More entrepreneurs are setting up shop than ever before. US business applications topped 4.38 million in 2020, up 75% from 2.50 million in 2010. 

Highly competitive markets demand a compelling and creative marketing strategy that distinguishes the brand from similar brands. 

Businesses in the US invested nearly $300 billion in marketing in 2021, underlining the increasing importance of sophisticated customer acquisition and retention strategies.

This is where growth marketing comes in – it is a relatively new yet powerful way of garnering a large, loyal customer base. 

We discuss what is growth marketing, what is growth hacking marketing, and growth marketing strategies in this post.

What is Growth Marketing?

Growth marketing entails attracting, engaging, and retaining customers by refining the traditional marketing model. Differentiating between the two marketing approaches will help understand what is growth marketing in digital marketing.

Traditional marketing mainly relies on top-of-the-funnel conversion tactics, with no emphasis on customer retention. On the other hand, growth marketing involves adding value to every marketing funnel stage.

A traditional marketing strategy typically does not involve changes in the approach after goals are established. 

For instance, a Google AdWords and display campaign is initially set up with some basic copy, after which the marketers wait, burning through the budget while temporarily increasing awareness and user acquisition.

However, the value of this approach dwindles after that. 

Growth marketers rely on endless experimentation and a single-minded focus on customers’ changing preferences. They build and maintain a business’s customer base by engaging target audiences with highly personalized brand messaging on multiple channels. 

They incorporate methods such as A/B testing, technical analysis of UX, and data-driven email campaigns to achieve sustainable growth. 

What Makes Growth Marketing Important for Any Business? 

There are several business benefits of using growth marketing strategies:

  • Cost efficient: Growth marketing is inherently experimental until a sustainable growth method is found. You do not need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on marketing efforts that don’t work. 
  • Fast growth: Building a customer base large enough for the business to profit often takes many months. Growth marketing strategies complete this process quickly. Besides, the use of automation allows marketers to manage their workload.
  • Data-driven: Growth marketers rely on trends and customer data to help the business grow. Since all marketing efforts are measurable, the business has a quantitative understanding of marketing success.
  • Enhances campaigns: Growth marketers can take advantage of the leads gathered by existing campaigns by analyzing them and making accurate customer profiles. Marketers can also explore ways to gather details such as their buying habits. 
  • Scalable: Growth marketing efforts can easily scale up as the business grows.

Growth Marketing Vs. Growth Hacking

“Growth marketing” and “growth hacking” are often used interchangeably. But for those looking to learn what is growth hacking in digital marketing, this can be confusing since there are subtle differences between growth marketing and growth hacking.

Growth hackers serve as expert consultants to a business. They help businesses solve specific problems quickly and on a small budget. These hackers are responsible for finding creative solutions to difficult problems.

To a growth hacker, speed is everything. You can think of growth hackers as the day traders of marketing – they can help you make money, but they rarely provide stable growth in the long run. 

Furthermore, there is rarely any background data involved in a growth hackers’ efforts.

On the other hand, a growth marketer strategizes how to scale growth metrics sustainably over a long period. 

Growth marketers are not concerned with specific speedy results. Rather, their marketing approach is guided by accurate data to make the brand stand out as the best among competitors.

Growth marketing takes all the strengths of growth hacking and distills them to solid principles and sustainable practices. Unlike growth hacking, growth marketing involves a detailed data analysis before making any marketing decisions.

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The AAARRR Funnel in Growth Marketing

The AAARRR funnel, called the pirate funnel because of how it is spelled, is among the most popular frameworks in growth marketing. Developed by Dave McClure, it helps marketers identify the business’s biggest bottleneck. 

It uses six stages and various metrics to map a customer’s journey:

#1 Awareness

The awareness marketers generate for a brand is measured by the number of people they reach. Since a brand uses several channels for marketing, tracking the reach can be challenging. 

However, most marketers use the sum of impressions, site visits, and Google searches to gauge a brand’s reach.

The first stage involves publishing search-engine optimized blogs, posting images and videos on social media platforms, and implementing cold email campaigns. 

Although HubSpot’s primary offering is a CRM platform, it also has an active blog continually engaging with the target audience. The HubSpot blog is an excellent example of awareness content. 

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The same approach to increasing brand awareness does not work for every brand. Working with growth marketers enables businesses to identify the best platform to reach potential customers organically. 

#2 Acquisition

The acquisition involves collecting your prospects’ details to create customer personas. Marketers that know what is growth marketing zone in on collecting key demographic details, including geographical locations. 

These details are only collected when a customer has been accurately identified over repeated interactions with the brand’s website. Proper identification also opens the doors for email marketing.

The analysis of the customer data allows marketing specialists to generate customer personas. The personas indicate how the brand should be positioned to attract more customers in the target market.

Marketers also use free eBooks, trials, chatbots, landing pages, gated content, case studies, and other methods to access accurate customer details.

For instance, the Neil Patel blog has a pop-up asking visitors whether they want more traffic.

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The pop-up captures website details such as the lead’s website address, email address, and phone number.

#3 Activation

Activation happens after a lead spends a specific amount of time interacting with the brand’s website and content. It is typically catalyzed by a discount, free trial, or promo code specifically offered to attract new customers.

The activation stage is different for every product – eCommerce stores typically send welcome messages with discounts, whereas SaaS businesses tend to offer tutorials. 

The idea is to surprise your customers when they connect with the business for the first time.

Sephora, the beauty and skincare company, has an attractive website that shows off its best products at a glance. When interested customers see a small discount banner, they are likely to shop.


The simple banner and easy-to-remember discount code show off this brand’s marketing prowess. 

#4 Retention

Acquiring new customers costs a business five times more than retaining an existing customer. Keeping existing customers satisfied is key to running a successful business.

