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Ian Yung, Tonal's SVP of Growth on why growth marketing strategies can't be "copy & pasted"


Our conversation with Ian Yung is a part of our advertiser speaker series. Editorial interviews with leading marketers were made possible by our partner, Partnerize.


Stream the discussion here.


As Ian Yung puts it, his current role as SVP of Growth for Tonal is a part of the “second act” of his professional life. That’s because the first 13 years of his career were spent in the manufacturing world, honing and utilizing a very different skill set. Yung started at Tonal in the summer of 2022 after working at Parachute, where he also held roles dedicated to growth.

Leaving the manufacturing industry “gave me the opportunity to reflect and decide what was next,” Yung said. He pursued his interest in tech and moved to San Francisco, where he found a job in operations before navigating his way into a series of roles in marketing, specifically growth marketing.


Yung has seen more and more businesses add roles dedicated to growth, and he believes any role under that category should come with a job description specific to that company. If a business is simply “copy and pasting” a job description from another company that posted a position dedicated to growth, that’s not going to work, Yung said.


With that approach, “you’re just getting the superficial understanding of what growth is,” he said, adding that such a position adds value only when a company can dig into and articulate what growth means and should look like for them.


And that definition can’t be one-dimensional. “A lot of other companies will say growth is just performance marketing,” Yung said. “That’s a very important part of any business, but it is not the full story. Others may say it’s just product market fit…I believe every business has their right balance between the two.”


So what does growth marketing mean at Tonal? Yung said it includes performance marketing, e-commerce and analytics.

“I believe that in today’s world, you really need to take a more quantitative, data-driven approach in figuring out what are the right levers and how far can you pull them,” Yung said.


Determining growth goals and achieving them requires a cross-functional approach, Yung said.


“You fundamentally need to have the same framework and everyone aligned to the mental model that you think about to get a company to grow,” he said. “That’s the biggest reason for misalignment – everyone wants the company to grow; it’s just how to grow is where there are disagreements.”


Some disagreements may come down to the false dichotomy between brand marketing and performance marketing. “It’s a both/and, not an either/or,” Yung said.


Creating that mental model requires a qualitative framework that defines the key attributes of a company’s business that actually lead to sustainable, healthy and compounding growth, he said.


That allows a team to attach quantitative descriptors for this model, which allows for analysis and modeling.

Another important point for businesses to understand, Yung said: There likely is a point where a successful strategy simply runs its course.


“It’s the law of gravity; nothing lasts forever and something will always reach a point of diminishing returns,” he said.

Successful companies learn to sequence these tactics on top of one another, which may help them appear (at least to outsiders) to be moving consistently up and to the right. But it’s often not that simple – such success requires foresight and layered plans.


“Before you run out, start working on your next endeavor or jump on the next horse,” Yung said, adding that “you need an organization willing to keep trying new things. If you’re in an org that is so risk averse, they’re not going to do anything…then you don’t need a growth expert.”


Yung’s advice to young people entering the affiliate space: Do your own work to find your passion and try to avoid getting too niche that you close yourself off to new opportunities that might be a better fit for your interests. The goal, as he puts it, is to find that sweet spot in the middle of the Venn diagram of what you’re good at and what the market will pay you for.


“So broaden your skillset based on your goals,” he said.


Stream the full conversation here, courtesy of Partnerize.


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