Digital marketing vs growth marketing – What’s the difference and what’s best for you?

Digital marketing vs growth marketing.

Which is best for your business. Which is gonna help you scale fastest and drive the best revenue? 

In fact, what the hell is the main difference between these two? 

A lot of folk aren’t sure and simply lump the two in together. So, to clear up confusion we’re gonna take a look at both of them and identify the difference before recommending one for your business.  

What is digital marketing? 

Let’s not beat around the bush here.  

Digital marketing is any form of marketing that uses online channels. So, if you’re using the internet to grow your business, you’re involved in digital marketing.  

It really is that simple.  

Let’s look at a few of the common channels and tactics people use to highlight how broad of a topic “digital marketing” actually is. 

Popular channels and tactics for digital marketing

So, digital marketing is any marketing that uses the internet to get in front of and persuade users. 

But what exactly does that mean? Below are a few of the common approaches people use for digital marketing.

Popular digital marketing channels

Content marketing

Wiht content marketing you’re creating a piece of content that hooks user attention and gets them to consume the piece of content.  

The idea of this is twofold.  

  1. To build trust by helping them solve a problem or by keeping them entertained
  2. To subtly promote your products or offers turning the user into a customer

Content marketing is often thought of in terms of written blog content. Written content can work really well. But content marketing can can be so much more. 

Video is content. Social media posts are content.  Images are content.  

Content marketing is about more than the written word. 

Use the medium you’re best at to help your ideal audience understand and overcome their problems to turn them into customers.  


Much like content marketing this relies on you producing useful content. 

However, content marketing will often rely on distribution like sharing to social and direct outreach to increase traffic. 

SEO (or search engine optimisation) is optmising the content so that search engines decide to push it out to a wider audience. 

With written content people will optimise for Google. With video content people will optimise for YouTube.  

You get the picture. 

This can be a great way to grow your brand but it’s highly competitive. And over optimising for a search engine can often lower the value to real people.  

Email marketing

Email marketing is a great way to nurture your audience. You of course first need to get their email address from an opt-in (great way to do this is with content marketing). 

Once you have their email address, you can nurture your audience to your offers. 

We’re talking things like…

  • Weekly newsletters
  • Automated email sequences
  • Abandioned cart sequences

Email marketing is an absolute must for brands because 95% of your audience is not yet ready to purchase.  

By collecting the email address and continuing to market to them, you have a better chance of being top of mind when they’re ready to buy.  

PPC marketing

PPC marketing (pay per click) marketing is basically buying ads on popular ad platforms to get your offer in front of an ideal audience. 

A lot of the best ad networks will have detailed targeting so your ads only show up where you want them to. 

You’ll have either seen or run ads on one of the big platforms. Again, its all about choosing the right platform for great success.  

The big platforms people tend to use for ads are Google for search and video ads. (YouTube), or Meta for social ads (Facebook and Insta). 

Betqween these, you should be able to increase reach to your ideal audience. But it’ll cost you. 

Social media marketing

This is organic (not paid) marketing through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.  

This is kind of under the umbrella of content marketing as you’re producing content.  

The goal is to produce content that does 2 things.  

  1. Gets reach on the platform to be seen by more people
  2. Incentivises those people to leave the social platform and head to your site
Eddie Shleyner social media funnel

It’s a tough game and a lot of people will look at things like ads, partnerships, and anything else to increase reach on the platform.  

I’ve done a study of Eddie Shleyner of Very Good Copy and how he managed to create a great social media engagement loop. which you should check out.

I’ve even run my own tests where I let Ai take over my accounts to see what it did to reach. This is something I wouldn’t recommend trying.

Partnership marketing

This is where you find someone who has an established audience online and look at how you can partner with them/ 

The reason being that by partnering with this person or brand, you get direct access to their audience. 

For example, imagine you’re a brand selling watches. You find an influencer who has an email list of 20,000 watch enthusiasts. 

In our study of Morning Brew, they’re a good example of a partner. People sponsor the newsletter to get access to the MB audience.

You cut a partnership deal where you can be promoted to their audience.  

Affiliate marketing

This is similar to partnerships however, the payment is based on a performance marketing basis. 

That basically means that you only pay the “affiliate” (or promoter) when they make a sale. 

