Growth! Faster, safer, more cost-effective marketing for every budget

July 20, 2018

By Matt Skinner

Following on from my previous article about the (percieved) death of email marketing, I’m going to talk a bit more widely about how I think the industry should adjust and reframe its approach post-GDPR.

As previously discussed, GDPR has created a huge vacuum; now that purchased lists are mostly off the table, the spine of many marketing strategies has gone, and teams are struggling to patch together new plans to fill the gap.

The industry needs to become much more agile in delivering multi-channel campaign strategies, particularly as many clients now find themselves in unchartered territory. Agencies need to step up and help their more vulnerable clients in this period of adjustment. The question is, how?

The answer, for me, lies in growth marketing techniques.

The growth approach has traditionally been associated with startups: companies who are agile and can take risks, who out of necessity, adopt faster solutions to their marketing problems. But those who’ve spent a decade or more basing their entire lead generation strategy around email lists now find themselves at a point where they are essentially working as startups.

Take a look at this great write-up of growth basics from RockBoost.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept, growth marketing looks at the entire funnel – from awareness and acquisition, right down to conversion and retention and can (given the project) cross over into product development. It’s defined by establishing a single key metric, then implementing rapid phases of experimentation and ‘doing’, rather than long, drawn out planning phases and single burst campaigns. It utilises multidisciplined team members and Agile/Scrum project methodologies in order to deliver sustained growth to the client.

In short: faster, safer, more cost-effective marketing.

And it’s not just for startups.

Here at Proctors, we’ve been using these techniques with all our clients - from financial services to charities - for years, regardless of whether they're an SME or an enterprise.

Different agencies use different techniques, and you’ll find a million different ideas on how a ‘growth team’ should be structured, but at its core, growth marketing boils down to two main elements:

  1. Unifying a multidisciplined team around one key business objective
  2. Rapid, structured cycles of delivery and refinement

Methodology

Traditionally, agency briefs are handed off to a planner or account handler, who rallies the troops in order to create the deliverables the client has requested. It can be mindless, it can be inefficient, and doesn’t consider that 1) the client may not know exactly what they need, and 2) team members may be better placed to advise on how their specialisms can deliver against the objective than the planner or account manager.

In the traditional ‘receive brief > pitch > deliver what the client has asked for > hope it works’ cycle, results are hypothetical until the project is completed. Pitches are won on promised results and long planning phases are budgeted for in order to make sure that a campaign has the best chance of absolutely nailing the brief in one swoop.

The main difference with a growth methodology is that, once the client’s objective is defined, campaign planning and implementation is delivered side-by-side in structured monthly or quarterly sprints. Each team member is aligned behind the client’s ultimate business objective and utilises their specialisms to deliver on that metric. The team starts from the client’s current baseline, and quickly implements changes to grow from there.

A growth cycle/sprint runs as follows:

  1. Use existing data to build hypotheses
  2. Plan the coming month’s-worth of activity
  3. Deliver that activity over the sprint
  4. Report on hypotheses
  5. Use the data to build new hypotheses. Drop what doesn’t work, keep what does.
  6. Repeat

The concept scales too. You can start with what you have and just get on with it. No huge, up-front investment required.

And it’s not just for full funnel; individual campaigns can benefit from this approach also. If you have a limited or strict budget, it makes much more sense to spread it over a longer period of doing, rather than a long, drawn-out planning phase at the start of a project.

This is also a particularly powerful approach if you’re venturing into the unknown post-GDPR.

The importance of the client objective

The big stumbling block with a growth approach is defining what the client really wants.

At the centre of every client brief is a business objective; the reason they have embarked on a project. Thought leadership, brand awareness, increased search traffic: all of these are project “objectives” that, as a creative and technology agency, we’re tasked with on a daily basis. But ultimately, these projects are always in the service of something that results in increased revenue to the client’s business. Whether it’s to generate more direct sales, or to create more leads or to increase brand equity before a takeover or sale, there will be a hard metric that defines why the project is happening.

This may seem obvious, but the number of campaign briefs we receive that seem completely divorced from a business objective outweigh those tied to a clear goal by a sizable margin.

That’s not a criticism of client-side teams. Many know exactly what they’re doing and just need an agency to deliver the systems and creative that will plug in to their plans.

However, a large proportion are not sure of what they’re doing (particularly post-GDPR) and from an agency side, we’re limited in the value we can provide to those clients if we don't clearly understand why they’re embarking on a project.

