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How to Hire Your Growth Marketing Team

“Growth hacker” might be overrated as a professional designation, but many businesses are becoming increasingly aware that traditional marketing alone isn’t enough to stay competitive in today’s changing business landscape. As a result, the terms “growth marketing” and “growth team” are being thrown around more and more frequently as business goals – even though many […]

“Growth hacker” might be overrated as a professional designation, but many businesses are becoming increasingly aware that traditional marketing alone isn’t enough to stay competitive in today’s changing business landscape.

As a result, the terms “growth marketing” and “growth team” are being thrown around more and more frequently as business goals – even though many of the people using them have no idea what a growth team is or how to build one.

In this article, I’ll break down the difference between growth and marketing, as well as describe what growth teams look like and how to plan for one based on your company’s unique needs.

Growth vs. Marketing

Before we get too far into this discussion, it’s important that we define what the difference between growth and marketing is:

  • Marketing is top-of-the-funnel, and typically involves looking at the impact individual promotional channels have on performance metrics like leads, traffic, email opt-ins and sales.
  • Growth involves a broader scope, encompassing the product or service itself. Sometimes that means changing the offering to better align with what’s needed for effective marketing. It might also involve adjusting the positioning, onboarding or activation workflows, or business structure at a high level to increase the odds of success.

Basically, growth is company-wide and encompasses the full funnel. Marketing is more tactical.  As Alex Birkett notes on the ConversionXL blog:

“In the past, marketing teams focused primarily on the very top-of-the-funnel, measuring impressions, mind share, leads, etc. A growth team, however, is largely overlapped with product, engineering, and design as well. A growth team is made up of many different skill sets and can more easily push through ideas and experimentation that crosses traditional silos and boundaries.”

Who’s Who on a Growth Team

Knowing that a growth team should be more cross-departmental in nature than a marketing team gives you some insight into the kinds of roles you’ll find on each. I’ve written about this on the Web Profits blog, but a few of the roles that may be involved in growth teams include:

  1. Growth Lead
  2. Data Analyst
  3. Content Marketer
  4. Social Media & Community Manager
  5. Growth Hacker
  6. Project Manager
  7. Full Stack Developer

Each of these seven roles is discussed in more detail in the original article, but beyond them, your growth team might also involve those in business intelligence, sales, customer service, customer success, design, engineering and UX/UI. Having said that, not all of these roles need to be filled at once – and they don’t necessarily need to be filled by full-time, traditional hires.

One of the things I like to do is work with contractors first. Not only can you let go of contractors more easily if they aren’t working out for you, but there are plenty of situations where contractors can get you faster results (or where long-term employees aren’t really needed).

For example, suppose you’re a Fortune 500 company, and you realize that you need to double-down on your SEO to facilitate growth. You’re going to be doing things like optimizing pages, writing new content and building links. Working with multiple contractors lets you tap into specialized skillsets much faster than you could with traditional employees. And, if you get the channel working eventually, you can always move it in-house.

Another thing I like to do is borrow team members from other departments. If I’m just starting the process of shifting from tactical marketing to broader growth, I might go to my product manager and say, “Hey, can I grab eight hours from you this month?” Or maybe it’s, “Hey designer, I need 10 hours of your time.” This creates a growth mentality internally and gets people to understand and buy into their role in supporting growth (all without adding extra unnecessary cost up front).

One thing you’ll need in all situations is a growth champion. This might be a VP of Growth, a VP of Marketing or even the CEO at a small startup. Regardless of the title, you need someone to lead the team who has more product experience, and who – ideally – has worked with designers and engineers before. You need someone who can explain the intricacies of growth, as well as get ideas actioned.

Once you understand the different roles you may want to consider, as well as your options for filling them, you can plan your specific growth team based on highest impact or biggest bottlenecks.

Finding Your Bottlenecks and Highest Priorities

When it comes to building a team, a lot of people focus on where they want to be. They don’t look at where they are right now, where they want to go, and what kind of people they actually need to get there.

Pierre Lechelle notes that looking at growth may not even be appropriate until you’ve proved that your company has reached product-market fit:

“Being in business is all about focusing on the right thing at the right moment. Before Growth, you should be focusing on understanding the needs of your customers. If you don’t know (yet) if you reached Product / Market Fit, chances are that you need to work a little more on your product before experimenting on Growth.”

So when I’m building a growth team, the first thing I try to understand are the bottlenecks in a business and its funnels. That tells me which growth roles I need to fill first, as well as what it’ll take to create an effective team.

Let me give you an example. At my company Narrow.io, our goal this year is to double growth. Knowing where we want to go, we have a lot of levers we can play with. We have churn, our traffic numbers, our conversion rate, our activation rate and more. Those are all things we’ve been monitoring monthly year after year.

Looking at this data, we realized we don’t really have a conversion problem. Because we don’t offer a free trial and people have to pay to access our tool, our conversion rates have always been pretty high. But what we did discover was that, if new subscribers failed to set up our system correctly within the first 90 days, they were going to churn. And since word of mouth is such a big channel for us, any churn also means a corresponding decrease in referrals.

To figure out where we could make changes, our team started looking at support logs and talking to customers. We offered to look at hundreds of their campaigns for free, which took us about 20 minutes each. But we quickly found a few weaknesses, like a toggle button subscribers were missing or mistakes in the way they were entering search criteria. Changing our onboarding and activation workflows had an immediate impact on churn and referrals.

But let’s say you don’t have this kind of data. Let’s say you’re just starting out, and you need more traffic before you can do anything else. Maybe, where we needed to focus on filling more of a customer success role at Narrow.io, you need to hire a traditional marketing team. You might want to hire a PPC person, an SEO specialist, a social media manager or a marketing generalist.

Once you get more traffic, you’ll discover the other problems you need to solve with new members of your growth team.

Using Experimental Frameworks to Prioritize Your Bottlenecks

In a perfect world, your company’s bottlenecks – as well as their solutions – would be obvious. You’d crunch some numbers, spot the challenges immediately, and either pull internal resources or hire out to resolve them.

Actually prioritizing your bottlenecks and taking action on them is rarely that straightforward in the real world. Instead, you’re likely to face:

  • Multiple bottlenecks, without a clear understanding of what should be resolved first
  • Limited resources to put into product development or new hires
  • Internal team members who are already overburdened and unable to take on new growth responsibilities

Deciding how to move forward can be made easier with an experimental framework like “ICE” (which stands for impact, confidence, ease). I generally focus on achieving the highest impact with the least amount of work, which often means making non-technical changes.

In the case of Narrow.io, after listening to feedback from our customers, we asked ourselves, “What’s the minimal engineering involved?” If customers are stuck in activation, for example, we could have solved it by either reworking the UX to be clearer or investing in better process documentation and support. But one of those options was a lot less expensive and required less time, resources and specialized knowledge to achieve – so we went with better training.

Crunch the numbers to the extent you’re able to. Estimate what the impact on your business metrics will be for each proposed solution to your bottlenecks, as well as what the full costs will be to implement each. Your estimates won’t always be right, but as you gather performance data, you’ll be able to iterate continually by revisiting your experimental framework.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, building a growth team comes down to understanding where your company is strong, where it’s weak, and which of these disconnects must be overcome in order to facilitate sustained growth.

It’s not about doing as many experiments as you can or filling spots on a team because some guy on the internet said you should. It’s about talking to customers, figuring out your bottlenecks, and understanding what it’ll take to fix them. It’s about making the biggest impact possible with the fewest resources possible, tapping into internal or external talent as needed to achieve your goals.

Once you begin operating from that mindset, the ideal structure for your growth team will become obvious.

Have you built a growth team before? If so, what other tips would you add to mine? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts:

How to Perform a Growth Marketing Audit

Marketers often become obsessed with one area of their funnels, and as a result, end up leaving other essential segments of their funnel neglected or downright ignored. Typically, that obsession is centered around lead generation, which, while necessary, is only one section of an entire lifecycle that can be leveraged for growth. Typically, the need […]

Marketers often become obsessed with one area of their funnels, and as a result, end up leaving other essential segments of their funnel neglected or downright ignored. Typically, that obsession is centered around lead generation, which, while necessary, is only one section of an entire lifecycle that can be leveraged for growth.

Typically, the need for an audit arises because a desired outcome isn’t being achieved. Perhaps you’re doing a great job bringing in leads, but they just aren’t converting. Maybe your leads are converting, but your churn rate is unreasonably high and unsustainable compared to the number of new customers coming in.

While there are plenty of reasons for needing an audit, it’s worth noting that even if you don’t see an issue currently, that doesn’t mean one isn’t slowly creeping up, ready to surface and become a problem.

A growth marketing audit is essential to every business and should be performed at least quarterly (though an annual audit should suffice also). Focus your audit on the entire lifetime value of your customers so that you’re able to deploy tactics and strategies that will improve not just the value of your initial sales, but also the frequency and number of purchases in the future.

How to Perform a Growth Marketing Audit

Building and performing an internal growth marketing audit is all about creating a better understanding of your business and ensuring your growth strategy actually works. To do that successfully, you’ve got identify not only strengths, but weaknesses and bottlenecks in each stage of your funnel:

Awareness

Are you using the right channels?

While you might start with a shotgun approach to building awareness, over time you should be able to determine your top three channels. Typically, this boils down to reading and understanding your analytics and figuring out what’s driving traffic to your landing pages.

If you’re using social media marketing, it should be easy to see which sites have the largest audience, are getting the most engagement, and ultimately, are driving the most traffic. From there, you can determine which blog posts are getting the most shares, ranking higher, and driving traffic.

Once you have a clear picture of what’s working and what isn’t, you can then confidently pull all your resources from lackluster channels and put everything into your top three. Tools like BuzzSumo can be especially helpful in determining what works for your company and what’s working for the competition.

Are your public relations in order?

Consumers are smart and resourceful these days. Not only are they reading all about your product and what it can do, they’re also reading case studies, reviews, and rants all over social media and review sites to find the dirt on your company’s shortcomings.

Bad press and bad reviews should be addressed and fixed (if possible) routinely and in a timely manner. Some great tools for this are The Brand Grader or the more robust Mention, both of which help you keep tabs on your company’s online reputation.

Interest 

Is your lead nurturing and relationship building approach working?

A whopping 65% of marketers don’t have an established process for lead nurturing. Without proper nurturing, leads will either grow stale or straight up opt-out, which can lead to huge bottlenecks and wasted marketing resources. Nobody wants that.

The best and most cost-effective, way to nurture leads is with marketing automation. In fact, companies using marketing automation to nurture leads  see a 451% increase in qualified leads on average, along with a 53% higher conversion rate. Tools like Mailshake allow you to send automated follow-up emails, see who’s opening and interacting with your email content, and schedule meetings with the right integrations. All on autopilot.

What cache of content do you provide to lure prospects closer to conversion?

A harsh reality is that consumers no longer need salespeople to make educated decisions about buying. Sure, there are intricate details only a seasoned salesperson can provide, but the majority of people do in-depth research and read about your product before they ever talk to you. What kind of content is out there related to your product or service?

