What Is Growth Marketing? Why Your Business Needs It in 2022

In 2022, social responsibility will be a significant trend, and companies that practice what they preach will have a stronger brand image. Read more about why companies need growth marketing

In an ideal world, companies would thrive solely on the merits of their products and services. Put your innovative idea in practice, create a great product, and problem solved. In reality, the problem is far from solved. How would people buy your products or services if they don’t know your solution exists? This is where marketing comes to the rescue.

But, what exactly do we mean when we say marketing? After all, the number of ways you can promote, advertise, or sell your products and services are countless. In the 90s, the most effective way to promote your business was to place an ad in the newspaper, on TV, radio, or billboards - this is what we know today as traditional marketing. With the rise of the internet, however, digital marketing took the spotlight. Today, to promote yourself, you have to be everywhere in the digital world - rank high on google search, have optimized website and content, be present on social media, and so on. 

And since measuring and tracking return of investment (ROI) is one of the biggest challenges in digital marketing nowadays, spending an arm and a leg just to be present in the virtual world without clear ROI measurements is no longer acceptable. Marketers need a better solution, which is how we come to today’s topic at hand - growth marketing and why it’s absolutely necessary in 2022.

Growth is hard because it depends on almost everything - how good the product is, how well the company manages its expenses, how effectively it turns prospects into paying customers (marketing and sales), and so on.

Imagine the company as a system of interconnected and mutually dependent parts. For the company to be successful, all the parts within the system must be synchronized and complement each other's work. This is why it doesn’t really matter how good traditional or digital marketing efforts are if there’s a problem further down the pipeline, such as with retention.

People realized this as digital marketing efforts sometimes failed to show a clear and transparent return of investment (ROI), so they’ve changed their perception about what marketing really needs to be. Instead of focusing only on the top of the funnel, they’ve started looking at the whole funnel (customers’ life cycle).

This meant that, in a way, marketing put itself in sales’ shoes and began looking at the big picture. Where sales sees revenue, this new approach in marketing sees growth, hence the name growth marketing.

History and Evolution of Growth Marketing

One of the first who realized this shift in marketing was entrepreneur Sean Ellis. In 2010, he coined the word “growth hacking” - a concept that was further developed with time and turned into what we call today growth marketing (below you can read about the difference between growth hacking and growth marketing).

It seems as though Ellis used the term growth hacking to describe the new way of doing marketing that aimed to deliver rapid growth through frequent A/B testing and experimentation. In his own words, a growth hacker or a growth marketer is a person whose “true north is growth” - every action they take should be justified through its potential impact on scalable growth.

In 2019, Andrew Chen wrote a highly influential article where he called growth hacking the new VP of marketing. According to him, growth hacking was the result of merging coding and marketing skills. So, to be a great marketer one must be familiar and understand A/B tests, the viral factor, Open Graph, quantitative measurement, scenario modeling, and database queries. 

However, Andrew wasn’t implying that the team should have a growth hacker as a VP. He explained that the mainstream marketing team is disrupted and needs to be reinvented to include engineers, product developers, salespeople, and marketers. It’s like blurring the lines between the disciplines and working together toward one goal - growth!

Today, growth marketing, also referred to as data-driven marketing, is a top priority for organizations and a vital tool for more than 60% of marketers.  

Defining Growth Marketing

Starting as a powerful technique for rapidly growing the business with minimum resources, this new approach took over and established itself as a subfield of marketing, known as growth marketing.

To summarize everything that we know so far, growth marketing is a data-driven approach that uses technical (coding) and marketing skills to experiment and test models to improve results. It’s considered both a set of cross-disciplinary skills (technique) and a process (strategy). We can also say that growth marketing is a long-term strategy that focuses on the whole customer journey (life cycle) through brand awareness, relationship building, and loyalty. 

Growth marketing blurs the lines between disciplines by teaching marketers to work together with developers, engineers, salespeople, and product managers to find the most efficient route toward business growth.

Based on the definitions above, we can conclude that the growth marketing framework consists of four key elements: data, tests, cross-disciplinary skills, and the sales funnel. Let’s break down these characteristics and better understand what it means to be a growth marketer. 

Data-driven Approach

Almost every definition of growth marketing describes the process as data-driven. What does this mean?

