team planning a fintech marketing strategy

Developing a Successful Fintech Marketing Strategy

team planning a fintech marketing strategy

Fintech is an exploding market, accounting for over 650 VC-backed deals in Q2 2021 alone, with $30.8 billion in funding. Market Data Forecast anticipates that Fintech will grow by over 23% annually through 2026, reaching a market value of over $320 billion in that time period.  As the fintech market fills with startups and scaleups, standing out above the noise will be a critical challenge for any fintech organization that desires to be successful. Fintech organizations that have a growth marketing strategy to acquire and convert inbound leads will have a leg up on the competition. 

Before we dive into growth marketing strategies, let’s chat about inbound marketing for a moment. 

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing for Fintech

A lot of B2B organizations rely on outbound marketing for lead generation and driving sales. Traditional outbound marketing efforts, like trade shows, seminars, cold calling, are slowly fading out of favor with B2B organizations because of the manpower and cost required to manage these efforts. Inbound marketing, however, relies on capturing demand and meeting users that need you: not the other way around. 

Think of it this way: it costs significantly less for organizations to convert a lead who is coming to them, than it is to generate a prospect and convert them via cold calling. Fintech marketing teams that may have previously generated customers via outbound marketing are now shifting to an inbound marketing strategy. 

Know Your Target Audience

It seems obvious enough, right? Every growth marketing strategy should start with identifying the target audience and the value propositions for the organization. If this sounds fundamental, it’s because it is. 

Knowing your target audience rules out potential strategies that were on the table, and unlocks opportunities you may not have previously considered.

For example: if you are a B2C fintech organization – you probably aren’t going to put the majority of your ad spend on LinkedIn. 

Alternatively: if you are a B2B fintech organization that provides solutions to SMB owners, you may discover subreddits or Youtube channels that are large gathering places for your target audience that you can add in your targeting. 

Knowing your target audience also helps you figure out how to communicate with them. Since there are SO MANY fintech startups and scaleups, being able to speak directly to the needs of your target audience clearly will help you stand out above the noise. If you are developing a fintech marketing strategy, grab the Value Props Exercise spreadsheet from the Tuff blog and start identifying your target audience’s needs. 

Know Your Funnel 

The marketing funnel has three main components, top, middle, and bottom of the funnel. Matching your messaging and strategy for each stage in the funnel is incredibly important. 

Many channels, such as Facebook, can serve as multiple stages of the funnel for fintech marketing efforts. Here are some examples of an effective funnel for a fintech organization that Tuff currently partners with: 

  • Top of Funnel: Prospecting ads on Facebook centered around value propositions, Youtube Ads with a brand-focused video that directly addresses value propositions
  • Mid Funnel: Non-branded PPC Search Campaign, Retargeting campaign on Youtube, remarketing display ads
  • Bottom Funnel: Branded Search Campaign, Retargeting campaign on Facebook with an introductory offer

Some additional funnel strategies that could be a good fit for your organization: 

  • Lead capture in middle of funnel combined with a bottom funnel email marketing drip campaign aimed at converting leads 
  • Prospecting on Reddit, LinkedIn, or other demographic-based acquisition channels
  • Partnering with influencers to reach your target audience

Focus Efforts on Demand Generation 

In order for inbound marketing efforts to be successful, people need to know about your organization and how exactly it helps them. One of the most common issues fintech organizations run into is that users don’t know that they need their services or product to be successful. 

Chris Walker at Refine Labs says the following

“Most marketing teams only focus on capturing existing market demand. They wait for people to look for them. Then try to capture it with SEO, SEM… They spend all their time and effort and money fighting over the 0.1% of the market that is actively buying…All of the upside is in marketing to the 99% of the market that isn’t actively buying.”

A common example I use in explaining demand generation is Uber. Before Uber, people had taxis, or they relied on friends or daily for rides when they needed it. People didn’t know they needed Uber, until Uber came along and showed everyone why ridesharing was a better alternative to the status quo. 

Explaining your organization’s solution to a problem can be tricky. This is why it is important to spend time with value propositions and identifying how to best drum up demand. 

One disclaimer on-demand generation: using tools such as Google Analytics to determine attribution is only as accurate as the data it is being fed. Not all engagement, consideration, and offsite activity can be measured in Google Analytics, and can possibly make your demand generation efforts look less effective than they truly are. This leads us to…

Rely on Your Zero Party Data

Once you’re up and running with your campaigns, generating leads, and possibly sales – it’s time to figure out how you are capturing your target audience’s attention. With demand generation efforts, analytic tools can be inaccurate as to true attribution. This applies to both inbound and outbound marketing efforts. 

For inbound marketing efforts, if a user hears about you via a Facebook campaign, but does not click the ad, and later finds you via organic search, Google Analytics will tell you that the user found you organically – and make you feel great about your SEO efforts. For outbound marketing efforts, replace Facebook with a trade show, direct mail, or even a cold call, and you could run into the same issue.  

The way to solve this is easy: generate zero party data. Zero party data is data that customers share with brands. Intentionally collecting zero party data can be as simple as asking users how they first heard about you when they sign up. Zero party data is only as accurate as the information is being shared with you, so instead of relying solely on analytics tools or zero party data, look at both often, and develop insights from there. 

Spend Time with CRO 

CRO, or conversion rate optimization, is the ongoing effort of refining your site’s user experience to improve your lead capturing abilities. Getting traffic is one thing – converting them is another. Fintech organizations that spend time continually evaluating their site, implementing tests, and smoothing the path to conversion can see higher returns on their acquisition efforts. 

Some ways that CRO can be included in a fintech marketing strategy are: 

  • Testing different value propositions in the hero section of your landing page
  • A/B test call-to-actions or sign-up perks
  • Incorporating gamification, or other engagement tools on your site

The great thing about CRO is that it is a continual process – as your learnings grow, so do the possibilities.

If you are unsure about how CRO, zero-party data, or demand generation can be incorporated into your fintech marketing strategy — let’s talk.

Zeroing In On Your Channel Mix: Channel Diversification Cheat Sheet

Zeroing in on your channel mix—in other words, how you make people aware of you or get traffic to your website—has always been a critical component of growth. It’s essentially the first half of the growth equation. 

Half one: make people aware of you.

Half two: implement tactics to get them to do something. 

So, put that way, if you can’t get in front of your target audience, you’re going to seriously struggle to grow your business in any meaningful way. 

That’s why finding the right combination of acquisition channels for your business is so critical. It’s also really hard. It’s also, also why so many companies are focused on diversifying their channel mix in order to find new pockets, outside of Facebook and Google, to scale their acquisition efforts. 

When it comes to determining what channels to test and what budget to allocate, it’s a balance. You can’t afford (and don’t want to) spread your resources across every single channel that exists. You’ll end up with sloppy execution and merky data. You also can’t afford to not test new channels. You’ll end up with all your eggs in one basket and run the risk of being beholden to a single channel and the big shifts that channel implements (looking at you iOS 14). 

So what do you do? 

As a growth marketing agency, we’re constantly looking for ways to solve this challenge for our partners. At any given time, almost 30% of the spend under management at Tuff is being allocated to what we would call “emerging growth channels.” In this post, we’re going to break down what we’ve learned and which channels are currently our favorites. 

What are acquisition channels?

If you jump into any Google Analytics account, you’ll find a mix of traffic coming from five core sources. These include: 

  1. Paid 
  2. Organic 
  3. Email 
  4. Direct 
  5. Referral 

A paid acquisition channel is a place where a potential customer finds out about your company—think LinkedIn, Google Search, Facebook, etc. They are diverse and plenty, with cost per clicks (CPCs) ranging from as low as $0.15 to as high as $30. Knowing your CPC is important. It’ll help you determine how much budget you actually need to test a new paid channel. 

