01 Oct How to Create A Growth Marketing Framework to Grow Your Business
If you’ve been following along with the blog, you’ve learned about the various puzzle pieces that go into creating a digital growth marketing machine. In this post, I want to help you take all of those individual pieces — all those modern marketing tools, strategies, and tactics — and distill them down into a single growth framework to grow your business systematically, efficiently, and powerfully.
My earlier posts are fairly heavy on theory. You really do need to understand the Why completely before you move on to the How and What, which is why I spend a lot of time teaching the theory behind this growth marketing framework.
It’s also important to note that this growth marketing framework isn’t something I invented haphazardly. It’s based on years of observing successful businesses, being part of many successful growth companies, and learning from people who have used this very growth framework, time and again, to create million, multi-million, and billion-dollar success stories. You can read the full backstory about how it came to life, the questions I asked to dig into the minds of successful professionals, such as Eric Schmidt of Google, and the science behind it in my post about business transformation. Until you carve out time for that post (it’s even longer than this one), let’s stay here to chat about creating a growth marketing framework for your business.
I know you’re eager to actually get to it and grow your business. I know you want to scale, increase your revenues, and ultimately see more money in your pocket. And I want that for you, too. So in this post, we’ll move beyond theory and delve into the modern marketing strategies you can use immediately. We’ll also look at the tools and platforms that can help you execute those strategies effectively.
I do want to point out, however, that Rome wasn’t built in a day — and your framework won’t be, either. Speaking of Rome, il cibo italiano è semplicemente il milgliore. Yeah, I’ve been known to dabble in Italian from time to time—no Google translate here! I utterly digress when I speak of Italy, especially Italian food! Okay, so back to that framework. This isn’t a project where you clear an hour or two in your schedule and then, hocus-pocus, here’s your framework! That would be awesome, but no. There’s a bit more actual work involved.
One last note: this entire framework is optimally designed for a business with an already established product/market fit. Getting to that point takes time and energy, and it’s definitely beyond the scope of this particular post. But you can find some great marketing resources to help you determine product/market fit. As long as you have established product/market fit, however, this entire growth marketing framework is ideal for you — whether you’re a startup aiming for growth or an established small business looking to scale your business.
Growth Starts with StoryVesting
I talk a lot about the importance of StoryVesting — why it matters so much, and how you can use it to your advantage. Think back to the first time you saw a problem or a pain point. No matter what that problem or pain point was — anything from never having the right change to feed the parking meter to hating the taste of the water from your kitchen tap — you set out to create a solution. Something bothered you, and you wanted to fix it.
If you think you’ve heard this before, you’re probably not wrong. StoryVesting goes by other names. Although I’ve put my own spin on it, this isn’t a revolutionary concept. Simon Sinek‘s Start With Why really gets to the heart of StoryVesting, for example.
When you drive down to that Why and probe it, you’ll find that the answers to so many questions suddenly become crystal clear. Perhaps most importantly, getting to your Why will help you refine your ideal customer — because you’re trying to solve a problem for a particular person, and for a specific reason.
Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income is a phenomenal example of someone who knows exactly how to use authentic StoryVesting to his advantage. He saw a pain point — he wanted to be able to support his family without working himself to the bone. He wanted to have the time to be with his family. He started from that place of wanting to better his whole life — not just to make a million dollars. And because he is authentic, because he is genuine, he has built an incredibly loyal following, and now he does make a million dollars a year. (Because Pat is a genuine, transparent person, he shares his income reports right on his blog.)
Pat is a people-first guy who understands his ideal customer intimately. He’s authentic. It shows in everything he does, and his users love him for it.
That authenticity is something I’m passionate about. I love understanding people’s stories and the stories behind how organizations come to life. It’s these stories that are full of excitement, passion, dedication, and human emotion. That human element is something that’s grossly missed in today’s increasingly Facebook happy world and something I think the modern consumer craves. It’s for that reason that authenticity deserves a key spot in any growth marketing framework and why it’s at the heart of StoryVesting.
