Sticky notes on the wall.

How We Build Growth Marketing Strategies at Tuff (with examples from past clients)

Sticky notes on the wall.

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. 

To see what that looks like in action, let’s review some examples of successful growth marketing strategies from past clients:

Company: Mobile app for sending handwritten cards 

  1. Edited the onboarding flow to focus people on our main CTA: send their first card sooner 
  2. Fixed App Store copy to convert better (images and text) 
  3. Setup Branch.io to track every campaign 
  4. Set up Apple Search ads
  5. Set up Facebook/Instagram ads
  6. Set up Google Ads 
  7. Set up YouTube Ads 
  8. Developed USG videos ($0 – did these at home)
  9. Create push notifications to remind people to send cards (gratitude list) 
  10. Set up Influencer Program 
  11. Set Pinterest ads

Company: B2B SaaS product for small business owners 

  1. Rewrote, redesigned and rebuilt homepage and pricing page to distinguish from competitors + A/B test
  2. Fixed the onboarding flow to increase conversion rate
  3. Set up Google Ads 
  4. Tested offer and lead gen ads for a free accounting consultation 
  5. Set up Facebook ads pointing at free demo page
  6. Wrote drip emails to re-engage people who create an account but don’t finish registration
  7. Set up Google Ads
  8. Secured specific partnership, focusing on professional b2b business 

These look nice and tidy, not too intimidating when we’re able to list these out. And yet, to be effective, there’s hours or work involved at each step of the strategy. These strategies also rely on multiple team members at Tuff to execute on these. 

We often hear from founders that they’ve tried everything and nothing is sticking. Or, they’ve tried a bit of a BB gun approach shooting out all of the bullets to see if anything works. Effective growth marketing understands where you’re trying to go, where your audience spends time, and uses data to validate (or invalidate) how you will grow. 

These conversations we have over and over again is why I wanted to write this article; to share my experiences and learnings from creating successful growth marketing strategies at several companies over the years. 

In this post, we’ll go through 8 steps: 

  1. Start with your own audience 
  2. Outline your USP 
  3. Go through your competitors
  4. Look at the customer journey 
  5. Select the channels most likely to succeed
  6. Outline tactics to test 
  7. Try your idea on a small scale.
  8. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, go back to Step 1.

Step 1: Start with your own audience 

We talk about this a lot at Tuff but you can’t really do anything without knowing who you are selling to. Without a clearly defined target audience, you’re going to seriously struggle with finding the right acquisition channels or identifying tactics to help grow your business. 

Without personas, how do you know what your offer should be?

Or, what channels will help you find traction and scale? Or, how to write ad copy to drive quality traffic? Or,how to build an organic keyword strategy?

Here’s an example of good target personas from a past client: 

AriaMelissaJohn
Customer 1Customer 2Customer 3
Demographics
LocationDenverArvadaFrisco
Household Income$150,000$63,000$130,000
ResponsibilitiesThey typically work 9-5, but often find themselves bringing work home. They have a dog, and are beginning to think about kids, but have some exploring of the world around them they want to do before taking that next step.She lives with three other women in Denver and they’ve become her family of sorts. She doesn’t have any pets or major responsibilities but is still trying to figure out what she wants from her career. She gets limited days off trying to make time on the weekends to go to Redrocks, hang out in Rino, and hike in Boulder.John’s an avid rock climber that is obsessed with outdoor and endurance sports in Colorado. He’s a project manager for Ascension and spends his weekdays at Movement. On the weekend he’s skiing in Vail or headed on a hut trip. He has a girlfriend, Jess, who loves the outdoors just as much. John lives in a two-bedroom condo.
Age292536
Situation
#1 PriorityA vacation that feels adventurous, without pushing too far beyond their comfort zone. While they thrive on the excitement of finding a secret gem (whether that be a hike or the best breakfast burrito in town), they often look to ‘experts’ to help navigate and curate their ideal adventure weekend experience.A weekend away with her girlfriends. They want to head down to Santa Fe, hitting hot springs and small towns before they land in Dulce. While they are after local experiences, they want to use the time to relax and rejuvenate.Ready to explore – not a vacation or a weekend away – an all-out adventure trip with pals to Moab for a week long bike extravaganza. He wants to get away from his computer and phone and spend as many hours on the bike before cooking a camp meal and having beers around the fire.
ChallengesIt’s hard to balance their weekend adventures with family and friend obligations. It feels like they are booked up for months.She’s not the most organized planner in the world so finding time with her other friends is hard. They typically do spur of the moment trips as a result.He is a super planner so the van or accommodations have to be available the exact time he needs it.
Pain PointsWhile they are happy with their disposable income, they don’t want to go crazy with spending because they are starting to think about kids and just bought their first starter home.Money is tight and she wants to make sure she has enough extra cash to eat out, go to hot springs, and other activities while on vacation.There are so many epic adventures on the list, how do you prioritize and get everyone organized to go?
ObjectionsWould it be cheaper and more relaxing if we just drove our car and did cute Airbnbs?Will we be able to handle a van? It looks amazing in pictures but driving it feels like a challenge.Is it rugged enough to handle on my adventures? I’m going to be spending all my time outside, do I really need an expensive van?
Sources
Books/PodcastsTalking With Strangers, ArmChair Expert, and VerityDoesn’t read but is an avid Spotify user.Shoe Dog, GaryVee Audio Experience, and Alone On The Wall
Magazines/MediaNYMag, YouTube, and Two Parts DenverHoroscopes, Fox Theater, and Bitch MediaPinkBike, GearTrade, and OpenSnow
Social MediaFacebook, Instagram, LinkedInInstagramNone
CommunitiesRec league soccer and trivia night on Tuesday at Platt Park Brewing Co. They are both in a fantasy football league. One of their favorite things of the year is the annual chili cookoff they do at their house with 20+ friends.Every once in a while will go to Trivia night at Spangalang but mostly stays at home. She’ll head to a concert at the BlueBird or Ogden a couple times a month.Spends most weeknights at Movement climbing in the winter. In the summer, he’s a big cycler with a committed training plan.
Quotes
“For me, being outside is what it’s all about. I just want to continue to adventure and be inspired to play more in Colorado.”⁣“These amazing women are my partners in crime, my rocks, my husks, and I have no idea what I’d do without them! Truly grateful for this trip and friends like these!”“It didn’t really matter in the end. I got my head on straight, enjoyed the company of a lot of passionate and friendly people, and got to see a side of Arizona mountain biking I didn’t know existed. Between the alpine adventures along Wolverton Mountain, or the beautiful and challenging landscape throughout the Granite Dells, or bombing down dusty and loose singletrack in the shadow of Thumb Butte, Prescott opened my eyes a bit.”

 

For more details on building out personas, check out this guide from Buffer. 

Step 2: Outline your USP 

What makes your offering unique? Why would someone buy your product, subscribe to your offering, or say yes to your service? 

How do you earn the right to attention? 

To find your unique selling proposition (USP), you can do a few things: 

  • Study your personas (that’s why we start with defining your own audience!). It sounds obvious, but put yourself in your customer’s shoes. You can’t design your growth marketing strategy for yourself and your subjective preferences. You want to understand your user’s world, learn more about their challenges, and generate ideas to communicate and give value to these poeple. 
  • Check out your competitors. If you’re in the early stages, you won’t have a lot of customers to ask yet, so you can learn from your competitors (see next section). 

Here are some of my favorite USP examples with steps on how to write or polish your own. 

Step 3: Go through your competitors (or similar companies) and fill out this template 

Checking out your competitors is a great way to learn about your users and identify tactics for your growth marketing strategy. You can also check out brands who might not be direct competitors but who sell to a similar audience.  