Popular tactics to improve customer retention include offering personalized support, sending emails for new products, sales, and events, and updating social media. But the most successful businesses tend to use methods that feel intuitive to the customer.

The Starbucks loyalty program is an excellent example of a masterful customer retention strategy. 


The program’s convenience and incentives make Starbucks coffee the go-to cup of Joe for many. 

Mobile games also have an interesting approach to customer retention. Most mobile games offer a daily login reward, and the rewards increase in value as the player returns day after day.

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Brands offering SaaS products and productivity tools typically rely on sequences of tutorial mails to encourage less active users to use their products. 

Grammarly sends vibrant and informative emails such as the one below to encourage infrequent users to use the tool more:

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#5 Revenue

In this stage of the pirate funnel, marketers aim to sell more products to the existing customer base. Marketers approach this by the classic methods of up-selling and cross-selling. 

However, some also promote higher subscription plans or offer customers newer contracts to improve revenue and customer lifetime value. 

Amazon up-sells and cross-sells products across its website, making this one of the most recognizable examples of increasing customer lifetime value.

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In the revenue phase, growth marketers analyze all the products closely and experiment with different concepts to encourage customers to spend more.

#6 Referral

Customers will recommend a brand’s products if they have positive experiences. However, it is up to the brand to facilitate referrals by implementing a referral campaign.

Word of mouth marketing produces 5x more sales than paid media impressions. Getting your customers to become brand ambassadors and share their experiences with other potential customers also respectably improves brand presence.

Dropbox’s campaign is a classic example of powerful referral marketing – the company expanded its userbase by 3900% over 15 months by offering users free online storage space.

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Most brands offer referral codes or links to facilitate easy sharing and availing of perks and benefits. Evernote, the note-taking app, makes inviting friends to the platform as easy as sharing the link and offers ten months of free premium access for every three referrals.

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It’s important to note that marketers and brands interpret the pirate funnel differently. Some businesses swap the Retention and Revenue stages since it is more important for them to get repeat customers.

Furthermore, the acquisition and activation stages tend to be open to interpretation. Some marketers think acquisition involves converting a lead and not a site visit. 

It is also a common belief that activation is the “Aha” moment that drives the purchase, not when a customer signs up.

Most interestingly, the awareness step wasn’t a part of the pirate funnel until Growth Tribe added it in 2016. This shows that there are no hard-and-fast rules regarding the pirate funnel framework, and marketers can adjust it to meet the brand’s needs.

The Core Components of a Growth Marketing Strategy

To understand what is growth marketing strategies and develop your own, you must learn the four core components of these strategies:

#1 Product-Focused

Creating a loyal customer base and producing valuable long-term relationships starts with highlighting the benefits of the products and services. Customers only purchase the best products that resolve the pain points. 

Growth marketing strategies aim to improve how prospects and existing customers perceive the brand’s products and services. 

#2 Data-Driven Campaigns

Marketers use customer data to identify their location, what channels they engage with the brand through, how they engage with the brand, and when. 

Tracking the customer’s journey also allows marketers to identify the most effective tactics for capturing and converting customers. The brand then allocates resources to these select high-ROI activities.

Taking a behavioral approach allows marketers to ensure optimal campaign performance.

#3 Creative Approach

Getting the most out of the marketing budget demands growth marketers to think outside the box. Relying on saturated channels and overused methods generally provides limited results. 

Therefore, growth marketers experiment with new channels and tactics to engage the target audience. Not every effort reaps results, but marketers can quickly narrow down what works for the brand.

#4 Experimentation-Oriented

Growth marketers believe that sticking to the status quo does not lead to growth and that there is always room for improvement. This makes testing and experimentation a cornerstone of growth marketing.

The results of the experiments allow marketers to identify untapped audiences that help optimize the brand’s current marketing efforts.

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Growth Marketing Strategies and Best Practices

There are numerous campaigns that you can implement:

#1 Demand Generation Campaigns

Growth marketers use demand generation campaigns to increase the reach and visibility of the product and brand. In other words, demand generation campaigns involve upper-funnel marketing strategies. 

Social media ads, influencer marketing, and SEO are common demand generation methods. Growth marketers emphasize creativeness and cost-effectiveness while finding ways to make the brand stand out.

#2 Lead Generation Campaigns

Lead generation campaigns entail retargeting prospects from earlier campaigns and convincing them to provide their contact details.

Sharing a free resource, such as an eBook, report, or file, in exchange for the visitor’s email address is a common method many brands use across industries. 

Email marketing campaigns deliver valuable content to prospects and enable brands to forge deep relationships with the target audience leading up to activation.

#3 Seamless Activation Campaigns

Activation campaigns help customers quickly learn how to use the product or service to solve their problems. The tutorials all online tools offer after a user signs up are activation campaigns.

These campaigns are designed to get the new user to the point of first value as swiftly as possible to allow the user to experience the product’s or service’s benefits.

#4 Customer Retention Strategies

Marketers implement customer surveys, collect feedback from the support team, and analyze user behavior to determine what keeps customers returning to the brand. 

Identifying what customers want allows businesses to cater to their customers more consistently and generate more profits. It is equally important for marketers to increase the customer lifetime value to improve profits.

To improve CLV, brands must provide increasing value to its customer throughout the customer’s relationship with the brand. 

It can be achieved by cross-selling on eCommerce websites or integrating new features into products to make them more valuable.

The lifetime value of a customer will increase automatically as a brand begins to offer customers more value than they can find anywhere else in the market.


There are several facets to growth marketing and many ways to approach it. However, none of the approaches will yield results overnight.

Marketers must remember that growth marketing is an iterative process that makes failure in some aspects inevitable. 

However, optimizing user experiences across the funnel enables businesses to attract new customers while keeping existing customers engaged continually.