So, you’ve tweaked your landing pages until your conversion rates can’t get any better, split tested every facet of your ad campaigns and collaborated with influencers in your niche to maximize your exposure.
These tactics are wonderful and can generate explosive growth, but after a while, you’ll reach a plateau.
Once your startup is a fully-fledged, profitable business, growth challenges become different. While a startup is focussed on big wins to make the cash register ring, established businesses need to think in terms of more stable, incremental forms of growth. It’s no longer about growth hacking; growth mapping has to take center stage.
This continuum of business growth can be explained using sports as an analogy.
Mixed martial arts have one of the most significant learning curves out of all sports.
In the first six months of training, you can learn the fundamentals of striking, wrestling and jiu-jitsu.
However, the longer you practice, the smaller the improvements you’ll make. Once you’re proficient at the basics, the real journey to mastery begins.
Sure, adding a spinning wheel kick to your arsenal of attacks is beneficial in the short-run, but elite level UFC fighters didn’t reach mastery by continually learning new techniques – they did it by refining their fundamentals, year after year.
Jiu-jitsu expert Demian Maia understands all facets of the game, but he didn’t start achieving spectacular results until he centered his strategy around his strongest skills: wrestling his opponents to the mat and securing a rear-naked choke. Fans often comment that his opponents know exactly what he’s going to do, yet are unable to stop it.
To achieve mastery in any discipline (especially business), tactics that provide short-term explosive growth are great – but the long game requires slower, sustainable progress.
This is the difference between growth hacking and growth mapping.
Whatever stage your business is at, consider using these growth tactics to take you to the next level.
1. Growth Tactics
Here are some non-technical growth tactics to try. These don’t require a/b tests or changing any forms to increase conversions. Instead, they’re simple tactics to test to see if they drive meaningful acquisition.
The generic, one-size-fits-all approach to marketing is no longer applicable.
Nowadays, businesses can leverage user data to deliver more personalized, emotionally resonant messages to their users in order to maximize engagement and profits.
Email marketers have a good understanding of this. Depending on the actions people have taken in response to email campaigns, different email sequences can be fired off.
If a person opened an email promoting a webinar and attended, they might receive a sales-oriented email, whereas if they miss the webinar, their next message might be a gentle reminder of when the next webinar is available.
To take this a step further, I recommend using your analytics data to provide special deals to warm prospects. If a person has viewed a product page numerous times but hasn’t converted – there is a proven interest but something isn’t quite right.
In my experience, offering limited discounts to these users can push them over the edge and get them to convert. In this scenario, leveraging scarcity marketing in a highly personalized way can drive explosive growth.
Instead of pumping money into ad campaigns to acquire new customers, have you ever considered getting your existing customers to do your marketing for you?
In recent years, Dropbox and Airbnb have achieved extreme growth partially due to referral marketing. However, PayPal created the blueprint many years prior.
Initially offering $20 to new users and $20 for them to refer their friends (this was later scaled down to $10 and then $5), PayPal acquired over 100,000 users in the first month of being operational.
The bold referral program was masterminded by PayPal co-founder, Elon Musk. A consummate scientist, Musk described the viral nature of the program as “bacteria growth in a Petri dish.”
While you may not be able to spend tens of millions of dollars like PayPal did to acquire new customers, a good double-sided referral program (both the referrer and friend benefit) can stimulate tremendous growth.
If you’re not ready to create a formal referral program, consider sending your repeat customers a referral discount code via email. Since they have a positive impression of your brand (proven by repeat purchases), they’ll be happy to refer their friends to you – especially if they’re incentivized to do so.
A few years back, people used guest posting for all the wrong reasons. In order to game search engines and acquire inbound links, marketers would submit sub-par content to external sites with no concern for providing value to the audience.
Fortunately, Google caught on to this unsavory practice and it’s being phased out.
However, Google is still perfectly happy for people to publish guest posts that, “inform users, educate another site’s audience or bring awareness to your cause or company.”
In other words, guest posting is no longer a link building game; it’s all about delivering value and long-term brand building.
As a free growth tactic, I find guest posting to be exceptionally effective. I aim to write multiple guest posts every week.
