What is Growth?

Today we’re going to give a high level answer to the question, “what is growth?”
Eric Dodds

Our last post talked about how the customer behavior is forcing big changes in roles within businesses, combining leadership for traditionally separate functions like marketing and product. 

As we said in that post, we describe this trend by saying, “marketing is eating sales, and product is joining the meal.” In broader marketplace, though, this concept is commonly described using a very simple word: growth

We’ve all heard this term in some form: growth marketing, Chief Growth Officer, growth hacking, etc., but it can be hard to find a consistent definition. So, today we’re going to give a high level answer to the question, “what is growth?” 

Growth is not “growth marketing” or “growth hacking” 

The most common mis-perception is that growth and marketing are the same. Traditionally, marketing departments have been bucketed into silos that focus separately on “branding” and some form of “acquisition.” As technology has brought about a digital revolution and the “acquisition” arm of marketing departments have become data-driven and sought to connect with other parts of the organization, many people in the marketing world started calling more advanced digital acquisition “growth marketing” or “growth hacking,” taking cues from forward-thinking teams in Silicon Valley. 

The mistake, though, is that within the paradigms of growth marketing and growth hacking, key revenue-driving practices like retention/churn, engagement, etc. typically are found in different departments of the organization, like product or engineering.

So, what is growth? 

Within an organization, “growth” encompasses everything a business does to find, attract and retain customers. 

Within that definition, growth spans a huge breadth of the organization—in many cases, the entire organization, which is why we see traditional departmental silos being broken down.

More than breadth of purview within a business, though, a true growth practice is maniacally focused on understanding their customer better than anyone else, from the first touch through their entire lifespan, including a clear understanding why they lose customers. 

Said another way, an organization with a growth function knows that the ultimate competitive advantage isn’t better execution of tactics, or even a better product—it’s understanding their customer better than anyone else. 

Stop and think about that statement for a minute. When you do, you realize that we aren’t talking about quick wins, a bump in sales or even quarter-over-quarter performance. Within growth, we are looking to learn from those customers that are most profitable to our entire organization in a holistic approach, which means our job is to constantly understand the answers to big, complicated questions: 

  • What characteristics do they share? 
  • What acquisition channels did they come from? 
  • What are their primary concerns? 
  • How are we best solving their problems? 
  • How are they using our product/service?
  • Who are our largest brand advocates?
  • What is the LTV of these customers?

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal for a growth practice is to understand how every customer action and interaction contributes to revenue, then optimize them to accelerate revenue creation. 

Wait, that looks like it requires a heck of a lot of data... 

Yup, that’s exactly right. 

When you start to process how you’ll answer the questions in the list above, it quickly becomes clear that pursuing a holistic approach to growth requires a significant amount of data from various parts of the company, which, for most businesses, is no small feat. 

If thinking about collecting and combining data from across your company feels overwhelming, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most companies we work with face this challenge and the first step to solving it only requires a whiteboard and a marker, as we wrote about in a previous post about customer journey mapping

Also, in future posts we’ll dig more deeply into how you can begin collecting data and building a holistic picture of the customer, so be sure to subscribe to get our latest posts via email. 

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