Tag Archive for: growth marketing

marketing team working on a split test

When Testing New Channels, Should You Go Higher or Lower In The Funnel?

marketing team working on a split test

Growth—as we’re ALL too well aware at Tuff – is an ever-changing landscape. New platforms and channels are constantly emerging, and each of them promises untapped growth potential. With so many options, it’s often difficult for growth marketing teams to decide where to best allocate their resources: proven channels, new channels, or both?

This question often sparks a larger conversation. How many channels do we test at once? Which do we test first? What percentage of our marketing budget should we allocate to testing new channels? 

All of these are fair and important questions, and in this article, I’m going to talk about how we think about channel experimentation and testing at Tuff. 

Users > Channels

When we think about which new channels to pursue, or defining the right channel mix each month for our partners, it’s often helpful to reframe the conversation. Users, not marketing channels, are at the forefront of our decision-making. 

Our growth teams will start with the target audience and ask: Who are they? What channels are they most receptive to? From there, once we’ve built out value props, it’s a lot easier to select and test different growth campaigns. The channels with the potential to have the greatest impact are often the ones your target customers use the most. 

We also aren’t afraid to challenge oour assumptions. You might think that TikTok––probably the biggest new channel in recent years––is only really suited to selling eCommerce products. And it is a great platform for that. But at Tuff, we’ve also seen real success with TikTok campaigns for B2B and Fintech brands

When you’re building your campaign testing strategy, think users first, but keep your options open: new channels often surprise you. 

Full Funnel, Customer-First Approach

In any growth marketing strategy, different channels have different roles. Some channels are great at driving brand awareness that creates future demand for your products and services. Others are best suited to delivering that final nudge that makes customers convert. Understanding the role each channel plays in a full-funnel marketing strategy is key.

When we map out which campaign strategies fit best in each stage of your customer funnel, we make sure you’re using the right metrics to assess the performance of different campaigns. 

A top-of-funnel awareness campaign might not have a super high conversion rate, but that doesn’t mean it’s not playing an important role in your overall channel mix. Instead of using conversion-focused metrics to judge performance on these campaigns, we will use metrics like Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM), Click Through Rate (CTR), brand lift on search, and more. Top-of-funnel campaigns introduce potential customers to your brand and influence purchase decisions, and we judge their performance based on how well they do that. 

At the bottom of the funnel, users have high levels of purchase intent and often just need a nudge from a conversion-focused campaign to convert. For these campaigns, we will assess performance based on metrics like Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), Conversion Rate (CVR), and last-click revenue. 

It can be tempting to focus all of your attention on improving conversion rates at the bottom of the funnel. Improvements here are the most noticeable: they directly contribute to your bottom line. But you have to create demand before you can capture it, and in order to grow, you need to reach beyond your existing audience and bring more traffic into the top of your funnel. 

Testing Strategy

Once we’ve decided which channels to test and determined the role they play at different stages of your marketing funnel, it’s time execute. Here are things we consider at Tuff when dialing in our campaign strategy: 

  • Budget: generally speaking, you should dedicate at least $5,000 – $10,000 in ad spend to testing out a new channel. Any less and it’s difficult to get concrete performance insights.
  • Bandwidth: launching new campaigns, regardless of the channel, takes a lot of work. Make sure your internal team or growth marketing agency has the bandwidth to spend time building and refining a detailed strategy for each channel––there’s no sense spreading your resources too thin and executing poorly.
  • Creative Assets: testing out entirely new channels often demands a range of specific creative assets. For some intent-based channels like Bing or Google where ads are text-based, you don’t need a big inventory of graphics and videos. But for channels like YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook, you definitely want a library of creative assets to test and optimize. 

In general, our testing strategies are typically geared toward producing quick learnings. Not every channel is a fit for every business. Our job as a growth marketer is to identify the channels that work for your business and then continuously test, iterate, and optimize that strategy. 

Tuff’s Approach to Testing New Channels

At Tuff, we’ve got the specialists to test just about any marketing channel you can think of: from Reddit to Spotify. 

When it comes to budget allocations, we like to invest 60-80% of your budget into improving established marketing channels that already work for your business, and 20-40% into testing new channels. 

As we test and learn, we cut what doesn’t work and scale what does. 

A person budget planning for digital ad spend

5 Channels to Diversify Your Digital Ad Spend

A person budget planning for digital ad spend

The great thing about the internet and how we consume content is that it’s constantly changing. This gives us growth marketers a perfect chance to test new channels and tactics regularly and make sure that we’re exploring new ways to use our digital ad spend. If you’re already running paid ads and are looking for ways to improve your channel diversification, you’ve come to the right place. 

It can be daunting to start fresh on a brand new platform, especially if you’ve had success on traditional digital channels such as Google and Meta (Facebook and Instagram). Different platforms and tactics are constantly emerging, and provide great options for your advertising efforts, depending on your goals, budget, and target audience. 

TikTok

At Tuff, we’ve been able to drive incredible results for our partners on TikTok.  While B2C opportunities on the platform are well known, we’ve also explored the ever-expanding B2B targeting options when applicable.

Since TikTok is a video platform, it provides a great space to break out the creative chops and showcase your brand in a native storytelling format. Plus, since the majority of videos on TikTok are relatively low-fi, it’s easy to create new assets to test on the reg. If you’re wanting to take some of your Facebook digital ad spend and put it to a new channel, Tik Tok is perfect for you. 

Plus, did you know that TikTok is the most popular website in the world as of 2021? If you’ve been putting off testing it for your advertising efforts – you should give it a spin.

 

Pros: Huge audience of daily users, lots of targeting options, fun way to engage users

Cons: Clunky ad manager, ad disapprovals

Perfect For: Businesses trying to generate demand via storytelling

 

Programmatic

Programmatic” has been a buzzword for a while and we’ve certainly been hearing more and more partners who are interested in testing it out as of late.

In essence, programmatic advertising allows advertisers to reach very specific audiences outside of Google and Facebook/Instagram.  Notable programmatic platforms include StackAdapt, The Trade Desk, and Criteo, though there are many others.

Ad types include standard display, video, CTV, audio, and native display, making it easy to repurpose assets used on other channels before investing into platform-specific creatives.  Using benchmark data from legacy platforms will help inform early optimizations and the overall effectiveness of the strategy. If you’re looking to tap into a platform that can massively scale your digital ad spend, programmatic may be just the thing for you. 

 

Pros: Variety of ad formats, lots of creative options, massive reach of users, effective targeting options.

Cons: Easy to get lost in the weeds, easy to overspend on ineffective placements and channels.

Perfect For: A business in scaleup mode trying to diversify from the “major” players. 

 

Nextdoor

Nextdoor advertising has become an attractive option for many advertisers, with 1-in–3 of US households being present on the platform.  Data indicates that these users make 90% of their purchases within 15 miles of their work or home, and predominantly from local businesses.  

When Tuff works with partners that have more of a local target audience, Nextdoor is one of the first non-traditional PPC tactics we explore. 

While Nextdoor is a great emerging channel for diversifying your digital ad spend, we do run the disclaimer that it likely won’t be a major part of your media budget. With limited placements and a growing userbase, it’s hard to spend a large amount of money on Nextdoor in any given month – although this could change in the near future as they continue to grow. 

