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Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing vs. Growth Marketing — Are They Different?

Is growth marketing just the cool new way to say inbound marketing? Not exactly. Find out how they're different, and how they can be used together for max impact.

8 mins read time
Jeanna Barrett
Jeanna Barrett

Aug 24, 2021

As marketers, we are all too familiar with the constant change our industry sees in terms of tactics and trends. Every year, it seems there’s the “next big thing” that is the new secret to marketing success.

While much of this is due to working in an ever-evolving, fast-paced industry, it can be difficult to keep up with what the new industry standard is and how best to incorporate it into your existing marketing strategies.

Growth marketing is one of the most exciting and impactful strategies that has grown in popularity in recent years. But it doesn’t just work in a vacuum — in fact, we’ve found that it works best when tied with a strategic inbound marketing approach.

Let’s dive a little more into what the difference between inbound and growth marketing is and how you can leverage both of them to build a bulletproof conversion strategy.


What Is Inbound Marketing?

Imagine you’re walking down the aisle of a supermarket in search of some ripe tomatoes for your famous tomato soup. 

A salesperson walks up to you and hands you a coupon for $2 off potatoes. You refuse and continue on your way. The salesperson follows you, trying to convince you to take the coupon and buy the potatoes. Annoyed, you refuse again and start to get frustrated. 

Eventually, the salesperson leaves in a huff. As you arrive at the tomato stand, you find a booklet clipped to the side titled, “What kinds of tomatoes are best for tomato soup?” You skim over the booklet and find out that Roma tomatoes, rather than the ones on the vine that you’ve bought previously, are best for your soup.

Excited about your new discovery, you buy the Roma tomatoes. Once you get home, you make the tomato soup and find that this soup is, in fact, more flavorful than the last time you made it using tomatoes on the vine. From now on, you decide you will only buy Roma tomatoes for this soup. 

This is a mundane example that illustrates what inbound marketing is. According to HubSpot, one of the leading inbound marketing platforms, “Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them.”


Key components of inbound marketing include:

  • It’s a highly personalized, three-tiered approach to the buyer’s journey: attract, engage, delight.
  • It relies on a mix of content marketing, email marketing, social media, SEO, inbound sales, and other channels to execute appropriately.
  • It can take up to six months to a year to start producing results as you work to establish credibility and build trust.

You can read our beginner's guide to inbound marketing, but, put simply, inbound marketing is designed to attract potential customers who are already in your market, help them build trust in your brand and products, and solve their problems. 

What Is Growth Marketing?

Imagine you’re the tomato customer again. This time, you’re still at home and haven’t yet decided what to make for dinner. 

In a push to drive tomato sales, your supermarket has tested a few different campaigns within the last month. They’ve gathered data to determine that during this time of year, families like yours tend to enjoy hearty soups. That, combined with your recent purchases, leads to a data-driven email that arrives just as you sit down to figure out tonight’s dinner.

This email promotes tomato soup and explains its health benefits, plus provides a few free recipes for you to download and a quick way to add the ingredients to your shopping list. This convinces you; you find your favorite recipe, download it, add the ingredients to your shopping list, and pick up your keys to go to the store.

This is just one of many examples of what growth marketing is and how it can be used to convert potential prospects into loyal customers. 

The growth marketing definition is: a data-driven, iterative, and personalized strategy that drives your target audience to your brand and extends the lifespan of your customer base.

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Key components of growth marketing include:

  • It uses data and experimentation to find the best marketing channels and techniques.
  • It helps reduce the churn and extend the lifetime value of a user.
  • It requires rapid, iterative tests within a short period of time.


Inbound Marketing vs. Growth Marketing

At this point, you may be wondering: so both approaches are data-driven, personalized, and used to gain more customers. What’s the difference between them?

Inbound marketing is critical to building long-term, sustainable growth over a period of time. It’s great for building trust and giving potential customers the chance to get to know your brand and your product(s) before making a purchase.

Conversely, growth marketing is a more scientific approach to marketing built around rapid experimentation and testing to determine the most effective way to achieve growth. It’s great for testing new strategies quickly and efficiently to determine which ones have the highest chance of success.

