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I'm going to be doing a presentation on the difference between growth hacking and marketing at the Transition Conference in NYC. I have many of my own ideas on this, but would love to hear what the GrowthHackers.com community thinks.

  • JS

    Jordan Skole

    over 5 years ago #

    I believe that the most important difference between growth and marketing is that marketing is has little or no influence over product development.

    Growth on the other hand shifts the funnel completely inward, and considers the end of the conversion funnel the hypothetical cancel forever event. Reducing churn and word of mouth, for example, is not marketing's problem. It is however a growth persons problem.

    • JS

      Jordan Skole

      over 5 years ago #
    • KW

      Katelyn Watson

      over 5 years ago #

      This is a huge problem. If marketing has little influence over product development, I can't imagine a company being successful. Marketing is the voice of the customer, and should bring that to the product table. If a company is not doing that, and keeps marketing separate from product they are going to have a long hard road. I also can't imagine them being able to recruit any good marketing talent, as any good marketer wants to be involved in product, and if they don't then they probably won't go too far in their career.

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 5 years ago #

        I agree that product is something that has always been important to marketers, after all it's one of the 4 Ps of marketing. I think the big difference is that growth hacking emphasizes product as a tool for growth with specific mechanisms designed to enhance growth. Most marketers I know think of product as something they need to get right (or keep evolving) to map to a big market so that they are effective at their external promotion efforts. I realize this is a generalization, but hopefully it bridges the gap a bit between what you and @jordanskole are saying.

      • AC

        Alex Cook

        over 5 years ago #

        There are plenty of marketing teams and startups which are very successful even when marketing is siloed.

        I'd add to this by defining "influence over product development" as "ability to change the product yourself, without relying on other people." Growth teams typically contain an engineer who can change the product. When there isn't someone on the team who can change anything across the stack and is focusing their mind on growth challenges and metrics, I'd be hesitant to call it a growth team.

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 5 years ago #

      +1

    • GG

      Gab Goldenberg

      over 5 years ago #

      Interesting to hear someone else share that perspective. I referred to it as a united marketing-product team:
      http://www.internetmarketingninjas.com/blog/marketing/united-product-marketing-team/

      but I guess the more accepted term is growth hacking.

    • TK

      Thomas Krawiec

      over 5 years ago #

      I don't really agree with your first sentence either. Justin Brook posted this on FB the other day which pretty much sums it up..

      "Marketing joke...

      A young man sits down at a bar next to an older gentlemen. After a few beers and some small talk they find out they're both in marketing.

      The young guy says "I'm a growth hacker." To which the old man chuckles and asks "whats that son?"

      The young man says "You'll love it old timer, we use data-driven decisions and a strong focus on analytics to drive our marketing. We even change our product to match the markets feedback and drive more sales."

      The old man says "Oh you mean direct response marketing?"

    • HD

      Hugo Damásio

      about 3 years ago #

      +1

  • ND

    Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

    over 5 years ago #

    The way that I approach business growth is by aligning my goals with the Success Maturity Model, or the stages in which a company is currently positioned: Adoption, Retention, Expansion, Optimization, and Transformation. There are different strategies and metrics that are associated with each of these stages that need to be addressed and clearly defined (not just in a theoretical manner, but in a manner that is tangible to the business, also depending on the business model). That said, there's a time and place for Growth Hacking, and there's a time and place for Marketing, and sometimes those times and places overlap, and sometimes they don't. I believe they co-exist, but separately - that is, I do not view Growth Hacking or Marketing as a sub-set of the other. IMO, Growth Hacking is very much a product-oriented field. It is very much a growth-focused field. Not all marketing efforts are concerned with growth. Not all Growth Hacking efforts are concerned with marketing strategies or channels (this is where people sometimes mention coding, for example). I think the two meet when there's an end-goal focused on retention and revenue accountability.

  • BP

    Brandon Pindulic

    over 5 years ago #

    Assuming all is equal (i.e. marketer at early-stage SaaS co and 'growth hacker' at early stage SaaS co) there are a few differences I've noticed, which could just be anecdotal.

