4 Tips to Rocket-Growth with Jeff Goldenberg

Jeff Goldenberg, Startup Growth Expert

We were fortunate to host growth expert Jeff Goldenberg at MaRS Discovery District recently. He gave a thoughtful growth presentation to some of Canada’s highest potential#Fintech companies as part of our Founder To Founder Go To Market series. For those who don’t know Jeff, he’s the ‘smarty-pants’ Head of Growth for Borrowell, author, mentor with Techstars and 500 Startups, entrepreneur and much much more. To learn more about him, please visit here.

Jeff’s 4 Tips for Rocket Growth:

  1. Content is a long-game. Get in the game now.

There’s an old saying: “a year from now you will wish you started today.” This is relevant as it relates to content marketing. It helps your brand create trust, showcase customers, boost SEO and is easy to produce and distribute. Like farming, you need to start slow and cultivate it over time. Think about it. Part of the reason you’re able to disrupt an industry may be because your team is more nimble than the big blue chip companies or your nearest competitor (a lot of founders fear content). You don’t have to wait three months for an agency or consultant to produce content, you can start now, in your own words (or your customers) and release. Jeff recommends being very educational: offer something of value, always. This means not acting like a spammer (‘buy my steak knives’), but provide useful info that that makes your customers know you are legitimate and makes their lives easier. When you build your content think about what problems you are solving, what value you bring and intrinsic / extrinsic emotional value. A great framework to structure your thinking is Osterwalder’s value proposition canvas (visit here). Borrowell also partners with reputable organizations and raises awareness of those partnerships through content marketing. This creates trust with potential customers as demonstrated by the conversion metrics. Their are many tools for content marketing (e.g.: HubSpot), but Jeff recommends using your own creativity in the beginning, developing and testing content as you go. You learn more this way and are forced to be more nimble with your dollars. Steve Blank offers a lot of content marketing tools that can help you produce content marketing quickly, visit here. Also, think about what people would read on mobile vs. lap/desktop. An investment in content today pays off tomorrow.

2. Funnels are not dead.

Just like 500 Startups Dave McClure and his ‘Startup Metrics for Pirates’, Jeff and the team at Borrowell measure all marketing tactics through a funnel. They measure everything from a lead to conversion by channel and by tactic right down to what credit score each individual has that has converted. By carefully segmenting the funnel it’s easy for Jeff and team to see where the funnel is ‘bleeding’, what tactics to kill and what tactics to heavy-up on. Be sure to focus on CPA (cost-per-acquisition) across tactics and channels. It’s the one defining ‘good to great’ metric that is easy to compare. Quite simply, if a tactic is not working, CPA will be the foghorn telling you so. Once you determine what conversion tactics work, it’s a good idea to start building a customer profile, including: demographics, needs and wants. Using this approach also eliminates Founder hubris and bias toward channels or tactics they identify with. Jeff is steadfast Founders become laser focussed on ‘one’ channel that matters and not spread themselves thin across multiple. Once you find the channel, double-down and scale it until it plateaus (it will plateau), then move onto another, and another and, another. There is no silver bullet. Keep at it.

3. Test or die trying.

When do you kill a tactic you’ve tested? Jeff says when it delivers no value or zero conversion. Well, he’s right, but also a lot of Founders forget to focus on retention. They keep filling the top of the funnel with acquisition tests, but forget their are retention tests you can measure as well. Steve Blank’s infamous ‘Get-Keep-Grow’ funnel provides a nice framework to use when driving customers to the bottomline.

The other item startups should aim to measure if the ‘viral loop’, otherwise known as: ‘viral coefficient.’ Of the potential customers that arrive at the top of the funnel, try and quantify how many of them actually refer other folks at different parts of the funnel. You should be looking at coding virility into the product at all points of the funnel. Here’s a great article with a formula to measure viral coefficient, visit here. Justin Wilcox also has a lot of resources on testing and prioritizing on his blog Customer Development Labs.

4. Create a culture of experimentation

Why does culture always seem to come last when building our companies? Because it’s tough. It’s easier said then done to ‘build a culture of experimentation.’ It is especially tough if you’re a Founder who has no experience in acquisition, retention and growth. The old saying: ‘good Founders will figure it out’ is partly true, but a lot of mistakes can be avoided by properly thinking-through the values your company stands for and the people you want to attract. To start, Jeff recommends every Founder read the Netflix slidedeck on culture (visit here). Marketers today also have to be very comfortable with data analytics. Time and money are the two most critical resources a startup has regardless if it is pre or post product-market-fit. Tactics, campaigns and channels have to be optimized against CPA and conversions. Hiring a ‘VP of Marketing’ and having them ‘execute on a plan’ is not going to cut it. Steve Blank calls this new marketer a‘Data Chief’ and Andrew Chen calls them ‘Growth Hacker’: read a description here. Data Chief’s are today’s marketers. They love numbers and are able optimize campaigns and tactics based on analytics. Gone are the days of rolling the dice and spending Dad’s seed capital on flyers. These folks can’t be afraid of failure and your culture must support it. If they are the anxious type always wondering what the boss will think if you leave your desk for lunch, then full stack marketing isn’t for you. Failure doesn’t mean blowing the budget on a tactic. It means quickly eliminating tactics that don’t work and continuing to test other tactics. These folks are in fact driven by the learning failure can create. Weekly team meetings should involve the team’s perspective on tactics, brainstorming what to try next and what should be killed. Although it should be lead by the Data Chief, the entire team should be thinking about growth.

Overall, this is just the beginning to building and sustaining a high-growth company. If you’re interested in the work I am doing to support Go To Market initiatives at MaRS, please read below or contact me at: nmonk@marsdd.com, ‘@cowboytweets’ on twitter and connect with me on LinkedIN.

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