Five Growth Tactics to Try Right Now from Growth Camp
At Growth Camp last Friday, I was fortunate enough to learn from some of the best marketers in Boston. During the event, we each had an opportunity to share our favorite growth tactics. I’ve distilled the best takeaways from that event and shared them here with you.
1. Let your email subscribers churn just as you let your customers churn.
In my favorite presentation of the day, Anum Hussain of HubSpot stressed that your email marketing program should not just be about your top-line subscriber numbers: it should serve a real purpose for your customers. Subscribers who are no longer clicking on or even opening your emails are no longer benefitting from your content, so why not let them go? Be proactive and send inactive users a message to let them know you will no longer be emailing them your content. In the email, give them the opportunity to opt back in or provide a clear avenue for them to give feedback on your emails, but keep their window of opportunity short. You’re better off letting them go and having them resubscribe when they’re ready than keeping them on the books. By doing this, you might receive some negative criticism or constructive feedback, but at least it’s more useful for your marketing efforts than a user who receives countless emails and only returns radio silence.
Why I like this growth tactic: This strategy helps you focus on creating quality content for people who are actually listening without a lot of additional work. It also provides a natural avenue for constructive criticism and a chance for you to learn how you could be further helping your customers. As an added bonus for growing software companies, actively unsubscribing your inactive users has the potential to help you manage the size of your database, reducing costs both hard (software) and soft (time spent analyzing meaningless data).
2. Get creative with competitive intelligence – and stay on top of it.
Jonah Lopin from Crayon reminds us that your customers are not just in your funnel – they are likely also in your competitors’ funnels. Most marketers focus so much on their own funnel that they fail to understand the full context of a potential customer’s experience. So put yourself in their shoes and go see what they are experiencing and how you can use that information to your advantage. For software companies, dig into API documentation, integration sites and app store updates and see what features are being rolled out. Monitor brand messaging and positioning, and take a peek at your competitors’ job listings to see which departments are hiring for clues on their next steps.
Why I like this growth tactic: This is a great exercise to keep on your monthly calendar that will get you out of your own head and give you fresh ideas about marketing your company. Since most of the information sources are open and available to anyone, it’s also easy for you to scale by putting together a list of information that you want to gather, a list of competitors, and shipping it off to a junior or external resource to compile into a useful report.
3. Leverage your BDRs when building out a lead scoring model.
Lead scoring and marketing automation are not often the first priority for new software companies, and often happen after a lengthy time period of trial, error and a lot of content creation. By the time you’ve invested in a marketing automation platform and are beginning to think about implementing lead scoring, your BDRs can be your greatest asset. Without having a program in place already, it’s likely they are already doing some form of mental lead scoring. Save yourself some time by sitting down with your sales team and asking how they know to follow up on a lead – whether it’s a demographic asset or a content piece that never converts. This way you can balance your existing marketing data such as web analytics and conversion metrics with things you wouldn’t even know to ask about.
Why I like this growth tactic: Lead scoring is often implemented with out-of-the-box models built into your company’s selected marketing automation system, and then adjusted as time goes by (hopefully). By pulling the sales team in at the beginning of your implementation process, you could be skipping ahead a few months by adding key indicators that are specific to your customers base, making your marketing efforts more targeted and efficient with less effort from you and your marketing team.
Special shout-out to the marketing math nerds out there: Ilya Mirman of OnShape had a great presentation on lead scoring that is well worth reading. It’s chock-full of data, graphs and math models that you can use to build and evaluate your own lead scoring methodology.
4. Use what you’ve got to set content performance benchmarks.
Creating content can feel like a never-ending slog, and it often takes time to see any traction. John Short of Workable ran some numbers and noted that for them, it takes about 3 months for content to drive consistent traffic and about 6 to 7 months for content to get to its full maturity. To help you set expectations for such a slow burn, go back and analyze early traffic and conversion patterns for content that is performing well, and use that to benchmark the success or failures of new content. Flag early success indicators and use these in regular reports to key stakeholders to show progress. Experiment with “big splash” content to capitalize on hot topics, but keep these performance metrics and monitoring separate from your evergreen content, which will have a long-term impact whereas hot topic content will likely peak after a few months.
What I like about this growth tactic: Evergreen content will take a long time (around 10 months) to gain traction in the market, which can be tough to plan for or prioritize when you are a quickly growing startup. Setting and monitoring your benchmarks for evergreen content separately and reporting on early success indicators will buy you time to build a solid foundation that will feed your pipeline for years to come. Learning to identify and communicate these indicators will help keep everyone on board with building and maintaining an effective content strategy. And adding a healthy dose of content that will create a big splash immediately upon release will keep your sales team busy for the time being.
5. Growth is a choice – choose wisely!
You could say that growth for the sake of growth is a trend that is fading in the distance. After years of increased company valuations with no exits in sight, more and more companies are focusing on strategic growth instead of exponential growth at all costs. Ellen Chisa of Lola Travel explains that it’s not always the right time to grow: when you don’t have enough customer service people to properly service your customers; when you roll out a product and it turns out there is an error with your core functionality; when your unit economics are upside-down. For software companies who are just starting out, it’s really important to keep your users at the forefront of everything you do, and the best way to do this is to set up channels for user feedback right from the beginning. Listen more than you talk when you are just starting out – to your customers, your product team, your services team and your on-the-ground sales team. Stay focused on a few areas of priority (e.g., marketing only to a specific geographic region or a focused list of customers) and do smaller scale experiments within those arenas to better understand how to deploy a larger scale strategy.
What I like about this growth tactic: Marketing at a startup can be intensely rewarding but also intensely stressful. Building user feedback and cross-functional best practices into your marketing strategy from the beginning will help you keep your feet on the ground and your company moving in the right direction when things start to spiral or pick up steam on their own. Keeping your focus tight and doing many small experiments versus a few large ones will improve the data you’re garnering from your marketing efforts while your development team is building out the product. This will allow you to have a better plan of action when your product works and the entire company is ready to scale in a big way.
Have a favorite growth tactic we didn’t include? Be sure to let us know in the comments.
The success of our businesses will largely be determined by our ability to let go of old assumptions and habits, many of which have served us well, and create the dynamic conditions that allow us to speak to our customers in ways that are personal and important to them.