Why You Need a Growth Marketing Strategy

AJ Park Sr. Content Marketing Manager

You don’t need to be an experienced ‘growth hacker’ to see serious results from growth marketing campaigns. Good growth tactics are healthy parts of a marketing plan, and they might be more mainstream than you think.

From Facebook to Airbnb to Dropbox, today’s tech giants got their start with growth marketing – and they’re still using those creative tactics today. 

Let’s explore what growth marketing truly is, and how you can make it work for your business.

What is growth marketing, exactly?

Growth marketing is sometimes also referred to as growth hacking – but importantly, it’s got nothing to do with those cheesy, high-and-mighty ‘growth hacking’ posts you might see on LinkedIn or Reddit. Real growth marketing involves concrete strategies for experimenting and growing your customer base. 

The difference between growth marketing and growth hacking is that while growth marketing is an overall system and strategy for growth, growth hacking is an implementation of strategies and tactics within that system. They work hand-in-hand.

Growth marketing typically includes a couple of key things:

  • Cross-channel, cross-funnel, and cross-department marketing. Rather than solely focusing efforts on one channel or funnel, a growth marketing strategy will experiment with different options to test the waters for a business or product. This omnichannel approach is what allows many businesses to find a gold mine of users.
  • A/B testing and experimentation. The sheer power of testing multiple variations of a landing page or offer is sometimes overlooked. A good growth marketing system will involve A/B testing across multiple channels–email, SMS, advertising, landing pages, and more. This allows growth marketers to quickly learn what customers respond to.

Examples of growth marketing in action

If you dig into the marketing of virtually any successful business around, you’ll find that most successful plans contain some elements of a growth marketing approach. That’s because in an age where digital is king, experimentation and flexibility have become key to effective marketing.

Here are a couple examples of growth marketing done right, by brands you’ve already heard of. 

How Facebook acquired more users through email 

Since the start, Facebook’s had a growth team that has implemented some brilliant strategies across the board. In fact, many of the tactics that Facebook used to grow initially have been borrowed and used by many businesses today. The company played it smart from the beginning, but one specific tactic they used to acquire new users was through email:

  • When a user was mentioned on Facebook, they’d get a notification, via email, letting them know. But the user wouldn’t get to see the actual content, so they’d feel the need to click through.
  • Facebook applied a similar strategy by asking users to import their contacts and invite their friends to the platform via email.
  • Facebook also tested landing pages and designs at every step of the way to make sure that once users were on the platform, they’d be incentivized to stay there.

These are just a few of the truckload of growth marketing strategies Facebook implemented to gain more users–and they’re good examples of what growth marketing looks like when it’s done right.

How Airbnb used growth hacks as part of a broader strategy 

Growth hacks, tactics that you apply as part of your growth marketing strategy, aren’t confined to a silo. Just like Facebook’s email efforts were part of a larger plan, Airbnb has implemented viral growth hacks that worked in tandem with their overarching strategy. 

Here’s what they did to acquire initial users on a budget:

  • Airbnb’s most famous growth hack happened on Craigslist. When Airbnb was in its early stages (and didn’t have nearly the user base of Craigslist), the company created a feature that would email users who had listed a property on Airbnb. The email would include a one-click link to publish their listing on Craigslist, too–resulting in happier users and more traffic to Airbnb.
  • Listing photography was a hurdle for the Airbnb team. To combat this and increase conversions, they launched a photography program that would let users automatically schedule a photographer to take photos of their space. This helped increase conversions and nights booked.
  • A heart instead of a star. Wish lists on Airbnb used a star icon. But, the team experimented (a key component of growth marketing) by switching the star icon to a heart. They saw a 30% bump in engagement–a real reward for such a simple change.

While the growth hacks above represent a fraction of Airbnb’s overarching growth strategy, the tactics can serve as good examples and inspiration for your brand. 

How a dating site for Kanye fans went viral

Harry Dry’s dating site for Kanye Fans is a classic eye-candy example of aggressive growth marketing in action. The short-term growth he achieved isn’t what all brands are looking for, but he attacked user growth with a plan and it worked. Here are a few tactics Harry used:

  • Harry found writers and publications who were relevant to his product. This gets overlooked by some content marketers, but finding places that already have a relevant audience (like what Airbnb did with Craigslist) is a smart way to grow quickly. Harry used an online tool to find bloggers who had written about Kanye, and emailed them with a heads-up about his new site. It went viral.
  • A community was key to keep people engaged. At launch, Harry didn’t even have a dating site ready–it was an MVP on steroids. But, he did have a community with almost 1k members to chat about Kanye and the site, building hype for the product and buying time while he coded the site.

Harry later made his exit and sold the Kanye dating site. But, the growth strategies that got him there were what allowed him to grow and sell such a ridiculous idea!

Benefits of growth marketing

When done right, growth marketing is a force of nature for your businesses. These are a couple of the headlining benefits you’ll be able to look forward to.

  • Faster user growth. Experimentation is at the core of good growth marketing. When you’re experimenting with your ads, offers, and landing pages, you’ll find ways to accelerate user growth and capture people’s attention. Using growth hacks, à la what Airbnb did to acquire new users, is another way you’ll see quicker user growth with a good marketing strategy.
  • New insights on your customers. As you continue to experiment, you’ll learn more about what your customers respond to. This will help you create better ad campaigns and messaging strategies in the future. If, say, an informal landing page performs better than the industry-standard copy you have now, it could be a signal that your customers will respond better to that language in multiple channels.
  • Quick scaling for your marketing campaigns. Good growth marketers are flexible and responsive. If they see something that’s working, they’re able to quickly shift budget and resources into scaling that activity. This is one of the key benefits of growth marketing: You can scale successful tactics in a flash.

Growth marketing strategies

We’ve gone over a couple examples of growth marketing and the reasons why it’s a brilliant path for most businesses–but how should you apply these lessons to your business? Below are a few use cases and strategies you should consider as you’re planning a growth marketing strategy.

  • Referral programs. Referral programs are smart because at their core, they let your customers do your marketing for you. What are you more likely to trust: The seventy-fifth Instagram ad you’ve seen today, or a text from a friend recommending a certain brand? Dropbox famously ran a referral program offering free storage space to people who referred friends. Not only did the person referring get the free storage, but so did their friend! This tactic is important to consider today. Referral programs are a dime-a-dozen, so make sure there’s something in it for all parties involved.
  • Loyalty programs. Acquiring customers is only half the battle. Once you’ve got them on board, you need to convince them to stick around. Loyalty programs are a favorite strategy of many growth marketers to keep customers coming back for more. Check out Airship’s solutions for customer loyalty here.
  • Email and SMS campaigns. Now more than ever, customers are turning to mobile devices to get what they want from their favorite brands. Running email and SMS campaigns – and experimenting to figure out what your customers like – is one of the smartest moves you can make heading into 2021.
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