Differences between digital marketing and growth hacking
Since its inception, the Internet has provided great opportunities for companies as a showcase and framework for their marketing strategies. The evolution of the online ecosystem has brought with it great advances and countless opportunities to reach consumers, thus giving birth to Digital Marketing.
At the beginning of the “Internet era”, the main Digital Marketing actions were based on imitating the marketing campaigns that were carried out in oﬄine channels (television, radio, press…), publishing advertisements and advertising banners in diﬀerent digital media. As the Internet has evolved, we users have also evolved, and with it have evolved the diﬀerent media and techniques for Digital Marketing. We can now carry out personalised campaigns for our target audience, and we can also get them to participate and collaborate in our campaigns.
“One of the most important things that the Internet and user connectivity have brought about is active participation and direct communication between brands and users”.
During the evolution of the Internet, diﬀerent professional profiles have been created as new techniques or tools emerged. To name two examples that we all know, social networks brought with them the figure of the community manager, and blogs brought us the figure of the content marketing manager.
Well, in recent years, the figure of the growth hacker has emerged, which is the professional who is dedicated to Growth Hacking. And what is Growth Hacking? Well, it is a working methodology focused exclusively on the growth of online companies and is often confused with Digital Marketing.
From my point of view, the confusion between these two disciplines is related to the use (in some phases or actions) of the same digital tools. But we have to understand that the objectives for which they are used in both disciplines are not the same. This is the key to understand the diﬀerences between Growth Hacking and Digital Marketing.
Let’s see what each of these disciplines are to understand all this much better.
What is Digital Marketing?
Digital Marketing focuses primarily on the relationship between a brand and its customers to gain the trust necessary for future conversions. The job of a Digital Marketing specialist is to acquire more users or customers while maintaining (and increasing) the reputation of the brand. SEO, SEM, Social Media and, Content Marketing and Email Marketing are the main types of actions they use to achieve their goals. Acquiring new customers and increasing brand awareness is key to the success of a Digital Marketing campaign.
Digital Marketing diﬀers from traditional marketing in that we can use several channels and methods in the same strategy, and measure in real-time which actions are working better and which are not. In addition, we can segment in a way that can be close to perfection, as we can make an action visible to a specific geographical area and an audience of specific ages and “digital habits”. This is a great help in optimising time and resources.
Digital Marketing Plan as a framework for action
The working tool or guide for a Digital Marketing specialist is the Digital Marketing Plan. This plan consists of a document containing the objectives to be achieved and the planning of the actions to be carried out. Everything must be justified, and to reach this plan, we must have carried out a study on which we will rely to measure and check if we are getting the expected results.
Some of the key actions in digital marketing include:
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- SEO positioning
- SEM Campaigns (Google Ads, Facebook Ads…)
- Social Media
Professional profiles in Digital Marketing
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, marketing has been evolving in the online environment in terms of quality, tools and media in which to develop actions, as the Internet ecosystem has grown. Nowadays, these are some of the most demanded profiles in a department or Digital Marketing agency.
- Digital Marketing Manager
A Digital Marketing Manager is responsible for developing, implementing and managing digital marketing campaigns that promote a company and its products or services. This profile plays a very important role in improving brand awareness within the digital environment.
- Social Media Manager
A professional Social Media Manager is the person in charge of monitoring, managing and measuring the company’s digital presence on Social Networks. The Social Media Manager is in charge of creating the social media plan, which will be aligned with the company’s objectives.
- SEM Specialist: Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a very influential discipline for digital marketing specialists. It is a widely used strategy for branding, but also for selling products and services.
- Data analytics
Data analytics allows digital marketers to make data-driven decisions. Numbers determine whether a campaign is a success and by what percentage. The key to analysis is knowing what data to collect and measure in order to improve the next campaign, as the decisions made by this professional profile will have an impact on the company’s spending and investment.
- SEO Specialist
One of the most in-demand professional profiles. The work of SEO involves research and user behaviour to detect search patterns, as well as the optimisation of a web page so that it indexes well in search engines.
