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A Customer-Driven Growth Framework

Your people. Your product. How you promote it. These are all key parts of any growth framework, but there’s another element to growth that’s often sold short: the customer. Even today, many companies are so laser-focused on customer acquisition that they neglect to take care of their existing customers. They’re losing out. Big time. Happy […]

Your people. Your product. How you promote it.

These are all key parts of any growth framework, but there’s another element to growth that’s often sold short: the customer.

Even today, many companies are so laser-focused on customer acquisition that they neglect to take care of their existing customers.

They’re losing out. Big time.

Happy customers that feel valued bring you new customers. They’re also a priceless source of information that can help you further optimize your growth framework.

Here’s how to create a growth framework that’s driven by your business’s greatest asset – your customers.

 

The 5 C’s of the C Factor

There are many ways to put the customer at the forefront of a growth framework. I do it using the 5 C’s of the C factor:

  • Customer experience
  • Communication
  • Content
  • Community
  • Customer advocacy

Let’s run through what they mean, and how you can put them into practice as part of your own growth framework.

1. Optimize the Customer Experience

Optimizing your customer experience isn’t something that’s “nice to do,” if you happen to have the time and resources to do it. Optimizing your customer experience is essential. In fact, a study by Walker indicated that by 2020, customer experience will have “overtaken both price and product as the key brand differentiator.”

This is why consumers will pay more for better customer service, and why improving your customer experience should be an ongoing objective that plays a central role in growing your brand.

So how can you do this?

Start by implementing an onboarding process that serves to optimize the first 60 seconds of each customer’s experience with your product. Ensure customers get a “win” within that time frame.

To do this, look at what customers see after they convert. Is it clear what they need to do next? Is it easy for them to do it? Make absolutely sure that new customers know what they should be doing next and that they realize the value of your product as quickly as possible.

From there you can look at expanding your onboarding process. Ensure customers who make it past the 60-second mark have the information and support they need to maximize the value they get from your product. Make sure they know they can contact you for help. Better yet, offer concierge onboarding (where you work one-on-one with customers to get them started).

2. Communicate

In other words – talk to your customers. This should go beyond onboarding and extend to relationship building. Make it your mission to not just communicate with your customers, but to actually connect with as many of them as you can.

Check in with new customers the moment they sign up. Ask them what problems they face day-to-day, and what they want to get out of using your product. Provide them with the tools and info they need to overcome their pain points and get the best from your product, and – once again – make damn sure they know that you’re available should they need anything else.

But don’t stop there.

Implement a schedule for checking in periodically with existing customers.

This shows that you genuinely care about helping your customers succeed. Better yet, it prompts inactive customers to return, and customers who might be struggling to pipe up and ask questions (a heck of a lot of people won’t speak up unless directly asked – they will simply stop using your product).

There are no set rules about how often you should check in, but it makes sense to contact new customers relatively frequently, and reduce the regularity of communications once they’ve settled in (I tend to find that every 90 days is about right).

3. Create Content

Say the word “content” (in a digital context) and many people visualize things like web copy or content created with the goal of attaining links.

These are both valid forms of content that tend to form part of any effective digital marketing campaign. But there’s another type of content that brands often overlook in favor of the former – customer-centric content. That’s content that’s designed primarily for the purpose of helping your customers.

Creating content of this nature entails revisiting your customers’ pain points and using your findings to inform the subjects you cover.

The content itself might come in the shape of blog posts, illustrated guides, or video (or, in many cases, a mix of all three). Regardless of the type of content, the key point is that it serves to help make your customers’ lives easier – whether that’s directly via your product, or in another element of their professional lives.

To maximize the value this content delivers, you can (and should) leverage keyword research to optimize it for better performance in the SERPs, link to it in drip campaigns, and distribute it to customers as part of your onboarding process.

4. Create a Community

Communities help you engage your customers and offer a platform for them to engage with each other. An active community can even take some of the weight off your shoulders when it comes to troubleshooting problems, since your best customers may well take on some of the hard work.

Saying that, it pays to incentivize engagement. Decide how you’ll measure a customer’s value in the community (usually a mix of frequency of activity and a voting or scoring system), and what you’ll offer as a reward (disco5unts or free upgrades are logical choices).

Make sure you’re taking steps to encourage new customers to join and engage with the community. Incorporate this into your onboarding process and push the benefits of using it to interact with other customers.

Another point to consider is the platform you use. Obvious choices include Facebook, Influitive, Salesforce, and Slack – but don’t just choose the one you’re most familiar with. Talk to your customers to help you identify the best platform for them.

5. Create Customer Advocates

Customer advocates are reportedly 83% more likely to share information and 50% more likely to influence a purchasing decision than regular customers.

They also spend twice as much as other customers, and can be worth 10x the value of their initial purchase.

This means that creating and nurturing customer advocates should form part of any growth framework.

