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What is Growth Marketing? A Growth Marketing Guide

Julie Zhou

VP of Digital Marketing and Growth

Undoubtedly, you've encountered the term growth marketing numerous times. Growth marketing transforms pre-planned marketing calendars into dynamic, personalized lifecycle messaging. In fact, over the last decade, growth marketing has taken center stage in place of traditional marketing largely due to the digital age that now envelops us. How? The answer lies in one word: data.

The Crucial Role of Growth Marketing in the Digital Age

As businesses move more of their marketing activities online, whether through digital advertising, social media marketing, email marketing, or search engine optimization (SEO), the result is a wealth of data about online consumer behavior: what they click, which emails they read, which products they buy, how much time they spend on a web page — the list is endless.

What if there was a way to use this data to improve your marketing activities and fine-tune them constantly over time to get better results? What if you could optimize your online campaigns to get more customers, clicks, conversions, and sales? You can achieve this through the power of growth marketing!

Growth marketing uses a variety of marketing tactics to help a company scale quickly by focusing on driving revenue and lifetime value across users' entire customer lifecycle. Traditional marketing is generally thought of as a way to bring people into the funnel through awareness and acquisition, turning the process over to sales and, eventually, customer support. Growth marketing is different because it focuses on using data to experiment and rapidly grow a channel, whereas traditional marketing uses established methods for increasing brand recognition among a larger audience.

Traditional Marketing and Growth Marketing: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Today, growth marketing is a whole industry in and of itself — separate and distinct from traditional marketing, yet it’s also an integrated part of a company’s broader marketing efforts. Growth marketing is something of an anomaly. On the one hand, it is heavily focused on the online realm and data-driven tactics. On the other hand, it can be used to enhance traditional marketing activities.

Say you want to drive visitors to your booth at an upcoming conference. The event falls under the traditional marketing umbrella, but the email campaigns, social media campaigns, digital ads, and push notifications you use to boost your booth traffic among potential customers are all part of the growth marketing toolkit.

While all marketing aims to promote a business, sell a product or service, or build awareness among customers, growth marketing is hyper-focused on growing or scaling a business via customer data-driven tactics and strategies. These tactics tend to be most effective in the digital space due to the prevalence of available customer data and increased audience targeting accuracy.

Growth Marketing: Terms You Need to Know

  • Growth: when a business experiences a significant increase in its revenue as a result of being in business, but also expanding in various areas, including workforce, clientele, and number of offices. 

  • Scaling: when a business increases its revenue without significantly allocating more resources.

  • Revenue generation: the process of organizing, promoting, and selling goods with the ultimate goal of boosting profitability.

  • Small hypotheses prioritization: the process of choosing and concentrating on testing achievable, targeted marketing concepts or hypotheses that could assist a business in learning from and refining its tactics. In order to improve efficiency and results, it entails choosing which marketing experiments or concepts to investigate first.

  • Fast experimentation: experimenting rapidly to determine what functions best while avoiding excessive delay.

  • Rapid iteration over long-term campaigns: making frequent, minimal tweaks to your current marketing tactics to help the business increase its efficacy over long periods of time.

  • Targeted user segments: certain demographic groupings that are the target of customized marketing campaigns since they have similar traits and interests.

  • Customer lifecycle stages: the different stages a consumer experiences with a business, from first awareness and consideration to purchase, loyalty, and possible advocacy.

  • Social media: online platforms, such as Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and many more, that allow users to communicate, exchange content, and engage with one another.

  • Display/Native ads: digital native ads intuitively fit both the form and function of the environment they’re in—be it a web page or an app. This means native ads can come in many different shapes and are incorporated into the content a user is seeing. This helps brands reach and engage audiences in a more approachable fashion.

  • Viral video campaigns: campaigns that involve producing and promoting videos in an effort to get them viewed and shared widely by a big internet audience, frequently yielding notable levels of engagement and brand exposure.

  • User engagement: the degree to which people engage with and connect with a brand or its content, expressing how interested, involved, and engaged they are with the brand.

  • Churn rate: the proportion of clients or subscribers who, over a given time period, stop using a good or service, usually as a result of cancellation, non-renewal, or disengagement.

