comparison growth marketing vs growth hacking

In the business and marketing worlds today, growth hacking and growth marketing are two buzzwords that have been present for some time and put into usage. However, many may find it difficult to appreciate the difference between these two terms to put them in good use. In the face of this challenge, Kyanon Digital will provide clarification for those trying to differentiate between growth marketing and growth hacking.

1. Definitions

1.1. Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a methodology that combines two different types of growth: brand growth and performance growth. Brand growth targets awareness-building, customer loyalty, and brand perception and reputation. Performance growth focuses on moving the needle and boosting your brand’s bottom line, through increased leads, traffic, sales, revenue, and ROI. It is not uncommon that the process can be consolidated into:

  • A combination of strategic brand marketing (think positioning and differentiation) and tactical performance marketing (think content marketing and paid acquisition).
  • A systematic process that builds on agile development principles and growth hacking practices. The process follows a cyclical sprint model where tactics are prioritized based on their perceived long-term impact.
  • The pursuit towards sustainable revenue growth not only through new customer acquisition but also through customer activation, retention, and monetization.
  • Serving good-fit customers aka companies that match ideal customer profiles.

Comparison: Growth Hacking vs. Growth Marketing 1

1.2. Growth Hacking

In their book, Ellis and Brown (2017) define growth hacking as “a rigorous approach to fueling rapid market growth through high-speed, cross-functional experimentation”. And according to them, the core elements of this process are:

  • Implements cross-functional teams that combine marketing and technical product development skills.
  • Utilizes both qualitative and quantitative data to identify behavior profiles and customer preferences
  • High-tempo testing and the use of rigorous metrics to evaluate and act on the results.

Comparison: Growth Hacking vs. Growth Marketing 2

2. Similarities between Growth Hacking and Growth Marketing

  • Goal: The goal of both approaches is to drive revenue growth not only through new customer acquisition but also through customer activation, retention, and monetization.
  • Data: Just like growth hacking, the success of growth marketing relies on access to both qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Process: Both approaches rely on an agile sprint model, which encourages experimentation, data-informed decision-making, and the pursuit towards constant improvement.
  • Product: Growth marketing and growth hacking share a reasonable prerequisite: The product itself must be good enough for either of the approaches to work.

Comparison: Growth Hacking vs. Growth Marketing 3

3. Differences between Growth Hacking and Growth Marketing

3.1. Growth marketing is focused on the brand while growth hacking does not target at

The most fundamental difference between growth hacking and growth marketing boils down to the two practices’ opposing views on brand. Growth marketing is strategic and methodical, working to build brand awareness before moving toward measurable, sustained growth. On the other hand, finding right-fit tactics that move the needle fast is what growth hacking is more concerned with.

This, however, is a cautionary tale. A growth hacker who ignores the brand is bound for failure. And a growth marketer who does not pay attention to innovative ideas and short-term growth is going to get stuck in monotony.

Growth marketers should keep the brand as their source of truth, but they must also be agile and forward-thinking enough to get outside the box and experiment. And it is necessary for growth hackers to have a good handle on the brand, persona, and product in order to make experiments a success rather than a futile exercise.

3.2. Growth hackers aim for rapid growth, growth marketers aim for sustainable growth

The other critical difference between growth hackers and growth marketers is the type of growth they are primarily after. In a perfect world both groups would, of course, strive for rapid and sustainable growth. However, it is not always possible in the real world. In practice, a growth marketer and a growth hacker would approach the same problem from two different angles.

For example, in a situation where increasing website conversions is the goal, growth hackers will look at historical data and realize that since the conversion rate is already quite high, the fastest way to grow the number of conversions is by increasing traffic. But their next decision is less about what is good for the business in the long run, and more about what will get them results yesterday. And so instead of making the strategic decision to build a steady stream of organic traffic to the highest converting pages of the website, they will turn to paid acquisition channels like Google Ads, LinkedIn, and Facebook. It is because they need to see immediate results.

Growth marketers, on the other hand, would find it reasonable to spend a few weeks conducting customer interviews and using those inputs to build an SEO strategy that favors high-intent keywords and helps the company rank organically for the same keywords growth hackers will forever be paying for.