It’s important to know what your competitors are doing but you don’t want it to consume your strategy. Digest the info and then let it go.

Start by going to their website to read (really, read!) what they are saying and how they are saying it. How are they talking about their product and customers? What’s their primary CTA? What’s above the fold and why? What are the major themes? 

You may not have access to all the information, but you want to learn from them – and, in most cases, position yourself differently. Rember: Unique Selling Proposition.

Below is the template we use at Tuff to conduct a competitor analysis. We don’t do this on an ongoing basis, just while doing foundational research on a company to help shape our strategy. 

Competitor audit template.

There are a ton of free templates out there to help you do this but here’s one from Demand Curve that we like the best at Tuff. 

Step 4: Look at the customer journey 

So at this point, you’ve: 

  • Outlined your personas
  • Tightened up your USP
  • Reviewed your competitors 

Now you’re going to think about your customer journey. The customer journey is an outline of touchpoints you have with your customers – from initial contact, through the process of engagement, and into a long-term relationship.

You can think about it like this: 

  • Do they know you? (awareness) 
  • Do they like you? (consideration) 
  • Do they trust you? (decision) 

You want to think about your customers and understand them at each stage of the funnel. How would someone find out about you? Then, once they know about you, what’s going to make them buy something from you? And then, refer you or keep coming back to engage with you? 

At Tuff, we try to keep this simple. In a spreadsheet, we outline the three major stages in the funnel – awareness, consideration, and decision. 

Here’s what this looks like: 

Screenshot of growth marketing framework.

When you think about marketing channels through the lens of your user and then layer on each stage of the customer journey, you can align your marketing tactics with your current needs. 

For example, for most early stage companies you’ll want to bulk up the tactics you have in the awareness stage. 

Step 5: Select the channels most likely to succeed 

Let’s start by defining an acquisition channel. “Acquisition channel” is a way of saying “how do people find out about you?”.

Spending time on the right channel is one of the most important things you can do to grow. But at the same time, acquisition channels are diverse and plenty so how do you pick the right ones?

First, get familiar with all the channels that are out there. Here’s a cheat sheet for the most common acquisition channels

As you go through the above list, consider the following questions to help you prioritize channels with a “high propensity” to work for your business:

  • Does the channel have an audience that roughly matches your customer personas?
  • Is this channel crowded or emerging? Are your competitors there and will you have to shell out buckets of cash?
  • What part of the buyer’s journey do you believe the customer is in when they’re spending time on this platform? How does that align with your business goals?
  • Can you effectively filter your ads to reach only your target audience to better manage your costs and get the best bang for your buck?
  • Is this a compounding loop? Will this channel enable our users to grow the product for us?

Step 6: Outline tactics to test 

This step is one of my favorites. This is the first time, after a bunch of foundational research, you start to see an outline of what will turn into your final growth marketing strategy. 

A tactic is a test you run on a channel. It’s something specific, and measurable, that you can test and understand the impact on your business growth. 

Here are a few examples of specific tactics using a rental camper van company as the business. These won’t be relevant to your business (because your audience is different!) but it will illustrate how to think and define any test you run on a channel: 

Example of growth marketing tactic.

Example of growth marketing tactic.

Matthew Barby wrote an article “21 Customer Acquisition Strategies” that I return to a couple times a month. If you’re ready to brainstorm tactic ideas, start with that article and brainstorm from there. 

At this step, we try to generate 15-20 tactics that feel relevant for our target audience and goals. For each tactic, we rank them with the below details: 

  • Stage
  • Channel 
  • Impact 
  • Ease 

This rating system is important because you can’t do all your tactics at once. With limited resources and time, you have to be intentional about what tactics you actually implement. 

Again, a growth marketing strategy is a to-do list of what tactics we’re going to test first based on what is most likely to succeed. In order to select the tactics you’re going to test first, you need an evaluation process – which is where the ranking system comes into play. 

Step 7: Try your idea on a small scale

Now that you have a giant list of potential tactics (we organize ours in a spreadsheet like this – see tab “ideas backlog”), you need to prioritize. 

Unlike step 6, this is where it gets tough. As a founder with ambitious growth goals, it’s easy to want to try everything at once. Especially if you’re under pressure from a team or investor to deliver results on a specific timeline. 

You have to fight the urge to try all your ideas at the same time. When you do this, the execution will be crap and you won’t know what is actually having an impact on your business. 

Instead, pick 3-4 based on impact and ease. Start lean, test out a tactic, measure the results, and then decide what to do next.

Step 8: If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, go back to Step 1.

This one is the most straightforward. 

If you find a win, keep going. If you strike out, learn from it and pick a new tactic to try. 

There are a ton of different frameworks that have been published that seek to help you identify the right channel or tactic to pursue, but ultimately this comes down to a fair amount of trial and error, especially if you have no historical data to work with. 

Once you have your growth marketing strategy down on paper (your list of tactics you’re going to test first based on the likelihood of success), before you run any campaigns, you need to be able to track and measure the results. 

You aren’t trying to find your golden ticket with the first tactic – all you are trying to do is stay committed to testing, learn from each experiment, and lean on the data to help you make the best decisions for your business. 

A paper with growth marketing strategy.

11 Best Growth Marketing Agencies in Denver in 2020

Sign in downtown Denver.

There are a ton of great growth marketing agencies in Denver … almost too many. Since we have team members throughout the US, I spend time researching agencies in the cities we operate in, including Denver. 

Having seen a ton of great growth marketing agencies in Denver, I’d love to share a short list of these teams –  many of which specialize in different aspects of performance marketing. 

Check out the list below. And hope you find some great new teams! 

1. Metric Theory 

Screenshot of Metric Theory website.

Metric Theory focuses on User Acquisition and works with clients in nearly every industry, including Retail, B2B, eCommerce, and B2B. They are one of the larger agencies in Denver with 150+ employees and over 500 clients. They have extensive international experience and manage over $200M in ad spend. 

Metric Theory was founded by Ken Baker and Jeff Buenrostro and in addition to Denver, has offices in San Francisco, NYC, Orange County, and Salt Lake City.  

Case Study: FabFitFun 

Sample of Clients: Lyft, Winc, and Optimezly 

2. Tuff Growth Marketing 

Screenshot of marketing website.

Tuff works with startups and scale ups by plugging in as their extended growth marketing team. They work with teams in nearly every industry, from solo-founders to larger enterprise brands. Tuff was founded in Denver, with team members in Portland, San Francisco, Boston, and Nashville. 

They are a small, fully remote team that specializes in tactics like: Conversion Rate Optimization, Technical SEO Implementation, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Google Shopping, Google Search, Display Ads, YouTube Ads, Retargeting, Content Strategy, Link Building, Influencer Marketing and Email

Case Study: Renogy 

Sample of Clients: WatchBox, QuietKat, Xendoo and EnVision 

3. Booyah Advertising

Screenshot of marketing website.

Booyah is an end-to-end advertising agency, helping clients with paid search, creative services, display media, SMS, social media + more. They are a go-to in Denver for paid ads. 

Booyah’s CEO is Troy Lerner and has over 15+ years of experience helping companies scale up with advertising. The team now has 60 full-time employees and manages digital ad spend for major brands like Unilever, Discover Card, and Backcountry.com.

Sample of Clients: Discover, Pearl Izumi, and Bobo’s 

4. Bounteous

Screenshot of marketing website.

Bounteous is a full-service digital marketing agency with expertise in design, as well as campaign management. The agency has been working together for the last 20 years alongside global brands and innovative startups. 

Everything we do is designed to optimize that flow so that we create big-picture digital solutions that drive growth for our clients and our business.” 

Bounteous was founded by Keith Schwartz and has over 500 employees, primarily located in Chicago. 

