Introduction to Growth Marketing (Review)
Updated: Feb 28
Picking an online marketing class, growth vs. traditional marketing, and growth processes
My marketing major provided me with a solid foundation in consumer behavior, marketing strategy, research, analytics, and communications. But marketing in practice changes rapidly and involves more than the high-level frameworks taught in the classroom. So I set out to find a comprehensive, skills-based online class to build on my university learning. I chose CXL Institute’s Growth Marketing Mini-Degree.
Why CXL Institute
Lots of sites offer online courses, but CXL stood out because of
The blog. I follow the CXL blog, which posts long-form articles on all things data-driven marketing. The content served as an indication and preview of the expertise offered in the course.
The approach. The data and analytics component of marketing will continue to grow in importance, and CXL is known for excelling in experimentation and growth.
The focus. Unlike general online learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and General Assembly, I wanted a site focused solely on marketing and experimentation. Narrow specialization = bigger chance of offering in-depth and advanced content.
The name. Marketers recognize the CXL name, which helps validate my extra learning.
The scholarship program. CXL offers an alternative to buying their courses: paying with content. For 12 weeks, I’ll post my learnings in exchange for access to the course. Beyond the financial aspect, the scholarship program will force me to write on a consistent schedule, reflect on what I’ve learned, and share the insights with others. Wins all around.
Personal interest. Look through my past content… my life is essentially an ongoing growth experiment. I enjoy pursuing constant improvement and would love to incorporate the concept into my career function, even if I don’t hold a growth marketer title.
Breadth. Growth marketing covers (almost) all channels and aspects of marketing within the discipline
Marketing myths. Since beginning to discuss marketing three years ago, I've discovered an array of misconceptions about what marketing means. I’ve heard marketing described as: common sense, guesswork, coercion, graphic design, false advertisement/deception, and ineffective. Although these misconceptions exist for a reason, valuable marketing involves skill, research, tests, and best practices. A comprehensive understanding of growth (one of the most measurable and scientific of marketing specializations) will a) set me up to be an effective marketer and b) help me explain good marketing to others.
Value. Most companies hire marketers because they want to grow. A growth marketer brings valuable skills to the table, whether as a first marketing hire or addition to a robust team. The foundations of growth marketing lie in a customer-centric approach (rather than product or brand-focused), so the function helps customers, too.
Application. Growth skills apply to a wide array of company sizes, industries, and roles. So useful applications are guaranteed regardless of what I end up doing in the near and long-term future.
Growth professionals. Every growth marketer I’ve interacted with has impressed me. Going where people are smarter and more impressive than me (in ways I aspire to be) has been a good compass throughout the last year.
Growth marketing vs. traditional marketing
Traditional marketing centers on a company’s brand. Brand marketing focuses on top-of-funnel acquisition--think brand awareness, associations, and discovery. Marketers typically work on a single campaign at a time, investing all the quarter’s time and resources into one release. If the campaign message doesn’t resonate, (if you're wrong), you don't get a second chance with the campaign. Next quarter, you move on to the next initiative.
Growth marketing looks at the entire funnel. Experimentation drives the growth process by testing (programs, campaigns, product features, etc.) and generating data to optimize the funnel. The approach grew out of the lean startup methodology. Rather than building a campaign around X thing customers value, growth marketing begins with admitting you don’t know what customers want.
Growth marketers form a hypothesis, test it, analyze and interpret the results, learn what to do better, and repeat the process. Multiple experiments run simultaneously, and there’s no huge loss at disproving a hypothesis (getting it wrong). Negative findings help to 1) identify and scrap incorrect ideas, and 2) compound correct hypotheses.
Growth initiatives can prove what works and why, building each small win on to each other to reach the same goals traditional marketing aims to hit with one lofty campaign. Better yet, the success rate of growth experiments improves over time, as all past learnings inform future tests.
With traditional marketing, the results of an email or ad campaign may yield results, but the team won’t know if the campaign deserves the credit for the improved performance of the target metric or if another variable led to the results.
How does growth marketing know the difference? A/B tests. Instead of sending an email as a uniform campaign, an A/B test sends emails to only some contacts. Then, you compare the actions of the email-receiving group versus the no-email group to see if the behavior of the two groups differed.
If the campaign (emails in this case) led to more website visits/purchases/other desired action, the next step involves finding the best email. In the same manner, different groups receive different email versions and the growth team compares the groups’ interactions with the email and company to find which version led to the higher percent increase in the target metric.
The potential of growth marketing
Now here’s where it gets even cooler:
When done well, advanced experimentation can enable tailoring messages to individual customers. Not all customers use the same product in the same way for the same reasons. A/B tests can determine which customers respond to which messages by linking behavior differences such as what time a user visits a site or what blog posts they read, to different marketing messages. The complexity is hard to achieve but yields a competitive advantage and pushes companies to 30-50% higher growth than their baseline improvement.
Zooming back out to the big picture: essentially, growth is about constantly learning and getting better through a series of tests. Like personal growth, it’s by definition personalized because the data/findings come from people, what they want, and what works best for them.
Overall, has the course met my expectations? So far, yes.
Navigating the CXL Institute site is a little clunky, but I’m enjoying the detailed material. The instructors pair each concept with a specific example or links to articles and tools, which is what I was looking for. Week 1 gets a thumbs up from me.
I’ll be diving into more growth marketing learnings for the next 3 months. Marketing enthusiasts, follow along on Medium if this preview makes you geek out like me. Otherwise, I’ll be writing non-marketing content here alongside the series every couple of weeks, too.