Growth Hacking vs Growth Marketing: What’s The Difference?

Written by Asena Atilla Saunders

There was a time when marketing involved the operations in the TV series “Mad Men”- the era of big brands and big advertising agencies. Then came the 90s, whose marketing was more digital and achievable by smaller companies, but focused on mostly generating demand and sales through “push marketing”.

As of 2010, a customer-focused era has started with similar approaches such as “digital marketing”, “omnichannel marketing” and “growth marketing”. These methods not only focus on the customer journey- -  they are also data-driven and based on iteration and optimisation. And now we’re hearing terms such as “growth hacking” and “growth hacker”. So what are these new concepts? Is hacking a sustainable approach or just a trend? Moreover, how can businesses apply a sustainable growth strategy?

In order to clarify these concepts and understand Growth Marketing (or Growth Marketing) better, we had an interview with our NBT Growth Services Director, Yağmur Dölek:


Asena: Hi Yağmur, let me start with the most frequently asked question. What exactly is “Growth Hacking” and how is it different from “Growth Marketing”?

Yağmur: Growth hacking is a marketing strategy that uses both creative and data-driven tactics to get as many customers as possible, without spending too much money. This method is more popular amongst tech startups that have limited marketing budgets but can use digital channels creatively to quickly optimise and grow their online presence.

However, how I see growth hacking is more like a shortcut solution, or what we call at NBT a “growth tactic”, instead of a long-term growth marketing strategy. The best way to ensure growth is structured continuity and sustainability. So, instead of trying to "hack" and create short-term success, it is necessary to create a holistic, data-driven and customer-oriented strategy. For this reason, at NBT, we prefer to use the terms growth marketing or growth marketing instead of growth hacking.




“The best way to ensure growth is structured continuity and sustainability. How we see “growth hacking” at NBT is more like a shortcut solution, or what we call a growth tactic, instead of a long-term growth marketing strategy.




Asena: Can you elaborate more on growth marketing? What kind of activities are involved?

Yağmur: Growth marketing is basically an end-to-end approach in which the umbrella and all the sub-brands & competitors of a business are analysed, the target audience (persona) is determined, a growth strategy, plans and tactics are created and operations are optimized with data. 

To elaborate on the subject, I can explain our approach at NBT. We collect information, position brands and create the growth marketing strategy and plans accordingly. Moreover, we constantly monitor, measure & optimise for sustainable growth. 

As the first phase, we start with the growth marketing check-up by

  • running an internal analysis 
  • carrying out competitor research and analysis
  • gaining current and potential customer insights

and determine brands’ positionings & their unique selling propositions in global markets.

Right after that, we build the growth marketing strategy. At this point we: 

  • Create personas and identify their goals & challenges 
  • Build a growth funnel architecture according to each persona and brand
  • Define targeted metrics for each funnel

As the third step, we create growth marketing plans and generate growth tactics. We associate each tactic with a related brand, funnel and persona, and add targeted metrics for each tactic. 

Last but not least, we optimise our marketing strategy and iterate our activities according to the targeted metrics. As I mentioned before, continuous growth is only possible where you constantly monitor, measure and optimise your growth marketing tactics.



Asena: You associated growth hacking with growth tactics, rather than a holistic sustainable strategy. So where in growth marketing is growth hacking positioned?

Yağmur: I can say that growth hacking corresponds to a part of this process, which is creating and implementing growth tactics. I relate growth hacking activities to NBT’s “Test and Learn” Structure. Test and Learn allows us to quickly test and optimise marketing campaigns (whether it is a paid media campaign or not), especially when the brands enter new markets that have new audiences. 

More importantly, it eliminates the overwhelming process of monitoring more than one metric and instead allows us to determine a key metric and gain the right insights. But again, as you can see, this is only one part of a whole strategy.


Asena: At which stages (early-stage start-up/scale-up, etc.) should companies switch to Growth Marketing methodology?