Case Study: Teach For America 

Sample of Clients: Dominos, Harvard, and Wilson 

5. Location3

Screenshot of marketing website.

Location3 is a growth marketing agency in Denver that helps global brands activate local markets. They specialize in high-level enterprise campaign strategy and execution. 

This agency was founded in 1999 with a portfolio of primarily franchise brands. The team has 75 employees and is led by Alex Porter. 

Their services include SEO, Paid Search, Content Development, Franchise Marketing, and Media Management. 

Sample of Clients: Honey Baked Ham and Mountain Mike’s Pizza 

6. Campfire Digital

Screenshot of marketing website.

Campfire Digital is a Denver digital agency specializing in inbound marketing, websites, SEO, and more.

The team is small (4-total) and was founded in 2012. Since then, they’ve grown an impressive client roster, focused almost exclusively on outdoor brands. 

In addition to social, email, PPC, SEO, and blog management, they also build, design, and manage websites. 

Case Study: KAABOO 

Sample of Clients: Catalyst Coaching, World Cinema, and Cottonwood Residential 

7. 9thWonder

Screenshot of marketing website.

9thWonder is a full service, creative marketing agency. Their specialties range from research and brand strategy to digital marketing, media, and creative. They are extremely strong with brand identity, creative, and website design. 

While they are based in Texas, they have a small team and office in Denver. The agency’s CEO is Jose Lozano and he’s been managing the 150 person team for 9 years. 

Case Study: Adam’s Camp 

Sample of Clients: LAX, Pilatus Bank, and Coleman Natural Foods

8. 90octane

Screenshot of a marketing website.

90octane is a growth marketing agency based in Denver. Their approach is simple: They get to know your business like our own and provide a dedicated team of specialized experts to tackle your challenges with a fresh point of view.

The agency has 50+ employees, all located in Denver. Sam Eidson and Jim Grinney started 90octane in November of 2000. 

Grinney’s favorite client quote: “Nowhere else in our marketing mix have we seen a greater return. What makes it work is a combination of their knowledge, process, and a healthy dose of rolling up their sleeves and understanding our business and marketing goals. We consider the 90octane team an extension of our department.” – Steve Born, VP Marketing, Globus family of brands

Case Study: RES Software 

Sample of Clients: Paladina Health, Timbers Resorts, and PENTAIR

9. Elevated Third

Screenshot of a marketing website.

Elevated Third is a growth marketing agency in Denver that blends strategic thinking with technical execution to solve enterprise B2B challenges. 

Unlike some of the other agencies on this list that work with multiple industries, Elevated Third focuses on enterprise B2B. 

The agency was founded in 2004 by Jeff Calderone and since then has worked with brands like Comcast, CVENT, and Kaiser. 

Case Study: Numerator 

Sample of Clients: Central Square, Water Research Foundation, and Xactly 

10. Zenman

Screenshot of a marketing website.

Zenman is a web design agency in Denver, Colorado offering website development, branding, content strategy, and more. 

The agency has over 30 reviews on Google and a team of 10. Zenamn was founded in 1998 by Keith Roberts. One thing that makes Zenman unique is their 5-step “zen process” shaped to help you focus on efficiency.

Case Study: Richey May 

Sample of Clients: PlumVoice, Relocate, and Bonanno

11. Cast Influence

Screenshot of a marketing website.

Cast Influence is a marketing agency in Denver that specializes in PR and their expertise are with small businesses and startups. 

The agency was founded by Justin Kraft in 2017 after serving in senior marketing roles in-house for 16 years. They have a smaller shop, with 4 full-time employees in Denver. 

In addition to their pillar service, PR, they also partner with clients to help with SEO and website design. 

Case Study: 1UP Aerial Drone Services

Sample of Clients: OnDeck, Revivify Surface, and escapex 

 

tuff-growth-hacking

What The Hack Is Growth Hacking?

Busy highway

In our previous blog post about growth marketing, we dove into the world of growth marketing in an effort to understand how it works, what makes it different from traditional marketing, and why your company needs to embrace it. If you’ve been reading much about how to stimulate business growth, chances are highly likely that you’ve stumbled across the phrase “growth hacking” as well, so we’d be remiss not to address it. 

You may be wondering what the difference is between growth marketing and growth hacking, and if one is preferable to the other. The terms are often used interchangeably, and there certainly exists an overlap in the goals of growth marketers and growth hackers. Ultimately they are both data-driven approaches that are hyper-focused on metrics and hitting KPIs. 

But there is also a lot about growth hacking that is misunderstood or misinterpreted. We want to break down a few of those misconceptions to help you better understand what growth hacking really is (and isn’t).

Myth #1: Growth Hacking Is a New

The term growth hacking may be quite buzzy right now, but the concept itself isn’t really anything new. It was first coined in 2010 in a blog post written by influential entrepreneur and angel investor Sean Ellis. It really blew up a few years later, though, when Andrew Chen (who was working with Uber at the time) boldly declared that “Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing.” 

But even before these two gave it a name and some viral traction, companies like Facebook and LinkedIn were building their marketing strategies around a scientific approach to rapid growth. This type of innovative and strategic thinking has been around for decades

Myth #2: Growth Hacking Is a Magic Wand

The way growth hacking is hyped up, it’s easy to see why businesses would think it’s an overnight fix. But the sky remains blue, and business remains a long game. There is no wizardry in the world that can provide instant results, and time and effort are still necessary components to success with this approach. 

Both growth marketing and growth hacking are all about intentionality and efficiency. So while there is always a chance you’ll hit on something huge and have a viral campaign on your hands, that shouldn’t be your expectation right out of the gate. 

These methods focus, instead, on constant testing and tweaking to uncover growth opportunities. That can’t happen overnight. Additionally, it might take some serious shifts in the way your business operates to get there. But nothing worth having ever comes without effort, right? 

Myth #3: Growth Hacking Is a One-Man Show

In the early days of growth hacking, there was an unfounded belief that this type of work was the purview of one very specific type of person. The idea that you could hire a growth hacking “guru” who was a marketing genius with crazy coding skills to come in and revitalize your dying business was rampant.

As time has inevitably proven, however, that’s not the case. Growth is literally never a one-person job.

Do you need someone on your growth team who has coding skills? Yes. Someone with extensive marketing experience? Yes. Someone with an intimate working knowledge of your products and services? Yes. Someone who is well-versed in data analysis? Yes.

Can (or should) one person do all those things? Absolutely not.  

While it’s great to look for people with a unique skill set to help propel your business’ growth, don’t fall for the lie that any one person can do all of this for you. Partnering with a growth team or fleshing out your growth team by bringing in contract workers to complement your full-time employees is one thing, but remember that no man is an island. If someone promises you they can deliver astronomical results single-handedly, walk away. 

Myth #4: Growth Hacking Is a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

Just as growth hacking is sometimes considered a magic bullet, there is also the misconception that there is a growth hacking “playbook” that anyone can take a page from and find success. Would that it were that easy, but it’s simply not the case. 

The growth game is all about zeroing in on what works for your brand and your customers. That’s why the approach is based on the scientific method and involves countless rounds of testing and revision. It’s all about individuality, so what works for your business is very unlikely to work for someone else’s, even if you’re in the same industry. 

Each business is going to have a unique path to sustainable growth. While there is a general framework of processes many growth hackers work from, it’s vital that your approach be tailored to your product, audience, industry, etc. Growth hacking is not a copy-and-paste solution any more than traditional marketing is.

Myth #5: Growth Hacking Can Make Up for an Inferior Product

What’s that old saying? Ah, yes: ”You can’t put lipstick on a pig.”

Many businesses have made the mistake of indulging the thought that growth hacking can provide a boost to their bottom line even if they’re selling a subpar product. If you’re running into product quality or customer satisfaction concerns, though, attempting to create a “viral” moment won’t help anything. 

