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June 2022

Growth Marketing in a Down Market: Which Channels to Use Now

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Startup marketers will know that much of their company’s future rests on a seemingly simple question: how do we get more people to use and pay for our product? In today’s increasingly competitive channel landscape, there are more advertising options to choose from than ever before and a dizzying array of brands vying for people’s loyalty. It takes muscle, skill, and patience to actually reach your target customer.

We turned to two of our GTM Council Members, and the smartest growth marketers we know, for their best practices to create a solid channel mix, develop a compelling message, and hire the right team. Declan Schweitzer (Rain, Bird, Headspace) drove subscribers from 100K to 1M as an early marketer at Headspace and has developed a rigorous growth marketing approach based on curiosity and testing, drawing from his past life as a philosophy professor. Patrick Moran (Reforge, Houzz, Spotify) orchestrated user growth at brands including Houzz, Netflix,  and Spotify, where he created a growth model that led to 30% YoY MAU growth.

When the market slows, narrow your focus and double down on your winning channels.

Every company is focused on managing burn right now, which puts more pressure on growth teams to spend efficiently. Now is not the time to try four or five different channels and see what works. Instead, choose one or two of your top-performing channels and go really deep. You’ll come out of this down cycle with significant expertise within those channels. That knowledge will help you make better decisions about your channel strategy for a long time.  —Patrick Moran

Facebook and Google still have the best targeting algorithms. Don’t cast them aside.

Even with Apple limiting the effectiveness of Facebook Ads, and Google’s upcoming tracking restrictions, the fact of the matter is that Facebook and Google still have world-class targeting capabilities. Yes, CPMs are rising, and your targeting may not be as precise as it once was, but you can still gather valuable data from testing your ads on these platforms. —Patrick Moran

Test your way to the right message. There’s no pressure to get it perfect the first time.

Growth marketing is not an exercise in defining in advance what the right message is. From my perspective, there is no pressure on me as a growth marketer to know what copy will resonate. Instead, it's a matter of setting up an environment where you can test your way there. Of course, there are ways to accelerate that process. For example, gain some insight into market sentiment in advance. That research will give you the messages to start testing, and from there that you can pull on the right threads a little bit more quickly. —Declan Schweitzer

Leverage the newly digitized targeting and reporting capabilities of legacy channels.

Traditionally analog channels like digital audio, programmatic TV, and even direct mail have better targeting capabilities than ever before. These days, it’s much easier to capture the data and integrate it with the rest of your channel analysis.

I recommend that growth marketers explore adding these into their channel mix. Especially for B2B, TV and audio are great options to work with right now. With B2B, there’s a longer conversion path, and you need to do more customer education. So, the TV and audio ad formats work well, because the ad formats are longer and the audience only experiences one ad at a time, unlike noisier channels like Facebook, push notifications, and so forth. —Patrick Moran

Experiment with SMS and Gmail Ads to engage as directly as possible with your audience.  But tread carefully with your messaging.

SMS, or texting, is the most direct way to communicate with someone, so as a result it gets really high engagement. As a brand, you want access to that. But at the same time, it’s very intimate, so you have to be very sensitive in your messaging, and ensure you’re compliant with any legal considerations.

When I’ve experimented with SMS, I’ve found the more straightforward and transactional messaging to work best. That way, the customer gets value immediately, and you’re doing them a favor by giving them information they need. That will play better than something that feels overly like “marketing speak.” Gmail Ads are another very direct way to get in front of your target audience. Similar to SMS, they’re intimate, delivering directly to the inbox, so the same considerations apply.  —Declan Schweitzer

Hire a growth marketer with the right skill set for your business model. For example, B2B and eCommerce marketing require different strengths.

B2B companies have longer lookback periods, so you’ll need someone who can triangulate impact across multiple channels. Typically, the best growth marketers for B2B will look to qualitative and quantitative information. You’ll want to find someone who will thrive in a longer, more ambiguous sale cycle.

For eCommerce, look for someone operational who has experience with rapid optimization. eCommerce businesses have a high number of transactions, so the eCommerce growth marketers will optimize campaigns every day, even multiple times a day.  You’ll want someone especially strong with channels that are mathematically rigorous, like SEM. —Patrick Moran

Learn more about what it takes to build a winning go-to-market strategy from the Canvas Go-to-Market Council. Check out previous posts about building out a sales team, positioning, product-led growth, setting up an early growth engine, and partnerships. To ensure you receive all the latest GTM insights, subscribe to the Canvas newsletter.

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