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Digital Marketing
Min read

Growth Marketing vs Digital Marketing (2023): What’s The Difference?

Yoong Shien
June 30, 2023
5-star rating
Reviews on Capterra
Growth Marketing vs Digital Marketing (2023): What’s The Difference?

Imagine being at a networking event and finding yourself in a conversation about growth marketing with a fellow marketer. You're unsure if growth marketing is just a fancy term for digital marketing or if there's an actual difference between the two. Don't sweat it - you've come to the right place!

Let's dive into a detailed comparison of growth marketing and digital marketing and see what sets them apart.


Digital marketing is a broad term that encompasses all marketing efforts implemented on digital platforms. Its key characteristic is that it doesn't follow a specific methodology behind the tactics; instead, it focuses on the application of various online marketing tactics based on the business's needs.

Growth marketing, on the other hand, is a marketing approach that focuses on customer or revenue growth. It uses digital marketing tactics but is distinguished by its strategic framework and emphasis on data-driven decisions and continuous experimentation.

Digital Marketing Growth MarketingThe broad term used to describe marketing efforts done through online, digital channelsDefinitionLeveraging data and continuous iterations with the sole focus on driving growthDrive brand visibility, engagement, and customer acquisition, optimized through every stage of the buying journeyFocus and approachData-driven user/revenue growthSEO, PPC, email marketing, lead generationMarketing TacticsA/B testing, personalization, referral programs, word-of-mouthBrand awareness, traffic quality, customer acquisitionPerformance MetricsChurn rate, customer acquisition cost, user acquisition, ARPU, retention rateContent creation, analytics, social media managementDay-to-Day TasksData analysis, running experiments, optimizing content, cross-functional collaboration

Digital marketing

Digital marketing is a set of online marketing tactics for each stage of the buying journey.

Digital marketing is the umbrella term used to describe all marketing efforts using digital channels. It is especially important for businesses that operate mainly online, such as e-commerce stores, SaaS companies, and agencies -- organizations whose target audience resides online.

Strategies and tactics

Digital marketers leverage various strategies and tactics through every stage of the marketing funnel or customer journey. Various iterations of the buying journey exist (e.g., AIDA, RACE framework, etc), but they all revolve around reaching new audiences, engaging them, and finally converting them into paying customers.

Here are some of the strategies and tactics that digital marketers use in building brand visibility and customer acquisiton:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Improving a website's ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs) using SEO techniques such as keyword research, backlinking, and on-page optimization.

Pay-per-click (PPC) Advertising: Running paid ads that charge the advertiser each time their ad is clicked, typically for burst campaigns and segmented audience targeting

Social media marketing: Using social media channels (e.g., Instagram, Facebook, TikTok) for cultivating relationships and brand promotion via organic content or paid advertisements.

Email marketing: Sending tailored messages to contacts from an owned database (typically from lead generation) with the purpose of promoting product offers, updates, and drive conversions.

Content marketing: Creating and disseminating valuable content (e.g., eBooks, templates, videos) to build brand awareness and topical authority.

Objectives and metrics

The key objectives of a digital marketing strategy is depends on the tactics used, stage of the buying journey focused on, and the overall business goals. The most common objectives and key results (OKRs) tracked include:

Brand awareness: Reach, unique impressions, keyword rankings, share of voice, mentions.

Traffic quality: Bounce rate, time-on-page, click-through rate (CTR), engagement rate, form abandonment rate.

Customer acquisition: Average order value, conversion rate (CR), customer lifetime value (CLV), cost per conversion (CPC), cart abandonment rate.

Advocacy: Retention rate, churn rate, net promoter score (NPS), monthly recurring revenue (MRR), annual recurring revenue (ARR), customer-base growth rate.

Role and day-to-day tasks

A digital marketer's primary goal is to promote a company's products or services and build brand awareness using various digital channels. Their day-to-day tasks might include:

Content Creation: Writing blog posts, creating social media content, or developing email marketing campaigns.

Analytics: Reviewing and interpreting data from marketing campaigns to assess their performance and make improvements.

Social Media Management: Running a company's social media profiles, engaging with the audience, and creating social media advertising campaigns.

Community-building: Engaging with their target audience to build rapport and develop mutual relationships with other businesses or websites.

Growth marketing

Growth marketing follows the AAARRR framework Pirate Funnel developed by Dave McClure.

