Performance Marketing vs. Growth Marketing: What’s the Difference?

A dashboard of important growth marketing metrics.

Marketing is marketing. Well, not actually. There is traditional marketing, brand marketing, digital marketing, performance marketing, growth marketing, and probably a dozen other terms that we aren’t aware of. And while growth marketing and brand marketing differ greatly, you may see performance marketing and growth marketing used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

Tuff is a growth marketing agency. That much is obvious—you can see it all over our site! But what is a performance marketing agency? And how do what they do differ from what we do? Let’s dig in. 

The TL;DR: 

Performance marketing agencies—marketers that focus on paid channels and typically take a cut of the profit or ad spend. 

Growth marketing agencies—marketers who create holistic marketing strategies centered on sustainable business growth.

What is a performance marketing agency?

A performance marketing agency typically gets paid when certain results occur. This could be a new lead, sale, enrollment, or whatever KPIs  you and your agency agree to. Performance marketing is usually driven by return on ad spend and ROI. If you put $500 into a campaign, then you want to get $1000 back or more. This type of marketing requires consistent tweaking and refining pay per click (PPC) campaigns so that your client gets the largest return on their investment. Growth  marketers are looking at organic and paid channels and conversion rate optimizations (CRO) to find the perfect combination. Performance marketing really focuses on paid channels to achieve their clients’ marketing goals.

What is a growth marketing agency?

At Tuff, we certainly leverage typical performance marketing channels like paid, but we also layer on a lot more to achieve a holistic growth strategy. Growth marketing focuses more on long-term growth for your business. A growth marketer is sharply focused on new customer or client acquisition (how to introduce more people to your business) and conversion.

We do this by deciding what areas are ripe for growth and which ones your business uses but could be using more effectively. A growth marketing team will dive headfirst into the data and analyze it for the best growth opportunities. The growth team may start with the lowest hanging fruit and target people already looking in your market. They also look for ways to expand your business higher up the funnel by engaging new audiences, educating, informing, and encouraging them throughout the customer journey. A growth marketing agency will make sure that you have a solid foundation to build upon. Growth marketing at Tuff  typically doesn’t include managing a sales team, community management, retention specialist, or public relations. While those can be an integral part of a company’s larger growth strategy, at Tuff we focus on getting the right people to your site and having them convert. In short, we keep you from throwing money at solutions that won’t grow your business.

How does growth marketing work?

A growth marketing plan could start with a technical SEO audit that ensures your site’s health is up to par. This could be page speed, URL structures, low-text-to-HTML issues, broken links, duplicate content, and a host of other problems keeping you way down in the SERPs. There is also a content strategy component that helps build upon your technical SEO foundation. This includes optimizing your existing landing pages and finding areas where you need new pages to drive traffic. A growth marketer may determine that creating a blog on your site will help drive top-funnel searches. A blog will lead to more traffic and help drive customers to more areas of your site until they convert. Plus, a growth marketing agency will also ensure that those performance marketing channels we mentioned earlier are active and optimized, so you have a steady flow of leads. At the same time, your business continues to grow from the bottom up. 

At Tuff, we work on retainers because it’s better for your resources. With a retainer we have the freedom to allocate resources to where they are most effective. We continually come up with new ideas and activate new tactics while working to refine and optimize your existing channels. We like to think about it like growing a tomato plant versus growing an oak. A tomato plant needs constant attention to keep producing fruit. The more you feed it and water it, the more fruit you will reap. As soon as you stop, so does your tomato production. Growing an oak tree takes a lot of time but make sure it’s watered enough and pruned; it can survive the lack of sunlight and periods of drought because you have a strong root structure.

The end goal is to make sure your business has a sustained growth plan. A growth marketing agency will balance long-term growth opportunities like organic with paid and tailor your growth plan to match and exceed your business goals.

That seems like a lot, but it’s just a small piece of what a Tuff growth marketer does. 

Performance vs. growth—which one is best for your business?

A performance marketing agency is great if you have a well-established business model and attract new customers. Your business has a healthy website, a high DA, and your organic is thriving. This is where a performance marketing agency can help you jump over some of those low hurdles.

But if you’re a start-up or an established growing business that needs more than just lead generation, that’s where a growth agency like Tuff comes in. A growth marketing agency acts as an extension of your business. It focuses on where your business needs to be in three months, not three days—a growth marketing agency focuses on all areas of the sales funnel, not just the bottom. Going back to that oak metaphor, you’ll never see a 200-foot tomato plant, but with enough attention, you can see a 200-foot oak.

Think a growth marketing agency is right for you? Give us a call.

 

We’d love to work with you.

Schedule a call with our team, and we’ll analyze your marketing, product, metrics, and business. Then, present a Growth Plan with actionable strategies to find and keep more engaged customers.