It’s a great way to grow a brand as you never pay out of pocket. You pay the affiliate out of the sales they generate.  

if they generate no sales, they don’t get paid. 

There are some ways to build an affiliate marketing funnel that actually drives greater gains. Don’t just rely on the affiliate to do all the work, give them what they need to excel.

These are some of the most common and popular forms of digital marketing. But really, you can sum it up by saying that if you use the internet, it’s digital marketing. 

Digital marketing pros

  1. Increased Reach: Digital marketing allows businesses to reach a global audience, breaking geographical barriers and expanding their customer base.
  2. Cost-Effective: Compared to traditional marketing methods, digital marketing is often more affordable, making it suitable for businesses of all sizes.
  3. Targeted Advertising: Digital marketing enables businesses to target specific demographics, interests, and behaviors, ensuring their message reaches the right audience.
  4. Measurable Results: With digital marketing, businesses can track and analyze their campaigns’ performance in real-time, allowing them to make data-driven decisions and optimize their strategies.
  5. Higher Conversion Rates: Digital marketing techniques, such as personalized emails, targeted ads, and optimized landing pages, can lead to higher conversion rates and an improved return on investment.
  6. Brand Building: Through digital marketing, businesses can create and enhance their brand image, establishing a strong online presence and building customer trust.
  7. Flexibility and Adaptability: Digital marketing allows businesses to quickly adapt their strategies based on market trends, customer feedback, and competitors’ actions.
  8. Enhanced Customer Engagement: With social media, email marketing, and interactive content, digital marketing enables businesses to engage with their customers in real-time, fostering loyalty and building lasting relationships.

Digital marketing cons

  1. Increased competition: With the rise of digital marketing, businesses of all sizes are now able to market their products and services to a global audience. This has resulted in increased competition, making it harder for businesses to stand out and reach their target audience.
  2. Ad blocking: Many internet users utilize ad blockers to avoid seeing digital advertisements. This can significantly reduce the reach and effectiveness of digital marketing efforts.
  3. Lack of personal touch: Digital marketing often lacks the personal touch that traditional marketing methods, such as face-to-face interactions, provide. This can make it more difficult for businesses to build strong relationships with their customers.
  4. Technical issues: Digital marketing relies heavily on technology, and technical issues such as website crashes, server problems, or slow loading times can negatively impact the user experience and hinder marketing efforts.
  5. Data privacy concerns: The collection and use of personal data for digital marketing purposes has raised concerns about privacy and data security. This can erode consumer trust and result in negative perceptions of digital marketing practices.
  6. Constantly evolving landscape: The digital marketing landscape is constantly evolving, with new platforms, algorithms, and trends emerging regularly. This can make it challenging for businesses to keep up with the latest strategies and techniques.
  7. Difficulty in measuring ROI: While digital marketing offers various metrics and analytics to track performance, determining the return on investment (ROI) can be complex. It may be challenging to accurately attribute conversions or sales to specific marketing efforts.
  8. Dependence on technology: Digital marketing heavily relies on technology, and any technological failures or disruptions can disrupt marketing campaigns and impact overall effectiveness.

What is growth marketing?

Growth marketing is a little different in the sense that it’s not limited to digital means (however, a lot of growth marketing today is focused on digital channels). 

In my mind, growth marketing is all about getting results however you can (without being unethical).

The focus here is on growing the business whereas digital marketing is more a description of a subset of marketing channels.  

As a result, growth marketing might not include digital channels. 

A good growth marketer will identify what will have the highest impact. 

If that’s printing flyers and manually handing them out to people outside a theater, that’s what they’ll do.  

Growth marketing is less concerned with the channel or approach, and more concerned with generating results in the fastest and most efficient way possible.  

A lot of growth marketers will focus on “hacking” certain steps to get better results. For example, incentivising shares so each new user becomes an advocate and promoter of the brand. 

Popular channels and tactics for growth marketing

A lot of people will go to the fastest potential growth channels for growth marketing. 

We’re talking the kind of channels that allow you to reach a lot of people quickly. 

Generally speaking, that would be PPC ads. 

However, beyond that there’s no real set playbook for channels or tactics in growth marketing. 

It’s about results. 

And depending on the offer, audience, and campaign goals, the channels and tactics will differ.  