    Those who think like growth hackers tend to actually *do* what they talk about / think of, rather than just put up creative ideas on a whiteboard. They're needle movers, need very little hand-holding and while they play in the field as marketers and rely on many same tools, processes, channels and so forth, they recognize there are other opportunities for growth that have yet to be explored. Sure, it may not work, it's probably never been done (at least not in the way you intend for it) and it could flop, but it's a risk many won't take. Growth-minded folks will take a flop and will explore the unknown.

    This doesn't mean marketing is wrong or broken; it's just applying a different mindset / skill-set to the same problem, and it's good to have both types on a team.

    Marketers tend to stay within the confines of tried and trusted marketing channels, with little wiggle room and tend to aim for consistency rather than breakout wins.

    Again, maybe just anecdotal, but overall I just see growth-minded people attacking things head-on without worrying about the perfect time or place to start, worrying that it's never been done before and have a natural curiosity (which leads to measuring, testing and figuring things out no matter what).

    • KW

      Katelyn Watson

      over 5 years ago #

      "Those who think like growth hackers tend to actually *do* what they talk about"

      This is my favorite answer so far - good point and very true. Which is why they are synonymous with startups...they actually do the work vs just create the powerpoint of an idea they have no idea how to execute.

      • JB

        Justin Brooke

        over 5 years ago #

        Yea I know right...

        How did businesses ever grow before growth hackers existed!

        All those marketers just sitting around making power points and doing nothing :)

        • BP

          Brandon Pindulic

          over 5 years ago #

          My answer is certainly not perfect, and I wouldn't set it in stone.

          I also don't like having to focus just on growth hacking or just on marketing; as you mentioned below, marketing and growth hacking can and should benefit from each other.

          In al honesty, I don't have a perfect definition, but I do believe good growth hackers & marketers can learn a ton from each other, and I also don't believe in the need to be one or the other - anything that grows a business is good.

          I've learned quite a bit from this community as well as marketers outside of the growth hacking community -- both have helped me build & sell businesses, land jobs, and other opportunities I kind of just fell into by trying out a bunch stuff -- without combining ideas from all types of marketing, I would have missed out on many successful campaigns, findings and revenues.

    • AG

      Andrew Goldner

      over 5 years ago #

      +1

  • AB

    ace bhattacharjya

    over 5 years ago #

    Great question- I believe "marketing" is far wider reaching and requires a more of Right Brain + Left Brain. I think of it as applied anthropology. Online marketing is a subset of it. Growth Hacking is a subset of Online Marketing where user acquisition / revenue generation are prioritized.

    • TD

      Travis Devitt

      over 5 years ago #

      I disagree, and think it's actually the other way around. Growth sits a layer above marketing, encompassing both marketing and product development. Both product dev and marketing are critical to maximizing business success, and that is why Growth is concerned with everything from product features to user acquisition channels.

      Because Growth practitioners use data to inform most of their decisions, one might assume that these practitioners spend less time on right brain creative aspects of marketing like coming up with ad copy, but often that's not true. Identifying potential product features and new acquisition channels certainly requires creativity. Depending on the size of the company and the specific position, a Growth practitioner may also spend plenty of time creating new ads, landing pages, etc.

      • CP

        Cezary Pietrzak

        over 5 years ago #

        I agree with Ace and disagree with Travis.

        Growth is a subset of marketing, because the goal of marketing can focus on any part of the funnel, whether it's growth, awareness or something in between. Too many people in this community equate *marketing* with *traditional marketing* which is clearly not the same thing. If you apply the same standard to growth hacking, you can describe it as a narrow-minded view of the marketing discipline which over-emphasizes the value of data and testing without really addressing the "why?" You have to remember that great business strategies are not born from numbers alone, and that numbers cannot anticipate people's future needs.

        Regarding Travis' other point, product = marketing. Defining a set of features/user experience that meets a specific set of human needs and connecting the two together is the very definition of marketing. The only reason the two have historically been seperated is because non-marketers (wrongly) equate marketing only with ads. So it's nice to see the recent trend toward integration of the two groups as more people realize the essential value of marketing to their companies.

