You’ve just taken a pretty big step in plotting out your brand’s growth journey. You know the destination (long-term, sustainable, and measurable growth), and your vehicle (your brand) is serviced and ready to hit the road. What you’re missing now is the map — and without one, you can expect to take a lot of detours.
Consider this your roadmap. Creating a growth marketing plan will give you a trip itinerary that puts you on the most direct route to achieving brand growth. Sure, there will be pit stops along the way, but by following the path we’ve outlined here — and making good use of our growth marketing plan template — you’ll be ready to put your brand into high gear.
So, pack your bags and grab the keys, because we’re ready to roll.
What Is Growth Marketing?
Growth marketing is a long-term, strategic methodology that works to help brands achieve sustainable, measurable growth. It is a holistic and data-driven approach that leverages end-to-end funnel optimization to find, attract, convert, retain, and grow buyers into loyal brand advocates and evangelists.
While traditional marketing generally focuses on the wide end of the funnel, growth marketing meets consumers at every stage of an extended “Pirate Funnel.”
Need help remembering? Just say, “AAARRR, matey!” Cheesy? Yes. Effective? Also yes.
If you need another handy analogy to remember the overarching goal of growth marketing, just pick up a hockey stick. Yep, a hockey stick. If you want your brand to have an inspiring underdog story a la The Mighty Ducks, you want your growth trajectory to look like this:
Effective growth marketing begins with the “tinkering” — or experimenting — stage. The blade years are a flat period of testing, analyzing, and repeating tactics until you hit your growth inflection point. From there, the sky (or the stick) is the limit.
The good news is, those blade years don’t have to take literal years. With the help of a growth-focused marketing agency, a solid growth marketing plan, and effective growth marketing tactics, you can reach your growth inflection point quicker, and achieve long-term, surging growth sooner.
What Are the Four Major Growth Strategies?
Growth can be a slow, painful slog, especially for SaaS, fintech, and startups whose sales cycles are extensive. Some brands will spend significant time on a single tactic, and when it doesn’t work, they find themselves back at square one. That’s where growth marketing comes in. When you build a growth marketing roadmap, you account for the time it takes to achieve your goals — now, tomorrow, and in the future.
Leveraging a number of growth strategies will help you achieve these goals, so you can experience growth all along the journey.
Market penetration is a growth strategy that focuses on an existing market — either one where your brand already offers a product or service or one where your competitors offer a similar product or service. It’s part of the Ansoff Matrix, a grid of four growth strategies that target both new and existing markets with new and existing products.
The key to achieving market penetration is to look for your brand differentiator. What sets your product or service apart from the competition, and what can you do better than they do? Market penetration is the first step in launching your overall growth marketing strategy, as it leverages a market and product you already have. It’s the first stop on your growth roadmap.
Market development is also included in the Ansoff Matrix. In this strategy, you focus on bringing the products you already have to new markets by targeting underserved customers. The approach is often two-fold: targeting new customer segments and buyer personas and expanding into new geographic regions.
This strategy is critical to SaaS, fintech, and tech brands, and you’ll see it in action among all the top players across these industries.
Product development doesn’t just come in a one-size-fits-all strategy. To achieve maximum growth, you’ll likely want to utilize several product development tactics:
- Product Updates: Like most smartphone makers, the biggest brands release a new, updated version of their product every year or so to much fanfare and anticipation from loyal customers.
- New Products: When you have dedicated brand fans, you can diversify your product offerings and market them to the same diehard buyers. For example, Apple loyalists will often buy any product the brand releases…whether it’s something they “need” or not.
- New Features and Upgrades: Especially effective for SaaS brands, you may choose to add new premium features to your existing products and encourage buyers to upgrade their subscription plan.
Strategic Partnerships and Collaborations
In the Ansoff Matrix, this is referred to as “Diversification Strategy.” Basically, this happens when you target new markets with new products. Our version of this strategy can leverage either existing markets or existing products, but it does so in a whole new way — by developing strategic relationships with other brands that have similar growth goals.
