The Difference Between Growth Hacking and Growth Marketing

The Difference Between Growth Hacking and Growth Marketing-969fd8b8

Growth hacking and growth marketing are both buzzwords in today’s rapidly expanding digital marketing landscape. In 2020 alone, 11 Indian startups became unicorns, valued at billions of dollars. Most of them have used growth hacking and growth marketing strategies to get there.


Many people use these 2 terms interchangeably, but many marketers argue that there are differences between growth hacking and growth marketing. One can argue that growth hacking consists of using unconventional methods to achieve rapid growth while growth marketing is more strategic and slow-paced. The mindset difference between practitioners of the two leads to some key differences in the way growth hackers function vs. growth marketers.

The Goal of Growth Hacking

Coined by the CEO of GrowthHackers, the term means strategies that gain as many users as possible for a product or service at the smallest possible budget. The timeframes targeted can also be very short, and there is an intensive collaboration between marketing and product teams to maximize cross-functional efficiency.


Methods are tested rigorously, and growth hackers use lots of quantitative and qualitative data to decide whether to continue with a strategy to get results. For instance, Zerodha grew exponentially due to the zero brokerage and referral model that gave people free services for successful referrals. Similar companies have attempted to grow by offering free account balance to new sign-ups.

What is Growth Marketing?

Growth marketing also aims to get many users, but budgetary constraints are more relaxed, and brand marketing is the focus. Users acquired have to find the product or service relevant, and the tactics used are chosen from a long-term impact perspective. Retention is key.


While growth hacking cares more about instant results, growth marketing wants a user base that keeps the company in business for a long time. The results should be more sustained. DuckDuckGo’s growth story comes to mind, where they focused on traditional ads, SEM, blogs, and SEO to get a faithful user base interested in their premise of privacy.


Now, let’s take a look at more contrasts between the two.

Growth Marketing Likes Hustle While Growth Hacking Likes A Bang

Growth hacks are often tactics that wouldn’t work well for businesses other than the specific one they were made for. AirBnB, for instance, scraped email IDs from Craigslist, but today data privacy concerns mean that most companies have no success with this approach. Dropbox famously offered free storage for referrals.


On the other hand, growth marketers use more traditional approaches to get the brand before the right customers though they may not acquire as many at once. The Calm app, for example, has taken the approach of roping celebrities to narrate stories and lead guided meditations. Having Lebron James teach mindful goal fulfilment is sure to attract fans for good.

Growth Hacking is Better for Products That Everyone Can Use

Most growth hacking successes are from brands that didn’t have a very niche customer base like Facebook or Paypal. The tactics won’t really work for companies like SalesForce, whose products are B2B and meant for niche audiences.


This might sound counter to the discussion so far where we have seen that a growth marketing agency tends to target sustained brand growth. However, the more niche a product is, the harder it would be to find growth hacks for it. 

Growth Hacking Finds it Harder to Beat Competition than Growth Marketing

When you build a new product that very few people have seen before, some smart hacks can easily get it out there. People’s curiosity combined with user feedback being built into iterations can make it viral. This is how ridesharing apps like Ola and Uber became household names.


However, a ketchup or noodles brand will find it very hard to stand out in an oversaturated market with too much competition. They would do better to focus on building customer trust and improving product quality with a few innovations as is traditional in marketing. When such companies try viral social media campaigns, the buzz eventually fades, and sales go back to normal.

Which Marketing Approach Should You Choose?

If you have a brand to scale up, the ideal choice would be to target both growth hacking and growth marketing tactics. However, with a limited budget, you may have to choose.


Hiring a growth marketing agency can give you quick access to a number of experienced professionals with a proven track record of achievement and expertise in both marketing approaches. They would evaluate your requirements before making a suggestion.


One way to know whether your growth marketing agency is right about the approach they recommend is to consider whether your product is general enough, campaignable, and has viral potential. Growth hacking can be difficult to work without popular appeal.

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