So how do you turn a regular customer into an advocate?

You make a point of offering unbeatable customer service at all times. You think and act as brands like Zappos and Amazon do. You go above and beyond what customers expect, to offer an experience that ensures they not only never want to go anywhere else, but they want to tell everyone else about it.

That said, only a small minority of customers are likely to ever become true advocates (regardless of how you treat them), and to leverage them as part of your growth framework, you’ll have to find them.

NPS surveys can help you do this. They’re super-simple, one-question surveys that ask customers to state how likely they would be to recommend you, on a scale of 1 to 10. Anyone who chooses 9 or 10 is either a current advocate, or a potential one

Once you know who these people are, reach out to them, work to strengthen your relationship, and when the time feels right, ask them to write reviews or testimonials.

For better or faster results, you should be thanking them for being such awesome customers. Show your gratitude with special privileges like account upgrades or reduced pricing, or by gifting them branded swag.

Key Takeaways

Ready to pull this all together? Here’s a quick recap of the 5 C’s of the C factor.

Customer experience – optimize your customers’ initial experience with your product. Help them experience a “win” that serves to emphasize the value of your product, within the first 60 seconds of signing up.

Communication – talk to your customers. Ask about their pain points and for feedback on your product. Aim to build real relationships with them.

Content – create content that addresses those pain points, and helps customers get the most out of your product.

Community – create a community that allows you to engage with your customers and them with each other, and that serves as a first port of call for user queries.

Customer advocacy – use NPS surveys to identify your very best customers, then engage them, reward them, and encourage them to promote your brand.

Can you think of any other ways to incorporate the customer into a growth framework? It’d be great to hear your ideas – comments are below.

The Best Growth Marketing Conference Takeaways

  There is one thing I know for sure: Growth does not happen in a silo. There are many components that come together to form great growth marketing strategies. And over the past few months, some of the greatest minds in growth have crossed our stage to offer their hard-earned insights into the field. From […]

 

There is one thing I know for sure:

Growth does not happen in a silo.

There are many components that come together to form great growth marketing strategies.

And over the past few months, some of the greatest minds in growth have crossed our stage to offer their hard-earned insights into the field.

From B2B to B2C to P2P (or H2H, whichever you prefer), there is one thing that rings true of the great growth marketing puzzle (and marketing in general, actually): it’s all about the end person who your company is intended to help.

Figure out how to best help them with your messaging, content, product, and you’ll create a memorable experience which leads to retention and ultimately, to understanding and success.

Let’s get into it.

 

Messaging

One of the many areas that companies first struggle with is messaging.

It can be tough to walk a theoretical day in your customer’s shoes, especially if you overly obsessed with your own company and products or have no idea who your target customer is.

And when you are first starting out, you don’t always have a lot to work with other than what you believe your company mission and core values are.

Obviously, your messaging should be informed by your target personas, but what if your target personas don’t know who you are, what you do, or why they might need you?

Growth Marketing Conference East speaker Derek Halpern makes a good point about how to tweak your messaging based on how well known your company is.

In theory, if no one knows who you are, or people don’t know that they have the problem your company solves, you need to reel them in by appealing to their broad world view.

Just like with content, when you are in the super awareness zone, casting a wider net will help to funnel in a general audience, with which you can segment with more targeted messaging once they get to know you and problem you solve.

But, again, it can be tricky to “go broad” and still remain relevant to the people you are trying to reach.

That is why Growth Marketing Conference East speaker Chad Kerby suggests keeping your message clear and concise.

“Broad” and “clear” are two entirely different things. Knowing how to tailor your message in a way that clearly communicates your brand value in terms that a general audience can understand will build awareness for your company.

Derek offers another great piece of advice to help you bring it all together: message differentiation.

Growth Marketing Conference Takeaways | Growth Marketing Conf

If you are a new company or you are solving a new problem, the best way to gather information on the market is to run an analysis on what your competition is up to. While they may have some great insight into the current market and audience, you can’t copy their messaging without running the risk of appearing to be a smaller, crappier version of them.

You either need to be better than them at what they are doing, or you need to do something completely different.

Attention is the currency of the marketing world, so go out there and be different with your messaging.

Content

Another huge area of interest for today’s business owners and marketers falls into the realm of content.

Anyone who has ever been involved with content marketing knows that content creation, planning, promotion, and ranking takes time.

A LOT of time.

GMC East speaker Sujan Patel suggests training various teams within your company to build content creation into their regular processes.

The truth is, people are searching for answers to their burning questions about your product or service, so some of the most engaging and relevant content for your audience will come from the people who work the closest with your customers like customer service and sales teams.

If you train your team to be involved in content creation from the beginning, you’ll be able to spread the responsibilities across your entire organization and shift the burden of creation to a manageable workload.