Yağmur: Actually from a growth-driven approach, it is just as important to read and make sense of customer data and take action accordingly, as to gaining new customers because growth never ends. That’s why any company at any scale needs to have a “growth mindset” first. This might be gaining new audience for an early-stage startup and customer retention or cross-sell for an established brand. 

Therefore, it is important to integrate the growth-driven approach from day one according to your goal. Creating growth funnels, tracking customer journey through these funnels, and interpreting data is invaluable. After laying the foundation of the system, when the data tells you that you achieved the product/market fit, it will allow you to take the right action quickly. 


Asena: Can you recommend any particular growth tactics that companies can benefit from?

Yağmur: There is no one-size-fits-all tactic. As I mentioned earlier, the most important point here is what the companies’ goals are. Do they want to acquire new customers, increase engagement with potential customers and close sales, or upsell products? Moreover, if the data shows us that a company gets more conversions from Google Search than Instagram, it is meaningless for that company to allocate budget to Instagram just because it’s popular. That’s why every company should understand its own reality and take action accordingly. This takes us to our first topic: the importance of an end-to-end growth strategy analysing data.



Asena: Which tools would you recommend for managing growth marketing strategies and plans? 

Yağmur: As a growth agency, operational efficiency, better insights and smart decision-making are key for us. That’s why we empower our growth services with HubSpot, as it concentrates all sales and marketing efforts into a single platform and provides a seamless experience. The platform covers both sales, marketing, customer service and content management operations to remove friction in the buyer’s journey for all stakeholders. We’re also a HubSpot Platinum partner and supporting businesses in regard to onboarding, implementation and consulting. 

In order to run our growth marketing operations with our clients, we use Marketing Machine: our all-in-one marketing suite. We manage growth operations in regard to building growth funnels, creating & executing plans and monitoring key metrics with comprehensive reports.

Jira and Slack are my favourite tools for in-house project management and communication and I can recommend SEMrush for SEO management, content marketing management, competitive research and advertising purposes.

We also use a wide range of platforms and tools for paid & organic traffic and website management such as Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Linkedin Ads, Facebook Business, Quora Ads, Bing Webmaster, Criteo, etc. 


Asena: Finally, I would like to wrap up with another frequently asked question. Should companies invest in in-house growth teams or work with growth agencies?

Yağmur: You can be an expert in what you do. This is not enough to run a sustainable business. That’s why you should always have a team of other experts to provide the skills you’re not equipped with. In regard to deciding whether to employ or outsource strategically, I would like to share a compact table to help you make smarter decisions.

Aspect In-House Growth Team        vs.     Growth Marketing Agency
Product, brand & company culture

Ability to work closely with other in-house teams such as product managers, sales team Potential for broader market expertise as it works with different companies
An inside and deep understanding of the product, brand, company culture and competitors
Ability to look at the market with an impartial and fresh vision
Skills A more limited set of skills Extensive skillsets for each growth area

Loss of creativity over time due to working with a single brand - Marketing Myopia High creativity with the fresh mindset of working with different accounts
The ability to look at the competition and the brand from different perspectives due to knowing the brand closely
The ability to look at the competition and the brand from a wider perspective due to the experience in different markets
Focus & Control

Full focus and control A sharper focus on sales and the customer
Loss of focus with the greater cross-departmental workload
Loss of focus due to working with different clients and projects

Low cost-effectiveness High cost-effectiveness
Salaries, expenses, need for facilities, equipment & training
Pays for self software, equipment & training


I want to also add that a startup needs to achieve product/market fit first. Without this, it would not be a solution to recruit a growth marketer or a growth hacker for his team.

Another important point here is: just as you are not hiring a finance or an HR hacker, do not be tempted by the term and try to hire a growth hacker. In fact, what you need is a team that runs towards common goals and focuses on growth because growth is teamwork. This team should have a growth mindset, including sales, product and marketing professionals. Growth is the business of the entire company and everyone should act together towards this goal.

And needless to say, for those who are willing to outsource these services, at NBT, we provide end-to-end Growth Marketing services to large enterprises, scale-ups and accelerators. We combine our know-how, capabilities and technology, and implement our methodology to the core of organisations for sustainable growth. 


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