Building a Successful Growth Marketing Framework for SaaS

Building a Successful Growth Marketing Framework for SaaS cover

A properly-crafted growth marketing framework brings clarity and direction to your SaaS business. It identifies and stirs you towards the most important things you need to achieve sustainable product growth.

This article discusses the best growth marketing strategies within the AAARRR funnel. It also covers the following:

  • The definition and benefits of a growth marketing framework.
  • How growth marketing differs from traditional marketing and growth hacking.
  • A step-by-step process for creating a sustainable marketing framework.

Let’s begin.


  • A growth marketing framework is a defined, data-driven process for achieving real growth as a business. It focuses on every aspect of the customer journey, from acquisition to retention.
  • In contrast, traditional business marketing is opinion-based and focused strictly on customer acquisition.
  • A growth marketing framework improves decision-making, guides future experiments, and boosts marketing focus.
  • To create your growth marketing framework, you must understand your business and its challenges as well as customer pain points. Then, create a strategy, track key metrics, and iterate.
  • The best SaaS growth frameworks follow the AAARRR funnel. This means having a defined strategy for each stage of the funnel – Acquisition, Activation, Adoption, Retention, Revenue, and Referral.
  • Userpilot provides the tools for executing robust, data-driven growth strategies. Book a demo to learn more.

What is a growth marketing framework?

A growth marketing framework is a tool designed to help a business achieve strategic growth. At the heart of the framework is a budget-friendly, data-driven approach to marketing that uses rapid experimentation to identify and harness growth opportunities.

Growth marketing vs. traditional marketing

To understand growth marketing, we must contrast it with traditional marketing.

Traditional marketing is product-focused and company-centric, with marketing efforts directed toward brand awareness and customer acquisition. Traditional marketers typically follow an opinion-based approach to marketing, evaluating their efforts annually.

On the other hand, growth marketing is an evidence-based, data-driven marketing process that focuses on the entire customer journey. A growth marketer targets every customer journey stage, from acquisition to activation, retention and referral.

Growth marketing vs. growth hacking

Note that growth hacking differs from growth marketing. Growth hackers prioritize short-term results over the bigger picture – to achieve rapid growth.

Growth hacking emerged from the lean startup methodology and aims to find the fastest solution to problems. While this often involves experimentation, the goal is to refine outcomes and find the silver bullet.

Growth marketing, however, abandons quick fixes for the bigger picture. Growth marketers focus their approach on the customer and their pain points.

They identify data patterns and improve their marketing strategies through periodic adjustments rather than sudden, intuitive changes.

The benefits of using a growth marketing framework

Adopting a growth marketing framework is a surefire way to grow your revenue at a minimal cost. The benefits of working with a growth mindset include:

  • Data-oriented approach: Growth marketing looks closely at the data and what it says. As a result, it eliminates the gut-feeling approach of traditional marketing, helping you make better-informed decisions.
  • Focus: With sustainable growth as its target, growth marketing pursues agile goals that drive revenue. It seeks out promising targets and works to achieve them strategically.
  • Faster results: Growth marketing adopts a scientific marketing approach. This means dropping processes that fail and optimizing those that work. Ultimately, it yields better results and delivers better customer experiences.

Steps to create a growth marketing framework for sustainable business growth

The growth marketing approach adopted by each business has to be specific to the needs and circumstances of the business. However, there are clear steps to follow when creating your growth marketing framework.

Step 1: Perform data analysis

The first step to creating any successful growth marketing framework is data analysis. Collect all relevant data, audit your current situation, and understand your business position.

What are your pain points? Where is your funnel leaking? Where (and why) are you losing money? What factors are behind your customer churn?

Step 2: Define your ideal customer

The next step is to define your target audience to understand what actions or motivations drive them. Define your different buyer personas complete with their background details, goals, and pain points.

Userpilot sample Product Manager user persona
Userpilot sample Product Manager user persona.

