Riding The Roller Coaster from Growth Hacking to Growth Marketing

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Just about everything you’ve done in marketing in your early and lean startup stages was a warm-up.

Really? Yes.

Marketing takes a whole new direction once you’re scaling-up, and that means a lot more than Growth Hacking. Maybe Growth Hacking got you there, but it’s not sufficient to propel you further, so how do you bridge the relationship between Growth Hacking and Growth Marketing?

Marketing has always been about a set of integrated approaches, and it will always be. It’s called the Marketing Mix. The components of that mix evolve over time, and the priorities are different for each company, but Growth Hacking is one of those new components, so welcome it to the Mix.

Growth Hacking Gives you Data Points – Use Them

Growth hacking will give you insights into your user acquisition methods (paid or otherwise). So, you need to use that data, especially Conversion Rates and Cost of User Acquisition in order to scale-up your marketing efforts accordingly. It is not just one number. It’s several numbers for each segment, channel and method. Some things will work better than others, and some others won’t. Once you have that data, use it to double down and triple-up where you want see more results.

There are 4 types of Growth methods you can collect data from. Let’s call them the 4 P’s:

1. Peer-to-Peer

Growth comes from peer-to-peer, user-to-user communicated interactions. It’s also called Organic or Viral growth. This happens either via an incentive where you help them (or trick them), or via an emotion where you elicit a voluntary action to share. Don’t forget to also focus on the upper echelon of your users who are your Advocates. That segment will do a lot more for you than the average loyal users. As the Bruno Mars song goes, they “would die for you”, and you should do the same for them.

2. Paid

You pay to either promote or place your service within social or online properties close to the context of intent. This is the easiest way to measure. All the services you will use give you these tools, but don’t focus on their Dashboard. Rather, focus on the optimization tools they provide you or help you with. It is more important to be able to instrument the cause and effect of a number, than to stare at it.

3. Pulled

We’re in the thick of Inbound Marketing effectiveness, as a method of communications. Inbound Marketing is one way of pulling-in your customers, users or prospects to find you. The goal is to keep appearing on search results, and to make their content experience so pleasurable for your users, that they will come back for more. You can measure traffic, clicks, replies, social gestures, commenting, emails, etc. But also, you need to complement inbound marketing with via Communications with influencers and media channel who will also pull interest towards your product or service.

4. Pushed

Even if your customers love you, they have a tendency to forget about you. That’s why you need to continue to communicate with them on a regular basis, so don’t forget about Email Marketing as another Communications weapon. I’m seeing some companies totally ignore even emailing their users when they are releasing new products or new features. If the user gave you permission to communicate with them, then use that permission. Email is an effective re-engagement method. Twitter does it very well, and it’s part of their growth hacking arsenal. Remember, Email (and Search) deliver more customers than social media.

Growth Hacking Isn’t Indefinite, Hopefully

Sometimes, you can’t always continue to scale user/customer acquisition via organic, viral and growth hacking (unless you’re a platform). At some point, you need to invest in sales & marketing to really turn the volume up. Yes, there are Network Effects at play, but network effects work best when these networks are very large. Actually, it could be argued that only Platforms, like Twitter or Facebook can have significant network effect results. Very few products become platforms. If you are one, you are lucky.

So, hopefully, Growth Hacking is a temporary thing. Once you nailed something, then you scale it by operationalizing it. So Growth Hacking was really an optimization strategy for your marketing programs.

Yes, Twitter reportedly has 50 people in a “Growth Hacking” department, but don’t be fooled by it. They have operationalized their user engagement and acquisition methods quite accurately. There is some “hacking” involved, but there is a lot more rolling out of tried and true methods of increasing user engagements or acquiring new ones.

Beyond the Hacking, Into Marketing

OK, you have graduated from the Growth Hacking School of Hard Knocks. Now, let’s dive into 4 Marketing activities that you need to do well to impact your growth.

1. Go-to-Market

Go-to-Market is going beyond the AARRR steps (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referrals, Revenues). Go-to-Market is not business development either. Business development opens doors and lubricates relationships. Go-to-market propels you into the market according to a planned orchestration of a variety of activities between your product and your market. Don’t leave the outcome of your touch-points with the market to chance. Don’t let it unravel. Be more deterministic in how you want to connect with your channels, partners, influencers, intermediaries, networks, segments and customers, whether online or offline. Planning and co-ordination is a key aspect of an effective Go-to-Market approach.

2. Value Proposition

A value proposition is the essence of your product’s promise. It is a promise because you’re implicitly asking your users to trust you when they try it, or are about to purchase it.

As a startup, there will often be some gaps between your MVP’s value proposition and the vision of your Value Proposition. Sometimes, the MVP will evolve towards the desired value proposition, and sometimes you iterate your value proposition while you iterate the MVP, until the two of them marry well together. Make sure that your value proposition is accurately communicated so that it elicits the desired acquisition, activation or engagement response you want from them.

3. Positioning

Positioning is not the same as messaging your value proposition or your product features. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect, not what you do to a product. It’s like thinking in reverse. Instead of starting with yourself, you start with the mind of the prospect.

For startups and grownups, positioning is a key battle. Go fight it.

Each day, thousands of blog posts, tweets, social gestures and online messages compete for a share of your mind. So, the mind is the battleground, and positioning is a systematic solution for finding a window in the mind.

If you’d like to learn more about Positioning, you can read my longer post Positioning: The Battle for Your Startup.

4. Branding

For most startups, branding is the least understood and often most ignored aspect of marketing. Granted, branding your company is not relevant if you haven’t reached product/market fit or if your market footprint is small. But, as soon as you reach a critical mass of users or customers, competition will emerge, and that’s when your Brand will start to matter, because it will start to affect your success.

Branding is important because once users associate themselves with your brand; they will become your best advocates. They will swear by your brand, they will defend it, and they will promote it. But how do you get there? You need to connect with them at the emotional level. Each time you evoke an emotional response in them, you are making a deposit into their emotional psyche, and they will return it to you many times over.

The easiest association characteristics about a brand are Quality and Trust. Start doing everything you can to project quality and trust in what you do, and your users will remember that. Then, complement it with a unique brand identity that you keep re-enforcing.

Branding is an important derivative of good marketing. Over time, your brand will become on one of your most valuable assets.


About the Author: William Mougayar is the CEO & Founder of Startup Management where he curates and writes about managing, growing and scaling startups so they can become grownups. His experience also includes:

  • 4-time entrepreneur, started 4 companies, sold 2, pivoted 1
  • Held global and senior sales & marketing positions at Hewlett-Packard and Cognizant
  • Published 2 books (Harvard Business School Press and McGraw-Hill)

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