All companies hope to reach a point (or several) where they need to scale their business bigger and better. When that time comes, whether it’s early in your startup, partway through your series funding round, or even when you’ve reached market maturity – it may do you some good to recruit an expert: a growth marketing partner.
Whatever the case may be, involving an external growth partner (or agency) can significantly increase your odds at growing your business revenue and profitability (wooing investors), attracting more customers, and converting them to champion your brand in the most compelling ways.
Not to mention, sharing the responsibilities takes a load off your plate and frees up some of your precious time. It can also significantly lower operating costs when you offset senior marketing leaders’ salaries with external experts you can tap into as needed.
So what do you need to know going into your growth marketing partnership and before you sign on the dotted line?
The last thing you want is to miss a good return on investment for your marketing dollars. That’s why we’ve come up with 5 must-ask questions in finding the right fit growth partner for your startup.
1. What is their experience?
Not all growth marketing partners are made equal. When you’re shopping around for the right kind of expertise, size up their previous clients. Find out their track record for working with companies both like you and unlike you.
If you’re in the business of healthy meal kit delivery, chances are you may not want to choose a partner whose client portfolio solely focuses on technical B2B industries. That’s not to say that marketing partners and agencies can’t be versatile, but it’s essential to see proven and relevant results from past clients that belong within your industry.
At the same time, take note of partners and agencies that focus their work exclusively in one area. You may end up identifying your competitors instead, in which case, you’ll want to avoid due to conflict of interest.
A growth marketing partner who has previous technology and startup experience will help execute your company’s objectives. They should understand what’s at stake, the importance of moving fast, and the nature of continuously testing and iterating on your marketing programs.
With a good cross-section of B2B and B2C backgrounds, they can apply best practices to holistically look at your brand. From things like website messaging, product user experience, search visibility, and the latest marketing and social channels to target specific audiences, especially early adopters.
And if that’s not enough, growth marketing partners can assist with recruitment marketing to accelerate your in-house team’s growth and scaling. They can better train and onboard new marketing hires to effectively take over and execute projects internally.
2. What are their service offerings and capabilities?
No doubt every agency does some things better than others, but to round out your marketing efforts and come up with compelling strategies, your growth marketing partner should have a slew of competencies at their disposal.
Our advice? Avoid hiring a one-trick pony. Seek agencies or partners with diverse service offerings. Most brands may jump the gun and think marketing is all about the performance data and numbers. But equally substantial is content marketing and creative - the storytelling that backs up your brand and resonates with customers on a deeper level.
Expertise in both performance and content-based marketing comes in handy, especially when informing the messaging and ad creative used to capture attention through paid media. Creative web design, video, branding, social media, and blogs are all pieces of the puzzle that inform your business. Just think, what good can a paid digital ad do for a company if its website looks like it’s from 1994? Not a whole lot.
What separates a strong growth marketing partner from average is their priority to understand your target audiences and customer segments. One of the very first things on their agenda is to do a deep-dive into the market you’re trying to reach and the people you’re hoping to sell to. They consider what your value propositions and key messages need to be at every stage of your journey and potential touchpoints that customers have with your brand.
3. What is their process for building out a marketing strategy?
There’s no overstating the importance of this one: set your expectations straight from the get-go. Knowing who your points of contact are, which parties are tasked with what responsibilities (including how much or how little), and a clear onboarding process will make things a lot smoother.
Many marketing agencies tend to drop the ball on defined processes. And without them, you’re looking at a longer, bumpier, and more expensive road ahead. Strain in your relationship with your marketing partner can trickle down to poor results that ultimately affect your business’ success.
A great growth marketing partner will lay out a high-level strategy on where to focus in addition to getting into the nitty gritty of tactical plans and timelines. They’re no strangers to producing effective content calendars, including what digital assets to create, for whom, and where they’ll be published and promoted.
All strategies should tie back to your business objectives and marketing goals. Growth marketing partners will thoughtfully address your specific needs, including how to communicate the results.
Some may even cover all the bases by conducting an audit of the marketing that already exists with your company, and assessing your brand presence before getting right down to business with generating a tactical plan to fill every gap. All the while they carve out realistic timelines deployed through phases and funding milestones to make it all happen.
4. What is their pricing model?
Remember: overnight success is a myth.
There are no cutting corners with effective marketing and sales, which means it can be a slow burn before you see the finish line. Most companies begin to see a return on their inbound marketing after the three to six-month mark, but don’t be surprised if it takes longer.
If you’re looking to fast-track your way through lead generation, be wary of what’s sustainable and achievable. Ask your prospective growth marketing partner if they have any quick win strategies up their sleeves, but let it stew that it may cost you a bigger budget to run immediate paid campaigns. Often, what may be considered “quick” isn’t equivalent to long-term success.
Just like with trust, marketing takes time to cultivate and grow. Great growth marketing partners won’t typically have set prices for their services. Instead, they treat each startup client on a case-by-case basis and lay out pricing options that fit the project’s unique scope. It can range variably from a few months’ long retainers to longer-term contracts and recurring access to their full suite of services.
5. How do they measure success?
The good news is everything is measurable in the digital marketing world. But the first thing to align on is knowing what you want to track. Your growth marketing partner should have solid metrics to follow when they assess your return on investment.
In fact, investors will be interested in all your growth marketing activities because they’re a revenue generator, and a strong growth marketing partner will help you paint a clear picture of how your strategies contribute to profitability.
Lead generation is one of the most important performance-based marketing processes to evaluate and involves tracking things like cost per lead (CPL), return on ad spend (ROAS), lifetime value (LTV), and more.
For instance, knowing your customer acquisition cost (CAC) or how much you spend to acquire each customer demonstrates how well you allocate funds, whether your business is sustainable, and if you’re pricing your product effectively.
Just as investors will want to see how you’re attracting and converting new customers, they’ll also want to see how you’re keeping them engaged throughout all the stages of the marketing funnel. Lead nurturing focuses on tracking open rate, click-through rates, and many other benchmarks that maximize your overall profitability.
Similarly, a strong growth marketing partner will also track content-based marketing for effectiveness. Metrics can be divided based on the purpose the content serves, whether it’s to increase brand awareness, educate and inform, or to more strongly support sales. Consumption and engagement metrics such as web traffic from social channels and organic search, video views, and downloads can measure brand awareness, purchase intent and more.
In either performance or content-based marketing, be sure your growth marketing partners’ evaluation is heavily informed by the goals and objectives you set out and agreed to from the very beginning.
Harvest’s growth marketing expertise
It takes a startup to know a startup.
At Harvest, we have the experience of working with tech startups in the Canadian Prairies from any stage of the lifecycle - as well as being a startup ourselves (co-building other startups from scratch).
From testing your first MVP and initial go-to-market strategy, all the way through to growth and scaling, we leverage our first-hand experience to fill in the gaps that companies struggle with when they launch and grow their business.
As part of our Growth Program services, we offer a full suite of in-house expertise, including financial modeling and fund-raising strategies, talent management and recruitment, strategic partnerships and business development, and of course, performance and content-based marketing services.
We apply a holistic approach to our growth marketing, which our startup clients can fully take advantage of. No matter what stage they’re in, we help companies identify areas to maximize results and support them with deliberate and data-driven solutions.
Learn more about our growth marketing strategies across any stage of a startup in our Guide to Growth Marketing E-book. If you have any questions or you’re ready to grow with Harvest, get in touch with us.