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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:

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:

The Best Growth Hack That Works For Every Company? Experimentation

“We should have a higher overall cancel rate.” – Reed Hastings, Co-Founder & CEO Netflix June 2017. While his company is enjoying unparalleled subscriber success, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is worried that his widely loved streaming service is having too many hit shows. “It’s a sign we’re not trying enough crazy things. We should take […]

“We should have a higher overall cancel rate.”
– Reed Hastings, Co-Founder & CEO Netflix

June 2017. While his company is enjoying unparalleled subscriber success, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is worried that his widely loved streaming service is having too many hit shows. “It’s a sign we’re not trying enough crazy things. We should take more risks.”

Was Hastings trying to hedge his company’s position towards investors in the sight of more cancellations? That’s a way of looking at it. The other way is that he’s willing to sacrifice a fraction of today’s profits to ensure Netflix’s growth tomorrow.

Or should we call it survival? After all, Netflix’ rise coincided with the fall of Blockbuster as the latter neglected the future to make more money in the present. “Why would we care about you mailing DVDs if we’re making billions of dollars a year with our physical stores,” is what I imagine Blockbuster CEO John Antioco replied to Hastings when he proposed to join forces in 2000. Blockbuster declared for bankruptcy in 2010.

Hastings could’ve also gotten his inspiration from Netflix’ current rival, Amazon and its charismatic founder Jeff Bezos. Bezos, soon-to-be wealthiest man in the world, doesn’t make a secret of what his secret sauce is. “Our success at Amazon is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day.”

Bezos likes to compare business to baseball. If you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a lot, but you’ll also hit a couple of home runs. The difference between business and baseball however, is that in baseball the outcome is at most four runs – no matter how well you hit the ball. In business, you can get up to 1,000 runs and more.

Image Credit: Nassim Nicholas Taleb

So even if you miss nine times out of ten, the massive potential return justifies being bold. If you want to win, you need to experiment. No need to look further than Amazon Web Services (AWS) to understand that Bezos is right on the money. Starting off as an experiment totally unrelated to Amazon’s core e-commerce business, AWS became the fastest growing B2B company in history and has given Amazon the kind of digital infrastructure no other e-commerce business can ever catch up with. The same can be said about Amazon Prime, Echo and Kindle – all multi-billion dollar experiments that paid off.

Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

Startups often pride themselves on out-hustling their competition. I too wake up every morning with the mindset that nothing is off-limits if you put in the work, but just putting your muscles to work isn’t going to cut it. More than ever, the one question leadership should be able to answer is: how do we learn as fast as the world is changing? Rather than ‘what’ you think, the crucial skill today is ‘how’ you think.

Netflix doesn’t care as much as having hit shows today as it does about having hit shows tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. They want to able to out-think the competition, to develop a privileged point of view of what the future will look like and get there before anyone else does.

Their vehicle to get there? Experimentation. The same vehicle Amazon, Facebook, Google, Uber and many others are riding. There’s a reason experiment-fuelled companies have been emerging as the best of the class in short span of time: they’ve developed better mechanisms to grasp reality and internalize the learnings into their strategies. The closer to reality you stand, the better decisions you make.

Experimentation used to be considered something a company could do on the side, while the other 99% could focus on the ‘core business’. Today it’s a prerequisite to play the game and the players compete on the quality, volume and pace of experimentation.

Experiment-driven marketing

Growth hacking is nothing but figuring out the fastest ways for growth through rapid experimentation across marketing channels.

Netflix making crazy shows to see how their subscribers react to it and gauge their changing consumer preferences is no different from me throwing up a landing page for a crazy new product feature. As a growth marketer, I too am looking to learn more about reality by throwing something at it and see how it reacts. Is the marketing message I’m sending viable, does it resonate with target audience and does it have ROI potential for the business?

Once I know, I can use that learning – whatever it might be – to revisit my ideas or generate new ones to then design new experiments to test those ideas. Slowly but surely I’ll iterate my way to the formula that determines growth for my business.

“What’s the number one growth hack for my company?”

The most frequently asked question prospects ask me in sales meetings is also the one I love most.

As soon as it pops, a trace of a smile plays across my lips.

It’s the perfect opportunity for me take control of the conversation and enlighten the prospect on what makes our agency different from others.

“Science.”

They look at me with big eyes.

