How To Be a Growth Marketer – Strategies & Tactics You Can Use to Grow Your Small-to-Medium Size Business
Is Growth Marketing More Than Just a Buzzword?
Is growth marketing a buzzword? It sure is. Is it something that can help your business? Absolutely.
If you’re like me, you get aggravated every time you see business buzzwords. In my experience, people who use buzzwords usually don’t know what the terms they toss around mean. Maybe they saw the term in the latest business magazine or newsletter, heard a business guru say it, or scanned a post on LinkedIn that mentioned it. Then they toss it around in a meeting to look like they are in the know and not the useless waste of space they are.
You’re probably asking yourself, “If it’s a buzzword, why should I care?“. Well, because it became a buzzword for a reason. There are some practical applications to the amorphous term, growth marketing, that can help catapult your business to the next level. As they say, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Buzzwords may be dirty, filthy, nonsense – but that doesn’t mean they should be tossed out wholesale just because they’ve been bastardized by some wannabe business guru suckup.
When I was a young man straight out of B-School, I used one of the original online buzzword generators (circa early 2000s) to make fun of colleagues who tossed around business terms with no idea of what they meant. (One VP of Marketing I worked with used “bell curve” all the time, almost exclusively out of contextual meaning.) When I created reports that went to other executives, I’d toss in a few buzzwords generated by the online app, just for fun. To my chagrin, they were well received. Darn, that fungibly negotiated parallel outsourcing.
So, What Really Is Growth Marketing?
The honest answer is it depends on who you ask. After lots of research, I can’t say there is a well-defined, standard definition of what a growth marketer does. So since you’re on my site, I’ll give you my definition based on my experience, knowledge, and research. Unlike many of the articles about growth marketing I’ve read, this author has lots of actual experience in growing brands and revenue. So keep reading for some of my own strategies and examples of successful growth marketing strategies.
If you read my About page, you’ll see that I was out of the business world for a bit dealing with a serious health issue. Because of my health issue, I lost my sweet corporate gig. When I was finally able to start getting back into resuming my career, I noticed a new trending job category – growth marketing. Suddenly, there were lots of openings for positions such as growth marketing manager, director, and vice president. At the time, I didn’t really know what being a growth marketer entailed, but I’ve been a marketer for my entire 20+ year career, not to mention it sounded cool. So I applied for a few VP of Growth Marketing gigs and was contacted by recruiters for similar positions. None of the recruiters or executives I interviewed with seemed to have any clue what growth marketing really was, they all had their own unique ideas. After reading this article, you’ll be ahead of most corporate honchos.
Defining Growth Marketing
Growth marketing is a data-driven approach to marketing that focuses on acquiring and retaining customers. In contrast to traditional marketing, growth marketing takes a more holistic approach. Growth marketers use a full-funnel approach to marketing, from awareness to conversion to retention. The best growth marketers are constantly experimenting and testing different growth strategies in their marketing campaigns to find what works best for their business. As a result, growth marketing is an iterative and ongoing process, not a one-time marketing campaign. While traditional marketers focus on individual channels, growth marketers take a holistic view of the customer journey and focus on growth across the entire funnel. Ultimately, growth marketing drives sustainable growth for your business by acquiring and keeping more customers.
Traditional Marketing vs. Growth Marketing
What’s the difference between the two? For starters, growth marketing sounds more fun and exciting, while traditional marketing sounds like something your grandpa would do. But I digress.
The main difference is in their respective approaches. While traditional marketing focuses mainly on branding and awareness, growth marketing focuses on results. Growth marketers are data-driven. They use data to decide which channels to focus on and what messages to send. Growth marketers also focus on acquisition and retention rather than just visibility. They always have an eye on how they can get more people to sign up or use their product and how they can keep them coming back. Finally, growth marketers are constantly experimenting; they try new things and track the results carefully to learn what works and what doesn’t. In short, if you want to make things happen and get results, you need to think about growth marketing.
Growth Hacking vs. Growth Marketing
Another recent buzzword phrase that’s tossed around, especially in startup circles, is “growth hacking“. Being a growth hacker sounds cool, doesn’t it? It should be the plot of a movie.
