It’s a wonderful moment when your business starts to take off. But now that the early-stage party is over, what’s next?
You discover your product-market fit, customers love the brand, qualified leads roll in, clients come on board, and the team culture is coming together. You might have even been brave enough to turn your mobile off for a couple of hours. What's next?
Sustaining growth will be the next challenge. Here are four lessons to keep teams focused on what works as you start to scale.
1. Be consistent and add +1
Marketing is part science and art. Each business is building their own magical growth formula to connect and acquire customers. Once you’ve cracked this formula, I’ve found it’s consistency that gives you the biggest gains.
I recently worked with a brand that was looking for a more innovative go-to-market strategy. Their current marketing mix was a healthy blend of search, content marketing, and events, which was driving consistent demo requests and qualified leads. It was working.
My brief was to uncover a more exciting way to go-to-market. The risk in this question was shifting the current marketing team away from what was working to engage new customers. I’ve seen this a lot with marketers too: they get bored with what they’re doing or have a fear of “wearing out.”
The pragmatic solution for this was to select one new innovative approach to test each month. This had to be something that the brand hadn’t done before—anything from using a new channel to working with new partners.
The +1 ideas came from a pool of ideas the team shared in a Google doc the month prior. As a collective, they selected the new idea to prep and test the following month. This gave the team enough space to play with new ideas without being distracted from what was currently driving acquisition. For example, they could test a new partner webinar while still keeping inbound content and emails going.
Tip: If you’ve cracked the formula, keep at it. Don’t lose focus with a shiny new approach.
2. Improve with meaningful testing
I love data and A/B testing. However, unless you have a beautifully resourced team with a limitless budget, it’s important to focus on why and what you are optimizing.
I recently worked with a client that was A/B testing multiple elements of their marketing mix—email headlines, SEO keywords, paid search, website CTAs, gated or non-gated content, and Facebook ads. This is awesome if you have a big team but tougher to do with a lean one.
The challenge the team faced was finding time to apply the learnings from these tests. Because there was so much testing, it was hard to understand what to change. Most importantly, there also wasn’t enough traffic moving through each test to make a call on a meaningful action.
We came to a more realistic solution: choosing up to three key areas to optimize each week. This was done on existing campaigns or assets. The team huddled on a weekly basis to discuss optimization and the results in the context of the overall pipeline. This focus on testing led to more growth and less effort, as it meant they had the resources to take action and improve.
Tip: Meaningfully optimize and test. The results are golden if you spend time understanding it. Spend your energy working out how to apply the learnings.
3. Automate only when you know what works
At lunch last week, a client asked, “When is the right time to set up marketing technology?” The answer is when you already know what connects with customers.
I’ve seen businesses of all sizes spend considerable time reviewing technology to help automate their marketing. Not only does this involve a significant technology investment, it also involves training and time to make it work.
One exercise I did with a client recently was to map out the entire customer journey and identify where we could put in place “micro-automation” tools instead. These included planning or scheduling for Instagram and Facebook, a chatbot with a basic script, a simple tool to book demo appointments, a really clean nurture and onboarding email process, and a basic CRM approach.
We decided not to spend on an infrastructure to link this all together until the business was ready. Distracting everyone for a quarter on selecting a tech solution was not going to help drive growth.
Tip: Micro-automate when you have the formula for what works, as it saves you time. Hold off on boiling the ocean until you’re really ready to scale.
4. Ask and listen to customers every day
I recently asked a group of marketers when they last spoke to their customers. One person said it was when they were hunting for the latest round of testimonials and case studies. I asked why, and they told me it was because the marketing team felt that the responsibility of engaging the customer to get feedback should fall on the customer success or sales teams.
Making human, emotional connections with users and customers is the same growth tonic as using new technology; it’s just more durable and harder to copy.
I’ve just kickstarted a project with a team to engage customers throughout the development of their MVP. Not only is it about building relationships, it’s also about creating a dialogue for feedback. The plan is to keep up that dialogue long after launch. This becomes the responsibility of everyone inside the business.
Tip: Set aside 30 minutes a day to keep listening, observing, and sharing feedback. Everyone owns the customer.
Your success so far does earn you a golden ticket. But every day is a school day when it comes to finding sustainable growth. Be consistent, test and apply, and stay in the trenches to keep learning from your customers. These are the most rewarding things you can do.
This article has proudly been published on Tech In Asia. Would love to hear your builds, ideas and additions.