They expected a magic formula, a silver bullet, a stroke of genius.

I give them a methodology, a process.

And explain why they’ve been reading too many ‘how to increase your traffic with 350% in two weeks’ – blog posts.

“I am the wisest man alive. For I know one thing and that is that I know nothing.”

This quote is by the famous Greek philosopher Socrates and I live it religiously as a growth marketer.

When I get into a sales meeting with a prospect, I know nothing.

I don’t know their product, I don’t know their audience and I don’t know their business model.

That may sound like a disadvantage, but it isn’t.

It means I’m 100% free of assumptions: things I think I know but don’t actually have proof for. Every such an assumption is essentially a risk to your business because you don’t know if it aligns with reality or not. And boy do entrepreneurs have a knack for thinking they have their companies figured out. Their business models are swamped with risks disguised as assumptions. The worst kind of risks: risks of which you don’t know that they’re risks.

As an outsider, I am in a better position to assess the assumptions that lay at the grounds of the business and turn them into experiments to find out whether they’re true or not. If an experiment proves an assumption to be truthful, I now have data to back it up and have stripped the business model of a risk. If an assumption proves to be wrong, I’ll have learned something new – putting me in the position to turn a risk into an asset.

Whichever one of the two it is – right or wrong – strategic decisions for growth today can be made from evidence and not gut feeling. Marketing used to be about big bombastic campaigns that would take months and millions of dollars to set up without a valid way to track actual ROI. Those days are over. With the tools and tracking possibilities we have at our disposal today, there’s no more excuse to make decisions purely based on gut feeling. Let alone complain about the outcomes after. You can know the exact return of each marketing dollar you spend.

A quest for truth

Marketing is about understanding and influencing customers behaviours. We aim to make people react to stimuli in predictable ways. For every action, there is a reaction and we want to be able to anticipate those reactions as much as possible.

That makes marketing a never-ending quest for truth. Never-ending because the idea of truth itself is an illusion. As human beings, there’s only so much we can grasp from reality. It is too vast and complex for our brains to fully make sense of, and changes at unprecedented speeds. Experiments are our gateway to reality. One experiment will tell you which subject line gets more opens, which image converts better and which copy gets clicked more. A series of experiments will gradually make you understand what your customers need, what moves them, where they hang out, how they like to be talked about. And how all of that can come together in a brand and marketing strategy.

The pitch I make to prospects pretty much comes down to this. When it doesn’t do the trick, I give them the link to Ladder.io’s Playbook with 849 growth tactics and propose they guess which ones might work for them instead of actively finding out what will work.

What we call a ‘growth hack’ is the result of a thorough understanding of your target audience and its relation to your business. You find one by slowly making sense of the complex reality that is a business.

Dropbox’s growth hack wasn’t the referral program

From September 2008 to January 2010, Dropbox grew from 100,000 to 4,000,000 users.

I’m guessing you heard this story over and over again. What I’m not sure about is whether they’ve told it to you the right way.

Sean Ellis drove virality by inventing the modern referral program: users who got their friends to sign up for Dropbox received 500MB of extra storage, an enormity at the time.

Businesses from industries all over the world were quick to ‘steal’ the referral program, only to find out it wasn’t performing for them as it was for Dropbox.

They copied the wrong strategy.

Dropbox’s success isn’t built on the referral program, it’s built on the process that gave rise to their referral program: experimentation.

Before doubling-down on the referral program, Dropbox conducted small experiments to find out how far users were willing to go for free storage space.

Experiments like these taught Dropbox users were willing to perform certain actions to gain extra storage. They went from connecting social media accounts to inviting friends and eventually mass-inviting friends through a clever integration with Gmail.

They didn’t discover the referral program as a growth hack overnight. It was the logical consequence of an ongoing loop of small-scale experiments. Experiments that gradually revealed the referral program as a major growth lever for Dropbox. First they discovered they were getting a lot of referral signups for enthusiastic early adopter users by looking at the data, then they ran experiments to find out whether people would perform certain actions to get free storage – the logical consequence was the referral program

The simple reason this referral program doesn’t work for you the same way it works for Dropbox is that your customers aren’t the same as Dropbox’s.

It sounds obvious and yet every day again people ask me if I can give them plug-and-play growth hacks for their businesses.

This obsession with tactics over process is the number one thing people get wrong about growth hacking. Your growth hack isn’t someone else’s.