 

Product

At Growth Marketing Conference B2B, GrowthX Academy co-founder Sean Sheppard made a very real observation.

Because of technology and help from the interwebs, ideating, creating and launching a product is easier in today’s world than ever before. Getting people to pay attention to your brand and product, on the other hand, is much more difficult.

We should all know by now that great businesses don’t succeed solely because of their products.

There’s a lot more that goes into growth than product development.

And as GMC alum Dan Olsen notes, must-have product features aren’t always going to create customer satisfaction.

It’s all about expectations.

If you are offering a solution to someone’s problem, you better be able to solve it to the extent required because that is what people are expecting when they purchase from you. If your product falls short of a complete solution, people are going to be unhappy because their expectations haven’t been met.

And even if your product does solve their problem, if the experience they had with your product or company isn’t fantastic, dissatisfaction may still be prevalent.

You need to figure out how to provide above and beyond value when the inclusion of must-have features has been set as the baseline expectation. Your company’s success depends on it.

Your company’s success depends on it.

If you still aren’t sold on the fact that “product” isn’t everything, veteran GMC speaker Zack Onisko raises another great point about product engagement.

Without engagement from the people who are purchasing your product, you have built a weak audience, which typically means your brand isn’t anything to write home about. If your audience is quiet, you need to give them something to shout about.

If your audience is quiet, you need to give them something to shout about!

An engaged audience is an active audience, an active audience is a loud audience, and a loud audience spreads the word about your product, which makes marketing a whole lot easier.

Experience

From how a customer hears about your brand, all the way down to the way that they interact with your products, their experience is everything.

GMC B2B speaker Jon Miller explains how a potential customer or potential client’s experience is affected by something as small as the sender of an email:

By taking a little bit of extra time to plan out your customer (or client’s) experience with your brand, you can change the way they see your company, and ultimately influence their decisions to do business with you.

There’s no way to make someone feel less special than by sending them a blanket, unpersonalized sales email.

You want my money? Don’t waste my time. My time is very valuable to me, and so is the time of your customers.

GMC B2B speaker Krista Seiden hammers how the point by bringing up the value of personalization in marketing:

Personalization is a key element to creating a great customer experience. By personalizing your marketing, you are demonstrating that your company values the time of its customers.

And I don’t just mean «FirstName» personalization, I mean do your damn homework.

Find out what my real problems are and only reach out to offer me a solution if you know for a fact that you can help me and that I am in the right place in my business (or life) for your offering.

And if I haven’t expressed any explicit interest in your solution, your company or in building a relationship with you, don’t ask me to dedicate 15 minutes of my time for a quick phone call.

By personalizing your marketing, you are demonstrating that your company values the time of its customers, and everyone wants to feel like they are valued.

 

Retention

A lot of growth marketing efforts are focused on the acquisition phase, but good marketers and business owners know that retaining a customer is cheaper than acquiring a new one.

As the famed author of the book “Hooked” and Growth Marketing Conference East speaker Nir Eyal says, “user growth is meaningless if you don’t have user retention.”

What’s the point of acquiring all of these new users if they don’t stick around?

Acquisition is just the first part of the process. You need to solve for the rest of the growth funnel before you will find success.

 

Putting It All Together

When it comes down to it, no piece of the growth marketing puzzle is of value if the rest of the pieces are missing.

But, once everything comes together, you are left with something of extreme value: knowledge.

And as Growth Marketing Conference East speaker Steli Efti asserts, whoever understands the customer best will ultimately own them.

To be understood is what we all strive for in the very core of our beings, so why wouldn’t marketers apply this to their customers?

Ultimately, if I’ve learned anything from these amazing speakers, it’s that understanding your customer is what will lead to growth, and eventually to success.

In other words?

Always keep your eye on the customer and you’ll never be led astray.

Why Your Content Marketing Sucks and How to Fix it

  Most content will never be successful. Here’s how to change that. Most of your content marketing efforts will fail. You will invest with the best of intentions into your content creation, you will launch with excitement… and it will fail. You will see a spike of hope ending in a flat line of nope. […]

 

Most content will never be successful. Here’s how to change that.

Most of your content marketing efforts will fail.

You will invest with the best of intentions into your content creation, you will launch with excitement… and it will fail.

You will see a spike of hope ending in a flat line of nope.

And you won’t know why.
 

Your content won’t work because you’ve got the wrong focus.

 
In its most recent 2016 content marketing benchmark report, CMI states that only 34% of brands (across B2B and B2C) rate their content as effective, and 60% see it as their top challenge to produce content that engages and drives goals – of which lead gen and sales are the primary ones with 85% and 84% respectively.

These numbers illustrate two fundamental errors brands make in their content marketing.

  • A lot of brands invest in content marketing on the assumption that if they produce content, people will find it, click on it, and buy.
  • They prioritize leads and sales over earning familiarity, trust, and relationships.

