Growing a company isn’t easy. Hard work and sweat equity aside, it’s difficult to know what you have to do to achieve some measure of growth, because there’s a hundred thousand little things you could do to try and make the needle move.
I hear it almost daily in conversations I have with people on Snapchat or through email and text: “How do I approach growth?” “How should I drive growth?” “Should I buy Facebook ads?” “Should I use Quora to grow traffic?”
I love those questions when I get them, because it gives me the opportunity to help entrepreneurs, startups, and growing businesses do a course correction and shift their focus to where it should be.
Last month, I had a chance to talk about business growth strategies with Hana Abaza, VP of Marketing at UberFlip, on its Flip the Switch podcast, and I wanted to expand on those ideas.
Why Your Growth Is Stalling
One of the biggest reasons businesses struggle with growth is that they get caught up in “glimmer.”
You’re standing at the wheel of a ship out at sea with nothing but an expanse of ocean all around you. Desperate to reach a destination, any destination, you spot a glimmer from land far off in the distance.
So you spin the wheel around, and everyone gets excited.
Not long after that, you (or someone on your crew) spots a glimmer in another direction – maybe it looks closer. Looking between the two, you agree it looks more attainable, so you give the wheel another spin and head that way.
Businesses repeat this process a lot. Trying to jump from one thing to the next in the hopes of gaining ground never really gets you anywhere.
This comes from thinking too tactically – getting caught up in the tactics used by other companies. You read or hear something, and immediately want to try it, but there’s no real guarantee that you’re going to get the same results.
“Don’t play games that you don’t understand, even if you see lots of other companies making money from them,” says Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.
You should never do what you read or see, at least not immediately. As Josh James, Co-founder of Omniture says, “When you find an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.”
I’ve got a spreadsheet that I maintain and I use it to record all the ideas that I come up with and things that I see that I ultimately want to try. Others I work with contribute to it as well. A few times a month we pull ideas and consider:
- Whether or not we can deploy an idea
- What that deployment looks like
- What the results might be
- What success might come from it
- If it’s worth doing
- How it functions and contributes to our overall strategy
Without that kind of approach, you’re more likely to get little more than micro growth, not macro growth. That tactical focus might net you quick wins, but it’s not sustainable.
What do you do when the money runs out? What happens after you acquire the customer? How do you create the viral loop that comes from nurturing your customers and prospects?
Quick wins won’t necessarily help your company grow.
Develop A Strategy For Long-Term Sustainable Growth
Growing a company and building sustainable growth takes time and it comes from using sustainable channels.
What I mean by sustainable is that it continues to work for you organically without the need to necessarily feed money into it in order to get results.
Take a hard look at your goals and review your metrics for opportunities to grow with a top-of-the-funnel strategy.
When I did this with ContentMarketer.io, I saw opportunities within the metrics. Our conversion rate was resting at about 15%, which is great (though it can always be improved). I also knew that our email subscribers are responsible for around 50% of our trials.
We took that information and created a nurture campaign that would drive those users to share and move more traffic into the top of the funnel.
The rest of what we’re doing is all content marketing. It’s all organic. We get hundreds of new leads every month, and it continues to grow, because of the guest posts and content I (and others) are producing.
That’s all on a budget of around $100 a month – we spend very little on marketing. We don’t spend on paid search, we don’t spend on Facebook ads, or any other kind of promotional media buying.
That’s not to say that’s how everyone should do it. It could be a very different approach for a tech company or a funded startup. But no matter what the business is, it won’t grow if you’re not aiming for sustainable, long-term growth.
The Competitive Advantage Of Giving A Damn
Just focusing on the top of your funnel isn’t enough. When you legitimately care about your customers, you start to see the bigger picture: how content marketing is the key to long-term sustainable growth.
Giving a damn about your audience makes you see not only how to improve the top of the funnel experience, but also how to position your solution so that it creates a “wow” experience. Most importantly, it makes you think about what happens after the sale and acquisition.
- What are you doing to nurture the relationship?
- What content are you supplying to inspire the viral loop?
- How you are providing more value to your customers?
Content marketing is the root of long-term, sustainable growth. It might be a buzz word, but that is where thought leadership is born.
You provide continued, consistent value to your customers beyond the solution you’re selling by curating great content, by producing and publishing content that is 10x better than your competitors’, and by positioning yourself as a go-to resource.
A content marketing strategy gets the top of your funnel ready to receive targeted traffic because it will feed into the heart of your funnel where you have a tremendous amount of resources ready to nurture your contacts and turn them into customers.
Most importantly, the bottom of your funnel moves your newly acquired customers into a point of continued nurturing where the customers move themselves – and those they know – back to the top of your funnel again and again.
Compare that to being too tactically focused, where quick wins and simple deployments only feed the top of your funnel for a limited duration.
Creating The Best Content For Sustainable Growth
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for using content marketing to position yourself as a thought leader.
I can’t sit here and tell you that writing blogs or guest posting is going to guarantee a long-term win for your business, because that wouldn’t be truthful.
Your content marketing strategy should employ a number of tactics, including:
- Live video on Periscope
- Video on demand
- Blogs and guest blogging
- White papers and case studies
- How-to content
- 10-page solution-based ebooks
- Q&A sessions or FAQs
Don’t get caught in the glimmer of a single content tactic. Always make your plan based on where you can provide the most value to your audience and where the content best fits into your sales funnel.
As a result, you’ll likely come up with a mix of content types that are not only value-based but are also evergreen, providing that value for an extended period of time.
Sustainable growth will come once your audience sees you as a thought leader. There isn’t a single person, or company, who can ever take away your position as the go-to resource in your industry.