Growth Marketing has mostly three main phases
- High-level strategy
- Quarterly planning
- In-quarterly planning.
At the very beginning, when you’re starting your team, you should define your growth model, mapping out your customer journey, and identify all of your growth channels. Then you will have that foundation for the entire growth process.
High-level strategy of Growth Marketing
Your high-level strategy figured out is when you move into your quarterly planning. So, that’s when you explore data, identify your quarterly goals, start building the road map to execute, and achieve those goals, and then you have your end-quarter execution, which is where you have kind of your high-tempo growth process.
Build your experiments, ship your operations, and analyze them. Then you automate and scale them, or you scrap it if it didn’t work. After that, move on to the next one and just keep going through that.
From the very beginning, when you’re starting your growth team, you should know how you will build the foundations of your growth strategy and model. The first step is identifying what does your growth model looks like at the highest level? So, what are all the inputs that you have available to achieve your company’s essential growth goals?
Whether that be just user growth or revenue growth, the most common framework for a growth model is generally Dave McClure’s Pirate Metrics for startups, which is the AARRR framework. So, you’ve got acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referrals. It can vary slightly for different businesses, but it’s mostly the complete view of your funnel and figuring out all the different ways you can affect growth by bringing on new users.
Getting those new users that you acquire to make their first purchase, or take their first action on your website or getting more revenue from each of those people, make sure you are getting them to stay around longer. All of those metrics represent opportunities to grow your business in different ways. So, your first step is to figure out what are all those metrics. Find out more various ways to grow the business.
Once you’ve figured out the highest level of your growth model, then the next step is to walk through the customer journey. What does it look like from their perspective to go through the entire funnel? And that’s when you start getting a sense of all of the channels to increase those metrics. So, what are all the possible ways that your customers could find out about your business, drive awareness, and get acquired?
You have to identify that you have SEO and SEM, paid ads, content marketing, whatever, for acquisition channels. For activation, you could have email marketing, push notifications, things to get your users to take their first action, and then so on and so forth. You can go through this exercise through the entire funnel.
Once you’ve got your model, again identify all of the channels, which are mostly the ways that you can reach your customers and get them to take the actions that you want. Try to give them a better experience so that you increase the performance of all those different vital metrics. The most important thing to note here is, doing the exercise, going through the task of mapping the customer journey, and doing it from the perspective of the customer’s value is essential.
Rather than just looking at your growth model through the lens of “How can I increase value to my business,” and “How can I increase the value”we are delivering to our customers,” Puts you in a much better position. Just Come up with the right hypotheses to test and the right experiments to run to improve conversion. The worst way to come up with experiments is to focus on your growth metrics themselves, rather than solving customer pain points that then lead to increased performance.
So, if you want to, say, increase activation rate of new visitors to your site, you shouldn’t start with, “Oh, I want to do this thing” to convince this person to buy something,”’cause your customers don’t see their experience of visiting your website through the lens of what you want them to do. You should think about how you can improve their experience, and make it more likely that they buy something, and have a better experience doing so.
So if you want to increase activation rate or first-time purchases on your website, think about how you can reduce barriers for the customer, and make their experience better, so that in the end they make that purchase. But you’re focused on actually making the experience better for them. It’s also an excellent way to align your incentives with that of your customer, and, trains your team to be very customer-centric and user-centric in the long run.
The best way to find the map of the customer journey is generally a whiteboarding session, sometimes with sticky notes. You start at the very beginning, and you kind of identify a couple of personas of who your customers are and key segments. You start at square one. They don’t know what your business is or what your brand is. Where are they, what other websites are they on? How did they come to find out about your brand or your site in the first place?
And then walk through each step in their journey of associating with your brand, going through the funnel, going through the process, making their first purchase. So start by imagining the ideal way that your customers go through the journey. Don’t try to think about the cause. There are countless different ways that customers could find your brand, go through the process of making a decision to buy, coming back, and referring to a friend, etc. So think about the best possible way for that to happen.
So it’s like, what is the best way for them to find out about your brand? What is the optimal experience you can imagine them having when they come to your site for the first time? What would be the best thing they could buy the first time they come to your website? How do you want them to feel after they buy it? What are the touchpoints that they get via email, or push, or whatever after they make their first purchase? What then leads them to refer a friend? What does that communication look like that they’re sending to their friend?