Ultimately, the perfect StoryVesting scenario looks something like this:
Once you have already established your product/market fit, you get your employees on board — what I call vested. (We’ll talk more about that in a moment.) Then you make sure you align your story perfectly with your customer’s story, and you optimize the entire buyer journey, throughout the entire marketing funnel. StoryVesting, in turn, fuels that growth sweet spot:
When I break down StoryVesting, I think of three key steps:
- Identify your ideal customer and hone in on his pain point, need, or want — what we’ll call the customer’s story.
- Align your story — that is, your product, service, and the experience you deliver — with your ideal customer.
- Get vested employees who believe in both stories.
Step One: Identify Your Ideal Customer
Let’s take a look at an Ideal Customer — I call mine Ava, short for Avatar, which is simply another name for your perfect or ideal buyer. No matter what term you use — ideal customer, buyer persona, avatar, or something else — you need to get to know yours really, really well.
If you’re an established business looking for lift, it’s fairly straightforward to find the commonalities among the most profitable customers. You don’t need to spend a lot of time developing buyer personas, because the data is readily available. You’ve probably already put in the time to clearly define your ideal customer, and at this point, you can instead focus on other pieces of the puzzle, such as optimizing paid, earned, and owned media.
On the other hand, a small business that wants to scale for growth, or a startup that wants to jump-start a user base can’t get there without first spending some significant time to develop that complete buyer persona profile. If you’re trying to grow your business fast, it makes sense to focus on getting users — any users — onboarded as fast as you can, because it’s really only once you have the cold, hard data that comes only with paying customers that you can really define your buyer persona down to the details. But it’s important to step back and focus on perfecting the limited data you do have in the beginning. It’s through this customer-centric approach early on that a sustainable business will emerge.
The process doesn’t have to go deep, but it should be rooted in the customer-first mindset. Give yourself a minimum of two days to work on your buyer persona — and I actually recommend a full week. You need to know absolutely everything about this person, because you want to sell to a very specific person, not to a group. I talk a lot about how to do this — and walk you through the process — in the full version of my Guide.
Remember, the better you know your ideal customer, the less time you will spend struggling in the dark. The most effective marketing tools and strategies simply won’t help you if you don’t have the basics locked down. Narrow your focus to that ideal customer who will be loyal to your brand — and ultimately your strongest social advocate. Jun Loayza offers a great overview on how he used buyer personas to accelerate customer acquisition at Bunny Inc.
You don’t have to look very far to find an excellent example of how this customer-centric approach translates into securing boatloads of customers — fast. David Darmanin and his team over there at HotJar have mastered this approach in everything they do — especially when it comes to giving the user a sublime onboarding experience.
How Buyer Personas Apply to Growth Marketing
I’m constantly learning from the people around me — I believe strongly that every person you encounter has something to teach you. Recently, I’ve had several conversations with extremely talented people who helped me understand that many people involved in B2B are convinced that this whole buyer persona/ideal customer thing doesn’t apply to that model. Well, I think it does — and Tony Zambito agrees. There is still a pain point that you are solving, and there is someone who is making the decision to pull the trigger on the purchase of your product or service, and you need to answer that person’s questions and demonstrate how your product will make his life better.
I’ve also learned that many people who actively participate in and around “Growth” sometimes resist being labeled as part of marketing because:
- They think of marketers as salespeople or marketing as advertising.
- They don’t see the instant connection between their own work and “marketing.”
- They don’t believe that many “marketing” principles, like Buyer Persona Development, apply to their particular use case.
I realized that perhaps this disconnect comes from my own use of the term “growth marketer” in a very general sense. When I think of people across different fields — designers, developers, writers, search engine optimization specialists (SEO’s), videographers and many other phenomenally talented people who come from outside an organization and work on a specific project, or even on a continual basis, I think of them as part of the “growth marketing” team. But that same designer, whom I call a growth marketer, might consider himself a consultant, a freelancer, an independent contractor, a sole proprietor, or a small business owner.
I’d hate to think that semantics is getting in the way of anyone making the money they deserve and positioning themselves to be a part of the growth conversation. If the “marketer” or “marketing” label bothers you, don’t use it. But remember that part of the amazing skillset you offer is that through your design, words, code, or whatever else you contribute, you are helping to create an amazing end product and get it out in front of the buyers who need or want it. There is nothing smarmy about authentically communicating your product or service to those who want to buy it, even if you’re a hard core coder. I’ve got a lot more to say about growth and marketing — but I’m saving that for an upcoming post.
