To some, marketing and growth marketing are interchangeable. After all, the end goal of all marketing is growth, so surely growth marketing is just “marketing”… right?

This isn’t entirely illogical, but it is wrong.

Marketing is a broad term that comprises all channels and techniques used to help a business grow – from SEO and PPC, to email marketing, direct mail and much more – including, of course, growth marketing.

Most marketers will drive revenue via a group of very specific channels. An SEO, for instance, will optimize a site, assess and fix technical errors, and implement a strategy for driving backlinks. A paid search expert will leverage digital ad platforms to drive qualified traffic to specific pages of a site.

A growth marketer, however, might use one – or all – of the channels just mentioned (plus many more). What’s different is that they’re in a constant state of flux. They’re always testing, always trying new channels or figuring out how to leverage existing channels more effectively.

In fact, the channel itself is secondary to a growth marketer’s goal: driving fast, sustainable, scalable growth.

“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” Sean Ellis, Startup Marketing

Here are 10 ways successful growth marketers think differently, and how you can start thinking the same way, too.

1.They fail fast

To “fail fast” means to figure out when something isn’t working, to learn from it, and to move on ASAP.

It doesn’t mean trying to fail.

It’s an ideology that can stop companies from wasting cash propping up a failing venture. Other times, it offers a chance to adjust how and where cash is being spent – potentially preventing a company from going under.

Fail fast (or be ready to), and you’ll protect yourself from making a rookie mistake: overinvesting in channels or concepts that aren’t working.

Good growth marketers are hardwired to think on their feet and be fluid in their approach. Failing fast should come naturally to them.

To mirror this mentality, set aside time, once a week or so, to sit back and take stock of your situation. Be totally honest with yourself about what is and isn’t working and resist the urge to keep plugging away at something you know isn’t delivering – even if it was your idea (great growth marketers never get emotionally attached to ideas).

2.They measure everything

Or pretty much.

Not everything can be accurately measured (customer delight, for one) or should be measured. If a metric can help a growth marketer make better decisions, however, they will measure it. After all, if we don’t assign KPIs to our activities and track progress against them, how will we know when we’ve failed?

This is inherent to the growth-marketer’s mindset and essential to their success.

If you’re not measuring everything you do, don’t worry – it’s not too late to start. Look at all your marketing tactics in isolation and establish what metric or metrics will help you understand how effective each one is at meeting its goals. This might be leads generated, links gained, number of social shares, number of email opt-ins, or any other sensible, actionable metric. Exactly what you measure is unimportant. What matters is that you’re tracking something which lets you assess whether your work is getting results.

3.They focus on the metrics that matter

We already know that not everything which can be measured should be measured. If you do fall into that trap (of trying to measure everything) one of two things is likely to happen.

  1. You waste time worrying about metrics that don’t matter. This is the best-case scenario.
  2. You get sidetracked by trivial data and make poor decisions as a result.

To figure out which metrics matter, you should start by learning the difference between vanity and actionable metrics.

Vanity metrics: Numbers or stats that look good on paper, but don’t really mean anything important.

Actionable metrics: Stats that tie to specific and repeatable tasks you can improve and to the goals of your business.” Caleb Wojcik, Fizzle

Web traffic is a good example of a vanity metric. It’s also commonly (and incorrectly) used as a KPI.

This is because web traffic is just a number. You could have a million unique visitors a month but that’s irrelevant unless those visitors are impacting your bottom line.

You have to know where your traffic’s coming from and why, and what it’s doing next. Referral traffic from an unrelated site or organic traffic from an irrelevant keyword is – by and large – going to bounce. Sure, one or two visitors that arrive on your site by chance might actually be interested in what you do and become leads or customers, but most of them will look at the page they landed on, then leave.

Mirror the habits of growth marketers by only measuring metrics you can act on.

4.They’re agile

The best growth marketers know that few campaigns go exactly as planned, and that a channel or strategy working once does not mean it will work again. They understand that every facet of marketing is constantly changing and that to keep up, they have to be changing with it.

Agile marketing is the polar opposite of the approach adopted by many seasoned marketers – waterfall marketing. This is a highly organized but rigid approach to marketing that favors very explicit plans and discourages fluidity.

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“Agile methods support rapid adaptation in a strategic, balanced way. Agile teams may be fast, but they aren’t chaotic. Choices are considered; decisions are not reactive.” Andrea Fryrear, writing for CMI

Becoming more agile in the workplace usually means:

  • Testing campaigns in short sprints – around 6 weeks, on average.
  • Making decisions based on data, not gut instinct.
  • Tracking the market and the channels you use and reacting fast to any changes that might impact your efforts.
  • Valuing the input of your whole team.

If you’re afraid of change or just stuck in your ways, you have a lot of work to do. Embracing change is essential for any marketer today.

5.They optimize the full funnel

Before deciding to make a purchase, every single one of us goes through the process of the sales funnel, which usually looks something like this:

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The top of the funnel represents consumers who know they have a need or problem, but they don’t yet know how to fix it. Consumers at the top of the funnel are yet to be exposed to your brand, so your job is to get it in front of them.

