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In the digital era, traditional marketing is broken - but there's a different way.

saas Marketing is evolving

There was a time when the marketer's toolkit contained trade shows, eBlasts, cold calls and direct mail. But the more marketers spammed people, the more they were ignored.

With the growth of blogs, search engines, social media platforms and Q&A sites, people started to block-out traditional marketing tactics, and seek out the information they needed on their own terms. Unknown phone numbers went ignored, rambling voicemails were deleted, and cold emails went straight to Junk.

SaaS companies needed new strategies to acquire customers, and forward-thinking marketers obliged.

As a new breed of marketing technology developed, two approaches emerged.

Inbound Marketing

saas customer firstInbound Marketing is a long-term strategy for attracting ideal customers to your website, and educating them with high-value content. It’s all about building trust and creating the right demand for your solution, rather than trying to force sales.

It’s a marketing methodology which fulfils the needs of the modern (often sceptical) digital buyer: a buyer who has access to more information than ever before, and wants to navigate the buyer’s journey at a pace that’s right for them.

But there's a catch. It takes six months to generate a significant ROI. Most SaaS companies don't have that time to spare. They'll need happy, loyal customers in the future; but first, they need rapid, scalable growth.

Growth Hacking

grow scientificallyIf Growth Hacking had a mantra, it'd be "move fast and break stuff". With an obsessive focus on data & testing, Growth Hacking is about engineering ARR growth, getting your hands dirty and finding quick wins to boost growth. 

Growth Hackers aren't concerned about stories or fluffy stuff. They're the realists in the room, the people quick to quote snopes.com when you tell them microwaves cook from the inside out, or that The Great Wall of China is the only human-made object visible from space. 

But there's only so long you can hack your growth. Sooner or later, your SaaS company will need consistent, predictable growth. If you haven't laid the groundwork by then, it's already too late.


With neither approach fully effective in isolation, SaaS companies need a strategy to put the two pieces together.

Growth Marketing

Growth Marketing is a best-of-both-worlds approach, combining the long-term growth of Inbound Marketing with the rapid, short-term benefits of Growth Hacking.

It focuses on awareness, sure - but it cares just as much about evaluation, expansion and referral.

It's a full-funnel approach, built from the ground-up for growing a SaaS business - a way to quickly experiment and test crucial growth hypotheses, while building a foundation for long-term customers that will use and love your product.

Core Principles of Growth Marketing

  • Customer-centric. Customers are the heart of a SaaS business. Marketing needs to help them, first and foremost.

  • Full-funnel. Customer retention is just as important as acquisition.

  • Educational. Educated customers are better customers.

  • Experimental. Don't guess when you can test, and be willing to use any tool that works.

  • Data-driven. You can't improve what you can't measure, and testing & feedback are essential.

  • Fast. When something works, scale it quickly and effectively.

...startups must completely change the rules of traditional channels or innovate outside of those growth channels. They are too desperate and disadvantaged to adapt to the old rules of marketing. They have to dig deep creatively, and relentlessly test new ideas. If they don’t figure it out quickly, they will go out of business.

Sean Ellis

CEO & Founder, GrowthHackers

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