growth marketing, startups, ivan jerkic

The Fundamentals of Growth Marketing for Startups

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Picture of Ivan Jerkić

Ivan Jerkić

What do I do? I build ventures – from the concept to product-market fit. And then I scale them.

The moment you receive your first round is when you need to start growing to secure additional funding and achieve product-market fit, which will lead to profitability. This means that you need to prepare your growth strategy before receiving funds.

In this blog post, I will cover the fundamentals of growth marketing to help you plan and jump-start user acquisition leading to revenue growth.

Note: this blog post provides the overview from a higher perspective; I will not go into details – as there is no universal recipe for success. However, I hope that by following my blog in general, you might come to ideas worth implementing into your startup. Also, we can always hop on a virtual 30-min coffee to talk about specific challenges you have.

Let’s dig in!

What is Growth Marketing and Why is it Crucial for Startups?

A. Growth marketing, in a nutshell, is a data-driven approach to marketing that focuses on acquiring, engaging, and retaining customers. Unlike traditional marketing, which often concentrates on creating awareness, growth marketing encompasses the entire customer lifecycle. Growth marketing is objective-driven and measurable. Not that I have anything against traditional (brand) marketing, but it’s just not enough to move the needle fast – and when you’re a startup, you need to grow fast. You rise to the top (fast), or you fade into oblivion.

B. For startups, growth marketing is, therefore, absolutely essential. With limited resources and intense competition, every move you make should contribute to your growth objectives. You cannot wait for your brand awareness efforts to take effect on incremental revenue growth. It can take years, and you have months. The right growth marketing strategies can propel you forward at breakneck speed, helping you secure funding and establish a strong market presence.

C. Take, for example, Dropbox and Airbnb. These startups leveraged growth marketing tactics to achieve rapid scale and become household names. Their success stories should be your homework!

growth marketing, hockey stick, netflix
Netflix’s example of a typical startup “hockey stick” growth curve

Key Components of a Successful Growth Marketing Strategy

Data-driven decision-making

I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to base your marketing decisions on hard data. With accurate data, you can make informed decisions that yield better results. Trust me, your gut feeling can only get you so far. On the other hand, data is worth nothing if you cannot interpret it and drive actionable points on what to do with new findings.

Experimentation and optimization

The startup world is all about learning, iterating, pivoting, and improving. Embrace a culture of experimentation, and constantly optimize your marketing strategies based on the results. A/B test everything you absolutely can: from storytelling and visuals to landing pages and sales workflows.

Cross-functional collaboration

Marketing is not a siloed function. Work closely with product, sales, and customer success teams to ensure your growth marketing efforts align with your overall business goals. Be ready to think outside the box, too.

Agility and adaptability

The startup environment is ever-evolving. Be ready to pivot and adapt your growth marketing strategies when needed. Let me remind you one more tie: “You rise to the top (fast), or you fade into oblivion.” – that should be your everyday mantra. Do whatever is needed to ensure growth.

Building Your Growth Marketing Foundation

Establishing clear goals and objectives

Before diving into growth marketing, set SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. Having a clear roadmap will help you focus your efforts and measure progress.

Identifying target audience and buyer personas

Knowing your ideal customers is key to effective marketing. Invest time developing detailed buyer personas to better understand your audience’s needs, preferences, pain points, and, most importantly – their buying intent. Predictive modeling can help to identify the possibility of future outcomes based on historical data.

On the other note, try to analyze why you might lose some of your customers. What could make them churn? Qualitative data analysis is the key again. A plan to successfully retain customers is a major part of every growth strategy since retaining customers is much cheaper than acquiring them.

Crafting your value proposition

Clearly communicate the unique benefits of your product or service. Focus on the “why,” i.e., the inner motivation that drives human behavior. Your value proposition should resonate with your target audience’s inner motivation and set you apart from competitors. Create your tribe.

Essential Growth Marketing Channels and Tactics

Content marketing

Engaging content can attract and retain your target audience. Focus on creating high-quality content that educates, entertains, and, above all, inspires your audience. However, don’t assume anything, and make sure to test what works for your audience and its sub-segments. You should A/B test different marketing angles and types of content.


Social media marketing

Leverage social platforms to connect with your audience, build brand awareness, and drive growth. Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, so choose wisely.

Social media is all about trends and what works at the moment. Create for now. Content that resonates with current world events/hype/trends is more likely to drive organic growth. Also, try to automate the content distribution as much as possible. Make sure to schedule your posts in advance, but leave enough room to react ad hoc when needed.

Email marketing

Email is a powerful tool for nurturing leads and driving conversions. Develop a solid email marketing strategy to stay connected with your audience and promote your offerings. Marketing automation plays an important role here, just as on social media. Create automated and personalized email flows, such as:

  • Welcome series
  • Abandoned cart/checkout
  • Browse abandonment
  • Post-purchase
  • Cross-sales

Influencer marketing and partnerships

Collaborate with influencers and partners who share your target audience to expand your reach and accelerate growth. When working with influencers and affiliates, I prefer quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter how many people they can reach if their audience doesn’t share the same ideas, inner motivation, and beliefs as yours. It just takes a spark to ignite the movement, which will lead to the exponential growth of your startup. Rely on data, analyze, and set clear goals, KPIs, and objectives for your partners.

Paid advertising

Direct response paid ads can drive targeted traffic, generate leads or drive online sales. Experiment with different platforms, ad formats, and targeting options to maximize ROI.

Even though you need to scale your startup fast, be patient. Ad platforms’ machine learning systems take some time to optimize. Plan your paid advertising budgets to be at least 50x your target cost of acquisition in order to give enough headroom for the system to deliver ads profitably.

If you want to know more about paid advertising for startups, I cover it in this post.

Measuring and Tracking Growth Marketing Success

Importance of setting key performance indicators (KPIs)

Choose the right KPIs to measure your marketing efforts effectively. KPIs should align with your growth objectives and provide actionable insights into your marketing performance. Think of KPIs as the staircase steps where your main objective is at the top of the staircase.

Using analytics tools to monitor performance

There’s no shortage of analytics tools available to help you track and analyze data. Some popular options include Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and Amplitude. You can take a step forward and utilize customer data platforms to build omnichannel journeys and 360 customer views like Segment and Lytics. Choose the tools that best suit your needs and closely monitor your performance metrics.

Google Analytics 4 – the newest iteration of the popular free analytics tool

Adapting and iterating based on data insights

Use the data insights from your analytics tools to make data-driven decisions and improve your growth marketing strategy. Continuously test, learn, and optimize your efforts to achieve the best possible results. Remember, the data is only as good as your ability to gain insight and learn from it.

Your Growth Story

Embrace these principles to lay the groundwork for your startup’s rapid growth journey. Remember, it’s all about being data-driven, agile, and adaptable in the ever-changing startup landscape. For example, large language models AIs, such as Open AI’s GPT-4, were not widely available before the last few months – and now they can reliably help you outline marketing research and produce digital content at scale.

So, buckle up, prepare to learn, and apply findings to accelerate. Your startup’s growth story starts now!

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