How to Start a Career in Growth Marketing?

Career in Growth Marketing and Digital Marketing

This guide is one of the extensive piece I have wrote taking few weeks to help out mid career professionals and students. I started with clarification of Growth Marketing vs Digital Marketing vs Analytics vs Data Engineering vs Data Science. Then went on explaining taking a different route in marketing. Finally finishing with resources and tools to learn each role. Definitely this will useful for most of the doubts you have!


Why am sharing this guide?

Few People have asked about career in digital marketing and analytics to me. My friends, my colleagues and other people in the network.  You might have the same question of starting-up or even in the middle of a career change and exploring. Digital marketing(DM) could be one of it, and wondering what’s next. We were all in that stage. There are different things that has helped myself and also friends who are experts in their respective fields. So I thought of sharing those experiences and other information in this short piece. We will go through how the industry is going forward, the early misconceptions, resources to follow, tools to learn and other valuable resources to get started

Every industry is disrupted and embodied into digital space from birth of a kid to a funeral (Even there is a startup working on funeral management). If you could imagine the size of an IT team in every company currently, that the size of a digital growth team would be needed In future. I believe that every company would be trying to win the online space and visibility of their brand which means they would need the talents to fill this gap. The spending of a company budget in marketing technology is growing higher than IT spending according to multiple research insights.

There are a lot of factors to share. In simple, even the fundamentals of digital marketing could help anyone in their life journey. Would anyone says learning MS-Excel is a waste of time? It going to be the same case for digital marketing. That’s why they teach you that in school. Even if you are a designer, you need a bit of digital marketing knowledge to market yourself. So digital marketing or however you call it, this knowledge is going to help your name/brand on the online space, exposure to your service/product and do whatever you intended to do with it.

If you believe in what I shared above, do continue reading the rest 🙂

The sharing would be on the bigger picture, so am able to cover the breadth of everything instead of going into depth of it. The depth can be learned from other resources links am sharing.

Who this guide is for?

Initially I intended to write for professionals who are already working in a company in different domain(not DM) and looking for a change in career path. Also some of my intern colleagues (basically students) who are just getting started in their career. This are the 2 people in my mind. My sharing here is not going to be expert writeup about the domain but rather an exposure and clarification of different things. This set the stage for your career PATH planning.

Without wasting your time, focus on the below topics based on your level (The page number for each title is in the index)

If you are beginner Beginners have no idea of what is funnel, channel, metrics, etcIf you are an intermediate You know the fundamentals but you are looking for what is next, and also how do you sharpen your existing axe
Fundamentals (Funnel, Channels, etc)Exposure(Growth Funnel) & AARRR Metrics
Digital Marketing vs Data AnalyticsDigital Marketing vs Growth Marketing
Starting Career in Digital MarketingData Analytics vs Data Engineering vs Data Science
Starting Career in Data AnalyticsT Skill vs Jack of All vs Master of one
Starting Career in Technical MarketingFor Intermediate & Striving to Excellence
Starting Career in Marketing Data Engineering
Approach: Easy vs Hard Route

There will be one expected biased points on this guide in terms of industry coverage. As i have worked with mostly on E-Commerce companies and online consumer tech, my examples and stories would be more into that.

Can the Digital Marketing could be the future?

Conservatively not if you are looking for a stable path but optimistically yes if you are ready for the adventurous ride and be curious always with new changing things. If you think learning one software and that can help you life long, 100% digital marketing may not be suitable. Search engines, social media, user behaviour.. All these things keep changing, so you need to change to fit the environment.

Like in a supermarket, where the shopkeeper monitor the demand and supply of their products. You need to watch the digital industry trend (demand and supply in the skillset). Linkedin yearly report would be good enough to monitor this. Or else you could check the number of startup job listings in and linkedin for jobs which are bigger than small startup. Or your regional job boards and niche sites.

In fact, career in digital marketing and analytics was most in demand on last few years. One perfect proof is the survey released by linkedin about the skills in demand on 2018. But 2019 the trend is changing as well because of the steady increase in digital marketing people supply. One significant example I would like to share is the Singapore government took the initiative to coach their citizens the digital marketing skills. Even my colleague who is a designer went to get free SEO training from Govt sponsored skills training.

