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Growth Marketing vs Demand Generation

Jerry Shen
min read

Growth Marketing vs Demand Generation

I’ll get right to the point: they are the exact same thing. You’ve probably seen hundreds of articles detailing every small difference between the two, but at the end of the day, these two terms are used interchangeably. The real question is: why are both of these terms important, and what does it mean for your marketing strategy? In this article, we’ll talk about why marketing is undergoing a fundamental paradigm shift, and how you can prepare for it.

Defining the Terms

First, let’s define what people generally mean by growth marketing and demand generation. Growth marketing typically focuses on driving sustainable, long-term growth for a business. This includes focusing not only on marketing, but user acquisition, qualified leads, and overall business growth. Demand gen typically focuses specifically on generating qualified leads and new customers. This can include social media, email marketing, and lead generation. In practice, though, there is a significant overlap between the two disciplines. Both roles are concerned with things like metrics, customer acquisition, and conversion rates. This has often created confusion when hiring someone for this role. At Welcome, our LinkedIn job openings have often used these terms interchangeably.

To understand this confusion, it’s important to recognize where these terms came from. In the old days, all digital marketing was essentially brand marketing. The goal was to create and maintain a strong brand identity. This was done through things like public relations, advertising, webinars, and events. The problem was, it was very difficult to tell what impact each individual marketing activity had on the bottom line.

During its early years, Facebook took a different approach. They created a growth team that was tasked with using data and engineering principles to grow their business. Most of the growth team members were not actually marketers, but data scientists and engineers. This experiment was controversial at the time, but the results are undeniable. By eschewing traditional brand marketing and focusing on optimization, they created one of the fastest-growing businesses in history. This was no accident. Now, nearly every company tries to copy these techniques.

Though Facebook was a consumer startup at the time, many SAAS companies have taken the growth hacking mentality and applied it to the B2B world. The buyer’s journey may be different in b2b marketing, but the same marketing tactics can still apply.

Why Brand Marketing can be inefficient

Brand marketing is not applicable to the majority of marketers today for a very simple reason: most companies do not have a brand. Unless you are one of the top 2 or 3 players in your space, no one really knows who you are. So it’s a losing battle to focus on your brand identity when your larger competitors already have an advantage. As your company grows and gains customers, it will naturally develop a brand, but focusing on that in the early days will not help.

The key to driving growth in today’s digital age is to exploit the blind spots in your competitors. The only way to do this is to take a data-driven approach to all of your marketing activities. Take content, for example. Thanks to HubSpot, content marketing is a default strategy for many companies. But often, that just results in every company writing the same content for the same buyer. To stand out from the noise, it’s important to make sure your content is relevant and unique. A brand marketing approach emphasizes each piece of content adhering to the overall brand vision and tone. In growth marketing, that’s less important. How your content ranks on search engines like Google takes priority. Investing in SEO is a must if you want to reach your target audience. Don’t get me wrong, creating brand awareness is important, but the best way to build awareness involves implementing demand-generation tactics.

How to not get left behind

To avoid getting left behind, marketers need to understand the importance of data and fast iteration. Speed kills in today’s environment. The faster you can iterate on marketing campaigns, the faster you can learn. Don’t strive for perfection the first time around. Upload that blog post before you’re ready. Submit that video even if it’s not pixel-perfect. AI-powered content creation tools like Jasper (for text) or Welcome (for video) can drastically reduce your cycle times. The faster you can reach potential customers, the more your sales team will thank you. Don’t get caught up in analysis paralysis. There are many strategies that can work. I’ve seen referral programs, ABM, and webinars all be very successful in the customer journey. 

In the current economic environment, retention is becoming a higher demand generation marketing priority. Making sure that leads are high-quality is becoming increasingly important. Case studies have long shown that it is easier to retain a customer than get a new one. Even though retention isn’t typically part of the marketing function, many CEOs are making it a part of their marketing efforts. This requires a careful, data-driven analysis of your inbound marketing strategy.

This starts with understanding your persona and its pain points. Often, your growth marketing strategy will hinge on key differences between your offering and that of your competitors. Because of this, traditional marketing is becoming increasingly irrelevant.



While the debate rages on the differences between demand generation and growth marketing. The key is to understand why both of these strategies are important and how they can impact the success of your marketing team going forward. 

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