Product marketing and growth hacking are often challenging to define. They exist near each other in the org chart, but there are key differences: Product marketing sits at the intersection of the sales and marketing teams and is mostly about building pre-sale value. Growth hacking primarily focuses on post-sale value and is in close correspondence with teams like product, UX/design, and customer success. While these dynamics can vary according to products, this dichotomy is typical across companies.

Let’s explore the distinctions between product marketing and growth hacking, and whether they should work together. 

What’s Product Marketing?

Product marketers have one overall goal: to bring products to market successfully. They work on a product’s positioning, messaging, and launch to drive demand and usage. However, their role doesn’t stop there, because the process of marketing a product lasts well after its launch date. Product marketers also have to ensure their customers and salespeople know how to use it, and incorporate the needs and feedback of those people into the product’s lifecycle. 

The mindset of a product marketer is more revolved around storytelling — they strive to create value by weaving narratives that will resonate with customers. 

What’s Growth Hacking?

First, let’s get this out of the way: Although sometimes mixed up with one another, growth hacking and growth marketing are different. Growth marketing is the broader concept that you need to grow an audience and test various channels. In contrast, growth hacking is executing a specific tactic that grows that audience.

With this in mind, you can consider growth hackers as the mad scientists of a company — they’re constantly experimenting with innovative and low-cost strategies to build and maintain a company’s customer base. They hypothesize and analyze strategies until they multiply growth in large numbers. 

The mindset of a growth hacker is more revolved around users — they take into account how users encounter the product to identify opportunities for satisfaction and new channels.

Product Marketing: Phase One

To begin your journey into product marketing, you’ve got to define your target audience and buyer personas for the product being sold. This is how you uncover customers’ needs and pain points to inform your product marketing strategy. 

Then, start thinking about how your product or service can solve these needs and challenges. This is where your positioning and messaging comes in: They’re designed to answer any questions your customers might have about your product, and serve as the big neon sign that tells customers why you’re unique. Ask yourself the following questions to craft your positioning and messaging: 

  • What are your products’ key differentiators
  • Why is it different (in a better way) than your competitors’?
  • Why should customers trust your products?

When you’ve got these foundational steps down, you’ll be ready to take the next step (setting the goals for your product) and beyond

Growth Hacking: Phase One

The first step to growth hacking is to perform an audit of your marketing initiatives. Where do most of your leads come from? What channels are performing well? An audit allows you to see where you need improvements so that you can set actionable goals. From there, you can plan experiments to test your theories. You can come up with as many ways as you want to test. 

For example, maybe you want to drive up conversions from your homepage. Your homepage is your most valuable real estate for customers to sign up, and you want to know what type of messaging works best. You can start by testing ten messaging headlines and run your experiment until a statistical significance is established. 

That’s a simple experiment to test. Now, let’s look at a more prominent example. 

(Growth) Story Time

When Airbnb was a new startup, people weren’t coming directly to their site to find temporary housing. They didn’t have enough money for paid advertising, so they decided to get creative with their growth hacking. The first thing Airbnb did was look at the number one temporary housing site (at the time): Cragislist. 

Airbnb would encourage new users to cross-post their listings on Craigslist with links leading back to their Airbnb page, with messaging like, “Reposting your listing from Airbnb to Craigslist increases your earnings by $500/month on average.” Then they’d make it easy for customers to repost by including a link (“Click here to repost!) in their emails. From their experiment, Airbnb was able to get free traffic minus the paid advertising — they grew their customer base and website traffic in one fell swoop.

Great Partners in the Making

Product marketing and growth hacking shouldn’t exist independently. When you combine the power of storytelling and the importance of user experience, you can achieve a deeper understanding of the customer journey. Merge product marketing and growth hacking strategies to create a go-to-market plan that improves the customer experience holistically.

Now that you know about growth hacking, let’s delve deeper into e-commerce marketing strategies that will drive growth

Angie Tran
Author