Pros: Hyperlocal targeting, affordable CPMs, engaged local audiences

Cons: Smaller userbase, limited placements

Perfect For: Businesses with local presences

 

Pinterest

Pinterest can be a great option for advertisers, especially for ones that already possess a strong paid search strategy.  This is because the Pinterest platform allows you to use keyword targeting.  Since Pinterest is used as a search engine, this makes sense and can allow for incredibly targeted advertising.

The platform also has other traditional targeting methods that mirror Facebook, Instagram, and Google audience targeting, such as interest-based targeting.

Pinterest is a largely untapped platform, especially for ecommerce brands and service businesses. Since Pinterest users are planners, we recommend using their larger attribution windows (30 / 30 / 30) and using it as a mid-funnel tactic to increase consideration for your brand, and having it be a smaller part of your digital ad spend. 

An example of Pinterest ads

Pros: Visually appealing ad formats, very active userbase, lots of targeting options (intent + demographic)

Cons: Low last-click activity, longer attribution windows

Perfect For: Businesses trying to reach users in the consideration stage of the funnel

 

Spotify

Spotify should definitely be considered when attempting to diversify ad spend and reach new audiences.  As one of the largest podcast and music streaming services in the world, the reach is massive and the audio ad-format adds another method of communicating with your target audience.

However, the targeting on Spotify can seem somewhat limited when compared to other platforms. Though reduced targeting options may cause an advertiser to shy away from the platform, it is still worth testing as a top-of-funnel awareness play due to its tremendous reach. 

 

Pros: Good ad formats, affordable CPMs

Cons: Limited targeting options, secondary platform

Perfect For: Businesses trying to scale top of funnel reach

Things to Avoid While Diversifying Digital Ad Spend

While testing new channels and tactics for your digital ad spend, it’s important to remember that channel diversification can take many forms and isn’t a one-size fits all. It’s also not a panacea – testing a new channel and finding a strategy that works for you will take time. You shouldn’t expect to see immediate results on a new channel by copying the strategy you have on one of your primary channels – it will take testing, learning, and refining to find the right tactic for you.

Here are some common mistakes we see in digital ad spend diversification that you should try to mitigate: 

It takes time to optimize

Most tests and experiments on new channels don’t work in the sense that they are a completely new tactic, and take time to master. Don’t try to diversify ad spend and expect to get the same results you’re seeing on other channels in week, or even month one. 

Don’t forget to account for extra management

Adding new channels can increase the complexity of reporting, optimization, and overall management. Instead of checking Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Google Analytics, for example, now you’ve got to learn how to incorporate new channels’ data and reporting dashboards into your existing systems and processes. 

Don’t over-diversify

While diversification of spend and strategy is a great idea, over-diversification is a thing and can present issues of its own.  If spend is spread too thinly across multiple new channels or platforms (or even multiple campaigns or ad creatives in one platform), it will take longer to gather actionable data and will be much more difficult to gauge the effectiveness of.

Want to Diversify Your Digital Ad Spend?

Tuff has managed ads on just about every platform imaginable, with budgets from partners ranging from a few thousand dollars, to one million-plus a month. Whether you’re in scale-up mode and wanting to try some new tactics or channels, or you want to optimize your advertising efforts on your existing channels, we can help. Let’s talk!

tuff-growth-marketing-metrics

10 Growth Marketing Metrics Every Founder Needs To Know

tuff-increasing-conversion-rate-with-landing-pages

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new links and examples for you to use! 

When looking at your company’s growth, it’s helpful to look at it as a complex equation with a number of different variables mixed in. We like to call these different variables “Growth Metrics” and they’re the levers we look to pull as we plan scalable models of growth for our partners.

As a founder, owner, or marketer, you know your growth goals for the next few months right? And you have a game plan to get there?

To hit those goals and achieve real, sustainable growth, you need to not only understand how to get there but also how to find your audience and drive constant engagement in a way that positively impacts your bottom line. That’s a lot to focus on all at once, let alone measure. 

If you’re like most founders and teams, identifying the right metrics and figuring out how best to track them can be time-consuming tasks. And the urgency to show and get results can sometimes override your ability to set up the right measurement processes in the first place. 

There are multiple avenues to a good end result, but it’s key that you have at least a foundational understanding of what metrics matter most to your business so you can scale those results. That’s why in this post I’m going to give you the growth marketing metrics we like to track. 

What are growth metrics? 

Growth metrics are the different variables that can impact your company’s bottom line. They vary from industry to industry, but they often are looking at ad channel metrics, on-site metrics, and post-purchase metrics.

Like I mentioned, these are going to look a little different depending on your business and industry, but here are a few that are worth keeping a close eye on.

  • Site traffic volume
  • Site conversion rate
  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Lifetime value
  • Average order value

At Tuff, when we partner with a startup to implement growth marketing strategy and execution, we pick three core KPIs from the list below to focus on. From here, we’re able to narrow in on the right tactics, measure our success, internalize the numbers and decide what to do next. 

Ready to get data-driven? Let’s dive in. 

Acquisition

1. Search engines drive 93% of all website traffic

Long-term growth will be easier if you consider SEO from the start. It doesn’t have immediate results or the same short-term momentum as paid customer acquisition, but the payoff can be 3x greater down the line compared to other acquisition channels. In fact, we think SEO is one of the best early-stage investments a founder or startup can make. 

Why? People use search as their main gateway when considering a purchase, so if you set your organic foundation early, you’ll be able to actively work your way up the rankings to drive more non-branded search (and sales, purchases, and leads). At Tuff, organic search growth is one of our most important metrics as a team.

Google Search Console with data.

2. Better content can increase blog traffic by up to 2,000%

When it comes to content, remember that quality is better than straight-up quantity. If you truly understand your user and their unique challenges, you can create content that will provide real value. Quality content paired with smart SEO will help you get found by more prospective customers more often.

3. 50% of PPC visitors are more likely to purchase something than organic visitors

With SEO in place as your long-term investment, paid channels can complement your strategy and bring quick momentum. The right keywords for your business will have high commercial intent and because of that, those clicks will convert at a high rate. When it comes to PPC channels like Google, Bing, and YouTube, we rally around these five growth metrics: 

  • Search Volume 
  • Clicks 
  • CPC
  • Conversions 
  • CVR

4. 81% of marketers found that increased traffic occurred with as little as six hours per week invested in social media marketing

Social isn’t going to supercharge your growth overnight but it’s a key player in the growth strategy mix. Don’t over-invest here but don’t ignore it either. Expending even just a bit more effort could net you big results. 

When it comes to Social Advertising, we’ve been focused on running campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok. No matter which channel though there’s one common factor that underlies all of their answers: how we define goals. For social, we take a look at social campaigns inside Google Analytics and then hone in on individual ad set’s cost per session over time. We also look at conversion and cost per acquisition.

Engagement

5. The average ecommerce conversion rate is 2-3%

This means that for every 100 users that land on your website, 2-3 of them will actually buy something on average. As a growth agency with a number of clients in ecommerce, we’re always looking for ways to help boost the bottom line. Optimizing conversion rates can make a huge impact on revenue-generating actions on your site, and moving that percentage up one or two points can lower your customer acquisition cost and add up to thousands of dollars in additional revenue growth.

