Aug 11, 2022

Growth marketing 101: the basics of marketing experiments

10-MINUTE READ | By Minna Tuikka

Marketing measurement

[ Updated Aug 3, 2023 ]

Growth marketing is the next marketing frontier. Through frequent testing, quick learning, and effective adaption, it produces sustainable and replicable marketing activities. Additionally, growth marketing focuses on retention and engagements within the customer base.

In this article, we’ll show you the basics of growth marketing and how to get started with testing and experiments.

Skip ahead: 

Why is growth marketing trending

Growth marketing has been around for a while, but most marketers now aim to test and improve marketing activities in their everyday job.

Sean Ellis' blog Startup Marketing article Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup from July 26, 2010.

Lately, growth marketing—as a core part of the marketing strategy—has attracted more attention, and it’s now one of the most trusted ways of marketing.

By ensuring that every step of the customer journey benefits them, a growth marketer supports building long and valuable customer relationships.

As important as good tools and a strategic plan are for success—it’s also about collaborating with teams inside and outside marketing. A growth marketer identifies and includes the stakeholders needed during the process. On top of marketing, other teams to include in growth are sales, customer experience, customer support, product, and finance.

By acknowledging customer touchpoints through the entire sales funnel, growth marketers can also detect collaboration points. When reporting results, including stakeholders, pays off. Open communication and transparency increase awareness about marketing and lead to new testing areas and a deeper understanding of your customers.

How to get started with marketing experimentation

Decide what you want to test

Sometimes, a business challenge or a new concept gives you the scope. Sometimes the growth team decides on the scope. Scoping the experiment clearly and starting with smaller goals will give you better insights and help scale.

Find out the needed resources and agree on the schedule

Before starting, make sure that the needed resources are available. This helps a lot in the later stages and also keeps the schedule running smoothly. When different teams agree on the test plan and plan the schedule well, the execution flows, and you can focus on optimizing and learning.

Just get started

Be curious, and be patient. When receiving results—even if they’re not what you wished for—take the time to review and document insights. This is where the magic happens.

Systematic testing 

Ideas usually come up pretty easily when discussing the topic of experimentation. Testing a subject line for an email or the website’s visual appearance can quickly be brainstormed with various approaches. Ideas are always valuable, and you should store them in a backlog for later.

The first thing is still to draw long-term goals for your experiments. What do you want to achieve with these tests? How are you going to use the results? Make the goal simple and clear. With that goal in mind, it’s easier to start going through the following steps.

The growth hacking testing loop

Plan and hypothesize

Considering the bigger goal you want to achieve is a starting point for testing in general. Answering the following questions can help get started: 

  • Why are you doing this test?
  • What would you like to know?
  • What do you assume will happen as a result of these tests?* 
  • Who should be informed about the results?
  • What are you going to do with the results?

Answering these questions creates the hypothesis* and long-term goals. Based on those, you can plan concrete tests and variations. Growth marketing teams’ strength and value come from creative minds working together and producing out-of-the-box ideas for all customer journey stages. The team can be split between stages and have some experts working purely for the top of the funnel and others around onboarding. The other option is to have everybody work on all the stages individually. 

Brainstorming will bring many different ideas, but you can’t do them all. As part of planning, rate the ideas by their business impact, ease of implementation, and your confidence in the test’s success. The rating will give you a clearer timeline and order for the different test variations. It’s also valuable to have multiple variations for the same step, as it’s probable that not all tests bring significant results.

Setup and experiment

Scheduling experiments to run long enough to be statistically significant can be reflected in estimating the target group size. Before starting to experiment, making sure of a few things can save a lot of pain when you’re reporting:

  • Can you tell where the results are coming from based on your setup? 
  • Do you have a clear control variable for your test?
  • Are the test variations different enough?
  • How many things have you changed at the same time?

Having an understanding of the base level results will help you analyze. When starting a test, monitoring the results helps you stop the variations with really poor results and minimize business impact. Here also lies the best learning. Looking into why the results dropped so significantly can give you great learnings quickly.