When it comes to channel exploration, we like to get anywhere from 300-500 clicks per channel (or campaign) before reworking or determining results. For cheaper channels in specific industries, this could mean that $500 is enough to test a new channel but for others, you’ll want to have at least $5,000. 

What are the core acquisitions channels?

For the last 10+ years, the majority of paid spend has gone into the pocket of one of two core acquisition channels: 

  • Google (+Bing) 
  • Facebook/Instagram

In addition to being some of the most advanced advertising platforms, both Google and Facebook make sense for companies as acquisition channels because: 

  • They have huge audiences and advanced targeting options 
  • They are self-service platforms and make it easy for people to use 
  • They can be cost-effective 

That said, the majority of brands, at some point, will start to see diminishing returns on channels like Facebook and Google when they try to scale rapidly. Layer on the fact that the advertising landscape has (and will continue to) change. According to ProfitWell, customer acquisition costs have gone up by over 60% in the last 5 years, making channel diversification that much more important. 

What are the best emerging channels?

There are a number of emerging channels available for companies to leverage to find traction and scale outside of Facebook and Google. We’ve tested on all of the major channels and have some initial favorites so far in 2021: 

  • YouTube 
  • TikTok 
  • Snapchat 
  • Amazon 

YouTube

At Tuff, we’ve been running campaigns on YouTube for over three years. When we started on YouTube, at the most, 10% of our clients were experimenting on this channel. Today, almost 65% of our clients are running campaigns on this channel. 

YouTube is great because it’s a blend between Google and Facebook. With YouTube advertising, you can get extremely targeted and identify high-intent, niche keywords and audiences to segment. At the same time, it’s also extremely creative-forward and visual like Facebook. I like this combination because you get advanced targeting paired with video in a way you can’t on any other platform. 

When it comes to YouTube, we often use this as a top-of-the-funnel initiative. We use it to get as many quality eyeballs as possible on our videos and then implement tactics to move these users further down our funnel. That said, we also have clients that use YouTube extremely successfully as a last-click customer acquisition channel. 

Here are what the results can look like so you have context as you experiment or compare with existing campaigns. Take a look at a full spreadsheet from some of the YouTube campaigns in the Tuff MCC account. 

Here are some of the major YouTube tips: 

  • Consolidate your spend on geos: Chris, our YouTube expert, always talks about YouTube like a Billboards. With so much inventory available on YouTube, and attribution getting more difficult, if you consolidate your spend to specific geos it will be easier to see lift (or no lift) in revenue or conversions from YouTube. 
  • Leverage Retargeting: YouTube retargeting is significantly cheaper than other channels and you can retarget both site traffic and video views. 
  • Reduce CPC with Custom Intent: Build custom intent audiences using high CPC keywords instead of relying exclusively on search. Here’s a full blog post breaking down this exact strategy

We talk about YouTube a lot at Tuff and have a full playlist on the blog with YouTube campaign examples, data, and best practices. Check it out

TikTok

We get more inquiries and questions about TikTok from clients and prospects than any other channel combined. For the right audience, TikTok can be super cost-effective and drive a serious amount of traffic and revenue but it’s not for everyone. It also takes a slightly modified approach to get the right results. In other words, it’s far more finicky than on Facebook. Some of the things you’d do to set up your campaigns on Facebook and Instagram are completely different for TikTok. 

For successful results, here are some things to consider: 

  • Audience: For TikTok, based on what we’ve seen, you need to go broad with your audience. On other channels, like Facebook, it’s easy to get extremely granular and focus on an audience of 1M or fewer but on TikTok you need to expand. The algorithm is extremely sophisticated and the larger your audience, the better the results will be. For instance, the For You Page on TikTok knows exactly what type of content you’re interested in. The short story: trust that the algorithm will serve your ads to the users who would be interested in your ads.
  • Creative: You can’t even consider TikTok without video creative. Do you have really strong video assets and can you create new videos on a 3-4 week basis? If not, TikTok might not be for you. Layer on the fact that TikTok users have a super high BS-o-meter, and you’ll want to get super particular with what you publish. The good news: there’s tons of room to test and doing so doesn’t need to drain your bank account. We’re a performance-creative focused crew here at Tuff and have written a full blog post on this exact topic

If you want a deep dive on what to expect with TikTok, here’s a list of practical tips and recommendations for creating high-performing TikTok campaigns. 

Snapchat

The good news: if you’ve taken on the task of making creative for TikTok, you’re already most of the way towards firing up a Snapchat strategy as well. Unlike TikTok, Snapchat surprisingly has some amazingly sophisticated targeting options (which is not surprising when you find out they partner with Neilsen to make it happen). Ultimately, Snapchat is extremely dependent on native-looking and always-refreshing creative, but if you can crack that nut, you can quite possibly unlock a powerful acquisition channel. 

Amazon

When it comes to eCommerce growth, Amazon has been part of the conversation for a while now and for good reason. In 2020, Amazon advertising became the number three ad publisher in the United States, accounting for over $15.73 billion in ad revenue. It’s estimated that Amazon’s ad business is growing even more in 2021, with a projected ad revenue of over $20 billion (over 30% annual growth). 

While there are many pros and cons to selling on Amazon, having an effective Amazon advertising strategy is an essential part of a growth strategy for almost every single eCommerce brand. 

We get into a number of best practices and Amazon advertising tips in this post, but to highlight a few priorities: 

  • Split out branded and non-branded campaigns (just like you would do on Google!) 
  • Use automated targeting on Amazon ads to get better insights into your manual bid strategies 
  • Measure and correlate spikes in organic sales as you optimize you paid efforts 

It’s worth mentioning that there are other channels we are actively testing on that collectively make up about the same amount of spend as the channels above. These include: Reddit, Quora, Twitter, Spotify, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. It’s not to say that these channels aren’t the right ones for your business (if your target audience is actively there) but we haven’t seen as much scale on these platforms as we’d like. They can be great supporting channels but aren’t, at this point, going to be your hero channel. 

What about non-paid acquisition channels?

This post has focused primarily on diversifying your paid channel mix. And if you’re an early stage startup or in extreme scale mode, paid is where you are going to get the quickest result. But, I can’t stress enough the importance of organic acquisition. Being completely reliant on paid is something that you just can’t do. 

Unlike paid acquisition, organic traffic is going to bring you the best long-term, most compounding growth results if you have the right SEO strategy. It can take up to 12 months of work until you start seeing results but it’s arguably the best growth tactic you can implement for your business. Here’s an in-depth post on how we build a holistic SEO strategy to help businesses see more organic traction. 

My advice: Fill the gaps and find short-term momentum with paid acquisition until you are able to implement and see traction with organic acquisition. 

 

Trial By Fire: How to Start a Growth Marketing Agency

This August, we’re heading into our fifth year at Tuff. While I learn something new every day, there are four major takeaways I can confidently share about how to build a growth marketing agency

First, though, I’ll note that these days, I spend quite a bit of time communicating with these kinds of people:

  • Successful freelancers, wondering if it’s time to start an agency.
  • Agency owners, wondering how to grow.
  • Owners or solopreneurs ready to segue into an agency model.

After quite a few of 1:1 convos, I realized that I found myself recounting the four ways Tuff has achieved steady growth. So I thought it might be helpful to share it with a broader audience!

If you’re thinking about building an agency, are in the process of building an agency, or just want to know how all of this works, here’s what I’ve learned so far. 

4 Key Tips for Building an Agency

First, let me say this: every business is different. How you grow an agency will be different than how we get results and grow our agency. Even if alignment is strong, there will always be notable differences when it comes to approach, personalities, priorities, etc. 

That said, these are four concrete things I’ve learned growing this business that I’m sure can be adapted to any context.

Hire an Incredible Team

Agencies are service-based businesses, and there’s no level of infrastructure or product quality that has the ability to eclipse the value of the right people. People matter, and they aren’t always easy to find, so I’ve learned that hiring and people ops is just as important as generating new business. 