6. Video content gets shared twice as much as any other type of content

Organic distribution is always preferred over paid because, well, it’s free. Video content is highly digestible and you don’t need to break the bank to make it! Looking at the popularity of Tik Tok and Instagram reels goes to show that UGC style videos can make a huge splash on social media. We’ve even got an entire blog post on how to create your own high-impact creative with just an iPhone. Here are some of our favorite types of video content you can create on a budget:

  • Unboxing videos
  • Customer reviews
  • “How it’s made” behind-the-scenes videos
  • Message from the founder

7. The average yield for email marketing is $44.25 on the dollar

Email provides extraordinary ROI in almost every industry. It takes resources to build your list and craft compelling emails, but people still prefer to get their information this way, and that quality traffic will translate into more sales for your business. How quickly is your list growing and how do they convert?

Retention 

8. Companies that excel at customer experience grow revenues four to eight percent above the market

If you want to grow, you can’t do it alone. You’ll need loyal enthusiasts. If you can provide the kind of experience that keeps customers not only coming back but gladly telling everyone about you, your revenue will naturally grow. How long does a customer stay with your company? What’s your LTV? How can you make it better?

9. Loyal customers are five times as likely to repurchase, five times as likely to forgive, four times as likely to refer, and seven times as likely to try a new offering

Creating a fanbase of loyal customers means you’ll have a consistent business, constant new leads, the freedom to try new things, and the ability to make mistakes. Successful growth is inextricable from customer experience. 

10. 80% of your future profits will come from just 20% of your existing customers

You can cast a wide net when marketing your business, but remember that a core of regular customers will make up the base of your revenue. It’s the responsibility of everyone at the company to complement acquisition with retention strategies

In fact, Bain & Company found that “a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%”.

These ten quick growth metrics are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the growth marketing game. If you want to know the ultimate secret to skyrocket overnight growth, we’ll tell you: 

It doesn’t exist. 

That statement might feel a bit controversial coming from a growth marketing team, but we’re tired of people repeating the idea that you can flip a switch and acquire thousands of new customers overnight. Scaling your business is hard, and growth marketing is not a hat trick

Rather, growth marketing is a path to creating intentional and sustainable expansion. It’s balancing high-risk/high-return campaigns with low-risk/low-return campaigns to find the perfect formula for your company.

Growth marketing isn’t just about quickly increasing your numbers, either. It’s investing your money intelligently to create valuable, relevant campaigns that your ideal buyer both wants and needs with the expectation that this will, over time, impact your bottom line. It’s a continual process of learning and self-improvement. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so why should your growth marketing strategy be? Trying to do everything at once will likely result in mediocrity across the board.

It can be hard to define and prioritize goals, but that’s the real benefit of working with a  growth marketing team. They’ll help you not only understand what to do but why you’re doing it. 

They’ll first help you gather and analyze key data for your business. From there, you’ll work together to create hypotheses to identify why certain processes are happening.

Next, they’ll help you prioritize the ideas that have the most potential to spur growth. In implementing those ideas, you’ll be running experiments to confirm or disprove the earlier hypotheses. This cycle repeats until you have a refined and definitive growth marketing strategy that speaks to your company’s unique needs.

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.

startup team working on growth marketing tactics

Digital Marketing vs. Growth Marketing – What’s the Difference?

startup team working on growth marketing tactics

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. 

The TL;DR

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. 

building a growth marketing strategy for a business on a computer

Every Growth Marketing Framework and Formula Ever

building a growth marketing strategy for a business on a computer

Building a reliable, scalable growth marketing engine is central to the long-term success of any business. Done right, growth marketing drives sustainable, profitable growth, with a battle-tested framework that delivers a tangible return on investment by constantly optimizing every element of the marketing strategy.

And while you might primarily associate growth marketing with the tech industry, its principles can actually be applied to literally any field, and help companies of all shapes and sizes to prosper. Accordingly, the popularity of growth marketing has increased rapidly in recent years, and more and more businesses are abandoning more conventional marketing activities and reallocating resources towards a growth marketing approach. 

Successfully embracing growth marketing means mastering new tools, frameworks, and formulas, many of which are radically different to traditional marketing strategies. There are many processes, frameworks, and formulas that outline the various elements of growth marketing. But sorting the good from the bad can represent a challenge – especially if you’re new to the field. 

All good growth marketing frameworks and formulas have one thing in common: they bring clarity to your business. Great growth marketing doesn’t have to be complicated, or rely on a million different moving parts. Instead, a great growth marketing strategy clearly defines the most important things you need to focus on to deliver results. 

As a growth marketing agency, Tuff’s approach to growth is constantly evolving. We embrace a growth mindset, and adopt the latest tools, processes, and perspectives as they emerge, incorporating them into our work to help us get that little bit better every day. 

Every growth marketer should do the same. This field moves fast, but there’s some principles that have stood the test of time, and have established themselves as cornerstones of our industry. Let’s explore ten of the top growth marketing frameworks and formulas out there today:

#1 Forbes: Growth Marketing: A Five Step Framework

This framework, from Phillip Alexeev, Head of Growth at Sketchfab and a member of the Forbes New York Business Council, can be applied to any business, and helps marketers think through their growth strategy in five key stages:

  1. Identify a ‘North-star’ metric
  2. Achieve product/market fit
  3. Apply data and analytics
  4. Understand user journeys and funnels
  5. Analyze paid and organic traffic

We like this model because of its simplicity and accessibility. The five steps are progressive, and clearly outline the steps that businesses should take before diving into the deep end of growth marketing. All too often, we see businesses without product/market fit pursue growth marketing. But the fact is that it’s almost always extremely challenging to achieve sustainable growth with a product that doesn’t truly meet the needs of your market. Focus on nailing your product/market fit, and then scale your business with growth marketing. 

#2 In The Know: A Three Step Framework

In The Know is a great resource for growth marketers, with regular podcasts and articles from some of the world’s top growth practitioners. Their three step growth marketing framework is based on years of research and experience successfully scaling businesses. It’s designed for businesses that have already achieved product/market fit. 

The framework goes into great depth, and is built around the concept of ‘storyvesting’ – true, meaningful alignment between businesses and their customers. Businesses reach this status by deeply understanding their customers, closely aligning their product with their customers needs, and recruiting employees who truly believe in the alignment between customer and product. In some ways, it’s a step beyond achieving product/market fit.

Once a business reaches this point, they should focus on the three P’s that make up much of growth marketing: people, processes, and platforms. To be successful, businesses need skilled people, systematic, documented processes that are frequently updated, and a range of platforms, or marketing tools, that enable them to successfully conduct growth marketing. Apply these principles throughout your marketing funnel, and your business will be well positioned to create enduring customer relationships and sustained growth. 

#3 Neil Patel’s Seven Step Growth Hacking Framework 

If you search for growth marketing on Google, a lot of what you’ll find will be tips, tricks, and tactics that promise to help your business scale. But growth marketing demands much more rigor than that – applying a series of ‘growth hacks’ won’t deliver the sustained growth businesses desire. Instead, growth marketing is driven by clear processes, with a repeatable formula that enables you to quickly test out new ideas. 

Neil Patel’s growth hacking framework starts with this idea at its very foundation, and expands into seven steps that, when followed, help businesses to create growth marketing playbooks that can be applied to all kinds of use cases. 

