that didn’t buy on time will feel extra urgency next time you run a promotion.


Sometimes achieving growth comes down to simply being better than your competition. And that requires you to put innovation at the very forefront of what your company is all about. 

But while most associate innovation with developing better products that outperform the competitors’ offerings, it’s not the only way to gain an edge in your market. Innovation can be just as effective as a way to explore marketing venues that your competition is not aware of yet.

This might be new social media platforms that are on the rise, new mediums that allow you to present content in a more appealing way, or even a unique value proposition that offers your current products to an audience that wasn’t catered by anyone else before.

Market Penetration

Even though market development is traditionally viewed as the more effective approach to increasing revenue, sometimes you just don’t have the option to expand your reach into new markets or new audiences. 

And that’s when you need to focus on improving your market penetration, which is the ability to get more people in the market you’re currently operating in to buy your products. This may not be easy, especially in crowded markets with lots of competition, but innovative growth marketing strategies can help you gradually edge out the competition. 

Whether it’s through pricing, new marketing channels, or product improvements, you should always strive to improve your reach in your market, as that’s the only way to not just grow but to sustain your current sales as well.

Problem Solving

The core of any successful marketing strategy is helping your audience solve problems. But with growth marketing, you should also seek to solve problems in a way that completely reinvents the solution in the process.

Airbnb is an excellent example of a company that took off because it provided flexible, affordable, and unique accommodation options that weren’t tied to hotels or traditional lodging providers. 

It removed the biggest issue with renting from regular people, which was trust. Airbnb provided a secure platform for both the renter and the tenant, ensuring that the transactions could be organized safely and that both parties could vet each other before committing. 

Middle Manning

The same Airbnb example can be used to illustrate the middle manning growth marketing strategy, which is the process of acting as a middle man between two parties and building a thriving business out of being the mediator instead of selling products yourself. 

If you can find a niche where you help connect people to providers of what they are looking for, you can generate a lot of demand as you build a reputation and start offering more options to choose from.

And if you can make the process more secure, affordable, or convenient, then you might just end up launching a multi-million dollar company like Airbnb.

Exploit Market Trends

No markets are protected from changes. In fact, most markets experience complete transformations because of technology, changing user habits, or various other reasons. 

And while traditionally, companies are afraid of making sweeping changes while they are still profitable, waiting until that stops being the case usually means that by the time they’re ready to adapt, it’s already too late, and more innovative companies have taken their place.

However, if you embrace a growth marketing strategy, you could be the company that pushes the older and more established players out of the market. If you can notice a market trend before others and be willing to act on it, you could be part of the revolution, bringing customers groundbreaking solutions that would help you build a loyal following for many years to come. 

Bottom Line

Growth marketing can be a revolutionary way to attract the very best customers for your business. The strategies listed above will help you work with customers throughout the buyer journey, address their concerns, and provide innovative solutions that will put you ahead of the competition. 

Some of the biggest brands like Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb have built their entire companies on innovation, experimentation, and testing, which are all fundamental parts of growth marketing. And there are countless examples that are sure to follow as this approach gains more traction in all markets.

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