An Expert Approach to Growth Marketing

In this post you’re going to get an exclusive insight into growth marketing – a dynamic, data-driven, customer-centric system of marketing.

It’s one of the most powerful ways to grow your business, and you’re getting it straight from one of the sharpest experts in the industry.

Note: this is not about growth hacking. That’s a cheap-seats version of what we’re going to be talking about here – a pale, tactical imitation of a powerful, strategic approach.

Sam Woods and I have worked together on a number of projects in the last few years, and his by-the-numbers methods have never steered me wrong. And though it sounds dry, it’s actually a highly effective way to transform a stagnant, unfocused marketing team into a powerful machine that consistently brings in new business.

A bit of background on Sam before we jump in:

With a background in lifecycle marketing, Sam helps small businesses generate and convert leads with ads, landing pages, opt-in offers, email sequences, and other online marketing practices.

As his expertise expanded, Sam moved into funnel optimization for online companies, and now works with B2B SaaS and Service companies, helping them develop and deploy growth marketing that increases users, leads and revenue.

So without further ado… Sam Woods.

Your Customer Must Always Come First

It’s true of any kind of marketing, but it’s something so many companies get wrong. If you want your marketing to be successful, you must know your customer better than they know themselves.

In growth marketing, we put a huge emphasis on really deepening your understanding of your customer’s psychology, so that you can outperform your competition, anticipate the desires of the market, and create assets and products that connect deeply with what your customers are looking for. You must know where they spend their time, who they look up to, what they aspire to and what they fear.

Traditional marketing, on the other hand, tends to run on a channel-centric mindset.

It assumes that reaching people is about being visible on every channel, and that who you’re reaching isn’t all that important. They don’t understand that their customers spend most of their time on 1 or 2 channels, and that it’s a very specific demographic that would actually buy their products.

So they run campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, YouTube, mobile, PPC, and display advertising all at once. There’s often not much strategy to this approach, and so often, the results are mediocre.

In big corporate companies, this can go on for years before anyone thinks to ask whether the method is effective… but entrepreneurs don’t have that kind of luxury.

You must not let this attitude into your company’s marketing or it will sink you.

Real, high-velocity growth only happens when you take a customer-centric approach to your campaigns and execute them with strategic, replicable processes.

This is the core of what growth marketing is about.

Now, most teams don’t have marketing processes they follow when they create their campaigns. They brainstorm an idea, pull the resources they think they’ll need, run it for a while and end it when they reach some arbitrary point.

But that’s not going to be your team any more. There are 3 parts to building customer-centric growth marketing into your business, and by the end of this post you’re going to have a good handle on them all.

Part 1: Creating Strategic Marketing Processes

1. Focused Brainstorming
First, you need a period of focused brainstorming to come up with specific, scientifically-executed experiments your team is going to run. These ideas should not come from just you, but the entire business. You want to come up with about 20 ideas (so that you can whittle it back to the best 4 or 5 that you will actually take to the market).

If you have separate departments, talk to sales, HR, your support desk. These people are dealing with customers daily, so they will be able to tell you more about who your customers are and what they want and need. There are insights to be discovered from all parts of the business.

2. Prioritizing Experiments
Once you’ve got your list of 20, use Trello boards to help you and your team visualize and prioritize the ideas you came up with. Use a number system to grade how good each idea is. Use past insights, records and analytics to help hypothesize which are more likely to succeed and what impact they would have. Follow this process until you’ve narrowed it down to the top 4 or 5 ideas.

3. Testing Experiments
Once you’ve selected your experiments, outline your hypothesis for each, and build out the campaign for each. Set a specific period of time that you will run each campaign for, and include your reasoning.

What’s happening in the industry at the moment? What’s going to influence customer behavior? Be very specific and intentional about this, and then run the campaigns to those exact parameters.

4. Creating a Playbook of Experiments
Your campaigns don’t end when you stop running them. You want to build up a body of knowledge around your marketing campaigns: the experiments that have or haven’t worked for your customers, that your entire team (and future hires) can share and learn from.

When you start using this process, document all the campaigns you run from the start. They should be complete with the hypothesis, controlled variables, any parameters, your observations and the final results, with a full analysis of your findings.

This body of knowledge will grow and grow over time, and will eventually give you a very clear picture of the campaigns, copy and offers your customers respond best to. Your marketing will get more and more effective as you can extrapolate the principles from each past campaign to each future one.

