The Ultimate Growth Marketing Playbook for Reliably Scaling Growth
Marketing is all about growth. No matter what your business is or who’s in your target market, if you're not growing, you're dying.
The problem is that scaling up your marketing efforts can be tricky—it's one thing to get a small number of early adopters to take a risk on your product, but it's an entirely different challenge to reliably scale growth. So how do you go about it? The first step is to put together a solid growth marketing framework.
Then use this growth marketing playbook as a constant reference and guide as you start to grow your business. You can apply the tactics we discuss and build a marketing strategy to achieve rapid growth!
Reliably Scale Growth With the Ultimate Growth Marketing Playbook
Growth marketing is a data-driven, full-funnel approach to marketing.
Traditional marketing focuses on generating traffic and leads, but growth marketing teams use their expertise and resources to build tailored, effective marketing strategies that accelerate audience and revenue growth.
To drive high-quality leads to sales without taking big risks or going broke in the process, growth marketing focuses on proven growth fundamentals to achieve profitable and scalable customer acquisition.
And the way to acquire and keep customers is to consider the entire customer journey. Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation are levers used to make a sale. Revenue, Retention, and Referral are the levers used to create fans of your business. We call these the 6 Levers of Growth (more on this later).
Traditional marketing efforts are often focused on overall marketing. Campaigns are tactic-driven and large-budget, focusing on awareness and acquisition, which works for some. But if your focus is growth, you’ll benefit from a team focused solely on growth.
You might be thinking, OK, but how do I implement growth marketing? Where do I start? Enter the Ultimate Growth Marketing Playbook.
The first thing you need to do is figure out whom you’re selling to. Hint: it’s not everyone.
Ask yourself two questions:
Who is your customer?
Where do they hang out?
To map out your buyer persona, develop an appetite for asking questions. There are a ton of questions you can ask potential customers to know how you can best serve them. If you get to know and understand your customer’s challenges and pain points, you can begin to personalize your message.
When launching a new product, develop your buyer persona by talking to real people. Ask people in your target audience if they would chat with you for 15 minutes about their problems.
Be honest, transparent, and helpful, and people will be happy to help. Ask about how they are currently solving the problem.
What works well with their current solution?
What challenges do they face with it?
What annoys them and wastes time?
What social or professional groups do they belong to?
What influencers do they pay attention to?
Where do they go for answers?
Don’t forget about your own customers! Interview them to see why they chose to work with you. You can also gain valuable insights from surveys and customer feedback questionnaires.
2. The 6 Levers of Growth
If you’re going to crush growth marketing, you first have to develop a growth mindset. Here are some key elements to invest your energy in.
Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
A great leader is willing to look within. Marcus Lemonis, investor, television personality, and businessman, says, “If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know your business.” The same can be said for knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
More than having the knowledge, you have to apply what you learn about yourself, your product, and your business.
What’s working? What isn’t? Where are you missing the mark?
If you know your numbers, you can take action. Admitting your weaknesses and taking responsibility for poor marketing campaigns can be daunting. But every failure is a lesson to be learned.
Agile marketing teams use sprints (shot periods of intensive work) to complete projects cooperatively. They then measure the impact of the projects and aim to improve results over time continually.
To be truly agile, you need to foster an experimental approach. You’ve got to test everything. If something is working, double down on it and improve it. If it’s not working, quickly pivot to better strategies.
When you do make changes, don’t guess. Create and develop a hypothesis. Decide on an action that might create change and strategize. Sue the if/then structure. If we change this variable, then this result will happen.
Let’s use a CTA as an example. Perhaps you discover through reports that the CTA on your landing page isn’t converting. You think it might be the language on the CTA. Develop the language and next steps for two different CTAs and run A/B tests to see which performs better.
Get Your Team on Board
Growth marketing success hinges on the combined effort of your marketing, sales, success, and support teams. Without your whole team on board, there will be weak links in the chain.
You’re working with customers throughout their buyer journey. That means even after your sales team converts a lead to a customer, your job isn’t done. There are multiple touchpoints to consider, continuing education, communication, onboarding, and support.
How can you develop a growth mindset in your company? Here’s Kevin Barber, Founder and Head of Growth at Lean Labs:
“Growth marketing is more than trying to increase a few key numbers. In order to achieve peak performance, both you and the company you work with will need to become something you’ve never been before, to achieve a result you’ve never had before.”
In other words, it’s not enough to hit a few goals and improve your numbers. The whole culture of your company has to be growth-driven and growth-oriented.
Know Your Metrics
Growth marketing is data-driven, and metrics are at the core of a data-driven strategy. The north star metric is your growth rate. All other metrics should point towards growth, too.
