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Growth hacking seems to be the newest buzzword in the business world, but very few business professionals seem to understand what it truly is and how it functions.

Now, if you were to head over to Google and search the term, you might notice that the job description of a growth hacker is quite similar to that of a digital marketer. Be warned! On the surface, these two fields might seem similar, but in reality, there is quite a huge difference between the two.

To understand the difference between these two fields, and the common areas between the two, you will first need to know what each of these positions entails and what goals they help a business achieve.

Growth Hacking

Growth hacking refers to the practice of developing strategies that help promote the growth of a business. To fully comprehend the meaning of the term growth hacking, you need to understand the objective of a growth hacker.

A growth hacker’s responsibility is to help a business grow irrespective of the department. In contrast, the role of a digital marketer is to encourage audience engagement and increase brand awareness regarding products offered by a business.

A growth hacker considers every aspect of the sales funnel and finds the best strategies that help a business grow. They look for ways in which they can acquire new customers and retain old customers at a lower cost. Some of the areas growth hackers tap into include marketing, product development, and engineering.

Growth hackers tend to be tech-savvy and rely on data for decision making. For a growth hacker to succeed, they need to rely on conversion optimization and A/B testing. It allows growth hackers to identify areas that require improvement. 

Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing refers to all kinds of marketing activities done through online mediums such as the internet, mobile devices, and social media. The goal of a digital marketer is to focus on the relationship that customers have with a brand.

Acquisition of new customers and increasing brand awareness is the main goal of a digital marketer and they achieve that through content creation, SEO and social media marketing.

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Unlike growth hacking, digital marketing’s role is to bring the brand to customers and create a desire for the product/service in them. This is the first step in the sales funnel. Other departments of a company are responsible for the next steps in the sales funnel.

Digital marketers have an edge over growth hackers because they have access to funds for running PPC campaigns that help them reach more customers. Growth hackers, on the other hand, usually work in start-ups and don’t have high budgets.

Growth hackers, however, are involved in every single step in the sales funnel, unlike digital marketers whose role ends after step one; awareness. 

Growth Hackers Need Digital Marketing

We now know that the role of a growth hacker is a lot more expansive than the role of a digital marketer. That does not mean growth hackers do not respect marketing strategies. Growth hackers value data and initiatives that lead to expansive growth for a business.

Growth hackers take part in content development initiatives and have access to business analytics. They dig deep into content performance to determine if the content strategy is working or not.

They also keep track of how users respond to brand communications and marketing efforts. Growth hackers use all of this information when they are developing growth strategies.

For better understanding, consider the following example. Suppose AT&T’s team is looking for ways in which they can increase the sales of their internet plans. Their previous campaign results show that a bulk of the orders for AT&T internet plans came from San Francisco.

Growth hackers will use this information to increase the presence of the company in that region. They will leverage AT&T’s product team as well as their salesforce to establish a presence in the city and also use the information to create profiles of lookalike audiences.

The data, in this case, helps growth hackers (and digital marketers) to reach out to customers with similar preferences in the rest of the United States. 

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Reliance on Data

Data drives every decision that a growth hacker makes. Growth hackers frequently conduct tests to see what helps a business grow. They also keep track of a company’s performance at all times and make their decisions accordingly.

Just think of it this way. A digital marketer posts a blog on a company’s website and then keeps editing it until the content generates the desired result. The role of a growth hacker is the same. Only it expands to a company operations. 

Product Market Fit

Pick any successful growth hacker, and you will see that all of them have one thing in common. They all usually work for companies that offer great products and services.

The term product-market fit refers to products that perfectly meet the needs of a specific audience. To make the most out of your growth hacking efforts, you need to have product-market fit.

The last thing that a growth hacker should be worrying about is a product’s credibility. It is a lot easier for a growth hacker to scale up the business if the product meets all the requirements of customers.

To determine whether a company has a product-market fit, it relies upon word-of-mouth marketing. If a customer has had a good experience using your product, then they will share their experience with others.

Take the example of the Dollar Shave Club. The company has a review page where people share their honest reviews regarding a product while at the same time encourage visitors to try their services and become a part of the club.

If you feel your company is not yet at that stage, then you should conduct further tests and continue to adapt before initiating growth hacking efforts. 

Different Companies have Different Strategies

A growth hacking strategy that worked for another company might not necessarily work for you because all companies have unique identities. Companies with successful growth strategies like Uber and Dropbox had a clear idea about their business model and target market. Their growth strategies reflected that.

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Remember that testing is a growth hacker’s most powerful weapon. Test results allow a company to determine its next course of action and its growth strategy.

Building a Growth Hacking Team

So now that you have an idea about Growth hacking and how it is different from digital marketing, the next step is to establish a growth hacking team.

Getting the right kind of team is essential. Remember that not everyone can be a growth hacker. In addition to being logical and creative, the ideal candidate should also have an understanding of how a business works.

Your team members should be able to find new ways in which they can help the business achieve growth without spending too much money and come up with a new strategy in case the one they have in place is not working.

Take the example of growth hackers like Neil PatelSean Ellis, and Nichole Elizabeth DeMere to understand the qualities that all growth hackers should possess.


Baldwin Jackson is a successful digital marketer with expertise in search engine optimization and content marketing. The perfect balance of his analytical ability and creative thinking is what sets him apart from other practitioners in the digital marketing realm. He has helped a lot of small and medium-sized businesses in crafting their digital marketing strategies that are not only cost-effective but delivers results as well.

Baldwin is also a proud father of two kids and a Sports enthusiast. When he is not working, you will find him watching ESPN and NFL network. He has been able to get an amazing package on his favorite channels from Buytvinternetphone.com

Shabbir Ahmad

Shabbir Ahmad is a freelance enthusiastic blogger & SEO expert. He is the founder of Shifted Magazine & Shifted News. He contributes to many authority blogs including porch, hackernoon & techcrunch.