We meet with many organisations, both large and small, that are struggling to get results from their marketing activities. They are doing lots of activities, but have very little idea as to what is really working for them, and are lacking any real strategy.
This post is intended to highlight why teams are struggling, and how we work with clients to fix this problem. Learn exactly how to transform and modernise your marketing strategy, following the same principles as companies such as Uber, Netflix and HubSpot.
The Marketing World Is Changing
1 Ad Costs Are Increasing
Advertising platforms are reaching capacity in terms of the numbers of ads they can run without seriously affecting user experience. The only way for companies such as Facebook to continue to increase ad revenues without risking users leaving their platform is to restrict the number of ads a given user can see, but increase the cost per ad. Mark Zuckerberg’s post in January 2018 made this change very clear when he announced the Facebook newsfeed change:
“Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
Rising costs across all major ad platforms are proof of this trend. AdStage release quarterly benchmark reports for paid media using data from their own advertising platform comprising over 8.5 billion ad impressions. Between January and June 2017 advertising costs increased as follows:
|Platform||January 17 CPM||June 17 CPM||% Increase|
(CPM or “cost per mille” is the cost per 1000 impressions, and is the model on which online advertising is bought and sold)
2 Marketing Technology Is Evolving
According to Scott Brinker’s now famous Marketing Technology Landscape report, as of April 2018 there are now 6,829 marketing technology solutions available (a 27% growth over 2017). Marketing teams are struggling to keep up with technology trends, and are increasingly making poor short-term decisions that fail to provide long-term strategic value.
Marketing technology is quickly changing the landscape of who we are and what we do as B2B marketers.
Andrea Tucker, Oracle Marketing Cloud
3 Capturing Attention Is Hard
The digitally dominated world is eroding our attention spans, fuelled by smartphones, clickbait articles, social apps like Snapshat and Instagram as well as an endless stream of emails, messages, notifications and reminders.
Over 79 Million blog posts were published last month on WordPress.com alone, that’s over 2.5 million every single day. And when they’re not reading blogs, there’s plenty of other things your audience is doing when they’re not listening to you:
Every second, 973,000 users login on Facebook, over 1 million swipes on Tinder, and over 174,000 users scroll on Instagram. Additionally, 38 million messages are passed between various individuals on the WhatsApp messaging platform.
Lori Lewis & Chad Callahan
4 People Are More Marketing Savvy
Your prospects and customers are becoming aware of quick-win marketing tactics, and have an increasingly advanced ability to filter out the noise.
The GDPR legislation introduced in May 2018 has led to a huge increase in understanding amongst consumers around online advertising technology, cookies, ad blockers and privacy guidelines.
In addition a 2016 study of over 5,470 marketing professionals by LinkedIn showed that 81% of tech buyers encountering gated content online decide not to download due to the gating.
|Why Entered False Info||Why Decided Not to Download|
|I wasn’t comfortable sharing my information with a vendor||71%||60%|
|I didn’t know how the vendor would use my contact information||71%||59%|
|I wasn’t sure that the content would be useful or relevant to me||44%||47%|
|I didn’t want to take the time to type my information in the form||32%||46%|
|I didn’t want the vendor to think I was interested in their products/services||34%||28%|
|I am not the right person at my company for the vendor to contact||17%||15%|
“82% of Gen Xers, 80% of older Millennials, and 78% of younger Millennials today decide not to download content due to form-fills and are likely to enter false information when downloading.”
LinkedIn, The Future Tech Buying Committee
5 New Channels & Tactics Continue to Emerge
New marketing channels and opportunities continue to emerge, as others decline. The cycle of growth tactic effectiveness means that marketing professionals have to not just keep up with market trends, but try to stay ahead of them.
This year alone, trends are emerging around:
- Predictive Intelligence
- Conversational Marketing
- Interactive Content & Experiences
- Influencer Marketing
- Voice Search
Yet, It’s BAU for Marketing
Despite overwhelming change, despite being inundated with ideas, channels, platforms, technology and content ideas and the world changing faster than at any time in human history, the way most companies run their marketing teams hasn’t changed.
Many corporate marketing teams look almost exactly the same as they did 10 years ago:
- Senior execs decide on the major marketing initiatives and campaigns for the year
- Activity is typically centred around new products and services the business is launching
- Content and ads are pushed to potential prospects or customers, often on a quarterly basis
Or is it …..
Many of the best known brands in the world do not run their marketing teams in this way. Almost every high-growth company in the technology sector has established and invested in a new operational machine. They have adopted a new methodology for running their marketing teams.
The marketing world is changing, and these companies have already adapted.
It’s called growth marketing, or marketing experimentation and it’s in use at ….