Now, note that these are experiments – not just ideas.

If you want your campaigns to perform, and to improve over time, you really have to follow the scientific method. Form a hypothesis, control the variables, make your observations, and record your results.

This is an iterative process. It takes time, and you must be willing to be patient. It can take 6 to 12 months to build up a replicable set of campaigns that you can just roll out again and again in fresh forms. It’s key that you lead your team here, and show them the benefit of being patient.

That raises the next point – bringing the team into the future with you.

Part 2: Creating A Customer-Centric Team

Whether you’re a founder leading a marketing department of 1, or the CMO of a big team, you need to lead from the front with a change like this. It’s up to you to set the understanding of what this shift in mindset is all about.

You need to provide your team with the tools to work through the process, mapping out the next few weeks logistically for them, and finally posing the big questions to get the ball rolling.

  • What do we know?
  • What aren’t we sure of?
  • What don’t we know about our customers?
  • What do they wish we knew?
  • Where do they hang out?
  • Who do they idolize?

You need to ground all the action in this top-down, strategic view.

Then it’s time to ease the team into their individual responsibilities. It’s absolutely crucial that every person on the team has some level of responsibility and autonomy in this system.

Every person must feel they have ownership of some part of the experiments, and are able to leverage what they’re good at to get the best results. The experience must feel hyper-collaborative as well. Mini-teams should be presenting their findings in regular meetings, in which they’re expected to provide deeper learning to everyone else.

All members should feel constantly informed and free to bounce ideas off one another. The analysis may be highly scientific, but the interaction must be dynamic. You’ve got to give people space to share what they’re learning, give their unique insights and perspectives, and suggest ways to make improvements.

Once a team has tried this process for a month or two, they will be energized and excited about their work. They will have seen the results and experienced the value of their contributions.

(An added benefit to this method is its built-in screening process for your marketing team. Those who are highly curious, engaged, and excited will rise to the challenge.

Those who refuse to buy into the process or are stuck in their own limited thinking will either get in line or go elsewhere. It’s entirely self-selective, so in the end, you’ll have a team of the right people running the right campaigns, and building the body of knowledge you need to really create your company’s competitive edge.)

Part 3: Design Thinking and the Customer Journey

Growth marketing is very much tied up with the “design thinking” methodology.

When you design for growth, you need to be able to draw on a wide selection of strategies to create your experiments and campaigns. This ranges from true design (what the page or asset looks like) to funnel design (how the customer progresses through your acquisition and sales process).

Throughout all of it, the customer should have a completely consistent, compelling experience. To make that happen, you can take your team through…

  • Value chain analysis
  • Mind mapping & brainstorming sessions
  • Assumption testing & real market research (like… actually talking to real people)
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Customer co-creation (building ideas and products in partnership with your best customers)

Journey mapping is one of the best tools for creating a holistic understanding of your customers, and for helping you see which experiments are likely to work best.

This involves drawing out the path a customer takes from being completely unaware of you and your solution, to their evaluation of the market (including how you stack up), to conversion, to a repeat customer.

Once you understand the journey a prospect will take to get to you, you can start to figure out how to market at every stage of that journey. Whether it’s an awareness campaign, a sales campaign, or a reactivation campaign, you’ll be able to make the right offers, to the right people, at the right time.

Remember that the small lifts you might see from running a campaign at each stage of the customer journey are cumulative. You stand to double your business, or more, from optimizing the campaigns a customer sees at each stage in the journey.

This process really only works at a high level when you actually interact with your customers. If you don’t have any customers, then interact with the people you want to be your customers.

You must do research and conduct interviews to understand how exactly your customers interact with your marketing material.

Marketing Done Better.

Throwing things at a wall to see what sticks is not a smart approach to any part of your business. You would never take that approach to your supply chain, so don’t risk it with your marketing.

Growth marketing is about staying agile, staying alert, and staying ahead of the market. Never roll out untested hypotheses, or assume that techniques that worked 12 months ago are going to work now. Iterate, rinse, and repeat.

The market, and your customers with it, will evolve over time, so you can’t set it and forget it. If you commit to the process, though, bringing your team with you and thinking about your customer journeys, you’ll be golden. Remember – the right offers, to the right people, at the right time.

As your playbook grows over time, you’ll get better and better at this… until you’re not chasing customers anymore. They’ll be banging down your door.