After a handful of wrong hires, we worked for months to put together a very streamlined and effective hiring process that includes:

  • Attracting the right people with employer branding 
  • Developing internal impact descriptions that map to our Career Framework 
  • Well-written job descriptions 
  • A three-step interview process with a mini (and always-rotating) hiring committee 
  • A tool to manage applications and steps in the interview process (Workable

It’s also important to identify which team members you currently have who are the right fit to manage or be involved in this process. Some people are inherently good talent-seekers who have a deep understanding of your clients and their goals as well as the vision of company and team culture. Figure out how to position your current team to build your future team.

Systemically, all of this represents an investment of time and money into culture and people ops. My first ever agency hire was a people ops strategist. Truth. I wish I could take more credit for this because it’s honestly the best thing that ever happened to Tuff but it was just dumb luck. My sister, Mary, has been in the people ops space for over 10 years and came on to Tuff in the beginning to help us lay our foundation. 

Some of our strategic investments in people ops include:

Having a team that is autonomous and collaborative is the only way to sustain growth in your agency. Creating a great place to work is our second highest priority (just after staying in business). 

Build a Repeatable Formula for Generating New Business

Hiring the right people and building a repeatable lead pipeline were both the two hardest things and the two most important things we did to build our business. It took us about 18 months to build a repeatable formula for new business; one that we control. 

We tested out a lot of tactics. 95% of them didn’t work. Once we eliminated the ones that failed, we really refined the ones that succeeded, and now we can count on the outcomes. That process was obviously not fast and it was definitely not easy, but if you want to grow an agency, there’s no substitute for this work.

Here’s what didn’t work: 

Outbound: Outbound sales didn’t work for us and here’s why. We had a lot of conversations (helpful conversations in which I learned a ton) but not a lot of action. With outbound, there’s a lot of: 

  • Sure, I might as well investigate just in case.
  • Please don’t email me again 
  • What does it cost? 
  • Actually, something came up, need to push our meeting a week.

Here’s what did work: 

Inbound: This was the harder route (less immediate and it took a tremendous amount of consistency and commitment) but one that has led to compounding growth. We worked tirelessly (and still do) to capture demand by ranking on page one for high-intent keywords like “growth marketing agency” “growth agency” “startup marketing agency” etc. We worked on our SEO and organic strategy for six months before seeing results. 

With inbound, the conversions started to be more like: 

  • I want to learn about your services and team 
  • Can we schedule a time this week to connect? 
  • We’re ready to chat and we think you could be the best fit. 

So, in the early days we filled the gaps and found short-term momentum with outbound until we were able to implement an inbound system that worked. 

Even though we now see results, we’re just scratching the surface of this. Undoubtedly, the process of generating new (and the right) business always has room for improvement.

I’ll say this: we haven’t created the biggest, most profitable agency in the world, but we have learned a ton that we know is critical to an agency’s success. And that’s the key: if you can be patient, willing to try new things, willing to learn from your mistakes, and willing to ditch what doesn’t work, you’ve got a shot to build something great. 

Going into it with an explorer mentality ensures that you don’t get tied too early to efforts that yield questionable results. Try more. Learn from it. Keep moving. 

Trim the Fat

In the last five years, one of my biggest challenges as an agency owner has been to make some hard calls, ie, to trim the fat. 

Here are the brass tacks:

  • When you get to a place where you can say no to new partnerships: say no.
  • If you are in partnerships that are no longer a good fit: get out.

When your business is growing, you’re going to outgrow clients. You need to be able to have those hard conversations, and you must be selective.

It can be hard as an owner when you have a client who wants to work with you and pay top dollar (especially when it took 18 months to generate your first handful of inbound leads), but you need to make these decisions in the real world, and with the long-term goal in mind. 

This may seem wild if you are still in the early days, but there will come a time when you will say no to multiple revenue opportunities and good ideas because it’s not the right fit for your team. This is a net positive move that preserves the health of your company, your people, and keeps you true to your mission and goals.

Adapt Quickly and Pivot Your Services When You Need To

We’ve all heard, “the riches are in the niches,” but even more than nicheing, successful agency owners listen to the market and let it inform their strategic planning. This is really applicable to where I was when Tuff first started. 

I didn’t have the truest understanding of what people needed from a growth marketing agency, I just knew that agencies get a really bad rap. It’s often because the experience feels opaque, needlessly expensive, and peppered with sneaky opportunities to upsell. I knew there had to be a better way to treat clients. But it took me a long time to understand from a servicing perspective where Tuff could be most valuable.

In the first few years with Tuff, I did more cold pitching, outbound prospecting, and sales calls than I have in my entire career. In fact, I had never done sales before. It was a huge learning opportunity. It’s also why I still do sales today even though our team is significantly bigger. Ultimately, there is NO replacement for testing your own messaging in the market. There’s probably a faster way to get there but the result was invaluable. 

We now know with absolute clarity who we are and what we can provide, which not only accelerates the sales process but makes us an effective partner for our clients.

Practical Steps to Creating a Marketing Agency

Those four high-level insights, I would say, are mission critical for growing an agency. As someone who has been in the thick of it, I know that other people’s stories are helpful. I’m willing to be super honest about what it took for me to get to this five-year mark. Here’s a little of what it cost me and some of what didn’t work (and what did), to get Tuff where it is today.

  • I freelanced for almost 8 months so I could afford to get a website up and running, as well as pay salaries for at least three employees for six months. I didn’t want it to be a “chicken and egg” situation, so I banked some capital to float the business launch. 
  • My first hire was a people ops consultant who helped build our career framework and compensation strategy, which is a unique move for an agency owner. This was sheer dumb luck. Most people look at this and think that a people ops consultant isn’t a revenue-generating employee, which is technically true in that they don’t have billable hours. However, the return on investment you get from hiring the right people is the most revenue generating investment you can make. It is a hard decision to make at the beginning, but one I would do over and over again.
  • Over the course of 18 months, we tried about 20 different things to generate a lead pipeline: only one of them worked at scale. For us, there’s a whole laundry list of what didn’t work, including: Outbound Sales, Cold Email, Events / Networking , Workshops, Speaking Opportunities, Partnership, and Sponsorships. To be clear: one of our failed attempts may very well be your money-maker. The point is that we tried a lot until we found a reliable source of lead gen.
  • I want a whole separate point for the timeline, because it is a major reality check for many agency owners looking to scale. If you consider that I first had to save money, then spent 18 months experimenting, Tuff took at least two years finding traction and scale. Now, we have a much steadier growth curve. There are myriad factors that can make this timeline shorter, including owner experience, credibility/name recognition, existing clout or networks, etc. For the rest of us, it just takes time.
  • In the beginning, I said yes to everything, because I learn by doing. We were staying alive and using this ever present “yes” to keep the lights on. That worked for us because it gave us hands-on experience. That said, once we started to grow, we had to unwind those habits. Now, we say “no” quite a bit and are selective about what we work on, but we grew into that. In other words, do what you have to do until you don’t have to do it anymore.

Building a Growth Marketing Agency

Growth marketing helps companies get to their goals faster. An agency that can facilitate it doesn’t succeed with half-formed ideas or untested strategies. If you have the ambition, commit to the process. Your journey won’t be the same as ours, but those four learnings from above probably feel very relatable. For more content like this, check out the rest of the Tuff blog. Whether you’ve been in business for five months — or five years like us (wahoo!) — I wish you all the success in the world.

inbox on a phone

They WANT to Hear From You: How to Use Email Drip Campaigns to Engage Your Best Customers

person building email drip campaigns on computer

If you’ve been following Tuff for truly any amount of time, you know that we have a history of taking a hard stance on email marketing. Hyperboles aside, email is a channel that truly pulls its weight in a full-funnel marketing strategy. What’s more, your customers (and/or clients, leads, prospects) WANT to hear from you. Need some proof?