…. and many more of the world’s fastest growing companies.
Our success at Amazon is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per day.”
Jeff Bezos, Amazon
What benefits does this new operational machine provide?
We have provided a comparison below showing the benefits of adopting this new operational machine.
|Traditional Marketing||Growth Marketing|
|Marketing activities are largely based on previous experience, what competitors are doing, or new industry trends. Strategic decisions often involve individual bias and are subjective in nature.||Marketing ideas are gathered from the entire organisation, as well as customers and partners, and ruthlessly scored and prioritised in order to avoid individual biases.|
|Activities are planned a year in advance and executed on a quarterly basis in a largely waterfall manner. There is little understanding or discussion of expected results in advance.||Ideas are prioritised on a monthly basis and executed on a weekly or monthly basis in an agile/lean manner. Every activity has a hypothesis that predicts results based on industry benchmarks, competitor analysis or previous activities.|
|Goals and objectives are defined and rewarded at an individual level. There is a loosely defined over-arching strategy. Team members struggle to switch between dozens of tasks at any point in time.||An over-arching strategy dictates everything the team does. Emphasis is on speed of execution and team learning. Individuals have a singular focus on a maximum of 3 activities at any one point in time. There is a culture of continuous experimentation and learning.|
|Teams members have a largely creative background, and have a heavy reliance on external agencies for technical support.||Teams look more like a science lab than a marketing team, and have a desire to build technical in-house expertise wherever possible.|
|One-off activities and short-term focus makes it difficult to achieve the desired results.||As teams learn and optimise over time, they start to benefit from compound growth as they double-down on those activities that clearly provide the desired results.|
What does it look like?
This machine is essentially a system, a methodology, that sets the foundation for how to run your marketing team. It is the foundation for your marketing strategy.
In the same way that Agile has transformed the world of software development, Lean has revolutionised the way in which companies today are built and Design Thinking has transformed the world of design, Growth Marketing is transforming modern marketing teams.
And the philosophies are similar. As software developers, business builders, designers and marketers, we do not know what will be effective. Nobody does. And so the most sensible approach is to reduce the risks inherent in taking big expensive gambles through testing and incremental improvement.
Agile, Lean and Growth Marketing all have, at their core, the idea of putting out something small based on a hypothesis, getting feedback, and then measuring, learning and improving. Speed of execution and maximum learning is the goal.
When we ask people about their marketing strategy, often the response comes in the form of the kinds of ads they’re running, how often they run telemarketing campaigns, or the website updates they have planned. These are not strategies but tactics. Your strategy is the foundation or framework for how your marketing team operates, it is your marketing plan, the approach that is used to achieve your goals.
How Does The Machine Work?
The growth marketing machine is a system that allows marketing teams to set and track marketing goals, prioritise campaigns and initiatives, run experiments, and build repeatable processes to find more customers.
It is the best way to collaborate and execute on marketing initiatives.
There are 6 key steps as follows, we’ll walk through each one below.
- Set Goals & Objectives
- Capture Marketing Ideas
- Prioritise Marketing Ideas
- Run Experiments
- Analyse Results
- Building Repeatable Systems
Let’s Walk Through Each Step
1. Set Objectives
Growth marketing is a function of focusing on the right activities, so starting with the right objective and aligning your team’s efforts behind that objective is critical. In many companies we see a lot of good people, doing a lot of good things but in various different directions, the result of which is everyone doing a “good job” but collectively achieving nothing.
Marketing objectives should be based on OKRs (Objectives & Key Results), a method implemented initially in the 1970s by the President of Intel. It has since spread across many tech companies are now underpins goal setting and strategy at companies including Google, LinkedIn, Oracle, Twitter, Slack, and many others.
|Principles of OKRs||Description|
|List of 3-5 high level objectives||Objectives are what you want to accomplish.You may have a maximum of 5 objectives at a any one time. 3 is standard.|
|Each objective has 3-5 key measurable results||Key Results explain how you get to our objectives. You can have a maximum of 5 key results for each objective. 3 is standard.|
|Each key result has a progress indicator or score|
|OKRs are shared across teams to improve transparency and alignment||Team members benefit from being able to clearly understand how they contribute to the wider team and organisation in a way that positively impacts their career.|
|OKRs are set and reviewed periodically||Usually on a quarterly, though sometimes monthly basis.|
Click here for other OKR examples.
2. Capture Ideas
“To have a great idea, have a lot of them” Thomas Edison
Ideas are the rocket fuel for marketing growth hence the need for a consistent, steady pipeline of ideas. Unconstrained ideation is key to the growth process so don’t hold back on suggestions, nothing is too crazy. At this stage the goal is always volume in order to find the diamonds in the rough. The more ideas that go into your pipeline the better your chances of finding winners that spur growth.
