January 14, 2021
6 minute read

Overwhelmed by growth marketing trends? Here’s how to apply them to your startup

Growth & Scaling

Growth marketing is one of the most useful approaches for early-stage companies trying to increase market share and secure more funding. Unlike growth hacking, which focuses on tactics, growth marketing focuses on long-term strategies and approaches for building and sustaining an audience. It’s a replicable approach that matures alongside a company. 

What are the emerging trends in growth marketing?

Growth marketing activities typically fall into one of four categories: search engine optimization, lead generation, lead nurturing, and content marketing. 

Search engine optimization

Lead generation

Lead nurturing

Content marketing

As an early-stage company, you should be engaged in search engine optimization, lead generation, lead nurturing, and content marketing, because each category supports the others and vice versa.

Instead of eliminating growth marketing activity categories, you should be eliminating growth marketing activities themselves. The best approach is to:

  1. Choose a growth marketing strategy based on your business
  2. Identify which growth marketing activities from each category fit into your business
  3. Invest time and energy into these activities

Our in-house marketing experts specialize in helping early-stage companies scale and close future funding rounds successfully. They recommend that early-stage companies focus on the following activities within each category. Keep in mind that there are slight variations depending on your solution and target market.

Where should you focus your efforts when using SEO for growth marketing?

Jessa Morris, SEO Lead

If you’re thinking about SEO from day one, there’s a massive SEO opportunity in front of you. Conduct SEO research to choose a brand name that’ll set you up for better rankings. Choose a unique name, so you’re the top search engine result. Use the most relevant keywords in your tagline, not your company name. 

If you’ve already got a company name, embrace geography-based optimization strategies. Geography is an important “relevance” factor that search engines use when determining which results to serve someone. If you’re a home services app in Calgary or a local discovery app in Winnipeg, you want to ensure anyone running searches for those services in those areas find you. 

Where should you focus your efforts when using lead generation for growth marketing?

Brenna Devlin, Growth Marketing Lead

Clarify your lead generation success criteria. Once that is established, it’s easier to determine which channels and tactics will be the most impactful. Once you know what you want to accomplish (e.g. generating leads or generating sales), start thinking about where your target audience lives. Are they a B2B client that regularly reviews industry publications? Are they a younger audience that hangs out on TikTok? You want to use the right tools and tactics to reach your audience at the right time, and encourage them to take the desired action. 

If your product offering is new, for example, ask whether people would be searching for it or if you need to generate awareness first. Paid search works when you’re targeting an audience that’s already searching for a service or product relevant to your business. On the other hand, if you’re selling a product that requires educating your customer, it’s important to layer in additional channels to share information with prospects.

Tip: Avoid running paid ads on several channels at once. Focus on a couple and then scale. 

During the planning stage, factor in what resources are required to execute on your lead generation strategy. This includes creative resources and your paid advertising budget. There are also many organic lead channels that can help build awareness of your business name.

Participate in startup ecosystems and local business events. These communities have wide reach and established social media engagement that you can piggyback on to spread the word, find potential early users, and generate buzz. 

Another piggybacking strategy is guest posting. Look for blogs and trade publications that discuss the problems your solution addresses or that have high readership among your target audience. These publications are often looking for free, high-quality information they can share with their readers. It’s a win-win scenario. 

Keep in mind that piggybacking strategies – whether in a startup ecosystem or through guest posting – only work if you’re aligned with the other entity, and you’re offering something valuable to share. 

Finally, be diligent about building your email list prior to your launch, whether it’s your beta launch or actual launch. You want to maximize the number of relevant people who know about your product before you spend money on more expensive marketing channels down the road.

Where should you focus your efforts when using lead nurturing for growth marketing?

Kailey Belsher, Head of Performance Marketing

Do you know how your early users feel at every pre-conversion and post-conversion touchpoint? Early stage companies should focus on learning as much about their customers as efficiently as possible. 

The best way to do this is to first set yourself up for success. When you’re collecting emails, focus on structured data. It’s tempting to gather a lot of qualitative information – and it’s definitely important – but in the early days focus on questions that can be answered with picklists and checklists instead of free text. This produces structured data you can easily segment (e.g. age group, job title) for targeted nurture campaigns.

You can then use this segmented data to build customer profiles. This is when you can build out your profiles with qualitative info using customer interviews. These interviews and your data will help you map out the customer journey. Data- and insight-driven customer profiles will help you understand where customers fall off and what you can do to keep them engaged (e.g. producing more educational materials or use cases about your product). 

Where should you focus your efforts when using content marketing for growth marketing?

David Gardner, Head of Content Marketing

Early-stage companies should be deliberate about content production. Think substantive, not substantial. 

What’s more useful to your customers? Twenty generic, poorly-written blog posts, or a well-produced online guide that outlines how your solution solves their problem? 

What offers long-term value? Repurposed, spun articles or an e-book with original insights that can be broken up into blog articles, infographics, social media posts, quotes for local media, and keyword optimized paragraphs for Google’s Featured Snippet? 

First, identify your team’s passion and expertise. Second, turn this expertise into educational long-form content for your customers or thought-provoking articles for investors and the public. Third, extract as much authority marketing value as possible by sharing these insights and pitching expert interviews with the media or re-purposing the content for other collateral, such as videos or webinars. 

The power of focus in growth marketing

Ultimately, focus in growth marketing allows you to take the activities that apply to your business stage and strategy (e.g. strategic content repurposing, mobile-first optimization) and set aside the trends that your business is not yet ready to embrace (e.g. customer service chatbots, account-based marketing). 

But how do you know where to focus your efforts? While all of these growth marketing trends are useful for early stage startups, you need a framework for assessing your business’s needs and strengths.

Download our free Harvest Guide to Growth Marketing to learn more about how to successfully apply growth marketing to your startup.

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