Traffic: Where does your traffic come from? Is it organic or paid?
Conversion rate: How many people complete the desired action on your website or landing page?
Revenue: Are you set up to increase revenue and profitability steadily?
Product usage: How many customers actually use your product?
Churn rate: Why are people leaving or not using your product (this can be a goldmine of insights that inform how to improve your product or service)?
These are just a few of the metrics that affect growth. There are more depending on your product or service and how you run your business. You have to decide the numbers that matter most.
A simple growth marketing framework makes the best use of your data.
Establish a baseline
Track progress over time
Improve on what’s working
Change what isn’t working
Hone your strategy
To track your numbers through the entire buyer journey, we use the 6 Levers of Growth. Otherwise known as the “pirate metrics,” they are:
Awareness Awareness focuses on the amount of traffic you get on your website. Instead of focusing on vanity metrics related to traffic, you’ll want to zero in on the right kind of traffic. You don’t want just anyone to come to your website. You want the right people, meaning the people most likely to be interested in your solution and might buy from you.
To attract customers to your website, answer the questions your buyer personas are asking. Offer solutions to their problems with education, entertainment, and information that builds trust and likability.
Acquisition Your acquisition efforts encompass all the processes you use to turn your targeted website traffic into leads through forms, lead magnets, and offers. If you’ve nailed awareness, the people you target are most likely to buy from you and turn into qualified leads. A pipeline filled with qualified leads is the goal.
Low friction, high-value offers are best. Nobody wants your 70-page manifesto. How can you provide instant value?
Activation Activation is where you nurture and qualify leads further, and convert them into paying customers. For simplicity, let’s say you have three types of leads.
A Cold lead is a person who comes in cold–they have little knowledge of you or your brand–but they’ve found their way to your website. They’re not ready to be sold to yet, but you can nurture them and warm them up.
A warm lead is a marketing qualified lead (MQL). They’re learning more about you and your solution. They’re on their way to being ready to buy, but still need to evaluate options and decide if they want to work with you.
A hot lead is an MQL who’s taken a specified action. They might have downloaded your lead magnet or attended a webinar. They might have even had a discovery call. They’re ready to buy and are now a sales-qualified lead (SQL).
The quality of your awareness and activation phases dictate how well the acquisition will go. With the right plays, you’ll get the right traffic to convert on lead magnets.
Lead nurturing channels include email, text messages, social messages, live webinars, Q&As, and discovery calls.
Revenue Revenue is all about the number of SQLs you close compared to the total number of SQLs in your pipeline. You now have paying customers. Revenue is directly affected by Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation.
All the previous levers affect your close rate and vice versa. Let’s say you’re closing 3 out of 10 sales calls. Perhaps your leads aren't qualified enough. Maybe they’re just not the right buyers. You have a chance to assess the previous levers and improve.
Retention It’s near impossible to grow if you’re continually churning more customers than you’re bringing in. You don’t want to be fighting math. Here’s where retention is the right play.
You need customers to stick around for a few months to be worth the amount you paid to acquire them (your customer acquisition cost). To determine what you can afford to pay to acquire a customer, you must calculate customer lifetime value (LTV). It’s easier to sell to existing customers than it is to acquire a new one.
You have to measure LTV to effectively acquire and retain highly valuable customers, which results in more revenue over time.
Here’s how to calculate LTV:
LTV = Customer Value X Average Customer Lifespan
First, determine customer value. Multiply the average purchase value by the average number of purchases. Then multiply your answer with your average customer lifespan to predict your customer LTV.
At this point in the 6 Levers of Growth, you want to focus on the customer experience. Delight your customers, upsell, cross-sell, and turn them into raving fans.
Referral Your customers are your best marketers. If you delight them enough, they may just become raving fans who spread the word about your incredible solution to everyone they know. You can’t just expect reviews and referrals to roll in on their own, though—you need to make an effort to capture them. While getting a great review of your product or service is a pleasant surprise, you’ll often need to ask for or prompt your customers to give their recommendations.
Use referrals to build credibility and leverage a seal of approval. Show other people in similar positions finding success using your product or service.
Ask your customers to leave a review, refer a friend, and participate in a customer interview to become a case study.
An established referral engine feeds Awareness and Acquisition and starts the cycle of generating the right kind of traffic to your website.
Lean Labs uses the 6 Levers of Growth with all of our clients. We look at every lever every week to determine where our marketing efforts are crushing it, and, equally, where we can make improvements.
Get free access to the Growth grader to quickly identify what's working best and what is causing friction within the buyer journey. Then, systematically track increases against goals all within this one tool.