Check it out here: How to Create a Growth Hacking Framework

#4 Demand Curve: A Methodical Process

This framework, from the team over at DemandCurve, explores the five key phases of a growth funnel. Like other models, before you can successfully apply these principles to your business, you need to have a product that people actually want. Without this product/market fit, the funnel quickly collapses, and your growth strategy will never truly get off the ground. 

Here’s the five stages of the growth funnel:

  1. Acquisition: the channels that bring customers to your business
  2. Activation: getting customers to start using your product
  3. Revenue: getting customers to pay for your product
  4. Retention: ensure customers continue using your product in perpetuity
  5. Referral: evangelizing customers and encouraging them to refer others

You might see this model, or a variation of it, referred to as the AARRR model – it’s one of the fundamental ways of thinking through the various stages of a growth funnel, and appears in several frameworks. If you apply it to your business, ensure that there are tangible metrics that can be reviewed at each stage, and use them to continually iterate and optimize every element of your growth funnel. 

#5 CrowdTamers: A Seven Step Process

Growth marketing is all about continuous experimentation and ideation. But without a framework to effectively measure every new acquisition channel or retention initiative, it’s all too easy for a growth marketing strategy to get off track. 

This framework from CrowdTamers provides growth marketers with seven repeatable steps that can be used to systematically test every element of a growth marketing strategy. It starts by helping marketers understand how to define and measure their marketing funnels, and then outlines how growth teams should conceptualize, prioritize, test, and evaluate their ideas. 

We’re fans of this framework because it helps marketers easily identify the metrics they should focus on. As an extension of that, the framework also makes it easier to understand the actions that will have a direct impact on moving the needle on these metrics, closely tying actions to results.

#6 Lean Labs: The 6 Levers of Growth

Effective growth marketers know which levers to pull to deliver growth. In many ways, growth marketing is like operating a complex piece of machinery, and it’s important that marketers understand the relationships between the various levers that drive growth. 

Lean Labs, a team of growth marketers, highlight six key levers of growth in their framework, which they call the AAARRR growth marketing framework. It’s similar to Demand Curve’s framework, and is sometimes referred to as the pirate funnel (Aaarrr… get it?). Here’s what each letter stands for:

  1. Awareness
  2. Acquisition
  3. Activation
  4. Revenue
  5. Retention
  6. Referral

In a traditional business, the three A’s of the framework are handled by marketing, and the three R’s are managed by sales. But in the view of the team at Lean Labs, it’s important that businesses take a more joined up approach to ensure each lever, and the relationship between them, is fully optimized. We agree. 

#7 Growthmentor: From Framework to Experimentation in 90 Days

This growth marketing formula, from Christopher Schachner at Growthmentor, walks businesses through the first 90 days of building a growth strategy from scratch. It incorporates many lessons from elsewhere, including the AAARRR framework, and emphasizes the importance of aligning on North-star metrics. 

To successfully get the ball rolling on a growth marketing strategy, businesses should follow the following steps:

  1. Day 0 – 7: Setting the stage
  2. Day 8 – 15: Identifying and building frameworks
  3. Day 16 – 30: Analyzing potential growth channels
  4. Day 31 – 38: Building processes to rigorously experiment
  5. Day 39 – 53: Running various experiments
  6. Day 54 – 90: Optimizing strategies based on initial learnings

#8 Mbudo: Three Step Growth Marketing Framework

Mbudo is an inbound marketing agency that helps to scale B2B tech companies in Europe. Their growth marketing framework keeps things simple, outlining the three most important steps businesses should bear in mind as they implement a growth marketing framework:

  1. Identify and track key metrics
  2. Understand and strengths and weaknesses 
  3. Secure buy in and alignment from the entire organization

> Learn more about Mbudo’s three step growth marketing framework

#9 The Ladder Growth Blueprint: An Interactive Strategy Framework

This blueprint, from growth marketing strategists Ladder, is designed to act as a map of a businesses marketing funnel and growth strategies. 

If you’re new to growth marketing, it can be all too easy to dive into testing all kinds of channels and strategies without having a solid understanding of the relationship between them; nevermind the impact they have on your overall growth marketing funnel. With so many channels out there, this is a great way to burn through your budget fast, with little to show for it.

Ladder’s interactive growth framework seeks to address that. It provides marketers with formulas to measure the effectiveness of their entire funnel, identifies areas of concern, and gives marketers the metrics they need to make better decisions. We recommend that marketers use the blueprint as a living document, and focus on the output and process – it’ll help you identify which levers to pull to increase growth. 

#10 New Breed: Five Steps for Running an Experiment

Running experiments is a central component of any growth marketing strategy. After all, growth marketing is driven by data, and it’s impossible to get high-quality data without constant ideation, testing, and analysis. 

This framework from the team at New Breed offers a series of guidelines that specify how growth marketers can run effective experiments across every stage of the AAARRR growth marketing cycle. Here’s a brief overview of each step:

  1. Identify metrics that need improvement
  2. Design an experiment around this focus area
  3. Run the experiment, making sure you achieve statistical significance
  4. Analyze the results
  5. Start the next experiment

Key Takeaways from Our Top Ten Growth Marketing Frameworks

There you have it: ten frameworks from some of the world’s best growth marketers. Some frameworks have as few as three steps, while some have as many as seven. Each approach is called something different: a framework, a formula, a system, a process, and so on.

But by now, you’ve probably realized that there’s a lot of overlap between these frameworks. That’s not surprising: they’re all based on similar principles, and they’ve all been tested and refined to ensure they work. 

We get it – you’re not going to apply ten different frameworks to your growth marketing strategy. That would add more confusion than clarity. Instead, identify the core elements they all share, and take inspiration from the best pieces for each framework. Here are our key takeaways from these growth marketing frameworks:

Product/Market Fit is a Prerequisite to Success

Unless your business has product/market fit, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful. If your product doesn’t satisfy the needs of your customers, no growth marketing strategy will save it. When you’ve got product/market fit, you’ll know it – if you don’t, keep working on your product. 

Identify Your North-Star Metrics

Remember, growth marketing is driven by data. And as the old adage goes, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Identify the metrics that are the clearest indicators of the success of your growth marketing strategy. What those are will be dictated by the nature of your business, but it’s crucial you closely monitor them and gear every element of your framework towards improving them. 

Master The AAARRR Funnel

Virtually all of these frameworks, whether they called it the AAARRR funnel or not, are premised on the importance of optimizing every element of the marketing funnel. Getting familiar with the various levers you can pull at the Awareness, Acquisition, Activation, Revenue, Retention, and Referral stages of this funnel are key to creating a winning strategy. 

Commit to Constant Experimentation

Growth marketing moves fast, and new technologies, processes, and best practices are constantly emerging. The ability to rapidly generate new ideas, rigorously test them out, and act quickly on the results is central to the continuous improvement of your growth marketing strategy. 

Tuff Growth: Your Trusted Growth Marketing Partner

These processes are all well-documented and proven to scale across a variety of industries. But real growth isn’t driven solely by frameworks and formulas: it’s driven by the right team. 

At Tuff Growth, we’ve got a deep bench of talent, from experienced growth marketers that build and manage bespoke growth strategies, to channel experts that get down in the weeds and own the details on every single platform.