High-quality content is a sensational tool for lead nurturing and building trust. While it’s important to put out your own content, you shouldn’t neglect the added credibility that comes from a third-party. Nobody likes to hear someone talk about themselves or their product, which is why teaming up with industry groups, professional associations, content review sites, and macro and micro-influencers is so important.

Conversion

Is it easy to say yes?

If you aren’t making it easy to say yes, then you may be repelling potential customers. Offering freemium products, free-trials, cancel at any time offers, and money-back guarantees can boost conversions because transparency is captivating, genuine, and charming.

On the other hand, lengthy, constrictive contracts or  jargon-rich terms of agreement can give people anxiety and doubts about purchasing. During your audit, make an effort to make signing-up or purchasing as easy as possible. Eliminate doubts, tweak the user experience (UX), and get feedback from actual customers for best results.

Are your conversions increasing month-over-month?

“You’re either growing or you’re dying” is a harsh, but true statement. Conversion numbers should always be improving, even incrementally – otherwise, you’re doing something wrong.

Not only should you be comparing conversions to last month, but historically from the prior year as well so you can track trends and seasonality. Finding a way to grow, even by a small percentage, every month has the potential to compound exponentially over time.

For example, Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, wrote that a 10% growth per week will result in 142x growth in 12 months. That type of incremental growth for a company with 1,000 users would mean 142,000 users in a year.

Loyalty 

Are customers responding to the onboarding experience that you provide?

Successful onboarding means your client is ready to use your product, feels supported, and has a plan in place to achieve the goals they set out to accomplish by purchasing your product.

Some ways to tighten up the onboarding experience are sending out Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys at the end of onboarding, tracking initial usage metrics, and scheduling “check-in” calls or emails at key moments post onboarding.

Depending on the size of your operation it can also be useful to assign them a dedicated Product Success Manager to act as their single point of contact through initial usage stages. An assigned role like that can help get over the initial hurdle of learning to use your product and provides a more turnkey experience.

Where are you upselling and providing further value?

There’s inherent stickiness is providing your customers with multiple products and services – especially if they integrate well and come with a bundled discount. Doing so makes it difficult to switch brands or cancel their service with you because doing so would require they find a new supplier for all their different needs.

If you struggle with this question, brainstorm possible ways you can create further value to your customers. What other adjacent lines of business could you offer? What features could be stacked on top of your current offering? 

What mechanisms are in place for consumer feedback?

It’s crucial to find a way for customers to provide feedback during onboarding and after. When using your product, customers are more like to stay loyal if they know where they can get advice, repairs, support, etc. in a timely manner.

One way to do this is to strategically offer an NPS survey at key intervals. Post-onboarding is an excellent place to start. Another is after interactions with your customer success team to make sure issues and questions were promptly and adequately resolved. Finally, offer these surveys throughout the year at regular intervals to determine customer satisfaction and track at risk-clients who may be in need of further touches and nurturing.

Advocacy

Does your product live up to expectations?

If your customer success department is slammed, your churn rate is higher than the industry standard, or the review boards are riddled with negative reviews, it could be time for your executive team and product engineers to take a step back and revisit key areas of your product or business.

Perhaps you’re targeting the wrong type of consumer. For example, some companies roll into key account and enterprise solutions too early and can receive backlash from customers for not living up to expectations. Alternatively, perhaps your company has grown and is now better suited for larger accounts which leaves small businesses feeling like your product is too complex or too pricey.

Is your customer service up to par?

Poor customer service is arguably the number one reason you’re going to receive bad reviews and resistance when it comes to creating promoters. It’s common sense. If your customers don’t feel adequately supported it will be difficult for them to recommend your product.

Potential remedies can include offering other ways to contact customer support like live chat or rolling out an enhanced onboarding and training program. Finding a balance between being cost-effective and offering a world-class support department is tricky, but well worth the effort.

Running a Growth Marketing Audit

A periodic growth marketing audit is essential if you want to know whether your growth strategy is working or not. Break it down by funnel stage and try to keep a neutral perspective on the results. Make decisions based on hard evidence, clear data, and customer feedback rather than “going with your gut” and make sure the changes you implement have elements of quick wins and plans for long-term sustainable growth.

A growth marketing audit can be an eye-opening experience. What changes have you implemented that had the biggest impact on growth for your company? Tell us your answer or share your story in the comments below:

Why Product Marketing is the Growth Secret Weapon You Absolutely Must Have

If you’re not investing in product marketing, you’re probably not growing as quickly or as efficiently as you could be. We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, let’s answer this: What is product marketing? Product marketing is basically defined as the process of promoting and selling a product to an audience, to drive […]

If you’re not investing in product marketing, you’re probably not growing as quickly or as efficiently as you could be.

We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, let’s answer this:

What is product marketing?

Product marketing is basically defined as the process of promoting and selling a product to an audience, to drive demand and usage of that product.

There’s nothing wrong with that definition, but it massively oversimplifies what a product marketer does. A product marketer’s role revolves around the product, obviously, but the product is as much a tool that helps the marketer to market more effectively, as it is the thing the marketer’s trying to market.

Confused yet?

Stick with me, and, with the help of this presentation from Hana Abaza, Head of Marketing for Shopify Plus, we’ll show you what product marketing is, and why it’s the growth secret weapon you absolutely must have.

 

How Does Product Marketing Differ from Marketing-Marketing?

To really understand product marketing, it helps to learn how it differs from more general marketing.

Marketing-Marketing

Marketing is concerned with growing a brand as a whole. To do this, your average marketing manager will be involved in everything from brand awareness and website traffic, to brand messaging and public relations. They’re also likely to look at the whole sales funnel and launching campaigns that target potential customers at each stage of it.

Product Marketing

Product marketers, on the other hand, use the product as the catalyst for growing the brand. They must have a deep understanding of the markets surrounding the product or products in question (including competitor products). They also need to have an in-depth understanding of their audience – in particular, why they use the product (or products), where the product fails them, and how to talk to them in a voice they understand.

Product marketers also, unlike more general marketers, focus predominantly on the bottom of the funnel (although their insights should be fed back up the funnel). They typically think about customers more than they do prospects or leads.

These are the sorts of questions a product marketer needs to be answering:

“What are we building?”

“Who are we building it for?”

“How do we talk about it?”

“How do we go to market?”

 

They need to know:

  • What the product does
  • Who their customers are and why they would use this product
  • What language their customers will understand
  • How they get the product in front of the people that will use it

If they can do that, they’re not only in a far stronger position for marketing the product or products they’re assigned to, but they can actually enable the company as a whole to operate more effectively.

“Product marketing lives at the intersection of all these functions. It’s probably one of the most cross-functional roles you’ll see in an organization.” – Hana Abaza

 

But What Does a Product Marketer Actually Do?

We already know that the product is central to the product marketer’s role, and that they assist in growing a brand primarily by developing, improving, and promoting the product.

Despite this very specific focus, product marketers really do a bit of everything.

All of this:

And this:

And this:

Let’s talk about some of this in more detail.

Product marketers:

Position the Product

They figure out where the product sits in the market.

“If marketing is about making it easy for people to find, evaluate and buy your products, then positioning is about figuring out what your product is in the first place.” – Hana Abaza

To do this, you have to understand the context that frames your product. Do that and you can define all of these things:

  • Your pricing
  • Your customers
  • Your competition
  • Your brand
  • Your channel
  • Your message

That will help you figure out things like this…

…which will help you target the right people, at the right price point, with the right messaging.

And on that note…

…They Figure Out Messaging

Product marketers figure out the language people use when they talk about the product. They then use this to create messages that are easy for their target audience to understand.

In her presentation, Hana used Dropbox as an example – specifically, Dropbox as it looked in 2010:

Hana spoke about the fact that her mother uses Dropbox, and that her mother is representative of a not-insignificant segment of Dropbox’s user base.

Back in 2010 however, Dropbox alienated that portion of their audience with the language they were using.

I’m talking specifically about this phrase:

It’s unlikely that Hana’s mother, and others like her, would have understood what it meant to sync files, let alone how to do it. As a result, Dropbox was limiting its target market to people with a certain level of technical knowledge.

Dropbox today looks very different.

To help target users more effectively, Dropbox split their welcome page in two – one page for businesses, and one page for individuals. Select the ‘individual’ tab, and you’re presented with this – simple, direct, jargon-free copy that describes exactly what Dropbox does and how it will benefit the user, in language anyone can understand:

This is the sort of thing a product marketer can help execute.

They Create Spec Sheets

Creating a spec sheet is essentially a data collection exercise, in which information like that shown in the diagram below is collated into a single, easy-to-digest document.

Spec sheets might not look that interesting, but they play a key part in enabling a product marketer to perform their role more effectively.

They Consider Internal Communications

When adding a new product to a company’s existing portfolio, product marketers will be responsible for deciding how internal communications will play out – namely, when other departments and staff members will be told about the product, what they will be told, and how it will be told to them (including the method of delivery – i.e. email or in person, who will deliver the message, and the language that will be used).

They Help Plan the Launch

 

Product marketers will figure out what kind of launch your product necessitates. While I’m generalizing a little here, “types” of launches can typically be placed in one of three tiers:

  • Tier 1 – tell the world
  • Tier 2 – tell customers and prospects
  • Tier 3 – you probably should have had it anyway so just quietly add it in

They’ll then help formulate a plan for executing it.

And They Help Grow the Product Post-Launch

A lot of companies put all of their time, effort, and resources into developing and launching a product, and forget about the growth part afterwards.

A product marketer will help bridge that gap.

They’ll experiment with how to grow the product’s user base, and how the product itself can be leveraged to drive even more customers.

 

How Do You Know When You Should Invest in Product Marketing?

So far, we’ve offered up multiple reasons why investing in growth marketing is a good idea. That’s because, generally, it is. But it’s not for everyone – at least right now. In fact, get it wrong, and product marketing could actually do your business more harm than good.

“Bad product marketing can kill your company.” – Hana Abaza

So how do you know whether product marketing is a fit for you right now, and in what form?

You’re probably not quite ready for product marketing if:

  • People don’t understand what you do
  • Your employees don’t know how to explain what you do
  • Your current marketing isn’t working

Thankfully, those are all things you can change pretty easily (once you understand that they’re an issue, anyway).

If these things don’t apply to you, then you’re probably ready to adopt product marketing. To what extent, however, depends largely on the circumstances surrounding your product and company. More specifically, the size of your company, the complexity of your product, and the landscape it’s part of.

  • If your company is still very small, and your product or products are very simple, you probably don’t need to hire someone to work on product marketing specifically, but you should still consider the concept and what elements of it you can adopt using your existing resources.
  • If you have a really simple product but your company is growing, it’s probably a good idea to hire someone to work specifically on product marketing.
  • If your company is still really small but your product is really complex, again, it’s probably a good idea to hire a product marketer.
  • If you’re a big company with a complicated product, product marketing becomes an entire function that necessitates not just hiring a product marketer, but a team of people that can support them.

You also need a product marketer – or at the very least, a knowledge of product marketing – if:

  • You’re about to launch or start shipping something, but you don’t know how much to charge for it.
  • Your product’s about to ship but you have no way of telling customers about it.
  • Your sales team doesn’t understand the product they’re supposed to sell.
  • Your customer support team is getting calls about a new product on your website but they have no idea what it is.