3.3. Growth marketing pays attention to people and business while growth hacking has a preference for technology

As mentioned, growth marketers are concerned with the brand at all times, and that includes the people the brand serves. They are the ones who can help you solve difficult business problems. Things like who your best customers are, which category your product should belong to, and how to differentiate the product from its market alternatives.

More importantly, the best growth marketers are specialists in conducting, analyzing, and using qualitative customer research to leverage this insight to craft content that reaches the audience at the right time, in the right place, with the right message.

Growth hackers do not put thoughts about who they reach, but how. They are the earliest adopters, or sometimes even creators, of new technology, and they rely on tools to get their work done quickly. According to Andrew Chen, growth hackers can be considered as leading teams of engineers, who will approach and apply technology more often than non-technical marketers.

It is impossible to say which one is wrong, which one is better, but to achieve maximum growth, it should be both in the mix.

3.4 Growth marketing is consistent hard work while growth hacking is one revolutionary move

It does not imply that growth marketers work harder, it means that the hard work they do happens over a longer, sustained period of time. Growth hackers, on the flip side, spend more energy on the front end. But their work routine repeats over and over again as their experiments either succeed or fail.

Growth marketers are proficient in planning. They construct a strategy that will be implemented across months, if not years. Growth hackers desire prompt results. If they do not get them, it is onto the next experiment.

Again, neither is a better choice. Ideally, the two are used together for maximum impact: fast growth now and long-term sustainable growth into the future.

3.5 Growth marketing looks at the bigger picture, growth hacking wants immediate results

A growth marketer considers where the brand wants to be five years from now. A growth hacker is more concerned with where it is now. However, they all have the same goal at the end: increased growth and higher revenue; but they have different approaches and methods.

3.6 Growth hacking and growth marketing require different skill sets

Growth marketers and growth hackers are usually very different kinds of people. And for good reason, the methods each use to drive results are unique and require a particular skill set.

Comparison: Growth Hacking vs. Growth Marketing 4
3.6.1. How a Growth Marketer should be
  • Patient: It takes time and much research to plan a campaign, and the results usually do not show up immediately.
  • Planned: To get positive results from a long-term process, they need to be well prepared.
  • Consistent: Not losing the main point and idea over a long time is not easy.
  • A leader: There is a lot to do when it comes to Growth Marketing (Link building, SEO optimization, content writing, content planning, website or product design, etc.) Doing all this stuff single-handedly is almost impossible.
  • Always up-to-date: As well as being consistent in a plan, Growth Marketers need to be able to adapt the steps of the process to the latest developments or revolutions. They need to be aware of the market and the competition.
Comparison: Growth Hacking vs. Growth Marketing 6
3.6.2. Some of the ‘’must have’’ skills of a Growth Hacker
  • Technical skills: This does not imply that growth hackers need to know how to code, it means they have to know how to use and manipulate the internet and the customers by doing some magic, aka hacking.
  • Resolution oriented: Focusing on the resolution and going for it as soon as possible is the job of a Growth Hacker.
  • Curiosity and creativity: Growth hackers must be able to think outside the box.

Comparison: Growth Hacking vs. Growth Marketing 7

4. Neither Growth Marketing nor Growth Hacking can be efficient enough on its own

At this point, in order to meet your goals, it is necessary to have elements of growth hacking woven throughout a larger growth marketing strategy. It is possible that one can exist, and of course with limited success, without the other, but a symbiotic relationship provides the best results.

Brands that chose to make one approach likely to be left unsatisfied. Either they have a solid, potential start that is short lived because there is no strategy behind it and it does not offer sustainability, or they never get a chance to succeed before consumers lose interest and the bottom line begins to crash.

Spending all your resources on just one thing is not going to get you the desired outcomes. Or if it does, it will last a long time, or it will be a seemingly endless wait before that carefully crafted strategy flourish.

Kyanon Digital hopes that this article has provided useful information, and helped you gain a more legible picture to understand the differences between growth marketing and growth hacking, as well as their similarities, to put them in good use. If you have any questions related to this matter, do not hesitate to contact us for specific consultation.

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