To quote growth hacking godfather Sean Ellis:

“Sustainable growth comes from understanding best customers and figuring out how to find and acquire more of them.”
– Sean Ellis, Growth Hacking Godfather

Similarly to how Dropbox learned its users would be willing to refer friends to get more storage, Twitter found out all of its active users followed at least thirty people and Airbnb found out its target audience was looking for vacation rentals on Craigslist.

Both then turned those learnings into effective tactics. Twitter started showing users interesting people to follow in the signup process to boost activation. Airbnb built an integration to cross-post listings on Craigslist to drive awareness.

The rest, as they say, is history.

These examples come to show that growth comes from relentlessly pursuing the truth about your customers through an iterative process of experimentation: test, measure results, internalize learnings, rinse and repeat.

Embrace failure as a tool to make better decisions

I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs I meet that hold the flag of creativity and innovation up high, yet fail to act on it because of fear of mistake and disappointment. They’re afraid to be wrong. Which in turn is why they lack both innovation and creativity and get outmanoeuvred by competitors who are willing to experiment and fail.

Rather than being afraid of being wrong, you should strive to be less wrong. Experiments and failure are inherently connected with one another. No matter how well-designed, 9 out of 10 experiments will fail, for the simple reason that as human beings we’re way worse at understanding reality than we think we are. Which is exactly why we need failure: it teaches us reality.

“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– Thomas Edison

Failure as a teacher is a liberating idea, because it implies you can’t lose. Losing would be not knowing, staying stuck in the dark guessing why your traffic isn’t converting.

What most companies don’t get is that failure is a feature of learning, not a bug. If you’re not prepared to fail, you’re not prepared to learn. In fact, most breakthrough ideas are hidden within ‘failed’ experiments.

There is no such thing as failed experiments – only unexpected outcomes.

If the demographic you expected to click isn’t clicking that means you need to adjust your message. Or adjust your focus to target the demographic that is clicking, often with substantial implications for your initial value proposition altogether.

Consider the case of ‘Circle Of Friends’, a sort of Facebook Groups before there were Facebook Groups: people could organise themselves in self-managing communities. KPIs for activation and retention weren’t met, except with one target audience: moms. Moms were using it intensively to connect with one another and share best practices on parenting. The then startup realigned its value proposition, rebranded to ‘Circle Of Moms’ and was acquired by PopSugar four years later.

Reality is too complex for us humans to predict. Experiments are what enables us to test our ideas in reality. Failure is reality’s way of getting back to us and show us what’s real and what’s not. Whatever happens, there’s always a learning you can take with you.

The Minimum Viable Experiment

If you’re going to double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your inventiveness.
– Jeff Bezos

The best part about this Jeff Bezos quote is that it’s actually inaccurate.

If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to more than double your inventiveness.

Think about it. Every experiment widen and deepens you knowledge. New knowledge allows for better experiments, better experiments allow for richer insights and richer insights again allow for better experiments. Rather than double, your inventiveness will grow exponentially. This is the idea of the compound effect.

Speed of execution is key here. The goal of experimentation is to learn and stack up knowledge quickly, not to be perfect and look pretty. If you have a new idea to acquire customers, you should test it in the real world as quickly as possible before designing a whole strategy around it.

This also has to do with resources: why spend huge amounts of time and money on Instagram ads or a new product feature if you have no clue if it will appeal to your target audience? As soon as an idea hits you, you find a way to put it out in the real world as a fast as possible and see what happens. You test with a small target audience to avoid a big budget gamble.

It doesn’t have to be good, it has to be good enough to validate or dismiss your assumption underlying the idea: a Minimum Viable Experiment.

I can hear you thinking already: “yeah yeah, build an MVP before going all-in.” But do you stick to that idea through thick and thin?

My experience is that aggressive growth KPIs often drive teams to forget about the minimum part of their MVE. Apart from the learning, they also strive to drive KPIs and, without realising it, end up with blown-up failed experiments, expensive in terms of budget and time.

Take the example of a startup that believed introducing a subscription model would be huge growth opportunity. Instead of testing that assumption in an MVE, they went on to change their payment system and onboarded existing users in the subscription model. To then, after about two months come to the conclusion a subscription model didn’t appeal to their target audience at all. They could have easily tested this without risk by putting up a landing page for a subscription signup, driving traffic to it and compare conversion on it against the current pricing model.