 

So, Should You Be Using Product Marketing?

While there are some exceptions, as a general rule, yes, you should be using product marketing.

Having someone (or a team of people) who have a deep understanding of your customers and their relationship to your product is, for many businesses, the secret to growth – and not just growth for growth’s sake. A product marketer can assist in driving growth that’s sustainable and that maximizes profit.

The key to using product marketing as a growth lever most effectively, however, is to understand that it’s never “done.” Even once your product has become a success, product marketing should be something that remains in the background and that feeds into a culture of continuous learning, improvement, and growth.

Do you have any insights to add on why companies should be using product marketing, or how they can use it most effectively? If you have a moment to share your thoughts, you’ll find the comments just below:

What is Growth Marketing? Building a Framework for Rapid Growth

Conversations and buzz around growth are increasing… Companies are looking to leverage new tactics, strategies, and tools to hack growth, trying to achieve a hyper-growth rate equivalent to The Hulk. But companies have a growth problem: their concept of growth is too narrowly focused. A great deal of time, money, and energy are being expelled […]

Conversations and buzz around growth are increasing…

What is Growth Marketing? Building a Framework for Rapid |Growth Marketing Conference

Companies are looking to leverage new tactics, strategies, and tools to hack growth, trying to achieve a hyper-growth rate equivalent to The Hulk.

But companies have a growth problem: their concept of growth is too narrowly focused. A great deal of time, money, and energy are being expelled on traditional and newish marketing channels in an attempt to throttle up growth by driving sales.

This mindset that new customers = new revenue = growth isn’t entirely wrong. New customer acquisition is absolutely necessary to grow a business.

In 2014, Microsoft, Cisco, Quest Diagnostics, Intel, Salesforce, Constant Contact, Linkedin, Marketo, and Twitter (among other brands) had marketing budgets that were greater than 14% of their revenue, with some spending as much as 50% on marketing and sales. Those companies still saw year-over-year growth.

What is Growth Marketing? Building a Framework for Rapid |Growth Marketing Conference

Revenue invested in marketing from 3 large companies

But if you’re stuck on a marketing-focused growth model, then you’re missing out on opportunities to further expand your business and become a dominant player.

Budgeting for marketing is still important; without marketing, your business is going to struggle with promotion and exposure. The key is knowing how much to budget for marketing, and how to use other resources within your company to create additional growth.

Traditional Marketing Vs. Growth Marketing

Companies relying on marketing to fuel growth put a great deal of emphasis on the top of the funnel. 88% of marketers currently use content marketing to attract a defined audience and drive action. That action is a movement from the top of the funnel down into a conversion or opt-in where a visitor becomes a lead that is passed on to sales.

A full 85% of marketers state that lead generation is the most important goal of their marketing efforts.

The problem is that there are segments of the funnel that are being missed. Beyond the acquisition of the customer, there’s an entire lifecycle that many aren’t leveraging for growth.

Growth marketing focuses on the total lifetime value of the customer, employing tactics designed to improve not only the value of initial sales, but also the number and frequency of purchases in the future.

This is important when you consider that existing customers are more likely to try new products and spend 31% more when they make a purchase, when compared to new customers. It’s also easier to sell to existing customers.

What is Growth Marketing? Building a Framework for Rapid |Growth Marketing Conference

Existing Customers vs New Customers

Increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can improve profits by up to 95%. If you want massive growth, you need to change your mindset to focus on more than just acquisition.

 

Building a Framework for Growth

1. Identify Your Top Channels

Marketing strategies typically involve a number of marketing channels. Depending on your offer, your business model, industry, audience, and other factors, the performance of each channel can vary.

Rather than spreading your budget and efforts equally across each channel to maximize acquisition among audience segments, identify the top three channels for acquisition and engagement.

What is Growth Marketing? Building a Framework for Rapid |Growth Marketing Conference

For example; at ContentMarketer.io my primary channels are

  • Inbound marketing
  • Advocacy
  • Community

Once you identify your top channels, plan to focus only on those. Pull your efforts from less effective channels.

2. Identify Your Weaknesses

Before you can stimulate growth, you need to find out where the bottlenecks are in your funnel that create customer churn or inhibit the growth of the customer relationship.

What is Growth Marketing? Building a Framework for Rapid |Growth Marketing Conference

Top of the Funnel

Given the typical diagram of a funnel, you wouldn’t think that the widest part of your funnel would be a bottleneck. But this is the phase where you’ll lose the majority of your traffic due to qualification.

I’m not talking about you or your team qualifying the traffic to determine the best leads; this is about your traffic qualifying your brand. Your top of funnel content is that point where a first impression is made.

Based on content quality and positioning, your audience will qualify you to determine if they’re dealing with the right people/experts to solve their problem. If you can’t establish that initial trust, then they’ll never opt in.

 

Middle of the Funnel

While it’s not the most common bottleneck, you will lose customers at this point.

This is the consideration phase. It’s the relationship-building and nurturing point, but it’s also where a lead determines if their need is urgent enough to warrant action and if you’re the right choice.

65% of marketers have no established process for lead nurturing. If things don’t match up they’ll either opt out or grow stale within the funnel, leading to a huge bottleneck down the line.

 

Bottom of the Funnel

This is the “final” step where a conversion is made to turn a lead into a customer. It’s also the second most common bottleneck. If your funnel and nurturing aren’t on point, you’ll never get them to cross the finish line.

79% of leads never convert into sales due to poor performance, nurturing, and engagement.

 

Post Sale

This is a critical point in the funnel that a lot of marketers don’t consider. What does your customer onboarding process look like once the sale is made?

Do you send the customer on their way with a thank you, or does your company have processes and programs in place to continue engagement and relationship building with existing customers?

As you analyze each stage of your funnel, you’ll begin to discover opportunities where you can improve processes, engagement, follow up, and how your teams can play a role in eliminating bottlenecks. Don’t try to deploy anything yet, though; that comes a little later.

 

3. Ideation

What is Growth Marketing? Building a Framework for Rapid |Growth Marketing Conference

Once you’ve flagged weaknesses within your funnel and the customer life cycle, it’s time to start thinking about how to turn those into opportunities.

Don’t try to prioritize weaknesses by severity. In the ideation phase you want to treat them equally.

At this stage, I gather my team together, including people from various departments, to start looking at each problem that’s presented. These brainstorming sessions create a laundry list of growth opportunities that get compiled into a spreadsheet.

There are no concrete plans made at this point – the entire focus of these sessions is ideation.

It’s a complete brain dump from the entire team and nothing more. This is a “right brain” creative process, so focus the activity and ideation there. Don’t get carried away in “left brain” planning and logic, trying to analyze each idea; you’ll get to that soon enough.

 

4. Prioritize and Plan

Once I develop a list of ideas, I work them individually and prioritize them based on a number of factors:

  • What department is involved? Who can manage the deployment and engagement?
  • How feasible is it to deploy? What’s the cost and time involved?
  • How severe is the problem? What’s the cost of not implementing the fix?
  • How will this impact other processes?
  • What kind of growth impact can we expect once deployed? What’s the benefit?
  • How will we measure it?

What is Growth Marketing? Building a Framework for Rapid |Growth Marketing Conference

This is where you’ll start to develop ideas for reducing churn, improving customer onboarding, and building on existing customer relationships. You’ll also begin to see how your teams can contribute so those bottlenecks are eliminated while the lifetime value of the customer grows.

 

5. Execute, Test, and Repeat

There are two ways to prioritize for growth marketing:

Startups: Prioritize and deploy based on what will have the highest impact with the least amount of effort. This will help keep your costs down.

Everyone else: Prioritize and deploy based on what will bring in the highest potential gains with the least time to implement.

Growth is all about high-velocity, high-tempo testing. This high frequency of deployment among your list of ideas lets you quickly deploy experiments in order to shake out the insights and determine what is garbage and what is a repeatable process that you want to continue to utilize.

What is Growth Marketing? Building a Framework for Rapid |Growth Marketing Conference

Setting Up for Successful Growth

Once you establish your plan following the steps above, you’ll see the necessity of splitting your efforts to include more than just acquisition.

40% of your efforts should remain exactly where they’ve been – on inbound marketing that generates traffic and continues to feed your funnel. While it’s a decrease in effort, you’ve consolidated your focus to your top marketing channels where the highest potential for leads exists. This focused effort will increase traffic into your funnel, but at a reduced cost and effort.

Another 40% of your effort needs to be put into addressing the bottlenecks.

Your planning phase helped you established a priority list of things to address and experiments you can deploy to improve lead conversion and build on customer relationships.

It’s critical that this be a continued, ongoing effort. You’ve uncovered weaknesses but you also know the sticking point in your funnel where leads are converting. This is where you want to focus – how can you create an advantage at this point that helps you stand out above competitors?

For example, your company could use a service like LeadChat to create a personal connection with prospects at the top of the funnel to drive more qualified leads into the funnel.

That’s 80% – What’s Left?

What is Growth Marketing? Building a Framework for Rapid |Growth Marketing Conference

The 40/40/20 Rule

The remaining 20% of your effort is going to be put to the task of experimenting with other ideas that drive viral growth. This is the point where you’ll tackle churn beyond the sticking point where the customer has said “yes” by:

  • Keeping customers engaged
  • Nurturing relationships with targeted content
  • Experimenting with programs across different departments to delight your customers
  • Turning more customers into brand champions

For example, a SaaS company could monitor metrics for log-ins and activity. Accounts that show a decrease in use could benefit from a dedicated support specialist who reaches out to offer assistance and engage the customer.  That’s an experiment that could reduce churn by addressing problems before a customer cancels.

Don’t Let Fear Stop You

Don’t be afraid to experiment: throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

You should never be afraid to fail – at least 70% of my growth ideas have failed. From my experiments, however, 30% have worked.

That’s more growth than I would see if I did nothing.

 

The Right People for the Job

What is Growth Marketing? Building a Framework for Rapid |Growth Marketing Conference

Don’t get stuck in the mindset that the work falls squarely on your marketing team because it’s “growth marketing.” It’s not about expanding your marketing team or trying to get them to be more productive.

The most effective growth marketing team will utilize people from every division of your company, not just in ideation, but in deployment as well.

Growth marketing takes the full scope into account, from lead acquisition through relationship building over the entire life of a customer. It starts with inbound marketing efforts and continues through the handoff to sales, expanding to incorporate other departments within your business:

  • Customer service
  • Operations
  • Production
  • Accounting
  • Logistics
  • Marketing

Every department has the potential to become a touch point in the funnel for customer delight, advocacy, user onboarding, and churn reduction.

 

The Right Tools to Support Growth

Maintaining your velocity in deployment can be difficult when you’re building manual processes and experimenting in uncharted territory. Having the right tools at your disposal can make deployment and measurement much easier.

Here are some recommended tools to consider for your growth marketing strategy.