Analyze and optimize

As the tests run, optimizing them can bring the uplift needed. Stopping the poor-performing tests is the first step, but taking the learnings into action is the next.

There’ll also be a lot of tests with no significant results at all. Reviewing and tweaking them for reuse is highly recommended.

When there’s a test with excellent results, spend time with the results. Did the customer from this test react differently to your content or sections on your page? Does the conversion flow have different steps than the average customer? How has your ad copy affected the reader’s behavior while on the page, as well as after they leave?

Going back to the hypothesis and reviewing the results against it gives a possibility to gain many insights. If the confidence against the hypothesis was high and the results returned quite the opposite,  there could be something you don’t know about your customers yet or a blindspot in your customer journey.

Learn and scale

When there’s a learning with really good and statistically significant results, review the marketing activities through different channels and find similar places where your result can be scaled.

When experiments are increasing in number and variations, you should have good documentation from the start. Learning and gaining insight happen while testing, but bringing the results in documentation allows the team to retrospect and share the knowledge with different stakeholders. Having the documentation helps with consistency and long-term goal follow-ups.

The bare minimum you should document includes your hypothesis, channel, timeline, results, and conclusions when reporting and documenting your test results. If the key learnings or conclusions seem hard to come up with, there are different techniques to help this part. One example is to go through the results and stop on each to ask, “But why did this happen?”. The answer might be the key learning that’s hidden in the numbers.

Build your growth strategy and select the right tools

A well-structured set of tools helps become an efficient and powerful growth team. Visualize the strategy so that anyone from any function gets what you’re aiming for.

Example of a growth marketing strategy

Visualizing the growth team’s long-term goals helps communication within the company.

When starting a bigger test, have the team fill out a doc or spreadsheet including the key elements: goal, hypothesis, target group, budget, resources, and responsible people. After that, the goal for the testing is clear and agreed upon within the team. Ideation is focused on a common problem for the whole team to solve. For collecting ideas, the team can use, for example, post-its, spreadsheets, or whiteboards. You can do the rating on the same platform.

Mari Luukkainen leading a growth session
Mari Luukkainen leading a growth session at

After the tests are scheduled, executed, and reported on, finding a place to store the key insights is important. A wiki full of good learnings is a valuable vault of knowledge. When a good finding leads to scaling, the team can collect the scaled activities and calculate the estimated business value of these changes to report them forward.

As the key learnings are the most valuable outcome of experimentation, ensuring that the reporting focuses on them is critical. Automating as many reports from the channels and connecting them to KPIs saves time for analyzing. It saves you time getting insights and planning the next steps.

As a growth marketer always aiming for the most efficient and outperforming results, automating your reports saves not just time, but ensures accuracy. It ensures you calculate the metrics similarly, not depending on the person creating the report. If you’re looking for inspiration for your automated reports, check our marketing reporting templates.

Putting it all together

When summing up the key elements of growth marketing, these are the steps to success:

  1. Planning both strategy and concrete testing properly, take your time—it’ll pay off later
  2. Keep an eye on your active experiments and make changes if necessary
  3. Analyze the results and make the next steps using these results as a base
  4. Communicate your results—this way, your learnings spread across the company
  5. Keep your eyes and ears open for the next business case—it can also be outside marketing
  6. Work together with your stakeholders and value the feedback you receive—growth marketers should spread their nets wide

And lastly.

Trusting the company’s marketing in the hands of a growth marketer can be uneasy at first, as the testing method also requires failing. In the end, everything pays off, and the results include both happy customers and efficient and powerful marketing. Being curious and patient during the process leads to the best outcome—as they say, getting started gets you started. Good luck!

About the author

Minna is a Senior Growth Marketing Manager at Supermetrics. As a growth marketer at heart, she helps different functions inside the organization to solve their business problems and enjoys the time experimenting with new ideas. She has a background in retail and travel, where she has covered multiple marketing roles.

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