Want to learn more about growth marketing? Check out our 50 page growth marketing guide. It’s an open scrapbook that walks you through our approach to growth, and shares the step-by-step process we’ve successfully applied to scale more than 50 companies across a wide variety of industries. 

> Get Tuff’s Growth Marketing Guide now

How Much Will Growth Marketing Costs Be For My Startup?

Gearing up for a raise takes serious time and effort. Between conversations with investors, validating your idea, finding PMF, refining your pitch deck, and reviewing term sheets, it’s a tricky balancing act of prioritization. 

And at the same time, while you work to secure funding—whether that’s pre-seed or Series A—you also need a plan to allocate the investment once you have it. Count “growth” among your key expenses.This encompasses both a growth model as well as a team that can help you prioritize high-impact campaigns to quickly drive key learnings, then invest in additional campaigns to scale up what works. This will help you to demonstrate that you can hit very specific, value-creating milestones and regale investors with drool-worthy potential.

Enter: Tuff! We’re a growth marketing agency that partners with startups and scales ups. And we often get this question: 

“I’m looking for initial talks and ballpark estimate of pricing so that I can take that information to potential investors I am working with to raise money.” 

Here’s an example of a founder who asked this exact thing in our contact form last week: 

question about growth marketing costs

If you find yourself asking this question, too (whether you’ve recently secured funding or are at the beginning of the journey) here’s how we think about it at Tuff. 

First, Reframe The Question

Another version of the question above is this: How can I allocate investors’ money wisely to increase startup performance? How much should go to growth marketing to help us find traction and scale? 

With limited funds, you have to think strategically about what success looks like, what you are trying to learn, and how you’re going to make it to the next milestone. While revenue is often the most important long-term goal, right now, the biggest priority is to turn guesses into facts by gaining knowledge, data, and experience. 

But you can’t test on every channel and you can’t afford to waste money on tactics that are sub-optimal. So, what do you do? 

First, you want to identify a milestone. Milestones are different from your company’s general goals in that they are specific, measurable, and tangible. They are well-defined steps in a company’s growth journey. These are things like a new feature launched, acquisition metrics hit, a new important hire, or reaching first revenues. 

Once you have your initial set of critical milestones, you want to create a growth model for your business. A solid model will also help you identify priorities to feed into your growth machine. From traffic to qualified leads to paying customers, you’ll be able to measure and optimize the full funnel to increase conversion rates and uncover pressure points that need extra attention. 

This will help you spend your time on things that will have an actual impact on your growth. At the very least, it’ll help you eliminate things that don’t. 

Then, Test Ideas Quickly (Learn) 

When it comes to growth marketing, there are hundreds of different tactics, channels, and campaign ideas that you can test out. Additionally, there are a ton of different frameworks out there that seek to help you identify the right user acquisition channel to pursue, but ultimately this all comes down to knowing your industry and target market.

Instead of spending months and tens of thousands of dollars building a product you are not sure people need and will pay for though, it’s much more effective to build a growth model that enables you to learn where people go to find products like yours, how much they’re willing to pay for it, and, ultimately, whether or not they’ll pay enough (often enough) to keep you in business. 

Here are three specific examples of ways we’ll tackle these questions: 

  • Create a landing page and drive paid traffic to it for two weeks. While you do this, set up Google Analytics to track onsite behavior, as well as hold interviews with at least 10 potential users. Identify what is resonating (and what’s not) and move forward. 
  • Test value props on Facebook with a $1,000 budget. Using Tuff’s value prop spreadsheet (#11), identify 2-3 distinct value props. Then, set up a campaign in Ads Manager to test these against each other. What ad copy has the best CTR and onsite performance? Learn from this and weave it into your messaging for landing page creation, website optimization, email copy, and more. 
  • Set up Google Search campaigns for non-branded traffic. With Google Ads, identify 10-15 high-intent keywords that you know your audience is searching for. Start with Google Search and run your campaigns for two weeks. Unlike Facebook or Landing Page development, these clicks are high-intent, meaning they are in the process of looking for a solution. If you have your value props, pricing, and offer right, this traffic should be highly engaged and willing to convert. 

And Then, Invest in the Right Team & Growth Tactics 

Once you have your milestone on paper, have experimented and tested a few initial growth ideas, and begun generating a small amount of traction, you’ll be in the perfect position to think about resourcing. Now, do you bring in a team, hire in-house, or continue to do it yourself? Or a combo of all three? 

The Case for a Team / Agency 

When you hire a growth marketing agency the major, overarching benefit is that it typically comes stacked with a full team that can get a holistic view of your business. This team will collaborate with you to identify the best course of action and delegate execution tasks to true channel experts. With an agency, you can often reallocate resources as you learn and move more quickly because the team has a long history of experience.

An agency is going to cost you anywhere from $7,500 – $20,000 at this stage depending on the pricing model. Here’s how we think about pricing at Tuff

The Case for an In-House Hire 

Finding a full-time hire is a great option for many companies. But they come with their own set of pros and cons when compared to a plug-in growth marketing team. The major benefit is the expertise and time they bring to the team. Pulling a full-time, smart marketing hustler that can squeeze the most out of a small budget and stay in lockstep with everything else you have going on can be a huge asset. The biggest downsides and risks are finding the right fit, investing the high cost and hoping that they can remain your go-to even if it becomes time to test tactics that fall outside of their wheelhouse. Ultimately, an in-house hire is right if you’re already confident in the channels that work for you and just need someone to help you refine and grow those 1-2 channels.

The Case for DIY 

A third option is to continue experimenting with growth tactics on your own, as your company’s Head of Growth. We strongly recommend that Founders and CEOs play an active role in growth marketing in the early stages of the company to get a real understanding of the growth process and how to think about experimentation. The downside here is of course time. It’s not likely that you’re an expert at each channel and that you’ll have time to research the right strategy and then execute. What might take you 5 weeks to execute could take a team or in-house hire just 1. 

Most common growth marketing expenses

It’s important to understand the different types of costs you’ll incur as you think about growth marketing. Here’s a shortlist of costs you’ll likely have as a startup when it comes to growth marketing:

  • Ad Spend: $3,000 – $5,000 per channel 
  • Content Production: $0.35 per word at 4,000 words per month 
  • Design: $1,500/month  
    • Ad Creative 
    • Email 
    • Landing Page Design 
  • Website CRO: $1,500/month
    • Developer Costs 
  • Marketing Tech Stack: $250/month 

If you work with an agency, a lot of these costs will be included already in the retainer depending on their services so you’re really just thinking about agency cost + ad spend. For example, if you work with Tuff and are in our Lean Package, we’ll cover design, website CRO, and Content under our retainer if we’ve scoped those services. You’ll pay our $10,000/month management fee + ad spend per channel. We have clients spending as little as $5,000 a month and as high as $1M a month. 

If you work with an in-house hire, the same logic applies but changes based on that in-house hire’s skillset. If they are really great at development and you’re using a friendly CMS, you won’t have to outsource that cost. Or if they are a great writer and can manage content production, you won’t have to outsource that cost. Instead of an agency retainer, you’ll pay a salary or contract hours, plus ad spend and any execution they need to outsource. 

Last but not least, if you continue to DIY, you’ll likely need to outsource some, if not all of the execution. You save on a retainer or salary but lose on-time costs because you’ll be the one managing and running the strategy. For this, if you outsource design, content, and website development then you are looking at around $5,000 a month + ad spend. 