Admittedly, this can be incredibly annoying if you're a client; your know-it-all, money-grabbing, hipster agency responding to your highly-detailed, well-planned brief by saying "Aaaaactually, you don’t know what you’re doing. We need X,Y and Z". Yet any agency worth its salt should be challenging client briefs, and any client worth working with should be open to being challenged (the reverse is also true).

This isn’t an altruistic approach; we’re not talking about giving it away for free. Your budget is still going to be spent, however this approach provides true value for that budget, and is a much more responsible way of doing things if the client-side team is on shaky, unchartered ground.

It also has the added benefit of increased productivity and cost-effectiveness from the agency itself. When teams aren't working in silos, and are unified around a client objective, the agency can deliver a faster, more effective solution. Not only is it more likely to deliver a better result, it's more satisfying for the team members – both agency and client side – who are using their talents to find creative solutions to problems.

We’re known as an agency that delivers technological and creative solutions to clients. We’re known for having world-class specialists in each area. But I would also define many of those specialists as world-class growth marketers: Holly Graham knows the business needs of her clients, Dan Hardaker knows digital design, Sam Davies knows content, Ross Gratton knows front end development, but most importantly, all three understand each other’s specialisms and how they fit together. Each are constantly looking to understand why a client is asking for something, and how they can collaborate to deliver on that.

Here’s a super-basic example of how this approach can make a difference.

After a complete wipe-out of their newsletter database post-GDPR, a client comes to us with basic Google Analytics data showing that organic search traffic delivers the highest number of leads on their website. Naturally, they have an SEO brief to increase organic search traffic for service-specific keywords, with a list of content they want produced.

The client is not experienced with SEO, having relied almost exclusively on email as their primary source of leads, so they’re starting from only a basic understanding of how the channel works.

They currently have 50 blog articles, each generating around 50 visits per month. They want to increase their organic search traffic by 20%, so have tasked us to complete a series of 10 new, in-depth, 3,000-word blog articles and a small accompanying promotional plan. Oh, and they have a budget of £10k, including media.

It’s an example of both under and over thinking a project. What the client wants is an SEO strategy. What the client needs is more leads.

The growth approach is the difference between interpreting the brief as “we need to deliver the client’s SEO content plan” and “we need to increase the number of leads”.

In the growth approach, we begin by having an analyst take a look at the avaliable data (in this case, a Google Analytics account, but it could be anything CRM, email, heat mapping tools – anything that’s immediately avaliable). The analyst sees that while the largest number of leads does come from organic search, there are a number of other observations that may help the client generate more leads immediately.

Analyst notices that:

  1. Bounce rate from all channels is high and site conversion rate is low at 0.3%
  2. While the blog posts are generating a large amount of traffic, static service pages are actually generating the same amount, but the click-through rate from impressions served in search engine results pages is at 0.5%
  3. Total number of visitors from a recent social campaign is vastly smaller than that from search, but conversion rates from this channel are 10x higher

This information is then shared/discussed with the growth team.

  1. Bounce rate/conversion rate: The designer notices that contact CTAs are not accessible on all landing pages. He/she proposes adding a button to each high-traffic landing page to direct users to contact immediately. The developer suggests an out-of-the-box pop-up that can be installed in an hour.
  2. Click-through rate: The SEO specialist notes that metadata on landing pages is disorganised or non-existent, and posits that if we increased the click-through rate from impressions served to 0.75%, we would obtain that 20% increase in organic search traffic from the existing search audience alone. The SEO specialist proposes creating new metadata for key pages on the site.
  3. Social campaign: The social media specialist notes that messaging and creative were linked to a free trial offering of the client’s services. The social specialist proposes re-using the client’s campaign collateral across paid social channels in order to test if the messaging works with an audience outside of their existing followers.

These are all incredibly basic digital quick wins, but they can be delivered for a fraction of the client’s budget, utilising already existing collateral, systems and creative. And they could actually exceed the client’s target in a very short space of time.

Once these basic building blocks are placed, the growth team then continues to work with the client, sharing ideas and rapidly implementing projects on a month-by month basis, utilising that £10k budget over a longer engagement period, potentially expanding past the website into offline channels, lead nurturing and even client retention. This helps the client grow to the point where those larger projects are not merely justifiable, they’re necessary.

For those of you at a loss post-GDPR, or for those looking for a new approach to your marketing efforts, an agile approach, led by growth techniques, could provide the answer you’re looking for.

If you’d like to know more about how we can help you utilise growth marketing techniques, please drop us an email at hello@proctors.co.uk, or call us on 0117 923 2282.