A google trend

According to Linkedin, 2019 most Skills in demand

The most in demand skills by Linkedin 2019
where is digital marketing in the linkedin most indemand skills

Where is the Industry is moving forward?

Growth Marketing & Growth hacking, Marketing Technology, Data Science and Technical Marketing are the new trends in Marketing space. They are not completely new. They are updated version of the existing roles. This new roles need new mindset and advanced skills when they think about product and users.

And this terms (Digital Marketing, Performance Marketing) are getting older. You could see from the linkedin trend as well where you could see digital marketing is at 18th spot. It’s not dying but matured a lot. The supply of digital marketing professional is high now.  It’s an argumental fact but will go in details why and why not. Let me clarify and share my opinions on this.


Digital Marketing vs Data Analytics

Note: The Data Analytics am focusing here is fully on marketing focused thing. (like web, app user behaviour, etc)

There used to be and still there is different role for data analyst and digital marketing in companies. Big companies wanted to separate it out, small companies may not be able to afford to. Also as a person when you are starting up your career, you need to have a mix of this both things to have a holistic things of everything you do. For example, when you are running a facebook ad campaign or email marketing, you need to know how to use the analytics in any tools like google analytics. So to understand how this user are behaving when they reach their website. When you study academically(mostly in colleges) on marketing or analytics, they try to go in deeper of any of these things without a cross functional studies which gives some context.

Similarly when you are an analyst analysing the behaviour of the users, you need to understand what are all the activities or strategies marketers are using in their marketing, otherwise you both will be speaking different languages. You will be giving wrong insights of your analysis where the marketing team had different intentions.

Imagine if you could understand what he is speaking and he could understand what you are speaking, you could do great stuff together. That’s the power of T-Skill which gives context to everything and allow holistic perspectives. So when you are starting a career, I would recommend not to be specific about things, keep you mind to open and get exposure to things. I have got this recommendation while am starting my career and many get this as well “Start a pet project”. Act like you own a business and get exposure/learning on different things. You will understand it easily. When you start a pet project, and start learning how to market this pet project and analyse, you will learn more easily than just reading something for a very long time.

In a nutshell, digital marketing and data analytics are going to balance out your skills in the long term. This is what it’s needed in the coming industry. If you start as an analyst, you may learn digital marketing along the way and vice versa. That gives you the context. If you want or prefer, you could get specialized in any of this and form your T skills.

“Companies are expecting you need to be a data driven digital marketer, not just marketers. They want you to find signals, fine tune things, change route when needed.”

In practical example:  (do not worry about technical words here, you will understand slowly)

  • If you are a marketing automation specialist, you need to know how to use the analytics present inside the tool
  • If you are a website conversion optimisation specialist, you need to know many tools analytics in different lifecycle of a user (email, web behaviour, after purchase behaviour, etc)
  • If you are a performance marketer, you need to understand the metrics and analytics inside tools like Google Ads, Facebook ads, Ad networks, programmatic tools, etc
  • If you are UI/UX specialist, you need to know the analytics which provide heat map, scroll, clicks, and a lot of other actions based analytics

I hope I provided enough context of digital marketing, analytics and where they fit in. Before 6 Years ago, I read this article from Avinash Kaushik which helped me to differentiate digital marketing and analytics. How you can evolve in both of this. Things have changed in recent years but still valuable guide.

Digital Marketing vs Growth Marketing

Now let’s take a look on what is the difference between digital marketing and growth marketing. This above image is from GrowthTribe updated pirate funnel of Dave McClure(500 Startups) explaining how the thoughts of growth team and marketing team differs. There is profession/career/job for you if you have studied digital marketing. The only thing I see there is limiting the mindset of a digital marketing people is plain thinking about marketing the business. When they think about marketing, they only think about how to bring traffic to the website or awareness to business. And traditional activities like running advertising campaigns to get users. They forget about a lot of other things.