But growth hacking can ultimately help you improve your product. The kind of instant feedback loop this approach creates can help you tweak not only your marketing but your product and service offerings as well.

It can be difficult to admit that your product isn’t everything you wanted it to be, but look at it as an opportunity to work out the bugs and uncover areas for improvement that will ultimately clear the path to sustainable growth. You’ll be better off for it in the long run. 

Forget Hacking and Embrace Processes

At Tuff, we have to admit to having a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the use of the term “hacking” when it comes to discussing growth. Frankly, you can’t hack together long-term sustainable growth; you have to earn it. Chen himself even spoke out recently saying that in many ways, he regretted his role in the popularization of the term, as it has been co-opted by content marketers trying to sell quick-fixes to businesses that should instead be focusing on overhauling their processes.

We understand that when you look at businesses like Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb, it can be tempting to imagine that they have uncovered some secret sauce for instant success, and you just need to figure out the recipe. But our philosophy is that while the concepts behind it are solid, “growth hacking” is largely a buzzword. At its core, it’s really just an attempt to describe how brands find success by embracing non-traditional methods of growth. 

Whether you’re a startup or an established player, growth is always going to be one of your primary challenges. So it’s understandable that businesses are eager to believe it’s possible to “hack” your way into it.

But what you should really be focusing on is refining your processes and optimizing your efforts. At the end of the day, if you’re giving your customers what they want and need, and you’re staying plugged in to the pulse of your business, the byproduct is going to be a kind of natural, organic expansion. 

Rather than looking for tricks or hacks, businesses would ultimately be better served by focusing on developing and deploying their own growth processes. It’s easy to be distracted by exciting, shiny new things that promise instant results, but the reality is that creating sustainable, stable growth is a tall order. And frankly, it can feel boring sometimes. 

But the brands that really nail the growth game aren’t those that experience one instance of rapid explosion. It’s the ones that put in the hard work to find the right catalyst for that explosion point and go in armed with a fully fleshed-out plan for how to capitalize on—and continue—that growth after the initial shine wears off.

The landscape of marketing is constantly changing, so growth initiatives simply can’t be a one-off thing. Growth has to be an integral and ongoing part of your business plan.

Your approach has to be able to evolve. It has to be able to pivot. There are lots of great ideas underpinning growth hacking, but make sure you don’t get caught up in the hype. 

If you want to explore more about how to approach creating a smart and sustainable growth plan for your business, reach out. We’d be happy to set you up with one of our free 30-minute growth strategy sessions. We’ll meet with your team to talk through some ideas for growth that are specific to your brand and your long-term goals; no “hacks” needed! 

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.

tuff-growth-marketing

Growth Marketing: What It Is and Why You Need It

Person analyzing business growth on laptop & phone

Editor’s note: This content was updated in January 2020.
Original publication date: September 2019

Growth, as it relates to business, is generally defined as, “The process of improving some measure of an enterprise’s success.” When you consider that definition through the lens of marketing, what does “improvement” really mean to you? More sales? More leads? An expansion of your product line or service offerings? All of the above? 

Growth marketing aims to address them all. At its heart, growth marketing is about going beyond the surface of advertising and diving further into the sales funnel, using data-driven analysis and experimentation to unlock avenues of growth for your business. It is a unique approach to marketing that focuses on the use of the scientific method combined with creative tactics to identify the best possible way for your business to attract more engaged customers. 

Growth Marketing versus Traditional Marketing

The marketing industry is full of buzzwords and “growth” has been a big one lately. We can’t blame you if you’re thinking that all marketing is ultimately growth-focused, so why the need for this special designation?

It’s the job of any marketing expert to grow your revenue, right? The difference, though, is all about how they get there. 

Traditional marketing focuses primarily on two goals: awareness and customer acquisition. It seeks to play the long game of creating brand recognition and building reputation. Both of those things are incredibly important, but if you’re just starting out (or your growth is stalled), you may not have the luxury of the time it takes to see results from that type of approach. 

Growth marketing, on the other hand, aims to deliver more rapid results. It uses experimentation and testing to identify ways of maximizing opportunities at every stage of the sales funnel.

It also considers the LTV (life-time value) of each customer. Rather than focusing solely on “getting bodies in the door,” it creates a framework that hones in on the right customers and then engages them throughout the sales cycle, keeping them coming back for more with proven customer retention strategies. 

On its face, growth marketing also looks very different than traditional marketing. A classical approach to marketing usually includes considerable time spent in the stages of planning, strategy, and creative development prior to rolling out a campaign.

The work is mostly frontloaded, and once deployed, the only thing you can really do is hope for the best and wait to see how it shakes out. There may be some audience testing done beforehand to inform the campaign’s general direction, but that’s about the extent of customer feedback involved in the process. 

Growth marketing, conversely, is a real-time game. Don’t get us wrong—there is absolutely creative thought put into strategy, but much of the strength of this approach lies in its ability to pivot quickly and easily based on audience response. Effective growth marketing is all about failing fast, retooling your approach, and attacking every possible angle in order to unearth that hidden growth potential.

Responsibilities of a Growth Marketing Team

This type of marketing can honestly feel radical if you’ve never done it before. But the benefits it brings are more than worth scaling the learning curve. The kind of team you’ll need, and the way they’ll work, will be totally different than a traditional marketing department. 

To be effective in growth marketing, your company must be willing to make major changes to things like onboarding and workflows. There may even be a need for larger organizational and process overhauls if the results of testing show that’s what’s necessary for growth. 

Your team should be well-rounded, with a wide array of skills and an understanding that runs the full gamut of your business operations. While growth marketing is a data-driven approach, a data analyst alone cannot bring you success. You need to marry that scientific approach with innovative creative, an adept understanding of your product/service, and effective project management if you want the execution to be truly fluid. 

You may already have rockstars in your ranks that can fill some of the spots on your new growth team, but don’t be afraid to go a more non-traditional route if that’s what’s necessary to build the best team. Contract employees can help fill in those knowledge gaps while also bringing new energy to the table.

Once you’ve established your dream team, and you’re aligned on the essential growth marketing metrics, there are four main phases of effort that should drive all their work:

1. Identify Areas The Need Testing and Improvement

A growth team needs to understand its customers. Digging into the company’s history and culture can help them paint a more holistic picture of the brand. This will be of vital importance as they work to define the right growth priorities and situate their objectives in the proper context. 

Next, they’ll need to perform an audit of your current marketing strategies. They should be looking at customer metrics, finding your ideal customers, and the performance of each channel you’re currently using, just for starters. An honest accounting of the current atmosphere will help them zero in on both the obvious and not-so-obvious areas where there is room for improvement.

This is also a great time to do a competitive analysis and break down what is and isn’t working for your competitors. You may discover some new growth channels worth exploring during this exercise.

2. Crafting Experiments to Optimize Processes in Those Areas

Once your team has identified the areas where you’re struggling or where you’re leaving something on the table, it’s time for them to put their heads together. They should spend this time brainstorming ideas about how to improve metrics and close gaps. This is an area where having a diverse team really pays off, as they should have a wealth of ideas and thoughts to explore. 

Make sure you don’t inadvertently limit their thinking or confine them to a box; some of the best and most viral growth marketing campaigns have been born of that spirit of “throw everything at the wall and prioritize from there.” Growth marketing initiatives can be edgy. They can be inexpensive or even deceptively “simple.” But what they should always be is scrappy and smart. 

It’s normal to be eager to start a growth campaign, but make sure you give your team ample time and space to come up with plenty of ideas during this phase. Going in fully loaded will mean they’re ready to do extensive experimentation and pivot quickly without having to return entirely to the drawing board before making adjustments.