If you don’t consider yourself a particularly strong writer, you can hire a quality ghostwriter. You can expect to spend between $150-$300 per post. Make sure you find a quality guest writer that is an expert in their niche. They should have published on reputable blogs before, and are not a “jack of all trades”, meaning they can write on daycare blogs and b2b marketing blogs. Find writers that stick to one niche.
For startups, I recommend saving your best content for guest posts. This sounds counterintuitive, but guest posts will be read more than the posts on your site – so it makes sense to deliver the most value where you’re receiving the most eyeballs.
If you’ve ever played the old school MMORPG game, Everquest, one of the most compelling features of the game’s interface was the experience bar, which would tell you how close you are to moving up to the next level.
LinkedIn use a similar gamification tactic to encourage new users to fill out their profiles.
There is a core psychological component to gamification tactics such as progress bars.
Research indicates that the simple act of completing something, whatever it may be, leads to a release of endorphins. When the act of completion is associated with positive emotions, you’re compelled to keep completing things – which leads to a large user base for both SaaS companies and MMORPG games!
Think about how you can incorporate gamification into your user experience and you’ll reap the rewards.
In the digital era, free merchandise (a.k.a. swag) can seem like a pretty low-tech growth tactic, but this is exactly why it’s so powerful – because not many people are doing it anymore.
By handing out branded t-shirts, mouse pads, pens and other accessories, you can let your free merchandise do your marketing for you.
Counterintuitively, you don’t need a huge upfront investment.
I recommend browsing Alibaba and conversing with manufacturers. You can get your logo branded on a gigantic range of products – just shop around for the right price.
Sometimes, manufacturers will be happy to drop ship your orders, so you don’t have to hold inventory.
Instead of handing out gifts to everyone and anyone, I recommend shipping free branded accessories as rewards to customers who have a high Customer Lifetime Value (LTV).
Someone who has made repeat purchases already holds your brand in high regard, so they’re more likely to show off their free t-shirt or pen to their friends. Since they’re already a profitable customer, you’re not going to lose money on sending them a free gift – whereas you might with non-customers or one-time buyers.
Print on demand t-shirts work excellently in this scenario.
2 – Growth Mapping
Once you’ve exhausted all possible growth tactics, the first step to sustainable growth is to examine what’s working and what isn’t.
If content marketing is a core part of your company’s success, I’d recommend tracking key metrics for your campaigns.
When doing growth scoring for clients, I like to be as in-depth as possible. Before moving onto the subsequent mapping phase, I need to be able to answer the following questions:
After analyzing our scores, we can tell where we should maximize our investment to get the best returns.
For instance, if infographics consistently perform better than blog posts (in my experience, they often do) – allocating additional resources to producing infographics will be beneficial in the long run.
Also at this stage, we have the opportunity to revisit highly performing blog posts and optimize them.
One of my favorite optimization tactics is to provide downloadable content upgrades at the end of these popular posts.
A content upgrade is simply a lead magnet (a checklist, eBook or other item of value that marketers trade in exchange for contact information) with one key difference: they’re contextually relevant.
If you’re a marketing agency, you might feature a lead magnet on your homepage in the form of an eBook about driving website traffic. However, if you’ve seen that an evergreen article about email marketing continually gets lots of views – you might want to provide a checklist at the end of the post describing the steps to creating a killer autoresponder sequence.
Growth mapping is all about examining the data, and then mapping out a course of action for sustainable long-term growth.
Have you used any other growth hacks that have been effective for your business? Please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your replies.
About the Author: Aaron Agius, CEO of worldwide digital agency Louder Online is, according to Forbes, among the world’s leading digital marketers. Working with clients such as Salesforce, Coca-Cola, IBM, Intel, and scores of stellar brands, Aaron is a Growth Marketer – a fusion between search, content, social, and PR. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or on the Louder Online blog.
