The Rise of the Growth Marketers: Understanding the Role and Skills Required

In my previous article “Why Digital Marketing Is Becoming Irrelevant,” I elaborated how growth marketing has propelled startups to achieve rapid growth. While growth marketing has been gaining popularity since the mid-2010s, stemming from the “growth hacking” coined by Sean Ellis in the early 2010s, some ambiguity still surrounds the term. There are still uncertainties about what growth marketing entails, and the key attributes of a growth marketer. Thus, in this article I would like to further demystify the concept of growth marketing.

What is growth marketing?


Growth marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on achieving sustainable growth for a business through a combination of marketing psychology, automation & technology, and experimentation & data. 

i) Marketing psychology

This is the core element of all 3, which involves understanding the behaviour, needs, and motivations of the target audience to create personalized and targeted marketing campaigns. This includes identifying customer pain points, conducting market research, and developing buyer personas to tailor marketing efforts to the specific needs and desires of the target audience.

ii) Automation & technology

Automation and technology enable the scaling of marketing efforts by utilizing various tools and platforms such as search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and customer relationship management systems. These tools allow for the automation of repetitive tasks, as well as the collection and analysis of data to drive better marketing decisions.

iii) Experimentation & data

Growth marketing is essentially a lean process that involves continuous testing and iteration of marketing strategies using data-driven insights to optimize and improve performance. This includes A/B testing, user feedback, and analysis of key performance indicators (KPIs) such as conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, and customer lifetime value.

By combining these three elements, growth marketing can help businesses achieve long-term growth by acquiring, retaining, and engaging customers in a more efficient and effective manner. Growth marketing is not just about acquiring more customers, but also about creating a sustainable customer base that generates repeat business and referrals. It requires a continuous cycle of testing, learning, and optimization to achieve success.

What are the traits of a growth marketer?


i) Growth mindset

Being a lifelong-learner is the fundamental trait for being a growth marketer, because marketing technology is the ever-evolving domain knowledge, where ‘marketing’ revolves around consumers that are bound to behavioural changes, and the ever evolving ‘technology’ is the backbone that makes growth marketing possible. To adapt to changes, one must be willing to embrace challenges and setbacks, stepping out of their comfort zones to learn anything they are unfamiliar with, instead of being complacent with their pre-existing domain knowledge.

ii) Critical thinking

A growth marketer is a natural critical thinker who is able  to make judgment independently and objectively, by relying on facts and data from all aspects. Besides independent thinking, a growth marketer has an inquisitive mind that constantly challenges the status quo through asking critical questions and validating hypotheses through experimentations.

iii) Sharp business acumen

The fundamental objective of growth marketing is to expand the customer base and increase revenue while minimizing the associated costs. To achieve this objective, growth marketers must have a keen sense of business acumen and be capable of making decisions that benefit the business by maximizing profits and minimizing expenses. They should possess a deep understanding of customer needs, preferences, and behaviors and leverage that knowledge to develop targeted marketing strategies that deliver high return on investment.

iv) Goal oriented

Growth marketer are results oriented, they identify the ultimate goal beforehand, prior to laying the groundwork to attain the goal. Oftentimes, this trait helps growth marketer to strategize the working-backwards plan, i.e. identify the desired outcome, then break down the action plans on how to achieve the outcome in reversed order to achieve the goal.

v) Effective communicator

Effective growth marketers understand the importance of cross-functional teamwork and are skilled communicators who can collaborate with colleagues from different areas of expertise. They must be able to demystify ad tech jargon and communicate their ideas in a concise and engaging manner. Additionally, they should be able to translate data analysis into actionable insights and tell compelling stories that motivate the team to achieve its goals.

What are some of the growth marketing skills?

i) Search Engine Optimization (for web) or App Store Optimization (for app)

In today’s highly competitive digital landscape, achieving success in organic search is a significant accomplishment for a brand. Ranking highly in organic search results signals to consumers that the brand is reputable, trustworthy, and authoritative in its industry. On the other hand, paid search results are simply the outcome of a paid advertising campaign, and do not necessarily reflect a brand’s reputation or trustworthiness. While paid search can be an effective short-term strategy to drive traffic, building a strong organic search presence is a long-term investment in a brand’s reputation and credibility online.

ii) Search Engine Marketing (paid search for web & app)

Organic search optimization is a crucial long-term investment in building brand equity online. However, it can take time to see significant results from SEO efforts. In the fast-paced world of growth marketing, businesses need to scale their growth rapidly to remain competitive. One way to achieve this is by investing in paid search advertising on web or app search engines. Paid search results typically occupy more prominent positions than organic search results, particularly on web search results. In fact, on many search engines, more than half of the above-the-fold search results are made up of paid search ads. This can be an effective way to quickly drive traffic to a website or app while waiting for SEO efforts to take effect.

iii) Contextual marketing

Social media has been the long-standing contextual marketing channel. As the core element of growth marketing is rooted in marketing psychology, it is essential to maintain engagement with your social media audience. Besides, as third-party cookies become obsolete in 2024, it’s time to downplay third-party display advertising and invest in context marketing instead. First-party cookies will be the only ones that remain, and marketers will likely revert to “old-school” first-party audience targeting. However, content alone is not enough. Growth marketers must also evaluate the context of the sponsored placement of any first-party audience and work on content that fits into that context.

iv) Data analytics

Analytical skills are essential for any brand to succeed in the digital world. A growth marketer should possess analytical skills to aptly learn campaign performance or market insights via marketing technologies such as web or app usage analytics tools, social media ads managers, customer relationship management tools, and customer data platforms. With these skills, growth marketer could quickly strategize marketing plans to achieve more efficient and cost-effective marketing results.

Is Growth Marketing A Passing Fad?


While growth marketing is still a relatively new concept that started in 2010s, it has already been proven success for companies in different sizes across various industries till this day.

Dropbox – utilized a referral program to grow its user base from 100,000 to 4 million users in just 15 months.

Uber – Uber’s early growth was fueled by a combination of tactics, including targeted advertising, referral marketing, and strategic partnerships.

Slack – Slack’s growth was driven by word-of-mouth referrals, SEO, and targeted advertising to attract new users.

IBM – increased product adoption and reduced churn across its suite of 200 products.

Uniqlo – shifted its focus on technological innovation in relation to dress-making, and reached market value of over $105 billion in 2021.

In fact, the chart below shows the past 5 years of global Google trends for “growth marketing”, and its upward trend has been escalating since 2022.

Therefore, it seems unlikely to be a passing fad but rather a strategy that will continue to evolve and become an integral part of the business growth.

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Skye Lee

Growth Marketer | Digital Marketing Specialist | Digital Evangelist | Data Driven Marketer | Tech Startup Marketer | HRDC Certified Trainer