At an event I attended recently, Greg Hickman shared what he called a Growth Ladder. It’s basically a chart of the problems, areas of focus, and team size for businesses at different levels.
What I found most interesting about this chart was seeing how certain marketing services fit in at different levels of business. So often, I see businesses trying to jump ahead in complexity in their marketing efforts unnecessarily.
For example, I was working with a new business recently on their home page copy, and the first and largest call to action was to download their lead magnet. But what they REALLY want people to do is book a discovery call. Why make them jump through the hoop of signing up for a lead magnet when they might get on a call directly?
But a business that’s a bit more mature might need to more carefully vet the potential clients who get on discovery calls to protect the business owner’s time; then it makes sense for them to be warmed up and nurtured more before they are offered the opportunity to get on a call, and a lead magnet with a follow-up email sequence makes much more sense.
You need to consider different things at different stages of business — and that’s true of your marketing and content as well.
Based on Greg’s Growth Ladder model, here’s what I suggest your marketing focus should be at each stage of business growth, and how we can help:
$0–$100K: SELL AND VALIDATE
At this stage in your business your main job is to sell and validate your product or service idea, making sure that it’s got good product/market fit, and learning as much as you can about your customers and their problems, needs, and desires.
At this stage of the game, you’re almost certainly a solopreneur, though you may have a part time virtual assistant and you may hire contractors to help you with the tricky bits that are outside your zone of genius.
Your marketing focus at this stage should be:
- Consistent communication — Get in the habit of putting out a weekly newsletter to your email list, a weekly blog post (or video, podcast, etc.) and promoting it to ONE social media channel. Consistency is key here; you’re building up trust with your audience at this point and need to be seen as trustworthy.
- Sharing what you learn — This season of your business is all about learning what works, and it’s a great idea to share what you learn as you go along through your blog and emails, etc.
- Testing messaging — You also want to be using your marketing channels to test out different messaging to see what works. For example, if you write a blog post focusing on a specific problem your clients experience and it gets more engagement than usual, that’s a good indication that you should talk about that problem in your sales materials.
- Don’t get too fancy — Keep things SIMPLE at this stage. Don’t invest a lot in production or advertising at this point, because it’s likely you won’t see a great return.
- Focus on personal connection — At this point, your audience is small enough that you can focus on making personal connections — and that’s great because it’s likely you get most of your business through networking, word-of-mouth, and referrals.
How we can help: Content Intelligence Academy
$100-$300K: LEAD GENERATION AND SALES
Now that you’ve clearly validated that you can sell your product or service and get the results your clients want, it’s time to ramp up lead generation and sales. At this stage, sales are still usually coming from networking, word-of-mouth, and referrals, so it’s a good idea to have a system in place to nurture those lead sources.
From a marketing standpoint, you want to focus on:
- Sharable content — Produce content that is valuable and ultimately shareable. That helps turn your network into your promotional team, and helps your referrers have something to share when they refer you.
- Thought leadership — You have enough experience now to start sharing your thought leadership in your niche; the more you are known as a leader, the more you will be referred and drive business.
- List building — In order to have an audience to sell to, you need to start building your list. Be sure to offer people the opportunity to stay in contact with you through email. This is the time you might choose to create a strong lead magnet offer and perhaps even drive a little paid traffic to it — or offer it when you are interviewed, speak from stage, or have a guest article appear.
- Strong calls to action — Every piece of content you create should be directly aligned with your business goals and include a strong call to action to get people into your sales funnel.
How we can help: CIA in 90 Days
$300K — $1MM: AUTOMATION AND LEVERAGE
At this stage, it’s time to start automating your lead generation and automating or leveraging your fulfillment. Depending on your business model, this could look like an advertising funnel that includes a webinar (or similar) for sales; it might mean having a team member involved in some kind of cold outreach; and it almost certainly means having a content engine to help drive leads.
Now, your marketing focus needs to include:
- Regular, valuable content — At least one content stream (blog articles, podcast, videos, etc.) that you publish highly regularly with valuable content that leads directly to a lead gen funnel of some kind.
- Promotion — A solid system of promoting that content so that it reaches new audiences, be that through advertising, social media, or something else. You want strong launch funnels that will help sell your products and services on autopilot as much as possible.
- Syndication — A system for syndicating your content out across multiple channels so that people can find you in lots of places.
- Repurposing — A system for turning one piece of content into many through repurposing. Plus, you might be looking into implementing evergreen sales funnels to sell some of your products or services.
How we can help: Strategy and writing retainers and full launch copy support
$1MM–$3MM: SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES
By this point, it’s probably time to hire a marketing manager to help you. This could still be an expert outside your core team (like me) or someone you hire in house. They may take care of all the implementation or have a few freelancers or contractors under them to help with implementation.
At this stage, your marketing should be focusing on:
- People — Making sure there is ONE person (likely NOT you) in charge of implementing all marketing initiatives. You may still be heavily involved in determining and approving the messaging and tactics you’ll use for your marketing, but you’re likely NOT writing your own blog posts and emails, managing your own social media, building your own funnels, etc.
- Systems — By this point, you absolutely want some solid marketing systems in place, including those automated lead gen funnels you created in the last stage. These should be able to run without much input from you at all.
- Processes — Continue removing yourself from the marketing process as much as is feasible at this stage; rely on you systems, your processes, and your marketing manager to do most of the work.
How we can help: Strategy and writing retainers and full launch copy support
$3MM+: MARKETING TEAM
This is the point at which companies usually “graduate” from working with an agency like ours and bring their entire marketing team in house. Now you have not only a marketing manager, but also
- Broaden and deepen your reach — Now that you have at least one main marketing channel, you may choose to add more, for example adding a video channel or adding a podcast.
- Higher production values — At this point, you may also decide to invest in more professional production values than you’ve had in the past.
- Build a strong team — You also want to hire and train the best people for your marketing team so that they can create the marketing and messaging that
How we can help: Training your team
I’d be curious to know if this assessment lines up with where you are in business or if you have jumped ahead (or stayed back!) a level or two as you’ve grown. Let me know in the comments below. And if you have any questions about our solutions at any level, please don’t hesitate to contact me.