In a world of mass emails and stimulus overload, personalization has become critical to B2B marketing. Buyers are becoming harder to identify and increasingly like consumers: They want personalized outreach and one-to-one interaction... Read the full article at MarketingProfs
The US television audience for the 2017-2018 season consists of 304.5 million viewers and 119.6 million households, according to recent research from Nielsen. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
Today's infographic explains how companies can work with some of their biggest advocates and influencers&#8212;their own employees&#8212;to help Marketing reach new audiences through employee social media advocacy. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
Does your e-commerce website provide the easiest possible experience for visitors? Check out today's infographic to see 72 site sections and features that you will want to consider when creating or updating your e-commerce website. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
Some marketing organizations excel at marketing performance management and, as a result, achieve better growth for their companies. How? They operate Marketing as a center of excellence (CoE). Here's how to turn your marketing organization into a CoE. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
The median starting salary for a corporate chief marketing officer (CMO) in the United States is expected to be $164,000 in 2018, according to recent research from The Creative Group. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
Tactics don’t necessarily fail because they’re bad.
They fail because of the context around them.
The customer segment was off. The timing was bad. Or the attempt was half-assed.
It all works. SEO works. Facebook ads work. Conversion optimization works.
But the degree to which they deliver depends wildly on other factors.
And the only way to ensure success is to get those things right, first, before jumping head-first into the tactics.
Here’s how to do the hard work, up-front, to make sure your next campaign goes off without a hitch.
Facebook ads “don’t work”
You can’t browse the interwebs without running into a new shiny hack. A brand new strategy or tactic to implement.
So you ditch the to-do list. You push off the important. You bend to the urgent. (Or at least, that which faintly resembles the urgent.)
You try the new hack. You invest hours that don’t exist and money that you don’t have.
You follow the “Launch Plan” from influencer XYZ to a T. Literally: Every. Single. Thing.
It falls flat. It works, but not enough. It produces, but not enough.
Seth Godin published Meatball Sundae in 2007. A decade ago.
Strange title, right? There’s a reason behind it:
Except, as you’re already all too familiar, that’s not how it works in the real world:
It’s the context, not the tactics.
We aren’t talking about 1960’s advertising. We can’t run ads in a vacuum and shape the public’s opinion.
There’s a lot of other things at stake. There’s a lot of other aspects to consider.
Facebook advertising is one of the best examples because it’s surprisingly complex and nuanced. You can’t just throw up a one-and-done campaign to see revenue pour in overnight.
That’s why it’s a waste of money according to popular opinion.
68 million people can’t be wrong… can they? (How many people voted last year again?)
Let’s click through a few of these to pull out the real gems:
“Facebook’s stock tanked after the IPO for one singular reason. Their advertising model does not work well. Most people who’ve advertised on Facebook, including myself, have been disappointed.”
“In that case, not only has Facebook and other digital technology killed ad creativity, it’s also killed ad effectiveness.”
I’m not even sure what that means.
Ok. Well, please, nobody tell Spearmint Love that Facebook ads don’t work. Because they just posted a 1,100% revenue increase last year using… Facebook ads.
Now, it wasn’t all rainbows, sunshine, and unicorns for them. They ran into problems, too.
It took six months for them to figure out one of the reasons their campaigns were stalling. It was simple and right in front of them the entire time.
Kids grow up.
Which means baby-related ads only work for so long with a particular cohort, before it’s time to refresh, update, and move along.
Again — the underlying issue was the market, the people, the life stage. Not the tactic.
They adapted. They went upstream. They followed customers as they naturally evolved.
So, no. “Boosting” posts endlessly doesn’t work. Buying likes doesn’t work, either. Not by themselves, obviously.
Likes, impressions, and fans don’t pay the bills. Leads and customers do.
That holds true regardless of which advertising medium we’re discussing: TV, radio, billboards, Google, Facebook, or otherwise.
You need a customer acquisition machine on Facebook. Simultaneous campaigns running in parallel. One building the attention and awareness for the next. Another nurturing those and presenting different enticing offers. Only after the foreplay can you get down to business.
Yet, that doesn’t happen. At least, not as often as it should. Which leads to… “It doesn’t work.”
This is far from the only scenario. This same issue pops up over and over again.
It even applies to the proposed Facebook solution you’re putting in place.
Custom audiences aren’t segmented
Facebook might not have the same level of user intent that AdWords does.
However, they do have custom audiences.
These dynamically-generated audiences can help you laser-target campaigns to skyrocket results. (Or, at least, push unprofitable ones past break-even.)