  • Customer lifetime value: the general measure of the projected revenue that a customer will bring in over their lifespan as a customer.

  • Repeat purchase rate: a metric that calculates the ratio of repeat customers to the overall customer base.

Have you ever wondered how traditional marketing compares to growth marketing? The following table provides a quick and straightforward way to spot the differences.


Growth Marketing

Traditional Marketing


Rapid growth and scaling, revenue generation

Brand awareness and acquisition


Small hypotheses prioritization, fast experimentation, rapid iteration over long-term campaigns

Established methods, awareness-oriented, single touchpoint engagement

Target Audience

Targeted user segments, customer lifecycle stages

Targeted user segments, broad audience reach, mass marketing


Social media, display or native ad networks, viral video campaigns

Traditional (TV, radio, print), billboard advertisements

Key Metrics

User engagement, churn rate, customer lifetime value (CLV), repeat purchase rate

Impressions, reach, brand recognition

The Fundamentals of Growth Marketing

With the number of new businesses starting each year, it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd. Growth marketing and growth marketing companies have grown in popularity in recent years, especially with startups, as marketers recognize their role in retaining customers, not just acquiring them.

Exploring the Dynamics of Growth Marketing

Companies with a growth marketing strategy move quickly, test new ideas, and move on from the ones that do not result in growth. Historical data and knowledge of consumer needs are helpful when implementing tactics and designing a campaign. For example, marketers running paid campaigns may discover ads perform better with native advertising, which is more content-focused than traditional online ads, and therefore decide to invest more marketing dollars into native platforms.

Managing this does not have to be a time-consuming process. Growth marketers have various tools to choose from for their marketing stack for promoting content, measuring performance, and building a plan. With a platform like AdRoll (or another growth marketing tool), marketers focus on driving profitable conversions and can easily see how different marketing channels work together. This means more dollars are invested in the channels with the highest return. The right tools also allow growth marketers to coordinate campaigns across previously siloed channels, making monitoring performance across their marketing campaigns easier.

The Secret Sauce: What Makes Growth Marketing So Effective

Because growth marketing is about achieving impactful and fast results, marketers can quickly pivot to the tasks that result in the highest revenue and customer growth. The approach of constant testing allows these marketers to drive real business growth — allowing them to learn quickly, scale successful campaigns, and rework unsuccessful tests. Typically, growth marketing teams set aside resources specifically for testing new campaigns, tools, or methods. While the proportion and formula vary per business, these test resources are a critical key to success and guide growth marketers in making decisions about audience and channels — and where to put the majority of their efforts for the highest return.

Growth marketers use information from actual users to target channels and messaging based on what they learn. As more data comes in, the strategy is modified to ensure that acquiring and retaining continue in a positive direction. A solid growth marketing strategy is never static. It constantly changes along with user behavior, industry, channels, and trends.

A good growth marketing strategy builds upon actual data, rather than assumptions or opinions. And it considers what users really want, not just what the brand hopes to sell. That is how businesses reduce churn and increase customer lifetime value.

Best Practices for Growth Marketing Success

  • Consistently measure all your actions. If a strategy proves ineffective, swiftly identify it and pivot instead of persisting in allocating resources to a non-revenue-generating approach. Find out what works and optimize it.

  • Know that some things will fail. Move on. Failure is okay because it will be discovered quickly and is an expected part of the process. Failure is a way to gather information and improve the long-term strategy.

  • Realize that other brands’ tactics may not work for you. Know your KPIs and build your growth marketing strategy around them rather than attempting to replicate what was successful for other companies.

  • Choose integrated marketing tools to free up more time for strategy rather than wasting time trying to understand inconsistent data across different platforms. Siloed tools consume valuable time and resources that could be better spent on strategy, which is where AdRoll can help your business.

Mastering Customer Journey Optimization for Growth Marketing

Another key characteristic of growth marketing is that it covers the entire marketing flywheel. Like the marketing funnel, the flywheel is a simplified way of looking at the customer journey. Unlike a funnel, the flywheel doesn’t end when a prospect becomes a customer. Instead, it tracks the user journey beyond the purchase and helps you understand how to attract new customers while maintaining existing ones.

image of the marketing flywheel

While traditional marketing methods focus on the customer at one touch point — visiting a booth at a trade show, reading an ad in the newspaper, watching a video about a product — growth marketing measures the success of a campaign across all the stages of the customer’s journey with your business.