Monitoring

These tools help monitor your brand, competitors, and targeted mentions to stay up on what customers are talking about:

Engagement & Relationship Building

These tools make communication with your customer easy, putting a personal touch on user engagement:

Social Tools

There are endless tools to make social engagement easier and streamline processes for your team. Here are a few of my favorites for scheduling, curation, and growth:

Funnel Optimization

Help identify and eliminate problems within your funnel through A/B testing and optimization with these tools:

Customer Onboarding

You’ll increase the lifetime value of a customer when you can get them to stick around. These onboarding tools help with keeping customers educated, providing them with the right information at the right time:

Time to Grow

From the top of the funnel to the end of the customer life cycle, there are countless opportunities for your business to experiment with new growth tactics.

The first step is diversifying your approach to reduce your focus on acquisition. Analyze the entire customer journey and find opportunities to rapidly execute ideas. Leverage the resources you have among your teams to create the perfect formula for explosive, sustainable growth.

What has been your approach to growth to this point? Have you been successful? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

How to Drive Bottom-of-Funnel Results From Your Blog

  Note: This article was written based on content and ideas shared by James Scherer from Wishpond in a webinar hosted on the Growth Marketing Conference webinar series. Before we make the decision to buy, we all go through a particular process. Marketers call that process the “sales funnel,” and it looks something like this: Image Credit It’s […]

 

Note: This article was written based on content and ideas shared by James Scherer from Wishpond in a webinar hosted on the Growth Marketing Conference webinar series.

Before we make the decision to buy, we all go through a particular process. Marketers call that process the “sales funnel,” and it looks something like this:

Image Credit

It’s essentially a simplified customer journey: the steps consumers take while deciding what to buy and from whom. At the top of the funnel are people who are yet to be exposed to your brand. At the bottom are people who are ready to buy; they just need convincing that they should buy from you.

Every stage of the funnel is important, but it’s towards the bottom of the funnel where things get really interesting. To maximize leads we need to target the top stages of the funnel, but our end goal – generating sales and revenue – only happens when we get those leads to the bottom of the funnel.

To do this, we have to nurture those leads. There are a number of ways you could do this but arguably the easiest, most effective, and most cost-effective is email. Email sequences, to be exact.

In fact, according to stats reported by HubSpot, leads nurtured with targeted content result in more than a 20% uplift in sales opportunities.

In a moment, we’re going to go through a tried-and-tested process for nurturing leads and driving bottom-of-funnel results from your blog; but first, let’s touch on one of the most important factors in creating blog content that converts:

Creating Better Content

Your ability to generate and nurture leads is dependent in large part on the quality of your content. After all, if your readers aren’t getting value from your content, why would they want anything else from you?

This means that if your content isn’t up to scratch, improving it is the first step in driving bottom-of-funnel results from your blog.

So what constitutes “better content”?

It should be long-form

Long-form content is more detailed than short-form, and, consequently, offers more value to the reader. There’s also more content for search engines to read and analyze, which typically translates to better rankings and more traffic.

While there’s no hard-and-fast rule as to what constitutes long-form content, most marketers agree that 1500 words and up is a good figure to aim for.

It should include images

They help illustrate points and break up text, making it easier to read. Use them.

It should feature examples

Simplify difficult processes with screenshots, or, failing that, easy-to-follow bullet point or numbered lists.

It should be actionable

Explain to readers how they can put the suggestions you make into practice.

It should feature new ideas

Be as original as you can. Try to avoid focusing on ideas and strategies that your target audience has heard 1000 times already.

The points it includes should be proven

Legitimize your points and arguments with real-world examples and case studies.

It should be personal and tell a story

Why have you written this content? Why should people listen to what you have to say on this subject? Personalize your content by framing it in the context of your story.

Once your content’s ticking all the boxes above, you should be ready to start using it to drive bottom-of-funnel results from your blog. Let’s talk about how.

Using Your Blog as a Lead Generation Tool

Before you can nurture a lead, you have to capture it. Your blog is doing the grunt work for you – it’s either driving people to the site, or engaging those that are already on it. Your next challenge is to learn a little bit more about those visitors by getting them to hand over their details.

  1. VIP demos

This tool is designed specifically to drive leads from bottom-of-funnel blog content. By this I mean content aimed at potential customers that are seriously considering buying from you.

To capture those bottom-of-funnel visitors, you need to enhance your content with CTAs (which might sit above, below or in the sidebar of the content, or in a pop-up) that invite the visitor to sign up for a one-on-one VIP product demo.

This CTA should take the user to a short form. Exactly what that form contains is up to you but in this context it makes sense to ask for the prospect’s name, email address, and industry.

Anyone who completes that form gets placed in a segmented email list which will trigger an email sequence designed to set up a date and time for the demo.

  1. Blog subscriptions

This tool can be used to drive leads at all stages of the funnel, although its effectiveness increases as prospects move down the funnel and become more familiar with your company and content.

Simply put, offering blog subscriptions as a lead generation tool works because readers will subscribe to get more of what they want.

As with the VIP demo tool, place CTAs above, below, in the sidebar of the content, or in a popup (or a combination of all four).

Image Credit

A short signup form should be contained within that CTA. All you really need is the subscriber’s email address, but for the purpose of lead nurturing it helps to get their first name, too. That said, if in doubt remember that shorter is always better.

“Every field you ask them to fill increases friction. The best thing you can do to improve conversions is to get rid of as many fields as possible.” Peep Laja, ConversionXL

Again, once a visitor completes the form they will be placed in a segmented email list and a sequence of targeted emails will follow.

3.Content upgrades

Content upgrades are an article-specific lead generation tool. By that I mean that each content upgrade is tied to the article it appears on. It’s especially effective when tied to in-depth content (or 10x content) and listicles.

Brian Dean explains in detail what a content upgrade is and how they work here; however, in short, they are a piece of paywall-hidden content that accompanies and enhances the article it’s linked to.

The upgrade itself could simply be the article in a downloadable PDF. Alternatively, it might be a downloadable checklist or “bonus” points or tips.

Image Source

Exactly what the upgrade is doesn’t really matter, so long as it genuinely adds value to the user. What does matter is that it’s being used correctly to capture that user’s details so they can be placed in the relevant email list, and the email sequence can begin.

The CTA itself is best placed within the article itself, like so:

Alternatively (or additionally) it can be placed below or in the sidebar of the content, or in a pop-up (just make sure to give the user a chance to read a good chunk of the content before pushing the upgrade on them). Once again, limit the barrier to entry by asking only for the prospect’s first name and email address.

Nurturing Leads through Segmented Email Campaigns

Using your blog as a lead-generation tool is only the first step in driving bottom-of-funnel results from it. Very few of those leads will be ready to buy, so you need to nurture them until they’re ready to make a purchase.

Segmenting leads

We already know that new leads should get placed in segmented email lists. There are lots of ways you might segment your email lists, but there are two we’re going to focus on here.

Leads segmented according to interest, and leads segmented according to industry.

Leads segmented by interest

The majority of leads will be segmented by interest only.

How do we know what a lead’s interested in?

We could ask them, but we know we need to keep our sign-up forms as short as possible. With this in mind, their “interest” would be dictated by the subject of the content they converted on.

For example, we can assume that someone who converted on an article about using Facebook in marketing is interested in social media marketing. They would then be placed in a list that ensures they are exclusively (at least initially) sent emails and content about social media.

Leads segmented by industry

When a prospect converts on a bottom-of-funnel content piece – like the VIP demo mentioned just above – we’re ideally going to want to segment them according to their industry. This is because you’re going to want to nurture them with emails that align the features of your product with pain points that are typical of their industry.

It will also help your sales team understand the prospect’s needs, so they can sell to them more effectively.

Unfortunately, to get this information, you’re going to have to ask for it. That probably means adding a third box to the signup form.

Nurturing leads

Once you’re successfully segmenting leads into appropriate email lists, you’re going to want to create the email sequences that will nurture them, and push them towards converting.

Let’s run through the email sequences you might create to nurture leads coming from each of the lead generation tools discussed just above.

VIP demo leads

Anyone who’s filled out a form asking for a product demo is either very near to, or at the bottom of the sales funnel. In this case specifically, the lead has stated outright that they would like a product demo.

This means your first email would ask the prospect when they would like the demo to take place (you can see a template for this and all email subject lines in the sequence just below).

Bonus tip: you can streamline the booking process by providing a link to a calendar that they book themselves straight into.

Needless to say, if the prospect converts as a result of that email, the sequence ends.

If they don’t, they should receive a follow-up email a few days later. You may want to personalize the follow up, in accordance with the prospect’s interests or industry.

Again, if the prospect converts, the sequence ends.

If they don’t, a third and final email should be received, again a few days later. You’ll probably want to personalize this one, too, with the prospect’s interest or industry. Another good trick is to begin the subject line “Re:” as a reminder that they have initiated the conversation by asking to arrange the demo.

Blog subscription leads

The first email a blog subscription lead should receive is a simple “thank you for subscribing” email. That’s all the subject line of this email needs to be, but again, you can see the template for this and subsequent email subject lines in the sequence just below.

Bonus tip: ensure whoever sends this email sends all of the emails.The sequence might be automated, but this goes a long way toward personalizing the interaction.

Email two sends the subscriber a piece of content that’s relevant to their interest, and that also demonstrates your product’s link to this and how it can help resolve the prospect’s (assumed) pain points.

This will subtly help funnel subscribers towards your product.

Email three should be a sales email, similar to the first email you might send to a VIP demo lead. You’re simply asking if they have time to talk that week about their subject of interest.

If they convert at this point, the sequence ends. If they don’t, they receive a fourth email.

Email four should be a case study that highlights the value your business can add to them.

Email five is sent regardless of whether or not the lead clicked through to the case study. This email should offer a discount. It should also offer a demo or call of some kind.

If the lead converts, then great. If not, they get sent to the general newsletter segment.

Content upgrade leads

The first email a content upgrade lead should receive is the content upgrade itself. This should be delivered the moment they request it (once again, you can see subject line templates for all emails in the sequence just below).

Email two should be an example article – similar to what you would send a blog subscription lead.

Email three should be a sales email – again similar to what you would send a demo or blog subscriber lead.

If they convert at this point, the sequence ends. If not, they receive a fourth email.

Email four should be a case study. It needs to demonstrate how your business might add value to the lead.

Email five should offer the subscriber free access to an on-demand resource like a webinar, video, or podcast – something with your voice on it, or better yet, your face. The idea here is to further the relationship the lead has with you before they receive the next sales email.

Email six should be another resource that helps educate the customer on your product’s link to their interests and pain points – for example, something like “proven strategies for success in [their interest].”

Bonus tip: the resource should highlight your product’s features and benefits through product pictures or (if it’s a tool) screenshots of it in action.

Email seven is a sales email – a discount or coupon. Add urgency with a time limit (seven days is fair). It’s also a good idea to send a reminder email 24 hours or so before the discount or coupon expires (assuming, of course, that the lead hasn’t converted).

Once again, if the lead converts, great. If not, they get sent to the general newsletter segment.

Bear in mind that all the suggestions above are just that – suggestions. Use this strategy as a guide for effective email nurturing, but remember that what you include in your email sequences, and how many emails you send, is totally up to you.