Growth hacking and growth marketing are often used interchangeably, but they are different marketing approaches. If you’ve used them synonymously in the past, don’t worry, most people don’t know the difference between being a growth marketer and a growth hacker (unless they’ve read this article).
Growth hacking typically employs a short-term strategy during a company’s early stages. Growth hackers primarily focus on quickly achieving growth for a company or product. It’s about experimenting with different marketing channels and strategies to find the most efficient and effective way to acquire customers in the shortest amount of time.
On the other hand, growth marketers look at the bigger picture. Rather than just focusing on short-term user growth, growth marketers focus on the entire customer journey with long-term growth and sustainability in mind.
Benefits of a Growth Marketer Mindset
A growth marketer mindset is essential for any small-to-medium business that wants to grow. It helps you identify and target your best customers, develop relationships with them, and expand your business by acquiring new customers. Moreover, growth marketing provides a framework for thinking about and managing your marketing efforts to allocate resources more effectively and achieve desired outcomes. Simply put, growth marketing is a more innovative, efficient way to grow your business. If you’re not using growth marketing strategies, you’re likely missing out on opportunities to expand your business and reach your full potential.
Benefits for Your Business
- Drive sustainable growth
- Acquire new business
- Retain more customers
27 Strategies & Tactics Used by Successful Growth Marketers
Create a Sustainable Business Model, Don’t Grow Just for Growth’s Sake
As a growth marketer, I’ve always been interested in finding new and innovative ways to grow businesses. However, I’ve also realized that not all growth is equal. Simply growing for the sake of growth is not always the best strategy for a business. Instead, businesses should focus on creating sustainable growth that will positively impact the bottom line. This means growth that is strategic and driven by a clear marketing plan. It’s important to remember that not all growth results in profit. So, when crafting your growth strategy, focus on growth that will benefit your business in the long run. Only then can you genuinely create sustainable growth. Bottomline, growth marketing works.
Clearly Identify and Know Your Business Goals
It may be tempting to copy the strategy of growth marketers at a unicorn like Uber, but what works for another company may not work for you. During Uber’s heaviest growth phase, its goal was to disrupt the taxi industry by making a cheaper, more consumer-friendly alternative. They accomplished this by raising millions from VCs and then billions through their IPO. As a result, Uber was able to gobble up market share by temporarily making rideshares cheaper than taxis by subsidizing costs with investor money. If you’ve taken an Uber recently, you’ll notice prices have skyrocketed as they are no longer subsidizing the cost of rideshares. Unless you are able to raise huge sums of money and your investors are okay with this type of burn rate, you should probably take a different strategy.
At the end of the day, your business goals should be your north star. Whatever growth marketing strategies you pursue should be in service of those goals. That might mean pursuing an aggressive growth strategy like Uber or taking a more measured approach. The important thing is to focus on what works for you, not what works for other companies. There are plenty of different marketing strategies and tactics, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find the one that works best for you and your business goals. And remember, always keep an eye on those stats that are directly tied to your goals and objectives. That way, you’ll always know whether or not you’re on track to reach your targets.
Focus on Customer Share, Not Just Market Share
Most marketers understand market share, “the percent of total sales in an industry generated by a particular company.” (Investopedia)
Customer share, a concept I learned in business school, is just as important as market share. However, it’s often overlooked and rarely mentioned. Customer share is the percentage of products or services a customer purchases from your company’s offerings. For example, if your business sells four products and, on average, customers purchase one of your products, that would be a 25% customer share. For a real-world example, read the anecdote below about my experience creating a membership subscription program for VCA.
Look at the Entire Customer Funnel by Using the AARRR Growth Marketing Framework
The AARRR framework looks at the complete marketing funnel, not just the top of the funnel – acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and revenue. Acquiring customers requires businesses to focus on marketing channels to reach their target audience. Once a customer is acquired, companies need to activate them by getting them engaged with the product or service. Once a customer is activated, businesses need to focus on retention strategies to keep them coming back. Referral strategies are also crucial for growth as they help with word-of-mouth marketing. Finally, businesses need to focus on revenue growth to ensure long-term success. By focusing on all five of these growth areas, companies can develop a comprehensive growth marketing strategy.
