Oct 16, 2018 2:14:49 PM
Senior Consultant, Growth
When launching a new sales channel, service or startup, there are various ways through which awareness for a sales channel or service can be created and a company introduced to the market.
It’s not only about paid marketing or having an excellent offering, it’s a lot more. Fundamentally, it requires dedicated resources for the purpose of growth hacking as well as someone taking ownership of the growth initiative in-house.
In this post I outline 6 common principles for growth hacking a new sales channel or service. Growth hacking is a mindset, it's a way-of-doing, a frame for organising around teams instead of hierarchy. But, it's also a way to grow the business with “hacks”. We have identified the following hacks that should be addressed in the very beginning of new venture development: core, channels and content, competitors, credibility, customer-centrism, and community.
You have most likely already heard about product-market fit. According to this philosophy, customer interest should to be validated with a minimum viable product (MVP) before investing too heavily into development work. That should be the starting point for sales channel or service development.
Essentially, real-world tests should be carried out in order to answer the very core questions of “why” and “to whom”. There are multiple ways to assess whether a new service sparks interest in the proposed core audience(s). For instance, interviewing or highly targeted paid marketing with customer segment and/or use case specific landing pages can be used to identify the most lucrative segments. Once hypotheses are validated, the root triggers for purchasing can be explored and, thus, key drivers and interests of the customers can be identified.
A common trap herein is to fall in love with your original idea without validating it with real customers. As the Gyro Gearloose of your invention, you should not be afraid to fail but, rather, keep testing out different opportunities. As the saying goes: “love the problem, not the solution”. Test out different customer segments, channels, and unique selling proposition (USP) or the pitch of your lean canvas. Then tailor your business approach based on actual data, not your presumptions. Having proper KPIs and analytics in place is a must-have at this stage.
As crucial as determining the right audience for your service is the decision of which channels to use for marketing, and the distribution of content. Naturally, you should be present in those channels where your target audience is. Thus, the two go pretty much hand in hand — channels should be chosen based on your preferred buyer persona(s). Additionally, content should be produced to cater the needs of your preferred audience. Buyer personas, eventually, guide every step of your way.
Regarding channel strategy, there are various categories of media to be aware of and to design a marketing approach for. These include:
As for content strategy, you should step into the shoes of the your customer and consider what they’d be willing read and spend time on; what kind of content would interest them the most and what would trigger them to click to read your article — and even further, get their contact information (typically email) in exchange for a content download. This is not an easy task to accomplish, and thus you should experiment with different alternative approaches — starting from copy and design to actual “baits” (i.e., what would make a customer convert). To find out more about how to optimise for results, read our article about the ABC of Conversion Optimisation.
Competition in the field should not be bypassed or underestimated. Rather, the focus should be put on those aspects that make the company stand out from the crowd. You should ask yourself every now and then: “what makes us or our service unique?”. This might change from time to time, as the competitive landscape experiences alterations with either new players making an entry into the market or existing players shifting their focus.
While having your own, unique story to sell makes perfect sense, benchmarking competitors and adopting best practices from the more established players can help you along the way. It won’t enable you to win the game altogether but it helps you to position your service better.
This does not mean direct copy-pasting but, rather, keeping an eye on competitive actions and the industry altogether. One way to do this is by monitoring competitors online with relevant hashtags and setting up alerts for news feeds. Another common, powerful tactic is to target competitor names via Google Ads, previously AdWords, (only possible, if names are not trademarked). You might also target people on Facebook that have listed your competitor as their interest (applies typically only to bigger competitors). Yet another, perhaps less utilised approach is to hire people straight from the competitive company.
Basically, having a strategy in place for competitors is utterly important. This can entail both competitor research and targeting as well as a communications strategy on when and how to react on competitor news and posts.
Say you have your buyer persona and you know how they behave. You have your USPs and relevant channels. What next?
Your marketing efforts can come to nothing, if you don’t have credibility through a strong brand. Naturally, this is kind of a chicken and egg problem, as brand perception and image are built in the long run whereas market traction for a new service should be obtained immediately. Should you not have established a top-of-mind awareness, you are in most cases to suffer from lesser sales. Putting it the other way around, should you enter the market with zero brand awareness — as is with an MVP approach, you are likely to have a small impact sales-wise.
