Growth Marketing: Exploit, Explore, Exit

Scaling marketing at organizations going through rapid growth can be a marketer’s dream. It’ll feel fast, a bit chaotic, but there are usually significant resources to invest in scale.

Many companies that are scaling won’t hire isolated growth teams. Marketing and growth are now almost fully merged. That means marketing departments are built as cross-functional growth “hacking” teams but are expected to operate as one.

Scaling is exciting for marketers. Especially the ones data-inspired. Scale means a higher volume of data. It means faster experimentation. It means high-impact work.

It also means higher visibility. It brings higher pressure on the marketing team. Increased importance on cross-department relationships.

Approaching Scale

So how do you set yourself up to handle the competing demands? How do you execute the right things? How will you be successful when the nature of scaling will require you to resist what psychology calls cognitive dissonance? Instinctively you’ll want to resolve the tension, but you can’t.

In 2004, Michael Tushman published an article in the Harvard Business Review called “The Ambidextrous Organization” and a subsequent book called Lead & Disrupt. In order to successfully lead an organization, you need to develop the capabilities to both “exploit” and “explore” which is to say that you need to fully leverage incremental innovation while also pursuing discontinuous innovation.

I found it effective to apply this model to marketing (with one key addition).

Exploit known opportunity.

Explore new horizons.

Exit to reinvest.