This often includes teaming up with a brand that offers a complimentary product to your existing market to create a pre-packaged solution that addresses users’ pain points holistically. In the process, you may find new revenue streams through your partner’s existing audience and/or develop new products that meet their needs.
How to Build a Growth Marketing Plan for Your B2B Brand
Once you’ve decided which strategy or strategies will help you achieve the growth you’re looking for, it’s time to lay out your roadmap and design your growth marketing plan. Here is where you begin to take a tactical approach to reaching your goals, setting out checkpoints along the way to make sure you’re on track to reach your final destination. Here’s how to get started:
Define Your Product Vision and Set High-level Goals
Your product vision defines your ideal future state for the product or service you’re marketing. Good product visions should be both aspirational and attainable, and they should solve a key pain point your buyers have.
Use your product vision to establish your goals by filling in these blanks:
- Who: This should be your buyer persona or a segment found within your persona.
- Why: What are the pain points your product is going to solve for them? What are their needs and wants?
- What: This is the vehicle that delivers your product or service to the buyer.
- How: This details how your product works to ease the buyers’ pain points.
Establish KPIs and Metrics of Success
How do you know your growth marketing plan is working? If you have to ask, chances are it’s not being used to its full potential. Aligning your goals with business KPIs and growth metrics is the surest way to see if you’re on the right track toward achieving long-term growth.
It’s important to set up metrics for every step of the funnel, then outline what “growth” looks like at each stage. Revenue may be the easiest phase to measure, but how will you track your performance in other areas, like activation and referral? Detail each part of the AAARRR funnel, and clearly outline how you’ll measure success by including optimal conversion rates and overall value.
Once you have this, you’ll have found your “North Star” — the metrics that will guide your growth marketing strategy toward achieving success and reaching your goals.
Get Inspired By Your Competitors Growth Strategy
Are your competitors achieving the kind of growth you’d like to see for your own brand? Sure, you could wallow in jealousy and shake your fist at the universe wondering how they did it. Or, you could take a breath, swallow your pride, and choose to learn from their success.
A competitor audit will not only tell you how your competitors are growing, it will also help you clearly define your own brand’s unique selling proposition (USP). After all, you can’t know how your brand is better if you don’t know how it’s different.
Start by listing out your top competitors, then spend some time doing in-depth reconnaissance on their website (or even signing up for demos or trials of their products). Make sure your audit includes:
- Product and pricing tiers
- Features and upgrades
- Marketing campaigns, copy, and CTAs
- Value proposition
- Similarities and differences compared to your own brand
- How you win (the USP that sets your brand apart)
Once you’ve completed the audit, take some time to analyze it, but don’t dwell on the things you can’t change. Look at your key differentiators, and focus on how you can use those to move your brand to the head of the pack.
Who Is Your Ideal Customer and What Problems Do They Face?
Here is where you’re going to dig into your buyer personas. This will help you identify and understand the customers you already have and the customers they want.
Remember, while demographics are important, you’ll also want to take a deep dive into psychographics. What motivates them to make a purchase? What keeps them up at night? What are they passionate about?
In addition to demographics and psychographics, you’ll also want to look at geographics (where they’re making purchasing decisions) and behavior (how they act on their wants and needs).
A good buyer persona will look at all of these factors to build a complete profile of your ideal customer, which you can then use to segment by attitude, behavior, interest, and more.
Evaluate Your Customer Journey
The buyer’s journey is a pretty straightforward, point-A-to-point-B map of how your customers interact with your product.
Looks simple, right? In reality, your buyers enter the funnel at various points and move through it in different ways. To effectively utilize the buyer’s journey, you have to understand where your buyers are and how that corresponds to their needs.
- In the awareness stage, your persona is in the top of the funnel. They know they have a problem, but they may not know what that problem is or how to address it.
- In the consideration stage, they are in the middle of the funnel. They know they need a solution, but they’re still looking at all the options.
