This up-and-to-the-right trajectory is especially important in today’s entrepreneurial climate. In a crowded space where roughly 543,000 new businesses are started each month, you have to stand out to survive. That’s where growth marketing comes in.
Traditional marketing roles are often focused on the top of the funnel, creating campaigns to build awareness and acquire as many new leads as possible. Downstream impact—like activation and retention—can fall by the wayside.
Growth marketing, on the other hand, focuses on the entire funnel. Growth marketers follow a data-driven approach to increase not only acquisition, but engagement, retention, and brand advocacy. They identify areas for improvement, develop experiments to test their hypotheses, and analyze results, all in the hopes of growing the business.
If you want a jumpstart in bringing growth strategies to your team, or to begin branding yourself as a growth marketer, here’s everything you need to know:
1. Understand the growth frameworks
Growth frameworks give you and your team structure—they help you set goals, prioritize experiments, and apply the learnings in a way that makes sense for your business.
The Product-Led Growth Flywheel, for example, is a framework for growing your business that focuses on a product-led user experience. The goal is to generate higher user satisfaction and increased advocacy, which in turn drives growth.
The Product-Led Growth Flywheel outlines 4 sequential user segments that correlate with stages in the user journey from awareness to evangelism—evaluator, beginner, regular, and champion—and the key actions that users need to take to graduate to the next stage: activate, adopt, adore, and advocate.
As more and more users complete each action, the flywheel spins faster, increasing the rate that users move from one segment to the next. This creates a positive feedback loop: As more users become advocates, they drive more acquisition and growth increases exponentially.
Another growth framework is high tempo testing (also called high velocity testing), which requires a team to launch new experiments at a high frequency in order to shake out insights and create a repeatable process.
In order for high tempo testing to be successful, you need to align around just 1 to key metrics. There should be one for the top of the funnel (like “new site visitors”), one for the middle (like “sales appointments closed”), and one for the bottom (like “content created”).
The process for running high tempo tests can go something like this:
Set a goal like X launches per week
Brainstorm ideas with your team
Prioritize your ideas by way of predicted outcome
Implement the experiments
Measure the outcomes
Continue with the good and scrap the bad
This process will probably be ongoing, and formally established by monthly or quarterly meetings—whichever way helps you meet the goal of exponential growth.
2. Know the key conversion points for growth
While growth marketers should always keep the entire flywheel in mind, they tend to focus on specific opportunities along the way. These are conversion milestones that help attract an audience and turn them into high-paying customers.
The key conversion points include:
Turning blog readers into blog subscribers: If blogging is one of your primary ways of gaining traffic, the most important call-to-action is one that converts those readers into subscribers. This allows you to continue sharing your content with a dedicated audience.
Increasing free-to-paid or trial-to-paid conversions: Many companies have a freemium offering or a trial to get users in the door. To advance users through the marketing funnel, consider implementing tactics like paywalls or limiting product usage.
Driving towards aha moment during user onboarding: When a user first signs up for your product, you have one chance to showcase your product's value. Create opportunities for users to experience an aha moment, where things just click and they realize they can truly benefit from your app. These users are more likely to become regulars.
Increasing product stickiness: There is often a point where customers reach a point of no return—they become committed to your product. They log in frequently and rely on your product for multiple use cases. Facebook famously found it needed users to add 7 friends within 10 days for this adoption to occur. Identify this pattern in your own app and make it a focus for your team.
Achieving viral growth: Viral growth is the holy grail that unlocks undeniable success. There isn’t a tried-and-true method for driving virality, but you can study previous examples for inspiration. One of the earliest examples was Hotmail adding a link at the bottom of every email their users sent to encourage other people to create a free email account. More recently, Airbnb hacked Craigslist to email promotions to people who were posting temporary apartment rentals.
Increasing upgrades and reaching negative churn: While retention will always be a focus for growth, expansion revenue should also be a focus. Growth-oriented teams often provide excellent customer support and employ pricing models based on the amount of usage. This way, as a customer’s usage increases, so does the value they gain from your product and naturally the price they are paying for it.
3. Embrace growth software tools
Growth marketers wear many hats: copywriter, product manager, and data analyst, to name just a few. With so many diverse tasks on their plate, most turn to third-party tools to help drive results faster.
Here are a few of the most important growth marketing tools to have in your toolkit:
Landing page tools: Send qualified traffic to landing pages that are designed to convert. Leadpages and Unbounce allows you to build and A/B test custom landing pages in drag-and-drop interfaces, without needing to code. For advanced features, Instapages lets you dynamically personalize landing pages to every ad.
A/B testing tools: Experiment with messaging, visuals, and even in-app features to drive growth. Optimizely offers the ability to run A/B tests on your website, app, and backend code. Crazy Egg runs tests on your website and Apptimize specializes in mobile app experimentation.
Analytics tools: It’s important to reference tools that capture both customer data, like Segment, and in-app analytics, like Amplitude or Localytics. Meanwhile, Google Analytics provides complementary metrics, showing you the flow of user interactions on your website and the health of your domains.
Engagement tools: Increase user activation by highlighting your best features in-app with walkthroughs and prompts using Appcues. To engage your users outside of your app, email tools like Mailchimp or Vero make one-off emails or automated, triggered sequences easy.
User testing tools: Understand how your customers feel and behave when they’re using your product. UserTesting finds a user panel to evaluate your UX, filming the sessions so you can see exactly where people lose interest, get confused, or feel delighted. Qualaroo also solicits feedback on mockups or live features, but questions appear directly on your website to a targeted set of visitors. You can also create polls, surveys, forms, and other interactive documents for your users with Typeform.
One of the best ways to learn is to understand what has and hasn’t worked in the past. Luckily, there are a number of growth hacking experts that share successes, failures, and industry knowledge on their personal blogs.
Here are some of our favorite growth marketing blogs:
Kieran Flanagan, the VP of marketing and growth at HubSpot, features interviews with industry-leading growth experts on his blog. He also releases a monthly newsletter on growth marketing.
One of the most influential voices in conversion optimization, Talia Wolf shares her best practices on optimizing websites, copy, and social media channels on her blog, GetUplift.
Dani Hart is the co-founder of Women in Growth, is a mentor for Growthmentor, and previously led Growth at GrowthHackers. Her blog covers all things growth.
Andrew Chen, a general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, has written more than 600 essays on his blog on topics ranging from mobile product design to user growth.
GrowthRocks is not a personal blog. Instead, it features posts from a diverse pool of growth marketers on topics like SEO, email marketing, and brand awareness.
The Product-Led Growth Collective is a community-driven resource made for growth-minded folks, by growth-minded folks where industry leaders share the latest insights, strategies, and lessons from their own journeys to becoming product-led.
Looking for more resources? Check out this article for some of our favorite product marketing resources, from blogs to books to podcasts.
Good marketing is growth marketing
From the outside, it’s easy to think that growth marketing is just another trend. Growth hacking influencers emerge each day in one guise or another, and startup founders constantly share their tips and tricks for growing their business on social media.
While it may be true that growth marketing is having a moment, it is by no means a passing fad. In fact, growth marketing is really just good marketing.
Growth marketing includes all the pillars for an effective marketing strategy: setting goals, forming a hypothesis, and gathering and analyzing data. And, of course, thinking about the entire customer journey, from acquisition to retention.
These are things every marketer should care about and be accountable for, whether they include “growth” in their title or not.