As a founding member of MoviePass, former Vice President of Marketing at Nutshell, and Founder of Marketing Supply Co., Shane has personally experienced the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Marketing Supply Co. is now a thriving marketing and growth agency, but things weren’t always easy—Shane learned about scaling and growth the hard way. On Monday, June 18th, he presented this guide to scaling and growth to help the entrepreneurs at Detroit Startup Week thrive.
Tracking data is the first step in understanding your audience and your brand’s growing community. The first step to building better growth is to find and implement the tools necessary to collect the data you need. Remember that each business is different. Take the time to experiment and find the combination of tools that is right for your business.
With that said, here are some of the tools that I like to use:
Each of these tools will give you a unique set of data and options, so you can customize them to whatever you need.
Once you’ve established your tracking system, you’ll need to use the data you’ve collected to get the best information for growth. I recommend calculating lifetime value, churn rate, cost of acquisition, and payback period.
The information you learn from tracking customer data will help you understand who your customers are and how they understand your business.
Once you’ve painted an accurate picture of your customers through data, you need to get personal. Call your customers, send surveys, live chat with them–find ways to personally reach out and provide them with support. Talk to your sales team and get their input. Finally, use the information you learn from interacting with your customers to craft customer personas to better understand your customers in the future.
Customer personas use the collective data from certain customers with specific interests to build a summarized fake individual based on that data. You can use customer personas to make your ads campaigns more personal and meaningful to your specific audience segments. Always remember that your customer personas are based on real people and that it’s the real people that are the most important.
A marketing funnel is a model describing the various stages of a prospect’s journey, from your first interaction to the ultimate goal: conversion. Between a prospective customer’s first awareness of your product and their conversion to being a customer of your business lies a delicate balancing point of consideration. If you convince your potential customer that you have their interests in mind and that you’re worth their time, you could end up earning their loyalty to the point where they will advocate on your behalf. This optimization and mutual support are what fuel rapid growth.
You can optimize your marketing funnel by using A/B testing tools, landing page tools, analytics, copy and value proposition testing, behavioral email, and behavioral advertising. Don’t be afraid of trial and error. Instead, lean into an iterative evaluation process. Focus on finding the interactions that are the most effective for your customers.
All of the information you’ve gathered so far will help you build your growth and value hypotheses. Your growth hypothesis will be centered on finding the channels that you can/will use to scale. This could be something as specific as, “Instagram ads targeting females 18 to 34 living in San Francisco will be my best advertising channel.” This is the “how” of your growth–how you can effectively reach out to customers and what you need to do to make that connection. Your value hypothesis is the “why.” Knowing what you now know about your customers, why does your business or product matter to them? What needs are you fulfilling that motivates them?
Remember that your response to these questions might not be the actual answer. The only way to know if your hypotheses are true or not is to put your theories into action and analyze the results.
Now that you understand your customer, it’s time turn on the gas. Light a flame, but be careful not to play with fire. Picture yourself as a chef and your business as the meal that’s in your frying pan. You can slow cook it on a low heat or sear it at a high temperature, but leaving it on a high temperature for a long time will only lead to disaster. Develop a plan to test your growth and value hypotheses. Find scalable and repeatable channels. Be lean, gather data, try new things, test and refine your message as much as you can. Just make sure to be methodical so you don’t wear yourself or your business out.
Constantly create new hypotheses, test your theories, and find the information you need to thrive.
Now that you’re growing…
…and leave the rest to the professionals. Yeah, you’re the founder, but you can’t be the best at everything. Identify your weaknesses and hire people who are experts in those fields. View this process as an opportunity to expand your own knowledge by trusting others to fill in the gaps. Remember that the best forms of leadership usually come through empowering others.
If you aren’t at the point where you can hire talent full-time, don’t worry–there are plenty of resources that can help. Companies like UpWork, Freelancer.com, and Thumbtack will connect you with freelancers around the world that can usually help you with whatever you might need. Freelance relationships could be extremely valuable as you move forward, and international contacts will help you connect around the globe.
In all the excitement that comes with growth, remember that your employees are the main reason you’ve made it this far. At Marketing Supply Co, our team and work culture are our most valuable assets. We don’t hire out of desperation–instead, we look for a hunger for learning and drive for success that aligns with our own. Our new hires are usually specialists that can work as generalists–people who are experts in specific areas but can function outside of those areas just as well. This allows everyone to play their strengths while finding opportunities to learn from their peers. I do my best to promote an environment where everyone can share their ideas, where team members can focus on empowering and helping each other. Employee success growth is the core of your business’s success and growth.