Fake it if you have to. One hour, a computer and an internet connection are sufficient to put together a mockup of two, a landing page and a Facebook Ad to drive traffic and see how your idea, be it marketing or product, stands the test of reality. If you can’t think of a way to fake a product experience in order to get your hands to validating data, you’re not trying hard enough.

Growth Hacking, demystified

To its core, growth hacking is an amazingly simple concept.

First, you pick a metric that you would like to see go up or down. This can be number of signups, number of returning users, CTR on Facebook Ads, email opens or the number of coffees you drink per day.

Then, you look for other factors you believe influence that particular metric. You may believe signups go up if you remove a step from the signup process, think gamification will spike retention, assume emojis in copy will make people click more, be convinced emails sent in the morning will get opened more and trust you’ll drink less coffee if you sleep one hour a night more. Ideally, you base this influencing relationship on data – data you already have or data you have seen elsewhere. Something that tells you there is a correlation between the two factors. If you don’t have any data, because your idea is particularly new and/or you’re just starting out, you go by gut feeling. You may have found research that sleeping more reduces coffee consumption or you just believe it to be true.

Once you’ve identified the two factors that are correlated – the one you want to change and the one you think will change along with it – you’re going to figure out a way – an experiment – to test if that correlational relationship is also a causal one: does the one factor’s change determines the other factor’s change? Translated: if I send my emails in the morning and the open rate goes up, is it because I sent them in the morning? To know this for sure, you can for example send the exact same email with the exact same subject line to half of your email list in the morning and the other one in the evening. That way you exclude the possibility of other factors being the causal drivers of the metric change.

When you’ve found causality between two factors, backed up by nice and unambiguous data with every other possibility excluded – you can optimize the causal factor to drive the metric you picked in the very begin up to the point where you want it to be.

Your Most Powerful Growth Hack: The Scientific Process

Time to get our hands dirty and practice some science.

You don’t need to be Einstein to do this. Science is about pursuing curiosity, embracing ignorance and relentlessly bridging the gap between the two.

The scientific process will remove the guesswork from your marketing and turn your company’s growth into something scalable, predictable and repeatable.

It goes something like this:

  1. Set goals
  2. Ideate on how to reach goals
  3. Design experiments to test ideas
  4. Execute experiments to see how reality reacts
  5. Study data & document relentlessly
  6. Rinse and repeat

Step 1: Set Goals

Always start with the end in mind.

Are you looking to drive more traffic to your website, reactivate idle users or increase revenue from upselling?

Simply ‘drive more traffic’ isn’t going to cut it. To design effective experiments, you want to break down your objective in more manageable parts   following the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related.

Let’s assume you run an e-commerce business with 14,000 monthly unique website visitors and an average spend of $7.3, resulting in $1,226,400 annual revenue. To get to $2,000,000 by the end of next year, you’ll need to either grow your website traffic to 22,832 monthly unique visitors or increase average spend per visitor to $11.7.

Your goal could look like this:

We want to increase website traffic to 23,000 monthly unique visitors within 90 days — weekly growth rate of 13%.

Here’s how that aligns with the S.M.A.R.T. dimensions.

  • Specific: increase website to 23,000 monthly unique website visitors
  • Measurable: 13% per week
  • Assignable: the marketing team
  • Realistic: Up to you to decide what is ‘realistic’.
  • Time-related: Good goals are set between 30 and 90 days.

Base your objectives on the pirate funnel to align your experiments to stages in the customer journey.

Driving website traffic is just one example of how you could trigger growth. Every stage of the pirate funnel offers opportunities in this respect. Be smart about which stage of the funnel you’re going to grow first: it doesn’t make a lot of sense to double traffic to your webshop if 95% of your visitors leave without spending.

Step 2: Ideate on how to reach goals

After the ‘what’ comes the ‘how’.

This is where you come up with ideas to reach your objectives. In this case: to increase traffic with 13% in a week.

Try to find to find a balance between ideas you base off data from past experiments and totally new experiments. That way you’ll be able to improve existing tactics as well as maximise your odds to discover new ones.

Let’s say past experiments have proven Instagram ads to be an effective traffic driver. You can try to improve those past experiments in terms of media, copy or targeting to gain a bigger increase in traffic.