In a physical world, you can compare two restaurants. Two restaurant posted a banner on street corner to promote their offering.  See from this example what’s happening afterwards (read the journey of restaurant1 column first and the restaurant2, then imagine the comparison)

Stage of user journeyRestaurant 1Restaurant 2
Marketing (Apple vs Apple)Banner AdvertisingBanner Advertising
User visited the shopOpen door, anyone can enterReceptionist standing outside with menu card explaining the benefits
User in Shop (before Order)One simple to chooseTwo Menu:Standard MenuOccasion Menu (Christmas offering)
User in shop (While ordering)User select the items and order While User select the items, restaurant staff standing there explaining the speciality of each item.
User in Shop (while eating)No gestureRestaurant staff come once without annoying asking anything extra they need (cross sell and Up sell wherever possible)
After user had food“Thanks for your arrival”“Thanks for your arrival, here is the special coupons you could pass it to your friends. You can also use for your next arrival using this loyalty cards”

A Restaurant has special interior setup to take photos for them
RESULTOne user = one customer(John) and journey finishedOne user = One customer (Peter) + he passed his coupon to his friends + Pieter posted in his social media about this restaurant

APPROACHTraditional MarketingGrowth Marketing(look for ways to increase customer base on every touch point)

This above table is just for explanation and to get an understanding. That’s not the 100% correct definition. Also don’t worry too much about definitions. Learn what needed, apply what makes sense in your career.  

From the above activity, here is the below explanation of funnel/marketing term perspective what does digital marketer does and how growth marketers approach the same situation.

Restaurant 1Restaurant 2
Marketing (Apple vs Apple)AWARENESSAWARENESS
User in Shop (while eating)NOTHINGREVENUE (LTV INCREASE)
APPROACHTraditional MarketingGrowth Marketing(look for ways to increase customer base on every touch point)

Data Analytics vs Data Engineering vs Data Science

This is something still in the grey area which I believe it all overlaps together in different places (digital marketing + data analytics + Data Engineering + Data science). More than a few fields, I believe data science has been heavily applied in personalisation and improving the user experience of a visitor on a website or mobile application. Meaning even if you want to start data science as a career, getting into digital marketing and analytics will be a stepping stone to understand where you can apply this. Without any argument, data science is not just related only to digital marketing but application in digital marketing is easy to understand and apply. But how all this fit together?

Technologies, products, and services involved in Data

Disclaimer Source: Reference Architecture of Big Data Systems – – Pekka Pääkkönen Daniel Pakkala

I know it’s going to be too much to look at this in this image. The purpose is here not to understand everything but getting an exposure of it. Let’s focus only on the number I have marked there.

  1. After the data received from data sources or from processing (4) or from data analysis(3), data science can be applied there. For example: an analysis you did once found some substantial result but not a deep learning, you use machine to learn the deep results. This is the job of the Machine Learning expert to identify what models to use and how it needs to be done. Now a days lot of ready made tools has come in where you just need to give source data and use common sense to tell which model would be suitable for the data, they will provide deep learning
  2. After every data is ready or want to be shown, you need to present in a way. You could present in MS Excel/GSheet in simple charts, or you build dashboards in Tableau or Periscope or inside GA or Adobe, etc. This part is played mostly by analyst but in different organisation, most people are equipped with knowledge on how to use this tool. So the data are transferred in to this tools, then everyone build their charts/dashboards/story in that.
  3. Whether you are running machine learning(ML) or not, any data sources could be analysed yeah? Before ML, data analysts are the one who has done this job of analysing the data. And they are going to be the one who will do the first human touch of analyse. ML won’t be or replace 100% of manual analyze. And also for small data set you cannot expect ML do the job. That’s the part, the data analyst will be filling.
  4. In organisation where you have multiple data sets and if they are complex manner. You will need to do a job of sourcing everything into single place. While you are bringing everything into one(as simple to say), it involves cleaning the data, merging and few more things. Some call it as ETL or ELT, it’s basically a data engineering job of bringing together in the expected model to facilitate for ML or Visualisation or Analysis.
Open Source Apache Hadoop Ecosystem

T-Skill vs Jack of all vs Master of one

While I wandering across every different skill. I doubted about the long term effect and keep listening to some advice from different advisors.

One of the things is “Do not be a jack of all but king of one”  (Date: 2012)

They said “yeah do not try to be an expert at different things but try to stick with one, so you can excel at it”. Even though am trying to convince myself that I should be king of something but am unable to buy this idea on a long term basis. So this confusion has been with me until 2014. I met someone in a PayPal meet up in Singapore and he was in need of my help with digital technologies. On return helped with my confusion as well about the career planning and priorities.