Elle Ossello

Tuff Growth Marketer, Elle, on Finding a Balance of Creative and Analytical

Elle Ossello

 

Meet Elle, a Growth Marketer at Tuff. Elle partners with Tuff clients to build measurable, data-driven, bottomline growth. She is also an incredibly talented wordsmith, teaching us new words on the reg.

Below she shares about her journey to growth marketing rooted in creative, her connection to bikes, and the cookbook she’s currently dreaming about writing.

Can you tell me a bit about your 3-5 years before Tuff? What were you working on? 

All of the five preceding years before Tuff, I was working as a Copywriter and then Creative Director at a creative-first advertising agency. So, with all the projects that came in the door, we applied our creative lens first and then we were thinking about how to activate that creative. 

All of my coworkers were really great creatives and really big thinkers. And, we would often defer to outside experts to bring our strategies down to earth. So, with Tuff, that was a muscle that I was looking to flex more.

Why did you decide to join Tuff? What was it that made you say ‘yes’?

I was fortunate to have a peek behind the curtain. When I was working at my old agency we had the opportunity to freelance, which is something that is needed in the creative world. I was able to take on clients and run my own small business after hours. And, I was approached by Tuff to help out with paid ad copy. 

I was really impressed by how Tuff is organized, efficient, and has a very clear vision for what creative is going to do. When I saw that there was a job opening for Growth Marketer at Tuff, I knew there were some skills that would need tuning in my toolkit. But Ellen was very encouraging and helped me understand that the creative foundation that I would bring was something that Tuff could use. 

So, the main reason I came on to Tuff was Ellen’s support helping me visualize a path towards being successful in this role. And then the resources that I was granted to kick this skill building off at lightspeed. I clearly saw this path to building a skill set that is valuable in the market and can really help small businesses.

What have you been working on since you joined Tuff? 

Right now I am working with two clients; kind of two and a half as I co-pilot a client with Ellen that will eventually transition into a full-time client of mine. 

One of the clients I’m working with is Joyn. They’re an amazing company with a great vision that’s providing a subscription for a more inclusive way to get a workout in. We’re seeing some neat growth for them which is cool because they’re doing a lot internally to grow as well. 

I’m also working with Offline. They’re also a subscription-based service in Raleigh. On the 1st of every month, Offline sends an email to their subscribers to introduce them to 1-2 local restaurants along with a discount to go check them out. It’s been great helping them to better understand the user journey on their website.

What are you fired up about at work right now? 

Content Marketing and Organic Growth is where a lot of my eagerness to dive deeper is stemming from right now. We’re having this conversation the day after our new Content Marketing Manager has signed his offer letter so I’m really looking forward to working with him on these areas. And, helping our clients understand how their audience finds their websites and how to provide a smart answer at the right time, in the right place. 

Elle Ossello

What advice would you give to a founder who is also diving into learning more about growth marketing?

Often when somebody is first starting their business they obsess about logo and visual branding because they are so tangible. It is a concrete way to show up in the world. But, I’m putting together a presentation right now for a client to first answer the questions: what are you creating and who wants it? How can you bring those people to your business? 

Brand and creative only goes so far because you’re kind of throwing it into the world and hoping people are going to find it and connect. Growth marketing is a different exercise in showing up where people already exist. You’re not asking them to move towards your brand but giving them something while they’re in a space to receive it. 

In general, for founders, I think growth marketing can feel like something that just comes later when there is a budget for it. But it can teach you so much about where people are in the world right now and when they’re in need of what you have to offer. 

What do you like doing outside of work? 

I love bikes. Bikes are a vehicle for not only being out in the world and moving through it in a way that’s just so gratifying but there’s a connection component. I love pedaling with friends and letting the topics flow. I use bikes as a way to connect to myself in the world and my people. I’m lucky to live in a town that has back trails snaking through it. 

I also love gardening and home projects, you know, essential 30-year old things. I like learning how to use new tools and how to have a vision for a space and bring it to life. Stretching my brain in ways that are really tactile is gratifying as a person who sits in front of a computer. Cooking also scratches that itch for me. I love experimenting with recipes and have been compiling the beginnings of a cookbook aimed at helping people create beautiful dishes using what they grow themselves – that’s a bucket list item for me. 

And, of course, my dogs and husband are my favorite parts of life outside of work!

What is something about you that typically surprises people? 

My impression of myself is that I’m a super open book. I love to walk through my thinking so there is rarely a scenario where somebody asks me ‘well, how did you come to that conclusion?’ and I would be protective of that answer. I am always eagerly willing to share it.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to make that transition from a more creative marketing to a more analytical role?