Consider all your options before hiring an agency 

The more we have these conversations, the more the internal team at Tuff comes back together to really try to get to the root of the question: “if you’re an early-stage startup, should you hire a growth marketing agency?” There are pros and cons to resourcing your team and we break down considerations in this blog post here.

Best Growth Marketing Tips from 10 Experts

person building email drip campaigns on computer

If you’re just starting to make your way in growth marketing, it can be difficult to know where to begin. There are so many blogs, books, cohort-based courses, and thought leaders, and it seems like everyone has their own unique take on growth. 

But while strategies and tactics continue to evolve, the fundamentals remain consistent, and some advice remains evergreen.

In this post, we’re sharing ten tips from some of the top growth marketing minds in the world. We’ve included advice from leaders from all kinds of industries, from SaaS to DTC, so no matter what you’re working on, we bet you’ll find something that’s directly applicable. 

Each of these growth marketers brings a different perspective. But one thing they all have in common? A proven track record of delivering huge growth, at scale. 

As you read these quotes, think about the lessons you can apply to your business, interrogate your current strategies, and reflect on what you might change going forward. 

We’re excited to see where you go.

#1 Cynthia Kleinbaum Milner on Customer Experience

A seasoned marketing leader with experience leading teams at Bonobos and Gilt Groupe, Cynthia Kleinbaum Milner is now at Walmart, and leads marketing for Walmart+, Mobile, and Online Pickup & Delivery.

Heading up growth initiatives at the world’s largest retailer might seem complicated, but for Cynthia, it’s all about keeping the customer experience simple

“Simplifying the customer experience enables higher conversion rates and better retention. It allows companies to use resources more effectively—if you’re always working towards a small number of goals, and everyone is aligned on what success looks like, it’s easier to optimize your human and financial resources, enabling synergies”

#2 Gabriel Weinberg on Finding Scalable, Effective Growth Tactics

Gabriel Weinberg is the CEO & Founder of DuckDuckGo, a search engine that puts user privacy front and center. He’s also the co-author of two best-selling books: Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth and Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models.

As a founder taking on the behemoth that is Google Search, Gabriel’s focus is on constantly iterating to find highly scalable growth tactics. Here’s an excerpt from Traction, where he shares his thoughts on how startups should configure their growth marketing stack:

“The faster you run high quality experiments, the more likely you’ll find scalable, effective growth tactics. Determining the success of a customer acquisition idea is dependent on an effective tracking and reporting system, so don’t start testing until your tracking/reporting system has been implemented.” 

#3 Lucy Heskins on Customer-Led Growth

Specializing in early-stage growth marketing, Lucy Heskins shares highly actionable startup marketing ideas on her blog Oh, Blimey, and also heads up growth at Big Lemon.  

In a recent interview with TechCrunch, Lucy shared the concept of customer-led growth, a strategy startups can use to optimize every aspect of their customer journey, improving experiences and driving significant growth: 

“Look at the entire customer journey, from the struggle stage right through to when they’re a customer, and break each section down to where there’s an opportunity for growth. It’s really helpful for startups—especially post-COVID because chances are, your customers’ needs have changed.”

#4 Eric Ries on Vanity Metrics v. Actionable Metrics

Eric Ries is the best-selling author of The Lean Startup, a book widely regarded as an essential manual for founders and growth marketers. Drawing on his background as a successful founder and investor, Ries proposes a framework that focuses on rapid testing and iteration to reach product-market fit as fast as possible.

In this guest post on Tim Ferris’ blog, Ries discusses the importance of focusing on actionable metrics over vanity metrics:

“The only metrics that entrepreneurs should invest energy in collecting are those that help them make decisions. Unfortunately, the majority of data available in off-the-shelf analytics packages are what I call Vanity Metrics. They might make you feel good, but they don’t offer clear guidance for what to do.” 

#5 Joanna Wiebe on Effective Copywriting

Effective copywriting is central to every growth marketing strategy – regardless of what your business sells. As the cofounder of Copyhackers, Joanna Wiebe is regarded as the original conversion copywriter. 

These days, she helps digital marketers and entrepreneurs sharpen their copywriting skills through a series of online courses. Here’s one of her most fundamental tips about copywriting for growth:

“Here’s the only thing you’re selling, no matter what business you’re in and what you ship: you’re selling your prospects a better version of themselves.” 

#6 Ryan Holiday on Growth Loops

Ryan Holiday’s book, Growth Hacker Marketing, explores the mindset of growth hackers, teaching readers the core principles of growth hacking in an accessible, concise manner. 

Though the book was published back in 2013, the lessons still hold up today, including this tip about the compounding effects of growth marketing:

“Growth hacking is about scalability––ideally, you want your marketing efforts to bring in users, which then bring in more users.” 

#7 Laura Fitton on Value Proposition

For any business to be successful, it has to solve a clear customer problem. Laura Fitton knows that better than most. 

After pioneering the use of Twitter as a growth marketing channel, she spent eight years at Hubspot teaching companies how to leverage inbound marketing. These days, she’s working on a new startup that’s putting market forces to work solving climate change. 

Here’s her advice on defining your company’s value proposition:

“Focus on the core problem your business solves and put out lots of content and enthusiasm and ideas about how to solve that problem.”

#8 Brian Balfour on Building a Growth Machine

The ultimate goal of growth marketing is to build a scalable growth machine, but that’s far from easy, as Brian Balfour, former VP of Growth at Hubspot, will attest. 

On his blog, he shares thoughtful essays on user acquisition and growth strategies, which include this nugget of advice on building a scalable growth strategy:

“The reality of growth is that there is never a silver bullet.  This doesn’t mean you won’t have experiments that produce outlier results. You absolutely will.  Most outliers result from combined learnings of a bunch of previous experiments.  They come from knowing your channel, product, and customer better than anyone else on the market and taking informed risks based on those learnings.”

#9 Kristin Luck on Building Brand Awareness

Kristin Luck is the Founder and Managing Partner of ScaleHouse, a management consulting firm that helps startups scale. She’s founded and sold several successful companies, has helped launch dozens of brands, and regularly writes in publications like Forbes and The Journal of Brand Strategy. 

Here’s her advice on how businesses can grow brand awareness:

“A brand launch or awareness push should be a coordinated multichannel strategy. Ensure you’re building a strategy that incorporates every potential client touchpoint, from your website to social media, to utilizing press and media outlets.”

#10 Julian Shapiro on Content Marketing

Julian Shapiro is the founder of DemandCurve, a full-service growth marketing agency that also provides training programs to marketing teams around the world. He writes about growth marketing extensively on his blog, Twitter profile, and in TechCrunch

His handbook on Growing a Startup is a must-read for founders and growth marketers, covering every phase of growth marketing in great detail. Here’s an excerpt explaining his thoughts on content marketing: 

“Content marketing applies to every business. There’s no reason not to test it. But content marketing is no longer a factory farm approach. There are no reliable SEO shortcuts. Content has to be extremely high quality and must satisfy the searcher’s intent. And it has to be optimized for conversion.

