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Why You Shouldn't Take a Course to Learn Growth Marketing — and What You Should Do Instead People who'd like to learn more about growth marketing shouldn't take a course. This is what they should do instead.

By Jonathan Martinez Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Without customers, there's no business. And how do you drive new customers or keep existing ones engaged? Simple. Growth marketing. It's no secret that growth marketing is a valuable skill set to possess, from new startups to 30,000-employee behemoths like Uber alike. Take a look at available jobs with the search phrase "growth marketing," and you'll see more than 50,000 openings on LinkedIn as of October 2022.

But how does one learn growth marketing? I'm here to tell you that the best growth marketing course, actually isn't a course.

Related: 4 Growth Marketing Strategies That All Startups Should Implement

How I learned

Back in 2008, I was a YouTuber before an influencer was called an influencer. I grew my YouTube channel to a sizable following, with 40 million views across 700 videos during a five-year period. My channel's growth was all self-motivated and self-taught. I learned Google AdWords and AdSense, by being exposed to ads across the platform. I took what I learned and promoted my channel through ads and learned how to make money through ad revenue. I also took my knowledge and created a website with ads as I further learned about metric measures like click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate (CVR).

My work created a direct pipeline to my first internships in college, where I helped tech consumer startups who needed help with their growth strategies. The initial experience of growing something on my own created a different path forward for me. Without these experiences, I might have chosen to pursue medicine instead.

This is why I think the best course for learning growth marketing is simply by doing. But before I lay out the foundation for how to do so, let's discuss the traditional courses that are available.

Currently available courses

There is a multitude of course options that you may have considered to learn the craft of growth marketing. I've bucketed a number of key options below:

  • Growth-founded programs (i.e., Reforge, Demand Curve)

  • College-driven programs (i.e., Cornell's Growth Marketing Certificate Program)

  • Generic and crowdsourced (i.e., Coursera, Udemy)

  • Small-scale programs (i.e., Growth expert's 2-week training package)

You might be asking what the difference is between these options. The largest difference would be the instructors and curriculum.

With growth-founded programs such as Reforge, you typically have ex-growth folks that are writing and teaching the programs. In contrast, a college-driven program may be taught by a professor whose research is focused on business growth on a broader scale.

If taking one of these courses sounds appealing, use the following criteria to determine if it's right for you:

  • Course curriculum

  • Faculty teaching the course

  • Price point

But! Before you take one of these courses, let me tell you why there's a better option.

Related: 10 Marketing Strategies to Fuel Your Business Growth

The best way to learn is by doing

As a growth marketer who has practiced the craft for the past decade and has been exposed to countless courses, I can confidently attest that doing is the best form of learning. But I'm not saying you need to join a series-A startup and learn growth marketing on their dime. I'm also not saying that you need to attempt to land a growth marketing role at a large corporation, which can afford to teach you. Instead, I've broken down how you can learn growth marketing in five easy steps:

  1. Set up a landing page: Whether you're offering dog treats, custom printed t-shirts or consulting services (e.g., fitness training or social media management), it can all work for the purposes of learning growth marketing. Success begins by learning how to market your new product or service. For increased ease, there are services such as Shopify, which can help speed up website creation.

  2. Launch a paid acquisition channel: Consider launching one of the duopoly channels – Facebook or Google. If you can learn one of these channels, every other channel has modeled its ad platforms and set up structures in similar ways. For example, If you can run a Facebook campaign, it'll feel straightforward to you to launch a Snapchat campaign. There are certain nuances to set up tracking for your website, which you'll need to dig into — but again, services such as Shopify will streamline the process.

  3. Learn metrics: This is probably the most vital of all the five steps, as it's the foundation of growth marketing: learning how to become immersed in the metrics displayed on the paid acquisition channel you've now launched. What's CTR, CVR, CPA, CPM, etc.? These are all metrics you'll want to learn, as they are relevant outside of paid acquisition, including lifecycle (email) marketing, conversion rate optimization and more.

  4. A/B testing: Once you're comfortable with the paid acquisition campaign you've launched, it's time to start A/B testing. This is one of the most foundational growth strategies that will help move the needle on performance. An easy A/B test to start with is with your creative assets on Facebook. Does a female or male in the asset perform better? Does a light or dark background perform best? This is a great opportunity to learn more about the best practices of A/B testing and what makes a clean test versus one that isn't. There are thousands of columns on the web about this process, and I encourage you to seek them out.

  5. Launch email marketing: I'm a firm believer that growth activation is the most important step of the growth funnel, and email marketing is a huge lever for activating users. During my time at Uber, we had hundreds of emails and push notification campaigns set up to activate users to take a ride, order food and more. For your purposes, you can test an email campaign for users through something like an ecommerce store — e.g., assessing who enters their details but doesn't complete the checkout.

Related: 5 Common Growth Strategy Mistakes and How to Fix Them

And with that, you've learned the fundamentals of growing revenue in the form of customers to your store. This is just as applicable to users on an app or for leads for a software business. Of course, there are nuances and hundreds of strategies to employ based on the growth medium or startup vertical, but these foundational skills are applicable anywhere. With these five steps, it takes less than $500 to learn growth marketing in the real world. This is why I think doing is the best (and most cost-effective!) way of learning.

If you're just looking to learn the basics of growth marketing, this may be where the buck stops. But if you'd like to continue learning more advanced tactics for your startup or a prospective growth role, it's important to stay up to date on the latest growth trends. Strategies and channel features are constantly evolving, which makes the craft of growth marketing an ongoing one. It's a fun ride — and you can steer it to one stop or continue the journey to thousands of future stops.

Jonathan Martinez

Growth Marketing Nerd

Jonathan Martinez is a former YouTuber, UC Berkeley alum and growth marketing nerd who's helped scale Uber, Coinbase, Postmates, Chime and various startups.

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