The Difference Between Marketing and Growth

Marketing and Growth are two terms have different meanings depending on company culture and context. Here’s how I think about the difference:
Marketing is the discipline of increasing the number of eyeballs on you. Marketing is focused on lead generation; building email lists, getting people to sign up for free trials, and general brand awareness.
Growth focuses on increasing revenue. Growth is any activity that directly aims to move a key performance indicator up and to the right. It needs to be deliberate and measurable. Most of the time that KPI should be tie directly to revenue. Every business, product, and audience are different. Therefore careful experimentation is what drives growth.

 


At most companies, Growth sits somewhere between product and marketing. Think about this user funnel:

  1. A user searches for a solution to a problem
  2. Then, they read an article detailing a solution.
  3. At the end of the article, they download an additional resource and join a mailing list.
  4. After receiving some emails on the list, they decide to check out a paid product.
  5. After reading the landing page and checking out the pricing, they sign up for a free trial.
  6. During the free trial, they try out the product, while also receiving automated emails that help walk them through the process.
  7. After the free trial, they become a paying customer for the first time.
  8. From then on, the customer continues to use the app until it no longer provides value worth the monthly subscription fee.

That’s a pretty typical funnel for a SaaS company. Let’s think about how ownership of each part of the funnel would break down.

  • Search engine traffic: Marketing. Driving search traffic is digital marketing 101.
  • Content: Marketing.
  • Lead acquisition: Marketing/Growth. The first transaction point: we ask the user to exchange an email for a piece of valuable content. Marketing owns acquiring the leads, but running tests aimed at increasing opt-in rate could fall into either bucket.
  • Lead nurturing: Marketing
  • Landing Pages: Marketing/Growth Here’s another transactional point. Now we want people to opt-in to the using our software so they can give it a try.
  • Pricing: Growth Pricing works as both a part of the marketing pitch of getting X for $Y, and a lever for growth as it determines MRR & LTV. Pricing seems to be the one point that doesn’t fall into either discipline. Pricing is one of the easiest levers to pull to increase revenue, so being thoughtful about it and testing pricing strategies is of the utmost importance for any company that seriously wants to move their charts up and to the right.
  • Free Trials: Growth/Product: How long should a free trial be, and who should make that decision? If marketing owns the mailing list and thus the marketing automation software, do they own that piece of the free trial? The free trial design is crucial to increasing both conversion rate and customer lifetime value. Opportunities here for optimizations and experimentation is endless.
  • Using the product: Growth/Product Granted this is 80% product design, 20% growth, but there are further opportunities to increase meaningful KPIs. How do you move customers up the pricing ladder? How do you reduce churn and recover lost revenue? All of these are opportunities for growth.

 

There are many different ways to use these terms, but broadly I would define marketing more as “driving people into the funnel,” product as “the end of the funnel” and growth as “the funnel.” I thought about this because I used to work in product, moved over to marketing, and now realizing, maybe what I should be aiming for is growth.

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