Paul Graham, Co-Founder of Y Combinator, noted in his 2012 essay titled “Startup = Growth”: “A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, take venture funding, or have some sort of “exit.” The only essential thing is growth. Everything else we associate with startups follows from growth.”
Graham’s viewpoint, which is shared across the entire startup community, is that for startups, profitability is not as crucial as growth. Yet, the current time is a test of such a concept.
Venture capital has experienced a slowdown due to a stock market fall, inflation, geopolitical tensions in Europe, or the failure of a Silicon Valley Bank. All of this makes the profit vs. growth dilemma more pertinent.
Since marketing is traditionally viewed as a cost, aligning it with either a growth or profit strategy at first glance is difficult. Even if we stick to the belief that growth is the most critical goal of startups and build on it, at least several inconsistencies in growth vs marketing must be addressed.
• Growth strategies may prioritize short-term rewards, such as fast lead generation, whereas marketing strategies may focus on long-term brand exposure and consumer loyalty.
• Startup growth strategies concentrate on cutting costs to increase profitability, while marketing strategies may prioritize providing value to consumers to generate brand loyalty.
• Growth strategies may stress getting as many customers as possible, whereas marketing strategies may prioritize quality more than numbers.
• Growth strategies depend heavily on data analysis to boost performance, whereas marketing strategies encourage originality and creativity.
• Growth strategies may emphasize operational delivery, such as maximizing conversion rates, while marketing strategies might first concentrate on strategic thinking and long-term perspective.
Considering all the possible conflicts between growth and marketing strategies, the pragmatic concern is how to make the startup develop or even be profitable. In contrast, marketing appears to fall under a long-term process aimed at providing value over time.
In reality, marketing can contribute to the growth strategy of a startup and even leverage it significantly. Continue reading to learn about growth vs marketing strategies and how they can work together.
Growth vs marketing: Seeking alignment
At least four fields where aligning marketing with growth may have a massive impact on a startup’s performance.
1. Users acquisition
Marketing may assist startups in acquiring new users by targeting specific audiences via multiple channels such as social media, email marketing, or paid advertising. In my previous article, “Founders, Here’s How to Plan a Marketing Budget That Brings ROI”, I covered how essential it is for startups to correctly allocate funds to marketing initiatives likely to result in lead generation.
But regarding long-term marketing objectives, each touchpoint that may result in acquiring a potential lead is also an excellent opportunity to raise brand awareness. In fact, to produce one lead, hundreds of views are involved; therefore, short-term lead generation tactics can be interconnected with a long-term brand awareness approach.
2. Customer retention
By developing a solid brand identity and developing relations with continuous interaction and engagement, marketing may support startups in retaining consumers. Certain marketing efforts in startups might be designed to communicate with customers and, in practice, nurture and impact customer satisfaction. It is not such a bad idea in growing startups to focus part of the marketing efforts on customer happiness rather than creating separate CS structures.
3. Brand recognition
Good marketing can help the startup to increase product or brand visibility and traffic. In my opinion, while supporting a growth strategy, the results of brand awareness should serve as the byproduct of all expansion-oriented marketing activities rather than the purpose itself. Nonetheless, this does not change the fact that when planning marketing lead generation campaigns for startups, it is practical to consider their impact on company recognition.
4. Customer feedback
Marketing endeavors may assist startups in gathering helpful feedback from customers, which can then be applied to improve their products or service and drive growth. Designing marketing actions to gather market feedback is vital during a business concept’s validation phase. Hence, using surveys or interviews as part of marketing tactics can make the startup visible and provide valuable input to its growth strategy.
Maintaining a healthy balance between growth and marketing always results from aligning strategies with overall business goals. In practice, it requires teamwork across all people involved, as well as agile reasoning and adaptability.
Also, everything revolves around choosing the appropriate marketing channels that can be scaled as the startup grows and optimizing all conversion-related operations.
In the growth strategy, keeping equilibrium requires marketing to be considered a key instrument in stimulating growth instead of a distractor.