Step Two: Align Your Story With Your Ideal Customer
Once you know who your “Avatar” is, when you have a truly deep understanding of that person, you need to make sure that your Story — that is, your Why — matches that Avatar’s needs precisely. I like to use the term ALIGN to remind myself that the story must be:
Authentic — never try to fake it with your customers
Linked with your customer’s needs and wants
Innovative, presenting a unique solution to your ideal buyer
Grounded in the Why
New and exciting — it should change over time to keep pace with changes in the market.
The number one question I hear from businesses that have put in the work to establish product/market fit — businesses that really do have legitimate traction — is: “How can I grow my business? How can I increase revenues? What am I doing wrong?” In fact, if you listen to the very first episode of the Marketing IN THE KNOW podcast, you can actually hear the voicemails of entrepreneurs and business owners who called in with these questions.
I wanted to help these people solve the problem of growth. I believe that any company with product/market fit can successfully drive growth. For me, the Why that drives me is: I want to empower and position people and organizations for growth. Understanding my Why gave me the start I needed to define my ideal customers. Of course, I didn’t stop there. I spent a long time creating very precise buyer personas, and really getting inside their heads. My first wave of research helped me identify the groups:
- The busy business owner who is struggling to position a business for strategic growth — rather than chasing tactics all the time.
- The entrepreneur/startup who has put in the time to perfect product/market fit and is ready to scale the business.
- The employee and/or freelance consultant who works in and around marketing — whether a graphic designer, writer, developer, project manager, SEO, or any other role — who works with all kinds of companies and can sometimes identify growth opportunities that people within the company haven’t yet spotted.
Defining my buyer personas early on this way gave me critical information I needed to ALIGN my story perfectly — and it will do the same for you. When you understand your ideal customer’s needs and wants — and the obstacles and pain points in his path — you can tailor your story to get past those obstacles and get right to what your customer needs. You can write the story that drives him to buy your product because it is exactly what he needs.
Step Three: Get Vested Employees
Get Vested Employees. Ignore this third step at your own peril, and I don’t say that lightly. When I say you need vested employees, I mean that you need to know how to hire great people who believe in your Why as strongly as you do. So if your business is, I don’t know, a toothbrush that changes color when your teeth are clean, you need to find people who care about dental hygiene passionately.
If your business is a video game, then you need to hire people who have gaming in their blood. That might seem obvious, but imagine this: You’re down to the wire, considering which of two candidates you’ll hire. Jane really, really cares about what you’re doing. She’s your dream hire — but she’s asking for $100,000/year, which is significantly beyond your pre-determined salary range. Jack is talented, has all the right answers but he doesn’t have the passion, the fire, for what you’re trying to build. Then again, he’s only asking for $75,000/year.
This is the moment when you need to remember that your employees must be vested. This is where the rubber meets the road, the moment when you need to consider your risk vs. reward. Can you stretch your budget to cover Jane’s salary? Or can you come up with a creative way to offset that additional $25,000? Maybe Jane can be convinced to take part of her salary as a bonus to be paid when certain metrics are met. If she believes in the Why, then you should be able to find common ground. Think of how you market to your ideal customer, and apply those strategies to your employees as well.
You need to remember that Jane, who lives and breathes for an incredible gaming experience, will not get up and go home at 5pm if staying an extra ten minutes — or two hours — will give you the breakthrough you’ve been looking for.
You need to remember that Jack, who sees this job as a paycheck, will not throw his heart into the work — and it will show. It will show if his job is quality assurance or graphic design, but it will also show if his job is accounts payable. He doesn’t really care about the long term success of your company, because it’s just a job. So if he’s late writing a check to your star freelancer, what’s it to him?
To paraphrase the always-wise Woody from Toy Story, “Vested employees. If you don’t have them, get them!” And remember that when I say “employees” that’s shorthand for your contractors, consultants, partners, investors, board of directors and anyone else who is involved in your business. If they don’t believe in the Why, they don’t belong in the game.