The average person encounters roughly 285 pieces of content daily according to Lifehack; served with a side of more branded content. All meant to get them to take action. Their brand journey and experience with that content, however, are non-linear and multi-modal.

There is no guarantee of a sale.
 
 

The Biggest Mistake that Brands Make with Content Marketing

Up until now, you’ve put the cart before the horse. You’ve committed a cardinal content marketing sin by creating content for the sake of content, in an attempt to drive leads and sales.

You have focused on the tactics of creating, distributing and sharing content.

You have framed the brand-customer relationship from the brand’s point of view, aiming to funnel potential customers to a transaction.

You have created a content and channel centricity that neglects customers’ holistic experience with your brand!

What you have neglected is that content should function as value creation.

And at the center should be your customer. You need to achieve a true customer-centricity and focus on the customer’s point of view, move beyond single transactions, and establish a relationship that fosters ongoing conversation.

 
 

Walking A Mile in Your Customers’ Shoes

The cornerstone of customer-centricity and the first step in defining successful content marketing is understanding the customer experience and decision-making journey that underlies the customer-brand relationship.

The customer entry points to this relationship are manifold today with disparate locations, different situations, many channels and conversations building an interaction architecture that is driven by context, intentions, emotions and micro-moments of truth.

As such, customers choose products and services based on the quality of the entire experience, not just an isolated part. And to prevent those experiences from breaking down and causing frustration and confusion in customers, it is important to navigate this complexity with a customer journey map.

The central function of this map is to help your brand relate to your customers’ experience.

It explores what your customers think, see, feel, hear, and do; it illuminates behavior, preferences and needs throughout the entire customer experience cycle, guiding your brand how to engage content continuously to shape the experience.
 
 

The four phases of customer journey mapping

Do You Know Your Customers?

1. Uncover the journey

It’s all about understanding who your customers are in this phase.

It’s all about understanding what motivates them. Each of your customers has many personas; all dependent on time, environment, technology, personal demands, needs, and wants. These personas are not linear, isolated and mutually-exclusive, but fluid, flexible, and omnipresent. It is essential to tailor your content with what appeals to all of them.

When you uncover your customer’s journey, you need to uncover their needs, behaviors, and decisions in nuance and in relation to their current situation.

You should identify the varying characteristics of each of your personas and describe who they are, what motivates them, their goals, needs, drivers, barriers, as well as how they behave online and offline.

I do not mean that you have to create dozens of personas though. In fact, having too many personas is also a bad thing because it can cause you to lose focus. But it is important to realize that each persona will behave slightly differently according to their current state of mind.

Taking these potential, nuanced behaviors into account will help you develop depth in your understanding of your personas, which will intensify the focus of your content.

Be diligent in this exercise, and highlight persona nuances that will keep you from ignoring key players and their content needs, while understanding the overlap across personas that allow for divergent paths but not separate journeys.

 
 

2. Map the experience


Now that you really know your customers’ personas, you need to lay out the entire story in the next phase.

Just like the plot to every good Disney movie, mapping your customer’s journey needs to tell their entire experience from beginning to end.

Think of the narrative story arch of every good hero – which is essentially the individual journey from the opening of a story to the resolution of a conflict – your customer is the hero in his journey with your brand – from the beginning where an event sets our hero on a journey (awareness), to the hero encountering more and more obstacles (research), to encountering a decision point (consideration), after which resolution is achieved (purchase).

Every instance of customer interaction, both major and minor, should be included on the journey map.

The individual points on the map will have multiple possible outcomes – both positive and negative. All positive points are cues to create content around that experience and utilize the positive outcome – resolve the narrative in your brands favor.

 
 

3. Chart the content


After you have come to know what makes your customers tick, it is time to chart and align content that will serve informational, functional, and emotional needs along the path.

When you align content to the journey it is important to think solutions to problems, not products and services.

Being an expert makes it really hard for brands to think customer-first, and they think customers are searching for the product.

What customers are always searching for are solutions to their problems.

They rarely know which product they want; what they do know is what problem they have. You will be hard pressed to sell them a quarter inch drill bit; you will be able to sell them a quarter inch whole though.

 
 

4. Tell the story


In the end, you will have a storyboard that understands the actions, motivations, questions and barriers customers experience, and a brand in full support of the customer through every step of their decision-making process.

Your content will connect the dots between customer, business, brand, and benefits. Instead of content being king, the customer is king, which will make your content effective and a true currency for your brand.

Brands and their marketing departments are almost obsessed with attribution, but the reality is that different people prefer different channels. Using a combination of vehicles is likely the best way to effectively connect with different audiences.

Creating a strategic flow of information to the customer is essential to creating a coherent “story” for the customer to follow. The funnel and sales are your content’s downfall; taking your brand’s needs out of the equation will be your success.