At the bottom of the funnel are consumers that are nearly ready to buy – you just need to give them a final push before they’ll convert.

Good growth marketers know that in order to be successful they have to consider all of this funnel. If they only focus on one or two stages of that funnel, they’re either:

  1. Not doing enough to generate new leads.
  2. Not doing enough to turn those new leads into customers.

Both scenarios limit growth. To counteract this, it’s imperative that you consider the whole funnel and implement strategies designed to drive both customer acquisition and conversions.

6.They prioritize relationships

Many marketers seem to place developing and maintaining relationships at the bottom of their list of priorities. The reason being – in my experience – is that relationships take time to build and are difficult, if not impossible, to scale. It can also take a while to see an ROI on your efforts.

I think this is a mistake.

Healthy relationships with clients and customers – even competitors – can make a big difference to your business. People don’t just buy from those they trust – they tell others, too. Competitors, on the other hand, can impart wisdom and advice. They might even offer chances to collaborate.

Growth marketers know this.

Marketers that don’t are missing out.

7.They know brand matters

If you’ve ever visited the supermarket and chosen a product from a well-known brand over a cheaper own brand version, you’ve been influenced by branding. By extension, you probably have an understanding of why this is.

There have been numerous studies on how a brand name affects consumers’ perception of the product. The general consensus is that we (consumers) perceive the branded products to be better quality than their unbranded equivalents.

“Both brand names and brand packaging do influence the consumers’ quality evaluations.” Influences of Brand Name and Packaging on Perceived Quality

In other words, consumers trust names they know (at least, they do if that brand has a history of producing quality products).

To incorporate brand-building into your growth strategy, you first have to understand what a brand is. It’s much more than colors, fonts, or a logo. A brand is how your customers perceive you.

Unfortunately, you can’t control this, but you can guide them in the right direction.

To do that, it’s essential your marketing portrays your company in a consistent light. This means only proceeding with campaigns that align with how you want to be seen, and being ready and willing to adjust or drop campaigns that don’t fit.

8.They’re never satisfied

Growth marketers don’t find something that works and hit repeat. They know there is always a way to do things better, and they’re programmed to try and find it.

This kind of attitude is essential to being successful in growth marketing. Stopping when you do something “good enough” will hinder growth and ensure the brand never achieves its full potential.

If this mindset doesn’t come naturally to you, practice. It will eventually become habit.

“On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact.” James Clear, “How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit?

Start each day with an analysis of the day before. Run through everything you did and ask yourself how each thing could be improved – how something could happen faster, with less friction or for less cost. Then, find a way to put those improvements into action.

9.They do more than the competition

Some companies believe that to make their business a success they have to do as much as, or be as good as, their competition. Growth marketers know this is rarely enough. Instead, they strive to do more than the competition.

This can mean many different things. These are just a few that come to my mind:

  • Offering better and more personal service (this is a good goal if you’re up against big brands that are lacking the personal touch).
  • Targeting a sector of the market your competitor’s overlooked.
  • Leveraging marketing channels they’re not using.
  • Building a faster website with a better user experience.

Long-term it’s going to pay to try and outdo your competition on all fronts, but initially, you might want to focus on identifying and targeting their weak spots.

10.They create a ‘Wow” experience for their customers

Measuring metrics and gathering data’s important. Essential, in fact, for any growth marketer. But it’s not the be-all and end-all for successfully growing a business.

A customer is not just a number. Their worth to you should not be determined by their lifetime value or monthly spend. They are people, just like you and me. If you don’t recognize that, eventually they will leave you for a company that does.

Take this campaign from TD Bank.

The bank asked customers to come and test out a new ATM, but instead of an automated teller machine, they were presented with an automated thanking machine. Instead of cash, the machine handed out gifts.

The gifts were highly personalized, including tickets to Disneyland for a mother who had never been able to take her kids, and plane tickets for a mother with a sick daughter in Trinidad. Exactly how TD knew what their customers would appreciate I don’t know, but that’s not the takeaway here. This is something that really made customers go “WOW” (and generated plenty of positive publicity alongside it).

That said, you don’t have to break your budget to create “WOW” experiences. Something as simple as a handwritten note slipped into an order can go a long way towards making customers feel valued.

That said, the best “WOW” experiences are individual to each customer. It’s when you go above and beyond to help a customer in need that you really make an impression on them – as we saw TD do.

Thankfully, doing something similar yourself is easy (and again, doesn’t have to be expensive). Just put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Ask yourself what would make you go “WOW” if you were in their position and (within reason) do it.

Thinking differently

If you understand and enjoy marketing, you probably have what it takes to become a successful growth marketer – you just have to change your mindset. For me, the biggest shift has to be moving away from a waterfall style strategy that favors fixed, long-term plans, to a much more fluid and agile approach. If you can start to measure everything and adapt your strategy in line with the results, you’re well on your way to becoming a successful growth marketer.

How do you believe successful growth marketers think differently? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.