Did you know that 72% of customers prefer email as their main channel for business communication? Did you further know that 60% of consumers say they’ve made a purchase as the result of a marketing email they’ve received? (Source)

The short story: an opt-in is a sure sign from your customer that they want to hear you. When you honor that with timely, actionable, and relevant communication in their inbox, you energize your on-the-fence customers and engage your best ones. In other words: you create a real, scalable path to growth. 

The catch: between e-blasts, marketing emails, transaction emails, list segmentation, and automation it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve got your back. 

Disclaimer! As a growth marketing agency, we’re constantly preaching about prioritization; how to identify your highest-impact/lightest-lift activities so you can quickly implement, optimize, test, and use your findings to build more detailed, impactful strategies on other channels. Email is no different. This article digs deep into drip campaigns: in our opinion, one of the best ways to drive revenue using email. But! That’s not to say that e-blasts or automated flows might make the greater impact for you. Not quite sure where to start? Let’s talk.

The Vocab: Email Marketing 101

A solid email strategy starts with a clear understanding of your options. An important note: depending on where you’re getting your information, the following terminology may vary (or be used a bit differently).

E-Blast vs. Drip Campaign vs. Automated Flow

There are a number of different methods for emailing your customers that have opted into hearing from you. The first, and typically the most common is e-blasts. This is where most founders or marketers start: this is a one-off or a consistently sent email meant to keep your customers up to date on new content, product launches, and/or events. These are manual and hands-on—the content will change each time you send. 

A drip campaign, meanwhile, is static, predetermined, and scheduled content based on pre-defined triggers. For example, a series of email that sends to someone who’s just created an account, abandoned their cart, or downloaded a white paper. The content of the series is catered specifically to the action that the user has taken. And while particularities of the content (like dynamic product content blocks based on the actual items in the user’s abandoned cart), the series itself is a fixed number of emails that eventually ends. 

Finally, an automated flow is a series of emails that dynamically changes based on a user’s behavior (the distinction between a drip campaign and an automated flow is relatively subtle). For example, if a customer has indicated through a series of behaviors that they’re a top user of your app, you can program an automated email to encourage them to upgrade their subscription, leave a review, refer a friend, or take another higher-value action. Then, if that user ends up taking that action, the automation will either drop them out of the flow or put them into a new one. 

While each type pulls its weight in a holistic email marketing strategy, above, they’re ordered from the simplest to the most complex. We recommend starting with e-blasts and maintaining a steady cadence while you build out drip campaigns. Once you’ve had an opportunity to really hone in on list segmentation, get super specific with user behavior patterns, and collect data on your open, click through, and unsubscribe rates, then (in our opinion) it’s time to dig into automated flows. 

How to Build an Effective Email Drip Campaign

Drip campaigns are communications that meet a customer when they’re most engaged: right after they’ve taken a notable action. Before you write one subject line or begin to map out your campaign, it’s super important to get specific with your triggers. 

Step 1: List Every Possible Trigger

No matter what kind of business you run (SaaS, B2B, B2C) your customer journey is stacked with actions for your potential customers to take. From the very first time they discover you, all the way through to conversion, they’ll (likely…ideally!) be seeing and clicking on your ads, finding new ways to learn about you, engaging with ways to save, and ultimately, buying. Here are just a handful of examples:

  • Placing an order
  • Attending an event at your store
  • Signing up for a webcast
  • Registering for a report or white paper
  • Abandoning a shopping cart
  • Engaging with customer service

This is also the step during which you’ll do the heavy lifting when it comes to segmentation.

email flow

We could (and probably will!) write a full extra article on segmentation but the short story: if your lists aren’t thoughtfully and properly segmented, the rest of your strategy will have a hard time getting off the ground.

Step 2: Determine Where Each Trigger Fits in Your Marketing Funnel

Where these leads sit in your funnel helps dictate how you message them and what actions you call them to take. Here are the above examples organized by where they fit in the funnel:

Top of Funnel → signing up for a webcast, registering for a report or white paper

Middle of Funnel → attending an event at your store, engaging with customer service

Bottom of Funnel → abandoning a shopping cart

Step 3: Decide How Often to Send

Quick tip: you can send more emails than you think you should. Customers WANT to hear from you. Our tactical recommendations differ depending on industry (eCommerce companies can get away with sending at a higher cadence while B2B or SAAS companies should resist sending more than five emails a month).

Lay out your email cadence depending on how long your sales/conversion process usually takes and/or how long it will take to tell a complete story about why they should purchase or subscribe based on where they are in the funnel.

A quick blueprint to help you find your starting line:

  • Plan to include 5 – 10 emails in your campaign
  • Send 4 days apart if you’re B2C, 7 if you’re B2B

Step 4: Create Your Email Content

An email drip (as well as an automated flow) is a story — how do you tell a full story from end to end? Again, this messaging will vary greatly depending on where your user is in the funnel. 

email campaign example

Users in the top of your marketing funnel will resonate best with heavy education (how does your product/service make their life better), a word from experts, general tips for how easy it is to integrate your product/service into their life. Consider crafting all emails with the primary CTA of “Learn More.”

Users in the middle of your marketing funnel are in the consideration phase. Core messaging here should be focused on how your product or service tactically works, insights or experiences from real users, and press mentions. The primary CTA here is get in touch with customer service or start shopping.

Users in the bottom of your marketing funnel are nearing conversion and actively looking to buy from you or a competitor. Core messaging here should center on your brand story—why they should believe in your company and how you outpace the competition. Here, we’ve found that personal notes from founders, explaining why and how they’ve built the company in all its particularities can make an impact. The primary CTA here is to place an order, subscribe, or whatever your ultimate conversion action is. 

Step 5: Launch, Check In. Optimize. Rinse & Repeat.

No matter which email strategy you adopt and implement, it’s critical to continuously check in on your drip campaigns to increase performance and, overtime, drive more revenue. Here’s a quick cheat sheet outlining the best metrics to scrutinize and what to try to elevate their performance:

Deliverability Rate

  • What it is: The number of emails accepted by the recipient’s server. 
  • Why it might be underperforming: You bought a list of emails (BIG no no), you don’t have a clear unsubscribe rate, or you’re using spammy/overly-salesy language.
  • How to improve it: Continuously clean your lists, delete any addresses that bounce or are invalid, and ensure the unsubscribe button is clearly visible.

Open Rate

  • What it is: The percentage of recipients that open your email. 
  • Why it might be underperforming: Your email has landed in the spam folder, it’s hard to tell who you (the sender) is, or your subject line is uninspiring.
  • How to improve it: Use simple A/B subject line tests to see what kind of language your audience resonates with.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

  • What it is: The percentage of people that open your email and also click through to a link. 
  • Why it might be underperforming: Your CTA buttons are too far down the email, it isn’t clear to your recipients what kind of action you want them to take, or the link isn’t compelling enough.
  • How to improve it: Test different text lengths, button styles, and actionable copy to encourage a click.

Conversion Rate (CVR)

  • What it is: The percentage of people that click through to your site and also make a purchase. 
  • Why it might be underperforming: The experience of your email doesn’t match the experience a user has when they hit the site.
  • How to improve it: Ensure a smooth/consistent experience from your email to your site.

There’s truly no gilded road to email success—the best strategies start with the questions, “what’s going to be the most impactful for my business and my customer/prospect?” Sometimes, this can feel a bit daunting. The good news: we’ve got your back! Ready to fire up some effective drop campaigns? Let’s talk!

Why (and How) We Spend $35,000 on Website CRO Each Year

 

We spend $35,000 a year on our website. That’s more than every other marketing tactic combined. 

For a big company that might not sound like much but for Tuff it’s a big deal. 