- In the decision stage, they’ve reached the bottom of the funnel. They’re ready to make a purchase, and depending on how you’ve met their needs throughout their journey, they just might end up choosing you.
Take a close look at your buyer’s journey to better understand the type of content you should be delivering at every stage of the journey and how it corresponds to your funnel.
Brainstorm Ideas with Your Team Members
Brainstorming is an effective way to get creative and spark new ideas. If you’re looking to brainstorm some tactics that will move the needle as you build and implement your growth marketing plan, round up your colleagues and leverage their brainpower for maximum impact.
Just remember, while brainstorming sessions are fun and productive, there are some rules you need to keep in mind:
- No judgment. All ideas are good ideas. At least for right now.
- Keep an eye on the time. Brainstorming sessions that drag on are less effective. Stick to around 30 minutes.
- Write everything down. If someone comes up with a million-dollar idea and no one writes it down, you’re likely to be kicking yourself when you can’t remember what it was.
- Bounce off of each other. Building on other people’s ideas is a great way to keep the energy flowing and generate even more tactics.
- Stay focused. Getting off-topic can derail a brainstorming session faster than anything. Come up with a single question or problem for your brainstorming, and stick to it.
- Aim for quantity over quality. Less isn’t more at this stage. Aim for a large number of ideas, rather than honing in on a narrow few.
Once your session is completed, you can analyze the ideas and begin to thin them out until only the best, most actionable ideas remain.
Prioritize Which Objectives Will Help You Reach Your Goals
Your objectives should reflect your KPIs and should incorporate your North Star metrics to give you a good idea of how effective your growth marketing plan is and to identify any gaps.
Lay out your objectives, and look at your current performance to find where there’s the most room for growth. Be sure you prioritize objectives that drive growth across your established timeline — now, near-term, and in the future. Also refer back to the growth strategies detailed above and ensure your objects are aligned with the ones you’ve chosen.
Choose Tactics to Test
Put on your lab coat, because you’re about to get experimental. Testing and experimentation are the cornerstones of growth marketing (and the basis for all effective growth hacks). The goal is to keep trying until you find what works, then set up a process to repeat it in order to reach sustainable growth.
There are countless growth marketing tactics you can implement, but to narrow the field, be sure the ones you choose target your ideal customer, address some of their pain points, and help further your chosen growth strategy.
Set a Budget
How much you spend on growth marketing depends on a lot of factors, not the least of which is how much you can afford to spend. Overall, industry recommendations indicate 2–5 percent of revenue should go toward marketing, and most B2B brands fall into this estimate. However, that number changes depending on the type of business and the maturity of the company.
Ultimately, in order to achieve growth, you’ll want to focus on maximizing ROI. Look beyond just the cost of implementing your growth tactics, and evaluate the value they will bring to your brand.
Use the Scientific Method to Build a Process for Growth Experiments
Sometimes, growth marketing will make you feel as if you’re back in high school chemistry class. Proper measurements, careful hypotheses, and strict adherence to every step of the process will help you avoid potentially explosive situations. The tried-and-true scientific method should be your go-to when you’re ready to begin experimenting with growth.
The scientific method starts with a question and ends with a statement. In between, you’ll need to be prepared for testing, failing, and starting over with a new hypothesis. It isn’t exactly rocket science…but it’s close.
Remember that some (maybe many) of your experiments will not have the desired outcome, and you’ll have to go back to the drawing board. This, however, is not a total loss. The data and insights you gain from failed experiments will inform your next test and make it more likely to have a successful outcome.
If It Works, Go Bigger, If Not, Run the Steps Again
Experiment, rinse, repeat. Growth marketing is built on a cycle of testing, analyzing, and repeating the winning tactics. When you find something that works, do it again, but do it bigger. If it doesn’t, go back to your hypothesis and make adjustments before designing a new test.
Optimize Your Sales Cycle for Growth
Traditional marketers tend to have funnel vision. That is, they focus almost entirely on the top of the funnel, favoring customer acquisition over bottom of the funnel conversion. However, some growth marketers fall into a similar trap, believing that the only customers driving growth are hanging out at the bottom of the funnel.