Now that you know what the 6 Levers of Growth are, let’s look at the various plays you can make to leverage them.
3. Awareness Plays
In the awareness phase, your customers are experiencing a problem and want to understand their symptoms. You want to be the person who can solve their problems and challenges. You have to help them pinpoint and understand their problems and build trust in the process.
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
The crucial thing to understand about SEO is the purpose of search engines. Search engines provide end-users with content that answers their search question and intent.
Good SEO means aligning with the end goal of search engines–to provide an excellent user experience. We are shifting away from just keywords towards longtail keywords and topics. For example:
Blog post topics
Content creation tools
It could all come under the content marketing topic. Which topics do you want to be known for? Once you know, you can start posting articles that answer the questions people have about those topics.
The best way to do that is with a well-planned content marketing strategy. Use SEO and keyword research to determine what your customers are searching for and provide content that speaks to their problems and challenges.
Relevant and valuable content includes videos, blogs, eBooks, and social media posts that provide top-level educational content that’s helpful and tailored to your buyer persona.
2. PR and Outreach
You can also create awareness through PR and Outreach. You can pitch your product or service to journalists, bloggers, and people with influence in your industry, to get press coverage and exposure.
Where do your customers hang out? What are they listening to, watching, and reading? You might make a guest appearance on a podcast or YouTube show that your buyer persona consumes, or guest post on blogs and publications that your buyer persona reads.
You can answer questions on Reddit and Quora in industry subscriptions. Be helpful and informative, and link back to a relevant resource on your blog.
Post content and then reply to comments and engage with followers. Social media campaigns involve regularly posting relevant and helpful content, albeit in a different way to traditional blog content. Determine which social media platforms you want to crush–you don’t want to waste resources by spreading yourself too thin.
You might also take advantage of paid advertising to increase your business’ visibility on social media platforms.
4. Acquisition Plays
Once you’ve attracted your ideal customers, you need to engage them. Your potential customer has now identified their problem and is looking for solutions. It’s time to turn traffic into leads. You want this process to be as simple and easy as possible.
Lead Magnet Offers
The goal of a lead magnet is to give your audience something of value in exchange for their contact information. You know who your buyer persona is and what would entice them to take advantage of your lead magnet.
The best play is low friction, high-value offers like eBooks, mini-courses, checklists, and web classes. You want to provide value and further educate and inform your potential customers so they get to know, like, and trust you.
You might have content and offers already in your content library. Look at your most popular blog posts; could you create a lead magnet offer off the back of one of those? If the post is popular, your audience is interested and invested.
A high-conversion landing page features a killer headline that grabs attention and a clear and unique value proposition that explains how your lead magnet solves a problem. Landing pages are a great way to convert new leads.
Nearly 1 in 10 people convert on a landing page. It might not seem like much, but if 10,000 people visit your landing page, you’re looking at 1,000 potential customers.
Let’s say you’ve written a blog about growth marketing strategies. If your audience is interested in finding out more about growth marketing, you can use a landing page to gate the resource. Your audience would need to fill out a lead-capture form to access the content.
A compelling call to action (CTA) tells your potential customers what they need to do next. It is eye-catching with clear, jobs-to-be-done focused messaging that speaks to your target persona's most significant pain points.
A strong CTA design will strengthen a strong message, but it will not fix a poor message. Get your message right. For effective CTAs, you need customer-centric copywriting and a fantastic design.
It’s important to think about where you place CTAs. Where will they live on your page? Are they visible? Do they catch the eye of your target audience? Here’s an example of a graphical CTA:
It tells the potential customer exactly what the Growth Grader will do for them and has a clear next step.
5. Activation Plays
Once they’ve downloaded your eBook or taken part in your course, you’ll have the details you need to start conversations with your leads.
Use email marketing to engage your leads and build further trust by becoming a resource and guide.
Segment your audience depending on how they interact with your company. If they spend time on your website, you might direct them to more useful and relevant blogs or landing pages. If they prefer social media, communicate with them there.
You might send regular email newsletters to inform your customers about product improvements, industry updates, upcoming events, and more. You can also tell stories and share anecdotes that resonate with your customers. The possibilities are endless. Be creative!
Connection Value Offer
You’ll need to create a Connection Value Offer (CVO). Lead magnets open the door to your product, but CVOs put a version of your product in your customer’s hands. You might offer a guided demonstration of your product, a free trial, or a consultation call.
Your aim is to add value continually. 89% of B2B buyers state that the vendors they've successfully purchased from “provided content that made it easier to show ROI and/or build a business case for the purchase.”
A demonstration or trial of your product is a fantastic way to show its value to everyone involved in the buying process.