- Content marketing specialist
When it comes to content, it can take many forms: blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, even social media status updates. Content is still the king, and the content marketing specialist will be in charge of leading and executing the actions.
- Email Marketing Specialist
Email is still one of the most successful mediums in a digital marketing strategy. Moreover, with the online tools available today, we can manage large lists of subscribers and segment emails in a way that allows us to reach our audience with the right message. It is a profile in high demand in companies that have large eCommerce, being of great help for the strategy of promotions and customer communication.
What is Growth Hacking?
While growth hacking, as a concept, is not exactly new, it was not given an oﬃcial name until 2010, when Sean Ellis coined the phrase and defined a growth hacker as “a person whose true north is growth”.
When we talk about Growth Hacking, we refer to strategies focused solely on the growth of the project. It has a very direct relationship with startups or early-stage companies that need massive growth in a short time and have small budgets. The goal, generally, is to acquire as many users or customers as possible. This increase in users or customers should lead to and help us to better understand the product and the real needs of the target audience.
It is very useful for projects that are working on a new business idea and that are using the Lean Startup methodology. In this case, the help of a growth hacker to work on the phases in which you need to validate your product, work on hypotheses, product prototyping and minimum value proposition, Growth Hacking will be very useful and necessary. In fact, sometimes Lean Startup and Growth Hacking are also confused. For me, and from my point of view and experience, Growth Hacking is part of the digital transformation of Lean Startup.
Getting to our product or service by the hand of the rapid and sustained increase of users will lead us to our business model, and with it, in a second phase, to develop our Digital Marketing plan.
This does not mean that once we have reached the Digital Marketing phase, Growth Hacking is over – not at all! Growth Hacking is a method where we continuously work on hypotheses and experimentation. Therefore, during the life of an online project, new growth needs will arise, and with them, the need to implement the Growth Hacking method. We must not forget that the “online world” is moving very fast. So fast, that we can run the risk of falling behind (or losing the interest of our users) without realising it.
AARRR funnel as a Growth hacker’s working tool
In the same way that a Digital Marketing team’s main working tool is the Digital marketing plan, for a Growth hacker, or online business growth teams, their guide and working tool to check the results is the AARRR funnel.
The AARRR funnel, also known as pirate metrics, is a working method and analysis of user behaviour from the moment they discover us to the moment they recommend us. This funnel is based on five types of user behaviour metrics:
A – Acquisition: Which channels do users come to us from? This stage is the first contact with customers.
A – Activation: what percentage of them have a satisfactory initial experience? This is the stage where users try the product.
R – Retention, do they return? The main objective of this stage is to keep regular customers on your product or service.
R – Referral: do they like it enough to recommend it to their friends? This stage focuses on growth, and where going viral plays a very important role.
R – Revenue: can you monetise your product? This stage begins when a customer buys your product or service.
Profile of a growth hacker
A growth hacker does not belong to the ICT department, nor does he or she work in the digital marketing or product department. Growth hackers have a cross-functional role in which they work closely with the digital marketing, commercial or product team.
In addition, it is very common to see growth hackers with a very high level of technical skills under their belt, which is a clear point of diﬀerentiation from a digital marketer. They often bring programming and other technical skills to the table, and process automation skills also stand out.
Among the most recognised skills in a growth hacker, we can find:
- Data analysis
- Mastering acquisition: SEO, SEM, Aﬃliation, Email, Content Marketing…
- Technical skills: knowledge of web development, HTML, CSS,
- Scraping on web pages
- Control of automation tools
Digital Marketing vs Growth Hacking Where is the diﬀerence?
The main diﬀerence lies in the objectives. Digital Marketing mainly seeks the growth of the brand, using digital media to promote it and build loyalty among its audience. Logically, this must lead to sales and revenue.
Growth Hacking, on the other hand, seeks the rapid growth of the project. It looks for the shortest way and with the least possible resources to achieve the success of this online business idea.