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1 Focus over diversification

Article originally published in March 2024 by Stuart Brameld. Most recent update in March 2024.

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“Our 2023 marketing strategy is to invest in Twitter organic, Linkedin paid ads, content marketing, SEO and email”.

Some practitioners call this spray and pray marketing, Emily Kramer calls it random acts of marketing.

Whatever you call it, this isn’t a growth marketing strategy, this is a list of random tactics and channels. The worst marketing scenario is when you don’t have a clear direction. We often find a lack of strategy is most evident in companies that have little or no channel discipline. Omni-channel marketing is a terrible idea in general, largely peddled by consulting firms. If you’re not talking about trade-offs, its probably not a strategy.

Why would you diversify to something unproven when you haven’t taken full advantage of something that is already working?

Channel focus

Study some of the world’s best successful companies, and you will see a pattern whereby 90% of their growth came from 10% of the things they tried.

Similarly, whilst an early-stage marketing team requires a diversified portfolio of marketing bets, over time your goal is to find your one big growth lever.

ONE.

The “One Thing” is how founders like Peter Thiel & Jeff Bezos have built so many incredible teams. Here is our acquisition channel rule of thumb:

Business SizeAcquisition Channels
Small business or startup1
Medium business2
Large enterprise3

Startups and small businesses should focus on a single workhorse channel whilst larger enterprise companies should have a maximum of 3 core workhorse acquisition channels, depending on the size of the team. Power laws and the Pareto principle apply to marketing too.

“Products mostly have one or two major growth channels, which they optimize into perfection”

Andrew Chen, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz

Experimentation focus

No good marketing team will ever be short of ideas. Most companies are great coming up with ideas but have an incredibly inefficient engine for prioritising and testing them. This lack of process and prioritisation often results in working on the wrong marketing activities.

What separates the good from the great is knowing where to focus in that sea of ideas. Thus being aligned to revenue requires ruthless prioritisation and a focus on only those activities that are most likely to lead to tangible growth for the business. This is a significant mindset shift from the busywork that occupies the resources of many marketing teams.

Every has opinions and ideas, and all experience creates bias. Use a prioritisation framework such as ICE or RICE as a forcing function to make the right decisions and allow you to say no. If a new idea falls below a certain score and threshold, move it out of the way in order to declutter your workspace.

Prioritisation is the answer to knowing what to do, and more importantly, what not to do. Do what’s important, not what’s urgent. Your goal is to find the areas where can you get the most leverage from what you have. When can small inputs result in outsized results?

“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Iterative testing

Most marketing channels and tactics take time to work to their full potential. Good iterative testing requires both research and strategic thinking.

Teams that jump from one initiative to the next miss out on the really good results because they stop investing too soon. Chasing shiny objects makes iterative testing and continuous improvement impossible as you’ll never have a solid foundation to build on.

A new shiny object can easily consume an individual for a month yet deliver very little. Do this 12 times, and you’ve lost a whole year.

To summarise

Average marketing teams are average because they try to do everything. World class marketing teams are world leading because they’re laser focused on a small number of areas that are critical for the company to grow.

Focus is arguably the single biggest lever in your growth marketing strategy. Constant shuffling priorities stalls progress, frustrates teams and creates an environment of uncertainty.

Growth marketing teams create impact when they have a clear strategy that dictates the small number of things that matter for them to win.

Think of your marketing team as portfolio management, constantly placing strategic bets. How do you balance your portfolio in a way that is likely to deliver the best return.

At PayPal, Peter Thiel said the best thing he did as a manager was to “make every person in the company responsible for doing just one thing”. Jeff Bezos called this ‘Single threaded leadership’ at Amazon. One clear owner for each critical initiative. They’d be reviewed solely for their performance against that initiative.

Growth marketing strategy principles

  • 1 Focus over diversification

    “Our 2023 marketing strategy is to invest in Twitter organic, Linkedin paid ads, content marketing, SEO and email”. Some practitioners call this spray and pray marketing, Emily Kramer calls it random acts of marketing. Whatever you call it, this isn’t a growth marketing strategy, this is a list of random tactics and channels. The worst… Read more

  • 2 Process over tactics

    “Growth has nothing to do with tactics and has everything to do with process. Silver bullets don’t exist, you need a growth machine.” Brian Balfour Look inside many functions within a business – sales, finance, research & development, IT – there is often a process discipline that doesn’t exist in traditional marketing teams. Conversely, look… Read more

  • 3 Always-on assets over one-off campaigns

    Let’s run a campaign? No. Your growth marketing strategy should focus on building assets that can deliver compound growth over time. One-off marketing programs, initiatives and campaigns should be avoided at all costs. One-off marketing campaigns If you or your team do one-off activities, such as any of the following, stop now: No successful company has been… Read more

  • 4 Impact over activity

    A growth marketing strategy should prioritise impact over activity, which typically means being aligned to business revenue. At Growth Method we believe every marketing function should contribute to revenue and should should be part of the core revenue engine, alongside sales. “Position marketing as a strategic growth lever for the company. Know the math for… Read more

  • 5 Data over opinions

    A good growth marketing strategy uses data to guard against opinions, feelings, emotions and bias. With a combination of both quantitative and qualitative data growth teams can bring together the what and the why in order to make more informed decisions. Data should inform all aspects of your growth marketing programme including: Data-informed, not data-driven… Read more

  • 6 Speed over perfection

    A big part of marketing is getting something live, noticing how the market reacts, and then iterating to make it better based on what worked well (this process is the core tenant of the scientific method). That’s why following a regular cadence of launching new experiments is a critical step in improving everything about your… Read more

  • 7 Outside in v inside out

    A growth marketing strategy is a customer centric strategy Understanding customers and representing their voice within your organisation is perhaps the most important job of a marketing team. The antithesis to the HiPPO marketing approach of “just listen to your manager” is customer development and “just listen to the customer.” Deeply understanding your customer and… Read more