Become a T-Shaped Marketer By Continuously Enhancing Your Marketing Acumen
Believe it or not, I didn’t pull the term T-shaped marketing off a buzzword generator website. So feel free to toss it out during your next boring meeting at work, your colleagues will bow down to your marketing lingo prowess.
Basically, the most successful growth marketers have a deep knowledge of the various aspects of marketing. Since growth marketing looks at the entire customer journey, it requires understanding multiple aspects of business and marketing. This can include digital marketing, branding, conversion optimization, content marketing, paid media, social media, email marketing, SEO, and more.
Become a Customer First Organization
In today’s hyper-competitive business landscape, it’s more important than ever to be customer-centric. What does that mean, exactly? Being customer-centric means focusing on your customers’ needs and wants and ensuring they always come first. It’s about acquiring new customers and retaining them by providing an outstanding customer experience. In short, it’s the opposite of being self-centered; it’s all about putting your customers at the center of everything you do.
The first step is to really get to know your target customer. What are their needs and wants? What are their pain points? Once you understand this, you can start creating targeted marketing campaigns that address their specific needs. In addition, you need to ensure that you’re constantly measuring and analyzing your customer data to adjust your strategy as needed. And finally, you need to be prepared to pivot quickly; things can change rapidly in the customer landscape, so you need to adapt quickly to stay ahead of the curve.
Engage, Listen, and Learn From Customers
Becoming a customer-centric business involves engaging your customers and prospects in your target market. By listening to their feedback and learning from their customer experience, you can improve your product, build brand loyalty, reduce churn, and increase referrals.
There are virtually endless ways to engage customers – webinars, Zoom calls, emails, surveys, Facebook groups, focus groups, and more. Get creative and go to where your customers and target audience are. Be open to feedback, and push preconceived notions out of your mind. Truly listen to what people say and then use that feedback to improve your business.
Personalize Your Marketing by Segmenting Your Customers
Growth marketers understand it is essential to identify your target audience. Customer segmentation is the process of dividing your target market into distinct groups of customers who have similar needs and characteristics. By carefully analyzing your customer base, you can identify which segments are most likely to generate new revenue and tailor your marketing accordingly.
Once you have identified your customer segments, you can develop marketing campaigns to appeal to their specific needs and interests. Effective growth marketing efforts can enhance your customer acquisition campaigns and encourage customers to become loyal, repeat buyers. This can help your business achieve sustained long-term growth at a better ROI.
Make Decisions Based on Data
You can’t just wing it when it comes to marketing if you want your business to grow. Instead, you need to make data-based decisions to ensure that your marketing efforts are effective and efficient. Without data, you’re effectively shooting in the dark, hoping that your campaigns will hit their mark but with no way of knowing for sure.
With data, on the other hand, you can track the performance of your marketing activities and make adjustments as needed to improve results. Additionally, data can help you identify new opportunities for growth and expansion. By making data-based decisions, you’re increasing the chances of success for your business. So if you’re not already using data to guide your growth marketing teams, now is the time to start!
Test, Learn, Optimize, Repeat
No matter how good your gut is or how many years of experience you have, you will always make better decisions when you test. And not just any old testing, either – you must test the right things. Figure out your main KPIs, then design a test that will impact that number. Measure the results. If there’s a significant difference, awesome! Keep the change and move on. If not, revert back to the control and try something else. The key here is to constantly test and iterate based on the results. Just because something worked once doesn’t mean it’ll work forever – things change, so you need to change with them. Stay nimble and always be testing if you want to succeed as a growth marketer.