Another idea is to start following influencers on Pinterest because you’ve seen competitors doing it and want to find out if it would work for you too.

More ideas:

  • team up with other e-commerce businesses for a big giveaway and share email lists and Facebook Audiences to cross-promote it
  • create a chatbot that helps people choosing the best gifts for their mother, father, sibling, friend etc. — write a blog post about it, share on social/in relevant communities and post on Product Hunt
  • start shipping stickers with orders to increase offline exposure

Come up with as many ideas as possible, then select the ones you want to focus on in the upcoming weeks and put the rest in your backlog to revisit later.

Step 3: Design experiments to test ideas

Turn ideas into experiments by identifying:

  • the hypothesis to validate
  • the variable to test
  • the metric to measure
  • the criteria to base success off

For the Pinterest-idea, that would look something like this:

As soon as I’ve confirmed that following influencers on Pinterest works, I can run further tests to determine the characteristics of the influencers most likely to follow me back and pin my products. The more experiments I run, the more I’ll get to know Pinterest as a social platform and the more I’ll be able to eventually turn it into a traffic machine.

Stay true to the idea of the Minimum Viable Experiment.

  • Don’t waste time on perfecting copy or design. Implement whatever is need to validate/dismiss your hypothesis.
  • Don’t burn your monthly budget on one ad campaign. Start with a fraction and scale up as it gains traction.
  • Don’t make ten changes at once: test one element at a time to learn its relative weight in relation to the other elements.
  • Don’t argue about which ad looks the best: A/B test all of them in the market and the best one will automatically emerge.

Step 4: Execute experiments to see how reality reacts

Time to unleash your experiments into the world.

Work hard, but smart. Use tools to facilitate and automate non-creative work.

You can draw inspiration from Google’s design sprints to schedule experiments, manage time and assign tasks.

Step 5: Study data & document relentlessly

The most important stage of the process is also the most overlooked one.

About every marketing agency these days claims to be ‘data-driven’ but few of them really are.

The whole point of the scientific process is to discover new knowledge and internalise it to gain power over your reality. There’s no sense in running experiments if that new knowledge is then ignored, overlooked and not captured.

Take the time to look at the results of experiments and try to understand the surrounding ‘why’ by combining quantitative with qualitative data.

Here are some guiding questions:

  • What were the results of the experiment?
  • How valid was the initial hypothesis?
  • Why are the results what they are? Try to understand the whole story, not just the occurrence.
  • Are there ways to segment or combine data to reveal new insights?

Remember: breakthrough insights are hidden within ‘failed’ experiments.

Document your experiments relentlessly. As experiments are all about learning and the most powerful learnings are often hidden within the failed ones, it is crucial that you keep track of what you have been doing and internalize learnings to avoid spending time on finding out things you already know.

Step 6: Rinse and repeat

Congratulations, you’re smarter now. Now use that to become even smarter.

Align goals, scale successful experiments, adjust failed experiments, come up with new ideas, design better experiments and harvest new learnings.

To then do it all over again.

There’s always more things to test, more experiments to run, more knowledge to gain. You can never win the game but the more you play, the better you’ll get.

Looking to fuel your experiment machine?

On June 7th of this year, my agency The Growth Revolution will be setting new standards for conferences on growth in Europe with The Growth Conference in Antwerp, Belgium.

Trailblazing keynotes, hands-on workshop and turbocharged networking sessions to get you in powerful growth strategies used by thought leaders to move the needle with experiment design, content marketing, social media, personal branding, future technologies, data science, automation, behavioral psychology and more.

The line-up of international marketing rockstars we have for you is unlike any event in Europe has ever seen.

Early bird tickets are on sale until April 20th. Find out more here.

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:

6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Marketing Efforts

B2C marketing is, in many ways, pretty straightforward. You have a product. You need to get it in front of a large audience. This is how you plan to do it. All of us have experience in this area. We’ve all made purchases as a consumer. But far fewer of us have experience buying as […]

B2C marketing is, in many ways, pretty straightforward. You have a product. You need to get it in front of a large audience. This is how you plan to do it.

All of us have experience in this area. We’ve all made purchases as a consumer. But far fewer of us have experience buying as or for a business. That means that when it comes to marketing (of any type), we tend to fall back on the approaches we’re familiar with and have responded to ourselves.