While each of these strategies might seem like complete opposites, when put together, they create a supercharged conversion machine that not only gets you the leads, revenue, and ROI you need today but also ensures you sustain that growth over a long period of time.


Creating the Ideal Conversion Strategy

You need data to understand what customers need and when. And to collect that data, you need to implement methods to collect and test that data. And to make that data work to grow your revenue fast, you need to do those tests as quickly as possible. 

The ideal conversion strategy combines both inbound marketing and growth marketing together to form the best of both worlds: rapid short-term growth and sustainable long-term rewards. Combining both approaches means you get to take the findings from your growth hacking and leverage them in your inbound campaigns for maximum ROI. 

But how does this actually work? Here’s how to craft a conversion strategy that combines both of these approaches.

1. Gather The Data

Both inbound marketing and growth marketing require a data-driven approach to be successful. Otherwise, you’re starting with a shot in the dark that may or may not ever get you to the ROI you need.

Before getting started, gather any data you may already have on hand and determine any gaps. Come up with a plan to collect any missing data you may need beforehand and take note of what kinds of tests you’ll need to do to collect any during the testing cycle.

2. Determine Your Goals

No campaign is successful without goals. Are you looking for more users? And how much are you looking to grow both short and long term? 

In short, the key to setting marketing goals that align with your business goals is to:

  1. Identify how much revenue you need.
  2. Determine how many sales you need to hit that number.
  3. Calculate your closing rate and determine how many opportunities, SQLs, MQLs, and leads you need.
  4. Calculate how much website traffic you need to hit those lead goals. 
  5. Integrate your other business goals.
  6. Set and check quarterly benchmarks.

Remember, when setting goals, you need to ensure they are actually achievable. The best way to do that is by setting SMART goals, or those that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. 

3. Create Your Campaign

Take your goals and come up with multiple campaign concepts and messaging. Don’t just guess what will work — use any data you may already have on hand to determine how to best personalize your campaign for your target audience. 

Determine both short- and long-term approaches, keeping in mind that the long-term strategy may change as you gather more data. Make sure to review your approach to every step of the buyer’s journey. Success with this strategy relies on actively engaging your existing users, not just your prospects.

4. Set Your Thesis

Growth marketing is a process of test, adjust, measure, repeat. Set your thesis by making an educated guess at which concept is likely to work the best. Again, use whatever data you have on hand to land upon your thesis, rather than just blindly guessing.

5. Test, Measure, and Repeat

Once your thesis is set, launch your campaign with that approach. After enough time has passed, measure your results against your goals and thesis and adjust accordingly. 

Are you getting fewer clicks than you anticipated? Make a minor adjustment to the call to action (color, style, or text). Test and measure again. Then repeat the process as many times as needed to reach your desired results.

6. Use the Top-Performing Approach in Long-Term Efforts

Once you’ve landed on a clear winner, it’s time to take this approach and bring it across all of your platforms and your channels to establish your long-term approach. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean your work is done. Instead, you should always be measuring, testing, and repeating to work to improve your results over time.


Tailoring the Approach for Your Brand

By combining the powers of both inbound and growth marketing, you unlock the ability to supercharge your conversions and improve your marketing efforts sevenfold. But before you can do that, you need to make sure you have everything you need to succeed at every point in the buyer’s journey. 

We’ll help you craft a strategic approach that combines both inbound and growth marketing into a stellar campaign that drives your revenue growth both today and tomorrow. 


See what a bespoke marketing strategy can do for you    Our experts identify your unique opportunities and lay out a plan that puts  resources where they matter — so your company will exceed traffic, lead, and  revenue goals.   Learn More

Jeanna Barrett

Jeanna is the Founder & Chief Remote Officer for First Page Strategy, an award-winning, fully distributed marketing agency. Jeanna has a combined 17 years of inbound marketing experience at venture-backed startups, digital agencies and Fortune 500 companies, with an expertise focus on business and tech. She's been named 'Top 40 Under 40' of brand marketers and 'Best in the West' for financial technology marketing. In 2016, Jeanna left the U.S. to lay roots and build her business in Belize, and in 2021 First Page was named #43 in fastest growing private companies of Inc. 5,00 Regionals: California.

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