Throughout my career, leading and growing businesses, it has always been marketing that has been a mystery to me.
Always asking myself and a host of marketing managers over the years questions like;
- "Where do we start?"
- "Does it all matter?"
- "How do we make an impact with a diverse set of channels to consider and a limited budget?"
- "Should we expect any results?"
- "Is it just brand building?"
- "What are you actually doing?"
- "When will this hit the bottom line?"
- "How will this link into the sales strategy?"
- "Does this directly support our growth?"
By now, you've guessed it. I'm pretty much useless when it comes to marketing, and I owe a lot to my previous marketing managers, who were brilliant and patient in equal measures. So, thank you – you know who you are.
But despite all of this and having studied the subject at University, the result of which is for another post and probably not for LinkedIn, marketing in an effective way has always seemed so difficult.
Because no matter if you are still in the start-up phase or have progressed to a scale-up or are a fully matured business, marketing is key to achieving that crucial objective of growth.
So where to you start and what do you spend on first?
For the start-up, growth is, of course, make or break. Grow fast and get revenue or go back to the job you never really wanted to do.
But growth itself isn't just about finding new customers, and your growth marketing should move beyond merely trying to acquire new customers.
Growth without retention is no growth at all
A common mistake that businesses fall into is trying to expand a customer base too quickly without having looked at the fundamentals to long-term success.
Dave McClure's famous Pirate funnel takes us through all the stages that your growth marketing should tackle:
Acquisition – How you get customers to know who you are and look for you?
Activation – How to give your users a great first experience?
Retention – How do you keep your customers coming back?
Revenue – How do you earn from your customers?
Referral – How do you get your customers to tell other people?
(Image courtesy of www.fourweekmba.com)
Traditional marketing strategies focused on the A's, getting a customer interested and getting them to buy. This is no longer good enough. Your growth marketing strategy needs to scream like a pirate - AARRR. Which is also a mindset as much as anything else – pick up a copy of 'Be More Pirate' by Sam Conniff to learn more about that. But your midset to hacking the problem and doing things differently is essential for your growth.
Great marketing now involves your entire business
You have to set-up your whole organisation for growth if you want to succeed. Each individual in the company must understand the role they have to play. No longer is growth about your sales and marketing teams. The engineer who may never interact with a customer must know that her work must provide a great experience, that keeps the customer returning.
Similarly, the accounts team must recognise that their processes must be geared around making the customer experience an enjoyable one, one that makes them want to shout about you from the rooftops.
Even your cleaners have a role in your growth, making sure they present the image of a business in good shape to any customers who may visit.
Acquiring new customers without a plan on how to keep them can only ever lead to short term-growth.
Data reigns supreme
Growth marketing strategies can be resource-light and very cost-effective, but if your growth strategy doesn't involve measurable data, you won't succeed.
The best marketers are obsessed with data; marketing for growth needs to look at the data from every area within your business. You have to be able to see why you are acquiring new customers, understand what that means, what drives retention and growth from within your existing customer base.
Properly harnessing your data allows you to test at all stages, from tweaks to your website to test completely new approaches you can learn what isn't working and swiftly make changes. It might be cheap to implement a growth strategy, but without investing in measuring and analysing data, your growth won't go far.
Growth marketing, by its very nature, is quite experimental. It moves away from the conventional marketing approach, not just because you don't have the budget for a 30-second advert at the world cup final, but because growth is about more than who knows you, it relies on what you know about them.
Know your audience
One of the best examples of growth marketing is the product led approach taken by Dropbox. They managed to grow their user base from 100,000 people to over 4 million in a little over a year. How did they do this? They understood their customer and offered them more value for a referral. Each successful referral rewarded an existing user with an extra 500mb of storage. I don't know Dropbox's business model, but I am confident this was a very low cost of acquisition.
Google took a similar approach to its Google+ social site. Sign-ups to the platform were closed off and just like Dropbox you needed an invite. This approach failed to take into account user needs. Nobody needed an exclusive social platform; Facebook was open to all with internet and an email address. There was incredible hype around Google+, but by making the userbase private, they had failed to consider their customers' needs. Google shut the project down in April 2019.
The exact route Dropbox took is probably not right for you, but the core of their approach was to be customer-led and provided value. Do the same, and your growth marketing will succeed. But by considering the fundamental principles to a growth marketing mindset rather than a traditional approach, you can hack the performance and deliver better results.
Audience, Data, Retention, Experimentation and Breadth of the team, not just depth. Oh and don't forget to be a bit more pirate about the way you go about things.