They allow you to run retargeting campaigns on steroids. You can overlay demographic and interest-based data with past user behavior, so you can accurately predict what someone wants next.
Custom audiences help increase your Relevancy Score, which in turn, lowers your Cost Per Click while also increasing your Click-Through Rate.
So what could possibly be the problem?
Too often, your custom audiences aren’t custom enough.
Let’s talk about your business. How many products and services do you sell?
Now, how many of those do you sell to different customer segments or personas?
Imagine a simple matrix:
The possibilities might double or triple as you add each new variation. Exponentially.
It’s not my place to tell you that such a business model is too complicated. It is, however, to say that you’ve just made your ad campaigns infinitely more difficult.
Because this matrix doesn’t even take into account the funnel stage or intent level each audience has for each product. So we can add another layer of complexity here.
Let’s say you have a custom audience set up for past website visitors to your site. Fine.
However, in that one “custom audience” you’re lumping together all of these personas and products.
In other words, it’s segmented. Barely. A little bit. But not good enough.
The trick is to think through each possible variation and have your customers help you.
Now, subsequent retargeting campaigns can use the right ad creative. The one that talks about the unique pain points of an online business (like remote workers) vs. that of the brick-and-mortar variety (like local hiring).
See? Everything is (or should be) different.
You can even do this on pricing pages.
For example, Credo names each plan for a different audience:
You segment product features based on personas. So why not your ad campaigns?
Agencies have more fixed expenses than freelancers. Therefore, their project minimums will be higher. Their goals are also in growing and managing a team vs. doing the work themselves.
They’re similar once again. But vastly different when you get down into the weeds.
MarketingExperiments.com worked with a medical company on a similar issue. Simply rewriting collateral pieces for a specific segment (as opposed to a nameless, faceless audience) increased CTR by 49.5%.
Another trick you can try is including different ‘paths’ for each potential problem (and your service that lines up with it.)
So you send out a re-engagement email campaign with links to content pieces for each. Then you see who clicks what.
And then you sync your email data with custom audiences to add these people to the right destination.
Follow any of these recommendations (or better yet, use them together), and you’ll get custom audiences that are, in fact, custom.
It also means you’ll have about 3-4 times the number of custom audiences and campaigns running at any given time.
But it means you’ll have a better shot at success. And at getting Facebook ads to “work.”
All because you put in the proper work ahead of time.
Conversion tracking is off (or non-existent)
People think data is honest.
Unfortunately, it’s not. Data lies more than we care to admit.
Case in point: Conversions.
WTF is a “conversion” these days, anyway?
An email subscriber? A marketing-qualified lead? A sales-qualified lead? A one-off customer? A repeat customer? A high LTV customer?
Sometimes, it’s none of those things.
Years ago, I worked on a new client’s ad account.
The Conversion Rate column inside AdWords showed totals over 100%.
Now, obviously, I know that I’m dashing and brilliant and debonair. But not that much.
Because technically that’s impossible.
So we looked at it for only a few seconds to realize what was happening.
In almost every case, the Conversions total was equal to or more than the Clicks one.
That ain’t good. Here’s why.
Problem #1. It looks like we’re tracking clicks to the landing page as conversions.
Except, their goal wasn’t even a form fills opt-in. It was phone calls.
They anecdotally told me that phone numbers brought in better customers who also converted faster.
Ok, cool. Unfortunately, though, there was another issue.
Problem #2. No call tracking was set up, either.
So the phone rang. Constantly. Several times an hour. And yet PPC got no credit. Despite the fact that PPC probably drove an overwhelming number of the calls (based on the data we saw earlier.)
This client was primarily running classic bottom-of-the-funnel search ads. No display. So the peeps calling were converting. We just had no idea who was or why they were.
This creates a cascading effect of problems.
It meant that there was no historical conversion tracking data to use to draw insights. We literally had no idea which campaigns were converting the best or even which keywords outperformed others.
But wait, because it’s about to get worse.
Problem #3. Aggregate numbers of leads to closed customers was being tracked in Excel.
In other words, X leads from Y campaign turned into customers this month.
Obviously, that’s not ideal. We couldn’t even track PPC leads accurately because of the issues above.
