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With the arrival of spring, attention turned to the subject of growth – specifically growth marketing. In Overit’s March Webinar, Chief Growth Officer Chris Fasano gave an overview of this approach – what it is, how it differs from brand or product marketing, what kinds of businesses need it (spoiler alert: all of them), and why.

Growth marketing grew out of start-ups, where investors want to see quick returns on their investments. These companies often have lean budgets and need to do a lot with a little to accomplish rapid growth.

Chris gave a short primer on basic business philosophy as a reminder of the purpose of growth. The goal is to bring in more than you expend, and there are two ways to grow: from the top (revenue) by increasing customers, or from the bottom (profit) by improving operational efficiency. Most start-ups must grow from the top first; that’s where this lesson focuses as well.

But first, if you’re going to grow, you need an infrastructure to support that growth. Chris gave the spot-on (and organic) analogy of tomato plants: With rapid growth, they get heavy and fall over – unless you use some sort of structure to hold them up. Building infrastructure requires investment. To afford that, you need to bring in business. To do THAT, you need… you guessed it: growth marketing.

How Is Growth Marketing Different?

The biggest difference is that traditional marketing focuses on impacting Awareness and Acquisition, or bringing people to the brand – to the top of the sales funnel. As Chris so aptly put it, marketing is “building a ‘why’ that sells the ‘what,’ and attracting people to it.”

Growth marketing, on the other hand, is “full-funnel marketing.” It encompasses also moving people through the funnel, converting them to paying customers, and keeping them for the long haul. It is a holistic approach.

A slightly unnerving characteristic of growth marketing is that it is also stochastic (the smarter-sounding word for random). As Chris explained, it’s a science – and science requires experimentation. You have to throw a bunch of things at the wall and see what sticks. Sounds messy – but the approach involves trying different tactics and pursuing the ones that work best.

What Do I Do First… and Second?

  • Start with your sales funnel
    • First, you need to HAVE a sales funnel. If you don’t, work with your sales team, Chris advised, to establish one that fits your business. Divide it into stages; a common model includes Awareness, Interest, Decision, Activation/Conversion – and then the funnel inverts, to Retention and eventually Referral.
  • Set up your sales & marketing technologies (or “martech,” for short)
    • Your martech stack is dictated by the size and type of your business. You may need a MAP (Marketing Automation Program), CRM (Customer Relationship Management system), or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning software).
    • Overlay your martech solution(s) on your funnel to capture and tag leads and enable you to automate communication and content delivery based on where they are in the funnel.
    • Don’t forget your website, a critical part of your infrastructure, which also often acts as a CMS (Content Management System).

Now for the Fun Part

iconWith a good infrastructure in place, you can start driving people to your brand (more on how in a minute). Traffic starts coming into your funnel, and soon you have a lot of data. This is where, Chris cautioned, many people get ahead of themselves. You need to make sense of it all, or your efforts are wasted.

First, establish the data points you want to capture at each level of the funnel – your Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. Chris showed a lot of good examples for each stage. Then decide on the key metrics you want to glean from those data points, such as cost per lead or time for a customer to get through the funnel.

Let’s Touch on Tactics

Most growth marketing involves primarily digital marketing, because it’s nimble (the ability to change course quickly is important in this testing approach) and because usually, the main goal is to drive people to your website, which is easiest with a click.

Speaking of your website, ideally it is designed to capture leads. Yes, it should also be informative and tell a story, Chris acknowledged, but it needs a clear call to action, or CTA. If your website is not capture-focused, you can build a landing page, which can be campaign-specific and geared entirely to capture.

Also important is having pixels in place for tracking visitors via cookies. They can tell you a lot about the user’s journey and how promising of a lead they are.

It’s All About Attribution

It’s also crucial to know where traffic is coming from into your funnel. Attribution refers to knowing where leads came from, how they came in, where they went when they got there, and what it took to convert them.

Two methods Chris mentioned are UTMs – pieces of code added to URLs that help identify and track website traffic – and the more traditional but still useful tactic of giving different phone numbers in different media to identify what source callers arrived from.

Drive Time

How should you expect to drive traffic to your website in the short term and long term? At first, startups have very little organic visibility; Google doesn’t have a lot of indexing on your business and you don’t yet rank for a lot of keywords. So in the short term, you need to buy your keywords (Paid Search). But the smart play, Chris counseled, is to also invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) immediately, so you will rank for those terms organically sooner than later.

How do you know where the traffic to your site is coming from? Chris gave a quick glimpse at reading a Google analytics report showing Acquisition (traffic source), Behavior (bounce rate), and Conversions (form fill).

Service-Page-Audience-Segmentation-Personas-1024x508

Content Is Key

Once again turning to the funnel, Chris talked about how to work people down through the funnel: the key is content. Use content relevant at every stage of the funnel to engage and nurture your leads. Generally speaking, the further down the funnel, the more sales-focused the content.

Keep an eye on the percentage of leads moving from one stage to the next; if it drops off sharply, look closely at what is happening and what is being communicated at that stage. It most likely needs adjustment.

Different content at different stages and on different schedules does not have to be a job unto itself – this is where a MAP is invaluable. You can build automation workflows in which certain behaviors trigger specific communications.

Score!

Growth marketing may be more science than gaming, but there are still scores involved. Chris suggested working with your sales team to determine scores for certain actions, then set up rules for certain scores to trigger actions (communications) – so you are sending them useful content at the right time. This is the core of a Nurture Sequence.

The Final Step… Is Not Final

With all of this activity and data, you can now map user journeys and build profiles, gain insights into “what sticks” (what is working), draw conclusions and adjust accordingly. Chris used the phrase “Iterate and Improve;” the key is to optimize continuously and always have a growth mindset.

Let’s Review

In summary, growth marketing is full-funnel marketing. It’s a science, so it requires experimentation. You need a solid martech infrastructure in place first for data tracking, and a website (or landing page) geared toward capture. Expect to spend on paid search at first, but don’t wait to invest in SEO. Use automation, create workflows, and align those with a robust content strategy. Employ a scoring system. Analyze the data. Repeat. Grow. Repeat…

FAQs

Chris ended by answering some frequently asked questions about growth marketing:

  • Is growth marketing just for tech startups?
  • What if we are using digital marketing techniques, but don’t have a real infrastructure to capture and measure? Is it too late?
  • This sounds expensive, do I need a big budget to employ a growth marketing strategy?
  • Does it apply to nonprofits?
  • Is product marketing the same thing?
  • When should I look to hire a growth marketer or agency that offers this service?

Listen at the end of the presentation for the answers.

Interested in exploring growth marketing for your company? Get in touch.