        • CP

          Cezary Pietrzak

          over 5 years ago #

          To add to this note, I fully support the philosophy and lean, iterative mentality behind growth hacking. It forces people to be data-driven in their marketing efforts and justify their assumptions with something more than gut feel. However, I do think it needs to be balanced with other, more qualitative approaches to marketing to make the biggest impact.

  • JP

    Joseph Putnam

    over 5 years ago #

    I believe the difference between marketing and growth hacking is that growth hackers focus on whatever gets results and how to get those results cheaply and quickly, which often utilizes new means and technology as ways to get the word out about a product more efficiently which in turn means growth hackers need to be up to date on the latest marketing trends and techniques that are working presently.

    Marketing on the other hand relies on an older playbook of marketing techniques to get the word out about a product and often misses out on the latest methods that are both cheaper and more effective. Growth hacking is also more about measuring results and allocating budgets accordingly where marketing is about spending money on traditional advertising, hoping it works, but not really knowing how to measure to make sure it is.

    Thus, growth hacking is about getting the best results at the lowest cost, not just blowing through a marketing budget, crossing fingers, and hoping to get results. This may be super technical and require programming skills, but it may also just depend on someone being creative and leveraging every possible opportunity to get the word out versus simply dumping money into traditional ads.

    • CP

      Cezary Pietrzak

      over 5 years ago #

      Joseph, are you sure you're not just comparing growth hacking to *traditional* marketing?

      • JP

        Joseph Putnam

        over 5 years ago #

        Isn't that the question that was asked?

        • CP

          Cezary Pietrzak

          over 5 years ago #

          Nope, the comparison was between growth hacking and marketing in general. You can't discount the good aspects of the discipline with the bad, while stating the approach to growth hacking is perfect. There needs to be a balance.

    • JB

      Justin Brooke

      over 5 years ago #

      The problem with the whole "marketers waste money and don't track anything" argument is that marketing analytics tools were around long before growth hackers.

      What you are referencing in that argument is a bad marketer, not every marketer.

      Let's not forget that up until a few years ago marketers were responsible for all growth and built impressive companies like Coca Cola, Apple, and Google.

    • AC

      Andrew Chen

      over 5 years ago #

      This sounds more like a comparison of direct marketing versus brand/traditional marketing. IMHO you can't make this distinction without talking about product.

      • JP

        Joseph Putnam

        over 5 years ago #

        Why is product an integral part of growth hacking? Can you explain?

        • JP

          Joseph Putnam

          over 5 years ago #

          I'm also not saying your wrong. Curious to know what I'm missing.

          • KW

            Katelyn Watson

            over 5 years ago #

            You are right, it IS the question that was asked...however I think the first person who answered had a good point about product and then the Group Think started:)

  • SV

    Simon Vreeman

    over 5 years ago #

    - The full focus on growth (define growth)
    - Broad knowledge (Marketing, Product, Technical)
    - She/he can code (at least a bit)

    • WS

      Wouter Smet

      over 5 years ago #

      Best answer so far I'd say - let's be honest about it, a greater affinity with the technical side of things is definitely a defining aspect. The famous growth hacks often quoted (hotmail mail footer, airbnb building an ad-hoc integration with craigsdlist even without an API, without the technical knowledge to even come up with ideas like that)

  • SM

    Shaun Myandee

    over 5 years ago #

    Really interesting question.

    I'd say that Growth Hacking is a specific form of marketing, which is focused on very specific marketing outcomes. Generally those outcomes are focused on growth of user base at the expense of all else.

    Growth hacking also tends to be highly data-driven, and tends to revolve around the exploitation of noticeable data and behavioural trends (hence, "hacking"). Marketing is more general and broad in that it focuses on understanding the underlying trends before attempting to guide them. That said, it is increasingly following the data-led model of growth hacking (especially online).

    Then again, plenty of things are wrongly labelled, which adds to the confusion between to admittedly similar concepts.

  • JG

    Jim Gray

    over 5 years ago #

    Marketing concerns itself with discovering and working channels and processes which can reproducibly drive revenue or other goals in support of the business, such as by driving public opinion or awareness.