Those at the top tend to do the same.

Marketing is for consumers. Business deals are made not through social media or content, but via direct sales approaches.

Except they’re not. Not exclusively. Not anymore.

Assuming that reaching out to decision makers directly is the only way to make a sale is an archaic way of thinking.

While things are changing (39% of the UK’s B2B marketers feel marketing is seen as ‘very important’ by their organization, with 33% saying ‘fairly important’) there are still so many ways B2B marketers could be leveling up their game.

Here are 6 things you can start implementing today that will help you generate more leads, more sales, and more revenue – without a direct sales strategy in sight.

1. Establish Your Buying Cycle

A typical buying cycle looks like this:

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But there are many variations of it. Every business, and each of their customers, are a little different. Customers enter the buying cycle at different stages, with varying levels of knowledge. Some purchases are highly considered, while others are made on impulse.

While there’s no way to predict the process every customer will go through before buying, you can (and should) determine what your typical buying cycle looks like.

So how do you do that?

You can start by looking at the time delay between a customer’s first interaction with your site, and when they make a purchase. You can find this data in the Conversions section of Google Analytics. For ecommerce transactions, go to Ecommerce > Time to Purchase.

Or for all conversion data (i.e. goal completions as well as ecommerce transactions), go to Multi-Channel Funnels > Time Lag.

Next, try analyzing consumption of your online content. Are customers utilizing the resources you provide prior to converting? Which resources specifically are they using?

You can find this out in the Top Conversion Paths section of Google Analytics.

Most importantly, what interactions (if any) are occuring between you and your customers prior to a transaction taking place? Do they ask a lot of questions, or are they happy to buy without one-on-one assistance?

Together, all this information will help you determine the sales cycle your typical customer goes through. You can then use this knowledge to adapt your marketing efforts so that each tactic plays a part in moving customers from their current position in the buying cycle to the next.

2. Match Content to Customer Pain Points

What determines the content you create (assuming you create content, of course)?

Is it what you think will appeal to your target audience? Or do you choose ideas based on their perceived virality and potential appeal to publishers?

A quality content strategy will often incorporate content designed to drive shares, brand awareness, and links. Unfortunately, viral concepts that appeal to publishers rarely align with the needs of a target audience.

The best content strategies (this can apply to both B2B and B2C marketing) help customers and target customers overcome their pain points – at every stage of the buying cycle.

Don’t just carry out some brief keyword research and write articles based on industry-specific searches. Figure out what pain points your target audience faces at every stage of the buying cycle, and address these pain points in your content.

3. Push for Referrals

How do you approach customer acquisition?

Do you have a sales team sending cold outreach emails and making cold calls?

Many B2B companies don’t leverage their existing customer base enough – or at all.

They’ll invest heavily in acquisition strategies like cold outreach and on- and-offline advertising, but they won’t make use of one of their strongest connections to new customers – their existing customers.

Asking your current customers (your current happy customers) to refer others who they think may have an interest in your product or service is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to generate new business.

So how do you push for referrals in a B2B environment?

That all depends on your business model.

If you’re selling SaaS or a similar product that can be scaled with ease, use an automated referral scheme. This is where customers are automatically rewarded when they succeed in getting someone else to buy your product.

Better yet, create a viral referral scheme that rewards customers not just for their first referral, but for every referral after that, too.

This is how many of today’s most successful online businesses were built, including Dropbox and PayPal.

If you have an agency model or similar – i.e. your business depends on clients – your approach should be a little different.

In this context, an automated referral scheme would probably come across as impersonal, and is unlikely to get great results.

A better approach is to reach out to happy clients personally, and incentivize them to send others your way.

4. Integrate Marketing Channels

Effective marketing strategies are rarely comprised of different channels working in silos. Marketing is most effective when channels are integrated and teams are working together towards a shared goal.

This means ensuring different departments, teams, and staff members are communicating.

It also means tying their efforts together for maximum impact.

That could entail (but is far from limited to):

  • Enhancing content with CTAs designed to capture visitors’ details.
  • Encouraging people who sign up to your email list to follow you on social media.
  • Promoting content and other marketing tactics (webinars, for example) via other channels, such as email and social media.

Of course, the best ways for you to unify your marketing channels is dependent on the tactics you’re using.

