Growth Hacking vs Marketing | See Girl Work

Growth Hacking vs Marketing

What is growth hacking? After reading a recent blog post on LinkedIn, I wanted to explore what growth hacking is and how this role differs from what a traditional Marketer does?

I read a great post on LinkedIn the other day about tips for growth hacking. I was super inspired by this post and even tried a few of the suggested growth hacks, tips and tricks myself.

The blog article was written and posted by Kevin Ho from Wishpond. After reading the post, I wanted to explore a little bit further: what is growth hacking and how does this role differ from what a traditional Marketer does?

I mean, we’ve all seen the term and it’s becoming more and more of a demand — “seeking Growth Hacker for startup.”

In the Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking by Neil Patel and Bronson Taylor, a traditional marketer is described as having “a very broad focus, and while their skill set is extremely valuable, it is not as necessary early in a startups life.” The guide goes on to explain that in the first phase of a startup you don’t need someone to “build and manage a marketing team” or “manage outside vendors” or even “establish a strategic marketing plan to achieve corporate objectives” or many of the other things that marketers are tasked with doing. According to the authors, early in a startup you need one thing. Growth.

A growth hacker is not a replacement for a marketer. A growth hacker is not better than marketer. A growth hacker is just different than a marketer.

The phrase “growth hacker” was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010. Sean had helped a number of internet companies achieve incredible growth, and a few of them even had an IPO. He essentially became a one man growth shop, setting up systems, processes and mindsets, that could be maintained after he left. Eventually, he would hand over the keys to his growth machine to someone else, and he would ride off into the sunset. When searching for his replacements he would often receive resumes from Marketers with marketing degrees and legit marketing experience, but Sean always felt they were still missing something. He changed what he was asking for, wrote a blog post entitled, “Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup” and the idea was born.

Every decision that a growth hacker makes is informed by growth. Every strategy, every tactic and every initiative is attempted in the hopes of growing. Growth is the sun that a growth hacker revolves around.  Marketers have a lot on our plates too: campaigns, goals, budgets and priorities. Not to mention our need to be constantly creative, hard working, agile and persistent.

But I suppose I am beginning to understand the differences between a Growth Hacker and a Marketer.

Since there are key differences between startups and an established company, Growth Hackers are faced with a different set of challenges to tackle than a traditional Marketer.

Startups intend to grow at least 20 percent month over month, while established companies are typically satisfied with about 5 percent year over year. As such, Marketers deal with the challenge of carving out another few percent each year. Meanwhile, Growth Hackers need to figure out how to up their numbers by 1000x from a much smaller base.

With that said, I enjoy being a Marketer. I love running campaigns, setting up schedules, creating content, social media planning and nurturing relationships with creatives. We still all want the same things and bottom line success — albeit at a more regular pace.


Image via POPSUGAR Photography / Grace Hitchcock


Alethea Robinson

Founder & Blogger-in-Chief, See Girl Work

Alethea Robinson is a freelance marketing & content writer who provides content strategy, blogging, and writing & editing services for creative agencies and small to medium-sized businesses. In addition to her freelance business, Alethea is also founder and blogger-in-chief at See Girl Work, an online community for creative, entrepreneurial-minded women. Before starting her blog and freelance business, Alethea worked in marketing and communications for over 15 years.


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