He shared with me the concept of T Skill. T Skill is set of skill set you can have breadth of different/many skill set but you need to have one or two skill set which are so deep. It is not Jack of All, or not king of one. This is a generic concept.

Another example from GrowthTribe has published this T-Skill set for Marketers. Worth to go through as well.

When you look at this image(1st), what do you see. Content Marketing skills and Lifecycle skills are in depth. And others in the top are breadth. You should be an expert or try to be an expert in this depth skills gradually. No matter what . In long term your breath could change to something else and replaced. But there need to be always something in breadth. This is what is going to distinguish you from others. This is what you are going to be named after. When a company wanted to hire you or your colleague is in a problem… When they think of whom to call for this problem… Your name/face should come in their memory. That’s your brand value.

Naturally and logically if there are so many people who out there with lots of breadth and not depth (vice versa). The company which wanted to hire your or when you want to sell your service, you do not have excellence at something. Then the company will have many similar options where you cannot be distinguished. If you are not sure what you want to be in depth and couldn’t figure out now. Figure out what you should not be and not expert at it.

My Story: My expertise(depth) is not this > PR, Marketing communication, Branding, Design, UI/UX , conceptual campaign management, etc. They are my breadth of my skill. And I could be a supporting factor for it but not the person to run those.

My depth is Data Driven marketing channels

Even deeper

  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is not my expertise
  • Programmatic Advertising is not my expertise or not even intermediate
  • SEO am an intermediate according to the industry standard


  • Facebook Advertising is my expertise and my love
  • Web analytics, AARRR framework and the related strategies
  • Lifecycle Marketing Automation (via Email, Push notifications, in-app banners, retargeting channels). I am better at architecting a complex things into a structure and in a flow.
  • Content marketing strategy
  • Mobile App (App search optimisation, Ads, Attribution, Tracking and Measurement)
  • Conversion Rate optimisation (Web and App)

So you need to clearly draw out your Tskill to know where you are and where to focus. I did this once in a month to review for my learning level. At some point of time, that gives me the self realisation. {Use this simple excel sheet to visualise your Tskill}. Have a habit of review this once in a while. No joke, I did this in my early career in excel sheet. So whenever I feel accomplished by learning something, I put it there to see where I am.

Am stopping my story here. The purpose why I shared those are because we all experience something similar in our early part of our career, so no big deal to worry about it and how to prioritise. Just keep in mind, T skill is IMPORTANT!

How to start a career in Marketing

I believe there are 3 Things in everything we want to learn. #MST Learning Model

  1. Mindset (like Experimentation, Failure, Proactiveness, Curiosity, Automate, Pattern Driven, Holistic)
  2. Strategy (Upsell, cross sell strategy, Persona based, Problem based, BCG Matrix with channel prioritisation) & Stratagem-unconventional ways
  3. Tools

People Mindset: Not just in digital marketing but this is the mindset which are inside you whichever the field you are or want to be. In digital marketing especially experimentation mindset, fail to learn, curious about data and insights, finding patterns, smart work by automation, holistic look of business and marketing would help you to stand out from the rest.  Each of you have different mindset which has pros and cons. So am not going to touch on that. It’s your life lessons, so learning through time is awesome journey 🙂

Strategy: This is something varies by business, scenarios and many factors. Even though I want to cover this but it will be overwhelming if I do it now. So we will see it in the near future. I believe exposure of different strategy can be learned by observing others. But to really confident whether your strategy is going to work or not comes from your experience with different scenarios.

Tools: This is like a swiss knife that you can easily learn how to use it in a short while because it’s just a tool interface and their functionalities. Once you know it, that gives you confidence that you already in the space of survival (but you are not fully). Then by the time and experiments, your mindset would start coming into the picture of how to handle the situation. Your experience and again further learnings would give you notion on how to apply different common strategy and unconventional ways. Do not worry, we will go in detail. Anybody can learn tools if they focus and spend significant time on playing on one toy. I believe this is way easy to start without thinking too much initially.


