Resources Hub » Blog » Growth Hacking vs. Digital Marketing: 5 Things to Know

You may have heard the term “growth hacking” floating around when it comes to business growth. But, what exactly is a growth hacker and what do they do? Before you go rushing to your search engine of choice to scope out the results, let us inform you that it’s not that simple.

You’ll find online that the job description of a growth hacker is pretty similar to a digital marketer. On the surface, it’s difficult to find the differences between the two. But, don’t be mistaken—they are vastly different.

In order for you to understand how growth hacking and digital marketing are different, we will discuss what each position entails and the goals they aspire to achieve. We’ll even dive into the vital things you should know when considering growth hacking as your next business venture.

What is growth hacking?

Growth hacking is the action of executing a number of strategies to promote business growth. Before we discover more about what growth hacking is, it’s important to understand the main goal that growth hackers strive to achieve.

At its core, the concept of growth is simple. Digital marketers’ goal is to increase brand awareness and encourage audience engagement to promote the product or service they provide. Growth hackers have a strong focus on growing the business, no matter what department it may include. This model is seen frequently in start-up businesses.

Growth hackers take every aspect of the sales funnel to find the best strategies to grow. They find (and sometimes create) new ways to acquire new customers and retain them at low-cost expenses.

While finding ways to reach new audiences sounds like marketing, growth hackers take the extra steps to exceed expectations. Growth hackers tap into many areas of the business including:

  • Marketing
  • Product Development
  • Engineering

There are no limitations to growth hacking, and these tech-savvy professionals rely on data-driven results to guide their way. A/B testing and conversion optimization are crucial to  growth hacking success, and it allows companies to see where improvement is needed.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing is marketing a product or service through digital channels like the internet, mobile devices and social media. Digital marketers focus on the relationship between a brand and its customers in order to gain the trust needed for future conversions.

Acquiring new customers (or users) and increasing brand awareness is key to digital marketing success. Creating resourceful content, utilizing SEO strategies and social media engagement help digital marketers reach marketing goals.

There are many departments that contribute to a customer’s journey through the sales funnel. However, digital marketing plays a huge role in getting the brand in front of their face and creating a desire for the product/service in question.  This is also known as the first step in the sales funnel—Awareness.

Some of the key players in digital marketing include:

  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • SEO optimization
  • Paid search (PPC)

Growth hacking vs. digital marketing: Which is better?

Now that we’ve covered what each role entails, let’s dive into how these similar roles differ from each other. These two marketing-based professions have similar responsibilities, but their objectives are unique.

Digital marketing advantages

Digital marketers strive to achieve brand awareness and customer loyalty to market the product or service they find useful to their audience. This requires them to find the best avenues to make what they offer appealing to their users.

Digital marketers utilize many digital platforms to get their message across. They take advantage of social media and email marketing opportunities to engage with their audience. The companies they work for provide the capital they need to carry out successful campaigns and pay website traffic using PPC campaigns. As a result, digital marketers have the funds at their disposal to help them achieve the goals they have set in place.

Growth hacking hacks

Growth hackers are typically associated with startup companies (and low-cost budgets) that are looking for exponential growth. And according to Andrew Chen, a growth hacker who has worked previously with Uber, successful growth rates come to those who are offering a product or service that people already love.

This image features quote, "I'll talk with people about their road maps and I'll ask them, 'You have this great thing that's working, but how do you 10x it?"Image Source: MixPanel

Rather than finding the ways to market a product/service to meet your audience’s needs, growth hackers rely on the product itself. The companies that benefit from growth hacking strategies offer something that is undeniably needed.

Take Uber, a rideshare car service that gets people without a car where they need to be, and those with a car the money they need to earn, as an example. Genius.

Growth hackers work across many department including marketing, sales and product development. They do not limit their responsibilities and they do what it takes to stimulate the growth they need. Rather than trying to make a product/service fit into the needs of the consumer, they are focused on how to push the company to the next level.