3. Conducting Experiments to Test Hypothesized Solutions

Now it’s time for organized, smart, and efficient execution. Your team will roll out their first experiments in the hopes of moving the needle on whatever initiative is your top priority. Chances are high that the testing period will be fast and furious.

Growth marketing doesn’t play the game of waiting weeks or months to gauge consumer buy-in on a campaign, so don’t be shocked if your team abandons one avenue just days after they debuted it, or if they A/B test various options in different markets to compare results. The goal here is to amass as much data as possible as quickly as possible.

4. Analyzing Initial Results and Adjusting to Experiment Further If Needed

Once that quick initial testing period is complete, your team will analyze results and determine how to move forward. They may have hit on something golden that they want to continue leaning into, or they may have been surprised by a new area of opportunity they hadn’t expected. Either way, now is the time for adjustments and continued experimentation. 

The tweaks they make may be small, such as changing a headline or a few snippets of ad copy. Or they may introduce entirely new creative, or go in a completely new direction. It can be nerve-wracking to watch it all unfold—especially if you’re used to traditional campaigns that are complex, sprawling, and defined—but you have to trust the process. 

An effective growth marketing team will move very fast in gathering and processing customer data and adjusting their approach accordingly. This is why it’s so important to give them time in the brainstorming phase to stock up on ideas. The process is ultimately one of the continuous small changes until you hit on the perfect combination of creative, copy, channel, and audience. But once you find that sweet spot, you’ll be ready to scale up what works. 

We hope this quick rundown helps you understand a bit more about how growth marketing works and what it could potentially do to energize your company. If you want to learn more about how to leverage this unique marketing approach to generate rapid, sustainable growth for your business, you can check out these top growth marketing experts or give us a shout. We’d love to connect. 

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.

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10 Growth Marketing Metrics Every Founder Needs To Know

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Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new links and fresh content. 

Original Publication Date: September 11, 2019 

As a founder or marketer, you know your growth goals for Q1 and Q2 of 2020, right? And you have a game plan to get there?

To hit those goals and achieve real, tangible growth, you need to not only understand how to get there but also how to identify your ideal audience and drive constant engagement in a way that positively impacts your bottom line. That’s a lot to focus on all at once, let alone measure. 

If you’re like most founders and startup teams, identifying the right metrics and figuring out how best to track them can be time-consuming tasks. After all, there are a bunch of vanity metrics out there that can be more distracting than useful. 

There are multiple avenues to a good end result, but it’s key that you have at least a foundational understanding of what metrics matter most to your business. That’s why in this post I’m going to give you the growth marketing metrics we like to track. 

At Tuff, when we partner with a startup to implement growth marketing strategy and execution, we pick three of core KPIs from the list below to focus on. From here, we’re able to narrow in on the right tactics, measure our success, internalize the numbers and decide what to do next. 

Ready to get data-driven? Let’s dive in. 

Acquisition

1. Search engines drive 93% of all website traffic

Long-term growth will be easier if you consider SEO from the start. It doesn’t have immediate results or carry the same short term momentum as paid customer acquisition, but the payoff can be 3x greater down the line compared to other acquisition channels. In fact, we think SEO is one of the best early stage investments a founder or startup can make. 

Why? People use search as their main gateway when considering a purchase, so if you set your organic foundation early, you’ll be able to actively work your way up the rankings to drive more non-branded search (and sales, purchases, and leads).

Google Search Console with data.

2. Better content can increase blog traffic by up to 2,000%

When it comes to content, remember that quality is better than straight-up quantity. If you truly understand your user and their unique challenges, you can create content that will provide real value. Quality content paired with smart SEO will help you get found by more prospective customers more often.

3. 50% of PPC visitors are more likely to purchase something than organic visitors

With SEO in place as your long-term investment, paid channels can compliment your strategy and bring quick momentum. The right keywords for your business will have high commercial intent and because of that, those clicks will convert at a high rate. 

4. 81% of marketers found that increased traffic occurred with as little as six hours per week invested in social media marketing

Social isn’t going to supercharge your growth overnight but it’s a key player in the growth strategy mix. Don’t over-invest here but don’t ignore it either. Expending even just a bit more effort could net you big results. 

Engagement

5. Companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies

Consumers interact with brands across a wide variety of channels and platforms. Focusing on providing a seamless customer experience, whether someone is visiting chatting with your support team, shopping on your website, or scrolling through your social feeds, is a proven way to retain (and gain) customers. 

6. 84% of people expect brands to create content

Your customers want more from you than a single product or service. They want value. They want to connect with your brand in a way that feels authentic and beneficial to them personally. If you can work to create content that inspires, excites, and engages, you’ll be able to increase lead quality while reducing churn.

7. The average yield for email marketing is $44.25 on the dollar

Email provides extraordinary ROI in almost every industry. It takes resources to build your list and craft compelling emails, but people still prefer to get their information this way, and that quality traffic will translate into more sales for your business.

Retention 

8. Companies that excel at customer experience grow revenues four to eight percent above the market

If you want to grow, you can’t do it alone. You’ll need loyal enthusiasts. If you can provide the kind of experience that keeps customers not only coming back, but gladly telling everyone about you, your revenue will naturally grow. 

9. Loyal customers are five times as likely to repurchase, five times as likely to forgive, four times as likely to refer, and seven times as likely to try a new offering

Creating a fanbase of loyal customers means you’ll have consistent business, constant new leads, the freedom to try new things, and the ability to make mistakes. Successful growth is inextricable from customer experience. 

10. 80% of your future profits will come from just 20% of your existing customers

You can cast a wide net when marketing your business, but remember that a core of regular customers will make up the base of your revenue. It’s the responsibility of everyone at the company to complement acquisition with retention strategies

In fact, Bain & Company found that “a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%”.

These ten quick growth marketing metrics are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the growth marketing game. If you want to know the ultimate secret for skyrocketing overnight growth, we’ll tell you: 

It doesn’t exist. 

That statement might feel a bit controversial coming from a growth marketing team, but we’re tired of people repeating the idea that you can flip a switch and acquire thousands of new customers overnight. Scaling your business is hard, and growth marketing is not a hat trick

Rather, growth marketing is a path to creating intentional and sustainable expansion. It’s balancing high-risk/high-return campaigns with low-risk/low-return campaigns to find the perfect formula for your company.

Growth marketing isn’t just about quickly increasing your numbers, either. It’s investing your money intelligently to create valuable, relevant campaigns that your ideal buyer both wants and needs with the expectation that this will, over time, impact your bottom line. It’s a continual process of learning and self-improvement. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so why should your growth marketing strategy be? Trying to do everything at once will likely result in mediocrity across the board.

It can be hard to define and prioritize goals, but that’s the real benefit of working with a  growth marketing team. They’ll help you not only understand what to do, but why you’re doing it. 

They’ll first help you gather and analyze key data for your business. From there, you’ll work together to create hypotheses to identify why certain processes are happening.

Next, they’ll help you prioritize the ideas that have the most potential to spur growth. In implementing those ideas, you’ll be running experiments to confirm or disprove the earlier hypotheses. This cycle repeats until you have a refined and definitive growth marketing strategy that speaks to your company’s unique needs.

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.

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9 Growth Marketers You Should Be Following Right Now

Want to learn more about growth marketing?

We rounded up nine of the top growth marketing experts in the industry right now. They’ve got a cross-section of skills and specialties and come from wildly varying backgrounds, showcasing what a complex and nuanced game growth can be.

We love following these master experimenters — and recommend you give them a follow, too.