A/B Test Like a Boss
A/B testing, also known as split testing, compares two versions of something to see which one performs better. A/B testing can be used for a whole bunch of things – testing different headlines, copy, images, call to action (CTA), etc. – but the goal is always the same: to improve conversions. Figuring out what to test can be tricky, but an excellent place to start is by looking at your current conversion rate and identifying areas where you could improve. Once you have a few ideas, you’ll want to create two versions (version A and B) and track how each performs. The key here is to make sure that you’re only changing one thing at a time – that way, you’ll know which change had the most significant impact on conversions. So there you have it! Now go forth and start A/B testing like a boss!
Articulate Benefits to Your Customers
If you want to grow your business, you need to be able to articulate the benefits of what you’re offering. People often confuse features and benefits, but they are very different. Features are the factual aspects of your product or service – what it does, how it works, etc. On the other hand, benefits are the advantages that your customer will experience using your product or service. In other words, benefits answer the question, “What’s in it for me?“
Developing persuasive benefits for your product or service is not always easy, but it’s worth taking the time to do it right. After all, if you can’t sell the benefits of what you’re offering, no one will buy it!
Optimize Your Conversion Rates
Back in the day, marketing was about interrupting people’s lives with ads. It was annoying, intrusive, and generally not very effective. But then digital marketing came along and changed everything.
Nowadays, digital marketing is all about conversion rate optimization (CRO), making your website and digital marketing campaigns as effective as possible at converting visitors into customers or leads. Not only does it allow you to drive more business, but it also provides a better ROI by maximizing the efficiency of your marketing budget. If your marketing team is not optimizing conversions, you’re leaving money on the table.
Use a Call to Action in Your Marketing Messaging
If you’re not using a call to action (CTA) in your marketing, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity. A call to action is a clear and concise statement that tells your audience what you want them to do, whether buying a product, signing up for a service, or taking another action. By including a call to action in your marketing message, you’re giving your audience specific instruction that can lead to conversions. And that’s a big part of what growth marketing is all about – converting prospects into customers.
Some examples of simple but effective calls to action:
- “Buy now”
- “Sign up today”
- “Get started now”
- “Learn more”
- “Download now”
Create Engaging Content
Engaging readers is essential in today’s crowded marketplace, where consumers are bombarded with marketing messages from all sides. So if you’re not cranking out exciting content, you’re missing the mark when it comes to marketing. Let’s face it: traditional marketing content is pretty darn dull. You know what I’m talking about – those long, dry marketing materials that put you to sleep before you even finish reading them. Engaging content, on the other hand, is designed to capture attention and hold it. It’s punchy, interesting, and relevant to your audience. And best of all, it actually works to promote your marketing message.
Start a Customer Loyalty Campaign
A very effective strategy is to create a customer loyalty campaign. Loyalty campaigns are designed to encourage customers to keep doing business with you, whether it’s through exclusive offers, early access to new products, or simply showing appreciation for their continued support. Not only do loyalty campaigns help you retain existing customers, but they can also lead to referrals and word-of-mouth marketing.
Best of all, loyalty campaigns are highly measurable, so you can track your ROI and adjust as needed. So if you’re looking for a growth strategy that can boost your bottom line, customer retention and loyalty campaigns should be at the top of your list.
Create Fanatical Customer Ambassadors
A brand ambassador is somebody who loves your company and tells all their friends about it. They’re basically like a walking, talking advertisement for your business. And why does this matter for growth marketing? Word-of-mouth is still the most potent form of marketing and has one of the best ROIs. People are more likely to believe and trust recommendations from people they know and respect than what comes from a company’s marketing team. So if you can turn your customers into passionate advocates for your brand, you’ll be in a great position to achieve sustainable growth.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to creating brand evangelists, but there are some general principles you can follow. First, focus on creating an amazing product or service that people will genuinely love using. Second, provide an incredible customer experience and treat your customers like VIPs. Third, give your brand ambassadors something valuable in return for their support – this could be exclusive access to products, special discounts, or simply recognition and appreciation. Finally, make it easy for them to spread the word about your company by providing clear instructions and sharing tools. Get out there and start turning those customers into fanatics!
Launch a Referral Program
Referral programs are a vital part of any growth marketing strategy because they provide an impressive ROI, reducing your customer acquisition cost and attracting high-quality leads.