However, I'm not saying this to be discouraging. It is simply something to acknowledge and build upon. As a matter of fact, brand building — while it represents a more long-tail-ish strategy — should be attended to from the very first days. In essence, have a strong brand that communicates the pitch perfectly. Fine-tune your pitch based on feedback. Depending on your target market and audience (especially in B2C business), you might wish to humanise your brand. Ask yourself how your brand would look like and what adjectives would characterise it if it were a person. Use these insights to develop your brand accordingly.
Moreover, you might want to introduce trustworthiness to your business through external proof. You might want to display the logos of your partners or list certain certifications or additional merit in your marketing materials. Ask for testimonials or reviews, and share those on your website. Authenticity and transparency are crucial. Don’t try to fool anyone, anytime, anywhere — it will only hurt your credibility.
Your offering is only as good as the information you have on the paths to purchase and actual usage situations. In order to make well-educated, data-driven decisions, you need to have insight on the pain points of your customer or prospect. To do this, you should monitor the usage of your sales channel or service in real-world situations. Not only can you get clues about customer satisfaction with customer effort score (CES) or net promoter score (NPS), but you can also interview customers or monitor visitor behaviour with heatmaps and session replays.
Once you have data, seek to identify and document bottlenecks in the usage. Now you have a backlog of development ideas for upcoming growth sprints (check out our proposed growth hacking process from our Growth Hacker's Handbook). If there are many identified obstacles in the consumption of the sales channel or service, prioritise those items over others based on their assessed business impact or value versus cost. Start development work from highly prioritised items and move forward in lean sprints. Validate your hypotheses along the way.
Fundamentally, performance, usability, and accessibility auditing should occur in a continuous manner. Whenever faced with a usage obstacle that limits conversions or further usage, ask “why” five times to get to the root cause of the problem. Experiment with alternative approaches by utilising A/B or split testing, and develop your offering further in a data-driven manner.
Yet note, while data should guide your decisions, it should not be the master. There are always aspects that data simply cannot comprehend or things that are neglected by simply looking at conversion rates and other numbers. It is true nowadays that people still buy from people, despite technologies. Be the kind of seller you’d enjoy doing business with as a buyer. Ensuring user-friendliness through human-centred design should be the number one priority. In all this, customer service (e.g. instant chats instead of forms, easy to find phone numbers etc.) plays a relevant role.
The last part in making your service fly deals with user or customer communities. Do you know where your community is? In other words, where do your customers speak well (or ill) of your service? How do you nurture and develop your community? Sadly, the part after purchasing is forgotten too often. While marketers acknowledge that customer acquisition is 5 to 25 times more expensive than holding onto current ones, customer loyalty and advocacy can be easily forgotten in the pursuit of new customers.
As a matter of fact, community building should be attended to from the very beginning and it should be a natural step in the conversion funnel. Thus, the community aspect may be built into the service — in all the customer journey touchpoints — itself, rather than implementing something as an add-on later on. If you try to glue it afterwards to your offering, the odds are that it won’t stick.
There are some good tactics for introducing a community aspect into your service from early days. You might, as an example, strive to capitalise on link building from an SEO viewpoint with trustworthy, big industry players or ambassadors. This link juice can prove out to be an incredibly powerful tool in the long run. Another tip is to use specific social media hashtags that make your brand and service recognisable for the masses. Thirdly, you might collect testimonials, even in short video format that can be shared easily on social media. Finally, have you thought about rewarding or delighting your clients? Giving back is a wonderful way of getting some extra, positive word-of-mouth (WOM) — even for free. Virality rules!
Learn more on growth hacking with our Growth Hacker's Handbook 2019, a guide offering you insight, learnings and tools to tap into your unleashed potential. The book tackles growth hacking through three cross-organisational levels: culture, strategy and implementation. Growth hacking is here to stay, and if you want your company to succeed, you need to be among the disruptors, not the disrupted.
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