But from there, nobody could see that customer John Smith who converted on Wednesday spent $5,000 and came from Campaign XYZ.
Their “industry specialized CRM software” (read: sh!t) didn’t have an API.
A dude from the “industry-specific CRM” company gave me the following response: “We do not allow for any attempts to manipulate data in the database. Any attempts to do so would cause errors and result in data corruption.”
Which meant that even if we fixed all of these other problems, there was no way for us to pass data back and forth when PPC leads did, in fact, turn into paying customers.
We’re blindly spending dizzying amounts of money. Daily.
And yet, somehow we’re supposed to come in and start driving new customers ASAP?
Without any idea of what’s currently happening, what happened previously, or even what we’re supposed to be optimizing in the first place?
I’ll spare you the boring details. It involved months of going backward to fix various tracking problems (none of which we scoped or billed correctly beforehand #agencylife.)
We basically did everything imaginable.
Except our job.
We designed and created new landing pages so we could use form fields to track and painstakingly set up call tracking on every single landing page. Then we went so far as to create a process for their internal team to manually reconcile these data points each month and figure out how many customers were finally coming from PPC.
Then after we stopped working together, they undid all of the call tracking work we set up. Because: clients.
The point is, no tactic in the world can make up for this scenario.
Yes, SKAGs are good. Geo-targeting is good. Day-parting is fine, too.
But none of it matters if you can’t address the underlying issues. Otherwise, you’re just flying blind.
Not just a single goal inside Google Analytics. But many. Multiple. At different stages. For different personas. For different products/services.
First, create a good-old Google Analytics goal. You know, create a ‘thank you’ page, redirect opt-in users there, etc.
More than one persona? Create more than one landing page and form. Message match from the last section helps you keep this all straight.
Then go back into AdWords and create new goals there, too.
The key is to set up the script properly on the new thank you page, and not the landing page. Otherwise, you’ll run into the issue we saw earlier (tracking clicks instead of opt-ins.)
Last but not least, noindex and nofollow the thank you page. Because the last thing you can afford now is for people to find this page from Google, bypass your form, and distort your data.
But wait… what about the initial problem? Phone calls!
We can’t let those go untracked, either. Unfortunately, both Google Analytics and AdWords fail us here. (You can track them as Events, but you’ll still only get aggregate data at best.)
Unless… you hook up another tool like CallRail to swap out your web and landing page numbers. Then you can add a ‘swap target’ to destination phone numbers. It will give each visitor a new number so it can appropriately track all calls.
However… that means you’ll have to go back and append your AdWords and Analytics goals so that they pass the appropriate referral data.
You want to see which AdWords campaign, ad, and keyword delivered each lead.
Only then can you make tactical, day-to-day changes with any certainty.
This OCD-level tracking changes everything.
For example, if you know that a customer is worth $1,000/mo over 12 months and the cost per acquisition is only $200… you can afford to bid up the Cost Per Click aggressively.
Yes, you might pay more in the interim. But you’ll also make more in the long-run.
Context changes everything. But only if you see the entire picture.
All tactics work to one degree or another.
Some might be more appropriate for a particular company. LinkedIn ads, say, would be better for a recruiting company than a baby blog.
However, beyond the obvious, there are margins for error.
Those margins get worryingly large when you’re neglecting to take context into account.
Tactics are good, but they’re not miracle workers. What worked for one person on one site at one particular time will almost certainly not work the same for you.
That doesn’t mean it’s bad, you were wrong, or you suck.
It just means there were other factors you neglected to take into account. And it’s why copy/pasting tactical roadmaps or launch plans often falls flat.
The more time you spend doing the hard, boring stuff to get a better handle on your scenario, the better your probability of success gets.
And the more lucrative those changes can become.
About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.
Snapchat launches a feature that will transform how people use the app and discover businesses; LinkedIn upgrades its Sales Navigator; Facebook just surpassed Netflix in online video; Twitter's bookmarking feature; how and why you should use two-person Instagram Live Stories... Read the full article at MarketingProfs
Consumers are more loyal to brands that offer personalized experiences, and that loyalty can provide excellent returns for brands. So you'd better know enough about your customers to provide those experiences. Read the full article at MarketingProfs