This article originally appeared in the Demand Gen Report’s 2021 State of Growth Marketing Report.

Growth Hacking (aka Growth Marketing) was coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis and further popularized in Andrew Chen’s 2013  blog post: Growth Hacker is the New VP Marketing.

Today, any marketing executive not thinking about growth should be looking for a new job. The global pandemic forever changed the business world and the buyer-seller relationship. There’s no turning back, and traditional marketing is no way forward.

Growth Marketing stretches the responsibility of marketing across the entire customer lifecycle and journey. It breaks down department walls and bureaucratic silos to form cross-functional teams whose mission is to grow the bottom line by improving every part of the product and customer experience. 

Growth Marketing is good for marketing and good for business—so long as you don’t simply expect to hack your way to fast growth without structured and continuous customer engagement and relationship building. That’s why Customer Marketing, the focus of post-sale activities to drive retention and growth with existing customers, is a highly critical and complementary role to Growth Marketing.

According to Forrester, high-performing organizations are 3X more likely to report more significant investment in Customer Marketing. To better understand why and how Customer Marketing is so important to growth, let’s consider their role in each stage of the customer funnel.


Happy customers who love your product become loyal advocates of your brand. They are your megaphones driving awareness without the advertising cost, sharing their experiences on social media and review sites like G2, TrustRadius, and Gartner Peer Insights. Whether you have a great or terrible product, this happens organically—whether you know it or like it or not. Customer Marketers orchestrate and amplify customer success stories to raise brand awareness to the next level. They engage with customers through online communities and advocacy and loyalty programs to gather insights and develop relationships. They have the ear and know the voice of your customers and, as such, are invaluable partners of Growth Marketers.


Acquiring new customers is easier with the help of existing customers. Their firsthand product knowledge and brand experiences are what prospects crave, value, and trust the most. Customer Marketers play a critical role in developing customer stories, case studies and testimonials at scale that can accelerate sales opportunities. And to win more deals faster, references are key. Reference management is a core responsibility of Customer Marketing and essential for sales team success. Knowing which customers are willing to be a reference, how often they are willing to speak with prospects, and on what topics is a delicate matching game. Referenceable customers and customer-generated content is the rocket fuel for Growth Marketers.


The days where marketing only focuses on advertising, PR, and other demand generation activities to acquire new customers should be in the rearview mirror. The digital journey from buyer to customer is a continuum, and the post-sale journey is longer and more critical than ever in today’s subscription economy. Developing happy customers starts with a great onboarding experience and is sustained through continual engagement and education to ensure customers are getting maximum product value. Customer Marketers work with cross-functional teams to increase product adoption and decrease UX friction. Their firsthand knowledge and insights about what customers like and dislike are perfect starting points for Growth Marketing experiments.


Customer churn is the leaky bucket that Growth Marketers shouldn’t fill until the holes are plugged. According to Tomasz Tunguz, Managing Director at Redpoint Ventures, if a typical SaaS business loses about 2 to 3% of its customers each month to churn, the business must grow by at least 27 to 43% annually to maintain the same revenue. Customer Success (CS) teams are essential for keeping customers satisfied and minimizing churn. Customer Marketers have the broader remit of guiding and keeping customers on a path to loyalty and advocacy. That requires constant customer engagement and close collaboration and information sharing with CS, Product, and Engineering teams, which is precisely what Growth Marketers need to do.


The highest quality leads come from customer referrals. Prospective buyers referred from people they trust can eliminate competitive bake-offs, shorten sales cycles, and boost win rates. Referral marketing programs are another core responsibility of Customer Marketers, and they aren’t as simple as you might think. Asking a customer for a referral is a big request that shouldn’t be taken lightly. And only select customers—your 9s and 10s on the NPS scale—should be referral candidates. By engaging with customers throughout their post-sale journey, Customer Marketers know who to tap for referrals and how and when to best approach them. That data and intelligence is gold for Growth Marketers.


No one will argue that it’s easier to keep existing customers than it is to win new customers. Retaining and expanding customer relationships fuels growth. According to a 2019 Forrester Business Technographics Marketing Survey, 77% of B2B revenue is generated by existing customers. Through customer advocacy, digital community, and omnichannel engagement programs, Customer Marketers can identify cross-sell and upsell opportunities in accounts that are realizing value and generating ROI from your solution. Growth Marketers can learn from them what product features and use cases trigger the most value and excitement in customers—and compel them to buy more.

Growth Marketing and Customer Marketing Go Hand In Hand

Every marketer—regardless of job title—should have a growth mindset. Better yet, every employee in your organization should have a growth mindset, especially if customer obsession is a core mission and business value. Ultimately, Growth Marketing without Customer Marketing is a bad decision because the two roles truly go hand in hand. Invest in both, and your overall marketing efforts and business growth will skyrocket.

Related: What is Customer Marketing?