And as the owner of a growth marketing agency, it’s a tough call to make. Especially when I could reinvest that back into my team and the people responsible for our growth. Or use it to supercharge our reporting. Or build out a new service. 

So, with full intentionality, website conversion rate optimization (CRO) is something we prioritize because it’s the one tactic that has consistently grown our business. 

Disclaimer: we’re by no means claiming that we have the best or most highest-performing website on the block (or even that our process is perfect). But what we are saying is that we dedicate significant time and resources to continually improving our site because it works. Applying this process to incremental site improvements has shown us real, measurable results. And we hope this process can help you do the same!

How We’ve Grown Tuff (and our clients) By Focusing on Website CRO

When it comes to growth marketing, there are two types of tactics we’re focused on: acquisition (getting the right traffic) and conversion (getting that traffic to do something). 

Acquisition channels help you get traffic, which is great. Then what? 

Increasing traffic—especially when that traffic is composed of relevant audiences—is a huge part of your early growth goals and the strategies you put in place to achieve them. Once you’ve figured out the traffic equation, half the battle is over. But that does mean half the battle remains, and that comes down to conversion rate optimization, or CRO.

So when it comes to CRO, we focus in on two main things: 

  • Our website (currently at a 1.09% CVR) 
  • Our sales process 

More to the point:

  • Once someone gets to our website, what happens next?
  • How do you get site visitors to do something?

And also:

  • How do we do our best to answer prospects’ questions in the sales process?
  • How can we give them all the information they need to make an informed decision?

Our 5-Step Website CRO Process

While our website CRO process is now a well-oiled machine, it took us a few years of in-the-weeds hard work to hone and refine it. And, while it still requires a concerted effort to make notable impacts on our CRO month after month, it’s so incredibly important. 

Even if your website is significantly different from ours, or you exist in a totally different industry, this battle-tested process can help anyone improve their site whether you’ve got $35k a year to spend or not. 

  1. Figure out the most important metrics.
  2. Identify areas to optimize.
    • Revisit your competitors and value props 
    • Use conversations with your audience to get better 
    • Study Google Analytics – common paths and top pages 
  3. Make a list of monthly priorities. 
  4. Execute 
  5. Measure, rinse & repeat.

But before we dive deeper, a quick note about our approach. 

With website CRO, there are essentially two approaches to take: 

  1. Make bold changes that will drive more profit and you get fast, measurable results.
  2. Make small, continuous tweaks each month to keep your site strong and lead to incremental increases in conversions over time. 

Both have merit, but the second one is the one we at Tuff are passionate about. Small, ongoing adjustments, implemented fast, give you better CRO results. It’s the one we’re going to focus on for this post. 

Let’s dive in! 

1. Figure out the most important metrics

Before you start outlining updates for your website, make sure you’ve set clear goals you’d like to achieve – even if you don’t have much data to base them on.

For Tuff, we focus on the below metrics and study them monthly: 

  • Conversion rate (CVR): this can exist at numerous stages of the customer journey, but in this instance we’re talking traffic to conversion. Examples include: traffic to purchase (eComm), traffic to sign up (B2B, tech, SaaS), traffic to install (mobile app), etc.
  • Time on site: duration of site visits.
  • Bounce rate: how fast site visitors leave.
  • Entrance page/user journey: which pages get the most entrances? This helps you understand which pages are providing traffic (service pages, blog posts, etc.). You can find common paths and determine which pages to improve as a “first impression.”

CVR is such a key metric because it allows you to reduce costs by getting more out of the traffic that’s already coming to your website. By improving your conversion rate you can increase revenue per visitor and lower your overall customer acquisition costs. Ultimately, there’s a CVR threshold you’ve got to get to in order to be profitable. Part of the challenge is honing in on what exactly that is. 

website conversion rate from google analytics

But let’s start with the basics. Here’s how to measure the impact of increasing your CVR:

  • If a website has a conversion rate of 5% and receives 5000 visitors a month, then the website will generate 250 conversions per month. 
  • If you can improve the conversion rate to 7% by making regular improvements, you jump up to 350 conversions from the exact same amount of traffic. 

It can be hard to know what a “good” conversion rate is and honestly it depends on your stage, service, and revenue but to help, we put together a spreadsheet with the conversion rate for some of the businesses we work with to give you a starting point. 

Once you get familiar with this kind of data, it will help you interpret your own.

2. Identify areas to optimize

The next step is to get your team together and build your user acquisition channels list – write it down, type it out, drop it into Google Sheets, whatever you want to do. Don’t worry if it’s unorganized or sporadic, you can swing back in and restructure it later.

We generate ideas by going to a handful of different places for inspiration: 

  1. Revisit our competitors and value props 
  2. Use conversations with our audience to get better 
  3. Study Google Analytics — common paths and top pages 
    • Entrances!  

Revisit our competitors and value props

We start by pulling up our competitor websites and studying how they articulate their services with copy and design. These findings help us inform/bring detail to:

  • How we position our offering (copy) 
  • How we weave in our value props visually (design) 

Then, we revisit our value props (here’s our value proposition spreadsheet if you want to use it as an example). While our value props don’t change on a monthly basis (we update yearly), we do this because it reminds us of the unique ways we solve a partner’s “problem” and how to stay true to that. 

Use conversations with our audience to get better

This comes pretty easy to us because I manage our website and run our sales team. We get between 50-60 leads per month and have conversations with anywhere from 8-10 of those leads. During these calls, we ask a ton of questions and get asked a ton of questions. 

After each sales call, I write down the major questions and look for patterns. If the same group of questions continues to surface, we start to think about why and then look for ways to incorporate those learnings into the site so that our language reflects what our target audience is actually saying (vs what we think they are saying). 

If the team or person managing your website isn’t close to your sales team or in a position to talk regularly to your target audience, change that! 

Study Google Analytics — common paths and top pages

As a growth marketer, I’m in Google Analytics at least 10 times a day. Every time we get a notification that someone has submitted a form on our website, I jump into GA and take a look at two things: 

  • Where they came from (source) 
  • What they did

This helps me understand how traffic from different sources behaves as well as the most common paths to conversion. We have over 300 pages on our website and we can’t afford to optimize all of them so I use this information to decide what the priority pages should be. 

website entrances from google analytics

We also always look at the entrances (vs pages with the most sessions). This is really important for us because it helps us understand what pages people see for the first time. Is it a blog post? Is it a landing page? Is it our homepage? Again, with this information we can prioritize what people see first and how to guide them through different funnels and paths on the website.  

Using the above information—competitor research, value props, conversations with prospects and existing clients, and Google Analytics—we build a big list of optimization ideas and put those down on paper each month.  

3. Make a list of monthly priorities

So you have a big list, now what?

Even lean testing means an entirely new suite of copy, design, dev resources, and outputs, so it’s important to be intentional about how you and your team spend your time on your website.  

One way to manage your monthly optimization tests and increase the chances of success is to spend time upfront evaluating each proposed update—the idea is to test and get early access to good opportunities, but you can’t do everything.

So we take our list of ideas and ask: 

  • How likely is it to increase our conversion rate?
  • How easy is it to implement the test?
  • Will it have an impact on our site traffic? 

Once we’ve prioritized the 6-7 tasks (one big one and a handful of smaller optimizations) for the month, we add the tasks to our Website Trello Board. 

website optimization trello board

Then, we divide and conquer the work. Right now, we have someone responsible for each of the below roles: 

  • Strategy & Project Management: Responsible for identifying the areas to optimize, prioritizing to-dos, and keeping us on schedule 
  • Copy: Responsible for helping us write copy for the site that captures our value props and tone 
  • Design: Responsible for taking the copy and visualizing it (we use InVision to build wireframes and mocks) 
  • Development: Responsible for building out the mocks in staging and then pushing live

4. Execute

When it comes to website CRO, or any growth marketing tactic for that matter, even the best strategies can fall flat if you don’t see it through with solid execution. We take a very disciplined approach to website CRO and keep our entire team accountable to a schedule that helps us produce higher quality optimizations on a monthly basis. 

