Growth is a complex topic, lots of companies struggle with it. It’s affected by business drivers that stretch beyond P&L sheets and business functions that have competing objectives. At Ladder, we understand how difficult it is to manage growth, especially when companies don’t have dedicated growth teams that can track commercial changes and respond quickly. This is why we developed Adaptive Growth, a framework to help our clients better manage this challenge, based on our experience with over 200 companies, conducting more than 7,000 experiments and spending over $40m on digital ads. To be able to run growth for such a diverse group of companies, we needed a framework that will help guide us through the right steps, which we are proud to share.
This is part one of four in a series entirely dedicated to Adaptive Growth, a system which facilitates the approach to growth.
Why are companies struggling with growth?
There are a vast amount of possibilities at the hands of a marketer who has a goal to achieve (best if it’s quantifiable) and a budget to meet it with. On top of that, it is often difficult to convince a stakeholder that in most cases growth is not visible from day one, it requires proper planning and a methodical approach.
You likely have a 1 person marketing team, to begin with and figure out how to grow it. It’s impossible to be an expert at everything. The best choice for the first marketing hire is a T-Shaped marketer. This person will be best equipped to build a strategy, run initial tests across different channels, and decide who to hire next based on that. Having a 1 person team puts a lot of limitations on their output capacity.
Given the budget, capacity and expertise constraints there are a few things to consider:
- Time is of the essence. The faster you validate or discard a channel, tactic or strategy, the sooner will you be able to find what works and start showing results,
- More domain expertise increases the chance to deliver positive results. Imagine putting a new driver behind the wheel of a drift car to check its capabilities, he may be able to spin some donuts but it will take a while for him to start taking corners sideways, he did see that the back-wheel drive was helping when drifting, but only once he asked a professional drifter to take the car for a spin, did he recognize the full capability of the car,
- Prioritization is crucial when you have a very limited team, the opportunity cost of choosing channels A and B is that you’re not looking into C and D, so picking the right tasks to focus on will have a big impact on the bottom line,
- Without the right infrastructure of templates, automation, processes, and standard operating procedures it will be difficult to maintain a well-organized growth team and clean data.
What is the Adaptive Growth approach?
In short, it delivers maximum value in a limited amount of time and enables your growth through it. It’s a combination of the right marketing channels, the right team, and a testing framework.
Step 1 – Channel strategy
Adaptive Growth starts with the channels. Build a strategy for where you want to be in 3, 6, 9, 12, or even 24 months. Then outline the budgets you can devote to growth. Based on these you will be able to start planning the channel mix.
You won’t know what channels will work for you unless you test them. Start with a small number of channels like 2 or maximum 3 to keep your focus. My recommendation is that you ideate around these channels by doing competition research.
Once you launch these channels, you start to gather data to validate what is working and what isn’t. Capitalize on what’s working, learn from it, dig deeper into it, and scale it up. Failures are an indispensable part of growth but you need to learn from them to further fuel your growth and build a better understanding of your channels and customers.
This can all be done by a T-shape marketer who should be your first marketing hire. They will pave the way for building the team around them.
Step 2 – The right growth team
Then comes the growth team. Once you know where to invest your time and resources, you should scale up your team. Specialization is key in Adaptive Growth. Bringing on board an expert in a channel you have even initially validated, will 10x your output. Their efficiency in delivering more campaigns, optimizations, analyses, and insights will be the rocket fuel that your 1 person team will crave.
Picking the right hires is fundamental here, a bad hiring choice can set you back for months. Every head of growth dreams of having a team of experts. Finding the right talent, hiring, and onboarding takes time, so this has to be a well-thought-through decision to avoid any waste of time and resources.
Even between the initial validation and hiring someone full time, it is wise to hand over the channel to an expert to verify it further. The fastest way to test this is by hiring an agency of a freelancer. They can support you with tried and tested processes, templates, and frameworks which you can adopt internally once you move the given channel in-house.
This approach will bring more than just a helping hand and an idea of how to go about the channel. It will save time, effort, and give your growth team a higher velocity when it comes to the essential elements of growth – validation, scaling, optimization, and testing.
By using old and inefficient tactics, methods and frameworks you fall behind very fast and will be soon overtaken by competitors, by constantly improving the entirety of the funnel do you progress and become the market leader.
Growth marketing differentiates from regular marketing by working through the full funnel instead of just the top of it. We measure how our results perform from the moment they see the ad all the way to the purchase to have more data points which help us better understand and improve our marketing efforts.
Step 3 – Testing
The third element of the Adaptive Growth puzzle is the testing framework. You have your channels and your team. You’re probably thinking of finding new channels, validating them, and hiring more staff. Good, that’s the right approach.
Parallel to that you should standardize your testing process and ensure its properly polished in your initial channel stack. That way you can build your testing playbook around it and adjust to new channels.
Consistency in data, sprints, understanding of testing, and execution are key. There is no better time to start than when you are small. Once you grow too big then implementing this will take exponentially more time and effort from both you and your team.
This framework should outline the prerequisites for each test are:
- a KPI it focuses on,
- what success looks like,
- how it will be tracked,
- a timeline,
Having this systemized will enable you to organize your testing sprints and improve your testing velocity while maintaining the good practices in check and clean data.
The brilliance of this model is that it has been tried and tested across companies from different industries, like B2B, eCommerce, mobile apps, SaaS, or marketplaces. Moreover, companies of different sizes ranging from startups, through scaleups, SMEs to Fortune500 companies that we’ve worked with.