    Growth hacking is an experiment-and-prototype driven approach to optimizing the rate equations which determine the profits and market leverage which the business will have down the road. Marketing is a heavy focus area, but growth hacking should really concern itself with all customer contact points, as well as the business processes that determine how interactions at those contact points go, as well as what contact points should or could exist.

    As to the "hacking" part, we're looking to do it efficiently and quickly, since the business's standing in six months is affected by how quickly we can get improved rates into play. Optimal rates are nice, but if they take longer to discover or to get working then your standing in six months isn't going to be as good, which will affect the rates you can get at that point. You have to consider the balance between speed and effectiveness.

    Sometimes this looks like channel discovery and optimization - although actually working a discovered channel in a day-to-day sense will probably get handed back to the main marketing team. Other times it could involve studying how user activation works, or whether there's a common sequence of events before losing a customer, or whether your sales and support processes are losing you business after you had already convinced customers to buy from you.

    But not everybody does everything. Really it's a good idea to focus on the rapid prototyping & experiment-driven side of things, maybe they're just the person on the marketing team who's responsible for doing a "proof of concept" before heavier assets are invested.

    (If you happen to actually find someone who can do all of that, please don't pick a salary figure off Indeed and hope that will keep them on board for the next few years. I will laugh at you so hard.)

  • JB

    Justin Brooke

    over 5 years ago #

    This thread is painful to read as a marketer who loves the growth hacking methodology.

    I'm insulted by the community that I love to get ideas from. It's as if the whole growth hacking community turned their backs on the marketers who paved the way for them today.

    If you really think that growth hackers were the first to include product development into the growth equation or data-driven decisions then you as a growth hacker have a lot to learn about marketing.

    The question was not "What is the difference between a growth hacker and a bad marketer."

    Yet this thread is peppered with insulting comparisons that are completely inaccurate and obviously biased.

    In the real world, growth hackers work for CMO's and CEO's who have a high respect for marketing. CMO's and CEO's who know that marketing built the world we live in today.

    As a marketer I could easily lash back with how narrowly focused growth hackers are and how they have very little experience growing large mature businesses or non-digital channels.

    That would be just as biased.

    The truth is that growth hacking is one form of marketing. A fresh new perspective that focuses heavily on data, product, and technology.

    Growth hackers are getting phenomenal results for companies who adopt the approach. However, the difference is that a marketer generally has more years of experience, handles all channels digital and non, and really needs to adopt growth hacking into his toolset in order to survive in today's digital dominated marketplace.

    I challenge the growth hacking community to give some respect to marketing and look at the full picture with unbiased eyes.

    There is a lot to learn still.

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 5 years ago #

      Thanks for the comment @justinbrooke . I've interpreted this thread as pretty diverse in opinions. Some people are advocating that growth hacking is a discipline within marketing, others are suggesting that it is a cross functional layer that sits above marketing. Some suggest growth hackers must have coding skills, other say it's not that important.

      My opinion is that a healthy large organization should complement marketing best practices with a cross functional growth team that tries to leverage some of the unique advantages of a digitally connected world. Ultimately sustainable growth of a passionate customer base should be the goal and there are some great tools that marketing and growth hacking can apply toward achieving that goal. There are some gray areas that could fall into marketing or growth hacking, but I think that's relatively less important than thinking about the best way to achieve growth goals.

      I'm glad you share my view that marketing and growth hacking both bring value to the table. The variety of opinions in this thread are a good thing and bring healthy debate that has the potential to make everyone smarter here.

  • RP

    raul popa

    over 5 years ago #

    1. the purpose is the same (more sales, more money)

    2. product / market hierarchy is radically different (which one comes first)
    - in marketing, product drives marketing strategy
    - in growth hacking, market drives product strategy

    3. the focus is different
    - marketing rather focuses on increasing the signal
    - growth hacking rather focuses on minimizing the noise

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 5 years ago #

    Thanks everyone, great responses.

  • CA

    Casey Armstrong

    over 5 years ago #

    In short, I believe "growth hacking" is a cog in the machine (or the marketing stack).