So you can think about the best way for a customer to experience all the different parts of your product, and then start mapping it out with sticky notes of what that would look like, and kind of map out what the whole thing looks like from their perspective. It’s a fascinating exercise because it’s good to do upfront.
Maybe even once a quarter, because as you go through tons of different process of your website, your engagement programs, your email marketing. It’s easy when you’re doing all these various tests to kind of lose sight of what it looks like from the customer’s experience, and how all these different pieces interact with each other.
Suppose within a quarter you make ten different changes to your email, your lifecycle emails, based on various actions they take on your website. It’s easy to forget how those things relate to each other and how they interact with each other. Remember that your customer’s experience, for every touchpoint is connected, and associated with their perception of your brand.
It’s highly recommended to do on a semi-regular basis, maybe once a quarter or twice a year, just to keep yourself honest and making sure that you remember to see things through the eyes of your customers. Especially as you get bigger, you’ll end up also having other teams, or making changes to the product and the experience, and you want to make sure these different things are interacting with each other.
You want your product experience to speak to your marketing experience, so it’s a cohesive message. Step one, start with one customer persona and map their ideal journey, and then, if you want to get a little deeper, think about kind of, maybe not every single individual channel, but broad buckets of channels that you believe share patterns.
One useful way is to, walk through the customer journey and the golden path for an organic customer, someone who just found you organically, and then do it separately for maybe a referred customer. It will represent the opportunities for how you engage with them.
It also defines why consumers are coming to your website, or your app, for the first time. If they’ve been recommended to you by a friend, and they probably already know a little bit more about your brand than someone who’s maybe just coming to your site for the first time via Google ads or whatever. It’s useful to think about how different contexts for the user should affect the way you communicate with them and engage with them.
So you can start with high-level strategy then look forward to organic traffic and then maybe for referrals. After that, you can choose paid marketing as well.
Quarterly growth planning
So after you establish the necessary foundations of your growth team, your model, understand your channels, and you’ve kind of mapped the journey of your customers. When you can get into the quarterly planning processor, just your initial planning process, I like to start with exploring the data and doing so through the lens of your customer journey and the growth model.
Go through all the different steps that your customer finds their way to know about your product or service. Make them a loyal, frequent habitual customer. Then actually look at the funnel, explore your data, and try to identify the most significant areas of opportunity. Where are people falling off the most in your funnel?
Is it that they’re visiting your website and then none of them is converting, or very few of them are converting? Is that the most significant area of opportunity? Or are lots of people switching from web visitors to their first purchase, but very few people are coming back for their second purchase? Or do you have cart abandonment issues? One of the essential things to being active at growth is prioritizing the most impactful things and finding the most impactful ways to grow the business. And just guessing is not the best way to do that.
If you have data, then don’t start a growth team until you have product-market fit. You’re trying to accelerate an already existing and working business, and you should have enough data to understand at least something about what’s working and what’s not working for your customers. So ideally you have that funnel data you can look at. Other ways to look at data, you could potentially try to find some more qualitative data to look for opportunities.
Talk to your users, conduct user surveys, call your customers, do focus groups. But the first step in coming up with an excellent quarterly plan, setting the right goals and building a roadmap is to understand the most significant areas of opportunity.
The most significant pain points for your customers is what you should be solving. So step one is exploring the data, and then use that to set your goals. So obviously your quarterly goals, or OKRs, should ladder up to your overall company OKRs.OKRs are objectives and key results, so this a standard goal-setting methodology in the tech industry in Silicon Valley. Your purpose is a high-level qualitative goal, so it’s like, increase activations, grow monthly active users, whatever. And the key result is the quantifiable metric that determines whether or not you have succeeded in achieving your goal. So the OKR could be, the objective could grow monthly active users, and the critical result make 500,000 monthly active users by the end of the quarter from your baseline of 400,000 right now, or something like that.
Yeah, so you explore your data. You set your goals. OKRs is a common and practical framework, and there are a couple of different ways you can go about setting your goals. The most crucial thing about setting active goals is the goals that are motivating, that push people to their limits, that are ambitious and aggressive, and that make people feel good when they achieve them. But you also want them to be achievable.
