Mystery Solved: Growth Marketing vs. Growth Hacking

Published on: | Updated on: | Daniel Laloggia

The average B2B company spends less than 10% of its revenue on marketing, according to a recent edition of the CMO Survey. 

While that number has grown over the last decade, marketing teams are usually given a smaller budget than their sales counterparts. Because of that, executives must decide between investing in long-term and strategic or short-term, tactical marketing solutions. 

To help decide how you can best allocate your marketing budget, it’s essential to understand the nuanced difference between the strategic approach, also known as growth marketing, and the tactical method of growth hacking. 

In this blog, we solve the mystery of growth marketing vs. growth hacking for B2B. Read on for their main differences and practical steps for choosing the one that can help you drive substantial growth and revenue while remaining within budget. 

Growth hacking (2)

What is Growth Marketing? The Strategic Approach 

Growth marketing, also known as revenue marketing, is a long-term, strategic way of raising the bottom line. With a strong focus on the entirety of the funnel, growth marketers mesh strategy and execution and proactively emphasize data and analytics. 

This blog will focus more on growth marketing’s brand-building approach. Growth marketers aim to expand the brand by creating messaging and strategic assets (including message houses, buyer personas, etc.) and fusing their positioning into the fiber of every campaign across every platform or channel. 

Growth marketing is all-encompassing and, when appropriately executed, touches on every aspect of a brand’s marketing efforts. The personas align with messaging, and the offer aligns with both, creating a cohesive triad multiplied across every channel. 

What is Growth Hacking? The Tactical Approach 

If growth marketing is the future-oriented, strategic take on driving revenue, growth hacking is the opposite. Growth hacking is a short-term, tactical investment that isn’t reliant on the brand and doesn’t require a red thread through every marketing and sales activity. 

Growth hacking is about driving growth by any means, whether that’s indirectly or directly. For a specific example, a growth hacker might wonder how they can obtain a list of conference attendee email addresses and turn those into an email and ad targeting audience. They aim to get those folks to visit their conference booth and learn about a customized offer. This is a single-goal, solitary “hack” campaign that doesn’t bleed into anything else the company executes. 

For a real-life growth hacking example, turn to AirBnB, considered one of the major success stories. In their early days, the leaders at Airbnb did everything they could to drive growth. They made it simple for listers on their site to easily cross-list on Craigslist. They also contacted vacation property owners who used Craigslist and asked them to list on Airbnb. At the time, this was a bit of a heavy lift, but they achieved their single goal: get Craigslist users to use Airbnb instead. 

Growth Marketing vs. Growth Hacking: Choose or Fuse? 

There are several practical elements to consider when deciding which marketing approach is best for your business.  

1. Cost

 With prevalent budget concerns, cost is often the first consideration for executives. Growth marketing is considered a long-term investment because it deals with the entire customer lifecycle, from the top of the marketing funnel to the bottom of the sales funnel. Because of its nitty-gritty and data-centric nature, it can cost more to invest in growth marketing than its growth hacking counterpart, but if done right, growth marketing will prove its ROI and profitability. With its one-and-done campaigns, growth hacking can be less costly but doesn’t set any foundation for long-term growth.  


2. Scalability 

Growth marketing fits the bill if you want to build your brand, scale your efforts across all platforms, and prove ROI. Growth hacking might work if you're less concerned with your brand and need quick and early wins. For some businesses, especially those in their earlier stages, driving growth is the main priority, even if it’s not done in a replicable, strategic way. Growth hacking takes advantage of low-hanging fruit opportunities that are likely to lead to quick, short-term results. Hacking can be useful for those who aren’t yet concerned with scalability. 

3. Time


Growth Hacking is considered a quick fix, while growth marketing needs a longer timeline. You won’t be able to develop a unique value proposition, strong messaging, documented buyer personas, and a customized offer that extends to all campaigns within a couple of weeks or even months. Growth hacks can be performed faster; you might complete your one-goal campaign within a couple of weeks and then move on to the next hack. Although the difference in time spent is notable, growth hacking peters out and has a distinct endpoint, while growth marketing has the potential to become a self-sufficient machine. 

4. Data 

The more systematic approach of growth marketing doesn't usually appear from thin air. It requires a healthy amount of context and background data so that growth marketers can analyze and iterate accordingly. All growth has to start somewhere, which is why many start-ups will begin with growth hacking, which doesn’t require historical data, and use those quickfire campaigns to build up some reports and results that they can then use as a foundation for growth marketing. 

Growth Marketing vs. Growth Hacking: The Conclusion  

Growth marketing and growth hacking have a common goal but decidedly different ways of achieving it. While there are several factors in deciding which method is suitable for you, often, the best path forward is a unique fusion of the two. 

Airbnb may have started with its successful growth hack, but the executives morphed that into a long-term growth marketing strategy. Other businesses opt for growth marketing from the onset but supplement slower moments of growth with periodic hacks to keep the momentum going. 

By intertwining the tactical and the strategic, you’ll make the most of your marketing budget and drive measurable growth and revenue. 

 Want to Know More? 

If you’re looking for a growth marketing agency that marries the strategic and the tactical, get in touch today. 


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