Success Hacks — 21 Feb 2022
The Complete Guide to Growth Marketing
Growth marketing takes traditional marketing strategies to a whole new level. It’s an experimental, iterative, and data-driven model that aims to attract, engage, and retain customers to achieve resilient and sustainable growth.
At every stage of the marketing funnel, growth marketing processes like A/B testing, metric-tracking, and statistical analysis are utilized to optimize marketing campaigns and reach growth goals. The agile nature of growth marketing supports long-term testing and continuous revision, meaning that your campaigns stay up-to-date as your business scales.
With 31.7 million small businesses in the U.S, business growth is essential not just to help you thrive, but to ensure that you survive.
Growth marketing is a powerful way to tackle the uncertainty that new businesses face. It epitomizes the experimental, risk-taking nature of a startup’s business model, accommodating rapid growth. For SaaS companies in particular, the innovative, scientific approach to marketing is capable of yielding exponential growth. You can do a little “what is SaaS” research to get a clearer understanding of how a SaaS business model naturally supports growth marketing.
And even for businesses who are not necessarily looking to expand—because, let’s face it, global success isn’t always all it’s cut out to be—a growth strategy is still critical for the longevity of a businesses’ lifecycle. It allows you to future-proof your business better than any other marketing strategy, promoting long-term adaptability and durability.
Still unsure? Let’s take a closer look.
Unlike growth marketing, traditional marketing methodology is conventional and simplistic. It follows a tried-and-tested procedure of “set it and forget it” tasks, always in alignment with a strict budget and timeline.
Operations are focused purely on the awareness and acquisition stages of the marketing funnel, meaning that traditional marketers have no involvement with the product development or retention process.
Their task? Take a finalized product and promote it to an audience.
The main problem with traditional marketing is that it neglects all of the other stages in the funnel. Driving leads to your website is one thing, but attracting high-value leads and persuading them to stick around is a different task altogether.
Because of their disengagement with the product development process, traditional marketers can lack the intricate knowledge needed to attract, engage, and retain high-value customers.
On the other hand, growth marketing teams are involved in everything from the development and pricing of a new product to the optimization of each stage of the funnel.
You’ve probably heard these two terms being used interchangeably, but growth hacking and growth marketing refer to different, albeit related processes.
Growth hacking is a term coined by entrepreneur Sean Ellis, who defined it in his book as “a rigorous approach to fueling rapid market growth through high-speed, cross-functional experimentation.” Basically, it is the high-tempo execution of growth strategies, usually performed by startups targeting multiple areas for swift and significant growth.
Growth marketing, however, is the formation of a long-term growth plan, with a comprehensive view of the bigger picture. It is, in essence, growth hacking grown up. Rather than rigorously experimenting to achieve short-term goals, it scrutinizes, prioritizes, and executes growth tactics to foster long-term sustainability.
Inbound marketing aims to covertly attract customers by providing them with valuable content, often before a customer even has plans to purchase.
Examples of inbound marketing include webinars via video call apps, topical blog posts, SEO website content, and social media campaigns, all of which offer valuable, entertaining, and informative content that is relevant to the customer’s interests.
Unlike the disruptive, unwelcome nature of traditional marketing, inbound marketing puts customers in the driver’s seat. They can voluntarily read your blog posts or browse your social media page without feeling pressured to buy, in turn increasing brand awareness and fostering brand loyalty.
While inbound marketing is effective, it suffers the same drawback as traditional marketing in that it only focuses on one area of the funnel.
Ultimately, growth marketing is special because it is inclusive. It incorporates and supports methodologies from many different marketing types, strengthening their long-term effectiveness by aligning them with growth.
Alongside marketing automation and process mining software to optimize your in-house operations, a growth marketing strategy has the potential to generate substantial, even viral growth.
Here are some of the major advantages to implementing a growth marketing strategy:
When it comes to attracting and retaining a larger audience, growth marketing excels. It aligns itself closely with the pursuit of a perfect product-market fit, which is essential for startups looking to maximize their initial growth.
Through continuous testing, growth marketing strategies work to accurately segment your target audience, identify your most valuable channels, and tailor your messaging to align with your audience’s needs.
Thanks to your new growth mindset and the insights gathered from your data, your existing campaigns can be revamped to boost their effectiveness.