1. Ana Santos: Master of UX Design and CRO

Ana’s expertise sits beautifully at the intersection of experience and connection and places the user’s needs front and center. Plenty of top growth marketing experts talk about the necessity of cultivating a loyal customer base, but Ana provides tangible instruction on how to actually do it in a way that remains authentic to your brand.

What we love about her work: 

  • Her approach is holistic, beginning with product/service clarity and definition and extending all the way to conversion rate optimization (CRO). 
  • She offers immersive courses on highly technical aspects of marketing, including heuristic evaluations (a method used to identify potential usability issues in software).
  • She really gets how to understand your users, and she conveys that clearly and accessibly through both her resources and her blog.

2. Joanna Vaiou: Queen of SEO

This Greek “SEO Lady Boss” originally launched her career by working on SEO project management for architecture firms. Her ability to optimize SEO for niche industries is formidable, and she’s a master of maximizing what Google has to offer. 

What we love about her work: 

  • She provides in-depth case studies to showcase her results in a data-driven format. 
  • Her Twitter feed is packed with SEO goodies.
  • She’s living the digital nomad lifestyle and sharing all her tips and tricks for working effectively without being tethered to one place.

3. Alicia King Anderson: SEO Strategy via Storytelling

Alicia is such a unique voice in the growth marketing space. Sure, she has impressive SEO chops, but most importantly, she’s a storyteller. She understands the value of captivating an audience and how that can ultimately lead to stronger conversion rates. 

What we love about her work: 

  • She uses her creative writing skills to infuse client SEO with a driving narrative.
  • Since she’s in the process of getting her Ph.D. in Mythological Studies, she approaches her work with an ultimate view to the long-term arc of a client’s story.
  • Her favorite part of SEO is puzzle-solving to approach strategy in a holistic way. 

4. Brian Peters: Critical Thinking + Strategic Leader

Brian’s perspective is especially valuable because of its breadth. He has extensive experience in strategy, partnerships, marketing, startups, and more. He heads up strategic partnerships at Shopify, the world’s leading commerce platform. 

What we love about his work: 

  • He provides his followers with detailed explanations of how to achieve concrete marketing goals. 
  • The focus is not always on hard marketing data, but also includes deeper analysis of the nature of work and how to chart a holistic career path.
  • He has an adorable labradoodle named Dierks.

5. Jordie Black: Content Marketer / Strategist Specializing in B2B & SaaS

This London-based content marketer is an ace copywriter who uses her wit and business savvy to “work smarter, not harder.” She especially enjoys working with entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

What we love about her work: 

  • Her Twitter feed is full of great content—both directly from her and retweeted from fellow content nerds who are making waves in the industry. 
  • She offers a top-to-bottom consulting service that helps clients form a thorough and nuanced approach to their content generation.
  • Her services also include copywriting and a blogging boot camp.

6. Elise Dopson: Growth Content Wizard

Elise specializes in growth marketing via content strategy for B2B SaaS and marketing businesses. Her talent for crafting a compelling and data-rich whitepaper sets her apart from your run-of-the-mill content writer. 

What we love about her work: 

  • She is a renowned content writing expert in the B2B arena, and she’s even been named one of the 30 Women Shaping B2B Tech Marketing
  • Her resumé includes work for major movers and shakers in the growth marketing industry, such as Databox, ConversionXL, Leadfeeder, Single Grain, Smart Insights, and Content Marketing Institute.
  • Her style is a perfect blend of cheekiness and know-how, as evidenced by her Twitter feed, which is equal parts hilarious and informative.

7. Katelyn Bourgoin: Customer Research Pro

Katelyn approaches the growth marketing game through the very powerful lens of having been an entrepreneur herself. Having both reached the peak of the mountain and slogged it out in the trenches, she comes bearing the kind of knowledge only a real warrior would have. 

What we love about her work: 

  • She pulls no punches. Her blog delivers actionable advice for marketers without any sugar coating. 
  • As a “3x founder turned growth geek,” she leads in-person workshops—dubbed Customer Camp—that teach companies how to hack their growth by being customer-obsessed. 
  • She is a customer research ninja, and her self-paced online course allows teams to figure out their target customer and star product before investing a ton of time and money into building the wrong thing for the wrong audience.

8. Dani Hart: Sustainable Growth Leader

Dani’s take on growth marketing focuses on how to make it both successful and sustainable. She works with business leaders not only to develop robust growth strategies but to create resiliency and prevent the dreaded burnout as well.

What we love about her work: 

  • She has a knack for helping companies determining whether or not they’ve achieved the right PMF (product/market fit), which can save you a ton of effort on growth that won’t provide ROI. 
  • Her social media strikes the perfect balance between informing and uplifting content, leaving followers feeling motivated and energized.
  • To go along with her mastery of resilience and a sustainable approach to business growth, she’s an amazing yogi, whose Instagram is full of incredible photos.

9. Asia Matos: Expert Marketing Strategy for Startups

As the founder of DemandMaven, Asia focuses on helping founders of early-stage SaaS companies and startups find avenues to rapid growth. Strategy is her middle name. She can help your company set up a campaign, manage acquisition channels, or even analyze your go-to-market strategy. 

What we love about her work: 

  • Her advice is concrete; she’s all killer, no filler. Between her data-driven blog posts and case studies, you can see that she knows what she’s doing.
  • Her process is thorough and in-depth, so you know if you invest in her services that you’ll walk away with tangible returns.
  • Her Twitter feed is full of great takeaways, as well as retweets from other powerhouse marketers (including many on this list), and is an endless font of insight. 

Don’t let the overwhelming nature of the industry prevent you from diving headfirst into learning about how growth marketing can revitalize your business. These top growth marketing experts are great sources for relevant, compelling content that will help you find new avenues of growth for your brand.

If you want to explore more about how to grow your brand’s reach, influence, and impact, touch base to set up a free, 30-minute growth strategy session with the Tuff team. We’d love to learn more about who you are and what you do so that we can help you find your way to the next level.

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.

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How to Find Your User Acquisition Channels

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Figuring out which user acquisition channels are going to drive the most growth is key to your business success.

Acquisition channels are diverse and plenty. With many options, how can you create a channel strategy that will really accomplish your goals?

Few companies can afford to actively use more than a handful of channels and, even so, it’s tough to figure out which ones are actually delivering the right customers.

I’ve spent the past few years working with all kinds of businesses across a range of industries to help them figure this out. Instead of sharing a whole list of tactics you can try out yourself, I’m going to share the one consistent strategy I’ve seen add more to the bottom line than any specific channel –  trial and error.

It can seem overwhelming at the start, but testing and optimization should become part of your growth DNA. What might seem like a steep learning curve will turn into a path with long-term payoff when you get it right.

Let’s dive in.

Focus on your users, not your channel

There’s so much out there, it’s often hard to know where to start. As a business owner, you might feel a lot of pressure to continue coming up with new ways to connect with and reach your audience.

However, there’s one fundamental thing you need to focus on and continue focusing on from day one. To successfully manage your tests and increase the chances of success, listen to users and understand their perspective. User research is a priority that should, in some way, find a home within the design of any new channel or tactic strategy.

Whether you have 1,000 customers or 100,000, focus on the already successful users and uncover the user acquisition channels that converted these people. Uncover as much as you can about these people to help your growth team understand what triggers and motivates them to take action. What was their user journey with your product or service and how can you repeat it with future customers? Doing this on a regular basis will give you the right lens to narrow the types of tactics and channels that are most likely to drive a positive response from prospective customers.

Set clear goals

If you’re early in your business, finding growth channels is about traction – not scale. With that in mind, before you start experimenting, make sure you’ve set clear goals you’d like to achieve – even if you don’t have much data to base them on.

Whatever user acquisition channels you attempt, testing and refining campaigns will be a critical part of the process. It’s important to measure the ROI of your efforts by channel so that you know which need a bit of tuning and which need a complete makeover or be dropped.