Here’s an example of a typical timeline looked like for last month’s website optimization: 

  • Identified June priorities by May 21 
  • Met with web team to review on May 24
  • Finalized copy by June 1 and added to Trello
  • Built wireframes for each optimization 
  • Held first staging period from June 7 – 11 
  • Mid-month check in
  • Held second staging period from June 21 – 25 
  • Identified July priorities by June 22 
  • Final review of June edits 

5. Rinse and repeat

We follow this process every month because we believe action produces momentum and you can speed things up by actively making updates (small and large) each month. It’s a lot of work (it’s more of a time commitment than a financial one) but right now, for us, it’s worth it. 

website wireframes

I also feel like we’re only really scratching the surface and as we grow we will look to iterate and expand on our website CRO process. Here are some of the new things I’m excited about implementing this year that we aren’t currently doing: 

  • Talking to people who came to the site but didn’t fill out a form 
  • Asking people (not people that work at Tuff) to review our competitor sites and give us feedback 
  • Building out wireframes and getting feedback from existing clients before pushing live 

I’d also love to hear what website CRO process your team has been using. What has worked well for you? 

Thanks for reading! I hope you picked up one or two new tips and tricks for your website CRO process. If you want to bounce some ideas or learn more about the process outlined above, let’s talk. 

women working on a computer

You’re a Startup. Should You Hire a Growth Marketing Agency?

women working on a computer

Hello, founder! If you identify as such, you’re already among our favorite types of people (along with the UPS guy and the barista with the good latte art). 

Being a founder is a challenging, exhilarating, scrappy, rewarding, and sometimes painful endeavor. And one of the greatest strategic decisions you’re confronted with is which people are the most critical for you to have in your corner to help you navigate murky waters. Decision fatigue is a real, real thing and surrounding yourself with the right brains that have the insight, experience, compass, and know-how to help you steer your ship in the right direction can oftentimes mark the difference between success and failure. 

So, it’s with this understanding that many fresh founders jump into our Let’s Talk form absolutely and irrevocably convinced that they need a growth marketing agency to help them level up. Sometimes, we’ll hop on a Discovery Call, have a 30-minute conversation, and get incredibly fired up to send over a Growth Marketing Proposal with ideas for strategies and tactics that can put the wheels on your growth goals. 

But truth be told, oftentimes we’ll talk to founders, hear their growth goals, and respond with a simple and unflinching “we’re not right for you.”

The more we have these conversations, the more the internal team at Tuff comes back together to really try to get to the root of the question: “if you’re an early-stage startup, should you hire a growth marketing agency?”

Three Reasons You Should Hire an Agency

We’ve tirelessly and ceaselessly worked to build a website that is one major—and continually optimized—pitch for hiring us. Just check out the headline on our homepage: “Quick wins and long-term growth. No mysterious secret sauce.”

A Full, Diverse Team Has a Big-Picture Perspective

When you hire a growth marketing agency, whether it’s Tuff or another like-minded growth marketing agency, the major, overarching benefit is that it (generally speaking) comes stacked with a full team that can get a holistic view of your business, collaborate to identify the best course of action, and delegate execution tasks to true channel experts. 

We’ve structured the Tuff team around the most efficient way to identify strategic initiatives, outline tactics, execute them to a T, constantly monitor and optimize, deliver clear reports, and help you understand our (and your) actionable next steps while gleaning insights that can fuel your business growth in other ways. 

So, again, “Quick wins and long-term growth. No mysterious secret sauce.”

Allocate and Reallocate Resources As You Learn

While there are some agencies out there that charge a percentage of ad spend on a particular channel—known as performance marketing agencies—an agency that charges a retainer fee is built with the freedom to be adept. And as a founder, you know “adept” is the name of the game. 

An agency team is stacked with both big-picture strategists and deeply experienced channel experts. So, here’s a scenario: you collaborate with your growth team and create your original growth marketing strategy around testing Google Ads, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You soon discover after a few weeks of testing and optimizing that LinkedIn is yielding a CAC that simply isn’t sustainable. A performance marketing agency might shrug and recommend reallocating the LinkedIn spend to Facebook. But a growth marketing agency like Tuff can sub in another channel expert (like on-site CRO, email, YouTube, etc.) and test a new channel without skipping a beat. 

Team That’s “Been Around the Block” is Quick at Problem Solving

With a diverse and deep agency team comes a wealth of resources, a large network, and a long history of experience. 

Any growth marketer will tell you: growth isn’t linear. Nor is there any blueprint to follow. So when Facebook seems like a sure thing, then an unpredictable wrench like iOS 14 is thrown, a stacked team of social ads experts can beeline to their go-to resources, talk to other experts in their network, dig into their bag of “tricks,” and problem solve quicker and more efficiently than a generalist. 

Additionally, especially for startups, the peaks and valleys—when it comes to revenue, leads, funding, and even general morale—can be very high and very low. A full agency team has the know-how and the insight to be able to say, “take a deep breath, we’ve seen this before, here are our actionable next steps.”

Three Reasons You Should Definitely Not Hire a Growth Marketing Agency

For some founders, hiring an agency feels like a life raft: they come with the allure of having someone else, or a whole team of someone elses, to be beholden to investor pressure and growth goals. But, when your startup is moving a million miles an hour and any small decision can set off powerful reverberations across your company, stretching a thin budget to hire a full team simply doesn’t add up. The good news: there are lots of other awesome options.

A Scrappy Generalist Can Make a Bigger Mark

Pulling a full-time smart marketing hustler that can squeeze the most out of a small budget and stay in lock step with everything else you have going on can be a huge asset. Plus, when you have someone in the trenches with you day in and day out, they’ll simply understand your business better than any agency could. 

The caveat: it’s much, much easier to hire and subsequently part ways with an agency team. It happens more often than you think. (Side note, pro tip: look for agencies that don’t lock you into contracts). So when you hire someone to become part of your team, doing your due diligence and making sure they come with enough varied experience to make an impact over time is truly critical.

Most Agencies Aren’t Designed To Go From 0-60 (or 6,000)

Simply, founders and startups who are in pre-launch stages have a LOT to learn. No matter how many user surveys you do, beta testers you work with, incubators you participate in, or mentors you have, growth isn’t linear. Nor is there any blueprint to follow. (Yes, I’m repeating myself). 

Before you consider growth marketing, consider your stage. Are you still searching for traction? Paid acquisition channels might not be the right move. Instead, getting scrappier with influencers, networking, PR, and organic marketing can help you learn a lot (and quickly) without dropping bigger budgets on ad spend.

Plus, once you’re on the other side of your launch or you’ve found some sustainable traction, you’ll be able to get much more efficient with spend and make a much more significant impact. 

There are Options Like Growth Guide

When it all comes down to it, you’re in charge of your own destiny. That’s why we created Growth Guide. Instead of clicking into your business as a full growth marketing team (like we typically do), we designed a two-month training program that provides founders with structured, in-depth courses on topics ranging from strategically choosing acquisition channels, to setting smart growth goals, to getting deep in the weeds with channel optimizations, and more. Each are taught by a seasoned Tuff expert. We also include weekly workshops on a variety of growth topics and tactical hours to give you hands-on help. 

While Growth Guide certainly isn’t the only way to learn how to take growth marketing into your own hands as a founder, it is the only one (we’ve found!) that includes real hands-on help and heavy oversight to make sure you’re set off on the right path to traction, scalability, and beyond. 

So, What’s The Verdict?

The ultimately frustrating (but only true) response: it depends. But, we’ve worked hard to help fledgling founders, startups, and scale ups, find pathways to real, sustainable growth.

Think you’re ready to enlist Tuff’s help? Let’s talk

A dashboard of important growth marketing metrics.