Adopting a growth mindset can transform the way you perceive your existing campaigns, encouraging you to take new risks and set new goals.
Growth marketing values the authenticity of the long game, concerned with nurturing new leads into high-value customers rather than solely skyrocketing sales. Because of this, growth strategies are hyper-focused on increasing brand awareness and are capable of significantly expanding your top-funnel audience.
Growth marketers aim to create relationships with customers by not only introducing them to their brand in genuine, low-pressure scenarios, but by providing such a pleasant experience that paying customers become brand evangelists. These advocates spread brand awareness through word-of-mouth recommendations and positive online discussions.
In many ways, growth marketing is all about staying on trend to retain sustainability. You are constantly adapting your marketing strategy to suit changing customer needs, technologies, and business climates.
SEO is a task that requires you to perform research and revision on a continuous loop, always making sure that you’re using the most up-to-date, high-value keywords to attract your target audience. A growth strategy can help you to uncover these keywords much faster, staying ahead of your competitors and increasing your top funnel audience.
Put simply, a growth marketer is responsible for brainstorming, designing, and applying growth marketing tactics.
From the acquisition stage to the revenue stage, they scrutinize every step of the marketing funnel to uncover opportunities for optimization. Once they’ve identified a clear objective for growth, they hypothesize solutions, prioritize and execute tests, and evaluate the resulting data to create validated, structured procedures.
Some of the day-to-day activities that a growth marketer might undertake include:
And much more.
Growth marketing is not just a strategy, it’s a mindset. So, what qualities do you need to become a successful growth marketer?
A growth marketer’s actions are not driven by intuition or instinct. They validate courses of action through the collection, observation, and interpretation of metrics and statistics, skillfully utilizing a wide range of data analysis tools.
This makes them data-driven decision makers who can leverage analyzed data to develop actionable strategies and goals.
You might not think that “data-driven” and “creative” are traits that go hand-in-hand, but the best growth marketers are as visionary as they are technical.
Creativity is a fundamental part of the role, as growth marketers are constantly thinking up innovative ways to attract and retain customers. They are always willing to take risks and try new things in pursuit of viral growth.
Growth marketer’s have an in-depth understanding of their product, from its features and functionalities to the pain points it addresses for its target market.
A product-focused mindset means that not only can growth marketers convey the product to salespeople to maximize their conversion potential, but they can deliver personalized, highly-tailored messaging to customers.
Growth marketer’s need to be versatile. One day they could be creating an A/B test for a landing page, and the next they’re managing a customer referral program or writing copy to drive social media acquisition.
Because they have to dabble in so many different roles, they need to possess a diverse range of skills and an intricate knowledge of each stage of the marketing funnel.
The experimental nature of growth marketing means that, at some point or another, failure is inevitable. However, the best growth marketers are not only able to accept failure, but learn from it, too.
Armed with the knowledge that a failed experiment possesses valuable information, growth marketers take what they’ve learnt and use it to influence new verified, data-driven strategies.
A growth marketer’s role is dynamic and fast-paced, sometimes requiring them to suddenly pivot directions in response to unexpected test results or unforeseen shifts in the business climate.
For this reason, they need to be adaptable, resilient, and multiskilled, able to effectively balance intuition with data.
Using storytelling to craft a compelling brand narrative is something that growth marketers do well. Because the human brain is much more receptive to a well-crafted narrative than it is to facts and figures, growth marketers use storytelling in their content writing to engage and forge a connection with their audience.
To gain a deeper understanding of what growth marketing entails, you can look to its key components. These are the tactics that growth marketers employ to shape and execute their strategies:
A/B testing is the most fundamental component of a growth marketing strategy. It involves dividing your customer base into two groups and presenting each group with a different version of a variable.
This could be anything from two variants of a homepage or app design to a page element, email campaign, or freebie offer.
The point of A/B testing is to see which variant of your content results in the most conversions. How you measure your conversions will of course depend on your goal. If you’re testing two variants of a customer retention email campaign, for example, then you might be tracking your open-rate and click-through metrics.
It’s best practice to run as many tests as necessary, using the data you’ve gathered to continuously optimize different areas of the marketing funnel. You can even perform A/B testing on your affiliate platforms to foster the growth of your partner marketing profitability.
In a world where we have an abundance of internet-connected devices at our fingertips, cross-channel marketing has become essential to any growth strategy. To deliver a personalized, customer-centric experience, you need to be able to reach your customers through their preferred channels.