There’s been a lot written about goal-setting! And, you might already know what works best for you. Here are some of our favorite resources if you’d like to learn more about setting intentional goals:

Create a ridiculously long list of channels and tactics

Have a million and one things rattling around in your head? Good! Just get it all out there.

A brain dump can help you organize your thoughts and feel more in control, especially when you use it to create a growth list like this one.

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’ll restructure it later.

A chart of possible user acquisition channels

 

Evaluate channel possibility

So you have a big list, now what?

Even lean testing means an entirely new set of processes, resources, and outputs, so it’s important to be intentional with how you and your team spend your time. Attempting to drive growth on too many user acquisition channels at the same time will divide your resources and dilutes your focus.

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

Consider the following questions to help you prioritize channels with a “high propensity” to work for your business:

  • Does the channel have an audience that roughly matches your customer personas?
  • Is this channel crowded or emerging? Are your competitors there and will you have to shell out buckets of cash to play?
  • What part of the buyer’s journey do you believe the customer is in when they’re spending time on this platform? How does that align with your business goals?
  • Can you effectively filter your ads to reach only your target audience to better manage your costs and get the best bang for your buck?
  • Is this a compounding loop? Will this channel enable our users to grow the product for us?

Assemble a team to make it happen

We have seen a lot of founders focus on growth strategies. The starting point for that is almost always, “What should the structure for the growth team be?”

As we’ve outlined in the process above, the first step is defining the user acquisition channels that will or have the biggest impact on growth, and working your way backward to the team needed to execute effectively. When you do that, you will quickly realize that to execute on your ideas you need a cross-functional team with a mix of engineering, product, data, design, marketing, and sales skills. The mix will depend on the particular channel you test.

Which is why I love that we are building Tuff not just for our clients, but also with them. We believe the future of growth agencies is in being value drivers, rather than service providers. Sure, we have a number of top-notch services we regularly execute. But, it’s bigger than that.  In order for you to find traction and scale growth for your business, you need a customizable, plug-in growth team.

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.

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How We Learned From 1,000 Customers in One Afternoon

Customer research at scale is hard.

When you hear phrases like ‘big data’ or ‘quantifiable data’, it can feel paralyzing to know where to start.

I can almost instantaneously feel my eyebrows furrowing and my brain pleading for coffee when I try to keep up with the latest marketing trend or ‘best practice’.

There’s so much out there, it’s often hard to know where to start. As a business owner you might feel a lot of pressure to continue coming up with creative ways to connect with and reach your audience. Or, there might be some technical skills that are better to hire an in-house marketer or agency to take on.

However, there’s one fundamental marketing skill we’re taught from pretty much day one of our lives ― listening.

When you’re eager to share your message and product value, this can be easier said than done. But, when it comes to good listening it’s not about what you are saying. At Tuff, we start every client relationship with customer segmentation.

We recently went through this activity with a client. The Buy Guys, a Florida-based home buyer and seller that has purchased over 10,000 homes in the last 10 years, came to us to help increase quality leads that convert. By updating their website and digital marketing strategy, leads are up by 138% this year. And, the cost per lead has decreased by 36.92%.

Our first and most critical step? Customer segmentation.

Why Customer Segmentation?

Customer segmentation is really a fancy way of saying: ‘who are your customers? And, what do they want?’.

You have to know who your target audience is, what their problems are, and how they want to interact with you. Having these questions explicitly answered will allow you to build a much stronger marketing strategy based on both qualitative and quantitative data.

In the above section, you may have noticed that instead of saying The Buy Guys came to us to ‘help increase leads’ it was ‘to help quality leads that convert’. That distinction is important because it’s worth your time to get to know your customers so you can tailor your digital marketing strategy to convert the type of leads you know you want.

This requires being intentional before you start into executing on tactics but it will help you achieve much better results on those tactics. The good news is, if you take the time to look for it, your customers are generally already answering these questions for you.

You just have to know where to look.

Your sales and support team members (maybe it’s even you doing all of it) and the tools they use, are the best places to start.

Customer Segmentation in action

If your team is already engaging with customer and clients over the phone, this is an awesome place to start. You can gather both qualitative and quantitative information and the power of hearing your customer’s voice and the tone they use, is unmatched.

To start to get to know the audience interacting with The Buy Guys better, we took both a qualitative and quantitative approach using CallRail, a call tracking software the team had been using to log sales calls.

Qualitative Approach

The qualitative approach was listening to 100 phone calls in CallRail, taking detailed notes and listening for things like what kind of words is the customer using?, what was the very first problem they explained over the phone?, what were they hearing, thinking, feeling, saying?

For this step, you can use a Google Doc or your note taking tool of choice. Here’s the format we like to use, it’s best to keep it simple and focus on listening:

Caller name:__________________

First Question:__________________

Notable quotes:__________________

Goal:__________________

Wait till the phone call is over to add in their goal, it can sometimes take the whole call to assess. Here’s an example from The Buy Guys (with the name changed for privacy):

Caller name:
Harry Potter

First Question:
How does the process work for selling?

Notable quotes:
“I had a realtor, they weren’t doing anything to make progress so I took over.”

Goal:
To sell property quickly

By about the 10th phone call you listen to, you’ll start to notice a few trends in the customers’ goals. This is where you can start to segment the customers.

Create sections in your notes with the headline being the different goals (i.e. To sell property quickly’). Try to keep this to under 5 different goals. There will be outliers and the occasional customer going down a different path but you should be able to start segmenting customers into groups. When you get to the ‘Goal’ section of your note for each call, copy and paste the whole entry under the goal section it best aligns with.

In doing this, you now have different customer segments with the powerful supporting data of quotes and first questions.

Quantitative Approach

The quantitative approach using CallRail was to export data from over 1,000 calls to see larger trends such as time of day people are calling, what page the visited before calling, where are they calling from. Any call tracking software should allow you to export a CSV full of super helpful data.

Your call tracking software should also offer an analytics section to learn more about the behavior of the callers. In CallRail, we found two charts especially handy in understanding more about The Buy Guys customers:

These charts provide insights into what time of day callers have the most time. It can help create ideas around what kind of jobs they have, when they are most available, and are they more likely to engage on the weekends or during the week? This is where we can explore some of that customer research at scale.

For The Buy Guys, we were focusing on building a new website to capture more leads. By taking the time to dive into CallRail and gather qualitative and quantitative data about their customers, we were able to build customer personas. Using these customer personas, we were then able to use a shared language to talk with their team and our UX designer about the behaviors, motives, and ideas of the target audience.

Where else to look?

The Buy Guys had a wealth of data in CallRail but not every business uses the phone for sales or there might not be enough data there yet to be meaningful. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.

There are a number of other places where your customers are letting you know what they need and want from you:

Email conversations:
You can go through a similar process by reading through support emails and tagging them with the ‘goal’.

Ask your sales and support teams:
There’s a good chance your sales and support team members can give you a list of ten things your customers need and want, off the top of their head. And, the types of words they use and questions they ask.

Online Reviews:
This is especially helpful for SaaS companies where review sites are aplenty. If you have an app in the Apple Store, have you read all reviews there? If you have a physical product, what about Amazon? Have people been talking about your service on Quora?

Twitter:
Hop on over to TweetDeck (make sure you’re logged into your business Twitter) and set up your account to monitor for certain keywords. This allows you to find tweets that don’t tag your account and could easily slip by.

Over to you…

With The Buy Guys, we had a specific project where it made sense to start with customer segmentation. But, it should be an ongoing process. If you’re happy with your website, you can try customer segmentation to better inform copywriting for your paid ads.

How do you learn more about what your customers want and need? What does customer research at scale look like to you?