Embracing a Growth Mindset

There’s plenty of growth marketing thought leaders out there, and new ones are emerging all the time. The growth marketing community is active on Twitter, and there’s a lot of podcasts and additional growth marketing blogs where you can dive deeper on all kinds of growth topics. 

Consume this content with an open mind, but make sure to question how the strategies and tactics that are discussed apply to your business. 

Did we miss any of your favorite growth marketers out here? Drop the team a message and let us know!

Best Growth Marketing Blogs to Read in 2021

Teams in nearly every industry, from individual founders who are self-funded, to large established players with multi-million dollar ad budgets have begun to invest in growth marketing to attract and retain new customers. But what exactly is growth marketing?

Companies that adopt growth marketing embrace a wide variety of marketing strategies and verticals, continuously experimenting and iterating to determine how to best optimize their growth efforts, seeking to achieve the perfect formula that sends traction and scale into overdrive. 

Growth marketing is a very fluid field, and new best practices, software platforms, and marketing strategies are constantly emerging. For growth marketers to stay up-to-date and continue to keep driving their companies forward, it’s important to embrace a growth mindset focused on constant learning. 

One of the best ways to learn? By paying close attention to the very best growth marketers out there. The easiest way to do that is to read the writing of the most innovative growth marketers out there today. But knowing who to trust can be an issue – how can marketers separate the signal from the noise? 

This list provides eighteen of the very best growth marketing blogs out there in 2021 and beyond. Each of the marketers and organizations on this list have a proven track record of driving huge successes for their brands and clients, and openly share their best practices with the rest of the industry. 

Ready to explore what they’re currently excited about? Let’s dive in!

#1 Deviate Labs

Deviate Labs is a growth marketing agency that applies growth hacking techniques to help brands scale. They work with companies of all shapes and sizes, from billion dollar brands like Dollar Shave Club to small local service businesses. 

The founders of Deviate Labs, Raymond Fong and Chad Riddersen, quite literally wrote the book on growth marketing, codifying the growth tactics employed by leading Silicon Valley tech companies into a simple framework any business can apply. 

Read Deviate Labs’ top posts:

#2 Relevance with Misty Larkins 

As the president of Relevance, Misty and her team consistently publish high-value resources to feed growth marketers with email, PR, off-page SEO, and content strategies.

Working with over 300 expert writers, academics, executives and practitioners, Relevance builds thought leadership with the most advanced strategies and tactics for navigating the complex growth marketing landscape. 

Read Relevance’s top posts:

#3 Tuff Growth Blog

Here at Tuff, we take a transparent approach to growth marketing. In our blog, you’ll find breakdowns on a variety of topics, from SEO to TikTok. Each post is written by one of our channel experts. You’ll be getting the best growth marketing practices straight from the minds of dedicated pros who spend all day working on the channel they’re writing about.

Here’s a couple of our most-read articles:

#4 Lenny Rachitsky

Every week, Lenny Rachitsky writes a newsletter packed with valuable, actionable advice for entrepreneurs. Backed by years as a founder and his experience leading growth at Airbnb, Lenny’s areas of expertise include product strategy, growth marketing, and people management. 

You can read his monthly newsletter for free, or join 80,000 other paid subscribers for weekly updates. 

Lenny’s top growth marketing articles:

#5 Brian Balfour

Having led growth at Hubspot and successfully scaled user bases to millions of daily users at venture-backed startups, Brian Balfour is now the Founder and CEO of Reforge (more on them in a minute). 

On his blog, Brian pens essays that explore growth and user acquisition strategies in great detail. He’s also taught Growth at Harvard Business School. 

Here’s a couple of Brian’s most popular essays:

#6 Reforge

Let’s stick with Brian Balfour for a second. He’s now the CEO of Reforge, which provides high-calibre training programs for growth marketers looking to take their career to the next level. 

The company’s blog is packed with articles and insights on growth strategy from leading executives at companies like Slack and Tinder. 

Check out Reforge’s best reads on growth strategy:

#7 The Appcues Blog

Appcues is a no-code solution that enables businesses to improve their user onboarding and product adoption process, with the ultimate goal of helping companies dramatically boost their customer retention rates. 

Remember, growth marketing isn’t all about getting new users – it’s also about effectively retaining and evangelizing them. And by reading Appcues’ blog, you can learn more about strategies across product marketing, growth, and UX design that help businesses do exactly that. 

Read Appcues’ blog posts on user journeys and onboarding:

#8 OkDork by Noah Kagan

Noah Kagan was an early employee at Facebook and Mint, and is currently the Founder and CEO of AppSumo.

On his website, OkDork, Noah shares his thoughts on all things marketing and entrepreneurship through blog posts, podcasts, and videos.   

Noah Kagan’s top posts:

#9 GrowthMentor 

With leadership from Foti Panagiotakopoulos and Jessica Volbrecht, GrowthMentor is a curated platform of invite-only startup and marketing mentors which have proven experience in their respective fields. 

The team consistently publishes insights and growth marketing articles on the blog — often articles written in-house or straight from the growth marketing community. 

GrowthMentor’s top posts:

#10 Portent Digital Marketing Blog

The team over at Portent are a full-service digital marketing agency, with experience leading growth strategies for companies like Adidas and Tumi. Their blog regularly dissects the latest industry news, breaking down the latest issues in ways growth marketers can easily digest and translate into actionable strategies of their own. 

Read Portent’s top growth marketing blog posts:

#11 Orbit Media Content Marketing Blog

Orbit Media is a web design agency based out of Chicago that focuses on building beautiful websites that convert at high levels. In their blog, they share practical tips for all things marketing, analytics, and web design, helping marketers around the world to leverage content marketing strategies to grow their business.

Check out Orbit Media’s most popular posts:

#12 Grow and Convert Blog

The team at Grow and Convert are passionate about creating content marketing strategies that actually drive conversions for the brands they work with. 

On their blog, they share case studies detailing the strategies and tactics they use for their partners, and provide all kinds of guidance about how marketers can employ content strategies to drive serious growth.

Grow and Convert’s best posts:

#13 Copyhackers by Joanne Weibe 

Copyhackers’ blog produces content to help teach you how to write copy you’ll be proud of because it reflects your brand and vision AND converts. With a focus on revenue-generating content, Joanne’s team has blog content, ebooks, videos, training, and more. 

Copyhackers best posts:

#14 Criminally Prolific

On the Criminally Prolific blog, growth marketer Dmitry Dragilev teaches entrepreneurs how to scale their business by using growth tactics like cold email outreach, content marketing, PR, and SEO. 

Check out these Criminally Prolific articles:

#15 Part and Sum 

We’re such big fans of Part and Sum at Tuff — and especially their growth marketing content. Part and Sum was founded in 2018 and has teams in Los Angeles and New York City. Their team has deep experience in strategy, innovation, growth, and data. 

You’ll find a variety of topics to dig into on the blog, from performance creative to calculating CAC, their content spans across multiple stages of the user journey. 

Read Part and Sum’s best posts:

#16 Quicksprout

The team at Quicksprout puts out a huge variety of business content, and if you’re just starting to learn about growth strategies, their marketing blog is the perfect place to begin.

You’ll find rundowns of the best software tools for growth marketers, as well as a series of entry level guides that make it easy for first timers to get started with growth marketing.