So what makes a successful referral program? There are a couple of critical things to keep in mind. First, you need to offer an incentive valuable enough to motivate people to make referrals. Second, the process should be simple and easy to understand – making it easy to refer people.
There are plenty of examples of companies who have done referral programs right. Dropbox, for instance, offered users additional storage space for every person they referred who signed up for the service. Thanks to this program, Dropbox grew from 100,000 users to over 4 million within 15 months.
Examples of incentives for customers referrals include:
- Access to extra product features
- Gift cards
- Access to special offerings
Get Your Customers Onboard
Customer onboarding is the process of helping new customers get started with your product or service. This can include welcome emails, tutorials, how-to guides, videos, and live support. The goal of customer onboarding is to help new customers understand your product or service and get the most out of it.
There are several benefits to a good customer onboarding strategy:
- It helps reduce churn, increasing customer retention. When properly onboarded, customers are more likely to stick around and continue using your product or service.
- It can help boost customer lifetime value. By helping customers get the most out of your product or service, they are more likely to continue using it for a more extended period of time.
- It can help generate word-of-mouth referrals.
Happy customers are likelier to tell their friends about your product or service.
Develop a Membership Subscription Program
If you’re looking for a way to take your growth marketing to the next level, you might consider creating a membership subscription program. First, it can help you to build loyalty among your customer base. Customers who feel part of an exclusive club are more likely to remain loyal to your brand. In addition, a membership program can also help you to generate repeat business. Customers who know they will always have access to your products or services are more likely to return. Finally, a membership program can also help you to reach new customers. By offering special discounts and perks to members, you can attract new people to your business. So, creating a membership program is worth considering if you’re looking for a way to boost your growth marketing strategy.
Read below for an example of how I created a massive membership subscription program that created $100s of millions in revenue for a company, vastly increasing customer share and catapulting their stock price.
Use and Test Multiple Channels
If you want your growth marketing strategy to be successful, you need to test and utilize a variety of channels. By using multiple channels, you’ll be able to reach a wider audience and ultimately drive more growth. It also allows you to experiment and find what works best for your business.
There are a variety of different channels that you can use, especially in digital marketing. Some examples include paid advertising, social media, email marketing, and content marketing. Each of these channels has its own unique benefits that can help you grow your business. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different channels and see what works best for you. After all, the goal is to drive growth, so use whatever channels will help you achieve that goal.
Keep it Simple, Stupid (KISS)
Anyone who’s ever tried to use a complicated product or service knows the feeling of frustration that comes with it. You try to figure out how to use the thing, but it just doesn’t make sense. You can’t figure it out no matter how hard you try. Meanwhile, the company that created the product or service is sitting back and watching you struggle. They’re thinking, “if only they would just give up and read the manual.” But who has time for that? And even if you have time, who wants to read a manual when you’re just trying to use a simple product or service? The answer is no one. That’s why it’s so important to keep things simple. If your product or service is easy to use, people will be more likely to use it and recommend it to others. And that’s how you grow your business. So next time you’re tempted to add another layer of complexity to your product or service, ask yourself if it’s essential. Chances are, it’s not. And keeping things simple will help you grow your business in the long run.
Induce Trial of Your Product or Service
You want people to try out your product or service, so how do you get them to do that? Induce trial, my friend! Trial is an integral part of the marketing mix because it allows potential customers to sample your wares before making a purchase. So go out there and get people to try your stuff! You might just be surprised at how well it works.
Here are a few examples of how to induce trial:
- Freemium offering
- Free trial
- Great money back guarantee
- Free samples
Activate a Re-engagement Campaign
A re-engagement campaign is designed to encourage customers who have become inactive to resume their relationship with a brand. Of course, there are many reasons why customers might stop engaging with a brand, but a well-crafted re-engagement campaign can effectively win them back. You can do this with many tactics, like sending out a survey, running a contest, or offering a discount.
There are a few key elements that make up a successful re-engagement campaign. First, it’s important to identify the reason why the customer stopped engaging in the first place. Was it due to a poor experience? A change in circumstances? Once you know the reason, you can craft messaging directly addressing the issue. Second, make sure your offer is appealing and relevant to the customer. And finally, don’t be afraid to be creative – sometimes, a little humor or an unexpected approach can be just what it takes to break through the clutter and get someone’s attention.