Webinars and live Q&As are also a good play here. These offers provide an excellent opportunity for your potential customers to interact with you on a personal level. They might turn into buyers if they like your attitude, demeanor, and personality.
It’s crucial to keep your audience engaged from start to finish. An exciting and informative webinar can generate referral traffic through shares and replays. Again, you’re delivering value and building relationships with your audience and customers.
6. Revenue Plays
You'll set your sales team up for success if you’ve done a great job in the first three stages. Now it’s time to optimize your sales process.
You need a system that unifies marketing and sales. Marketing teams use their insights to deliver on awareness, acquisition, and activation, and hand the sales team a high volume of ready-to-buy leads. Sales teams get the information they need on their qualified leads to close a high rate of opportunities.
The right sales system, coupled with the right processes–on the right platform–maximizes your entire team's performance.
When your sales teams are armed with the right information, they can use a tailored presentation aligned with the buyer’s needs, using the buyer’s terminology.
They might provide a product demonstration illustrating the features important to the buyer. They could provide an ROI (return on investment) analysis customized to the buyer’s metrics and business. They could even present a proposal or contract that spells out a client’s goals, the agreed-upon scope of work, and metrics that indicate success.
7. Retention Plays
Retention starts as soon as a lead becomes a buyer. What happens directly after a successful sales call is paramount to the longevity of your relationship with your customer.
You need to provide a fantastic user experience. Now is your chance to delight your customer. A personalized experience will always outperform a generic experience. Using all the data you’ve collected from your first interaction with a lead to them becoming a customer, you can deliver personalized content and offer relevant products to upsell and cross-sell.
Continue to educate your customers. During the onboarding process, show your customers how to get the most value out of your product. Provide regular content that addresses their needs, and provide tips and helpful suggestions to keep customers engaged. FAQs and quick start guides also provide value here.
Embrace customer feedback. Ask for it. You need to know what you’re doing well, but also the things your customers want you to improve on. Excellent customer service might make all the difference between success and failure. If a customer has an issue, your ability to solve that issue in a timely and effective manner directly affects retention.
You might also think about discounts, rewards, and loyalty programs to boost retention. Rewarding your existing customers shows you care about them and want to be a partner in their success—even after they’ve made a purchase.
8. Reputation Plays
If you’ve crushed the previous levers of growth, referrals will be much easier to get. As mentioned already, your customers are your best marketers. But you’ve got to be proactive.
Ask your customers for reviews and referrals. How willing are they to recommend your product or service to others? Do they share your content with their network? Are they satisfied with your product and customer service?
You can send timely customer feedback surveys, or conduct interviews with customers. You might even turn those interviews into case studies. It’s a win-win play because you get a great review, and the customer feels like they’re part of your journey as a company.
You can collect feedback and social proof, and display it on your website.
Customer testimonials on your website and word-of-mouth referrals bring with them the credibility of that person giving their personal seal of approval.
9. How to Build a Growth Marketing Campaign
Proactive Review: Decide on Your Strategy
Before building a new strategy you need to perform a proactive review to ensure you’re armed with the right numbers to create more wins, address metrics that are trending downwards, and pull the right growth lever(s) at the right time.
You’ll need to review growth metrics and key indicators to identify what’s working, what isn’t, and what opportunities you can take advantage of to make educated decisions and inform your next strategy.
Gather and collect all the data you have and develop an understanding of your current marketing result and trends. Then determine which metrics are underperforming and any problems or concerns you might have.
For example, you might be getting lots of traffic but your MQL numbers are down. Maybe your offers aren't converting well. You can look at the underperforming offers and determine a plan of action.
A strategy session is a cross-functional meeting between your company’s leadership, sales team, and marketing. In it, you’ll determine:
What your growth goals are
How marketing and sales can help to achieve your goals
The resources you need to be successful
The challenges you’ll face
How to measure and report success
You’ll need to define your vision here, too. Your vision should be aspirational and attainable. How does your product solve the key pain points your buyers have? Break it down:
Who? (Buyer Persona)
Why? (Pain points your product solves)
What? (The vehicle that delivers your product or service)
How? (How your product works to ease buyers’ pain points)
If you can answer those four questions, you can reach your customers and engage with them in a meaningful way.
Choose a Target Metric
Out of your proactive review and strategy session should come a clear understanding and plan of action to optimize the 6 levers of growth. You can’t do it all at the same time, so it’s best to pick one lever and work towards crushing it.
Decide which objective you’ll attack first. For example, for most SaaS and tech startups, the budget is tight. Instead of throwing out random acts of marketing and hoping for the best, use your KPIs and objectives to decide where you’ll spend the most effort and resources.