With the advent of digital technologies, businesses now have the ability to track sales from campaigns more precisely than ever. And with the wealth of data available, businesses could make data-driven experiments to drive growth.

Thus, growth marketing was born, a niched specialization within digital marketing that leverages data with a primary focus on driving user and/or revenue growth. All growth marketing activities are centered around the organization's North Star metric, which is typically installs, registrations, or sales.

This methodology is especially popular among startups, which would naturally prioritize customer growth. Thus, many growth marketing practitioners tend to involve some product or agile methodologies, using precise conversion attribution technologies to run campaigns.

Growth marketing vs growth hacking

Growth marketing and growth hacking are related in that both ultimately prioritize driving growth. Growth hacking, a term coined by Sean Ellis, emphasized cost-effective methods for customer acquisition, such as when he helped Dropbox grow via referrals that were rewarded with additional storage space.

On the other hand, growth marketers look at the entire customer lifecycle and try to optimize every stage for growth. In this sense, growth hacking can be seen as a part of growth marketing, although the approach slightly differs.

Strategy and Tactics

Growth marketers embrace a comprehensive approach that spans the entire customer lifecycle. They analyze customer data to pinpoint areas for growth and optimize marketing tactics accordingly.

Their work is guided by the principles of growth hacking, which involves developing a culture of experimentation and rapid iteration to find the best methods for scaling and nurturing their customer base.

Tactics often employed by growth marketers include:

  • A/B testing and multivariate testing to optimize conversions
  • Customer segmentation and personalization to boost engagement
  • Referral programs and user-generated content to promote advocacy
  • Reinforcement loops and behavior-triggered communication to enhance retention

Metrics and KPIs

As growth marketers seek long-term, sustainable growth, their metrics and KPIs differ from those of digital marketers. They prioritize metrics tied to the entire customer lifecycle and track key indicators of success at every stage.

Examples include churn rate, customer acquisition cost (CAC), user acquisition, average revenue per user (ARPU), conversion rate, retention rate, and monthly active users (MAU)/daily active users (DAU).

Role and day-to-day tasks

The day-to-day tasks of a growth marketer can vary significantly depending on the company, the specific role, and the current growth initiatives. However, here are some common tasks that a growth marketer might be involved with on a regular basis:

Analyzing data: Growth marketers spend a lot of time analyzing data from a variety of sources to understand user behavior, identify opportunities for growth, and measure the success of their efforts.

Running experiments: One of the hallmarks of growth marketing is a test-and-learn approach. Growth marketers often design, implement, and analyze experiments to test hypotheses about how to drive growth.

Creating and optimizing content: Depending on the role, a growth marketer might be involved in creating blog posts, social media content, landing pages, or other types of content. They also work on optimizing this content for SEO and conversion.

Cross-functional collaboration: Growth marketing requires a cross-functional team effort - right from product development to customer service and sales. Everyone's work influences the customer's experience, and hence, their retention and overall growth.

Integrating both for maximized results

Bringing together digital marketing and growth marketing strategies is similar to merging art with science. The creative and disruptive nature of digital marketing aligns perfectly with the analytical, data-driven approach of growth marketing.

Together, these marketing tactics can create an all-inclusive marketing strategy that both attracts and retains customers:

  1. Using Digital Marketing Channels for Customer Behavior Data: Digital marketers can leverage customer data from SEO, PPC, social media, and email marketing campaigns to identify customer behaviors, preferences, and needs. Once identified, growth marketers can deploy this data to develop targeted retention strategies.
  2. Optimizing Digital Content Based on User Experience (UX): Detailed UX data provided by analytical tools like heatmaps and session recordings can help digital marketers create engaging and effective content. With Howuku, for instance, you can perform conversion optimization by understanding how users interact with your website.
  3. Powering A/B Tests with Digital Marketing Insights: A/B tests are a core component of growth marketing. Data collected through digital marketing methodologies, such as user demographics and preferences, can guide A/B testers in creating more impactful alternatives.


While growth marketing and digital marketing certainly overlap, recognizing their distinct differences is crucial for any business seeking to maximize marketing performance. Understanding and effectively leveraging diverse strategies are of vital importance in today's digitally-driven business landscape.

However, the best strategy, as always, depends on your unique business goals, resources, and target audience. It's all about testing, learning, and constantly optimizing to figure out what works best for you and your customers.‍

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