Performance Marketing vs. Growth Marketing: What’s the Difference?

A dashboard of important growth marketing metrics.

Marketing is marketing. Well, not actually. There is traditional marketing, brand marketing, digital marketing, performance marketing, growth marketing, and probably a dozen other terms that we aren’t aware of. And while growth marketing and brand marketing differ greatly, you may see performance marketing and growth marketing used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

Tuff is a growth marketing agency. That much is obvious—you can see it all over our site! But what is a performance marketing agency? And how do what they do differ from what we do? Let’s dig in. 

The TL;DR: 

Performance marketing agencies—marketers that focus on paid channels and typically take a cut of the profit or ad spend. 

Growth marketing agencies—marketers who create holistic marketing strategies centered on sustainable business growth.

What is a performance marketing agency?

A performance marketing agency typically gets paid when certain results occur. This could be a new lead, sale, enrollment, or whatever KPIs  you and your agency agree to. Performance marketing is usually driven by return on ad spend and ROI. If you put $500 into a campaign, then you want to get $1000 back or more. This type of marketing requires consistent tweaking and refining pay per click (PPC) campaigns so that your client gets the largest return on their investment. Growth  marketers are looking at organic and paid channels and conversion rate optimizations (CRO) to find the perfect combination. Performance marketing really focuses on paid channels to achieve their clients’ marketing goals.

What is a growth marketing agency?

At Tuff, we certainly leverage typical performance marketing channels like paid, but we also layer on a lot more to achieve a holistic growth strategy. Growth marketing focuses more on long-term growth for your business. A growth marketer is sharply focused on new customer or client acquisition (how to introduce more people to your business) and conversion.

We do this by deciding what areas are ripe for growth and which ones your business uses but could be using more effectively. A growth marketing team will dive headfirst into the data and analyze it for the best growth opportunities. The growth team may start with the lowest hanging fruit and target people already looking in your market. They also look for ways to expand your business higher up the funnel by engaging new audiences, educating, informing, and encouraging them throughout the customer journey. A growth marketing agency will make sure that you have a solid foundation to build upon. Growth marketing at Tuff  typically doesn’t include managing a sales team, community management, retention specialist, or public relations. While those can be an integral part of a company’s larger growth strategy, at Tuff we focus on getting the right people to your site and having them convert. In short, we keep you from throwing money at solutions that won’t grow your business.

How does growth marketing work?

A growth marketing plan could start with a technical SEO audit that ensures your site’s health is up to par. This could be page speed, URL structures, low-text-to-HTML issues, broken links, duplicate content, and a host of other problems keeping you way down in the SERPs. There is also a content strategy component that helps build upon your technical SEO foundation. This includes optimizing your existing landing pages and finding areas where you need new pages to drive traffic. A growth marketer may determine that creating a blog on your site will help drive top-funnel searches. A blog will lead to more traffic and help drive customers to more areas of your site until they convert. Plus, a growth marketing agency will also ensure that those performance marketing channels we mentioned earlier are active and optimized, so you have a steady flow of leads. At the same time, your business continues to grow from the bottom up. 

At Tuff, we work on retainers because it’s better for your resources. With a retainer we have the freedom to allocate resources to where they are most effective. We continually come up with new ideas and activate new tactics while working to refine and optimize your existing channels. We like to think about it like growing a tomato plant versus growing an oak. A tomato plant needs constant attention to keep producing fruit. The more you feed it and water it, the more fruit you will reap. As soon as you stop, so does your tomato production. Growing an oak tree takes a lot of time but make sure it’s watered enough and pruned; it can survive the lack of sunlight and periods of drought because you have a strong root structure.

The end goal is to make sure your business has a sustained growth plan. A growth marketing agency will balance long-term growth opportunities like organic with paid and tailor your growth plan to match and exceed your business goals.

That seems like a lot, but it’s just a small piece of what a Tuff growth marketer does. 

Performance vs. growth—which one is best for your business?

A performance marketing agency is great if you have a well-established business model and attract new customers. Your business has a healthy website, a high DA, and your organic is thriving. This is where a performance marketing agency can help you jump over some of those low hurdles.

But if you’re a start-up or an established growing business that needs more than just lead generation, that’s where a growth agency like Tuff comes in. A growth marketing agency acts as an extension of your business. It focuses on where your business needs to be in three months, not three days—a growth marketing agency focuses on all areas of the sales funnel, not just the bottom. Going back to that oak metaphor, you’ll never see a 200-foot tomato plant, but with enough attention, you can see a 200-foot oak.

Think a growth marketing agency is right for you? Give us a call.

 

We’d love to work with you.

Schedule a call with our team, and we’ll analyze your marketing, product, metrics, and business. Then, present a Growth Plan with actionable strategies to find and keep more engaged customers.

Elle Ossello

Tuff Growth Marketer, Elle, on Finding a Balance of Creative and Analytical

Elle Ossello

 

Meet Elle, a Growth Marketer at Tuff. Elle partners with Tuff clients to build measurable, data-driven, bottomline growth. She is also an incredibly talented wordsmith, teaching us new words on the reg.

Below she shares about her journey to growth marketing rooted in creative, her connection to bikes, and the cookbook she’s currently dreaming about writing.

Can you tell me a bit about your 3-5 years before Tuff? What were you working on? 

All of the five preceding years before Tuff, I was working as a Copywriter and then Creative Director at a creative-first advertising agency. So, with all the projects that came in the door, we applied our creative lens first and then we were thinking about how to activate that creative. 

All of my coworkers were really great creatives and really big thinkers. And, we would often defer to outside experts to bring our strategies down to earth. So, with Tuff, that was a muscle that I was looking to flex more.

Why did you decide to join Tuff? What was it that made you say ‘yes’?

I was fortunate to have a peek behind the curtain. When I was working at my old agency we had the opportunity to freelance, which is something that is needed in the creative world. I was able to take on clients and run my own small business after hours. And, I was approached by Tuff to help out with paid ad copy. 

I was really impressed by how Tuff is organized, efficient, and has a very clear vision for what creative is going to do. When I saw that there was a job opening for Growth Marketer at Tuff, I knew there were some skills that would need tuning in my toolkit. But Ellen was very encouraging and helped me understand that the creative foundation that I would bring was something that Tuff could use. 

So, the main reason I came on to Tuff was Ellen’s support helping me visualize a path towards being successful in this role. And then the resources that I was granted to kick this skill building off at lightspeed. I clearly saw this path to building a skill set that is valuable in the market and can really help small businesses.

What have you been working on since you joined Tuff? 

Right now I am working with two clients; kind of two and a half as I co-pilot a client with Ellen that will eventually transition into a full-time client of mine. 

One of the clients I’m working with is Joyn. They’re an amazing company with a great vision that’s providing a subscription for a more inclusive way to get a workout in. We’re seeing some neat growth for them which is cool because they’re doing a lot internally to grow as well. 

I’m also working with Offline. They’re also a subscription-based service in Raleigh. On the 1st of every month, Offline sends an email to their subscribers to introduce them to 1-2 local restaurants along with a discount to go check them out. It’s been great helping them to better understand the user journey on their website.

What are you fired up about at work right now? 

Content Marketing and Organic Growth is where a lot of my eagerness to dive deeper is stemming from right now. We’re having this conversation the day after our new Content Marketing Manager has signed his offer letter so I’m really looking forward to working with him on these areas. And, helping our clients understand how their audience finds their websites and how to provide a smart answer at the right time, in the right place. 

Elle Ossello

What advice would you give to a founder who is also diving into learning more about growth marketing?

Often when somebody is first starting their business they obsess about logo and visual branding because they are so tangible. It is a concrete way to show up in the world. But, I’m putting together a presentation right now for a client to first answer the questions: what are you creating and who wants it? How can you bring those people to your business? 