Growth marketers often use feedback surveys or A/B testing to determine customer preferences. An A/B test might uncover that audiences within a certain age bracket are more likely to engage with in-app messages, while another age bracket might prefer SMS. This knowledge can help you tailor experiences to different customer segments, whether this be for acquisition, engagement, or retention purposes.
The customer lifecycle is made up of five key stages—awareness, acquisition, activation, retention, and referral. Startups and growth-focused businesses can leverage the customer lifecycle to create an optimized and streamlined customer experience.
Here are the metrics that matter at each stage.
Awareness – How wide an audience are you managing to reach? What general questions are you answering for your target audience, and how well is your content doing at establishing you as an authority?
Acquisition – How are people discovering your product or brand? Is it through social media platforms, SEO, partnership marketing, or paid advertising? Which channels generate the least customer acquisition costs and high-value traffic?
Activation – This refers to the actions that users take after completing the onboarding process. This could be browsing additional pages, signing up for your newsletter, or downloading your app. You want to optimize this process to make it as smooth as possible for new users.
Retention – How many people continue to re-engage with your product after activation? Pay close attention to your returning website visitors, returning product users and email engagement rates. Diligently track your customer churn rate to ensure that it is always lower than your customer acquisition rate.
Referral – Are your customers telling their friends about you? Incentivize them into doing so by setting up referral programs and tracking their success. You can also use media monitoring tools to track and encourage positive online recommendations.
Revenue (across the whole journey) – How much revenue are your customers generating? Calculate your customers’ lifetime value to determine the profitability of your retention marketing efforts.
Growth frameworks serve as a roadmap for you and your team to achieve your growth goals, providing you with structure in an agile process. They allow you to organize, prioritize, and communicate tasks in alignment with your end-goals.
Here’s a look at just some growth frameworks that you should be aware of:
Created by Sean Ellis, the startup pyramid is a framework that initially prioritizes the product/market fit.
While it goes without saying that your product needs to be something that people want, the startup pyramid framework focuses on creating a “must-have” product for optimal product-market fit. From there, you accelerate your growth through optimization, testing, and the cultivation of a growth culture within your team.
The Product-Led Growth Flywheel is a framework that aims to accelerate SaaS business growth with a product-first approach to user experience.
The four stages of the flywheel—evaluator, beginner, regular, and champion—correlate with the customer lifecycle. The key actions that users need to take to graduate through these stages—activation, adoption, adoration, and advocacy—are where you focus your optimization strategies.
Ultimately, the aim is to create a positive feedback loop. The more customers who make it to the advocacy stage, the more customer acquisition and growth they drive as they recommend your product to their friends.
High tempo testing revolves around the idea that the more tests you do, the more likely you are to find something that works. It follows four basic processes: Idea formation, prioritization, testing, and result documentation. These four steps are repeated over and over again on an iterative basis as you continuously improve and optimize processes.
When we think of growth hacking, we often think of high tempo testing because of its rigorous implementation and significant growth potential.
Whether you’re struggling to generate website traffic or your customer retention rates are plummeting, it’s important to clearly distinguish measurable conversion objectives that align with your long-term goals.
Here are just a few examples of conversion goals you might set.
Driving traffic to website – As one of the most common goals of any ecommerce business, it’s likely that you’ll want to boost your traffic numbers. Before diving in, stop to identify the specific areas that require your attention.
For example, if you’re aiming to bring in organic traffic, invest in your content marketing, SEO, and backlink strategies. If you’re trying to boost your inorganic traffic or referral traffic, then concentrate on your paid advertisements, social media, and partnership marketing strategy.
Increasing free-to-paid conversions – Customers want to try before they buy, especially those seeking SaaS products. According to Userpilot, opt-in free trials boast a conversion rate of 25%, while opt-out free trials are 60%, so it’s definitely a venture to invest in. You can improve your conversion rate by making your free trial limited-use, providing interactive walkthroughs, and gathering customer feedback.
You could also offer incentives like a discount or free trial to new users who didn’t complete the sign up process or abandoned their cart.
Improving social media engagement rate – Social media is a big reputation influencer. The more established your social media presence is, the more customers are likely to trust and engage with your brand. Make your presence known on the platforms that your customers frequent, whether this is professional platforms like Facebook and Linkedin, or up-and-coming powerhouses like TikTok.