Lock Down People, Processes and Platforms (the 3Ps) Early for Sustainable Growth
Once you’ve nailed StoryVesting, you’re ready to move on to the next part of the framework: the 3Ps — your People, Processes, and Platforms.
- Get the right People — and make sure they’re in the right “seats on the bus.”
- Determine your Processes, then put in the time to refine and perfect them.
- Invest in the Platforms you need.
Step One: Get the Right People
I’ve already explained the importance of hiring people who are vested in the success of your company, but of course you also need to find people who have the skills you need to support your company’s growth. For the past few years, I’ve advocated using what I call a “Modern Power Marketing Team” or “Growth Marketing Team” — a team solely dedicated to growth by way of entrepreneurial and data-driven marketing. But I’ve recently had a slight shift in thinking about how this team is structured, especially with the rise of formal “Growth Teams,” which you could view as the next natural step in the evolution of the Power Marketing Team — and thanks to the incredible technology advancements we’ve seen in the past few years.
Here’s a slightly terrifying thought: The iPad is not even 6 years old. Think about the number of businesses that only exist today because of the App Store, a distribution outlet created by Apple in 2008. Entire business models were created based on a technology that we simply didn’t imagine a decade ago.
Just a few years ago, when you hired people, you most likely sought out highly specific skill sets. C# developers. Graphic designers with print experience. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts with content experience. Web programmers who had built sites exactly like the one you wanted to build.
Today, even in our world of hyper-specialization, many if not most smaller to midsize businesses need people with broader experience. Software developers who really grasp and understand the value of user experience — and who can explain how to troubleshoot problems in a way that Aunt Anna can understand. Writers who can take user feedback data and understand how to apply it to the onboarding instructions published on your site. Graphic designers who can translate technical metrics into something a third grader can look at and instantly comprehend.
In many companies (and specific industries), hyper-specialization is absolutely critical, but for many growth-oriented businesses, particularly those with small teams, the most versatile team members are now the most valuable team members. Which does not mean that you say to your creative director, “Hey, you’re now also responsible for programming the web site.” Not even close.
What you do is you get your team members trained on the kinds of cross-functional marketing tools that allow graphic designers — and writers, and SEO experts, and project managers, and other team members — to tap into the power of the data you’re collecting, to set up landing pages and test new ideas, to create infographics, to pull in content from different places, and so on. As long as you’ve chosen People with Growth Mindsets, your team will take this in stride.
Clearly, the Growth Team of today looks a little bit different from the Power Marketing Team of yesterday — and the Growth Team will necessarily vary from business to business. In fact, Growth Teams for technical product-based businesses — in particular, SaaS companies — may be skewed heavily towards engineering, whereas Growth Teams in service businesses may be skewed towards digital business development.
As you start to pay attention to Growth Teams, you’ll notice that they definitely don’t all look the same. A successful Growth Team in one company might comprise a developer with design skills and a writer who loves to play with data. In another company you might find a web designer, a videographer, a back-end coder, and a data analyst, all of whom share certain skillsets. Either way, implementing a Growth Team — however constructed — is critical to fuel your business forward.
In fact, if you really want to understand the nuances of “Growth”, one of the best forums I love to visit regularly is growthhackers.com.
Even though Growth Teams vary from company to company, they do share some common traits.
- The people on your Growth Marketing Team must be master collaborators.
- They need to be agile, quick to respond to user insights and implement that feedback in products and services almost instantly.
- And the people who communicate your message and brand to the world must have a deep and intricate understanding of that message and brand.
A successful Growth Marketing Team — or whatever you want to call this team — is one that creates a frictionless and exceptional experience throughout the entire marketing funnel. From the moment of onboarding through closing the sale — and beyond. They make changes on the fly and work to create an exquisite, beautiful, amazing user experience every step of the way.
For example, I’m advising a smaller service-based company. Instead of hiring a content promotion marketer, I suggested putting together a very small Growth Team that will initially focus on optimizing the entire marketing funnel through the lens of data and consumer-centric feedback loops. Why? A typical content promotion specialist— even a great one at that — is not the right fit to achieve the sustainable growth and scale expected by the CEO.
