I’ve been asking a lot of email and cross-channel marketers lately about the term “growth marketing.” Folks typically fall into two very distinct camps:
- West Coast tech sector: “Yeah! Growth marketing! That’s what we do!”
- Everyone else: “Buzzword, buzzword. Isn’t it just MARKETING? It doesn’t even mean anything.”
We’re big champions of growth marketing here at Iterable. Growth marketing is good for your company, your customers, and even your career. So it stinks that the term has a bad rap in some circles. It embodies all of the gloriously good trends we’re observing in the email and cross-channel marketing space right now.
Because at its core, growth marketing IS good—literally. It’s the business embodiment of the golden rule.
We’ll be diving into the details of what that means, exactly, in our next blog post in this series. But to lay a foundation first, let’s get on the same page by talking about what growth marketing is NOT.
1. It’s NOT Growth Hacking
This is where we start to lose the “it’s-just-a-buzzword” crowd: The terms “growth hacking” and “growth marketing” are often confused or lumped together. But folks, there’s a big, BIG difference between growth hacking and growth marketing.
Growth hacking is focused on maximizing customer acquisition at minimum cost to achieve rapid growth, usually in startup environments. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Growth hackers can be scrappy problem-solvers—and that’s generally something to admire!
But here’s where it goes awry: Growth hackers are focused more on acquisition than retention. And sometimes they’ll adopt a whatever-gets-the-job-done mentality, even if that means pulling the wool over some eyes. Which leads us to what else growth marketing is not…
2. It’s NOT Cheap Tricks
Duping customers is uncool, y’all. Full stop.
There are no circumstances in which it’s okay to fool someone into engaging with your brand, or worse, part ways with their hard-earned dollars to purchase your product.
In the email space, in particular, marketers are running amok with cheap tricks. Even household names with stellar brand recognition are stooping to silly lows to catalyze engagement.
You’ve probably been on the receiving end of email marketing that employs stunts like these:
- Subject lines that use “RE:” or “FWD:” in the subject line to give the impression of an ongoing personal email exchange
- An exaggerated sense of urgency
- Unnecessary or phony apology emails for campaign mistakes
- Anxiety-inducing fake order confirmation emails
Why are good marketing orgs resorting to spammy stunts? On the surface, they seem productive. These tactics certainly DO produce boosts in engagement. Everyone is keeping tabs on opens and clicks—those metrics are easily tracked.
But in the grand scheme of things, what does a bump in open rates for a single campaign really accomplish?
Sure, the boss may be impressed that you produced a little spike. But are you tying it back to the bottom line? Did unsubscribes also spike? What about spam complaints? Is deliverability at risk? How about customer sentiment?
Your audience isn’t dumb—they’re onto you. Are you able to quantify how many customers you just disappointed? What might that mean in the long term?
When you start to think about all of those factors, it becomes clear…
3. Short-Term Wins Are NOT the Ultimate Goal
You gotta keep your eye on the prize, friends. Little wins are terrific and worth celebrating, but they should be part of a big-picture strategy that aims to maximize positive brand sentiment, loyalty and retention.
If your short-term gains have the potential to compromise long-term business goals, then you’re not practicing growth marketing.
Customer lifetime value is slowly getting traction as the KPI of ultimate truth. LTV can be tough to calculate—decentralized data, team and channel silos, and imperfect attribution models are all barriers.
But over the next decade, we’ll see more widespread adoption of this metric, and as that happens, it will become more and more obvious that transparent, customer-centric strategies are the best way to achieve success.
Now that all that is out of the way…what IS growth marketing?
I summed it up this way at a recent conference:
- Growth marketing creates human connections
- Human connections lead to relationships
- Relationships generate loyalty
We’ll be diving deeper with the rest of this blog series, along with our upcoming whitepaper exploring the role of morality in growth marketing.
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