Something I could have done better in my time spent working in the creative world is really thinking about and empathizing with the immediate problems and motivations of a founder. A brand voice is a really nice thing to have and I’ve seen clients glow and get goosebumps when you get it right. It’s amazing. 

However, I think there’s a wrinkle between giving people great creative, and then understanding how to use it to grow their business. Turning that brand voice into value propositions, which can be picked off the paper and put onto a landing page, is something that’s really helpful. So, practice thinking about the immediate problems that founders are trying to solve and deliver creative in a way that can be put to work with minimal legwork.

What is a Growth Marketing Agency?

Tuff growth marketing agency.

Picture this: you’re a founder or startup. You have product-market fit, your revenue has been steadily climbing as referrals from happy customers or clients do their thing. But you have aggressive growth plans and just aren’t quite sure if you should start with Facebook ads, a strong blog game, or affiliate marketing. You’ve also seen those amazing success stories about TikTok and YouTube ads…but how do you know if it’s a safe bet for you?

Enter: a growth marketing agency.

What is a growth marketing agency?

A growth marketing agency helps organizations of all sizes create a marketing foundation with a strategic vision, a clear roadmap, and the ability to execute. Testing, optimizing, and testing again, we incrementally set and achieve tangible company growth goals, learning about what works and what we should ditch. And we do it all until you’re ready to hire in-house.

Simple. Sort of. The catch is that while most growth marketing agencies have partnered with dozens of companies and have experience in a wide variety of channels, there’s no such thing as a growth marketing blueprint. Meaning, even if LinkedIn has driven strong results for every B2B business we’ve ever partnered with, there’s absolutely no guarantee it’s going to work with the next one that walks through our proverbial doors.

At its core, a growth marketing agency comes with deep experience, hustle, and a scientific approach, but a healthy dose of “humble,” or a strong understanding that the first gut instinct might not work. What separates the great growth marketing agencies from the rest is the ego-less quick pivot and boundless energy and curiosity to find what works.

What is a growth marketing channel?

A growth marketing channel is essentially the way people hear about you for the first time. 

Zoom out far enough and it seems as though there’s a nearly infinite number of growth marketing channels. The quick-hitter core list: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Bing, and TikTok. By no means is this list exhaustive, or even close to it, but it comprises the go-to channels that most growth marketers will put at the center of their strategies (at least until testing proves otherwise). The most important and fundamental thing to understand about growth marketing channels: not all channels are created equal. 

What is growth marketing strategy?

A growth strategy is rigorous prioritization. It’s a high-level roadmap of all the channels and corresponding tactics you plan to execute to find the fastest, most efficient path to growth. 

It’s extremely important to note that a growth marketing strategy is by no means set in stone. Even if we know that TikTok has generated a low customer acquisition cost for many health and beauty industry clients we’ve worked with and read case studies about—so much so it’s at the top of our list—it’s never untouchable. A good growth strategy allows for evolution and changes over time. For example, if we were to begin to collect data, test a number of different audiences and tactics, and in the end, discover that our own TikTok campaigns are underperforming compared to the other two or three channels and tactics we’re trying, it’s axed. 

A growth strategy is critical for companies looking to grow quickly and efficiently. With a growth strategy, we have a plan in place for systematically getting to work every day on the things that have the highest impact on your revenue. 

Far too often founders or startups come to us already attempting to do too many things at once without truly attempting to understand their impact.

Building a growth strategy helps us be extremely intentional about how to invest limited time and resources. It ensures we stay laser-focused on only the opportunities with the highest likelihood of producing meaningful results.

What does a growth marketer do?

A growth marketer is at the helm of this ship. With guidance from the leadership team—often the founder themselves—the growth marketer creates a growth strategy that is actionable, goal-oriented, and laser focused on revenue.

Then, executing themselves, or rallying a team of experts, a growth marketer is responsible for ensuring that everyone is on the same page, moving in the same direction, and that channels or tactics that are underperforming get optimized, restructured, or tossed out. 

What does growth marketing mean to Tuff? 

Here at Tuff we’d never claim to have some mysterious or special back-pocket tricks or secret sauce. Our formula is simple: finding the right balance of quick wins and long-term growth. And we never take our eyes off revenue: that’s our guiding light. Even if a channel is driving colossal amounts of traffic, if it isn’t converting, it’s on the chopping block 

Arguably most importantly of all, we show our work. We walk our clients through every tactic we try and help them understand why we choose each channel. 

Every time we fire up a partnership with a new client, it’s always defined by:

  • Meeting consistently in small teams of two to four (always with a Growth Marketer in addition to one or more channel experts)
  • With weekly or bi-weekly team meetings
  • Following our growth framework
  • With consistent communication
  • Focused on shared goals
  • With rock solid execution

Think you might be in need of a growth marketing agency to level up your business and start showing the revenue you know you’re capable of? Let’s talk.