This unique objective requires someone who is tech savvy, well-versed in marketing and dedicated to the company like a co-founder. Rather than looking to achieve small marketing goals, they wear many hats to achieve growth across the board.

Things to know about growth hacking

The differences between growth hacking vs. digital marketing are divided by a fine line, but you cannot deny that each one requires a different approach. If you decide to go down the growth hacking path, it’s important that you know a few things before getting started.

We’ll share five things with you to help you with your growth hacking venture. These tips will allow you to map out your journey with growth hacking and how to build the perfect team.

1. Growth hackers value digital marketing.

We don’t want you to think that growth hackers ignore the marketing strategies that have proven a success. By no means should you neglect these techniques when trying to achieve exponential growth. Growth hackers work across the entire board, and that includes the marketing department.

Growth hackers are very much involved in content marketing and analytics. They dive deep into content performance and how users are responding to the companies campaigns. Information that is obtained through marketing channels provide the necessary information growth hackers need to design better growth strategies.

Just because we are laying out how different the two are, that doesn’t mean they don’t work well together. Stay on top of your email and content marketing and be sure to utilize your analytic results in your growth hacking efforts.

2. Data and results are key.

Speaking of results, growth hackers live on data-driven results. Everything a growth hacker does is based on some result from a test he/she set up. What is important to understand is that growth hackers need to see how the company is performing so that they can adjust their efforts for success.

Just as a digital marketer will track a new blog’s performance and then edit and revise the content to improve the results, a growth hacker does the same to improve the results in every area of the company.

3. Your growth hacking team

When you are building a growth hacking team, it’s is imperative that you get the right kind of people. A certain kind of breed fit the growth hacker position. You need individuals who are scrappy, and willing to do what it takes to succeed.

Not only do they have to be willing but they have to be logical and creative as well. Considering growth hackers find ways to grow with low-cost solutions, team members must have the ability to create a new strategy when one is not available to them.

Examples of great growth hackers include:

  • Neil Patel
  • Sean Ellis
  • Nichole Elizabeth DeMere

4. Product market fit

We’ve covered how growth hacking works for companies with a genius product/service. So, let’s delve into what we really mean by this. Product market fit is when you have a product (or service) that perfectly meets the needs of a specific audience.

When your product doesn’t meet these expectations, you will know.

Product market fit is what you need in order to benefit from growth hacking. You want to worry less about convincing the consumer of your product’s credibility and more on how to scale the business. Working with a product that checks every box for the consumer makes it easy for growth hackers to succeed.

Ways you can tell you have created product-market fit is increased word-of-mouth marketing. Products and services that work don’t require much marketing because your consumers are already doing it for you. Your customers will want to share their good experience with others and allow others to do the same with your brand.

The Dollar Shave Club has their own reviews page which allows customers to share their honest reviews and at the same time lets interested visitors try the service by joining the “club.”

The Dollar Shave Club has their own reviews page which allows customers to share their honest reviews and at the same time lets interested visitors try the service by joining the “club.”

Image Source: Dollar Shave Club

If you are still trying to get to this point, it’s crucial to keep testing and adapting until you get there. Until then, it’s best to wait it out before attempting a growth hacking plan.

5. Different company, different strategy

Last but not least, be aware that not everyone’s growth hack will be the same. Each business has its own individual identity and requires something different. Be sure to not look at other successful growth hacking companies (like Dropbox and Uber), and wonder why their strategies aren’t working for you.

Keep in mind the importance of testing, and rely on your company’s results to determine your next plan of attack.

Wrap up

While the differences between growth hacking vs. digital marketing are minimal, the approach is vastly different. We hope the description of the two provides clarity, and the tips on growth hacking offer you the wisdom you’ll need before jumping in.

If you’re considering stepping into the growth hacking realm, it’s important to be sure that your company is in a good place to start.

Digital marketing is crucial to your business’s success. Check out Campaign Monitor’s blog to get great insights into digital and email marketing.

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