For example, to hit the teen market you might use ads on something like TikTok. But to reach an audience of single parent in the 40-50 range, you might be better off handing out flyers at a local farmers market on a Sunday.  

Beyond that, Growth Marketing is all about creating a cohesive, compounding, and scalable model.

I tend to build systems based around 5 stages. these 5 stages have to work together to get the best results. but when they do the system works really well.

The 5 stages are shorted to ACCER.

  1. Attract – how you get people to your site
  2. Capture – How you capture their details to nurture and follow up
  3. Convert – How you get them to take a key conversion action
  4. Engage – How you keep them engaged with the brand and products
  5. Refer – How you get them to refer their friends

Follow these and you build a model that helps create compounding growth.

Digital marketing vs growth marketing - The ACCER model for growth marketing

Growth marketing pros

  1. Targeted Approach: Growth marketing focuses on targeted strategies and tactics to attract and engage specific customer segments, resulting in more effective and efficient marketing efforts compared to digital marketing.
  2. Data-Driven Decision Making: Growth marketing heavily relies on data analysis and experimentation to drive decision-making. This allows for continuous optimization and improvements based on real-time insights, leading to better results compared to digital marketing.
  3. Scalability: Growth marketing strategies are designed to scale and adapt to changing business needs and customer preferences. This scalability enables businesses to grow rapidly and efficiently, outperforming the limitations of traditional digital marketing methods.
  4. Customer-Centric Focus: Growth marketing places a strong emphasis on understanding and meeting customer needs, desires, and pain points. By prioritizing customers and their journey, businesses can build long-term relationships and loyalty, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and retention compared to digital marketing.
  5. Innovation and Creativity: Growth marketing encourages experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking to find innovative solutions. This approach fosters creativity and allows businesses to differentiate themselves from competitors, leading to higher brand awareness and customer engagement compared to digital marketing.
  6. Cost-Effectiveness: Growth marketing strategies often prioritize cost-effectiveness by focusing on high-impact tactics that generate maximum results with minimal investment. This cost-conscious approach can yield better returns on investment compared to traditional digital marketing methods.

Growth marketing cons

  1. Limited focus: Growth marketing often focuses on specific metrics like user acquisition and retention, which may overlook other important aspects of digital marketing such as brand awareness and customer engagement.
  2. Time-consuming: Implementing growth marketing strategies can be time-consuming as it requires continuous testing, analysis, and optimization to identify effective tactics and drive growth.
  3. Risk of overspending: Growth marketing relies heavily on experimentation and testing, which can lead to overspending on campaigns or strategies that may not yield the desired results.
  4.  Reliance on data: Growth marketing heavily relies on data analytics and metrics to make informed decisions. However, this can sometimes lead to a narrow focus on quantitative data, overlooking qualitative insights and customer feedback.
  5. Potential for unethical practices: In pursuit of growth, some growth marketing strategies may involve unethical practices such as spamming, misleading advertising, or aggressive targeting, which can harm the brand reputation and customer trust.
  6. Limited customer relationships: Growth marketing often emphasizes acquiring new customers rather than nurturing existing ones. This can result in a lack of focus on building strong customer relationships and loyalty. 

The major differences between digital marketing and growth marketing

The real major difference here is in the scope. 

Digital marketing encompasses everything you can do with your brand to grow it online. And that means performance marketing that’s focused on results, all the way through to brand marketing to build awareness of what you do. 

The goal of “digital marketing” could be anything from…

  • Increasing brand mentions
  • Growing your social following
  • Generating more revenue

Of course, all good marketers should always keep an eye on revenue.  

Growth marketing on the other hand is usually focused on growing the business. As in, there’s a strong focus on revenue and ROI.  

Sure, you might decide to grow the social following, but you’ll have decided to do that because you’ve identified it as a key contributor to revenue.  

Digital marketing vs growth marketing – which is right for your business?  

Call me biased, but growth marketing is always the best option IMO.  

The reason?

Many businesses aren’t yet at a point where they can afford to spend on marketing activities that don’t directly impact bottom line.  

Growth marketing, by its nature, is focused on growth. Which requires a positive ROI. 

For 99% of businesses, they need more users and more revenue. So, a growth marketing approach that’s focused on money coming in is a better way forward. 

Don’t get bogged down with actions that don’t contribute to actual growth. 

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