Companies do go too far towards pushing extremely aggressive goals that are not achievable. And when you have goals that people never achieve and people start to learn that you’re never really expected to hit your OKRs because they’re so crazy aggressive, then they become a kind of meaningless. Then you don’t have a goal because if you’re expected to fall short, then what are you pushing towards? What does success look like?
Having baseline goals and stretch goals is excellent. As an achievable baseline goal, it should be pushing you, and this is how you promote your team always to get better and reach further, and higher and try to improve continually. That your team probably hits 70, 80% of the time, should hit this goal.
Again Having a stretch goal, something for like once a year you have an incredible quarter, and you knock it out of the park, that you very rarely get, but like you celebrate, and you go out and party when you hit this goal, those are fun to have.
They’re like a great way to give your team something ambitious to go after. But you don’t want that to be your only goal, because then three quarters of the year, even if your team are doing a good job, they feel like they failed and let you down.
Striking that balance is essential and having a baseline goal also. The stretch goal is a simple way to achieve that. People that have three different tiered goals, and one you’re supposed to be able to make very quickly, one is medium difficulty and is extremely aggressive. You want to keep it simple and have them be motivating but also serve to hold people accountable.
Identifying quarterly goals
Various companies maintain year-long goals. Generally, goals are set at the company level, team level and department level quarterly.
You can see far enough in the future, three months from now, that you know this is still a relevant goal.
Startups companies, like setting a goal a year ahead. That is tough because your business can change so quickly and rapidly that you might not even be focused on the same metric of the goal six months from now, let alone twelve months from now. So three months is a useful timeline. You could also then use that goal to then back in to, if you want, monthly goals or even like bi-weekly.
You probably don’t want to go much shorter than monthly goals, because the whole point is you are rapidly iterating and running experiments. And you only need a couple of those things to be successful. Setting quarterly goals is usually ideal. You want to have a handful of goals that are focused on different metrics. It depends on how big your team is, but having groups of no more than four or five people focused on specific parameters is better.
So, for example, if you have a steady growth team that is focused on are typically split between the acquisition side and the engagement side. Your acquisition team is focused on SEO, SEM, paid to advertise, and they operate differently and use different channels than your team that’s focused on engagement, retention, revenue, referrals, and all of that stuff because they require diverse channels and varied expertise.
Generally, it’s good to set different goals for those two different pods or teams depending on the size of your organization.Say it was focused on engagement, and you could pick a specific funnel metric that you want to focus on potentially.
Many teams focus on just activations for a quarter and also concentrate on optimizing sign up to activation rate. Then next quarter moves on to referrals or retention rate.Narrowing in focus for a handful of people to get in the mind of a specific type of customer to a particular point in their journey is helpful for you to understand them, always learn about that type of customer quickly throughout the quarter.
Dont try to shift gears between thinking about a mature and loyal customer who maybe has been using your product or service for many many months or years.
Before switching gears and try to think about what is the best thing to do for a new customer, who has a different understanding of your product and your brand. So, it depends on the size of your team and how far along you are on the growth process. But it’s helpful to get focused for short periods on specific metrics. And then you want to choose the high-level funnel metric part of your growth model to work.
Say it’s activation rate, and then you want to look for all of the different inputs that affect the activation rate, so this is where you kind of get into the channels, and I think this is where you get into the road mapping process. So the way that I have typically thought about how to divide up a roadmap and brainstorming make existing programs, products, experiences better, or look for totally new growth and locks, new programs, test new things.
Neither of those things is right, or wrong, it just depends on one, how much have you optimized existing experience in the past? If you have never optimized your home page for first-time site visitors, don’t skip to trying to come up with totally new ways to engage new site visitors. Optimize what you have currently, and then once you’ve squeezed every ounce of growth out of that, then find the next significant increase unlock.
That’s generally the sequence of how growth planning and the process works. You identify an area of opportunity, and you focus in on it, you try to improve that little metric bit, week over week, 1% here, 1% there. By the end of a quarter or two quarters, you’ve significantly improved satisfying experience or metric.
You’ll start feeling like you’re hitting the upper bound on how good you can get optimizing that. Then you can either look for a new way to improve that metric or think about a new radical idea, something crazy. Then you can move onto the next parameter and focus on a different area of growth.