From a third-party perspective — my perspective — hiring a content promotion specialist seemed tactical instead of strategic. Once the Growth Team gets a few wins for the company, then we can add promotion talent to the mix. At that point the company will have a solid framework for growth, and the promotion specialist will be significantly more effective.
I can’t tell you what a Growth Team might look like next year. But I know that companies that invest in ongoing training, such as online digital marketing training will be ready for whatever roles are needed then. The “secret” to keeping your team relevant is to keep up with not just trends, but the latest developments in the hybrid world of technology, marketing, data science, and all the places they intersect.
Whatever roles make up the Growth Team in your company, these people must know how to work together generally, and with each other, specifically. All of them should be vested in the company’s success. Again, this doesn’t mean that they need to be partners in company ownership, but you need to think hard about how to hire people who believe in your vision and the value of their own contributions. When you have the right people, you should pay them as much as you possibly can — and demonstrate your commitment to them by giving them ongoing training, as well as showing your respect and appreciation for what they do.
Step Two: Determine your Processes
Anything that happens in your business more than once is a Process. And every Process should be documented so that it can be easily repeated as often as necessary — and handled by someone who’s never done it before, in a pinch.
Documentation might be the person performing the task writing down step-by-step instructions, printing them out, and filing them in an Operations Manual. Or, it might be recording on screen actions with narration and saving the file in a shared Dropbox folder. Different Processes require different kinds of documentation, but it’s important to make sure the documentation happens.
Once a Process has been documented, it should also be analyzed, refined, and optimized. This typically happens naturally over time — you notice a snag, you change something, and things are better (and you update the documentation to reflect the change, of course!), but you should also make a point of revisiting your Processes occasionally to see how they can be streamlined.
Here at IN THE KNOW, I review processes quarterly — but also as needed on the fly. For example, when I started the Marketing IN THE KNOW Podcast, I had to figure out the initial Process for getting the recording edited and converted to MP3, transcribed, tagged, uploaded to iTunes, show notes written and uploaded to my site, and so on. And because the Process still isn’t perfect, I’m still tweaking it each week so that I don’t have to scramble on Tuesday mornings as the next episode goes live.
Fortunately, I had a great template to follow, because John Lee Dumas has bravely blazed the trail and done a phenomenal job of creating a complete “how to start a podcast” guide. But I still had to figure out who on my own team would be responsible for which parts of the Process — and as recently as yesterday, I was still tweaking it for maximum efficiency.
Step Three: Invest in the Right Platforms
Your Processes are inextricably linked with your Platforms — the tools you use to get the job done. Platforms can be as simple as Gmail, Apple Mail, or Outlook (sometimes I feel like I’m the only guy in the world still loving the simplicity of Outlook…), or as complex as the integrated marketing automation tools like Infusionsoft and HubSpot — or the more powerful tools available for enterprise-level companies.
For entrepreneurs and small business owners, Platforms can be tricky — but not as tricky as integrating one into a larger business. Do note that, sometimes, investing the money in something powerful can save you a lot of time and effort down the line — which can ultimately translate to money, but that huge outlay of cash is not always easy to swallow.
Personally, I’m a bootstrapper. IN THE KNOW is my baby, and it’s a newborn right now. I’m financing the entire thing out of my own pocket, which means I am clutching those purse strings extremely tightly in my fist. For example, I’m currently using Gumroad to sell my Guide and Mailchimp for mailing list management.
When the time is right, I’ll move on to HubSpot or Infusionsoft —they’re both excellent platforms and I’ve used them both before — but right now, my business doesn’t need that much power.
So yeah, getting your Platforms right doesn’t mean buying the most expensive solutions. Not at all. It means getting the right solutions for where you are now. Be honest with yourself. Be lean and mean — but don’t be cheap. Yes, I’m using MailChimp, but I’m using a paid plan, because I need the automation services that are only available with paid plans. Using a free plan would be awesome — lean and mean, baby! — but it would be shortsighted, and it would severely limit my ability to grow my business.
And once more, this is where knowing your ideal customer well will help you. I cater to those people and organizations who are looking truly leap ahead of the curve to grow and scale — which includes people within a company who are tasked with growth. The entrepreneurs, for example, will want to explore the free and low cost tools, so I need to focus on modern marketing tools and strategies that will work with MailChimp, for example, and not only with the big, expensive marketing automation tools.
