The difference between a growth accelerator and a marketing (growth) agency

A growth accelerator is something completely different than a marketing (growth) agency. Both have their value in different moments of the business. Sometimes working together, sometimes not. But what actually is the difference?

The simple explanation

Let’s start with the simple part. The marketing (growth) agency is mainly focussed on acquisition and a little on retention (growth hackers more on retention). So two of the nine parts of a business model. The channels and customer relationships blocks.

When you start your SaaS company it’s not just a small version of a big company. What I mean is that when you start a business you basically have two things to do:


  • Find a good solution-market-fit that gets you selling to customers
  • Build a strong business model around it to create a durable competitive advantage.

So basically, you move from knowing nothing to figured out how every block of the business model should work, and how these blocks work together. You have deigned and tested it.


This looks like this:

From explore to exploit

This brings your company from an exploitation phase where you ideate, deign, build and test to and exploitation phase where you scale and increase profits.

The big difference of a growth accelerator is that it not only focusses on the acquisition part of the business, but on developing all nine parts of the business. It guides you, thanks to a growth master, through experience (you mostly don’t have as a founder), with science, A.I., research, data analysis, etc. from the exploration phase to the exploitation phase. This is where there is no of little value left for a growth accelerator.


A growth accelerator typically addresses example subjects like these in all nine blocks:

So, external expert agencies can really shine in the exploitation part to increase the flexible production capacity and reduces the risk of employing expensive experts.


So, is there no place for marketing (growth) agencies in the exploration part? Yes, there is!


Phase one: customer discovery / finding a problem-solution-concept

There is an idea of a valuable market, a group of people that want to get something done better. And there is also a concept / MVP how to do this better, a value proposition. There are some first tests with Earlyvangelists that prove that the solution gets the job-done-better. 


Phase two: customer validation / finding a problem-solution-fit

It is proven that Earlyvangelists are willing to pay for the solution. So problem-solution-fit is not only a concept/idea, it’s proven. 


Phase three: customer creation / solution-market-fit

It is proven that the company has a successful customer creation mechanism/system. This means the company can sell to more customers beyond some Earlyvangelists.


Phase four: Acceleration trough business model building / business-model-fit

A good solution-market-fit is not enough. To stay competitive, you also need a great business model around it.


When you put this all visually together, it looks like this.

When you are starting out, you need a Growth Accelerator like, to get you through the customer discovery and validation phase.

When you are entering the customer creation phase, a growth accelerator with some external experts or marketing (growth) agencies is the perfect combination to speed up this phase and find the qualitative answers you need fast. Ideal you let the Growth Accelerator be in the lead of the overall coordination of the ideation, solutions designing and testing. So, you can focus on further develop the SaaS product and upscaling and professionalizing your sales organization.

When you transfer your business from exploration to exploitation, you need to start building your departments and only work with external agencies to be flexible in production capacity. You also need some experts. People that help you on an occasional basis with particular questions. Like making an academy. For most companies, it isn’t very affordable to do this in-house.

I summarize this in a visual way: 

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