Do you already nurture leads using email sequences? Does your strategy differ from what we’ve outlined here? It’d be great if you could share your secrets and let us know how effective they’ve been – comments are below:

25 B2B Marketing Strategies You Probably Haven’t Tried

There are plenty of articles touting the importance of lead generation and building up your pipeline for your B2B marketing. It’s easy to get in a rut in your business and assume every strategy has already been done. But there are still lots of B2B marketing strategies out there that you probably haven’t heard of. […]

There are plenty of articles touting the importance of lead generation and building up your pipeline for your B2B marketing. It’s easy to get in a rut in your business and assume every strategy has already been done. But there are still lots of B2B marketing strategies out there that you probably haven’t heard of. If you’re one of the 78% of businesses that aren’t satisfied with their conversion rates, try mixing up your B2B marketing strategy with something different. Here are 25 ideas to get you started.

 

Ryan Farley

1. Use Autopilot for LinkedIn

“A tactic I’ve seen work is using Autopilot for LinkedIn to crawl mass numbers of profiles of your target audience. You put a click-baity headline in your profile, along with a call to action. Then, you can track clickthroughs and see who viewed your profile, and reach back out to them.” – Ryan Farley, co-founder of LawnStarter

 

 

 

Bill Widmer

2. Send Gifts

“Sending gifts is an incredible way to get on someone’s radar. It also plays on psychology and reciprocity – they’ll feel like they owe you something in exchange. Of course, I’m not saying send them something to try and get them indebted to you. That’s just being a ****. Don’t expect anything in return – just build that relationship, and it can naturally open up to greater opportunities, higher CLV, and juicy referrals. Everyone loves getting gifts in a world of junk mail and hiding behind screens.” – Bill Widmer, Ecommerce Content Marketing expert

 

Christopher Kelly

3. Handwritten Notes

“Sending handwritten notes to team members and clients goes further today than at any other point in history. There was a day not too long ago when receiving an email was exciting: Your computer would announce ‘You’ve got mail’ and you would run to see what had arrived. Today, a handwritten note cuts through the digital clutter and is received with a similar anticipation.” – Christopher Kelly, writing for Tech.co

 

 

 

 

Joel Klettke

4. Use Geo-Targeted Ads During Events

“I haven’t seen many companies running geo-targeted ads when events happen in their industry. I’ve had huge wins targeting conference hashtags and combining that targeting with geofencing that only hits people who are actually there, at the event. You can be hyper-relevant across multiple platforms, with just-in-time personalized offers and deals.” – Joel Klettke, Founder of Case Study Buddy

 

 

 

Hans van Gent

5. Empower Your Customers and Start a Dialogue

“A significant trend in content marketing has been the rise of audio in 2016 (podcast listening grew by 23% over 2015). With the release of Anchor 2.0 in March this year, it opens up a whole new way of empowering your customers and starting that dialogue with them in a unique way. And the beauty of it? The app is mostly still undiscovered territory for a lot of marketers so you can have the first mover advantage.” – Hans van Gent, Founder @ Inbound Rocket

 

 

Andrew Dennis

6. Upgrade and Update Your Marketing Funnel

“Upgrade and update your top/middle of the funnel content to build your email list. With this strategy, you take existing content that is ranking well and update or upgrade it in some fashion (add visuals, video, interactives, etc.) to breathe new life into the content and further improve or solidify rankings in a competitive space. Along with updating, add relevant CTAs and/or downloadables to drive email signups and build your marketing list.” – Andrew Dennis, Senior Content Marketing Specialist @ Siege Media 

 

 

 

Sid Bharath

7. Start with a Survey

“Instead of soliciting business through cold email, start with a survey. The benefits of this are two-fold. First, you get to collect data on your industry which you can publish as a content piece. Second, you essentially warm up those cold leads and you can move forward with a sales conversation without coming across as the spammy sales person.” – Sid Bharath, VP of Growth @ Thinkific

 

 

 

 

Brad Smith

8. Do Things That Don’t Scale

“Trying to get your foot in the door? Go old school with direct mail. While everyone else is getting ~1% spamming people on LinkedIn, direct mail recipients visit a promoted website 60% of the time (https://www.usps.com/business/pdf/FY08_DM%20Onl_Sales%20WP.pdf). And also visited the promoted website according to a USPS study (with first-time shoppers being the most influenced). “And one company has seen 25% response rates with companies making over $30 million a year.

So no, it doesn’t scale. Not at first anyway. But prove it on a small scale, and then get some free interns to hand-write mailing addresses for you. Make the unscalable, scalable.” – Brad Smith, Founder of Codeless

 

Ross Simmonds

9. Leverage Niche Communities

“One of the more unique B2B marketing tactics is leveraging niche communities like Reddit to build trust and credibility. Far too many marketers think that B2B marketers can only be reached on LinkedIn or at a conference – in reality, many C-suite executives are browsing Reddit just like the rest of us. If you can create content that relevant subreddits find interesting and valuable – opportunities await.”  – Ross Simmonds, Digital Strategist @ Foundation Marketing

 

 

 

 

Sweta Patel

10. Host an Awards Ceremony

“One of the most unique marketing strategies entails making people feel valued and giving them credit for the work they do. Most people don’t realize the value of people’s work in the company because they are so focused on task over humanity. Most workplaces require more out of individuals in this revenue and data-driven world. Sometimes it’s best to create a strategy that recognizes “rising stars” with their hard work. This is one way of winning credibility with them.

“One tactic is to put on a special awards night event that recognizes your prospects. This way you will win their trust. You can give them ‘special trophies’ and awards that acknowledges their expertise. The nominees can invite their fans and this will help you increase the reach in your business. For example, nominate your top 50 rising prospects and invite them to the award show to collect their prize and trophy with a speech at hand. Tell them to invite their fans for their big ‘spotlight’ ceremony. Make it a sophisticated event.” – Sweta Patel, Director of Demand Generation @ Cognoa

 

 

Patrick Whatman

11. Create Standalone Products

“I love seeing standalone products from companies trying to bring new users into their ecosystems. Followerwonk (by Moz) and the Headline Analyzer (by CoSchedule) are great examples. These are products that help people separate from these companies’ main offerings, but help to build awareness and recognition about the parent company. And they’re great for lead generation.” – Patrick Whatman, Head of Content @ Mention

 

 

 

 

 

Cameron Conaway

12. Send People a Value-Packed Slide Deck

“I’ve come to love Andy Crestodina’s conference-based approach. When he speaks he packs so much valuable content into his slides, too much to possibly cover during the talk, and he asks people to get him their business card after the talk so he can send them the slide deck immediately after the conference. I’ve watched hundreds of people wait in line just to give him their card.

“Then, in the email he sends, he mentions his blog and asks attendees, alongside the amazing deck he’s giving them, if they’d also like to subscribe. I don’t subscribe to many blogs, but I subscribed to his. When somebody completely over delivers like this it makes you trust that they will continue to provide relevant and valuable content.” – Cameron Conaway, Content Marketing Manager @ Klipfolio

 

Cara Hogan

13. Interview an Expert from a Target Account

“I got really creative in integrating expert interviews into an Account Based Marketing (ABM) strategy. Rather than just interviewing an expert in your field, interview an expert from an identified target account.

“For example, if you’re selling to a mid-size startup, interview their CEO, VP of Marketing, or even one of the VCs who is a primary investor. Then, when sales approaches the decision maker for that account, they can send them a link to the interview you’ve done, giving your brand immediate credibility and clout. It makes every sales conversation immediately easier and more likely to end in a closed deal.” – Cara Hogan, Content Strategist @ Zaius

 

 

Rob Wormley

14. Use Live Video to Sell Products in Real-Time

“Using live video to build awareness, connect with more prospects, and actually sell products in real-time. We’re doing it with Climb and making it possible for retailers, brands, and influencers to make sales in real-time on Facebook Live. The future of selling online is all about engagement, entertainment, and experience.” – Rob Wormley, CMO & Co-Founder @ Climb

Kaleigh Moore

15. Create Interactive Content

“Use interactive content as part of a larger lead gen strategy, so the convo doesn’t stop after the quiz, but is further personalized based on responses.” – Kaleigh Moore, freelance SaaS writer 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Katai

16. Sell to Human Beings

“I strongly believe in 2 content marketing that is personalized and has a real business purpose. Don’t just create content because it’s trendy or cool, but create content because your audience needs it and wants it. Behind every “B” is a “H” from human. And we are not selling to businesses and brands, we are selling to human beings. And people buy from people!” – Robert Katai, Visual Marketer and Content Strategist @ Bannersnack

 

 

Will Blunt

17. Meet in Person

“It’s not unique, but it’s definitely underutilized… With a large chunk of B2B organizations obsessing over ‘inbound’ and content, we have forgotten about how effective a phone call or face-to-face meeting can be for building trust and closing deals. Use your content to build a base level of trust and credibility for you and your business.

“Then use your team to research and identify a short-list of your perfect clients (the information is all available online). Create a personalized profile of each them. Interact, engage and build a meaningful ‘online’ relationship. When the time is right, get that person into a meeting room or on a video call. Close the deal, be friends forever.” – Will Blunt, Founder of Blogger Sidekick

 

 

Ty Magnin

18. Send Retargeting Emails

“We send what I call ‘retargeting emails’ to people at companies who hit our site and don’t convert. It’s a nice way to engage a passive audience from their inbox.” – Ty Magnin, Director of Marketing @ Appcues

 

 

 

 

Benji Hyam

19. Show Leads You’re Sending Them Traffic

“Brian Swichkow of Ghost Influence taught me this one. If you’re investing in content marketing and want to get the attention of a company, include a link in the post to the company and add campaign tracking to the URL with your site name in it. For example: growandconvert.com/?utm_source=growandconvert&utm_medium=blogpostname

“That way, when readers of your post click the link, the company you’re trying to get in contact with will see traffic being sent to their site by your site. The company is more likely to have a conversation with you when they’re aware of you because you’ve sent a good amount of traffic to their site.” – Benji Hyam, co-founder @ Grow & Convert and Wordable.io

 

 

 

Devesh Khanal

20. Create In-Depth Data Analysis

“Consolidate data relevant to your industry, analyze it, and publish an in-depth data analysis article or study. Very few companies are doing this. Most are doing the same old ebooks and whitepapers. This is evergreen content that is linked to like crazy and shared easily. It’s content that turns you into a thought leader.” – Devesh Khanal, Founder, Grow and Convert

 

 

 

 

Shanelle Mullin

21. Use the Tools Your Ideal Customers Are Using

“Add a Chrome extension like Ghostery or use a tool like BuiltWith. You’ll then be able to see what tools your ideal customers are using. Build a list of those tools and begin reaching out to their content teams. Can you co-host a webinar together? Publish a new guide together? It’s an easy way to get in front of their highly aligned audience (often, by email), especially if you’re going to be producing a lot of content anyway.” – Shanelle Mullin, Content & Growth at Shopify

 

 

 

 

Kylie Ora Lobell

22. Write White Papers Around Pain Points

“White papers are excellent for the beginning stages of the sales funnel. They convince potential customers that your company is worth looking into, and can push them from being marketing-qualified leads to sales-qualified leads.” – Kylie Ora Lobell, writing for Directive Consulting

 

 

 

Ed Zitron

23. Say Thanks in a Creative Way

“TD Canada Trust shared over 300,000 $20 gift certificates for their ‘TD Thanks You’ campaign. You don’t have to go that big, but thanking someone by giving something back to them resonates in a special way with consumers.

