Why growth marketing alone isn’t the answer to hitting your growth targets
There’s a delicate art to differentiating and balancing growth and brand marketing – and Alex Holmes claims to have found the recipe. Interactive Minds’ Georgia Vidler speaks with Holmes to get the full rundown.
The days of fly-by-the-seat growth hacking through rapidly emerging channels are becoming somewhat of a distant memory for a majority of businesses – particularly as big players like Facebook and Google continue to dominate the marketing landscape. Increasingly, marketers are turning to a more balanced mix of activities incorporating both growth and brand marketing to produce consistent returns and create robust differentiation from their competition.
One such marketer is Alex Holmes, CMO at Melbourne-based startup Influx. Seeking to attract an array of high value, high growth customers, Holmes and his team are pioneering a clear-cut split between growth marketing and brand marketing that delicately balances the needs of their business alongside the needs of its customers.
Influx has seen huge growth as a result of this approach, which Alex believes is the answer for brands who want to effectively cut through the noise in their respective markets.
He believes there are four key elements to achieving optimal balance between activities.
1. Split your investment – time, budget, team
As a startup, Influx has given Holmes the opportunity that some marketers only dream of – control over his time split, a budget to learn quickly and the agility to pivot both as the business grows.
Employing what he calls a ‘two-hat approach’, Holmes and his team decide which hat (one hat for growth marketing and one for brand marketing) to wear and for how long depending on business goals and learning each day.
Like many B2B businesses, Influx’s high customer value means that they are focused on investing time and budget in improving the quality of leads through more targeted, more expensive channels. Most recently, Alex’s team have leveraged Twitter (paid and organic), paid Google search and email marketing to successfully improve the quality of their top of funnel acquisition. Currently, Influx have a 50/50 growth versus brand marketing time split with a majority of budget allocated to growth.
When hiring or engaging resource to support this approach, Holmes recommends thinking carefully about the skill gaps and opportunities within your team and how they align with the growth-brand marketing split you’re trying to achieve.
“You have to make that decision when hiring someone because marketers usually fit into either of those buckets,” says Holmes. “You need to decide what breadth of skillset you need to create the balance in terms of output.”
2. Test and learn every week, then scale
Another key element to achieving an optimal split is by taking an iterative approach in the same way development teams do through agile workflows.
Every week Influx runs incremental tests to improve its visibility over everything from content marketing to ad copy to landing page design. In fact, 10% of its marketing budget is dedicated to ongoing testing and has been from the company’s inception.
Holmes believes taking a data-driven funnel approach to testing provides greater clarity around the impact of messaging and design changes as well as the effectiveness of your portfolio of channels.
One technique he recommends involves setting up an event in Google Analytics to assign a conversion value that is triggered when someone converts on a page so you are able to easily, at a glance, track the value of each page on a website.
This simple metric, which takes just minutes to implement, gives immediate visibility over how changes to website content affect conversion and enables his team to efficiently quantify the impact of their optimisations.
For Holmes, the real benefit to an iterative approach is that he can scale with confidence by understanding how his brand and growth marketing activities affect each other and how his team should split their efforts to consistently meet business goals.
3. Be clear about opportunity costs
For marketers contemplating a marketing split like Influx’s, Holmes recommends thinking carefully about what the potential opportunity costs are for the business each time you adjust your focus.
The rule of thumb:
- prioritise growth marketing when there is an immediate financial need, and
- prioritise brand marketing when growth targets are being met.
In a highly competitive or mature market – or for businesses with a high customer value – brand marketing always has to remain a core focus in some form.
“Brand marketing builds a moat around your business. It makes customers more loyal and it makes every metric better,” Holmes reflects.
“When you slow down your brand marketing activities for a few months, you start to see all your growth metrics get worse and worse and worse. The ads are the same, you’ve been iterating well, and yet you’re asking yourself ‘what’s going on?’ But then you re-invest in brand marketing and conversion rates start lifting.”
4. Reporting is everything
Holmes knows first hand just how much of a hugely powerful, high leverage decision choosing a tracking framework is for every marketing organisation. Working in a startup, he also knows how tempting it is to get drawn in by business intelligence gurus and expensive platforms, but believes that what you really want is a simple system to make decisions every day.
“The best marketing isn’t even about ideas. It’s about building really solid reporting models to be able to make better decisions. The most accomplished marketers are really good at setting up some sort of tracking model that scales to help them consistently get attribution right.”
At Influx, his team’s strategy is built around measurable, clearly defined goals and always answering three questions:
- How is this linked to business objectives?
- What quantifiable growth do we want to see?
- How will we simply track results?
Georgia Vidler is memberships manager at Interactive Minds
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Image credit:Daniel Hjalmarsson