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.

tuff-customer-retention-strategies

11 Customer Retention Strategies You Can Implement Today

What is customer retention and why should I care? Most people are familiar with the leaky bucket metaphor.

You have your trusty bucket that you’re rapidly filling with a hose. Things are going well, the bucket is filling up with water, until you start to notice the water is staying at the same level.

Then, all of a sudden, you’re losing water. Upon inspection, there are holes in the bottom and sides of the bucket. You might try to plug one of the holes with your finger, or, wrap a rag around the bucket but no matter what you do, the water escapes.

This is customer retention.

Or, rather, the relationship between marketing and customer retention gone wrong. Too often, companies are more concerned with acquiring customers and rapidly filling the bucket that they overlook what happens when a prospect becomes a customer. It’s the responsibility of everyone at the company to complement acquisition with retention.

To go further than metaphors, Bain & Company has found that “a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%”.

In the following section, we’ll share proven strategies we’ve utilized at Tuff and in past positions to increase customer retention and earn the right to growth.

Three men sitting on a couch watching a sports game.

How to improve customer retention

1. Know your target customer like the back of your hand

When you’re working day and night on a product or have your website imprinted on your brain, it can be easy to slip into subjective decisions and designs. You might prefer a certain font or color scheme and think it’s the right choice because it looks better to you. Sometimes, if your customer base is similar to yourself, this can work out okay. However, it’s a big risk.

It’s incredibly important to understand your customer(s) and the job they’re looking to have done. There is an unconscious bias called implicit egotism that explains a tendency of people to prefer things where they have a self-association. For example, if you have testimonials on your website, it’s important the people you have selected to highlight resemble your ideal customers. In order to do this, you need to take the time to identify your target customer and craft an experience tailored to them.

2. Explicitly communicate how you solve their problem

Buffer: “Fully manage all of your social media accounts in one place. No more wasting time, no more logging into multiple social accounts.” 

Evernote: “Organize your work and declutter your life. Collect everything that matters in one place and find it when you need it, fast.”

Mailchimp: “Give your customers a clear call to action. With MailChimp, you can create beautiful landing pages that make it easy for people to buy your products or join your list.” 

These three companies are leaders in their respective industries. Visiting their home pages, you can quickly scan and find these statements. In all three instances, they’re explicitly speaking to the problem a potential customer might have. With Buffer ‘no more wasting time’, with Evernote ‘declutter your life’, and with Mailchimp ‘make it easy for people to buy your products’. 

Our friends over at Buffer have written more on this in a post called ‘People Don’t Buy Products, They Buy Better Versions of Themselves’

3. Education > Sales

Your success is tied to your customer’s success. A relevant business metric here is Lifetime Value (LTV). The deeper a customer’s work depends on your service or product, the less likely they are to leave you. There’s a saying that ‘you shouldn’t celebrate a product update, celebrate adoption’. And this, really, comes down to communication and education. Do you have targeted in-app messages? What is your onboarding email series like? When is the last time you ran a survey to learn more about your customer’s needs?

4. Prioritize reducing friction over quick customer support

Education and LTV are much easier when you are building and improving a product to increase the core value to your customers. There are a number of companies that have had success through ‘surprise and delight’ gestures. These tend to get more coverage on blogs and in the news and can have a more viral tendency. According to research from Dixon, Toman, and DeLisi published in The Effortless Experience, the true driver of customer retention and loyalty is the ease of getting a problem solved. Is it extremely clear how a customer can get in touch with your support team? Are you letting them pick the support channel that works best for them or forcing them into a channel you’ve decided is best? 

5. Throw out the traditional support metrics

As a support lead, it can be really tempting to dedicate more time and energy to tracking and optimizing support metrics like response time, happiness score, etc. These are, of course, helpful to know but long term your customers want a product that works well and solves their problem. The traditional support metrics are more straightforward and depending on the culture of your team you may be receiving pressure to focus on them. But, you’ll have a larger impact, ideally reduce the volume of incoming support queries, and help create a product people need and want by focusing your energy on a solid customer <> product team relationship. This is key to great customer retention.

If you don’t have a process for tracking customer feedback and sharing it with your product team, stop reading this article right now and start building it. Open up Trello and create three columns for: ‘bug report’, ‘product feedback’ and ‘product confusion’. Add a new card to the ‘bug report’ column when there is a repeatable issue with your website, a new card under ‘product feedback’ when a customer writes in with explicit feedback or a feature request, and a new card under ‘product confusion’ when you get the ‘how do I…?’ questions. 

Empower your support agents to prioritize asking an extra question to learn more about your customer’s needs rather than focusing on response time.

6. But, still focus on great customer support

It might be a little extreme of us to suggest throwing out traditional support metrics. They have a place and are helpful information but they can’t be your north star. One actionable strategy we’ve seen have a huge impact on retention is related to tracking customer feedback. When you are tracking customer feedback in one location, you have an automatic checklist of customers to follow up with when your team has acted on their feedback. The customer took their time to explicitly let you know how your team could improve, send them a personalized email to let them know you heard them. When a customer feels heard, they’ll stick by you through anything.  

Bonus tip: Help Scout makes tracking feedback and following up super easy with their workflows

7. Test a chatbot

There’s never going to be a future where Artificial Intelligence totally takes over because humans and chatbots are good at different things. Leaning on our strengths and the strengths of chatbots can make for a powerful team. When a chatbot pilot program was initiated in a telco company, it could handle 82% of common queries in customer service. After 5 weeks of tweaking, analyzing, and optimizing by human agents, its success increased to 88%, according to Accenture. Chatbots can help you offer 24/7 support while also freeing up your support agents to handle the more emotionally-driven and empathy-requiring conversations. 

We’ve written more about how to run a chatbot experiment here

8. Use social as a two-way street

Your social media channels need to be more than a megaphone, amplifying your own message. Think about that person you know who is constantly talking about themselves, forgetting to ask about you or how your day was. Your customers want to be heard. Topo Designs, an outdoor apparel company, has someone on their team whose responsibility is to respond to comments and mentions on Instagram. All day long. The ROI might be a little harder to prove but this is how you build  loyal customers and advocates. 

9. Set customer-centric goals

It’s important to set goals and it’s even more important to keep them aligned with serving your customers. 

For example, your digital marketing team might be running a few Pay-Per-Click campaigns. It can be easy to fall into the trap of measuring success based on the number of clicks. And while clicks are really important, converted clicks are even more important. It means you’re helping the customer find the thing that solves their problem. 

Set all goals to rely on the customer’s success. 

10. Be intentional about how you speak about customers

This strategy takes more than one day, it’s a cultural adjustment. But, one you can immediately address and speak up agains. The way you speak about your customers is going to have an effect on how you treat them and how your company as a whole supports them. Do you hear people around your office talking about ‘that dumb customer’ or how they had to ‘deal’ with someone? You wouldn’t be in business without your customers. Even if it’s subconscious, speaking about your customers with anything but gratitude and respect will carry over to your teams interactions with them and how your team prioritizes customer needs. 

11. Marketing + Customer Support = BFF4L

This strategy here is really the big kahuna. All of the previous 10 strategies will be easier to implement when you de-silo your teams and make it easy for them to collaborate on behalf of the customer. 

Your marketing team is at the top of the bucket, filling it with water (customers). Your customer support team is inspecting the holes (reasons a customer is leaving).

While holes may be inevitable, they will get filled much quicker and better when these two teams work together. Empower the teams to work together through embedding a customer team member in marketing meetings, have your marketing team deliver support for an hour each week, no matter how you do it provide positive affirmation about the collaboration. 

At Tuff, we partner on both acquisition and retention strategy and implementation because we want to offer a damn good, leak-free bucket.

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.