Growth marketing is a clever blend of technical and analytical skills where marketers not only find the problem, but also find a solution. And, the only way to do this is to analyze and experiment with data - real data collected from existing or potential customers.

For instance, growth marketers may look at event-based data such as mouse clicks, keystrokes, and finger swipes with intelligence tools that can uncover some behavioral patterns.

Old-school marketers might say that gut feelings and instincts are important, so it’s not surprising to use prior knowledge to make decisions, while growth hackers leave no room for subjective interpretation. They might also use prior knowledge to create hypotheses and design experiments, but then they religiously measure every detail and make decisions based on the results.

Experimentation (Testing) and ROI Metrics

We mentioned experimentation several times throughout the article, which just shows how instrumental this technique is to the growth marketing framework. 

In fact, being data-driven and running experiments go hand-in-hand. Marketers can create hypotheses thanks to collected and analyzed data, while the results represent additional data that reveals new insights. Therefore, we can conclude that experimentation is a powerful tool for making growth marketing even more data-driven. 

The most common experiment in growth marketing is A/B testing, but marketers also use multivariate tests, funnel testing, design experimentation, split-URL tests, and more. The end goal is growth, but depending on the specific metric that growth hackers identified as an area that needs improvement, be it leads, traffic, retention, or another aspect, the test used will vary.

Some metrics that growth marketers keep a close eye on include acquisition, blog traffic and SEO metrics, PPC (pay-per-click) metrics, social media traffic, engagement metrics, and retention metrics such as LTV (lifetime value). However, there are no specific growth marketing metrics because growth hackers’ goal is to work on whatever needs improvement, and this brings us to our next characteristic. 

Customer Lifecycle

The reason why growth hackers do not want to narrow their focus on only traditional marketing metrics is because they understand that growth comes when the whole funnel is optimized - not just one or a few aspects of it.

Traditional and digital marketers' goal is to promote the company’s products or services, which is done through awareness and acquisition (top of the funnel and lead generation). Once they achieve that their work is done.

On the other hand, growth marketers take the whole funnel into consideration and try to understand the customer lifecycle as a continuous process where the sum is not equal to its parts. To put it in simpler terms, improving acquisition or any other segment on its own won’t necessarily lead to growth. To give you an example, think of lead generation. Bringing more leads into the pipeline doesn’t necessarily translate to increased ROI, just as retaining existing ones alone won’t do the trick either. For these reasons, collecting data and performing experiments is the best way to diagnose the weakest link in the chain and solve the problem.

Growth Marketing And The Sales Funnel

Maybe the most appealing characteristic of growth marketing is that it goes beyond the top of the funnel. It challenges the old-school “set it and forget it” mentality of traditional marketing. If you do growth hacking right, it will add value to every aspect of the sales funnel represented through the AAARRR framework.

The AAARRR framework is an acronym for awareness, acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referral.

The two first steps of the funnel, awareness (brand familiarity) and acquisition (lead generation), is what growth shares with traditional marketing, while the rest are the remaining steps in a full customer journey.

Activation or user activation is the process of getting prospects and customers to try or use your product or services as quickly as possible - think customer onboarding processes. Growth hackers use user activation or user inactiveness indicators to propose experimentation models such as “free trials” or other tactics.

Retention is an already popular metric and an area of expertise for loyalty marketing, which doesn’t stop growth marketers from approaching it from a more technical point of view. With the advances in data enrichment and data science, growth hackers can use more advanced technologies to collect, test, and analyze data for improved retention strategies.

Revenue metrics are indicators of whether prospects or leads are willing to pay for the company’s products or services. In growth marketing, this translates to understanding the users’ budgets and targeting them more accurately. One goal here is for marketers to create actual revenue targets based on their existing customer base, analyze whether those targets cover the costs, and develop a strategy for improving revenue targets.

Referral is the process of creating the so-called viral factor. This can be done through incentives or by making the product more viral. To give you an example, Tesla offers free supercharger miles in exchange for referrals, (incentives), while Airbnb found a way to hack into Craigslist's user base by adding functionality through which users could share their Airbnb listings directly to Craigslist (virality).

Cross-Disciplinary Team and Collaboration

Growth marketing is a very holistic discipline. Internal growth teams and growth agencies are typically composed of teams with a very varied background - product, sales, marketing, IT, design, and so on.

This team structure is not by accident, and here’s why.

Growth marketing is based on behavioral psychology, storytelling skills, statistics and data analysis, design and UX, research, and branding/market positioning. On top of that, experts need to have a very rich experience in a variety of marketing channels, such as content, SEO, viral, paid media, multimedia, events, email, partnership deals, and so on.

And, if that’s not intimidating enough, let’s talk about the technical skills. To do growth marketing, one must be familiar with copywriting, website optimization, video making, A/B testing, excel, statistics and data analysis, coding, HTML/CSS, editing tools such as Canva and Sketch, and more.

Based on this, we are confident to conclude that the scope of growth marketing far exceeds the capabilities of any one individual be it an engineer, developer, marketer, or salesperson.

Throughout this article, we’ve used the terms growth marketing and growth hacking as synonyms, which is also the case for most of the literature online.

However, for the nitpickers, we can briefly explain the differences that some experts in the field have noticed in an attempt to be meticulous. 

Let’s start with what is probably the most justified differential perspective of the two concepts - seeing growth hacking as a tool or technique and growth marketing as a subdiscipline.

If we’re talking about growth hacking in a generalized way, then we can say it’s a set of tools applicable to other disciplines, such as product development. To give you an example, let’s remember what we talked about referrals. Growth-driven companies can take two approaches: to incentivize their customers for referrals or add viral functionality to the product. The first approach is more marketing-based, while the second is product-based. Therefore, we can say that growth hacking is about growth regardless of the means necessary to achieve it. The motto here is “growth as much as possible as quickly as possible.

On the other hand, when we’re talking about growth marketing, we’re talking about a more holistic approach that sees growth as a long-term, sustainable goal, but it also focuses on the brand. It aims to develop a strong framework and effective strategies that can be used over and over.

Another way to look at growth hacking versus growth marketing is as the difference between tactics and strategy. Growth hacking is a tactic (a specific action), while growth marketing is a strategy (action plan on how to reach all goals).

Finally, growth hacking is more technical and relies heavily on engineering, while growth marketing uses a broader skills set that’s both analytical and technical.

Some say that growth hacking does not care about the brand at all, but when done right, both growth hacking and growth marking are aligned when it comes to brand positioning.

Growth Marketing Benefits

Now that we know what growth marketing is, let’s talk about why your business needs it in 2022. In a nutshell, the key benefits of using the growth marketing framework include speed to market, provable ROI, and scalable operations.

Speed and Cost-Effectiveness

Growth hacking techniques are designed to bring quick growth by leveraging current demands and marketing trends. By experimenting, growth marketers can quickly determine the most efficient method for growing your customer base, which allows them to invest your resources in a smarter way.

Another reason why growth marketing methods are quick and cost-effective is that they don’t rely on a theoretical framework for how things need to be done. Instead of focusing on a few aspects apriori, they identify risk areas through experimentation and data analysis and decide what issue needs their attention most.

Provable ROI

Building an effective funnel that meets your revenue goals is crucial for survival and long-term business growth. Growth marketing offers quantifiable and easily scalable tools for optimizing the funnel for growing your customer base and exceeding your revenue goals. With minimal resources, growth marketers can test different strategies and find the best ways to “hack” the market. And, since the growth approach is based on data and experimentation, you can make more precise predictions concerning the ROI.

Scalable Operations

Growth marketing offers scalable growth that won’t negatively impact the quality of your services or products. And, this is easily achieved because growth hacking does not require investment in expensive infrastructure that needs to be changed or replaced once your business has scaled. Instead, growth marketers test scalable marketing techniques that you can apply in your own product development or marketing processes.

In a nutshell, you can benefit tremendously by applying growth marketing techniques in your overall marketing strategy. But, not all techniques and ideas would be equally effective. You still need to follow the newest marketing trends to stay ahead of the competition. Let’s see what that looks like for growth marketing in 2022.

The digital world changes constantly, and to grow your business you need to find a way to stay ahead of the curve. The best way to do that is to anticipate and be prepared to catch the train for some of the biggest trends in the realm of growth marketing. Here are five expectations that can help you expand your business in 2022.

For Rank, Visibility, and Engagement: User-Generated Content

Content marketing is still dominating the digital world as 81% of marketers believe content to be a core business strategy. Yes, content is and will stay crucial in your attempts to grow your business, but what type of content?

New trends reveal that user-generated, consumer-driven, and personalized content is what you need to be producing.

Invest your resources in research to find what exactly makes your target audience unique because that’s the key to better rankings, more visibility, and most importantly, user engagement. When the content is personal and targets your customers’ pain points, it has the power to grab their attention and turn them into long-standing advocates for your company.

To achieve this, don’t be afraid to ask your customers directly about their needs and problems. Also, don’t miss out on the new opportunities to be more involved with your target audience. Think of Tik Tok, for example - it’s a goldmine for user-generated content, a great way to directly interact with your audience and understand their needs, wants, and current issues.

For Loyalty: Social Responsibility

The second trend expected to boom in 2022 is social responsibility. Therefore, if you want to win over your target audience and have their loyalty, you must show them that you practice what you preach. Your marketing efforts should reflect your ethics, transparency, and your commitment to the community.

Research from McKinsey found that in 2020 and 2021, customers were more willing to buy from companies that were socially responsible and cared for their employees. Today, with the current socio-political environment, we expect these trends to continue or be even more pronounced.

However, be mindful that these efforts must be authentic, not orchestrated for the public because in today’s global society where all information is publicly shared, a bad reputation can ruin your brand image.

For Brand Awareness: Shareability

One of the pillars of growth marketing is virality, which you can further leverage by having easily shareable assets. We’re talking about on-page downloadable templates, forms, video, audio, infographics, guides, and everything else - if it’s useful and there for the users, make it shareable on all platforms.

This will help your company tap into other customer bases and spread brand awareness and authority. On top of that, it shows search engines that you’re a highly engaged and trustworthy source, which also increases your rankings.

How to make your content more shareable? The simplest way is to insert a shareable infographic into your blog posts that users can share on their social platforms.

For Lead Generation and Analysis: Accessibility

Did you know that you can be sued for lack of access to your web services? Now more than ever, people want to easily access your website and use your services. Moreover, they want them to be inclusive for everyone, including people with disabilities. This ups the stakes for UI & UX design, so that’s another area that you should invest in.

In this context, accessibility has a very broad meaning - from the ability to access your website, to being inclusive, as well as enjoyable. It’s important to make user experience a top priority in 2022.

This is also an opportunity to stand out from the rest before everyone else catches on. The reason for this is that the need for inclusive web services that include people with disabilities and impairments will become an even bigger issue and necessity in the years to come.

How to easily offer inclusive web services? One idea is to have an audible version of your visual content, like blogs.

For Revenue: Social E-Commerce

Last but not least, social e-commerce is the newest wave that has the potential to drastically change how people shop. The term social e-commerce reflects the process of merging social media with shopping. In other words, we’re talking about the ability to shop directly from social media sites.

But, wait, there’s more! If you were thinking of creating a business profile and listing your products, you’re way behind. In 2022, brands are selling their products and services directly from videos and stories while collaborating with niche-specific influencers. Just imagine, when someone who advocated for your products gives the users the ability to directly buy the products from their content piece.

It's yet another revolution in consumerism that you should not miss out on. If you don’t believe us, believe the newest marketing statistics that predict the social e-commerce market to grow by nearly $80 billion, which is 5% of the US’s total retail e-commerce sales. Along these lines, social e-commerce sales are expected to increase more than 35% in 2022.

Conclusion

Conclusion

As the newest hot topic in the business community, there’s a lot to be said about growth marketing. And, whether you see it as a set of powerful techniques or a subdiscipline in marketing, you won’t make a mistake if you utilize at least some of the growth marketing principles.

Being a data-driven approach that uses technical skills and new technologies to analyze data, conduct experiments, and find quick, scalable, and cost-effective solutions for more sustainable growth, gives growth marketing a slight edge over more traditional marketing approaches.

Nevertheless, nothing is black and white and you can use growth marketing in combination with another approach or use growth hacking principles for product development with a more traditional marketing approach. There’s no one right answer because every company is different.

To make sure you’re doing the right thing for your business, you can contact us through our website and schedule a consultation. We’ll be happy to provide more personalized advice that’s tailored to solve your most pressing issues.

Last but not least, if you liked this article, check out our blog where we regularly share insightful articles and guides with valuable advice for marketers, founders, and other professionals.

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