On the other hand, I also need to provide information and guidance to small businesses getting ready to make the switch to those more robust Platforms in order to break through the key strategic inflection points of growth. (I’ve spent a lot of time studying dozens of Platforms, so feel free to browse through the Resources section of my site to see the ones I recommend and use.)
It takes time to get the 3Ps right. It took me a year to build out my 3Ps before I launched IN THE KNOW. When I started, the content for the Guide existed in my head. Back then, IN THE KNOW was just me and an idea. So I had to go out, find and hire the right People — and get them in the right seats on the bus — get the content for the Guide edited and revised, get the entire Guide designed, develop the entire Website from scratch — content, development, graphics, infographics and so on — research every Platform I considered using, learn everything I could about Podcasting, find guests and get them booked, learn to use Adobe Audition, buy the right equipment — oh, and there was the small matter of launching a new personal brand.
And lest you think the work is done, let me disavow you of that notion right now. Now, I have to promote all this content, engage with users, nurture my audience — and I really, really despise the smarmy marketer and sales guy. No smarm, that’s my motto. But I have a growth framework to fall back on. I have a way to stay on track.
That strategic framework is what has allowed me to build IN THE KNOW, and that framework is what I care passionately about sharing with those tasked with growth.
When my clients get overwhelmed by content marketing and everything else that goes into creating a digital marketing machine, I get it. I really do — because I am right there in the trenches with them. The difference is that when I look at the challenge ahead of me, my heart races with excitement. I see the potential for growing my own business — and my clients’ businesses — and I can’t wait to dive in. Pour me another cuppa and I’m good to go! Sleep is for the weak! (I know, I know, my wife tells me I’m nuts.)
The beauty of a growth framework is that it lets you tap into the power of modern marketing strategies and tactics and use them to your advantage. You can hire talented People from all over the globe, create and refine Processes that use technology you couldn’t have dreamed up a decade ago, and you can use Platforms that often feel as if they were invented just for you. And when you have the 3Ps in place, you can use them effectively throughout every stage of the Modern Marketing Funnel.
The Modern Marketing Funnel
The Modern Marketing Funnel represents the journey your ideal customer takes as he or she travels the path from just another person out there in the universe to YOUR CUSTOMER. In other words, the entire funnel is for your ideal customer — not for you. Never, ever think of it as a “sales funnel.” That’s old-school thinking, and not in a cool, retro way. More like in a “Wow, I can’t believe they used to smoke in the delivery room,” way. Your ideal customer is the most important person in the world, and the modern marketing funnel should reflect that.
Now, if you’re a funnel expert, you might be thinking, “Um, Buckley, where is the optimization? And your KPIs are off — plus you seem to be missing some cogs here and there.” This funnel is NOT an exact blueprint for YOUR funnel. Heck, it’s not even an exact blueprint for MY funnel, because your marketing funnel is a dynamic thing that is constantly changing.
Optimization isn’t a stage — it’s a constant, ongoing process. Podcasting won’t be a cog or lever in your funnel if your industry won’t support an audience or your buyers are not listening to podcasts. I’ve seen dozens of marketing funnel posts that are trying to commoditize the process of building the funnel — but there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” marketing funnel.
The strategic and tactical nuances of your funnel are unique to you, your story, and your customer’s story. So how exactly do you ensure that the funnel is designed precisely for your ideal buyer, your favorite person in the world? You draw on everything you learned about your ideal customer back when you started developing your buyer persona.
You use all of that information to personalize the journey your buyer takes. Let’s say you know that your ideal customer is a 26-year-old male with a college education. He’s not dating anyone seriously. He eats out four times a week, hits the clubs most weekends, and he spends more money on his sneakers than he does on his groceries. A Valentine’s Day special will not speak to this guy. But he might engage with a tweet showcasing the “kicks” his favorite rapper wore to the VMAs. You will know what he wants to see, because you’ve done the research. You know your ideal customer inside out, and so when you and the rest of your People begin planning — the first stage of the funnel — you’ll take into account everything that you already know about your ideal customer.
