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There has never been a shortage of buzzwords and fads in the world of marketing. New concepts pop up left and right to occupy the headlines for a while and then vanish into thin air to never be heard of again. However, in true natural selection fashion, some ideas emerge and persist because they impact the industry’s course of evolution.

We argue that growth marketing falls into this category. After more than a decade since its conception, not only it has managed to stick around but it increasingly gets relevant by the day. And there is a reason for it.

Growth Marketing Vs. Traditional Marketing

When we think about marketing in the traditional sense, we think about all the activities that we can undertake to promote the selling of our services or products. Naturally, successful attempts at these marketing activities then lead to an increase in sales and revenue until the business reaches the point for expansion and is able to seek more ways to generate more profit.

Growth marketing incorporates all of that but with one difference: it aims to achieve growth from the outset. Whereas, traditional marketing focuses on converting leads into customers and business growth can be viewed as one of its effects. To further elaborate on the difference, we need to take a look at the origins of growth marketing and how it came to be.

Growth marketing was born in the tech startup scene where companies are always aiming for rapid growth. And since a scalable business model is an integral part of having a startup, growth —especially in the early stages—is vital as founders strive to validate the scalability of their startups to raise their next round of funding.

Depending on what stage a startup is in, having access to external funds means financing things like market research, product development, establishing a user base, and expanding market reach. In this setting, speed is key. I’m sure you have heard the term “accelerator” more than once before. It is about experimenting more, failing fast, and succeeding faster.

As one of the main business development tools, marketing in this environment follows the same philosophy. Sean Ellis who is credited to have established the foundation of growth marketing by coining the term “growth hacker” in 2010, stated that: “everything they [growth hackers] do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth”. Hence, growth marketing is a data-driven practice that constantly tests various marketing channels to find the ones that yield the most results. A growth marketing company does this by analyzing a business’s acquisition funnel and conducting regular A/B testing to see what works and what doesn’t. And by crossing off the channels that do not yield measurable cost-effective results and zeroing in on the ones that do, they end up with the appropriate channel mix and sustainable growth plan.

Where to Get Started with Growth Marketing

Once we understand the core concept of growth marketing, the path to its implementation becomes clear. This approach can be broken down into a few simple steps.

First, we need to identify opportunities for experimentation based on the data we already have. Marketing is a trial-and-error game and we should realize that a portion of our experiments will inevitably fail. So, the quicker we can run tests, the sooner we can develop our growth plan.

Based on the model we run our business with, we weigh all the different marketing channels to prioritize the ones that we predict will perform the best—again, based on the existing data. There are all sorts of sources out there that list and categorize marketing channels, of which some enumerate as many as 100. But according to Gabriel Weinberg, founder of DuckDuckGo, there are 19 channels to rule them all:

1. Viral Marketing

2. Public Relations

3. Unconventional PR

4. Search Engine Marketing

5. Social & Display Ads

6. Offline Ads

7. Search Engine Optimization

8. Content Marketing

9. Email Marketing

10. Targeting Blogs

11. Engineering as Marketing

12. Business Development

13. Sales

14. Affiliate Programs

15. Existing Platforms

16. Trade Shows

17. Offline Events

18. Speaking Engagements

19. Building a Community

The next step is to build campaigns around our top candidates. It is crucial that we diligently measure the metrics of our campaigns so that we can tell if and how much each campaign is profitable. After testing each channel, we should be able to tell how much it costs to acquire customers through it, how many customers are available in it, and if the customers in this channel are the kind we are looking for. One thing to keep in mind is that these tests are not one-and-done. Sometimes we get good results from a previously-failed campaign by tweaking the parameters and changing some aspects.

And finally, we use the statistics from tests to make data-backed decisions regarding those growth channels and keep refining our processes and materials to maximize conversion.