Gaining more blog subscriptions – Blogging remains a reliable way to gain high-value customers. While offering a freebie in exchange for an email is a quick way to gain an influx of subscribers, delivering quality content through a stellar content marketing strategy is the best way to secure customers with higher customer lifetime value potential.
Increasing partnership marketing profitability – Partnership marketing is quickly becoming more profitable than ever, mostly thanks to an influx of social media influencers, bloggers, and publishers equipped with established platforms and huge audiences.
Not only are they a budget-friendly alternative to traditional marketing methods, but they’ve proven to be significantly successful at increasing your brand awareness, credibility, and target audience.
To improve your partnership marketing profitability, you can utilize Affise Reach to leverage the expertise and ready-made audience of 1000+ networks and agencies, expanding your horizons and increasing potential for growth. You can even use CPAPI to automate the communication process.
Those are just a few examples of common conversion goals, but of course it will depend on the unique needs of your business.
Now it’s time to put everything together. Remember, while a growth marketing strategy should always be agile, it still needs to be methodological and well-executed.
So, start by identifying areas where there is potential room for improvement. This should help you establish your end goal, which, funnily enough, is the first important task in any growth marketing strategy. Without a clearly defined and aligned end goal, it’s easy to lose direction.
Once you’ve established an end goal and selected the growth framework that aligns with your vision, you can start mapping out your growth strategy.
This involves identifying your conversions for growth and the key metrics that you need to track. While there are bound to be a plethora of metrics that are important to your goals, it helps to identify a north star metric—a metric that encapsulates the end goal of your marketing strategy.
For example, if your end goal was to increase your customer retention rate, your north star metric might be your returning customers per month.
Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of your strategy. Decide on the specific marketing tactics that you’re going to use and define a clear hypothesis for your tests. Go on to prioritize and execute your tests, analyzing the data you gather to make verified, actionable decisions about how to proceed with the next step of your growth strategy.
Make sure you’re equipped with all the right tools before diving into the process. A growth marketer’s toolkit can be pretty substantial, so here are just a few favorites:
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems – These powerful tools are essential for managing customer relations for growth, granting you access to a real-time 360° view of user interactions with your brand across multiple channels.
A/B testing tools – A/B tests are an absolute essential for any growth marketing team. Google Optimize is a reliable free option that provides the ability to test more than two variables, while Crazy Egg lets you build A/B tests without needing any coding experience.
Social media monitoring tools – It pays to know what your customers are saying about you online. By using social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite, you can automatically track and manage your brand’s online reputation as well as keep an eye on trends, keywords, hashtags, and the like.
User feedback tools – With tools like Mopinion, you can collect and analyze user feedback in real-time, targeting feedback forms to online visitors to gain insights into why they aren’t converting. With UserTesting you can go a little bit further and arrange a live user panel to evaluate your UX.
Analytics tools – Google Analytics is practical for gathering basic website activity metrics, but to maximize your growth strategy you’ll want to utilize a range of tools that capture customer data, user behavior, retention rates, in-app analytics, and more. Utilize online resources like the Digital Agency Network to find the best analytics tools for your business specifically.
Business Intelligence tools – With the abundance of data that you’ll be collecting, a business intelligence tool is essential for the automated management of unstructured data.
With Affise BI, you can store all of your marketing channel data in one place, permitting you to monitor, structure, and compare data from both internal and external sources. It eases the statistical analysis process considerably. Other options include SAP Business Objects, who offer reporting, analysis, and interactive data visualization.
Sometimes the best way to understand a strategy is to hear from the people who’ve put it into practice. Growth marketers and growth-focused teams are often happy to share their stories.
Neil Patel – Considered an authority by many in the growth marketing space, Neil Patel is dedicated to sharing his expertise with his millions of followers. From his beginner’s guide to content marketing to his growth hacking cheat sheets and SEO tools, Neil Patel’s website is full of valuable information.
Casey Winters – From the likes of Pinterest and Tinder to Airbnb, Casey Winter’s has played a pivotal role in the growth success of a number of big-name brands. His blog offers some useful insights, particularly for tech companies looking to scale their business.
Lenny Rachitsky – An entrepreneur and ex-Airbnb employee, Lenny Rachitsky shares his knowledge with 75,000+ paid subscribers in a weekly newsletter. He offers advice on “building product, driving growth, working with humans, and anything else that stresses you out at the office.”
