10 Reasons Why I Sucked At Growth Marketing


Let me begin my from-growth-hero-to-marketing-zero story by “adjusting" the well-known Tolstoy's (Anna Karenina) quote:

Successful growth marketers are all alike; every unsuccessful growth marketer is unsuccessful in its own way.

Well, I’ve found ten ways to suck at growth marketing. So, without further ado, let’s see what were the ten reasons that prevented me from making my growth marketing breakthrough.

Reason #1 - Writing Perfectly Rhymes With Marketing

I used to be a humble and happy writer who one day had the Gordon Gekko “moment." You know what I'm talking about, don't you?

I thought it was my revelation, but it turned out it was my damnation.

I wanted more, plain and simple. It wasn't enough for me to be just a writer. Oh no, how about a writer-marketer?! More shiny titles, more clients. Sounds like a solid business growth plan. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, it didn't take me too long to realize one simple growth marketing truth:

Every marketer can be a writer; but not every writer can be a marketer.

Marketing takes and asks so much more than just writing. So, I didn’t get a dime for my rhyme.

Reason #2 - Marketing Is a Shamelessly Promiscuous Term

Look, it's not only about the semantics that can be painfully misleading. Who am I going to be today? I know! A growth marketer. It ain't working. No need to repent, let's reinvent.

Today is a new day, and growth marketing ain't my thing no more. Growth hacking sounds better. Let's try it. I'm sure it'd work better.

Same sh*t I was trying to sell in a different wrapper. Then I went down down the rabbit hole of marketing terminology. Internet marketing. Digital marketing. Content marketing. You name it, I used it.

I hit growth marketing rock bottom when I tried to be whatever my clients wanted me to be.

Yeah, it was neither ethical nor practical.

Reason #3 - You Can’t Get No Growth Marketing Satisfaction Without Specialisation

So, what exactly are we “growing” here? That's the question every growth marketer would have to answer sooner than later. I certainly did more than once.

There's no BS maneuvering space here.

What are you supposed to deliver (grow)? Clicks? Views? Leads? Brand or product or service awareness? The growth list goes on and on.

The silver lining was that I realized how it feels and what it means to be a developer, at least. There's no coder who knows only one programming language. My JavaScript friend explained it to me. I also had to learn HTML, CSS, Node, and…

And, this was the moment when I said, please stop. Just stop, because my head hurts. I remembered all the “fun" I had with SEO, Google Analytics, ad campaigns, and stuff.

Yup, to be everywhere in growth marketing is to be nowhere, eventually and inevitably.

Lessons learned. Growth marketing dreams burned.

Reason #4 - The Wrong Growth Marketing Turn: Influencer Marketing

Ah, the magic wand of genuine influencers with its jaw-dropping monetizing power. It's a no-brainer if you're a well-known influencer. My catch-22 was the moment of bitter truth when I realized that in order to help others to grow, I have to figure out how to grow me, myself, and I, first.

Oh man, influencer marketing is so damn personal.

There are ghost writers; but there are no ghost influencers.

If you want to do growth marketing as an influencer, you ain’t selling your skills, but your “influence.” You’re selling yourself. And, that’s a different kind of growth marketing game.

Reason #5 - My Epic Growth Marketing Fall: One Size Fits All

You know how they say: “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.” So, even I was able to find my “nut" on Quora. It worked for some people just fine.

Now, I can't tell whether my Quora marketing “nuts" were something more than just a vanity fair or a potential clients generator too. I'm biased, clearly. Also, it's tricky to see where exactly the marketing nuts are falling once you start shaking the Quora tree.

My mistake was that I was pushy about my Quora growth marketing. I turned off more people than attracted new clients. Look, for some individuals and companies, Quora can be a hidden gem and a business game-changer.

But, one growth marketing tool and size can't and never will fit all sizes and match all business expectations. That's a fact.

You know, doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. We have all been there, haven't we?

Reason #6 - You Can't Grow Forever, or Can You?

Here's the thing about growth marketing I had some hard times to accept. At one point, you've grown what you're supposed to grow, and you have to move on.

My attitude was like, what could we grow next? That's not how growth marketing works. No matter how much you grow big, it's still a gig. There's no maintenance part for growth marketers.

Growth marketing comes with a countdown timer by default. The faster you grow, the sooner you'd have to go. If you stretch, you'd lose a growth marketing match.

Reason #7 - There’s More Growth in Truth Than Truth in Growth

We all know what it means “fake it till you make it." That's official Silicone Valley MO.

Compared to the startups race, growth marketing is more about the time than the results. At least, during the “honeymoon" marketing phase with your client.

Yeah, it's like that. The short-fuse growth marketers don't last long in the industry. Just ask me what was my favorite annoying daily “reminder." How long do you think it's going to take? Is it still doable because I have some concerns? When can I see some real results?

Is it fair to keep saying “we are almost there" in growth marketing? I don't know, you tell me.

Reason #8 - First, Growth Marketing Honey Then The Money

And, it was. Every single time.

I am a fair player, and I totally get where the growth marketing clients are coming from. Nobody wants to pay for nothing. At the same time, nobody wants to work for nothing.

So, I spent more time negotiating an “advance" (from a client's perspective) or “initial costs" (from my perspective) than the actual growth marketing strategy and objectives. The situation was always “fluid." The results dictated the bargaining power of either side.

I had to count more on pure luck and favorable circumstances beyond my control than my skills and efforts. I don't know if it was more frustrating or demoralizing.

If the “higher powers" of growth marketing don't favor you, then you have no other choice than to offer a sacrifice to please them. And by sacrifice, I mean - time. Your unpaid time, lots of it, without any guarantees.

Reason #9 - The Ninth Gate of Growth Marketing Hell

How do you know that you came to the full growth marketing circle? Well, when you start thinking about and working on your growth marketing course, blog, channel, podcast, or whatever. Without the results and portfolio to back up your growth marketing know-how.

So, as your last growth marketing resort, you're selling an empty story to make some quick money with the lowest effort to your fellow marketers.

You know, I wrote a lot about freelancing, and I feel good about it. I didn't make any money out of it, but I gave a lot of value. I knew what I was talking about.

I resisted the temptations of the growth marketing dance floor. I kept my mouth shut about growth marketing, with the honorable exception of this story.

Kudos to the genuine growth marketing gurus. They talk the growth talk and walk the marketing walk. They have every right to earn some extra money by sharing their knowledge.

On the other hand, the self-proclaimed growth marketing “gurus" shouldn't earn, but rather burn, you know where and what for.

Reason #10 - No Growth Conclusions, but No Marketing Illusions, Either

I sucked at growth marketing, so you don’t have to. It’s that simple and I hope, obvious.

Growth marketing is for everybody, but not everyone can be a growth marketer.

You’re free to identify as one, but you better know what you’re doing. More importantly, what you’re promising to deliver, or else.

I do what I do. If something grows out of the blue, it doesn't make me a marketer.

Here's one of my favorite Confucius quotes:

To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.

To admit to yourself and others what you don’t know, that’s true happiness which keeps you safe from growth marketing madness.

Originally published on HackerNoon on January 3, 2023.



Nebojsa "Nesha" Todorovic

Award-Winning Remote Writer | Business Storyteller