Effective Marketing Strategies & Why Growth Hurts

The Growth Report #51

Happy Friday Fellow Human!

After a teary-eyed 50th newsletter celebration a couple weeks ago, I’m officially ready for another 50 episodes.

So let’s do this. 💪

But first a funny cartoon:

Okay, I think I am ready now….

...Today's topics

📈 Marketing Strategy:
The Two Crucial Components of an Effective Marketing Strategy

🧰 Tools of the Trade:
Articles, Tools and Inspiration for Marketers

⛑️ Reflections from the Trenches:
Why Growth Hurts

📈 Marketing Strategy

The Two Crucial Components of an Effective Marketing Strategy

I stumbled over this quote the other day by Edwards Deming:

If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing.

Its a harsh statement (for a Friday afternoon), but if you think about it there is a fundamental truth to it. Because if there is no documented process, there is no strategy, and if there is no strategy it likely means you haven't thought about what you are doing in enough depth.

For a long time, "strategy" felt like an elusive concept to me. I can sense when there isn't a good strategy (or any strategy), but it's been hard for me to point my finger and articulate why. You know it when you see it.

So over the past few years, I read books and kept an eye out for good marketing strategies and their underlying principles. And I found two components (among others) that are essential to judge if your strategy holds up:

The 2 components of an effective marketing strategy

1. Cohesiveness

A good indication that you don't have a strategy is a lack of cohesiveness of your tactics. If you are using multiple marketing channels and the tactics are all unrelated, you might not have a strategy. For example, you have a newsletter because every other company has one. You start a podcast because everyone seems to be podcasting now. You run a couple of ads because marketing must have ads, right? The issue is: These tactics don't connect with each other.

On the flip side, if your tactics can all link back to "one thing", then I would consider that "one thing" your strategy. For instance, your strategy might be to use content marketing and SEO to acquire new customers:

  • You create content that ranks well on Google and YouTube.

  • You share on social to generate backlinks, which will help you rank better.

  • You build an email list using your content to have an "owned" audience to talk to when you launch new features.

→ Everything is connected back to content and SEO.

2. Advantage

The other component to consider is your advantage. Just because a strategy is working well for another company doesn't mean it will work well for you. Does that company have an advantage that you do not have? Do you have an advantage that others do not have? My favorite example is Ahrefs. They are in a unique position to do content marketing and SEO with their own SEO product (called product-led content). Not every company can do marketing with their own product.

Sometimes your strategy might require you to develop an advantage (rather than creating a strategy based on your advantage). The question remains the same. What are you uniquely positioned to do and how can you use that position for your marketing? This could revolve around exclusive access to proprietary data, riding on a trend with lots of public interest, a product that's easy to show off etc.

Frameworks for Solid Strategies: Loops and Flywheels

When developing a strategy it helps to pull in existing frameworks to guide you through the process. There are hundreds of different marketing strategy frameworks out there. I recommend the "loops and flywheels model".

The following two essays have fundamentally shaped and updated my understanding of marketing strategies:

For example, Chen talked about a paid marketing loop. Companies like Blue Apron, Casper, and Uber spend a lot of money on ads. The ads generate a bunch of signups. A percentage of the users pay for the product. The companies get more money to buy ads.

But that's not all. The loop can be broken down into smaller steps to be optimized. Tactics within the strategy. For example, when people click on the ad, they will see a landing page, which will persuade them to sign up or not. The team can work on improving the page, which will improve the signup rate and the entire loop. More users!

Chen explained a few other loops in his essay. I would recommend checking them out.

Connecting the pieces

If you can come up with the growth loop or flywheel for your company, that will serve as the core of your marketing strategy. Then any tactics you want to try should ideally fit with this core.

For example, if you are running the paid marketing loop, you could try partnering with influencers to get more photos and videos of your product, which you can then use in your ads.

This way, you can still try out different channels but have them link back to your core strategy.

Coming up with the entire strategy is not easy. Every situation and context is different. But if you make sure your tactics connect and work together within a bigger picture and you take advantage of your unique product and position in the market, you are half-way there.

🧰 Tools of the Trade:

Articles, Tools and Inspiration for Marketers

💬 The Origin of your problems.

"Most of your problems come from saying yes."

👨‍🎓 Marketing & Leadership Education

🤩 Brands and (digital) Products that caught my eye

  • Spark Loop Reactions - A tool to elicit feedback from the readers of your newsletter. Scroll to the end of this email to see it in action.

  • Eat the Internet - A community cookbook curating the best of food online. Love it!

  • Floyd - Love this travel luggage brand. Bold, unique and with a cool brand narrative.

  • Japanese Morning Routines - Oddly calming and aesthetically pleasing. Watch Japanese people going about their morning routines.

📚 Interesting reads

⛑️ Reflections From the Trenches

Why Growth Hurts

I recently found the following passage I highlighted many years ago from Alice Walker's book Living by the Word. It was during a challenging time in my life and I remember how it made me feel oddly at ease with myself despite the circumstances:

"Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger than we were before.

Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant.

But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be... for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed."

I think the above is true for any living organism no matter its size or composition. This includes companies, communities, countries and the world at large.

When we are growing, changing and stretching our boundaries of what's possible, it tends to hurt a little (or a lot). And just knowing that this is normal, unavoidable in fact, at least let's us carry on with the knowledge that we are on the right path and that every step brings us closer to the light at the end of the tunnel.

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That's it for this week.

Talk soon,