  • DM

    Don Mann

    over 5 years ago #

    First post. Me: very diverse marketer here - from global case study brand stories to start-ups, and a lot of new product development and launches in between.

    My 'quick' take: GH = rapid application of tactics for marginal improvement, momentum. I like momentum. Marketing, more broadly, must answer to realized potential. If you have a concept that extensive research says should be good for a 20% share of a $1B marketspace, and the company has been patient while you burned $3MM in R&D over 12 months to develop said concept, you're accountable for a somewhat different objective - penetration, share, etc. and do so profitably within the core competencies that your organization can reasonably execute (Starbucks may be great, but I bet they'd be terrible at selling lawnmowers - not aligned or adjacent with the benefits that their coffee customers are looking for). I digress.

    A marketer doesn't just always think big. The day often most celebrated in many large marketing organizations is when a new concept tests well in a very limited test market of just a few stores - those first few weeks of transaction data. 20% of category sales in 10 stores today could be worth 20% of sales across the US with a 6-month sales/distribution push. That's leverage.

    I think the mindset of a marketer is 'sort of' like a sniper. 2 clicks here for insight into consumer benefits, a click back for competitive position and adjacent data trends, 3 clicks forward for the nuances of channel partners, and a triangulated multi-channel launch to gain first-mover advantage. Then nail it. Except the 'shot' (launch) is often in the form of created consumer demand 'pull.' And then of course planned marketing follow up will include ongoing multi-channel and coordinated messaging, media, digital, content, engagement, promotional, etc. strategies - to the degree that each may be more or less effective in a particular category. Ok, over-simplified, but you get the idea.

    (To me) GH looks more like an attack with Uzies - bullets flying everywhere - if it moves shoot it. Try shooting here. Try shooting there. Likely very effective for start-ups just looking to get the body-count started. Long-term strategy? I look forward to reading and learning more…

    But new thinking is ALWAYS good.

  • DB

    David Boozer

    over 5 years ago #

    Hacking anything can be bad, look at a baseball player. Marketing is what we do, growth hacking is finding what is working and not working.

  • AU

    Aaron Upright

    over 5 years ago #

    I think that marketing (in the traditional sense) has a far more emotional aspect—great marketing has the power to make us feel something or connect in a way we never thought we would.

    Growth hacking on the other hand seems far more analytical. The decisions we make as growth hackers are based on quantitative testing and empirical evidence rather than emotional appeals.

  • CR

    Chris Rechtsteiner

    over 5 years ago #

    The oversimplified answer, IMO, is based upon the stage of the company.

    Early stage company? Growth Hacking. You're begging, borrowing and stealing to get traction. It's blood, sweat, tears to see success and build on it. It's about practice. Testing as fast as you can, improving, and keep pushing forward.

    Later stage company? Marketing. You have the luxury of (slightly) more time to think, strategize and work at the theory level.

    The later stage companies that think in the growth hacking mode are those who continually reinvent markets v. those who develop cash cows.

  • OL

    Olivier Liplab

    over 5 years ago #

    It seems that this picture is a great sum-up, isn't it ?
    http://www.presse-citron.net/wordpress_prod/wp-content/uploads/growth-hacker.png

  • DT

    Daniel Tronier

    over 5 years ago #

    From my perspective:

    Growth Hacking: Activities with the specific purpose of generating an insight on what moves the needle to drive growth.

    Marketing: The exploitation of that insight to drive growth

  • GA

    Gabriel Aldamiz-echevarría

    over 5 years ago #

    I loved this chart explaining the difference - there is no point in doing mktg if the rest is not taken care of. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/46936021092159826/

  • MM

    Melissa Matlins

    over 5 years ago #

    I might start in a different place with this question. Growth hacking and marketing are different mindsets, and those mindsets yield approaches and tactics that are useful at different times. I would tend to agree with George Deeb on this statement, definitely true for marketing startups right now.

