What Does Marketing Have to Do With Growth?

August 6, 2021

Google the term “Marketing Growth”. Your search results will be inundated with acronyms, quick-win tactics, and metrics. Particularly amusing are the articles that make distinctions between traditional marketing and growth marketing. In my opinion, highlighting arbitrary differences complicates more than it clarifies, often obfuscating the very premise of growth, which is to uncover and deliver opportunities for commercial expansion. 

At its core, marketing’s contribution to growth is foundational and only achieved when strategy, commitment and design come together to deliver on a clearly articulated business objective. 

Let us look at each component in more detail.


Simply put, the journey to growth for any business, whether its relationship or product-driven, is achieved through one of these three levers. 

  • More Users –  where the objective is to increase the relevance of existing products and services to under-serviced clients, customer, or consumer segments.  
  • More Usage – where the objective is to increase consumption of existing products and services to established clients, customer, or consumer segments. 
  • More Utility – where the objective is to move clients, customers, or consumer segments from lower value (commoditized) to higher-value products and services with incremental benefits. 

The first task for a growth-driven marketing team is to align leadership on where to place the bet, or as management consultant guru Michael Porter put it, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”. All too often leaders try to tackle all three avenues with the same intensity at the same time, often with limited resources, in-experienced teams and woefully inadequate budgets. What is needed for success is a commitment to the “MORE” that represents the most meaningful and quantifiable opportunity within a specific market context.  


While intuition is important, adopting a more analytical process to uncover root issues and opportunities can lead to better goal setting, stronger alignment and more resilience- all key ingredients of commitment. Ask yourself the following questions related to market saturation, organizational strengths, and size of the prize so the process of creating goals is more meaningful.  If you do not have the data, make a judgment based on qualitative information. 

  • Are you the market leader? If yes, is there an opportunity to grow the total addressable market or is it a switching game? 
  • Is it feasible to grow the market by creating demand for customers who have historically not had a need for your product or services? 
  • What is the difficulty level in switching from a competitive offering to your product and services? 
  • How reasonable is it to grow consumption/ frequency in your defined market? What is the upper limit? What proof do you have? 
  • Do you have a portfolio of products and services that are significantly better? Will your most valued customers trade up to higher value, more personalized, or differentiated solutions? Why or why not? 

An open and transparent interrogation of these questions should help you calculate the relative impact, at average deal or order values, of the following:  a) a new customer, b) a repeat purchase or c) a trade-up. Assigning a value to each action will reveal a more analytical picture. 

  • The relative measurable size of the prize for each action
  • SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Example: Increase trial of new product among X% of most valued customers from A to B by Q1 2022. 
  • Required budgets, based on desired return on investment, to accommodate required capabilities to deliver. 


With strategy and commitment in place, a more deliberate approach to marketing growth can be put into motion with customer empathy and understanding at the center of the decision-making process. 

  1. What is the implied customer action that must be mobilized to deliver on the SMART objective? 
  2. What are the barriers and/or enablers to achieving this desired action? 
  3. What messaging and content strategy is needed to overcome barriers and/or reinforce enablers? 
  4. How will we measure success? 
  5. What channels are the most effective in driving our objectives?

The complete alignment of business and marketing objectives creates the framework for growth by design, one that bridges between growth strategy and growth tactics. The 5W framework connects the dots. 

  • WHO are we going after? 
  • WHY are we going after them? 
  • WHAT do we want to say? 
  • WHERE do we want to say it? 
  • WHICH metrics matter most? 

According to the noted polymath, Edward de Bono, “simplicity before understanding is simplistic, simplicity after understanding is simple”.  The relationship between marketing and growth is simple, but only if we take the time to nurture and understand the critical connections between market and business forces, emotional and analytical decisions, and strategic design and tactics. 

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