These days, it feels like there’s a new type of marketing that emerges every couple of months: growth, digital, brand, performance – the list is endless. Some people use many of these terms interchangeably. And while it’s true that there are similarities, all of these different fields of marketing are not the same.
That drives confusion – both among marketers themselves, who struggle to define exactly what they do, and those looking to work with marketing agencies – the founders, CEOs, and leaders of businesses. And as more and more marketing has shifted online, one of the biggest sources of confusion has been the difference between digital marketing and growth marketing.
What does a growth marketing agency do, and how is it different from a digital marketing agency? And why is it important to understand the distinction in the first place?
Tuff is a growth marketing agency, and we’re no stranger to questions like this. So today, we’re answering them. Let’s get started.
Digital marketing––marketing tactics that leverage internet-based platforms to deliver business growth.
Growth marketing––holistic marketing strategies built around driving sustainable business growth.
What is Digital Marketing?
Let’s explore this topic in a little more detail. As we outlined above, digital marketing essentially refers to any marketing tactic that’s executed on digital platforms. That definition covers a broad range of marketing tactics, including:
- Pay Per Click (PPC)
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social Media Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- And more
Because there are so many different subfields of digital marketing, the term “digital marketing” has essentially become an umbrella term that applies to any marketing tactic that uses digital platforms.
It’s important to note that digital marketing does not have a holistic framework that ties everything together. Savvy digital marketers will stitch together all of these different elements into a cohesive strategy, and create a digital marketing funnel that defines the role of different platforms at each stage of the customer journey.
What is Growth Marketing?
Growth marketing is the process of building an efficient, scalable marketing strategy that powers sustainable long-term growth for a business. This strategy will use all kinds of marketing tools (including many digital marketing tools) to deliver results.
Many people have a misconception of growth marketing as being some kind of hack or magic trick. Let us be the first to tell you – it ain’t that. There’s no secret sauce. Sure, there are proven growth frameworks and best practices, but the reality is that every business is different, and it’s just not feasible to copy and paste marketing strategies between different companies.
The growth marketing process begins with a research process that explores a company’s target audience, competitors, industry trends, and value drivers. Armed with these insights, growth marketers then build a strategy that leverages a variety of acquisition channels. These acquisition channels are then tested iteratively, with results rigorously measured through tracking and analytics.
Over time, the effects of growth marketing compound. You should double down on profitable, high-growth acquisition channels and eliminate strategies that don’t work. Along the way, you’ll constantly optimize everything from the conversion rate of your website to the strategies you use to retain customers.
Dive Deeper: Tuff’s Growth Marketing Guide
What is a Digital Marketing Agency?
Many companies choose to work with a digital marketing agency. These agencies handle the day-to-day running of your digital marketing campaigns and design the strategies that power them.
Many digital marketing agencies provide a full range of digital marketing services, whereas some are more specialized, and only focus on one or two verticals at a time. There are pros and cons to each of these approaches.
Full-service agencies ensure that your customers have a holistic experience across different marketing touchpoints, but may lack channel-specific expertise that can drive results. On the other hand, a specialized agency may well be true experts in one field of digital marketing but lack the vision to create holistic strategies that span multiple customer touchpoints.
Digital marketing agencies typically work on a retainer model, although some may also charge other fees, such as a percentage of revenue or ad spend. There’s usually a set contract length, and many agencies have minimum ad spend thresholds to ensure they only work with established businesses.
On a day-to-day basis, your point of contact at a digital marketing agency will most likely be an Account Manager. They’ll handle client relationships, reporting, and strategy, while the nitty-gritty of media buying or content writing is delegated to Paid Media Specialists or Content Writers.
Some agencies have teams that assist your brand in producing marketing creative, but for the most part, this is left to the brand. One other point to note: digital marketing agencies will only handle your digital marketing activities – they won’t help with offline marketing.
What is a Growth Marketing Agency?
At Tuff, we embrace a wide variety of digital marketing channels, but we do so in a holistic, balanced way that aims to deliver sustainable growth for the brands we work with. That means taking the time to establish which channels are the right match for your business, rather than immediately starting to spend thousands of dollars on individual verticals.
Growth marketing engagements typically kick off with a short research process. In this period, expect your growth marketers to dive headfirst into all your data and identify the areas which are most ripe for growth. They’ll look for opportunities to score quick wins but will also pinpoint which acquisition channels represent the best opportunity for growth.
At the conclusion of this initial research phase, a growth marketing agency will map out your entire funnel: the customer journey that covers everything from when a prospect first hears your business’s name to the point they convert into a paying customer. There’ll be a strategy to optimize every stage of this journey – from expanding your business to new target audiences or reimagining your landing pages to drive higher levels of conversion.
Growth marketing starts lean, with small investments into a variety of different channels to identify the verticals that work best for your business. The process of trial and error enables businesses to quickly separate the growth channels they should double down on from those they should kill, and prioritize investment accordingly.
Throughout this journey, there’ll be constant ideation, testing, iteration, and optimization to ensure that every channel is firing on all cylinders. At Tuff, we partner every client with a Growth Strategist – a dedicated marketer who runs strategy on the account and meets with you every week. They’re supported by a team of channel experts – specialists in a variety of different digital marketing verticals.
We work on a retainer basis, as do many other growth marketing agencies. Adopting a retainer-based pricing model gives us the freedom to allocate resources wherever they’re most effective for your growth. That means you avoid throwing away money on losing strategies and instead direct your marketing spend towards activities that are proven to deliver results.
Digital vs. Growth – Which One Is Best for Your Business?
If you already have a firm grasp on your growth strategy and simply want to refine your execution across different digital channels, then a digital marketing agency could be the best fit for your business. Digital agencies––particularly specialized agencies––provide tangible channel expertise that helps your business unlock additional growth on digital channels. Digital agencies are also a good fit for mature companies with in-house marketing capabilities and processes.
However, if you’re a startup or growth-stage company, then it’s likely that a growth marketing agency better addresses your needs. Growth agencies act as an extension of your in-house team, working hand-in-hand with your employees to conceptualize, design, and execute data-driven marketing strategies.
Besides, a great growth marketing agency can do everything that a digital marketing agency does. They’ll have deep expertise in a variety of digital marketing platforms, the ability to tie different channels together into a holistic approach, and the strategic vision to build long-term plans that help you achieve your business goals.
You might think of a digital marketing agency as a collection of musical instruments, with each digital marketing platform represented by a single instrument. Alone, each instrument sounds pretty good, and when three or four play together, they sound even better. But they don’t sound anywhere near as good as an entire orchestra playing in unison.
That’s a growth marketing agency. They act as the conductor that unites every element of your marketing strategy, with every individual component working in harmony to deliver results.
Think a growth marketing agency sounds like a good fit for your needs? Let’s talk – we’d love to explore how we can help.
Ellen is the founder at Tuff and one of the team’s core growth marketers. She is a versatile marketer with expertise in multiple channels – from ppc to seo to email to others – responsible for the experiments and testing. She is happiest when she’s on the ski hill or outside pointing her mountain bike downhill.