Constantly gathering ideas for marketing initiatives from your immediate team, the wider company, customers, partners and advisers is the best way to build a good pipeline of ideas. You should democratise the process as much as possible by tapping into individuals from across your organisation (product management, sales, support etc), anyone should be able to contribute marketing ideas.
In our experience some of the best ideas for growth will come from outside your organisation.
Ideas are submitted in a templated, standardised format in order that they can be evaluated quickly. Typically this includes:
- The Idea Name
- The Submitters Name
- A Brief Hypothesis e.g. what should be done and the reasoning behind why it might improve results
3. Prioritise Ideas
The goal of any marketing team is to work on those ideas that are likely to have the biggest impact, but balancing priorities can be difficult. The growth marketing system implements a scoring process to consistently identify the most high impact opportunities for your team and organisation.
Prioritising ideas is done periodically by the marketing team in order to:
- Avoid any individual biases or hunches (“I think we should ….“)
- Ensure team members agree on what is most important
- Ensure team members work only on activities likely to produce the biggest impact, getting the most out of finite marketing resources
- Prioritise internal requests and set clear expectations with stakeholders
Scoring is a quantitative process based on the 3 following factors (aka the ICE framework):
- Impact – the potential impact should the idea succeed, what is the best case scenario
- Confidence – confidence in how likely it is the idea will work and achieve the desired result
- Resource – the Ease with which the idea an idea can be implemented i.e. time and money required
Note: The scoring of ideas should be fast. Don’t get too bogged down in scoring of individual ideas, it is the relative prioritisation (how ideas are scored relative to one another) that determines what to work on next. If a score cannot be agreed upon the team manager should always have the final say and act to keep things moving.
Avoiding Low Impact Work
The matrix below from Intercom highlights the importance of avoiding low-effort, low-impact work.
This is a trap that is easy to fall into:
This work is easy to justify because “it only took 30 minutes”. And when it achieves nothing useful, it’s easy to excuse because it “took us so little time”. This is not strategy – this is flapping. Do this enough times and you’ll grow a low impact team that doesn’t achieve anything. This is the default position for a smart team without a clear plan. If you want to have a high impact team stay away from low impact work.
Des Traynor, Intercom
4. Run Hypothesis-Driven Experiments
Once it has been agreed by the team to progress with an activity, the experiment template and hypothesis are completed. Teams typically work in 4, 6 or 8 week activity (or experiment) cycles such that continuously testing new ideas becomes routine.
An “experiment” must include the following pieces of information:
- The individual accountable
- A clear hypothesis
- Success KPIs and metrics
- Next steps
The format of the hypothesis is typically: If we do X (the cause), then Y will happen (the effect), because of Z (the rationale). e.g.
Experiment Example: If we create a product specific retargeting campaign over 14 days that encourages visitors to our main product to come back to our website to read related content, I believe we can increase traffic to the product page by 10%. This is based on the success of previous retargeting campaigns where we have seen click-through rates of 15%.
5. Analyse & Document Results
All learning and initiatives are shared across the entire team by default. As they begin a process of constantly testing and learning there is a compounding learning effect for everyone. It is this speed of learning that gives growth marketers a massive competitive advantage.
It is therefore critical for ideas, experiments and results to all be accessible from one central location that is visible to your entire team. This will become the default growth repository for all marketing team members. Having a record of everything your team is working on and, eventually, what you learned will help fuel future ideas from your team and other areas of the business in ways you may not realise.
Details such as the audience, metrics recorded, the tests results, potential issues and conclusion should all be recorded.
Being explicit with documentation makes it easy for others to see what everyone is working on without requiring constant meetings and phone calls.
6. Build Systems & Playbooks
Your growth efforts will have rapidly diminishing returns if you don’t also develop a method for updating your processes. A key goal should be to build retained knowledge and expertise within your team, and to create a repository of proven and repeatable marketing playbooks (checklists and processes) for your team. The ultimate goal is to build repeatable, sustainable growth systems.
For example, if a member of the team runs an AB test that is successful, this should become a templated checklist or process that can be re-run over time for all future AB tests enabling team mates to see previous results, and to execute new tests more efficiently. Likewise email campaign structure, facebook ad copy and creatives should all be documented and optimised over time.
Share best practises with your team and build a library of step-by-step guides and execution plans for team members and new hires.
Implementing a growth marketing framework is the best way to increase the effectiveness of your marketing team. Prioritise your marketing initiatives, run data-driven experiments and build repeatable processes to find more customers.
Become the centre of excellence for growth within your organisation today.
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