Brand and creative only goes so far because you’re kind of throwing it into the world and hoping people are going to find it and connect. Growth marketing is a different exercise in showing up where people already exist. You’re not asking them to move towards your brand but giving them something while they’re in a space to receive it. 

In general, for founders, I think growth marketing can feel like something that just comes later when there is a budget for it. But it can teach you so much about where people are in the world right now and when they’re in need of what you have to offer. 

What do you like doing outside of work? 

I love bikes. Bikes are a vehicle for not only being out in the world and moving through it in a way that’s just so gratifying but there’s a connection component. I love pedaling with friends and letting the topics flow. I use bikes as a way to connect to myself in the world and my people. I’m lucky to live in a town that has back trails snaking through it. 

I also love gardening and home projects, you know, essential 30-year old things. I like learning how to use new tools and how to have a vision for a space and bring it to life. Stretching my brain in ways that are really tactile is gratifying as a person who sits in front of a computer. Cooking also scratches that itch for me. I love experimenting with recipes and have been compiling the beginnings of a cookbook aimed at helping people create beautiful dishes using what they grow themselves – that’s a bucket list item for me. 

And, of course, my dogs and husband are my favorite parts of life outside of work!

What is something about you that typically surprises people? 

My impression of myself is that I’m a super open book. I love to walk through my thinking so there is rarely a scenario where somebody asks me ‘well, how did you come to that conclusion?’ and I would be protective of that answer. I am always eagerly willing to share it.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to make that transition from a more creative marketing to a more analytical role?

Something I could have done better in my time spent working in the creative world is really thinking about and empathizing with the immediate problems and motivations of a founder. A brand voice is a really nice thing to have and I’ve seen clients glow and get goosebumps when you get it right. It’s amazing. 

However, I think there’s a wrinkle between giving people great creative, and then understanding how to use it to grow their business. Turning that brand voice into value propositions, which can be picked off the paper and put onto a landing page, is something that’s really helpful. So, practice thinking about the immediate problems that founders are trying to solve and deliver creative in a way that can be put to work with minimal legwork.

What is a Growth Marketing Agency?

Tuff growth marketing agency.

Picture this: you’re a founder or startup. You have product-market fit, your revenue has been steadily climbing as referrals from happy customers or clients do their thing. But you have aggressive growth plans and just aren’t quite sure if you should start with Facebook ads, a strong blog game, or affiliate marketing. You’ve also seen those amazing success stories about TikTok and YouTube ads…but how do you know if it’s a safe bet for you?

Enter: a growth marketing agency.

What is a growth marketing agency?

A growth marketing agency helps organizations of all sizes create a marketing foundation with a strategic vision, a clear roadmap, and the ability to execute. Testing, optimizing, and testing again, we incrementally set and achieve tangible company growth goals, learning about what works and what we should ditch. And we do it all until you’re ready to hire in-house.

Simple. Sort of. The catch is that while most growth marketing agencies have partnered with dozens of companies and have experience in a wide variety of channels, there’s no such thing as a growth marketing blueprint. Meaning, even if LinkedIn has driven strong results for every B2B business we’ve ever partnered with, there’s absolutely no guarantee it’s going to work with the next one that walks through our proverbial doors.

At its core, a growth marketing agency comes with deep experience, hustle, and a scientific approach, but a healthy dose of “humble,” or a strong understanding that the first gut instinct might not work. What separates the great growth marketing agencies from the rest is the ego-less quick pivot and boundless energy and curiosity to find what works.

What is a growth marketing channel?

A growth marketing channel is essentially the way people hear about you for the first time. 

Zoom out far enough and it seems as though there’s a nearly infinite number of growth marketing channels. The quick-hitter core list: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Bing, and TikTok. By no means is this list exhaustive, or even close to it, but it comprises the go-to channels that most growth marketers will put at the center of their strategies (at least until testing proves otherwise). The most important and fundamental thing to understand about growth marketing channels: not all channels are created equal. 

What is growth marketing strategy?

A growth strategy is rigorous prioritization. It’s a high-level roadmap of all the channels and corresponding tactics you plan to execute to find the fastest, most efficient path to growth. 

It’s extremely important to note that a growth marketing strategy is by no means set in stone. Even if we know that TikTok has generated a low customer acquisition cost for many health and beauty industry clients we’ve worked with and read case studies about—so much so it’s at the top of our list—it’s never untouchable. A good growth strategy allows for evolution and changes over time. For example, if we were to begin to collect data, test a number of different audiences and tactics, and in the end, discover that our own TikTok campaigns are underperforming compared to the other two or three channels and tactics we’re trying, it’s axed. 

A growth strategy is critical for companies looking to grow quickly and efficiently. With a growth strategy, we have a plan in place for systematically getting to work every day on the things that have the highest impact on your revenue. 

Far too often founders or startups come to us already attempting to do too many things at once without truly attempting to understand their impact.

Building a growth strategy helps us be extremely intentional about how to invest limited time and resources. It ensures we stay laser-focused on only the opportunities with the highest likelihood of producing meaningful results.

What does a growth marketer do?

A growth marketer is at the helm of this ship. With guidance from the leadership team—often the founder themselves—the growth marketer creates a growth strategy that is actionable, goal-oriented, and laser focused on revenue.

Then, executing themselves, or rallying a team of experts, a growth marketer is responsible for ensuring that everyone is on the same page, moving in the same direction, and that channels or tactics that are underperforming get optimized, restructured, or tossed out. 

What does growth marketing mean to Tuff? 

Here at Tuff we’d never claim to have some mysterious or special back-pocket tricks or secret sauce. Our formula is simple: finding the right balance of quick wins and long-term growth. And we never take our eyes off revenue: that’s our guiding light. Even if a channel is driving colossal amounts of traffic, if it isn’t converting, it’s on the chopping block 

Arguably most importantly of all, we show our work. We walk our clients through every tactic we try and help them understand why we choose each channel. 

Every time we fire up a partnership with a new client, it’s always defined by:

  • Meeting consistently in small teams of two to four (always with a Growth Marketer in addition to one or more channel experts)
  • With weekly or bi-weekly team meetings
  • Following our growth framework
  • With consistent communication
  • Focused on shared goals
  • With rock solid execution

Think you might be in need of a growth marketing agency to level up your business and start showing the revenue you know you’re capable of? Let’s talk.

DSW banner

DSW: How to Run Marketing Experiments Quickly and Find Big Wins

Presentation at Denver Startup week.

With Tuff, I’ve been fortunate to work with a range of companies in completely different stages of their marketing maturity. 

Even with the diversity in stage and industry, one step is always the same: creating a clear growth marketing strategy.

A growth marketing strategy is a high-level list of what tactics we’re going to test first, based on what is most likely to succeed. It’s a document that keeps you focused and working day-to-day on the things that have the highest impact on your business. 

For Denver Startup Week, I shared the process we’ve shaped, iterated, and battle-tested over the last few years with 50 different companies. This process helps small businesses and startups prioritize high-impact growth campaigns to quickly drive R.O.I. and key learnings, then invest in additional campaigns to scale up what works. 

Whether you tuned in for the live session, watched the recording, or stumbled across this blog post, here are all the documents I discussed in the presentation: 

DSW Slides & Presentation Deck 

tuff growth marketing presentation

 

Tuff’s Growth Marketing Process Spreadsheet 

tuff growth marketing spreadsheet

 

Acquisition Channel Cheat Sheet 

channel acquisition spreadsheet

 

While you’re here, I’d also recommend checking out the rest of the Tuff blog, giving us a shout on Twitter, or subscribing to our Tuff YouTube channel

We’re also actively hiring at Tuff. Check out our open positions here – if you or anyone you know would be a good fit, let us know!

Have questions from the presentation? Shoot me a note on LinkedIn or drop an email to ellen@tuffgrowth.com.