In a traditional funnel, the stages of a customer journey are linear, starting with awareness and often ending at purchase or occasionally touching on referrals. The flywheel is similar, but breaks things out slightly less granularly and adds a follow-on service-oriented component. Here are some examples of how the stages translate from funnel to flywheel, and how growth marketing can be applied in each:

Awareness (Funnel) / Attract (Flywheel)

At this stage, the growth marketer is concerned with getting the brand ‘out there’ and creating awareness of the business, product, or service among potential audiences. Growth marketers achieve this via targeted advertising on social media, display or native ad networks, video campaigns, influencer marketing campaigns, and more.

Interest (Funnel) / Engage (Flywheel)

An ideal time for retargeted advertising campaigns is when potential customers show interest in your business. You can do this on social media, mobile, or native ad networks. Growth marketers look to create real, meaningful engagement.

Acquisition (Funnel) / Engage (Flywheel)

Once the customer has converted, you can offer digital discount coupons on their next purchase or reduce the number of steps during checkout to reduce cart abandonment issues.

Retention (Funnel) / Delight (Flywheel)

Once you have acquired a customer, retaining them is a key goal. 80% of future profits come from just 20% of existing customers. Investing in customer retention is vital, so employ tactics such as satisfaction surveys, email campaigns with discount offers, or chatbot support for customer inquiries.

Referral (Funnel) / Delight/Attract (Flywheel)

This is the stage where your customers become more than customers; they become your advocates or ambassadors. Loyalty clubs, ‘refer a friend’ programs, micro-influencer marketing campaigns, and testimonial video campaigns are all growth marketing tactics you can implement to spread word-of-mouth referrals quickly and effectively online.

This is the stage where the flywheel circles back around on itself. Growth marketers collaborate with sales, service, support, and product teams to make customers so happy they want to refer, and then build tools to make referrals easy.

Growth marketing aims to nurture customers at all stages of the journey through the marketing flywheel. Growth marketing attends to every contact with customers, no matter how small or where they are in the flywheel. The continuous, customer-centric focus throughout their journey is the key to accelerating business growth.

Growth Marketing FAQs

Question: What is the primary goal of growth marketing?

Answer: The primary goal of growth marketing is to scale your business rapidly. You can do this by prioritizing your marketing efforts on maximizing the lifetime value of your customers across the entire customer lifecycle. 

Question: How does growth marketing differ from traditional marketing?

Answer: While traditional marketing focuses on promoting the brand to a larger audience through tried-and-true techniques, growth marketing is all about accelerating business growth with data-driven strategies and personalized targeting. It’s important to note that many aspects of growth marketing incorporate traditional marketing methods.

Question: What are some key growth marketing metrics?

Answer: Several key growth marketing metrics include user engagement, repeat purchases, churn rate, customer lifetime value (CLV), return on ad spend (ROAS), and click-through rates (CTR).

Question: How can businesses get started with growth marketing?

Answer: If you’re looking to kickstart your growth marketing efforts, the first step you can take is to establish a team of experts. These teams require a wide range of skills — from engineering and development to analytics, copywriting, design, and a high aptitude for online software and tools. Here are some considerations to consider when putting together a growth marketing team:

They must have a high aptitude for technology since there is a wealth of tools and software designed to create, set up, monitor, and analyze online campaigns. Understanding the evolution of the product, new features, changes, and updates are essential for a successful growth marketing team, as is a solid understanding of the target audience, existing customers, customer feedback and concerns. Depending on the company's size, the growth marketing team may include SEO specialists, conversion optimization specialists, content writers, email marketing specialists, retention specialists, data analysts, and graphic designers. The ideal team member is a fast learner and can adapt quickly, with the ability to stay on top of new developments within the company, in the niche industry in which they operate, and in the wider digital marketing industry. 

To Wrap It Up

It’s time to put on your growth marketing thinking cap. A growth marketer always thinks there is room for improvement in customer relationships. They are never satisfied with the status quo and constantly think of and test new ways to make customers happier.

Kickstart Your Growth Marketing Journey With AdRoll

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