Growing SEO and organic presence with blog content creation is a great place to start.
Keep your short, medium, and long-term growth goals in mind.
Define your Growth Budget
You'll need to match your marketing efforts to your brand growth. If you’re on a small budget, focus on avenues and tactics that don’t break the bank.
For example, SEO tools are relatively inexpensive and help create valuable content, and writing content in-house is time-consuming but doable to start with. But if you haven’t developed a system to close and retain customers? You’re building brand awareness just to end up disappointing buyers.
You need to make sure your growth system is working optimally. Trying to scale a broken growth system is like trying to win the Indy 500 with no wheels on your car.
Work with a growth team who’ve already made all the mistakes—and fixed them. An experienced team will have a growth system that works for any company. Don’t rush growth.
Set Smart Goals
First, establish your goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Goals should be SMART. That means they should be:
Specific - Nail your next steps
Measurable - Track progress; you have the tools to do it!
Attainable - Achievable, short-term goals
Relevant - Move in the right direction
Time-bound - Set a due date and time frame
What are your objectives? For growth, you want to build brand awareness, increase engagement through your website, social media, and email campaigns, and convert leads to customers. These all break down into metrics that can be tracked.
Metrics and results show what’s working and what isn’t. With established benchmarks, you set targets. If you hit your targets, double down on those strategies and try to improve upon them. Try a different approach or strategy if you don’t hit your targets.
Let’s use “I want more people to read my emails!” as an example for setting smart goals and KPIs. Of course, we all want better open rates! But how do you define success with no results to look for? Instead, you could say:
“Our email marketing goal is to increase open rates by 10% in one month by split testing headlines.”
It’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Plan the Campaign
You’ve got your strategy, chosen metrics, budget, and goals. Now it’s time to plan the campaign. You’ll need to decide on the tests and experiments you’ll run.
The cornerstone of growth marketing is running experiments and either improving on what works or pivoting when strategies don’t work.
Experimentation makes you more agile. Once you identify strengths and weaknesses, you can double down on what’s working or pivot quickly to better strategies. Be sure to set the minimum sample size necessary to take action. Don’t pivot before the trend is clear.
It’s best practice to develop a hypothesis. Decide which action will create change and strategize. Use the if/then structure: If we change this variable, then this result will happen.
If you are choosing to leverage the power of content marketing, you will need an SEO expert to help build your keyword strategy and a talented writer to produce high-quality, helpful content that deserves to rank.
If your marketing plan calls for an improved landing page, you’ll need a conversion rate optimization (CRO) specialist, to evaluate what’s working, what’s not, and where the opportunities are. You may also need a designer and developer to bring their strategic experiments to life.
Whatever marketing tactics that you choose to execute, be sure to complete them at the highest level possible. With over six hundred new businesses entering the market each year, you simply can’t afford mediocrity. There are just too many competitors out there working their butts off to steal your lunch.
Hone in on the results that align with your key metrics. For example, if you decided to focus on email marketing you could track click-through rates, bounce rates, and conversion rates. If you’re looking at content offers, you might track opt-ins, cost per opt-in, follow-up email results, and opt-in conversions.
No matter the metric, you need to measure results to inform the rest of your growth strategy. Have you crushed your goal? Great! How can you improve on that? If you don’t crush your goal, do you need to pivot? Do you need to strategize?
Having your metrics in one place with the ability to accurately assess them is crucial. A robust CRM (customer relationship management) system, customized to your needs and metrics makes it easier to plan your growth marketing campaigns.
Implementing the Growth Marketing Playbook: Start With a Growth Strategy
If one of the 6 Levers of Growth isn’t trending in the right direction, you’ll waste money and resources on marketing. You need a robust go-to-market strategy that attracts your ideal clients through customer development, brand narrative, and competitive advantage.
You’ll need to embrace growth-driven design (GDD) to design a customer-centric website that engages your customers. Growth-driven design produces the most valuable version of a website quickly and then uses research and user data to build out high-value additions to the website. Instead of four to six months, websites are launched in 60-70 days.
The first step is to book a growth-strategy planning session. Lean Labs are a dedicated team that strategizes and implements your growth strategy. To see how we would work with you to plan, build, and scale growth, book a free Growth Mapping Session.
The second step is to check out our playbook. We leveraged over a decade of experience helping drive over $100 million in growth for our clients to put together our Growth Playbook, and It will take you through the exact steps we take to plan, budget & accelerate growth.
Shaun is a Growth Marketer at Lean Labs, working with deserving brands to create, implement, and optimize proven growth strategies.