Your goal here is to understand each user persona and optimize your growth marketing process to fit their needs. Map out their journey and their emotional states at every stage to drive growth at each funnel stage.

Step 3: Create your growth marketing strategy

As you better understand your challenges and your customers, you’ll begin forming ideas on how to achieve business objectives. Analyze each idea and prioritize those you’re sure will yield the best results.

At the end of this step, you should know what tactics you’ll be adopting. You should also know your target product goals and how you’ll measure the success of your marketing strategy.

Step 4: Test and improve

There’s only one way to ensure your chosen strategies become a growth marketing machine: testing. Test different approaches to your strategy to determine what works best.

For better results, you could create a working hypothesis before each test. For example, your hypothesis could be: Increasing the free trial from 7 to 30 days will increase the conversion rate by 10%. Then, act on the results of your test to improve your process.

Step 5: Collect data and iterate

Creating a growth strategy begins and ends with data. Collect customer data through surveys and examine product usage data to identify patterns and trends that indicate success or failure.

PMF Survey
Collect customer data with a PMF Survey in Userpilot.

As always, be sure to iterate and improve your marketing efforts based on the results of your data collection and analysis. These growth experiments will help you create robust growth strategies that will serve you for the long term.

Successful growth marketing strategies and experiments to try for every stage of the funnel

The AARRR model is one of the most popular growth marketing frameworks available. Also known as the Pirate Funnel or Pirate Metrics, it groups and tracks metrics across the different user journey stages: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, and Revenue.

Dave McClure's Pirate Metrics
Dave McClure’s Pirate Metrics.

For product-led SaaS, we add another funnel layer to make the model more applicable. It becomes the AAARRR model with the following stages: Acquisition, Activation, Adoption, Retention, Referral, and Revenue.

In this section, we’d look more closely at an appropriate growth marketing strategy for each of the 5 growth marketing funnel stages.

Best growth marketing strategy for acquisition in SaaS

In the acquisition stage, you find the right leads and convert them into customers. Your goal is two-fold: drive awareness and convert awareness to action (purchase).

This is the stage where the user decides to engage with your company by signing up for a product demo or free trial. Your growth marketing team should focus on building customer acquisition channels. Some viable options include:

  • Display Advertising: Use images, gifs, videos, etc., with quality ad copies on relevant third-party websites to reach your target audience on the internet.
  • Social Media Marketing (SMM): SMM takes uses social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to market products and services and engage directly with target customers.
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM): Marketing a business through paid ads that appear at the top of search engine result pages (SERPs).
  • Content Marketing: The curation and sharing of relevant and valuable articles, videos, etc., to attract, engage, and retain an audience.
  • Affiliate Marketing: Here, the company encourages “affiliates” (partners) to promote its product to others and earn a commission each time they sell through its unique referral link.
  • Email Marketing: Share product updates, sales offers, and new products with customers on your contact list.

You can also create growth loops to ensure the company’s growth. This is a growth strategy where the user’s actions fuel future growth as their outputs serve as inputs for the next growth cycle.

Growth Loop Framework
Growth Loop Framework.

Growth marketing strategy for the activation stage

After acquiring new customers at the acquisition stage, the goal of the activation stage is to get them to experience value. For this, you need a minimum viable onboarding strategy.

Minimum viable onboarding refers to the primary onboarding efforts required to get users to the activation stage. Here you can conduct marketing experiments with different onboarding tactics, depending on your product, to find what works.

For instance, you could use checklists to drive users forward. In-app messages can help them unlock value, step-by-step guides demonstrate how features work, and support options can help them solve problems.

User activation onboarding playbook
User activation onboarding playbook.

Ultimately, your choice of onboarding flows should be the best combination that gets users to experience the core value your product offers and to reach the activation point.

Note that most first-time product users only convert to paying customers after activation.

Growth marketing strategies for the retention stage

Even after the initial purchase, a customer may still choose to abandon your product. This is a significant challenge for SaaS companies dependent on regular subscriptions for revenue growth.