5. Make Mobile a Priority

It’s pretty common knowledge that the majority of internet use now takes place on mobile devices – specifically, phones.

Image Source

But this isn’t true across the board. Some industries see lower mobile usage than others, particularly those which target a predominantly older market.

The same might be said of B2B industries.

It seems logical that professionals will be researching and purchasing business materials from the comfort of their office, using a laptop or desktop computer, but in actual fact, this often isn’t the case.

Decision makers are just as likely (or more likely) to research on mobile devices while they’re on the go, or during evening or weekend downtime, simply because they don’t have the time to shop during office hours.

This means making your website as mobile-friendly as possible is crucial. Even if the majority of your visitors aren’t on mobile, odds are a not-insignificant chunk will be.

That said, you can easily find out your exact mobile-to-desktop ratio in Google Analytics.

Just go to Audience > Mobile > Overview, and you’ll see a breakdown of the device types being used to access your site.

6. Automate Wherever Possible

One of the quickest and easiest ways to improve B2B marketing efforts (and many other tasks involved in the day-to-day running of a business) is to automate wherever and whenever you can.

Unfortunately, a lot of firms, especially those with a long history, are reluctant to move with the times. They’re happy to do things the way they’ve always been done because, well, that’s just how things have always been done.

They’re making a big mistake.

The right software can help you streamline processes by automating repetitive tasks. You can, for instance, speed up the sales cycle and avoid repetition and unnecessary interactions by storing customer data in a CRM.

You can then make these processes even more efficient by linking them together using an integration tool like Zapier.

The more processes you can automate, the quicker you can get the grunt work completed, and the better results you should get from your marketing efforts.

Do you have any other tips for getting better results with B2B marketing? It’d be great if you could share your ideas in the comments below:

10 Marketing Tools You Need to Have in Your Toolkit

How big a role do tools play in your workday? Anything less than “very big” is the wrong answer. Tools should be playing a prevalent role in pretty much everything we do at work. They help us be more efficient and effective at our jobs so we can make more money in less time. They […]

How big a role do tools play in your workday?

Anything less than “very big” is the wrong answer.

Tools should be playing a prevalent role in pretty much everything we do at work. They help us be more efficient and effective at our jobs so we can make more money in less time. They just make our lives easier.

But we shouldn’t be using just any tools. We should be using the right tools.

If you’re relying on tools that don’t fit your needs, are badly supported, or are antiquated, you won’t get the results you could be or should be.

While there’s no one perfect set of tools for everyone, here are 10 of the top marketing tools available today that you need to have in your toolkit.

 

1. Google Data Studio

Google Data Studio is up there with the best digital marketing reporting tools, but it’s got an awesome USP: it’s completely free.

GDS pulls data from countless sources into one real-time, bespoke dashboard that looks good and is easy to share.

Everything from YouTube and Reddit, to SEMrush, Salesforce, and, of course, Google Analytics, is supported. Even Bing Ads can be connected in a few clicks.

While there are other reporting studios that pull in and display data in a similarly easy-to-digest format while offering more features and better support … did we mention Google Data Studio is free?

What does Google Data Studio cost?

We might have said this already, but … it’s free.

 

2. Mailshake

Mailshake is an intuitive, user-friendly platform designed to help you simplify, streamline, and scale cold outreach campaigns.

Choose from pre-written templates, or write your own personalized messages en-masse, then schedule or send emails in real-time. Mailshake also makes it really easy to create automated follow-up sequences, as well as monitor performance by tracking opens, clicks, and replies.

You can even leverage Mailshake’s API, and streamline workflows by connecting the tool to more than 1,000 other apps, including Gmail, Slack, and HubSpot CRM.

What does Mailshake cost?

Pay annually, and a basic package will set you back $22 per month, per user. It’ll cost you $29 if you pay monthly. Pro accounts (which offer additional features like A/B testing and conversion tracking) are $37 per month per user, paid annually, or $49 paid monthly.

 

3. Visual Website Optimizer

Any organization that relies on its website for even a small portion of its business should be constantly testing and optimizing with the goal of improving UX and increasing conversions.

VWO is an enterprise-level A/B testing and CRO platform that’s also suited to small businesses. It boasts state-of-the-art-technology, easy integration with a variety of popular third-party platforms, and the features you’ll need to plan and execute campaigns across whole teams with ease.