    "Frankly, if you are not a growth hacker today, you are not being a good marketer period, in today’s tech space." Full piece here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgedeeb/2014/07/03/growth-hacking-marketing-for-startups/

    So what does this mean, other than being data-driven and product-focused in your approach to marketing is important for every tech company now? What type of thinking/role best benefits a company really depends on what they are looking for from "marking" or "growth" and what stage in their own company lifecycle they are at. It's also important that they place these needs on a continuum and really understand their own lifecycle. Case-in-point:

    The most common problem I see is at one particular inflection point in the startup lifecycle, when a company is crossing the chasm from early adopter to early majority. They may mistake this for a move from early majority to late majority, when marketing in the traditional sense (brand, PR/AR) is an important part of creating ubiquity and inevitability. This type of marketing is an adjunct to growth - you have to have an engine driving customers and revenue upward already. This earns you the recognition that traditional marketing can then curate and amplify, and not the other way around.

  • JB

    Jim Burke

    over 5 years ago #

    The growth rate that you're shooting for also is an important distinction between growth hacking and marketing. Startups target growth rates much higher than non-scalable or mature businesses. In order to achieve these goals, they need to use growth hacking because paid marketing would be way too expensive to bring in the amount of users needed for a startup to get traction. Using growth hacking, a startup might be trying to grow 5% a week or more while with traditional marketing McDonald's would be ecstatic with 5% growth in a quarter.

    I think growth hacking is an important distinction for startups because 'the rules are different' for startups than they are for traditional businesses that rely on marketing. Startups can be effective marketers but they can't get distracted thinking they're like Target or Nike and try to market like them.

  • KW

    Katelyn Watson

    over 5 years ago #

    Marketing = the marketing funnel and how to convert those aware of your brand to become buyers and loyal users. This includes marketing channels, messaging, and all of the different ways that marketers strive to get the word out. Growth hacking has been used to talk about both marketing and product. From the marketing sense, it is thinking differently and not using traditional forms of marketing channels to target the right audience. Thinking deeper about the marketing channels that you can use when you ultimately have little or no budget. Going beyond the obvious targeting options and using technology to execute. For marketing, it is an overused buzzword in a lot of ways, but in general, when I interview people who say that they can do marketing growth hacking, I always ask for an example. In some cases they tell me about how they reverse engineered Eventbrite to find party hosts who needed caterers...and targeted them on Facebook...this is an example of how marketing thinking can go well outside the box to hack their way to customers.

    As it is also used in the product sense, a growth hacker is a person who builds product from the ground up with the goal of more than just functionality, but growth. How do you make a product so viral, so sticky, so shareable, that the product then becomes the marketing? This mindset is growth hacking from a product standpoint.

    While I think it is a buzzword, and can be used interchangeably, I also think it is the norm now for how technology can help us all do much better at our jobs, not accepting norms and case studies. In a nutshell, a growth hacker, whether on the product or marketing side THINKS DIFFERENTLY> and they have case studies to prove it. They also have specific examples in their back pocket, can ideate on the fly, and they never take the first answer, or status quo.

  • WM

    William Mougayar

    over 5 years ago #

    Sean- if your preso available?
    Just saw this, sorry for being late to the discussion. I did a post and slideshare on that topic actually last year. At the risk of repeating things, here's the link:
    "Growth Hacking is a Bridge to Marketing"
    http://startupmanagement.org/2013/05/27/growth-hacking-is-a-bridge-to-marketing/

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 5 years ago #

      Thanks @wmougayar . I think from a startup perspective your preso is right on. In a larger organization, growth hacking can still be valuable as a complement rather than a bridge to marketing. Just my opinion though :)

      • WM

        William Mougayar

        over 5 years ago #

        I agree.
        I had added some bullets for large organizations because the audience had a couple of them :)

  • AG

    Andrew Goldner

    over 5 years ago #

    Great thread here; especially the emphasis on doing vs thinking and science/data vs art. The question itself is interesting and a fair question to ask in 2014. Though, I wonder how different it is from the question that used to be asked about the difference between social media and media. At this point, it's fair to drop "social" as media is now inherently social. As marketing continues to evolve with more professionals that have the skills, interest and tools to practice growth hacking (i.e., modern marketing), the pre-product/market fit, doing-over-postulating approach will be what people are referring to when they use the term "marketing."

