As companies look to drive new revenue in unexplored channels, growth initiatives are becoming increasingly more popular. But where do you start? How do you start? I’ll admit, it can be overwhelming.
First, let’s talk about why growth initiatives exist. If a company is trying to increase revenue, they can do so in a few ways: expand product margins, improve average order value, increase customer lifetime value, etc. Alternatively, companies can lean into new channel experimentation to diversify their channel mix and sell to a wider audience. Which brings us to the reason why some companies, like Readers.com, are investing in growth marketing to acquire more customers. While the growth mindset can be applied to many areas of your business (increase awareness, retention, etc.), for the purpose of this article I will be referring solely to customer acquisition growth.
Our Growth Team formed at the start of the year has through much trial and error, experienced some big wins and inevitably many failures. Whether you already have a few growth marketing initiatives in place, or don’t have a clue how to begin the process, here are a few things our team has learned in the past year about building an effective growth machine to validate unexplored customer acquisition channels.
- Collect growth ideas from EVERYONE.
Different departments offer unique perspectives in regards to where opportunities exist. My advice: mine their expertise. A member of the Engineering Team and a member of the Operations Team will offer vastly different opinions. Take advantage of this.
Not only does engaging a variety of team members give you a good starting point, it also gives you the chance to weave the growth mindset and experimentation into your company's DNA. While your Growth Team owns the ‘growth roadmap’, or the growth initiatives you plan on implementing within a given timeframe, everyone in the organization should feel a sense of ownership in the process.
- Ensure you have the right analytics and data infrastructure in place.
Don't fly blind. When starting any growth initiative, you must have a clear definition of what success looks like and how you're going to track it. Having the right instruments to effectively measure your goal is critical. The process you use to determine success should be baked into the planning stage and reported on in a regular cadence. Strong feedback loops are your lifeblood. Only then will you be able to learn from the test’s results and build bigger and better initiatives in the future. As much with successful initiatives, analytics also enable your team to glean insights and new learnings from unsuccessful experiments as well.
- Prioritize growth ideas vigilantly to focus on delivering maximum value.
There are thousands of customer acquisition channels available to you, not to mention new opportunities cropping up every day. As a growth marketer, you need to figure out how you can deliver the most value to your company through these opportunities. In short, learning to rank and prioritize ideas is essential.
Shiny object syndrome can be a common pitfall for growth marketers constantly culling new opportunities. Don’t fall for it. Instead, embrace a framework to reduce the noise and introduce a repeatable and scalable methodology. There are a number of proposed methods out there about the growth work process, so ensure your team takes the time to find the one that works best for you and your environment.
- Balance risk with reward.
While we ultimately prioritize maximizing the number of ‘at bats' we take (volume, volume, volume!), we also understand that not all opportunities are created equal. One big bet, that gains traction can easily trump ten smaller wins.
We've found success in mixing in a few big-swing risks with our smaller, less risky bets. Defining ‘balance' will be unique to your team, but don't shy away from varying the sizes of risk you incur with each tactic. Some tactics lend themselves well to a crawl, walk, run approach, whereas others may require more of an all-in approach.
- Error on the side of running too fast.
Time is a huge success factor, despite it often being your team’s scarcest resource. Don’t be afraid of moving quickly. For instance, some growth experiments have a first mover advantage, meaning opportunities may favor those who commit to a tactic early before it’s an established channel. It’s important to commit early in such cases, as this can be the difference between huge ROI or lackluster returns.
- Stay true to your brand and mission.
This tip might sound a bit cliché, but it’s a good rule of thumb nonetheless. When testing growth channels, ask yourself, “If this tactic has a good return, would we implement it into our long-term strategy?' If the answer is no, then move on. Many growth tactics can easily net you quick wins but it's critical to understand that sacrificing the UX or brand perception is, in itself, a hidden cost. Some things look great on paper but if they go against the grain of who you are as a brand, they are not worth the time, investment, or effort.
- Be transparent with results and learnings.
No matter how bleak test results may be, make sure that you democratize the data with your team so they can learn with you. There’s no point in multiple people making the same mistake because team members are hesitant to socialize their learnings. It benefits everyone in the long run.
No matter how much you read about and research growth initiatives, the fastest way to learn is to start testing your ideas. Do not paralyze yourself with doubt or fear of failure. You will fail. Accept it. Learn from it. And then do it all again. It’s the only way to grow.