Your goal at the retention stage is to prevent customer churn by ensuring users keep using your product and subscribing to your service.

To increase retention and reduce the churn rate, you need to focus on activities that drive user engagement. Regularly collect user feedback using in-app surveys and act on them to improve the customer experience.

Your growth teams can also take a proactive approach to churn prevention. For instance, you can segment disengaged users and reach out to them to re-engage them.

Userpilot disengaged customers segmentation
Disengaged customer segmentation.

The goal here is to ensure you successfully re-engage at-risk customers by identifying and rectifying the source of their displeasure before they churn.

Growth marketing strategies for the referral stage

The best products sell themselves… but they sometimes need some inducement. Any growth marketing strategy at the referral stage aims to drive customer-induced growth (a.k.a customer referrals).

For your customers to recommend you to others, though, they must be thoroughly satisfied with your product. The referral stage is, thus, about tracking customer satisfaction so you can understand the likelihood of your customers recommending you to others.

Thankfully, surveys like the NPS, CES, and CSAT help you do that. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) “bluntly” asks customers how likely they are to recommend your company.

You can then use follow-up questions to learn about the challenges faced by your “detractors.”

Userpilot NPS Dashboard
Userpilot’s NPS Dashboard.

A Customer Effort Score (CES), on the other hand, is a metric that measures the effort a customer must put in to interact with your business. Both surveys help you learn more about friction points in your product.

As you learn more about your customers’ challenges, you can begin working to remove those roadblocks and improve the scores.

Growth marketing strategies for the expansion stage

The final stage of the Pirate Funnel is the revenue stage. For a SaaS business, this is better known as the “expansion” stage.

The term “expansion” is more relevant as your focus at this stage is less on generating repeated revenue and more on increasing the average revenue per account.

To achieve growth at the expansion stage, you need to focus on viable account expansion strategies. Customer expansion strategies can include elements of upselling, cross-selling, and advertising the use of premium features.

Both upselling and cross-selling help boost customer lifetime value while increasing value perception. Ultimately, it leads to increased revenue per customer as existing accounts expand to absorb other features.

How Userpilot can help growth marketers achieve business growth

Userpilot is a code-free product adoption tool that provides all the instruments you need to understand customer behavior through the customer lifecycle and implement a successful growth strategy. It helps you:

Create an MVO strategy

Userpilot provides you with all the UI elements needed to create a successful minimum viable onboarding (MVO) strategy. For instance, annotated UX patterns like tooltips and hotspots help draw users’ attention toward one particular action.

Userpilot in-app flow elements
Userpilot in-app flow elements.

On the other hand, embedded patterns like popups, slideouts, and checklists often have a broader scope and can be extremely useful for in-app communication and surveys.

You can create all of these with Userpilot code-free.

Build in-app surveys

Collect feedback, identify friction points, and measure customer satisfaction using in-app surveys. Userpilot enables you to build these surveys from scratch and present them to the user at any point in the customer journey.

Whether it’s an onboarding survey, CSAT, CES, or NPS, you can track survey responses, measure user sentiment, and tack on follow-up questions for certain response groups.

NPS survey creation in Userpilot
NPS survey creation in Userpilot.


Divide customers into groups based on shared characteristics. Create user segments based on demographic data, behavioral data, and/or survey response data, code-free with Userpilot.

Userpilot Segmentation
Userpilot Advanced Segmentation.

Advanced analytics

Collect and analyze detailed in-app data with Userpilot’s advanced analytics. Receive insights on everything from feature adoption, event completion, churn rate, etc., and improve your marketing strategy accordingly.

Userpilot features and event analytics
Userpilot features and event analytics.


Successful growth marketing isn’t intuition-driven. You need the right tools and data to create and execute effective strategies within your chosen growth marketing framework. As you do, you’ll notice an increase in sign-ups, conversion rates, and retention.

Userpilot can help you execute your desired growth marketing framework and achieve your growth goals. Book a free demo today to learn more.

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