  • KH

    Khiem Ho

    over 5 years ago #

    i believe there would be sths to deal with strategy and tactics.

  • BL

    Brian Lynn

    over 5 years ago #

    This topic is a bit overblown in many places.

    Marketing should be a combination of Product Management & Product Marketing. We need a great product so customers to come back to use it and recommend it to their friends. We need distribution to get it to our target customers.

    Growth Hacking is simply the unorthodox approach to optimize this whole marketing funnel for your particular startup. We engineer TOFU distribution at scale (e.g. Airbnb integration, Hotmail signature) and maximize BOFU retention through data mining and talking to our customers.

    I think the difference is simply being orthodox or unorthodox -- but the end goal of marketing and growth hacking is the same.

  • BD

    Brad Dubs

    over 5 years ago #

    In it's simplest form, a Growth Hacker is expected to have a pretty solid grasp on the front-end stack, if not the full stack, while a Marketing Manager isn't. Like a few people touched on, the similarities and differences between the roles change as a company grows.

    If a company is in startup mode, these two positions are typically Growth Hacker and Marketing Manager. The main difference (IMO) is that a Growth Hacker is typically required to play in the front-end stack. After all, why would you hire a Growth Hacker who can't "hack"?

    This isn't to say that someone with the job title of Marketing Manager can't launch their own A/B tests or think up a clever API integration but, if you look at the job descriptions, most startups are looking for someone to own social media, SEO/SEM, email marketing, content marketing, event marketing, partnerships, branding, and paid acquisition.

    Both roles use data to make smarter decisions and the end goal is typically the same--acquire and retain more users. They're also both able to influence the product. The difference being that a Growth Hacker can change the on-boarding flow by him/herself.

    Anecdotally, the lines that separate the roles of Growth Hacker and Marketing Manager in early-stage startups are becoming very blurry because there are so many DIY tools (Optimizely, Hubspot, etc) that give Marketing Managers the same capabilities as Growth Hackers.

    If you look at the evolution of these roles as a company grows, a Marketing Manager will lead a dedicated marketing team, consisting of specialists in the aforementioned fields (email, SMM, etc). There usually isn't a product designer or software engineer on the team, but they still work closely with the product development teams to ensure goals are aligned and that their efforts are complimentary. A Growth Hacker would sit on or lead a cross-functional growth team like the one @sean described in his response to @justinbrooke.

    One last point, these roles can also vary widely depending on the type of product. If you look at a consumer social product like Instagram, most (if not all) of their growth came from sharing integrations with Facebook and Twitter (Tumblr too?). There was no content marketing, SEO, etc involved. It was purely a product feature.

    On the other hand, if you look at a B2B product like Buffer (ignore the B2C side of their product for now), a lot of their growth came from content marketing. They had a few growth hacks like the buff.ly short URL (increased brand awareness) and the browser extension (reduced friction to "buffer" something), but I've never heard either of those product features mentioned as growth drivers.

  • ML

    Matt Lambert

    over 5 years ago #

    So if I'm reading correctly the main difference between growth hacking and marketing is... marketing is constrained to promote on the product they are given... where growth hackers have the ability to market the product but actually make changes themselves. They aren't reliant on say a development team to make the changes for them?

    • TM

      Tom Maiaroto

      over 5 years ago #

      Marketing is done for; growth, awareness, retention, up-sells, new product expansion, and many more reasons, right? I'd argue that "promoting" is a very broad word under which "growth" naturally lives.

  • TM

    Tom Maiaroto

    over 5 years ago #

    I don't see a large difference between "growth hacking" and marketing. The word "growth" says it all really. You're just talking about a specific type of marketing. Marketing could be for many reasons other than growth; retention for example...I would worry if someone said, they only do growth.

    Imagine making pasta. You can't say you're just the "pasta mixer" right? You likely mix the ingredients and then shape and cut it too. Right? If all you could do was mix flour and water (or eggs) I'd have a serious concern about your career in the culinary arts. I'd also say most people can also cook pasta, but "chef" could arguably be another job in this metaphor. =)

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