Starting with Digital Marketing

Why am still using Digital Marketing whereas the industry expecting growth marketing? In the start focus on something which everybody knows and get into it. Then you may expand other things. Also it takes significant time to move from one funnel stage/channel to others stages/channels. Start with what you like and easy for now.  Facebook marketing is easy to start and easy to apply for any business/brand. Even you can learn that and build your personal branding as well. Then once you get the reach of the users > Then where you may able to run lead generation (email acquisition) campaigns to collect leads. Then you may use the leads to do Email Marketing. Look at the below sample option of how you can move forward with different skill set

A route starting with tools

Assume that you have an understanding of the computer technologies but your academic is not traditional marketing courses or worked in Digital business. You are the people who have been using online tools or websites to solve your problems. As you have already used online stuff to solve your problems, you just going to other set of tools and common sense to solve/use marketing. This is an easy route. (The tools list are coming on next pages)

A route starting with Social Media

Career starting with social media

A route starting with Paid Search

Career starting with search engine marketing

For Intermediate & Striving to Excellence

I wouldn’t say that am an expert to provide expert advice. However I have some predictions about the future of growth marketing and how I should be shaping myself. This is the hard route. So that’s what i’m going to strive as well because am already in this space.

Growth Marketing Mindset

Career in Growth Marketing and Advanced

Are you an IT Guy?

Imagine you come from an IT background in specialities such as programming and web stuff or started to move into programming recently but feel like digital marketing seems to be a great field to try. There is a chance for you. Instead of focusing on traditional things I shared above for the beginners, you can try technical marketing which has good features as well.

Career with MarketingTech Focused

Marketing technology stack framework

It could on activities such Marketing operations(tracking, measurement, product integrations, tools implementations, etc)

I want to bring one of my colleague career stints to explain this. His name is Chris, a web developer focused on front end website optimization, marketing tools implementation and tracking implementation, etc in one of the companies I worked with. His role was web developer until 2years ago but after that due to his previous experience in tech-related marketing works, he is currently working as a Digital Marketing Consultant. Does that mean he is doing facebook advertising or email marketing? No. Something like

  • Understand the usual emails or communications which his marketing colleague sends > Then try to automate all this via API if possible. And suggest furthermore automation
  • Marketing technology implementation
  • Advanced tracking setup by enhancing the signals his marketing team receive (meaning more data and types)
  • Automation of data flows between different marketing tools
  • Build marketing data warehouse for Machine learning capabilities

Career in Technical Marketing

You could think from customer perspective and build mini products that can bring still traffic and users to business. For Example: Finance companies would need Mini Financial planning calculators, Fashion companies would need mini online closets, Educational companies would need career progress monitor, etc. All this can be given as a free tools and acquire users. This type of tools based acquisition are also called Technical Marketing.

Marketing Data Engineering

With so much of data coming from everywhere, companies looking to build their marketing data warehouse, and apply machine learning activities with those data. So when startups want to save on human cost and automate as much as things with artificial intelligence, the data engineering play the main role in getting the data together. One example is bringing Facebook data into marketing data warehouse in my article. Don’t want to repeat the same article here but the details of what data engineering in marketing happens is explained there.

Automating Facebooks ads data into different marketing data stack



Source: GrowthTribe upgraded PirateFunnel

Everything you do in marketing whether it is metrics or strategy or team allocation or tool buying or budget planning or anything you plan, think from funnel perspective. It is not because industry is following but because it shapes your thinking, planning and ideas. And that’s how the user are moving in their journey

When your thoughts are structured, it is easy to funnel that into the journey of the users.

Just to give a short background about these stages:

Example Situation: Deliveroo a food delivery brand want to expand its Market

Consider a brand like Deliveroo – a food delivery service which is going to expand the business in a different geography. Its major markets like SG and UK, the business is already matured. Australia and the Middle East, it’s emerging market. Malaysia could be assumed as a new market in example here we are going to see.

