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What Can Growth Marketing Bring to Your Business?

Calendar icon 7th January 2022

By Tom PearceDirector of Marketing, based in Zeren‘s London Office.



Working in the Marketing Recruitment sector and hiring for high-growth Tech start-ups and scale-ups, we regularly get approached by Founders and Investors about hiring a company’s first ‘Head of Growth Marketing’, ‘VP Growth Marketing’ or ‘Director of Growth Marketing’.


It can be a critical hire for any business to take them from ‘A-to-B’ and to incrementally grow the business to the ‘X’ value needed for investment or an event. However, with the multiple factors that drive growth, it can become confusing, and can be polarising to define. So, I’ve pulled together research covering some of the different growth metrics and frameworks, from traditional to more recent, and examined how it’s changed. How do these factors, metrics and frameworks impact the role of a Growth Marketer, and what is meant when including ‘Growth Marketing’ into your job description’s requirements?


Firstly, what is Growth?


‘Growth’ the act or process, or a manner of growing; development; gradual increase.


Bringing it back to basics, when a business experiences growth, it means it’s developing and growing in one or more ways. There are multiple factors to consider when looking at growth. Some examples are:


  • Revenue
  • Sales
  • Company Value
  • Profits
  • Products
  • Geographies
  • Number of the Workforce
  • Number of Clients

Some of these metrics can grow independently and don’t necessarily rely on other metrics to grow at the same time or pace in order to grow themselves. For instance, a company’s revenue may increase, but the number of clients it has remains the same, as the revenue is generated from existing clients.


It’s important to consider where the business is at in the stage of its growth. If it’s a company going through the start-up phase, it’s likely growth will be focused on driving sales and increasing the number of paying customers, rather than profits in its first year. Once a business is more established and is well-known within the market it operates in, the growth driver will likely change to focus more on increasing profits and generating repeat business or increasing average order values from existing clients. All of these factors play a vital part in the growth process, and it’s not defined by one singular metric.


On to the experts…


Dave McClure originally built a growth metric framework back in 2007, referred to as the AARRR funnel, AKA the Pirate Funnel. He discusses growth covering the five stages a customer goes through on the path to becoming a paying customer. In 2016, Growth Tribe added ‘Awareness’ to this list which now flows as:


  • Awareness – How many people do you reach?
  • Acquisition – When someone visits your website/app/product for the very first time
  • Activation – When that person has their first positive experience with your site or marketing content and actions something – sign-up, comment, subscribe
  • Retention – How many people come back repeatedly?
  • Revenue – When that person converts into a paying customer
  • Referral – How many people refer friends to your business?

This process has – and is – followed by most growth marketers today. They focus on every layer holistically across the whole of the growth funnel. More about that later.


With technology changing and the boom in more app-born tech companies, it was in 2017 that Thomas Petit and Gabor Papp, Mobile Growth experts, once again restructured the growth framework to RARRA, their re-prioritized model. RARRA is a re-ordered list of the original AARRR funnel for the app store: Retention; Activation; Referral; Revenue and, lastly, Acquisition. They felt this model and workflow yielded the best results when scaling mobile-born products due to a history of user expectations being higher than ever on apps, thus leading to poor retention rates.


In 2018, Brian Balfour, ex-VP of Growth at HubSpot, added contribution to the debate and explained how growth teams can be set up for success by having a growth loop, rather than a funnel (seeing Growth as a whole functioning system), however, the Pirate Funnel is still regarded as the go-to growth model today.


Different growth metrics will work better for different businesses depending on the product, audience and, ultimately, the stage of the business’ journey, from start-up through to IPO. Andrew Chen’s book “The Cold Start Problem” covers this brilliantly, and is worth a read.


So, what is meant by the term “Growth Marketing”, and what’s different from traditional Marketing?


Referencing the (“Pirate”) growth funnel Dave McClure created, traditional marketing usually focuses on the first two stages of the funnel: Awareness and Acquisition. Growth further down the funnel has historically been siloed into different teams such as Product, Engineering and Sales. With data and technology more readily available, and marketing practices having to become more analytical, automated and product-driven, the term “Growth Marketing” was born. Please see here for a great visual explanation of Growth Marketing by Growth Tribe expert, David Arnoux.


The term ‘Growth Marketing’ relates to a cross-functional process within a Marketing department. Heavily driven by mindset and experimentation, growth covers every aspect of marketing and works holistically right across the AAARRR funnel. A Growth Marketer is someone who is driven by data and will use it to create actionable insights to experiment with each of your Marketing, Product, Sales and Engineering functions throughout the whole customer journey.


They will focus on the end-to-end customer journey as well as the desired overall marketing outcome and then map what needs to happen across the whole marketing stack, along with product to achieve whatever specific growth metric or KPI that is trying to be achieved: new users, increase AOV, installs, etc. They will investigate and fully understand the fundamentals of the audience, the target market, the buyer’s journey (relating back to the growth frameworks above) and then build end-to-end plans around these areas. They will test each function to try and find the best outcome to drive growth and create a playbook for repeatable and progressive success.


Whether it’s experimenting with Digital Marketing (Paid or Organic methods), Creatives, Marketing Technology, Automation, Product or Data, the Growth Marketer will experiment and vigorously test what works and doesn’t work so they can then scale and automate what is successful. Most Growth Marketers will have a T-Shape skillset where they have specialised a few marketing disciplines and then, once they have mastered these, eventually branch out across the whole marketing mix. They will likely know a fair amount about a few channels and less about the rest.


From a Recruiter’s perspective:


Growth Marketing can prove tricky to hire for some businesses as, ultimately, it’s a mindset they will be looking to hire. Of course, marketing skills are essential, but prospective candidates need to have a proven track record of having tested and experimented with previous marketing set-ups across the funnel, likely in a similar environment to the company hiring. A Hiring Manager may require marketing individuals from different backgrounds and marketing expertise depending on the product and stage of growth.


“Where do you see growth within your product coming from? What’s your definition of growth for your business?”

The questions I ask anyone thinking about making a growth hire is: “Where do you see growth within your product coming from? What’s your definition of growth for your business?”. With these answers, it can really help when building the profile needed. For instance, if the requirement is for the individual to be focused on acquisition and driving new customers to the product or site using mainly paid media channels, then hiring a Performance/Digital Marketing specialist would probably be a better route to go down.


If anyone reading this is thinking about hiring for Growth Marketing, it’s likely that the right time to hire will be when you require a growth marketer to optimise your marketing set-up across all channels in order to maximise growth in lower-funnel and upper-funnel metrics, and partnering with numerous teams within and beyond Marketing, such as Product, Finance, Sales and Engineering, to achieve your growth goals.


Hopefully, the above has helped with breaking down what growth is, the factors to consider, how growth marketing is defined from a growth marketers’ perspective and the value it can bring to a Marketing team.


Growth Marketers are highly in demand for all the obvious reasons. A truly exceptional growth marketer will undoubtedly sky-rocket any product and business growth. It’s a mindset and skill-set most technology businesses will need at some point in their journey, and it’s important to get the positioning right and know how to fully engage the talent.


That’s where we come in. If you are navigating how to create the role or need advice on who to hire, we are here to help.


Zeren exists to empower the world’s change makers. We do this by building high-performing teams in the world’s most innovative businesses, to accelerate growth by connecting visionary leaders and ambitious talent.


We are a leading global Executive Search & Recruitment Firm with offices in New York, London and Frankfurt. We partner with both high growth, investor backed businesses and ambitious corporate brands around the world.