A lot of that focus and prioritization has to do with how much you’ve done in the past to improve a specific metric. And then once you’ve picked those areas for opportunity is where the fun stuff comes in, which is brainstorming. So there are a lot of different ways you could do this. I like bringing in other teams. I think doing this cross-functionally is effective. You get additional ideas and inputs.
In Quarter Execution
In-quarter execution is all about builds, measure, learn cycle. There are four steps in the process.The first is designing your experiment. Then you ship your experiment, analyze the results. And then, if it works, you automate it and you scale it.
If it doesn’t work, you take those learnings to inform your next task. And then you keep going through that cycle as quickly as possible. So first step, designing your experiment is you take your hypothesis, and you put it into your experiment doc and get it set up to run as an experiment.
So a reasonable hypothesis, as you learned in your science classes in high school, has an independent variable, a dependent variable, and it’s based on certain assumptions. So one example would be, let’s say in the context of like Uber Eats, one hypothesis could be around if you’re trying to solve for let’s say like retention rate.
And you see that lots of people that order their first meal don’t come back for a second one because they had a coupon on their first one. Your hypothesis or a hypothesis to solve for that could be that people get a coupon on their firstUber Eats experience are trained not to pay full pricefor their meals. Therefore they are less likely to come back for a second fully-priced meal because they have like, we are attracting coupon seekers or something like that.
So if that’s your hypothesis, you’ve got like, your independent variable is like, the way you would test that gives some people coupons on their first Uber Eats purchase and don’t give other people coupons. You can then see, do the people that get coupons on their first one buy more or order more deliveries later on in the life cycle versus those that don’t get a coupon. And you can get a better sense of how to like the couponing effects like repurchase behavior.
Defining The Growth Model
The growth model is like setting growth metrics through the context of the stage in a user’s lifecycle. It is like infinite different growth metrics, like the highest level ones that are useful. But still specific enough are the ones that generally end up in a growth model.
Because like, acquisition versus activation versus retention, all super important, there are also like sub-metrics that you can use to understand those better and drive growth. Still, they also represent discrete stages in the customer’s lifecycle.
Setting up goals through the context of the customer’s lifecycle will help you to design programs, campaigns, and experiments. Based on who that customer likely is, how much do they know about your brand, how much have they interacted with you in the past, and what actions have they taken.
So that way, you can kind of line, you can line up all of your different experiments against these different key high-level metrics in your growth model. You will end up undoubtedly having sub metrics underneath these that are like, for each one of these, there is a set of different inputs that gives you like that high-level metric. Like your revenue numbers could be, like you could focus on revenue per user, you could focus on several users who are paying. Both of those things will ladder up into total revenue, but they’re different ways to increase overall revenue.
But this is just like a helpful model for thinking about all the different ways you can grow your business. What stage is the customer at in their journey, and then gives you a common understanding of like, who are the people that you’re targeting, what are the different segments, and then what are the different channels you have at your disposal to increase activation, retention, et cetera?
Because it’s mapped to a customer journey, and every customer goes through the same stages, right. They go through like awareness of the brand to the acquisition, signing up for the site for the first time, or visiting the website for the first time, activation is taking that first action, or making the first purchase. Retention is sticking around, and like coming back and using the site regularly, revenue is the first purchase, or how many purchases somebody makes. Then referrals are when they share with somebody else. There are very few examples of businesses that I can think of, for like a high-level growth model, that is different.
The probably most significant differences are in the channels that you use to influence those different metrics, that’s perhaps what varies most widely across businesses.Like the channels used for a B to B business versus a B to C business for all of the stuff is widely different, it also depends on like platform, so if you’re like an E-Commerce website, your channels for retention, revenue, activation, are mainly like website optimization.
Probably email marketing is the big one. For mobile apps, you are not going to be focused very much on web optimization. You’ll probably do some mobile app optimization, but perhaps focus more on like email marketing, push marketing, in-app marketing, promotions and stuff like that. So yeah, channels are probably the area where you have the most variation across business models. And then tactics, obviously, and like strategies vary incredibly widely, so that’s why these frameworks and this process is high level enough that it can be applied and replicated across all sorts of different businesses. Then you can just fit these tactics and methodologies to any business, channel or any of that stuff.