Week 1: Introduction to Growth Marketing

Before even starting Hidden Link Studios, I knew I wanted to work with startups. I loved the opportunity for fast-paced growth and the constant learning it requires to grow startups. I had one problem, I wasn’t confident in my abilities to provide the best possible service so we can help these startups.

I was well-versed in SEO and content marketing with experience in paid social ads. Most startups couldn’t wait for months to see some results from SEO and content. There are ways to go around this which involves loads of content production The content also has to be very well-written and helpful for users. 

After going through a low-point in my motivation and seriously considering closing the doors of Hidden Link, I knew something had to change. I wanted to take the agency in one direction but wasn’t making the appropriate steps to get us there. There was a disconnect between where I wanted to be and where I was currently at. But I realized the only thing holding me back, was myself. 

I have the ultimate say in where this agency goes and what direction I want to take it. It starts with me.

I decided to do some shopping around for some courses to get better my skillset to be able to work with startups. I’ve had discussions with many growth marketers and leaders in the industry. Thank you to Michael Taylor, Ryan Kulp, Neal O’Grady, and Aadil Razvi for answering all of my questions and helping me through this process.

I decided to sign up for the CXL Institute’s Growth Marketing mini-degree program.

So I’ll be sharing my learnings, my thoughts, and anything I apply to my work with Hidden Link and my clients. Selfishly, I hope this can help me learn faster and understand the concepts better.

On to the first week of the program. To be completely transparent, I wasn’t able to devote the recommended amount of time to go through the course material. So this week’s lessons are going to be short.

Module 1: Growth Marketing Foundations

The first module of the program is learning about the foundations of growth marketing. 

Lesson 1: Growth vs Traditional Marketing

Our first lesson covered the difference between growth versus traditional brand marketing. The instructor John McBride centered the lesson from a career-centric perspective. 

Brand marketing usually is focused on top of the funnel stages like awareness and acquisition stages. These can include SEO, SEM, content, social, etc.

As for growth marketing, this is more focused on the full funnel. So you would try to drive growth in any way that you can from any stage of the customer lifecycle.

Both of these differences are important, but the most important differentiator is the use of experimentation. In order to drive growth at every stage of the funnel, you need to constantly be experimenting with different programs, campaigns, product features, messaging, etc.

The constant experimentation approach comes from the lean startup methodology. This allows startups to discover answers and opportunities for growth faster.

The lean startup methodology is to first define a hypothesis about what you think a customer wants, finding the fastest and most efficient way to test that hypothesis, design an experiment that can validate your hypothesis, and move forward from there.

Experimentation as the defining trait of growth

When setting up your experiments, you need to start with defining a goal and designing your experiments around that goal. 

By constantly experimenting, you will always find different ways to drive growth or improve your current efforts.

John recommends having roughly 5-10 experiments ready to start running when planning your campaign.

There are 3 layers of depth you can go with an experiment:

  • To find whether or not some strategy is working
    1. Ex. Email vs text message vs landing page
  • You can test your messaging or the right offer with the right campaign
  • Once you found the right offer, you can tailor the right message to individual customers.
    1. Ex. Understanding what campaign, what offer, what message resonates with customer A better than customer B

Growth experiments are usually not meant to be the most perfect solution.

The idea around growth hacking is to put something out quickly and learn from the experiments to propel your growth.

What makes a successful growth marketer?

To become a successful growth marketer, there are three main components:

  1. Channel level expertise: Your channel level expertise is having knowledge and experience around specific channels of marketing.
  2. Analytical capability: You need to have the ability to extract and analyze data to gather insights.
  3. Strategic thinking and project management: You also need to be able to come up with good ideas and prioritizing your roadmap, picking the right experiments, and constantly thinking about the customer experience and journey.

How to become a growth marketer?

There is no set path or right way to become a growth marketer. 

You definitely need to have some sort of channel expertise. This can actually be the toughest to learn. However, I believe starting your own projects and side hustles to learn marketing is the best way to break into the industry.

You can also start with: 

  • Going to growthhackers.com and study the growth studies to see how people have done it in the past.
  • You can also learn SQL for data analysis. 
  • Or you can start by coming up with experimentation ideas to potential prospects. 

These will give you some abilities and learnings that can help in your job search to become a growth marketer.

How to grow your career in growth?

If you want to continue your career in growth, John recommends finding someone who has already had the success or similar path that you’re looking for. You can ask to shadow them or learn from them in exchange for some help. 

Another way is to constantly challenge yourself. Trying new things, testing, and obsessing over your own productivity and time management are some ways you can get a better understanding of how growth works.

You can take learnings about experimentation and analyzing your own routines into your growth marketing career.

Lesson 2: Building a growth process

Our next lesson covers how to design a growth process.

There are three phases when it comes to growth management:

  1. High-level strategy
  2. Quarterly planning
  3. In-quarter execution

Your high-level strategy includes defining your growth model, mapping out your customer journey, and identifying all the growth channels that can be used.

Once you have this high-level strategy in place, you can move on to quarterly planning. Startups are constantly changing and having quarterly goals are better for experiments than setting yearly goals. Once you’ve set up a road map and set your goals, you can move on to execution.

The in-quarter execution is where you build, ship, and analyze your findings from your experiments.

Defining your growth model

The first step to creating a growth process is to define your growth model. The most common framework for growth models is from Dave McClure’s ‘AARRR’ framework:

  • Acquisition 
  • Activation
  • Retention
  • Revenue
  • Referrals

You would want to set goals through each of these stages and always ask yourself, ‘how can I increase value for my customers?’


Unfortunately, this is as far as I was able to get for my first week of the CXL course.

To review, I feel I have a better grasp on the fundamentals of growth marketing. I felt that I had most of this knowledge already and have always implemented this thinking when it came to designing marketing campaigns for my clients or any of my side hustles.

But I am enjoying the content and it’s allowing me to go through the thought process of a more experienced growth marketer. 

In the future articles to come, I’ll be including any experiments that I think of while I go through the course. These will include my hypotheses, strategy, and results to put my work out there.

Stay tuned for week 2!

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