I recently wrote a few articles on how product, team and process form the basis for implementing and scaling growth in any organisation.
I’ve also written plenty about how too many ‘growth hackers’ focus on short term tactics rather than a scalable strategy and vision.
But what do you do once you have your product, team and process in place? How do you develop a vision for growth?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I am working on Recruitee’s long-term vision and strategy for growth. I’ve come to the conclusion that our approach to growth relies on 3 key disciplines: Lead Generation, Branding and Product Growth.
Breaking Down Growth:
When I look at everything we do as part of marketing and growth at Recruitee, I see a variety of disciplines that have different goals, require different skills and interact with other departments in different ways.
The Venn diagram above comprises everything we do, from performance marketing to conversion rate optimization, from product improvements to email campaigns, from inbound strategy to user experience.
At the end of the day, growth is about attracting the most relevant customers (lead Generation), convincing them that your solution is the best for them (branding) and making sure the product is at a level that will ensure retention, loyalty and even referrals (product Growth).
Lead generation is where most of the ‘marketing’ happens. Its focus is on the top of the funnel; driving traffic and converting it to users.
Finding out where your audience is and leveraging it to your advantage is the first part of any growth strategy. This is why it is so important to understand your users and have well-detailed psychographic persona profiles.
Depending on your users, market, product and means, there are a lot of different ways to acquire new users. At Recruitee, we use a combination of performance marketing and inbound marketing to generate awareness. Once you have an idea of which channels work well, it is important to experiment on different ways to leverage those channels.
Once you’re generating traffic, you need to make sure you nurture and convert as much of it as possible into users. We focus on content, email marketing, re-marketing, landing pages and various forms of CRO to maximize conversions. Again, the first step to converting users is generating the right kind of traffic.
In terms of strategy, our main goal is to automate the top of the funnel as much as possible. It needs to be predictable and scalable; like a well-oiled machine. Ideally, you want to be in a position where doubling your budgets and efforts will result in double the amount of leads.
In B2B, lead generation is a particular challenge for a number of reasons. The main difficulty often lies in data attribution. We try to be as data-driven as possible, but when a user has 20–50 touch points with your marketing before deciding to sign up, it can be a real challenge to figure out what all those touch points were and how each of them affected the customer journey. As a result we often have to rely on early indicators, soft metrics and qualitative data to properly ‘oil the machine’.
If you’re in the B2B sphere, working closely with sales to qualify and nurture leads is vital. I’ve seen a lot of companies that have suffered as a result of Growth and Sales not working closely together. This is why we have a Sales person on the Growth Team and a monthly meeting called “Growth Loves Sales”.
I used to underestimate the importance of branding. The way a lot of marketers look at it is that if it doesn’t directly generate leads, it’s not worth any time or money. I’m glad I came around before having to learn the hard way that that is, in fact, false.
I mentioned above how some of our users have dozens of touch points before deciding to sign up. What I’ve found time and time again is that being “top of mind” shouldn’t be underestimated, especially in B2B SaaS where people often spend a lot of time weighing their options before deciding to purchase a subscription.
A strong brand can make a big difference when trying to convert leads. More importantly, prominent and positive brand awareness is going to help you tie down customers who are not actively looking for your product right now but might be doing so in future. This is vital for long-term scalability. If you go to the Tesla showroom in Amsterdam, you’ll see that they let everyone and anyone climb into the cars and play around with the features; even scruffy teens. The reason they do this is because Tesla is a car of the future and you never know who will be able to afford one 5, 10 or even 20 years down the line.
In the case of Recruitee, I know that there are recruitment professionals out there who are not currently in the position to switch to a new applicant tracking system, but I also know that they might one day change jobs, get a budget increase or refer an ATS to a colleague or friend. A strong brand presence in the field can act like a force multiplier for everything that contributes to your company’s growth.
Branding can often seem like an ambiguous term because there are so many ways in which you can cultivate your company’s image. Given the niche we are in, we try to take a page out of Hubspot’s book and strengthen our brand through thought leadership.
The best way to ensure this is by creating as much value as possible. We strongly believe that good marketing should always be about creating value, which is why we treat our content as a product in itself. The more value you create, the bigger a thought leader you become, the more respected, trusted and admired your brand will be as a result.
Whichever way you want others to perceive your company, keep in mind that a powerful brand is about more than just marketing; it affects everything from funding to recruitment. Just look at companies like Google, Apple and Tesla, who can move mountains with their brand image alone.
So you’ve set up a lead generating machine and you have a strong brand to back it up and help close those leads. What next?
Now you need to make sure that all those hard earned customers keep using and loving your product. It is important to develop strategies for maximizing retention, loyalty and referrals.
This is where growth differs from more traditional forms of marketing. As we think about ways to improve and optimize our product, we need to engage with a whole range of different -and often technical- skills.
A lot of traditional businesses keep product and marketing separate, leaving marketers with the task of selling a readily finished product. This simply doesn’t cut it anymore. You need to constantly be iterating on your product based on your users’ needs.
Generating leads and creating brand awareness can be costly endeavours. You need to make sure that you aren’t pouring gallons of water into a leaky bucket. This is why they say that you should always optimize the sales funnel from the bottom up; because traffic that doesn’t convert is about as useless as conversions that immediately churn.
The most important thing when considering product growth is ensuring that Growth is fully integrated into Product, both in terms of team and process. This often starts with the overall mindset and culture at the company. At Recruitee, we are lucky to have product-minded growth people and growth-minded product people, which has allowed us to build integrated processes and informal guild-like teams for things like onboarding, UX, feature discovery and testing.
Over the years I’ve found that many companies struggling to grow tend to have serious shortcomings in at least one of the 3 elements mentioned above. Growth Marketing as a discipline is more complex and vital than ever before and having a clear vision on how you’re going to scale your business is crucial.
If you would like to share your own vision, I encourage you to do so in the comments below!