Read Quicksprout’s best posts:

#17 Growth Media

Growth Media is a revenue focused agency that helps SaaS and eCommerce businesses scale quickly. In their blog, they share the strategies that they use to deliver rapid growth, with articles covering everything from backlink strategy to conversion rate optimization.

Check out Growth Media’s top blogs for growth marketers:

#18 Venture Harbour

Venture Harbour is a startup studio focused on building and scaling bootstrapped businesses. In their blog, the team shares their insights, guides, and war stories from their years of experience building and scaling these high-growth businesses. 

Read Venture Harbour’s most insightful articles:

Other Growth Marketing Resources

This list is by no means exhaustive. Growth marketing is a diverse, growing field, and new thought leaders are constantly emerging. Be sure to explore some of the following resources too to find the content that’s most useful for your business:

Quora

Quora is a question and answer platform that anyone can use to pose a question to subject matter experts. The platform organizes content into different categories: of particular interest to growth marketers are spaces like Growth Hacking, Product Marketing, and Digital Marketing

Reddit

There are several active communities on Reddit where growth marketers gather to share case studies, discuss strategies, and ask for advice. Some of the best subreddits include r/GrowthHacking and r/DigitalMarketing

Twitter

Virtually all of the growth marketing blogs listed in this article have an active Twitter presence. In addition to those listed above, check out Twitter users like Alex Garcia and Growth Tactics for detailed growth marketing threads and case studies. Follow them and watch who they interact with to discover more growth leaders. 

Podcasts

Podcasts offer a unique opportunity to hear the unfiltered perspectives of some of the top growth marketing leaders in the world. Some growth marketers, like Noah Kagan, have their own podcasts, whereas other podcasts like Marketing Trends feature interviews with founders and top executives from high-growth startups. 

Start Your Personal Growth Today

This is a long list, and we’re not saying that you have to consume all this content to be a successful growth marketer. But learning, and personal growth, is in many ways similar to growth marketing. By exposing yourself to new ideas and strategies, you’re putting yourself, and your business, in the best position possible.

Read a few of these blog posts, experiment with some of the strategies they outline, and return to the writers that work best for you. Levelling up your information diet is one of the best ways to expose yourself to high-impact growth marketing concepts that can help you take your business to the next level. 

Did we miss any of your favorite growth marketers? Reach out and let us know!

plant growing

How to Create an Initial Growth Model for Your Company

plant growing

Running a startup? Then you know as well as we do that quick wins are instrumental to finding initial traction and getting the first lift that affirms to your team, your peers, and your investors that there’s a tangible future ahead. These quick wins are also important as you validate value props, hone in on your messaging, and think about audience development. 

So, in the early days, the game plan is simple: learn, adapt, and ultimately, confirm that your service or product is going to solve a real and persistent problem. For your first year or more, you’ll get scrappy and find short-term momentum with tactics until you’re able to implement a growth model that works. 

But—and here’s where it gets more complicated and necessitates more patience and expertise—once you find initial traction, you also need to find ways of operationalizing those early wins so they can become repeatable. That’s where a growth model for your company can be useful. Your growth model will help you transition from startup to scaleup. It’ll fuel your strategy throughout each stage of your company life cycle and act as a map that tells you and,  importantly, your investors and other stakeholders in your company where you’re headed in the long run. 

A solid model will also help you identify priorities to feed into your growth machine. From traffic to qualified leads to paying customers, you’ll be able to measure and optimize the full funnel to increase conversion rates and uncover pressure points that need extra attention. This will help you spend your time on things that will have an actual impact on your growth — and at the very least, eliminate things that don’t. 

Here’s an example of a growth model that I built for one of our clients at Tuff. I built it for an early stage, B2B business with a SaaS offering for small businesses. When they started working with us in early 2021, the only leads they had generated were from referrals. They had been in business for less than a year and needed to prove to their investors (and themselves) that they could generate new leads across a number of channels. So, they turned to a growth marketing agency like Tuff. 

growth model for startup

The first thing we did was our homework. We started putting hypotheses in place about the target audience and the stickiest value props. In the early stages, value props will change and evolve based on feedback from customers and users but it’s important to have a starting point. Here’s what these value props originally looked like for this business

Then, we formed the foundation of awareness — in other words, using our target audience, we selected our channel mix. Essentially, we asked: What channels will we use to generate traffic or leads that feed into our growth machine? From there, we outlined the list of tactics we would test out on each channel. 

  • Acquisition Channels = the way people hear about you for the first time.
  • Tactics = a test you run on a channel. 

When it comes to channel selection, we think about three things: 

  • How expensive is that channel based on historical metrics?
  • What role in the funnel does it play? Is it top of the funnel (cheap traffic, lower quality) or bottom of the funnel (more expensive, higher quality)?
  • Can we get our content in front of our target audience? Will we be able to target the people most likely to buy? 

For this account, we started with Google, Bing, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, SEO, and Partnerships. 

Finally, we then turned our attention to generating repeatable acquisition by focusing on conversion priorities. For this startup, this was things like: 

  • Adding pricing to the website 
  • Redoing the copy on the homepage based on the language most often used sales calls 
  • Adding in a page for each service
  • Improving the UX on the blog 
  • Testing out three different signup flows to see what had the highest conversion 

When a user lands on your website, product page, or app for the first time (or even the second or third), it’s critical to communicate value immediately and efficiently; there’s truly no better way to improve conversion.

By putting this growth model on paper and using it to fuel our strategy, it became extremely clear how to define the metrics that matter for the business, and work out how to measure them. Using Google Analytics and Freshsales (CRM), we can track all of these metrics, identify which ones need improvement, and outline how to focus our efforts: 

Metrics: 

  • Spend: how much we’re spending on paid channels 
  • Traffic: how much traffic (new and returning) we’re generating
  • Traffic by Source: where the traffic is coming from and how it impacts CVR 
  • CPC: what it’s costing us to get traffic
  • Leads: the number of leads we’re capturing  
  • CVR: the percentage of traffic that’s converting to leads  
  • Clients: the number of clients we’re closing (new business)  
  • CVR: the percentage of leads that are converting to paying customers
  • CAC: the total cost of acquiring a customer 

We started using this particular growth model as our roadmap earlier this year and have stayed committed to this path for the last 8 months. With this approach, it’s not an overnight success. It’s a slow burn. We didn’t see a massive spike in leads within the first few months and even after that, the growth only started to trickle in. 

Despite being impatient for results, we haven’t changed course and now, eight months later, we have a foundation in place for compounding results. Because we can measure across the entire funnel and have a clear understanding of the core metrics, we can prioritize our resources, hours, and time, and ultimately, spend it all on the right things. 

The good news (much to all of our relief): we’re now consistently generating profitable, high-quality conversions for this client and have a repeatable formula to improve upon each month. We don’t have to rely on PR hits or an onslaught of referrals to hit our targets because we are in control of the pipeline on our own channels. 

The truth is tough: founders are used to fighting tooth and nail for product/market fit and every single investor dollar. But even when a startup starts to grow, there’s an endless amount of work involved to establish your growth strategy and stick to it. It’s not for the faint of heart. But, it’s for this very reason that I established Tuff in the first place. With a team of marketers willing, able, and eager to build a repeatable, scalable model and execute to a T, you’re laying the foundation for success not just for tomorrow but for years to come. 

A dashboard of important growth marketing metrics.

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.