You might see the terms growth marketing and growth hacking and think they mean the same thing. They both have the word growth in them, so is there really a difference? What makes differentiating between the two even more confusing is that the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. While there are similarities, such as the goal of driving more revenue, growth hacking and growth marketing are two distinct approaches.
Growth hacking tends to focus on getting short-term results through a burst of sales activity. It’s more or less about getting the momentum going and converting as many leads as possible. In contrast, growth marketing is in it for the long haul. It’s a strategy that aims to not only convert leads, but also to turn them into lifelong customers who advocate for the brand.
Yes, companies can use both growth hacking and growth marketing. And at times it’s hard to tell which approach will achieve the results you’re after when all you want is growth. But if you dig deeper into your growth objectives, there are signs that point to growth marketing as the more appropriate choice. Let’s look at the most significant indicators below.
You Need to Build Your Brand
A business that needs to expand and develop its brand presence is usually already in an established market. Unlike a startup, your company may have been around for some time. However, you haven’t maxed out your market share and want to become a stronger industry player. Growth hacking might give your business a temporary boost, but growth marketing will help expand its market share and keep it there.
Growth marketing can also be more effective if your business has an established customer base. These clients are loyal, but you’re not seeing as much growth among them as you’d like. They tend to stick with the products and services they know and aren’t generating as many repeat sales as they could. You want to figure out what will help move the dial for your base.
A/B testing under a growth marketing approach identifies behavior patterns that can reshape your strategies. For example, are clients not adding other products because they’re unaware of them? Or is there hesitation because of a lack of perceived need and a general unwillingness to try something new? The data you get from your tests will help uncover these obstacles to long-term growth. Your marketing strategies can then work to overcome them.
Your Product or Service Is More Conventional
Say you lead a bank or a credit union. Let’s face it—your products and services aren’t terribly likely to inspire excitement and internet buzz. Consumers view checking and savings accounts, home loans and credit and debit cards as necessities. They’re commodities that may be more difficult to differentiate in the customer’s mind, and the risk of churn is high. Plus, consumers are typically aware these products and services exist.
For the market, the decision is less about choosing the product or service. It’s more about finding a convenient provider, a brand identity with similar values or a seller who offers unique benefits. Compared to growth hacking, growth marketing can stimulate awareness and build retention for brands and products less apt to go viral.
Growth hacking, which creates a lot of buzz in the beginning, needs products and services that will grab attention. These offerings are usually something the market hasn’t seen before, or they use a freemium business model. If your business sells a relatively conventional product or service, you can still carve out niches. Growth marketing identifies these segments and helps you enlarge them over time.
Your Company Has Significant Competition
Achieving growth in saturated or highly competitive markets is going to be more challenging. There is only so much market potential or share to go around. Even if you’re a top industry or market player, you’ll be fighting to maintain the share you have. It will cost more to steal share from competitors or snag new market entrants.
Maintaining and growing share in a competitive market requires long-range thinking and planning. Strategies such as building customer loyalty and creating innovative products aren’t things that happen in a week or two. They require research, data analysis and a slow but steady approach. This is part of what growth marketing aims for—finding strategies that work and that you can automate for continued results.
Whereas growth hacking might be similar to a trend that fizzles out, growth marketing is like one that sticks around. And in a saturated market, you need a formula you can apply multiple times to sustain revenue growth. Otherwise, you might see some of your market share go to competitors or have difficulty moving beyond a certain threshold. Growth marketing retains customers and creates personalized experiences that are difficult for competitors to replicate.
Growth Marketing Versus Growth Hacking
Both growth marketing and growth hacking can produce results that impact the bottom line. However, growth marketing gives you sustained growth by focusing on more than one-time purchases and getting new customers through the door. Growth marketing also concentrates on discovering formulas that work with existing clients, helping to drive repeat sales and referrals.
When you need to build your brand, you sell conventional products or your market is saturated, growth marketing can be the better approach. You’re more likely to achieve the growth objectives you’re after. Brand building, commodity offerings and competitive landscapes require more than a temporary solution. They demand the long-term retention benefits that growth marketing provides.