Get Serious About Content Marketing
Content marketing is all about creating valuable, relevant, and compelling content to attract, engage, and retain your customer base. And it just so happens to be a great way to grow your business. When you create informative and keyword-rich content, you’re not only helping your customers out – you’re also helping your business rank higher in search engine results. And that means more customers finding you. So it’s a win-win!
There are a ton of different ways you can go about incorporating content marketing into your growth marketing strategy. But here are a few examples to get you started:
- Create helpful how-to articles related to your product or service (like the article you are reading right now)
- Start a blog and post new articles regularly
- Develop informative videos about your industry and post them on YouTube
- Launch a podcast and interview industry experts
Use Social Proof to Boost Credibility
Social proof is when people see that other people are using and enjoying your product or service, making them more likely to use it themselves. Pretty simple, right?
So how do you develop social proof? There are a few different ways. You can use customer testimonials, case studies, reviews, and social media posts. Anything that shows others using and enjoying your product or service can be used as social proof.
Here are a few examples of using social proof:
- Prominently display 5-star reviews, especially near your CTAs
- Share testimonials from happy customers
- If you have any influencers or well-known people who are using your product or service, make sure to let everyone know
Create Awesome Social Media Content
Creative, engaging social media content significantly adds to any growth marketing strategy. Take Poo-Pourri, for example. They shot to viral fame with their funny and irreverent videos about their product; as a result, their sales went through the roof. The key is to find a way to stand out from the crowd, and creative social media content is the perfect way to do that. Not only will it help you attract attention, but it will also help you build trust and credibility with potential customers.
Ideas for social media content that pops:
- Humorous videos and memes (Brands like Potty Squatty and Poo-Pourri show that even toilet humor works)
- Giveaways and contests
- Host an AMA (ask me anything)
- User-generated content
Growth Marketing Strategy in Action: A Personal Example From My Career
Almost all the sites I reviewed while researching this article used Dropbox as the prototypical example of growth marketing success. Since I don’t want to bore you with redundant information you can find on every other site, here is my personal growth marketing experience.
VCA CareClub Subscription Membership Program
Of all my career achievements, I am most proud of the creation of CareClub for VCA Animal Hospitals. It was a labor of love, and I am so grateful for its success. Utilizing a customer-centric, growth marketing approach, I created a new membership subscription program that propelled revenue and customer loyalty.
When I was recruited by VCA, they were mainly known for accident and illness veterinary care. At this time, they were not known for routine wellness care, allowing their main competitor, Banfield, to grab most of that segment. Although VCA had a solid market share with over 1,000 retail hospital locations, they were giving up a significant portion of customer share to Banfield and other hospitals that were more focused on wellness care and offered subscription-based wellness programs.
At the time, VCA was a publicly traded multi-billion dollar company. Wall Street wasn’t happy about its lack of focus on wellness and the corresponding lackluster same-store-growth metric. It showed in their lagging stock price.
By utilizing many of the growth marketing strategies I listed in this article, I created a subscription membership program that appealed to customers and met their needs and desires.
The results were more astounding than anyone could have imagined, which included:
- CareClub became the most significant source of customer acquisition, outperforming every other program.
- Well over 30% of VCA’s customers were CareClub members.
- Customer share vastly improved, bringing in $100s of millions in additional annual revenue.
- CareClub members spent in excess of 3x more than non-members.
- High NPS score – over 94% of members would recommend CareClub.
- The stock price climbed from the mid $20s to $93 per share when they were acquired by Mars (the company that owns Banfield) for over $9 billion.
Ultimately, customers were happier, visited VCA hospitals more often, and spent more at each visit – vastly improving customer lifetime value (LTV). But, most importantly, it allowed pet parents to take better care of their pets, resulting in healthier dogs and cats. I am incredibly proud to have been a part of something that has positively impacted so many people’s and pets’ lives.