When the word ‘marketing’ gets thrown around, a lot of people first think about ‘advertising’. Maybe how it feels to chew 5 gum, Banana Boat *doo doo doo doo doo* or… Coles little red quote *cue traumatic flashbacks*.
I mean, fair. No surprises here. It’s the customer-facing slice of marketing we interact with every day, from Instagram sponsored posts to YouTube ads to billboards at the train station on your way to work.
Frankly, a lot of this can look like fluffy, handwavy work.
But dive beneath the surface and the marketing of today is moving further from art towards science.
The key ingredient?
The internet, and with it, the ability to promote and sell your products to people across the world. Oh, and a little thing called customer data.
With the ability to target potential customers so precisely and optimise for quantitative metrics around click-through rates, conversions, retention, churn, referrals, yada yada yada, we began to see the emergence of a new ‘flavour’ of marketing, if you will.
Tech marketer and founder Sean Ellis first coined the term ‘growth hacker’ in 2010, defining the role as "a person whose true north is growth” (sadly, I don’t believe he was referring to farmers).
And in the past decade, ‘growth marketing’ has since exploded as a startup buzzword that everyone seems to nod their heads at.
But what the hecc does this actually involve, and how do you land a role like this? We chatted to 3 growth marketers on the Sydney startup scene - Anna Chengfrom Brighte, Bennie Liu from Earnd and Dan Siepen from Wellshare.
🤔 So, what is growth marketing?
Two key themes came up here: 1) thinking about marketing as a holistic system and 2) making data-based decisions.
Growth marketing teams pursue ‘growth’ as a holistic system and goal, and often sits at the intersection of marketing, data, engineering and product management. We deploy fast, data-driven experiments to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
As an analogy - if you imagine a business as a bucket of water with holes in the bucket where water leaks out (i.e. where customers are churning), the role of Growth marketing is to patch up those holes and refill the water.
Growth marketing in my eyes, is about the mindset and tempo of experimentation and execution with data being the main driver for strategic decisions.
There is so much that goes into growth marketing (the list is honestly endless), but it’s another skill set to focus on initiatives most likely to achieve sustainable and scalable growth and hit whatever the goals or KPI’s are both short and long term.
To me, growth is deeply contextual. In a business-to-consumer context, Growth encapsulates the pirate metrics (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral and Revenue) to drive full-funnel growth. I like to think of growth as unclogging a system - the best way to do so is to identify bottlenecks and unclog them, so flow-through increases.
🙌 Ok sounds good, how can I get started?
All three of our growth marketers emphasise the importance of learning. We’re in the Internet age so there is no shortage of great resources out there.
Growth marketing is perfect for people who enjoy problem-solving and working in fast-paced environments. When I first started out, I loved reading case studies about Airbnb’s successful ‘growth hacks’, including their Craigslist scrape (which helped them get 1,000+ listings) and their Photography Program (which increased bookings by 2-3x!). If stories like this excite you too, then I think it’s worth giving growth marketing a serious go.
I’m a firm believer that everything starts with fundamentals! Books that provide frameworks to understand growth include Traction by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares and Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis. After that, it’s time to brush up by reading some essays by the greats, Brain Balfour (ex-Hubspot) and Andrew Chen (ex-Uber). Their essays are available online for free and they break down their approach in an analytical fashion.
My advice would be not jumping straight into any paid course right away. To be honest there are too many courses out there.
If you were to choose any courses on growth marketing or growth hacking, my personal recommendations would be CXL’s Growth Marketing Mini Degree, Foundr’s Growth Hacking Course or Growthhackers.com Growth Hacking Course.
🔥 Bonus: Check out all of the resources, tools and case studies on Dan’s personal website - we highly recommend it!
Just do it
Another common thread is getting practical experience and immersing yourself in the world of growth marketing, and getting that experience early. When it comes to the startup and tech world, proving what you’re capable of doing is a sure-fire way of breaking into the role you’re after!
If you are still deciding between corporate and startup - your corporate career can wait. I deferred uni and quit my banking internship the day before I was meant to start to join Spaceship as their first Growth hire and third employee. I believe that, logically, it is safer to take more (calculated) risks at the start of your career than to feel the FOMO later down the track and make the change when you have more at stake. Startup experience is also highly regarded by corporate employers if you do decide it’s not for you.
After you get a basic grasp of the concepts, it’s time to get your hands dirty. For myself, it was growing a side project (an Instagram handle) to 80K followers. Anything that’s a) interesting to you and b) you’d like to share with the world is a great first project for honing your skills.
I also recommend signing up to platforms like Growth Mentor. There are lots of growth experts on the platform and can help you connect with very smart marketers who can help mentor you on specific channels and strategy. Even for experienced people like myself, it helps to connect with someone super detailed and focused on a channel which I may be weaker in.