You’ll use that knowledge to plan a strategy that incorporates content that will resonate with your ideal customer, that reaches your ideal customer on the social networks he uses, that provides answers to the questions your ideal customer asks. Over time, as you build out more data-driven insights, you’ll know the different levers to pull to bring others like him (and his friends) to the game and how to keep him from leaving. Throughout each stage of the modern marketing funnel, your People — the ones you carefully selected because they believe in your Why, because they share your passion for solving your ideal customer’s problem — will follow the Processes you created (and documented, and refined, and optimized) using the Platforms you’ve selected, and create an immersive user experience. When you hire People with a Growth Mindset, they will naturally look to develop and refine Processes.
What exactly does that look like? Well, when your ideal customer goes looking for information and answers to questions, what happens? In anticipation of your buyer’s need, you and your Growth Team have created data-backed and optimized content. You’ve done that by asking the right questions — for example, via exit-intent and other surveys, rigorous A/B testing, interacting with your ideal buyer in various channels, and using the information he gives you to create content that answers his questions and provides the information he needs — value, in other words. Your ideal customer finds value in the content and information that you provide.
When you let your customer tell you exactly what he wants and you give it to him, he thinks you are the greatest. He loves the exceptional experience you’ve created for him. And you continue to provide value with every contact, which means that your ideal customer can progress to the next stage of your funnel without stumbling.
For example, when someone signs up for your newsletter, you deliver a newsletter that is packed with information your buyer needs right at that very moment — which you know, because you literally asked your buyer what information he needed, in a live Q&A, or in an exchange on Twitter or Facebook, or by using heatmaps to study the way your buyer interacts with your site, and you continue to learn as much as you can about him every day.
Amy Porterfield is a master at providing value to her buyers throughout every step of the buying journey. Her Webinars and Calls to Action (CTAs) are inspiring. Amy often requests help from her users via her Facebook page — soliciting their opinions on fonts, asking for suggestions on wording, and so on. This kind of engagement gives Amy’s users insights into the questions she considers, and their answers inform her decisions. Amy makes users feel respected and appreciated, and they respond in kind.
When you make your ideal customer feel special and unique and individual, you move beyond vanity metrics into metrics that actually matter. In other words, rather than saying, “Oh, look! 400 people retweeted me!” you can enjoy actual engagement — conversation — with users. You let your users see your authentic responses, which encourages them to trust you. And ultimately, buyers who trust you will reward you by making a purchase.
What Amy Porterfield does might look easy at first glance — Hey, I’ll just ask my users to give me some opinions! — but I am absolutely certain that Amy has put in an enormous amount of time and effort to analyze, tweak, and perfect her marketing funnel — and the 3Ps that fuel it. And this is the kind of work that you never fully cross of your to-do list. Optimizing your message and processes to create the ultimate buying experience is never done. But the payoff is there.
You continue to engage with your customers in the places where they already hang out — because you know where they go, thanks to your ongoing research. And your customers tell their friends about you, and then the whole thing starts all over again. It’s pretty awesome.
Once more, you B2B folks might think that your situation is different. And it is, but it’s also not. Just like a B2C marketer, you need to make sure that your buyers have a smooth journey through the funnel, just as I had mentioned with Hotjar. Your engagement with your ideal customer across social media might happen on LinkedIn instead of on Facebook, but it’s still happening. You’re still creating genuine relationships, and you’re still concerned with the metrics that matter — like how many people are actively participating and engaging in your LinkedIn group, rather than how many connections you have, for example.
Putting It All Together: The Digital Growth Marketing Framework
Whether you’re a small business or a traditional business looking to transition into a digital leader, just remember this: start with StoryVesting, nail the 3Ps, and build out your marketing funnel based on the buyer’s insights that you’ve gleaned from your data at every stage of the funnel. When you do that, you have a modern digital marketing machine. You have the framework you need to drive growth and power through the difficult bumps in your growth journey.
Want a great example of someone who has built an amazing customer-centric growth machine? Neil Patel. This is a guy who gets it. He knows exactly how to work a modern marketing funnel — and it doesn’t hurt that he’s incredibly detailed, with step-by-step guides to keywords, growing your user base, and anything else you can think of.