While there are more affordable A/B testing and optimization tools on the market, VWO stands out thanks to its intuitive interface and industry-leading technology, security, and support.

What does Visual Website Optimizer cost?

Pricing is bespoke, but you can set up a free trial or request a demo on their site.

 

4. Voila Norbert

Voila Norbert does the hard work of digging deep into the web in order to verify email addresses individually or in bulk. For an extra (nominal) fee, it’ll enrich your email lists en-masse by digging out data like contacts’ locations, job titles, employers, and social profiles.

It’s an invaluable tool for prospecting that’ll help you build better lists, faster. Voila Norbert’s email finding tool was elected the most accurate email finder out there according to Ahrefs . Whether you’re trying to reach out to influencers, build marketing connections or reach potential recruits, Norbert’s got you covered.

What does Voila Norbert cost?

Your first 50 leads are free. After that, you can pay-as-you-go (for $0.10 a lead), or save money and choose a prepaid package starting from $39 per month for 1,000 leads.

 

5. Zapier

With more than 1,000 apps supported, Zapier makes it possible to eliminate repetitive, data-driven tasks from your workload. This can instantly increase productivity and make you more effective at pretty much everything you do. Marketing is no exception.

Simply connect the apps you use, create workflows in a few clicks, and tackle your tougher tasks while Zapier automates the grunt work.

What does Zapier cost?

Absolutely nothing.

 

6. Right Inbox

Right Inbox does what Gmail doesn’t. This includes scheduling emails, setting reminders so you don’t forget to reply to important messages, and creating recurring emails that will automatically get sent on the dates and times of your choosing.

You can even attach private notes to email threads that only you can see (a priceless feature for those of us who struggle to keep organized).

What does Right Inbox cost?

The free version gives you access to all features, but limits you to 10 emails a month. Unlimited use costs $5.95 per month if you pay annually, or $7.95 paid monthly.

 

7. Grammarly

Error-free writing is essential to creating a professional image. Even something as innocent as an isolated grammatical error or a single sentence with sub-par structure can cause a prospect to question your credibility.

This is where Grammarly comes in. Just copy and paste a block of text into the tool, and Grammarly highlights spelling mistakes and grammatical mishaps, alongside other simple fixes that will improve the readability of your writing, including repetitive words, missing articles, and misplaced modifiers.

What does Grammarly cost?

A standard account (which does plenty) is completely free. Premium accounts cost between $11.66 and $29.95 per month, depending on whether you choose to be billed monthly, quarterly, or annually. For paid accounts, Grammarly promises to identify more mistakes and get you better results. You’ll also get access to its plagiarism tool.

 

8. Mention

Mention lets you listen closely to the entire web. See what’s said about your brand, anywhere online.

You can set filters to drown out noise, track how your share of voice and sentiment matches up to your competitors’, and benefit from detailed brand insights that are bespoke to your business.

What does Mention cost?

From $25 per month. That gets you a solo plan, which lets you create 2 alerts and notifies you of up to 3,000 brand mentions each month.

Small business plans start at $83 per month. Larger businesses and agencies will likely require a custom plan with bespoke pricing.

 

9. SimilarWeb

SimilarWeb is a competitive intelligence tool that can assist with everything from competitor research to content promotion.

It’s essentially a pared-down version of Google Analytics for all medium- to -high traffic websites that anyone can view.

Sure, the data is estimated, but it’s generally not far off the mark (and short of hacking into a competitor’s analytics account, what better option do you have?).

The data it offers includes estimated visits, time on site, and bounce rate, as well as traffic source, visitor location, and top referrers.

There’s also a free Chrome extension, which is well worth plugging into your browser.

What does SimilarWeb Cost?

A basic account is free, as is the Chrome plugin. Enterprise plans are available and offer extras like historical data, keyword analysis, and mobile app engagement. Prices are available on request.

 

10. Easel.ly

Most of us aren’t designers, but many of us will benefit from being able to transform dull data and information into engaging visuals.

Easel.ly is a simple, versatile tool that enables pretty much anyone to turn facts and figures into visual content that people actually want to read.

What does Easel.ly cost?

Limited access is free, and pretty restrictive. Thankfully, a pro account (which gets you access to over 320 infographic templates, 112 fonts, and much more) is just $4 per month.

What other marketing tools do you think everyone should have in their toolkit? Let us know in the comments below: