The Evolution of Growth Marketing Roles

Becky Doles

Photo by Stephen Walker on Unsplash

Over the past three years, the demand for growth marketing roles has climbed by 25%, and experts predict this trend will continue in 2018. Today we’ll take a closer look at the evolution of growth marketing and the increasing importance of growth hacking.

The Evolution of Growth Marketing

We’ve come a long way from when Sean Ellis, founder and CEO of Qualaroo, coined the term growth hacking in 2010. He described a growth marketer as a “person whose true north is growth.”  

With that definition, it may seem like everyone is a growth marketer. But Harvard Business Review recently defined the role as having three key components:

  1. to define a company’s growth plan,
  2. to coordinate and execute growth programs, and
  3. to optimize the revenue funnel

It’s an increasingly complex position. A growth manager must have a solid understanding of effective experiments, statistical reasoning, and interpreting data both quantitatively and qualitatively. Ultimately, the role now comes down to helping a company define its growth objectives — whether a company wants to pursue acquisition or prevent churn, for example — and then help to quantify, measure, and understand progress against those goals.

While a number of KPIs could be used by a performance marketer, according to Overthink Group, it’s ultimately about “reaching as many people in a market as possible, for the most effective price possible.” And that can happen at every stage of the funnel, meaning it’s not just all acquisition all the time, as the word “growth” may imply.

Becoming a Successful Growth Marketer: What It Takes

Iterate Fast

If you thought an experiment every quarter or 90 days sounds sufficient, the best growth marketers are moving much faster than that. Head of Growth David Arnoux at Growth Tribe says, “It’s all about speed and finding the quickest way to test your ideas, because 80% of your ideas will probably fail. The faster you can run through experiments the faster you can find out what works and what doesn’t. This is how companies can find their ‘growth hacks’. I believe this is one of the biggest pitfalls of growth hacking. The lack of a process for rapid experimentation.”

Focus on the Entire Customer Journey

Because growth is in the title, a lot of people assume growth marketing is all about the acquisition or growth stage. But the best growth marketers use it to improve every stage of the customer journey.

Facebook, for example, compared the behavior of users it retained versus users who churned, and identified that one of the key drivers of new user retention was connecting with at least 10 friends within the first two weeks of signup. This discovery fueled the development of product features that allowed users to more easily find and connect with friends.

As growth marketer and entrepreneur Sujan Patel explains, “Growth is much more than traffic and increasing conversions. Although they have a lot of similarities, growth hacking covers more, including: branding, offline marketing, customer success, support, and more.”

Think of Each Customer as an Individual

Another thing to be aware of in this regard is that most customers aren’t prepared make quick purchase decisions.  Skilled growth marketer are aware of this and identify nurture opportunities that lead to sales over time rather than attempt to sell from the get-go. Dan Martell, CEO of Clarity, says, “The truth is, 90% of people visiting or signing up for your product don’t have the burning desire right now, or the knowledge, to engage your solution, so you need to build a strategy to help them along this path.”

In this regard, skilled growth marketers understand that a product is actually not the be-all-end-all, but just a part of the customer journey. And the more you can optimize along the entire path — instead of scaring off potential customers too soon — the more value and less churn you will see at every stage of your funnel.

As Overthink Group says: 

“A growth marketer has to consider the individual relationships your organization is building with potential customers in order to improve the whole funnel. Because you’re not just developing one relationship at a time: you’re developing hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands at a time—and each one is with an individual person.”

Use It As An Opportunity to Reduce Costs

As platforms mature, paid marketing is only getting more expensive. As such, growth marketing presents an incredible opportunity for brands to do more with less, and to optimize their spend at every stage. A growth marketer can run A/B tests and analyze data with tools that cost very little, yet yield significant results in ROI. That said, here are two recommendations we hear echoed among growth marketers:

Become More Data-Driven

An experiment isn’t about seeing what happens (something always happens).  Rather, the best growth marketers start out with a very specific hypothesis in mind, and have the technology and infrastructure in place to accurately test it.

For some teams, this means building their own infrastructure. But for others, it means leveraging products like Adobe Analytics, Google Analytics, TUNE (wink), OptinMonster, Optimizely, and KissMetrics, Unbounce, and VWO.Whichever tools your team has, the best growth marketers test one thing at a time. You can have several iterations of the same ad, landing page, etc., but it’s best to test one variable like image, headline, or color, so you don’t attribute the wrong variable with your growth hack.

Shift From Growth Marketing Teams to Growth Marketing Culture

Whereas there used to be emphasis on growth marketers, now growth marketing really requires an entire team and process. The companies that are growing the fastest (Uber, for example) prioritize growth as a mindset the entire organization and company culture embraces.

Growth marketing is not about just marketing, nor just about the product. With growth marketing, both product development and marketing are integrated functions that iterate off of each other and improve the entire company’s performance as a result. The most skilled growth marketers can move fluidly between the marketing and product teams, command the respect of both, and make both teams understand the company’s growth direction and the reasoning behind it.

COO Morgan Brown of Inman explains:

Optimizing retention is a major component of growth hacking that most people ignore. This is where engineering and product teams can drive a ton of growth that traditional marketing cannot.”

Tell us in the comments below: How have you seen growth marketing evolve at your organization? What trends are you seeing?

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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