Now, let’s take a look at the strategies that drive growth marketing campaigns.
Your loyal customers are worth much more than the one-time discount-wielding buyer. However, a common business pitfall is the overinvestment into new customer acquisition while neglecting the ones who stick around.
Your loyal customers make more purchases, make higher-value purchases and, most importantly, they advocate your brand. They’re the customers who recommend you to their friends and family, share your social media posts, and engage in positive online discussions that influence potential customers.
Basically, they do a lot of your marketing for you, so make sure to reward them! Your loyalty campaigns might involve loyalty card schemes, reward programs, exclusive members-only offers, or birthday discounts.
Sometimes called word-of-mouth marketing, the business of gaining new customers through customer recommendations is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Referral programs not only encourage your customers to spread your brand’s awareness, but they also give you an easy way to track referral metrics.
Most referral programs use incentives to coax paying customers into referring friends and family. These incentives could be cash, giftcards, upgrades, discounts—really anything that is of genuine value to your existing customers. Dual-sided referral programs are the most popular, as both the existing customer and the newly-referred customer get rewarded for their participation.
A famous example of referral-program success is Dropbox’s referral program. By simply offering both customer parties 500MB of extra storage, they were able to entice 2.8m of their existing audience to send out invites, skyrocketing their growth by about 60% in 15 months.
Your referral program needs to be simple, valuable, and easy to participate in.
The top of the funnel is crowded with potential lifelong, high-value customers, but attracting, approaching, and engaging them isn’t always easy. If your growth goals involve increasing your brand’s awareness and/or generating new leads, then fine-tuning your top-funnel marketing strategy is a great place to start.
Top funnel marketing focuses on buyer-centricity and authenticity, so this isn’t where you dive in with the hard sell. You want to build a foundation of trust with your leads and nurture them smoothly down the funnel. By creating valuable top-funnel content for your customers, you can pique their initial interest and ease them into engagement with your brand.
Don’t just throw any old content out there, though! The content you share should be visual, informative, and easily-digestible, created in a style that resonates with your target audience. You can do this via blog content, social media posts, video marketing, influencer outreach, and more—wherever your customers are online is where your content needs to be.
You can even get super savvy about how you reach new customers. Take Airbnb, for example, who famously hacked Craigslist as a startup and achieved viral growth. Every time someone would post a short-term lodgings offer on Craigslist, Airbnb would email them to ask if they wanted to list the property on their platform.
By simply being where your customers are, you can harness the power of positive communication to attract them to your brand.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements are a reliable traffic-driver with the ability to amplify growth. The most useful type of PPC ad is the paid search ad, which is when businesses proposition search engines to display their ads.
Google holds real-time auctions that allow businesses to bid on keywords. The successful business earns an optimal position on their SERP for that particular keyword.
The advertiser pays the business only when a user clicks on the ad, hence the term, “pay-per-click”. Other types of PPC ads include display ads and remarketing. In a similar vein is ecommerce partner marketing, which uses PPC strategies to drive traffic.
Affise for brands, for example, connects businesses with influencers, publishers, and bloggers who will promote your product on their own channel.
While PPC ads are excellent at driving quick traffic and boosting conversions, it isn’t a “set it and forget it” task.
The fluctuating effectiveness of PPC ads can result in negative ROIs, so develop a PPC strategy that involves monitoring the effectiveness of your ads and making consistent, data-driven changes. Affise’s partnership platform allows you to track your performance based payments and monitor the profitability of each link.
Your product itself is critical for sustainable business growth, but this doesn’t mean that you have to create an out-of-the-box phenomenon to excel.
Strategic product marketing aims to build a new product’s pre-sale value. For growth marketers, this process involves gaining an in-depth understanding of the market to nail product-market fit.
They seek unserved markets, create buyer personas, and tap into customer pain points to determine positioning, messaging, competitive USP, and product launch strategy.
They also have a role post-launch, too, working to ensure that the product remains relevant to its target audience.
Growth marketing is an innovative, data-driven strategy that supports you in your risk-taking by providing you with a validated path to success. It allows you to shoot for the stars without shooting in the dark, fostering sustainable growth through strategic, continuous observation, testing, analysis, and interpretation.
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