An effective growth marketer understands that success can only be achieved by addressing the needs of buyers in every stage of the AAARRR funnel. This end-to-end funnel optimization is what separates the good growth marketers from the amazing growth marketers.
In the example above, we can see that marketing has evolved to take on a larger role throughout nearly all stages of the funnel. But while this chart draws a hard line between marketing and sales, in reality, that line is (and should be) blurred. A symbiotic relationship between your marketing and sales teams is crucial to achieving long-term growth. Marketers should have a clear understanding of the sales cycle and how it corresponds to each stage of the funnel. They should also be leveraging sales enablement strategies to provide support and ensure a seamless handoff to the sales team.
Make Sure Growth Is Scalable
What’s worse than not achieving your growth goals? How about not being able to scale your marketing efforts to match your growing brand? Scalability is key to growth marketing, and its basic premise is that your revenue grows quicker and at a steeper incline than your costs.
Costs will rise as you begin to invest more in growing your brand, but when your revenue rises even higher, you’ve achieved scale.
Here again, growth hinges on repetition. Once you’ve found the right product and market fit, you can begin testing your growth strategies to find what’s successful and scalable. From there, the sky’s the limit.
Examples of Successful Growth Marketing Plans
One of the best ways to implement an effective growth marketing plan is to apply lessons learned by those who’ve come before. Here, we take a look at how some of the leaders in growth marketing have made the principles outlined here work for them.
Dropbox: Incentivize Referrals to Increase Signups
SaaS is known for lengthy sales cycles, but Dropbox defied the odds and grew their revenue from $116 million to $1.1 billion in just five years. How? They gave their best stuff away for free.
Not only did Dropbox incentivize their referral process, they made it reciprocal by offering free space to both the referrer and the referee. Ultimately, they were able to increase new signups by 60 percent, position themselves as an industry leader, and grow their brand awareness exponentially.
Stripe: Identify a Need and Define a Niche to Stand Out
To achieve growth in market penetration, the founders of Stripe, a payment processing platform, went after an incredibly targeted niche market: developers. Rather than going directly to consumers or even to the business owners who would use their product, Stripe set out to increase early adoption among the developers building ecommerce websites, offering them a service that answered their biggest pain point: the need for a comprehensive payment system that would apply across all of their clients’ websites and platforms.
And it worked. Stripe now commands more than 19 percent of market share in the industry. Not easy to do with mega-brands like PayPal and Amazon Pay as your biggest competitors.
Tesla: Turn Customers into Brand Evangelists
You can’t achieve growth without spending money. Or can you? Tesla set out to prove they could be an industry leader…with a $0 marketing spend.
Probably the most shocking part of this is that they actually pulled it off. How? By developing relationships with customers, implementing a strong referral program, and outperforming competitors on social media — a hotbed for Tesla’s ideal buyer.
Ultimately, Tesla proved that you can grow a brand with no ad spend, instead focusing on organic growth, word of mouth, and social proof. Today, Tesla has the highest customer loyalty rate of any car brand, with an overall satisfaction rating of 90 percent.
UberEats: Test Small Before Going Big
When UberEats launched in 2014, the market was saturated with small delivery services just catching on to the coming wave of restaurant delivery. Grubhub swiftly became the market leader by acquiring many of these smaller businesses and compounding its market share. UberEats couldn’t compete, at least not at the beginning. So instead of launching a large-scale coup to take down Grubhub, UberEats targeted its efforts on a select few U.S. cities where it felt it could gain the most traction.
And it did. In these test markets, UberEats managed to overtake Grubhub. They did it by narrowing their focus and experimenting in those markets, to great effect. Not only did they become a major player in the industry, they also benefited from repeat customers — 41 percent, compared to Grubhub’s 17 percent.
Today, UberEats is still behind Grubhub in total revenue, but it is growing faster, thanks to customer loyalty, referral programs, and word of mouth.