It can be as simple as a gift-code, which you’ll see small niche sites like dog treat site BestBullySticks do, or Opentable’s VIP program that gives points per reservation that eventually convert into gift certificates.” – Ed Zitron, CEO of EZ-PR.com, writing for Inc.

 

Margaret Austin

24. Introduce Your Employees

“Giving a face to your brand helps to engage your customers and give them a greater sense of trust in you and your services. We all like to see that there’s a real person behind the company image. This doesn’t mean showing everyone working studiously at their desks nor letting it all hang out at the office party. Create a friendly and approachable video revealing a day in the work life of one of your employees or get them to talk about what it is they do and what your customers can expect from them. And then do some good editing; a static talking head video is unlikely to hold anyone’s attention for long.” -Margaret Austin, writing for B2B News Network

 

 

 

Will Williamson

25. Use Dynamic and Behavioral Lead Scoring

“Knowing how prospects are likely to behave is as important, if not more so, than understanding ‘who they are’ as people. The two don’t always go together. By using information aside from the standard demographics (age, gender, pay bracket etc.), you’ll be able to make lead qualification work better for you.

“You’ll get a better understanding of where the lead came from, how they found your website, and the actions they’ve taken while on the site. This important information gives you an insight on what is involved with the journey of the buyer and what motivates your prospects. As an example, did they find your website through a backlink and go through every page on the site? Or did they enter the site from a search engine and go directly to your product page? Armed with behavioural data, you can set up a targeted email marketing programme that sends them relevant content based on behavioural triggers.” – Will Williamson, writing for JDR Group

How to Find Your User Acquisition Channels

When your startup is first launching, the pressure to “be everywhere” online is significant. “You’ll fail without investing in Facebook Ads,” one article claims. “The most engaged buyers are on Instagram,” argues another. Given this onslaught of conflicting advice, it’s no surprise that the average B2B marketer creates eight types of content and is active […]

When your startup is first launching, the pressure to “be everywhere” online is significant. “You’ll fail without investing in Facebook Ads,” one article claims. “The most engaged buyers are on Instagram,” argues another.

Given this onslaught of conflicting advice, it’s no surprise that the average B2B marketer creates eight types of content and is active on six different social networks, according to data from the Content Marketing Institute:

Aquisition channels

(B2C marketers share similar numbers.)

Especially when you’re new, expanding your reach in this way might sound appealing. After all, you’ll reach more people if you’re available on more platforms, right?

Well, maybe not.

Attempting to drive growth on multiple user acquisition channels divides your resources and dilutes your focus.

It’s better to do one channel well than to do several poorly – especially when you’re first starting out. To do that, begin by mapping your existing user acquisition channels (if any) so that you can proceed with an approach that’s right for your audience, your resources and your business’s current stage.

 

Why You Need to Map Your User Acquisition Channels

A lot of young businesses wing it when it comes to choosing user acquisition channels. They go by gut feel, or by what worked well for a buddy of theirs or another startup in their space.

And I’m not throwing shade here – I’ve been there, and done that.

But let me give you an example that demonstrates why it’s so important to run the numbers before executing on anything.

A while back, a friend of mine had a startup, and he swore up and down that doing integrations and partnerships was going to be his growth channel. His goal was to get his company’s first 1,000 customers, but I ran the numbers and figured out that even the best-case scenario would only drive a few hundred.

His first partner was going to promote his company and their integration to their email list of 1 million people.

Sounds great, right?

The email goes out to 1 million people, and let’s estimate that 50% open the email and 10% click on the link. That’d put 50,000 visitors on his website. Now, let’s assume that 3% of those visitors took him up on his SaaS product’s 30-day free trial. That results in 1,500 new trials, and assuming he managed a 40% conversion rate to paid subscriptions (which is pretty generous, and assumes he’s figured out his activation and onboarding processes), that’d leave him with just 600 customers.

Let’s do another example… Suppose you have a product or service that’s a bit more expensive and that requires human contact from your sales team to close the deal. Since you don’t have dozens of salespeople on hand, you decide to drive people to a webinar that’ll be able to handle a big audience in a short period of time.

You reach 50,000 with your webinar advertisement, and 10% of these people sign up to participate. On the day of your event, only 50% of your sign-ups actually show, so you wind up with 2,500 attendees. At the end of the webinar, you do an amazing job selling your offering and get 10% of attendees to do a sales demo or trial your service. This gives you 250 leads. Now let’s say your salespeople are awesome and actually convert 50% of them. Your total? 125 new customers.

In neither one of these scenarios did we hit that “1,000 new customers” target, but we’ve got bigger problems:

  • None of these numbers are realistic. Most partners don’t have a 1 million-person email list, and the hypothetical open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates I used aren’t going to be that high in the real world (at least, they won’t all be that high).  
  • In the first example, you’ve burned your dev resources to work on integrations that won’t help you meet your goals.
  • In the second, you’ve taken up critical marketing and sales resources to create assets, run webinars and conduct sales demos. These people could have all been working on something more productive – and that goes double if you’re the founder and doing all of this.

 

Finding Your User Acquisition Channels

User Acquisition

So, if you can’t go off your gut feel, what should you do? Check out the process below that I use to identify user acquisition channels.

Step #1 – Understand common growth channels

There are tons of different marketing and growth channels out there, but the following are the strategies I use most commonly:

  • Cold email or cold calling. Cold messaging is pretty cheap to execute, but you need to put some time into ensuring you’re reaching out to the right people. If possible, warm your leads up by connecting via social engagements in advance of your message.
  • Viral referral loops. This can include word-of-mouth referrals, structured referral schemes and viral loops that enable existing customers to bring on more new customers. The cost associated with this strategy varies based on the program you implement, but this is how Uber, Airbnb and Dropbox all got big.
  • Paid advertising. You can use AdWords for this, but I’m loving Facebook ads lately as a starting place. Keep a careful eye on your costs. You can get new customers very quickly with paid ads, but if you aren’t tracking ROI, you can blow your budget.
  • Content marketing and SEO. These strategies work VERY well, but they take a long time to show results (usually 6-12 months). They can be cheap to run, but if you’re using them for growth, expect to wait a while.
  • Influencer marketing. Get a few big names to love your product and scream it from the rooftops. If you do it well, you can be very successful, very quickly. But, unfortunately, that means everyone wants to use this approach. Getting influencer attention can be tough without a major competitive advantage.
  • Microtool or epic content piece creation. Release a free tool or ebook to build an audience and get traffic. At Linktexting.com, we use this ebook https://www.linktexting.com/playbook/ to generate leads.

 

Step #2 – Identify your competitive advantages

Consider what you do well and what your competitors do poorly. Look for gaps in the channels your competitors are winning and use these weaknesses to plan your strategy.


Don’t forget, you can also win on price by starting low to gain traction.

At Mailshake, we’re currently priced at $9/user, while our competitors are between $29-$120/user. We plan to increase our price down the road, but for now, we’ve set our prices low to enter the market.

 

Step #3 – Run the numbers

Take a look at the examples I shared above and run your own predictions based on whatever data you can find. Look at the numbers on your current channels and estimate the numbers for possible channels you could try. Compare your results against the resources you have available in terms of cash, time, etc.

For reference, at Mailshake, every 10 customers we acquire results in one new referral customer. That means each new customer is worth 1.1 customers to us and informs how much we can spend to acquire new users.

 

Step #4 – Pick your top 1-3 channels

This shouldn’t come as a surprise based on what I said earlier in this article, but my recommendation is always that businesses begin by finding one single effective channel first. Then, as that’s working, work on another while you continue to optimize your first channel.

Take it from marketer Neil Patel:

“Jumping in head first and attempting to manage, say, four or five different channels can be overwhelming, and you’re unlikely to kill it at any strategy. Even if you’re a savvy marketer who knows the ins and outs of the process, you simply can’t devote the necessary time to extract the full potential of any single channel.”

 

Step #5 – Evolve your approach over time

Most channels are doomed from the start. That’s not your fault, unless you fail to iterate and embrace constant change in growth. According to Brian Balfour of Coelevate:

“Any great growth team is ready for and responsive to change, nimble, and always, always adapting. They go beyond adapting, and truly embrace change building their team and process around it.”

If you’re early in your business, finding growth channels is about traction – not scale. Now isn’t the time to think about long-term growth – it’s about figuring out what’ll get your first customers in the door. In their book, From 0 to 1,000 Customers & Beyond, Hiten Shah and Steli Efti recommend balancing short-term and long-term growth strategies according to the following breakdown:

  • 0–10 customers: 90% short-term tactics | 10% long-term tactics
  • 10–100 customers: 80% short-term tactics | 20% long-term tactics
  • 100+ customers: 20% short-term tactics | 80% long-term tactics

 

Don’t Mistake Growth Hacks for Growth Channels

Don't Mistake growth Hacks for Growth Channels

Too many marketers confuse growth hacks and growth channels, leading them to invest significant resources into strategies that’ll never move the needle.

Approach growth from a smarter place. Do the research, and run your numbers. Make educated decisions, and then focus your energy on a single growth channel that’ll help you reach your early customer acquisition goals. Never be afraid to toss a campaign that’s performing poorly, and you’ll never have to worry about overinvesting in channels that won’t support your growth.

How did you decide on the user acquisition channels you’re using right now? Leave me a note below with your approach to this process:

How to Write Cold Emails That Get Sales

Paid ads. Lead magnets. Social ads. Phone calls. Conferences. Giveaways. Events. Guest blogging. Organic traffic via search engine optimization. There are plenty of ways to generate leads and make sales in the modern world. Heck, even traditional promotion on radio, television, and billboards still has its place. Each has its pros and cons depending on […]

Paid ads. Lead magnets. Social ads. Phone calls. Conferences. Giveaways. Events. Guest blogging. Organic traffic via search engine optimization. There are plenty of ways to generate leads and make sales in the modern world. Heck, even traditional promotion on radio, television, and billboards still has its place.

Each has its pros and cons depending on your goals, niche, target, and location. But if I had to choose just one at the expense of all others, it’d be cold email. It wouldn’t even be close.

The others are all good to varying degrees, but email remains for me the one channel to rule them all. Why?

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Consumers like to receive promotional emails: 86% at least monthly, 61% at least weekly, and a whopping 15% daily.

That’s why.

However, it’s equal parts art and science to write a cold email that a stranger is going to open, read, and take the requested action on. You want to convert. Close. Get the sale.

Let’s make it happen.

Subject Lines

To be blunt, if your subject line is weak, everything else doesn’t matter. Subject lines are absolutely, positively crucial to your email success.

Legendary adman David Ogilvy said that your headline (i.e. subject line) is 80 cents out of your dollar. Spend it wisely. 47% of people decide whether to open an email based on the subject line alone.

If it’s not opened, does your email even exist at all?

Nope. So get it opened.

Personalize it. Subject lines with the recipient’s name, company name, or some other personal tidbit get up to 50% higher open rates.