AwarenessThe user is not aware of the brand Deliveroo in malaysia and the service/product it has. They have not seen their advertisement or people mentioning about their brand. So deliveroo will be advertising or doing other way of marketing to increase the awareness of the brand.
AcquisitionPeople in Australia may already know what is Deliveroo and their service offering like food delivery when they have seen their advertisement or through any other channel. But may not be downloaded their app or opened an account on the website (Meaning users not acquired by Deliveroo) 
ActivationPeople in the Middle East could are already aware of the brand, their service offering, downloaded their apps and website. but may not be engaging with their products or considering to buy their product and still continue to visit restaurants to have their food.However, Users who have not made any order with deliveroo so far
RetentionPeople in the UK and SG are aware of the brand deliveroo, visited their apps, order food via their app once in a while but may not be loyal enough to keep ordering frequently. Imagine you have a shop in your area, people come to only once  which negatively impacts the retention of the service, higher revenue,.
ReferralPeople refer to others in the real world. How do you make sure all customers ordering on Deliveroo recommend to their friends as well? That way we save spending money on Advertising and other activity and get one user to recommend others. That’s a very important part of growth activity
RevenueRevenue is not just selling, how to cross sell or up sell or keep getting the users frequently making purchase. This is the way we can increase the customer lifetime value (CLV) of the users.

Marketing Channels and Marketing Professions

Am going with a simple explanation just to give understanding for the beginners

ChannelWhat is this?The job title comes like thisFurther Actions
Email You would have received email from your favorite online shop or a blog you have shared your email address to receive updates. This is called Email MarketingCRM, Marketing Automation specialist,Lifecycle marketing specialist, Hubspot University,
Organic Search / SEOYou go to google or bing and search for something to read, buy, solve, etc. You see a list of search results. Those list from different website done a job of Search Engine optimization(SEO) to reach that result page. This result is called organic search results SEO
Paid Search / Search engine Marketing(SEM)In the same result, you will see 3 -5 results with a word “Ad” in black label or orange color which is paid search ad where companies pay money to google to rank on those results without doing SEOSearch engine Marketer, Google ads specialist, Adwords expert, Performance Marketer, etc.
Adstage blog

Organic Social
Have you had facebook pages ? or you have been following Facebook(FB) pages or Instagram(IG) account or twitter(TW) handle from your favorite product or brand. The status updates you get from them is sort of social activity. All those activities reached out to you are organic social activity. There are a lot more than thisSocial Media Marketer,Social Media Comm specialist, Social Community Manager,Social Engagement Manager, etc

Paid social
Some companies paid money to FB, IG and TW to reach you. This activity is called paid social. The objectivity of this activity varies based on business. Some want you to visit their restaurant, traffic to their website, contact details to provide their service, etcPerformance Marketer, Social Advertising expert, Paid social Specialist, Facebook Ad Specialist, etcRead from here
Affiliate – PartnershipHave you seen bloggers who write about specific products? Or coupon sites where they promote other brand promotions? Or big media writing or showing a video of a company or product?
Affiliate companies works on commission and different mode of pricing model
Media companies work on partnership with the paid promotion or strategic partnership.
Affiliate marketer,Partnership Manager, bit of Public Relation Manager, etcNothing i can think of
Content MarketingContent Marketing is something that comes into every channel activity.
On every channel we speak about our brand, there is content strategy handled to increase the effectiveness of each channel.
For example: Have you anytime seen content/images comes from Tom Jerry is with vulgar or violence? No. Mountain Dew is always adventurous?
Similarly when we send out post in Social, our pages which rank on search results, All involves content strategy
Content Marketer, Content Strategist, Sprout Social content marketing guide
There are more channels than thisI may not able to cover here

Below is not a channel but an emerging thing

Marketing Technology
Marketing Operation
Data Engineering
All the above channels involve lot of tech work likeImplementing a tool and connecting the different data source to itInstalling the tracking pixels in website, apps, etcTransferring data from many systems to many systems. For this, Holistic experience in tech and as well marketing is needed to achieve better results. This is an emerging role as well.  Marketing technology specialist,Martech specialist,Adtech specialist

Cohort Analysis

This is one of the advanced any marketer and analyst should be expert at it. It’s like a swiss knife of analyst perspective, read more about it here on how you can use cohort analysis in 10+ ways

AARRR Metrics

I prefer not to explain this now as it needed a detailed explanation, you may google for now

Example Conversion Metrics (note: *not* actuals; your mileage may vary…)  $2 3% Email Open / RSS view -> Clickthru Retenti...

Simple use case of different stages in Data Systems / Automation

Read from this Article about a simple use case of data automation process

Resources (pending)

Blogs to read (use Feedly)

People to follow(Use Medium)

Out of Box Inspiration

Known Networks

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