Few digital marketers can keep up with the sheer volume of content that Neil puts out, and he strives to provide amazing value in every contact, across every channel. The content he puts out helps his users understand how to build excellent, searchable content for their own businesses.
Another amazing machine is the one built and run by Marie Forleo. Leigh Buchanan at INC calls her the “ultimate relationship builder,” and Forleo has created an absolute powerhouse of a digital marketing machine.
Optimize Your Machine
Once your machine is built — once you’ve done the work of StoryVesting, invested in the 3Ps, and built out your Modern Marketing Funnel, then it’s time to optimize. Optimization is an ongoing process — and it has to happen at both the strategic and tactical/channel level. Let’s break that down a bit.
- Optimization starts on a high level: Is your product or service still relevant to the market? Remember, without initial and continual product/market fit, none of this will work. There is no point in tweaking specific tactics on a micro level if the macro is all wrong.
- Do you need to change any of your People or Processes? Is every Platform and Process optimized? Do your people have the right skills to foster growth?
- Optimize the way you get feedback from your ideal customer. Make it easy for her to tell you exactly what she wants. Ask the right questions — and only the most important questions — to get the answers that will actually help you refine your offering to meet your buyer’s needs.
- Think about how your ideal customer consumes your content, and when that A-HA! moment arrived and why it arrived. Then build an optimization and retention strategy from there. For example, thanks to 4G Broadband and blazing Wi-Fi speeds, we’re not tethered to our home computers. We do our searching on our phones and iPads and other mobile devices, so be sure your content is easily searchable and readable on a smaller screen. In other words, if you still think mobile optimization is a “nice to have” item, you shouldn’t be really surprised at how much business your competition is stealing from you.
Image: Pew Research Center
After you’ve hit on the high level optimization, you can drill down to the micro engine level.
- Can you improve loading times on a particular platform, streamline information collection, or speed up response time to customers?
- Produce content that’s relevant to the keywords people search for at every stage of the growth marketing funnel — and put in the time to develop a detailed SEO strategy, as outlined by Brian Dean of Backlinko.
- Update your information regularly so that it remains timely and builds your Domain Authority and Page Authority. Link your content to influencers and authority figures in your field. Get up to speed on these concepts so that you can stay ahead of the curve.
Start Building Your Framework
So, now that you’ve seen the work that goes into creating your framework, I hope you understand why I spent so much time earlier on the theory behind why it matters. And as long as this post is, I’ve really just scratched the surface. Building the overarching framework to encompass all the parts of your digital marketing machine is a complex process, but a critical one. When you take the time to really understand the thinking behind the framework, you’re much more prepared when you start to actually build it out.
Don’t be the business that builds hundreds of landing pages with nothing behind them — unless you’re looking for temporary revenue blips. Instead, be the business that encounters strategic inflection points and responds accordingly, in order to maintain forward motion and growth.
Sustainable growth requires a solid framework. It’s a macro and micro process. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t usually look like a hockey stick with no stopping points. Sustainable growth comes when you start with the overarching framework rooted in StoryVesting, the 3Ps, and the Modern Marketing Funnel.
- Identify your Why, match it to your ideal customer’s pain point, and get the internal buy-in from your employees.
- Hire the right People and put them in the right places, and invest the time and money needed to get your Processes and Platforms right.
- Use what you know about your ideal customer to provide genuine value throughout every stage of the Marketing Funnel. Let your People follow the Processes you’ve created, and set them up with the Platforms they need.
This is a solid framework for growth. Sure, it takes time to build it out. But the time you put in will pay off richly when you have a growth marketing machine that runs smoothly and drives growth for your business — the way it did for Eric Smith, who built two back-to-back nine figure businesses using the very framework.
The way it has for hundreds — maybe even thousands — of successful companies and entrepreneurs. Over time, I will share more ideas from what I have learned about growth from my own experiences, mentors, amazing entrepreneurs, partners, investors, and of course — my parents! There’s no great secret here. I haven’t invented a revolutionary new way to grow your business. But I have taken the time to spell out the step-by-step instructions you can follow to build a modern growth marketing machine in the most straightforward way I know. The rest is up to you.