Keep it short. Aim for 3-8 words at the most.

Create a sense of urgency or exclusivity: flash sale, limited-time offer, X number remaining, countdowns, and so on can nudge people into taking action (like opening, clicking, and converting).

Ask a question. Offer a concrete benefit. Pique their curiosity. Be clear, not clever. Lead with a benefit, logic, or “threat.”

Generate at least 3 subject lines for every email. A/B test them (you might be surprised by what you find out). Experiment and optimize to find what works best for your audience.

Email Copy

Getting your email opened is easily half the battle, but a sky-high open rate doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t get to them to take action. That’s where your email copy takes over.

Skip the lengthy intro. Are you going to read a long email from Mr. So-and-So that rambles on and on about him and his company? No. Frankly, no one cares. You need to keep the message crazy short, to the point, and about them. The most effective emails fall between 50 and 125 words in total.

Briefly highlight your value proposition and polish the first line, as many email providers and mobile apps display it in addition to the subject line.

Get fancy with a little psychological savvy. The more you understand human behavior, the better you can craft a message that makes people take action. A good jumping-off point is Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion (reciprocity, commitment, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity).

Avoid vagueness, ambiguity, assumptions, and self-indulgence. Keep it casual and – believe it or not – at a third-grade reading level for maximum impact.

Experiment with some tried-and-true sales and marketing acronyms like the 4Ps or AIDA.

And test, test, test.

Leave the aggressive sales tactics and pitches at home. In fact, it’s worthwhile to treat your initial email as a “creating the relationship” opportunity rather than a “making a sale” attempt. You’re aiming for a response above all else.

Which leads us to …

Cold Doesn’t Mean Cold

Personalize, personalize, personalize – where appropriate, of course. And don’t be creepy. Thoughtful, relevant personalization within the email itself delivers better open and click-through rates, an increase in sales, and more, as seen below:

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We live in the Big Data era. You can find out something about everyone, so ‘cold’ email should never really be cold. The data available for the taking also means we’re living in the personalization golden age.

Head on over to the business websites, or the social media profiles (especially LinkedIn for professionals) of individuals and brands. They’re a treasure trove of information.

Use a tool like Voila Norbert to automatically collect relevant names and details for your prospecting efforts. The more you know, the better you can customize your email message for specific segments.

If you’re using a cold email solution like Mailshake, you can’t necessarily personalize at the individual level if you’re sending out dozens or hundreds of emails. But segmentation allows you to personalize at scale via powerful integrations and merge fields within your segment templates.

You can segment based on location, demographics (like gender or job title), market or industry, company size, past purchases (if any) or behavior, psychographics, and so on. You could even further segment your segments to drill down to as personal a level as possible.

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Consumers expect at least some level of personalization in modern marketing. If you can’t or don’t provide it, they’ll move on to someone who will. It’s that simple.

Segmented email campaigns deliver better results across the board:

The takeaway? Personalize and segment. They want it. You need it.

Follow up

Follow up, follow up, follow up. And then follow up again. Starting to see a pattern?

The importance of the follow-up email can not be stressed enough here.

Here’s the reality of the email game: 70% of unanswered email chains stop after the first message, while 50% of sales happen after the fifth touchpoint.

So here’s the secret to email success: follow up. Studies have shown that subsequent emails after the first one continue to generate good-to-great response rates. One showed an 18% response rate to the first message, 12% to the third, and 27% to the sixth.

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Another saw 30% to the first, 13% to the fifth, and 7% to the tenth.

But don’t just resend the same message. An effective follow-up needs to up the value, add context, and adjust the call-to-action as necessary.

The follow-up email is at least as important as the initial one. Keep. Sending.

Test, Monitor, and Tweak

If you’re not tracking important metrics and optimizing for conversions, you might as well stop altogether. Luckily, any email solution worth its salt makes this ridiculously easy to do.

You should be tracking open rates (aim for 15-30%), response rates (shoot for 10-30%), and/or click-through rates (5%+) at a minimum. Go for the high end. Never be satisfied with hitting that bottom rung.

As a quick rule of thumb, a high open but low response rate means you’ve got a strong subject line but weak copy.

High response rate but low open? Great copy, weak subject line.

The open rate for October 2018 across all industries was 15.75%, while the click-through rate was 7.63%. For marketing and advertising specifically, it was 12.50% and 8.45%, respectively. Falling short of those benchmarks? Fix it. Yesterday.

As the saying goes, that which gets measured, gets managed. So measure the metrics that matter.

A Few Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

Beyond the best practices listed above, there are a few other things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your cold email outreach:

Email is the past, present, and future of digital sales and marketing. It’s affordable, powerful, far-reaching, and enormously effective. And anyone can become a master with a little patience and practice.

Keep your cold emails casual, compact, and concise. Personalize and segment as much as your target allows. Test your subject line. Test your copy. Follow-up.

And watch your sales soar.

What’s your recipe for cold email success? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below:

How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Marketing in 2018

The machines are coming. But far from being an end-of-world scenario, the continued development of sophisticated computers and artificial intelligence is increasing our productivity, safety, and efficiency while making our lives easier. We’ve got ‘smart’ televisions, phones, lights, thermostats, cars, kitchen appliances, cameras … even belts. However, with great power comes great responsibility. We can […]

The machines are coming.

But far from being an end-of-world scenario, the continued development of sophisticated computers and artificial intelligence is increasing our productivity, safety, and efficiency while making our lives easier.

We’ve got ‘smart’ televisions, phones, lights, thermostats, cars, kitchen appliances, cameras … even belts.

However, with great power comes great responsibility. We can embrace AI, but we need to constantly be aware of what it could mean for us.

Everything we love about civilization is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilization flourish like never before – as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial.“ ~Max Tegmark, President of the Future of Life Institute

Should we be afraid? No – despite what the Terminator films have taught us. Artificial intelligence is not inherently good or bad. It’s all in how we use it.

As we move from 2018 into 2019, we’re doing some fascinating and innovative things with it, including Toyota’s $1 billion investment into self-driving cars and AI, AI programs being used to predict the next trends in fashion, and the recent unveiling of the world’s first AI news anchor in China.

The reach of AI extends to virtually every profession and industry, and that most definitely includes marketing. In fact, it’s the fastest-growing marketing technology with an anticipated year-over-year growth of 53%.

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Will we soon see robots in suits and ties sipping martinis on Madison Avenue? Absolutely not. Marketing and advertising require too much creativity and instinct to be completely taken over by artificial means. But it does present some very intriguing developments and disruptions, many of which we’re already experiencing.

Marketing is evolving, and AI is a big part of that.

Artificial Intelligence

Before we take a look at some industry-specific use cases, let’s define terms. We hear and read about AI all the time now, but what exactly does it entail?

At its most basic, artificial intelligence is simulated intelligence within machines and computer systems. They’re programmed to ‘think’ and make rational decisions based on what they know and other pre-programmed criteria, depending on the task.

Alan Turing created the Turing Test in 1950 to assess a machine’s ability to exhibit human-like intelligence. In 2014, a program named Eugene Goostman passed it, marking the first time a machine managed to fool more than 30% of people into believing that it was a real live human.

But within the very broad category of AI, you’ll encounter a number of subsections and classifications:

  • Machine learning – the ability of systems to learn and interpret new data without human intervention
  • Deep learning – learning based on data representations with or without human involvement
  • Strong AI – equivalent to human intelligence in virtually every way
  • Weak AI – AI that is focused on a single or narrow task
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) -– a branch of AI that deals with how computers interact and process human languages

Everyone still with me? Good. Let’s get into some specifics.

AI and Marketing

AI is the marketing technology outpacing all the others, and 80% of marketers predict AI will completely revolutionize marketing by 2020.

Despite that, 34% of marketing execs feel unprepared for it.

Prepared or not, it’s coming, and the benefits are too good to ignore:

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Better insights, detailed analyses, and faster and more accurate prospect identification are just three examples. So far, AI is primarily used for data analysis, but it’s increasingly being used for data generation as well.

Within marketing, it works best at the moment for clear sets of inputs, well defined texts, and clear outputs. But the sky is truly the limit.

Personalization Galore

When it comes to modern marketing, personalization is the order of the day. Consumers no longer respond or react to generic ads and messaging.

Personalized emails deliver higher open and click-through rates.

A personalized consumer experience delivers higher revenue, loyalty, and conversions.

One of the most successful examples of AI in marketing is the powerful programs that deliver highly personalized and targeted recommendations from Amazon, Netflix, eBay, Spotify, and every ecommerce site that knows what it’s doing.

By gathering data, possibly from your customer relationship management platform, AI algorithms analyze user behavior, past purchases, reviews, ratings, and whatever else is available to them to generate recommendations and make predictions about what users will want or need next.

And that creates a very positive, very personal customer experience.

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Looking to add a little AI to your ecommerce platform? Try LimespotBarilliance, Nosto, Vue.ai, or an alternative provider. Ecommerce in 2018 without some sort of AI assistance is needlessly fighting an uphill battle.

It doesn’t stop there, though. AI tools can be used for better audience targeting, segmentation tracking, and more.

Keeping up to date with ecommerce trends around AI and test what works for your business and customer.

By analyzing customers based on their movement among segments over time, we can achieve dynamic micro-segmentation, and predict future behavior in a very accurate fashion. This approach can take customer segmentation to a whole new level. Using micro-segmentation, brands can communicate ‘personally’ with every customer, optimizing customer experience and increasing loyalty and lifetime value, in today’s highly-competitive direct-to-consumer space.” ~Pini Yakuel, founder and CEO of Optimove

Chatbots

We live in a world of fast, instant, and immediately. Consumers typically expect a response to a question or complaint within 0-4 hours, but the average brand response time is 10 hours.

Additionally, imagine being able to engage with, answer questions, and make suggestions to everyone visiting your site or platform, regardless of time or day.

Enter chatbots 2.0.

Gone are the days of robotic-sounding ‘bots’ limited to canned responses. Modern versions use AI and NLP to engage in genuine conversations in real-time.

That’s useful in customer care, sales, and marketing.

AI chatbots are revolutionizing prospect and customer interaction with unprecedented personalization and engagement. They can track and predict based on past behavior. Companies like KLM Airlines are using them to tremendous success at every customer touch point.

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According to a recent survey, 59% of millennials and 60% of Gen Xers in the United States have interacted with a chatbot, and consumers find them 35% more useful than apps.

Even better, getting started with a chatbot is easier than ever before with services like Botsify, Chatfuel, MobileMonkey, LivePerson, and Twyla. With them, you can quickly create a chatbot that can answer questions, collect data, make suggestions, accept payments, and more. They easily integrate with commerce platforms, websites, social media profiles, and messaging tools like Slack, Facebook Messenger, and Whatsapp.

Where 10 years ago every company needed a website and five years ago every company needed an app, now every company needs to embrace messaging with AI and chatbots.” ~Murray Newlands, Entrepreneur, Author, and Investor

Engage with prospects, leads, and customers 24/7/365. Chatbots are not a replacement for human interaction, but they are complementary to it. Take engagement into the 21st century.

Analysis and Optimization

An artificial intelligence program can do the work of dozens of humans in a fraction of the time. In the age of big data, that means lower costs and better insights.

AI allows for a move from reactive to proactive when it comes to monitoring, tracking, analyzing, and optimizing.

Tools like Adext, for example, can optimize hundreds of ads on multiple channels to find those that resonate best with an your audience, and then automatically prioritize them with additional funds and resources. How long do you figure it would take your marketing department to do that?

Ad relevancy and timeliness will always be the key to running profitable marketing campaigns. The beauty of AI tools like Adext, Tapcast, or countless other tools is that you can better pinpoint what is working or isn’t quicker and make adjustments. The cost of advertising is skyrocketing due to the amount of advertiser’s leveraging ad platforms so AI is going to keep marketing cost down while hopefully increasing profitability.”
– TJ Welsh, VP of Marketing at STRYDE

Email marketing is effective, but it can fail for a wide variety of reasons. AI-enhanced email automation can analyze and uncover individual insights on everything from content topics, subject lines, best times, frequency, and more.

Phrasee, for example, can create, test, and optimize subject lines, Facebook ads, and push notifications that outperform those drafted by humans 98% of the time.

Likewise Persado, which identifies the exact words, emotions, and visuals that most resonate with your audience to build stories and marketing copy with your brand voice, context, and prospect interests in email and on social.

An AI service or tool can analyze and track campaigns in real-time, optimizing for best times, lowest price-per-click, and conversions on the fly. They can generate countless variations and permutations of copy and design with specific input to find the perfect offering for your intended target.

Data Collection

Every marketer understands the importance of proper research on everything from the market to the individual prospects and customers.

Artificial intelligence can be used to quickly pull data from multiple sources, organize it, and present it to marketers for consumption. This allows for greater accuracy across the board, but especially in audience and customer insights.

Data-driven agencies like Ayzenberg use AI to collect the data you need, and find the influencers most able to help spread your message. They advocate a listen-create-share workflow powered by analytics, data, and AI.

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AI solutions can track customer sentiment and buying habits, uncover their motivations, and make better decisions faster.

The knowledge you get from AI technology is akin to the knowledge most sales reps have when they research every single buyer in-depth. Today, many companies are already enabling this hyper-personalization at scale, creating context-rich conversations that help businesses understand, connect and relate to their audiences.” ~Aman Naimat, CTO/Senior Vice President of Engineering & Technology, Demandbase

Content Creation

Yes, even content creation can benefit from an artificial intelligence booster.

Most content marketers list creating content and/or identifying suitable topics as their biggest challenges. Finding hot topics is time-consuming but necessary.

At the moment, the best solutions utilize a human-AI collaboration model. Take Quill as one example. They produce AI-enhanced ‘primary content’ – product and category descriptions, shoppable how-to guides, and more – that is fast, customer and SEO optimized, and reflective of brand voice. At scale.

It’s early days, but possible.

Creativity is one of the hallmarks of humanity, and it’s unlikely that AI will ever be able to fully replicate that. That said, it can certainly help us be more productive and make better decisions supported by concrete data. It’s yet another tool in your tool belt.

Ultimately, AI is the bridge that connects platforms, datasets, and tools into a meaningful resource for us, the human innovators.

The world is changing.

Are you ready?

How are you using AI in your overall marketing strategy? Share in the comments below:

8 Hacks To Accelerate Your Growth in 2019

There are only two ways to go in business: up or down. You might think there’s a third option in doing neither, but that will eventually lead downward as your competition takes advantage of your complacency. Up or down. That’s it. A brand that isn’t actively pursuing growth is a slowly dying business. According to […]

There are only two ways to go in business: up or down.

You might think there’s a third option in doing neither, but that will eventually lead downward as your competition takes advantage of your complacency.

Up or down. That’s it. A brand that isn’t actively pursuing growth is a slowly dying business. According to TD Bank’s annual survey, 46% of American SMBs planned to grow in 2017, and 9% planned to add staff. Those figures rose to 53% and 22%, respectively, in 2018.

Grow or shrink. Flourish or perish. Succeed or fail.

And while the old adage that ‘slow and steady wins the race’ is generally true, the trend amongst start-ups and small businesses is to kick growth into overdrive.

We’re in the growth marketing age, and if you’re not playing the game, you’re going to quickly be left behind.

What is Growth Marketing?

At its simplest, growth marketing is a focus on the entire sales funnel, whereas traditional marketing limits itself primarily to just the top of it (the acquisition stage). It recognizes that retaining existing customers while acquiring new ones not only accelerates true growth, but also saves you money.

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Gain five new users while losing three existing ones, and you’ve only grown by two. Gain those same five while losing none? You’ve grown by five. That might sound like an oversimplification, but if retention doesn’t factor into your marketing, you’re cutting your acquisition efforts off at the knees.

Growth marketers aren’t afraid to experiment and get creative. They use concrete data and frequent A/B or split testing to optimize everything at every level and touch point. They track, monitor, and improve. They provide for and exceed consumer expectations to build rabid fans and advocates, not ‘just’ customers.

They are 100% about customer acquisition, customer retention, and increasing profit. Sounds good, right?

And best of all, growth marketing is perfect for companies of any size, but it’s especially well-suited to new businesses with limited budgets and resources.

For meaningful growth, startups must completely change the rules of traditional channels or innovate outside of those growth channels. They are too desperate and disadvantaged to adapt to the old rules of marketing. They have to dig deep creatively, and relentlessly test new ideas. If they don’t figure out quickly, they will go out of business.” ~Sean Ellis, Founder and CEO, GrowthHackers.com

Be More Pirate

To achieve this, growth marketers focus on five key metrics to measure their success:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Activation
  3. Retention
  4. Revenue
  5. Referral

These guiding pillars of growth have been dubbed the ‘pirate metrics’ because they create the acronym AARRR.

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You may also see AAARRR from the addition of awareness as the first step. Either way, the sentiment remains the same: acquire, retain, earn more.

Ask yourself the questions. Hypothesize and test ways to improve each stage. If you identify issues, fix them. Grow, grow, grow.

Looking to accelerate your growth in 2019? Try these 8 growth hacks.

1. Be ACTIVE on Social Media

This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are still people and businesses out there not taking advantage of social media beyond just having a Facebook page or Instagram profile. That’s not enough.

An active presence on the platforms that matter to your audience is a surefire way to jumpstart growth, and there is perhaps no faster or more affordable way to spread awareness of your brand and products.

To grow you need people, and social media has them by the billions. Facebook? 2.23 billion. Instagram? One billion. YouTube? 1.9 billion.

No matter who your ideal buyers are, they’re on social, guaranteed. Every demographic is represented, from Gen Z to Baby Boomers and beyond.

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The worldwide number of social users is expected to grow from about 2.62 billion in 2018 to 3.02 billion by 2021.

So get active. Follow the major personalities and brands in your industry. Engage with them and their followers. Share your best content. Comment on relevant posts from others. Thank people for a follow back.

An often-overlooked hack is to answer relevant questions on Quora. It’s a thriving community of roughly 300 million monthly users looking for information from experts and peers like you. Build your brand, enhance your reputation, and generate traffic to your blog or website with a link in your answers.

You can’t just ‘be’ on social media. You’ve got to be active. Use appropriate hashtags to be found more easily. Connect, engage, and grow.

2. The Eyes Have It

As a species, we’re hardwired for visuals. Our brains process visual information up to 60,000x faster than text. Charts, graphs, illustrations, photos, pre-recorded videos, gifs, live streaming, and infographics resonate with us more than words alone.

Your marketing – content or otherwise – should lean heavily on high-quality visual components. The general consensus is that we remember 10% of what we hear and 20% of what we read, but 80% of what we see.

Social media posts with visual elements get more engagement, likes, shares, and comments. In one study, Facebook posts with photos garnered 87% of all interactions, and tweets with an image generate 150% more retweets than those without one.

Live videos on Facebook have a 4.3% engagement rate (but only 2.2% for recorded ones).

Instagram – the photo and video sharing app – is the fastest-growing social media platform.

Subject lines that include the word ‘video’ increase open rates by 19% and click-through rates by 200-300%. Video in the main message is also a proven winner.

For a bit of variety, try using gifs or cinemagraphs in both email and social media.

There’s a science-backed reason we say a picture is worth a thousand words: because it is.

3. Focus on the CX

This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: focus on customer experience (CX).

CX is poised to become the main differentiator by 2020 if it’s not already. It’ll be more important than the price and the product. Are you ready?

Consumers want personalization, ease, and speed. They want options. Actively work to improve their experience at every stage and touchpoint. Improve response times. Diversify your channels. Ask for feedback, and use what feedback you receive.

4. One Word: Contests

Everyone loves something for free. Use that to gain exposure, generate leads, and create positive sentiment via contests.

Setting up a contest on social media is a breeze with services like WooBox, Shortstack, and Heyo.

People are more than happy to provide you with their name and email address, as well as share your contest announcement with their network, if it means they may win something. A $50 gift card might generate thousands in new sales from the leads you collect.

Contest, sweepstakes, or giveaway – it doesn’t matter what you call it. The results are the same: more names, bigger list.

5. Exit Intent Popup

Ever start moving your cursor towards the back or close button, only to have a pop-up stop you? You’ve just witnessed exit intent in action.

Create an exit intent popup with a valuable, high-quality lead magnet for your website. It’s a last-ditch attempt to collect contact details before a prospect disappears forever, and they’re very effective. Wisepop customers, for example, report an average 300% increase in their email list efforts.

Offer a downloadable resource (ebook, pdf, template, case study, white paper, report, or how-to guide), coupon, or special discount in exchange for their name and email address.

As with contests, most consumers are willing – even excited – to trade those details if it means they get something useful back.

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Get the details. Build and harness your email list. Growth starts there.

6. Remember the Six Weapons of Influence

Human beings are complex creatures, but we’re also remarkably similar in a lot of ways.

The more you know about how people think, feel, and make decisions, the better you’ll be able to gently nudge them towards a decision you want them to make.

Enter Robert Cialdini and his weapons of influence:

  1. Social proof
  2. Scarcity
  3. Liking
  4. Reciprocity
  5. Authority
  6. Consistency

Want to convert more (i.e. grow)? Use a mix of those six principles of persuasion in your marketing. Use them in sales. Use them in email.

Just use them.

7. Promote MORE Than You Create

It’s 10x easier to get more eyes on something you’ve already created than it is to create something new.

Stick to an 80/20 promotion-to-creation ratio, and you’ll be amazed at the traffic and leads you generate.

8. Get Trendy

Monitor and participate in relevant trending topics and hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other platforms you use, to be seen and heard.

Look to a service like Hastagify to find the hashtags that have people talking on Twitter and Instagram. Jump into those conversations that are relevant to you, your brand, and your products.

If you’re not growing, you’re dying. There will always be someone else innovating, entering the marketplace, and expanding – or, in other words, growing – so you can’t be complacent about your position in your niche.

Ever.

These growth hacks should be stage one of your growth marketing strategy heading into the new year. Then try some other ones. And then try different hacks after that.

Make growth a priority, and you’ll grow. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

What’s your best growth hack? Leave your comments below: